Ethics & International Affairs Volume 3 (1989): Articles: Imposing a Standard: Covert Action and American Democracy [Abstract]

Dec 2, 1989

Iran-contra and similar scandals alienate Congress and bypass the constitutional executive process. Treverton proposes four guidelines by which to test the effectiveness of covert actions undertaken by American presidents: (1) could the action stand exposure in midstream? (2) does intervention contradict overt U.S. policy? (3) what signal will be received, by whom, and with what result? (4) what if the first intervention does not succeed? The author urges presidents to abstain from implementing covert operations, which often result in nothing more than domestic and international controversy. Such decisions are the domain not of the Executive Office, but of the legitimate agency designated for such purposes, the CIA.

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