419. Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant for Research and Intelligence (Armstrong) to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)0


  • National Security Council Directive on Covert Operations


  • To revise the organization for the conduct of covert operations.


NSC 10/21 created a new Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) within CIA, to plan and conduct covert operations under the direct policy guidance of the Departments of State and Defense.
NSC 50,2 following the recommendation of the Dulles Committee Report, recommended that CIA combine in one office the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), the Office of Special Operations (OSO), which is responsible for espionage and counter-espionage, and the Contacts Branch which is responsible for collection of foreign intelligence within the United States.
The attached proposed NSC directive to implement NSC 50 and, therefore, revise NSC 10/2 has been worked out by the Department with General Magruder of the NME, and has been approved by Secretary Johnson. The Executive Secretary, NSC, has been informally consulted.
The substance of the revision proposed by this directive is as follows:
Distinction is made in covert operations between:
Those which are subtle and truly covert and remain so, such as political and economic warfare and propaganda; and
Those which are “rough” and tend eventually to become known, for example, sabotage, guerrilla and para-military operations, etc.
CIA is directed to combine under one Assistant Director of CIA, espionage and counter-espionage, all covert operations and the Contact Branch, but in so doing, to place subtle covert operations in the same [Page 1077] organizational unit with espionage and counter-espionage and apart from the unit which will plan “rough” covert operations.
Furthermore, it is directed that the “rough” operations which are approved in peacetime will be carried out by the unit responsible for espionage and subtle operations, even though planned by the unit responsible for planning “rough” operations.
The problem of appropriate organization within the State Department to deal with the revised CIA organization will be the subject of a separate paper.3


That you approve the attached proposed NSC directive for submission to the NSC as a joint State–NME proposal.

W. Park Armstrong, Jr. 4


Memorandum for the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)

The Departments of State and Defense jointly submit the attached paper for consideration by the National Security Council.




In NSC 10/2 the National Security Council agreed:
“The National Security Council, taking cognizance of the vicious covert activities of the USSR, its satellite countries and Communist [Page 1078] groups to discredit and defeat the aims and activities of the United States and other Western powers, has determined that, in the interests of world peace and US national security, the overt foreign activities of the US Government must be supplemented by covert operations.”
“The Central Intelligence Agency is charged by the National Security Council with conducting espionage and counter-espionage operations abroad. It therefore seems desirable, for operational reasons, not to create a new agency for covert operations, but in time of peace to place the responsibility for them within the structure of the Central Intelligence Agency and correlate them with espionage and counter-espionage operations under the overall control of the Director of Central Intelligence.”
In approving NSC 50, based on the DullesJacksonCorrea Report, the NSC agreed that

“The operations of the Office of Special Operations, the Office of Policy Coordination and the Contact Branch of the Office of Operations should be integrated under single over-all direction in an operations division, with its separate administration, within CIA.”

Therefore, under the authority of Section 102(d)(4) and (5) of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, the National Security Council hereby directs, in accordance with NSCID 5, in lieu of NSC 10/2, and in light of paragraph 6a(1) of NSC 50, that:
As used in this directive, “covert operations” are understood to be all activities which are conducted or sponsored by this Government against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups, but which are so planned and executed that any U.S. Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons, and that if uncovered, the U.S. Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them. Specifically, such operations shall include any covert activities related to: political manipulations; propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world. Such operations shall not include armed conflict by recognized military forces and cover and deception for military operations; nor shall they include espionage and counter-espionage as provided for in NSCID 5.
It will be recognized that there are two broad types of covert operations, namely:
Those activities which by their nature are truly covert and must remain so if they are to succeed, e.g., political and economic warfare, and propaganda operations, which types of activity have a close affinity to espionage and counter-espionage; and
Those activities whose development designedly leads to physical manifestations and therefore cease to be covert, which include all other covert operations.
The following organizational changes will be affected within CIA:
A new office of operations with specialized organic administrative services shall be created within the Central Intelligence Agency to embrace the functions now being performed by the Office of Special Operations, the Office of Policy Coordination, and the Contact Branch.
A highly qualified person, nominated by the Secretaries of State and Defense, and acceptable to the Director of Central Intelligence, shall be appointed as an Assistant Director, CIA, as head of the new office of operations.
The Assistant Director for the new office of operations shall report to the Director of Central Intelligence. For the purposes of security and of flexibility of operations, and to the maximum degree consistent with efficiency, the new office of operations shall operate independently of other components of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The new office of operations shall consist of three operating units which shall perform the following functions:
A unit which will perform the functions now carried out by the Contact Branch as prescribed in NSCID–7.
A unit which will perform the functions now carried out by the Office of Special Operations, namely: espionage and counter-espionage as prescribed in NSCID–5. Additionally, this unit shall plan and conduct covert political and economic warfare and propaganda operations in peace and war. All covert operations authorized in peacetime shall be conducted under the direction of this unit.
A unit which shall plan and conduct all other covert operations enumerated in Paragraph A above. However, such operations as may be authorized to be undertaken in peacetime shall be conducted under the direction of the unit specified in (ii) above.
Plans and preparations for the conduct of covert operations in time of peace which require physical support or assistance of the military services, and plans and preparations for the conduct of covert operations in time of war or national emergency, or when the President directs, shall be coordinated with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such preparations and plans shall be drawn up with the assistance of a representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and plans for wartime covert operations shall be accepted by the latter as being consistent with and complementary to approval plans for wartime military operations. The execution of covert operations in military theaters shall be under the control of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Director of Central Intelligence shall be responsible for ensuring that: [Page 1080]
Through designated representatives of the Secretary of State and of the Secretary of Defense, covert operations are planned and conducted in a manner consistent with foreign and military policies and with overt activities;
Through appropriate channels, agencies of the U.S. Government, both at home and abroad (including diplomatic and military representatives in each area), are informed of such operations as will affect them.
Covert operations pertaining to economic warfare will be conducted under the guidance of the Departments and agencies responsible for the planning of economic warfare.
  1. Source: Department of State, A/MS Files: Lot 54 D 291. Top Secret. Drafted by Fisher Howe. The date has been inserted by hand. The subsequent history of this proposal is uncertain and it is not clear that the proposed directive was in fact submitted to the National Security Council.
  2. Document 292.
  3. Document 384.
  4. Not found.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  6. No classification marking.
  7. Top Secret.