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Oversight of Strategic Covert Action Programs by the Congress

The US government conducts covert operations hidden from the public eye. In certain instances, the government is responding to information that is not publicly available (Central Intelligence Agency, n.d). Involving the public in certain activities is likely to jeopardize the process's feasibility or efficacy. As a consequence, covert means are viewed as the most successful means of achieving the objectives. In order to achieve the objectives, Congress serves as an investigative agency and an aggressive collector of strategic intelligence gathered for the purpose of a covert operation. In many instances, Congress has failed to perform its oversight role as it exists. Decisions made in the process of covert action lead to evident results such as lethal action, propaganda or paramilitary operations. The government tries its best to ensure that it is dissociated with these actions, at least for the longest time possible. However, the congress is made up of individuals from different political factions who may not agree. In case the covert action fails, these individuals are likely to criticize the congress and the government thus compromising the anonymity (Van Wagenen, 2007).

The inclusion of Congress as an oversight body in covert action compromises the whole process. The institution is occupied by individuals with different political affiliations and their differences can easily compromise the focus on the issue being solved or the target to be achieved. Covert action is meant to remain secret. The process can remain smooth and confidential if all the members agree on the necessity and procedure of various covert actions. However, disagreements can easily compromise these two qualities. The overall system involved in covert action is not satisfactory. However, involvement of the congress is crucial because of the checks and balances that it brings into the procedure.


Central Intelligence Agency. (n.d). Oversight of Covert Action. Retrieved from

Van Wagenen, J. S. (2007). A Review of Congressional Oversight: Critics and Defenders. CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence.

September 11, 2021

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