Strategic Intelligence


The United States intelligence system has been in play since the World War II, but it is only since then that it was done on the government-wise basis. During this period, President Truman saw the need to establish an intelligence organization by signing in 1947, the National Security Act that paved the way for the CIA. The body was mandated to coordinate all the country’s intelligence services, assess, and publicize any information that would pose a threat to the security of the nation. There are other intelligence organizations in America including the DIA, and NSA (Crumpton, 2012). Some of these organizations have been in existence for decades and are thought of being successful in helping the state with the intelligence required for safety, organizational arrangement, and global welfares. CIA being the prime intelligence unit gave its chief the title of Director of Central Intelligence. According to Crumpton (2012), this meant that the chief was tasked with coordinating and controlling all intelligence operations of America. The CIA engaged in some collection components including the National Clandestine Service (NCS) that synchronized and evaluated any form of human intelligence services in the Intelligence Community. NCS acted as a clandestine unit in the CIA. It also performed the CA (Covert Action). The paper discusses the effects of the combination of Covert Action and collection of intelligence under the CIA roof since it is also tasked with feeding the CIA/ Directorate of Intelligence with Intel for strategic intelligence analysis.

Main Argument

CIA had many responsibilities that saw it facilitate all duties including the collection of information and intelligence analysis even after the start of the Cold War. The main arm of this body called the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) commenced its operations soon after the World War II. It had departments called the Office of Strategic Services. The name was later changed to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). The National Clandestine Service (NCS) helps the nations’ security and other foreign policy agenda’s. This is done through engaging in clandestine operations that enable it to collect information not easily accessed through any other channel (Ettinger, 2011). In addition to that, the unit undertakes special operations and counterintelligence which are mandated by the President. In the past, the CIA/National Clandestine Service operated two important activities. These included: the CA (Covert Action) and the HUMINT (Human Intelligence) (Prouty & Ventura, 2011).

The HUMINT was characterized by counterespionage, positive intelligence, and counterintelligence. Their operation was composed of getting information on intentions and capabilities of international enemies to the government. In other words, Ettinger (2011) asserts that it seeks to use people with skills to access data that technical collection mechanisms cannot access by employing the help of spies. Covert Action, on the other hand, composed of politically instigated action activities that at their extreme involved regime alteration. The late 1940s saw the placing of HUMINT and Covert Action activities in different units of the CIA. However, this situation changed during the mid1950s. What happened is that the Eisenhower administration was not pleased with this organizational structure or arrangement (Russell, 2007). The reason is that administration’s interests were based on CIAs’ activities being utilized in securing the Soviet threat globally. It was only a matter of time that the two operations were placed together under the same roof forcing a coexisting scenario between Covert Action and the HUMINT.

Having the CIA conducts Covert Action and at the same time having CIA/National Clandestine Service collecting information and engaging in covert action for the DOI paved the way for conflict. The first conflict would be the struggle for the limited resources between the National Clandestine Service and the CIA (Steiner, 2006). These resources are labor and money. This would see CIA divide its units into the regime transformation and the propaganda. The propaganda was very popular since it got its support from media stations, newspapers and material publications released to the global socialist community.

The second conflict that would arise with this merge is the negative effect it had psychologically maybe even practically. Espionage includes the collection of vital information by the HUMINT group which was considered a low-risk business in a political point of view. In the case of exposure, these activities negatively affect the person responsible (Russell, 2007). Some of the effects include a rude comment from the targets, tough and disturbed relations between the two nations, and even firing of the officers in charge of the operation. In case a political action activity that involves regime revolution doesn’t go as planned, the impact could be felt in a long time and severely negative. The CIA propaganda activities resulted in the use of large funds assisted in dealing with the Soviet threats (Russell, 2007). On the other hand, the political action services, especially those dealing with the regime change, seem to be challenging in terms of analysis based on their value to the government. This is why, such activities have been left unattended, and it proves difficult for a new person to evaluate and compile them. However, there are still other operations that are unsuccessful and end up bringing more harm.

The negative image CIA has received because of the poorly conducted covert actions activities has proved difficult for the National Clandestine Services to operate its collection activities (Steiner, 2006). This negative effect is viewed on the basis of the impact on the collection operations by the human intelligence. The CIA officers were blamed for the “rogue elephant,” and it was said that the CIA conducted the operations on its own. No part, however, mentioned the fact that the then sitting president presided every move. These officers were unjustly blamed and even did not receive fair defense from any government official. The worst part is that the previous HUMINT activities that were thought to be successful and had been given a go ahead were halted. This revealed the way the authorities had changed into risk-averse which was not the case earlier. Intelligence organizations only flourish in case there is duress and profits are foreseeable; however, they die away because of scrutiny (Wall, 2011).

It is also because of the interference from the existing democracies that makes these organizations prone to aging course.  It is prudent to note that as they age, they become more keen and conservative just to avoid any negative scrutiny that might affect their operations (Steiner, 2006). Covert Actions activities facilitated by the CIA during the Cold War continued to surface and affected the CIA’s collection of the intelligence process. Operations of the NCS when they face exposure result in monetary conflict in the field that they were being facilitated. Furthermore, they do not have a permanent effect on the process of collecting intelligence for the United States.


The paper has tackled some of the effects seen in the merging of CIA’s Covert Action and the National Clandestine Service operations that include the collection of information for CIA/DOI and Covert Action. The marriage between the two does cause detrimental effects on how the intelligence organizations work to produce significant intelligence efficiently. Therefore, if the Covert Action may not be entirely removed from the CIA duty-list, then it should not be placed under the same roof as that of the collection of intelligence task.



Crumpton, H. A. (2012). The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service. Penguin Press.

Ettinger, D. (2011). Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: An Encyclopedia of American Espionage. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 82-83.

Prouty, L. F., & Ventura, J. (2011). The secret team: The CIA and its allies in control of the

United States and the world. New York: Skyhorse Pub.

Russell, R. L. (2007). Sharpening strategic intelligence: Why the CIA gets it wrong and what needs to be done to get it right. Cambridge University Press.

Steiner, J. E. (2006). Commentary: Restoring the red line between intelligence and policy on Covert Action. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 19(1), 156-165.

Wall, A. E. (2011). Demystifying the title 10-title 50 debate: Distinguishing military operations, intelligence activities & covert action. Harv. Nat’l Sec. J., 3, 85.

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