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Intelligence Operations Research: the US Evaluation Essay

Covert Action in US intelligence missions

According to Cumming (2009, 1), the United States counterintelligence deals in covert missions. Covert missions entail missions that are commissioned by the state, but the state distances itself from such missions when it is mentioned if by any event the mission is exposed.

As the leading country in terms of political power and the prowess in intelligence matters, the United States has been adversely mentioned in security developments in diverse regions of the world. However, in most cases the bodies responsible for the management of national security in the country have often come out to distance themselves from the missions.

While other people argue that this response is a form of strategy that is used to protect and safeguard the national security interests of the US, other people question the participation of the United States in such missions and the resultant reactions to the aftermath of engaging in such actions. This is often depicted in denial (Johnson 2007, 1).

It should be understood that the discharge of security operations is a complex exercise that entails direct and indirect security missions (Hitz 2005, 2). While the direct missions are established out of the seemingly direct dangers of any given development to the security of the United States, indirect security missions are planned and executed in order to do away with indirect dangers of a given situation or development to national security.

Security missions that are conducted by the intelligence bodies of the United States, like the CIA, in foreign countries involve operations that are aimed at undermining the security or intelligence structures in other countries or regions. This is one of the reasons why such security missions are covered.

When it comes to the secret intelligence missions, the United States Department of Defense is always ready and can endure any cost to defend and deny the responsibility of the United States security in the activities (Hulnick 2002, 1).

One thing that has been discovered in the underground security operations and form part of the covert missions is that they pose a lot of threats to the national security of the United States. The rationale behind this argument is that the underground security missions can result in the erosion of trust between the United States and other countries if uncovered.

This can further loosen the level at which foreign countries cooperate with the US security services in attaining the security goals, thereby exposing the country to international security threats. Most of the missions undermine the principles of democracy, as well as the charter on human rights.

The most critical thing in covert action is the covering of secret information by the US Department of Defense since such pieces of information can trigger aggression, thereby jeopardizing the security situation. This means that it is important to cover the United States even if its participation in a given security actions seem eminent because this in itself serves the course of maintaining national security.

The other reason for protecting the covert action is that a number of illegal agents may be used to uncover the information and use the information to expose the security situation of the United States (Johnson 2007, 2).

The fact that counterintelligence and covert missions are likened to espionage means that the executers and the security bodies that are used in such missions have to be covered. Covering the people and security bodies that are used in such missions is an issue that is given priority as far as national security and information security are concerned (Johnson 2007 4).

Changing the policy neutralizes the essence and drives away the security bodies from meeting their objectives. However, it has been noted that the modern security environment in the international scene has broadened. This means that the United States is refraining more from enhancing covert missions and is, instead, engaging in direct actions when pursuing matters of national security.

Examples that can be given are the US invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the recent backing of the Libyan protest by the US forces. Nonetheless, this does not mean that spy missions are being abolished in the security system of the United States. Spy missions remain critical in as far as the protection of the US intelligence and national security information is concerned.

What can be changed are the modalities on which the covert actions are enforced by the intelligence bodies, like ensuring that there is reduction in the level of breach to the intelligence of other states (Hulnick 2002, 1-3).

Comparison of the CIA assassination plot in the Congo and Iran-Contra Case

Objectives and policy imperatives in the missions

More often than not, intelligence operations are mounted with the aim of meeting a number of objectives. The main goal of mounting an intelligence operation by a country is to enhance the security of the country by executing a number of security missions that are entailed in a security operation.

Each intelligence operation has its key objectives that can be used to differentiate one operation from the other even when they are authorized by the same body. Most of the intelligence operations that are mounted in foreign countries by the US Central Intelligence Agency form part of the counterintelligence missions (Johnson 2007, 1).

The CIA assassination plot in the Democratic Republic of Congo was triggered by the security issues that revolved around the battle for supremacy between the United States and the Soviet Union. Lumumba, who was the Chief of Staff of Congo’s armed forces, was the main target in the mission.

The reason why he was targeted is that he was pushing for support from the Soviet Union forces, an issue that could imply the provision of a stronger ground for the Soviet Union in Congo and the entire region (Johnson 2007, 1-3).

The United Nations Security Council that was charged with making key decisions concerning the pacification of conflict in the region intervened in the Congo conflict with the Belgians. As expected, the intervention by the Security Council was supposed to aid in eliminating the active mission of other states in the region. However, this did not prevent the CIA from advancing its mission (Johnson 2007, 40-45).

One the other hand, the Iran Contra Case is one of the investigations that were launched into a policy of transferring arms to Iran by the United States, which later turned to be sour owing to the nature of the elaborate consequences of the policy.

The mission had two main objectives, which were: gaining strategic grounds in Iran by opening into the country and the freeing of the US citizens who had been held hostage in Lebanon. According to Cuming (2009, 1), the case denoted one of the parallel policies that were pursued by the NSC.

It was against the policy of anti-terrorism. Both the sale of arms to Iran and the backing of the Contras by the NSC implied covert missions (Hulnick 2002, 2).

The main organizations involved in the development and enforcement of security policies in the United States, CIA and the Department of State and Defense, were kept out of the developments. National security and intelligence procedures were highly ignored (Johnson 2007, 1-6).

Oversight or legal review occurred that occurred during the planning of the missions

In the Iran-Contra case, there were a lot of breaches that were later identified through the inquiry that was commissioned by the then President Ronald Reagan. The report that was prepared by the panel brought about a lot of inconsistencies and evident breach of protocols that could not have been identified if the mission had not strayed (Johnson 2007, 2-3).

Therefore, it is evident that the legal process was not enshrined in the preparation and execution of this security mission. This was meant to be a silent mission as was depicted by the restriction of information and planning to the NSC. This was against the national security laws of the US. However, the objectives of NSC were not attained since they could not silence the events that erupted out of the mission (Johnson 2007, 25-26).

The CIA assassination plot in Congo was a fully backed mission. However, the United Nations had intervened in the developments, meaning that the involvement of the United States as an individual state with an interest was supposed to be neutralized. However, the CIA went ahead with the plot to illegally remove Lumumba from the custody of the United Nations under the leadership of Mulroney (Johnson 2007, 32-40).

Accountable organizations and issues arising

In the Congo assassination plot, the CIA was the main security body that was charged with the responsibility of executing Lumumba. The main issue that transpired during the operation was the involvement of the United Nations in the case, which made it difficult for the CIA to conduct their cover missions in Congo ((Johnson 2007, 32-35).

On the other hand, the Iran-Contra mission was marked by a lot of secrets that later culminated into overboard issues that exposed the entire mission by tarnishing the seeming image of the US and its laws on countering terrorism.

The Nations Security Council went overboard, resulting in the exposure of the US national security situation. This forced the president to react to the events in order to restore the security situation (Johnson 2007, 52).

Necessary resources for the missions

The CIA assassination plot in Congo was more of an active mission that required a high level of intelligence in order to ensure the death of Lumumba. The requirement in the mission was the utilization of high skills in the assassination and the subsequent covering of information in order not to expose the United States or CIA for that matter (Johnson 2007, 36-37).

The Iran-Contra case was an intense mission that had more indirect objectives. These objectives not only required the supply of the weapons in Iran, but also adequate intelligence backup to ensure that the arms were utilized for the intended purpose (Johnson 2007, 8-11).

The cost/benefit analysis of each operation

To begin with the CIA assassination mission in Congo, the United States wanted to neutralize the influence of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a major threat to the national security of the US then (Johnson 2007, 2).

Therefore, it can be argued that the mission attained its goals since the Soviet Union did not find a supportive ground for deploying its forces in Congo (Johnson 2007, 2). The risky part of the mission was the discovery about the direct involvement of the US in the assassin. This could have raised questions, resulting in the involvement of other countries including the Soviet Union (Johnson 2007, 37).

The Iran-Contra case exposes a mission that had broad goals, yet the manner in which it was planned and executed depicted a lot of risks to the US national security. The breach of the security policies and legislations weakened the basis on which the mission could have been sustained by the NSC.

The establishment of the US grounds in Iran could improve the US intelligence in the region and help the US to pursue its security interests in the region (Johnson 2007, 1-2).

However, this was not attained as the manner in which the mission was planned and executed prevented it from attaining its mission. However, this case provided a basis on which reforms on the discharge of contra missions by the US Intelligence bodies (Cumming 2009, 5).

Evaluation: objectives and unintended outcomes

It can be argued that no direct objective of the missions was achieved in the Iran-contra case. However, the consequences of the mission provided grounds on which the structure of the security missions was improved, especially contra missions in order to eliminate clandestine and parallel operations in security missions (Cumming 2009, 2).

In the CIA assassination mission in Congo, the direct objective of the security mission was attained, thereby preventing the Soviet Union from entering and establishing operations grounds in Congo. However, several questions were later raised implicating the interest of the US in the matter (Johnson 2007, 37).

Review of the Hypothesis

According to Long and Luers (2012, 11), the nuclear development program in Iran has formed a major security stalemate between the United States and Iran, with Iran showing its focus to keep pursuing the program and the United States arguing that such a program presents a security threat to the global citizens.

Thorough security assessments on the impact of any mission in the contemporary security and intelligence environment should be done before the choice of an action.

Among the issues that are assessed is the possible impact of the security situation on the citizenry of a given state and the general global environment that harbors all citizens. The United States intelligence has been involved in ensuring the safety of the program, with Iran insisting that the nuclear program is meant to enhance economic prosperity and that it does not pose security threats.

According to Long and Luers (2012, 5-6), the United States has conducted several inspections of the nuclear plant in Iran to ensure that the plant is safe and that it is only being used for the intended purpose. The security operations that have been implemented concerning the nuclear program in Iran depict the hardship of implementing covert action by the United States.

The most critical security question concerning the program is whether the program can be stopped without the consent of Iran. The case presented here denotes the deployment of a form of covert action by the United States intelligence in their bid to stop the program.

Covert action can hardly work in this situation as it is bound to result in impacts, which can further stretch the relationship of the US with the world. This predisposes the country to security threats.

The use of covert action by the United States in the case of the nuclear program in Iran can aggravate the poor relationship that prevails between the two countries. The fact that the issue of the Iran nuclear program has been the security subject for some time means that both sides have explored the possibilities of any course of actions that can be taken by any side.

Bombing the plant as claimed by the CIA intelligence is an action that is ruled out by a substantial number of analysts. This is because the explosion of the plant has a high probability of emitting nuclear substances in the atmosphere, thereby putting the lives of a large population at risk. The United States is charged with the responsibility of assuring the citizens of Iran about their security if at all it has to destroy the plant.

The only way through which the plant can be successfully demolished is the utilization of systematic actions to prevent the leakage of radioactive substances in the environment (Long and Luers (2012, 8-9).

The implementation of such a security action can reinvigorate the memories of the nuclear attacks by the United States in Japan during the Second World War. The United States intelligence has to think beyond the direct threats since there are a lot of indirect risks that are involved if the covert action is taken as reflected in the hypothetical situation (Long and Luers 2012, 16-18).

It should be noted that Iran is not the only country that is battling with the United States over the issue of security and nuclear plants. There is also North Korea that is battling with the United States over the pursuance of a nuclear program.

The forceful shutting of the nuclear program in the nuclear program in Iran can result in intuitive actions from North Korea and other rogue states in Asia and the Arab world, thereby compounding the security situation in the United States.

The United States must be careful since any course of action that it takes against Iran since the action may be used as a basis of uniting the rogue states in their quest to deteriorate the security situation in the United States as they seek to mount revenge.

As the situation is presently, the United States has to maintain its intelligence and only ensure that Iran does not diversify the nuclear program and start using it for security and not economic purposes (Long and Luers (2012, 13).

Such information can be categorized as classified information due to its sensitivity. However, the status of security as exhibited by the Iran nuclear program is an issue that has already been debated and attracted a lot of international attention.

According to Best Jr. (2011, 2), the Congress is one of the main bodies that are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that policies of national security are designed and affected to assure the citizenry of their national security. Being one of the main bodies that ratify national bodies, it is important for the US President to seek for advice and consent from the Congress before taking any course of action.

The case presented in the hypothesis cannot be taken as a mere security operation since it involves more players from across the globe. Restricting the mission to the intelligence bodies can result in the lack of intense rationalization on the possible risks of the mission (Long and Luers 18-20).


Best, Jr., Richard A. Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions. Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2011.

Cumming, Alfred. Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions. Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2009.

Hitz, Frederick. 2005. “Counterintelligence.” In The Great Game, by Rattigan Tony Chapter 4. New York: Knopf Publishers, 2005.

Hulnick, Arthur S. Fixing the Spy Machine: Preparing American Intelligence for the Twenty-First Century. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2002.

Johnson, Loch K. “CIA Counterintelligence: An Excerpt from the Church Committee Report.” In Strategic Intelligence – 4, by Johnson K. Lock. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007.

Johnson, Loch K. “The CIA Assassination Plot in the Congo, 1960-1.” In Strategic Intelligence – 3, by Johnson K. Lock. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007.

Johnson, Loch K. “When Covert Action Subverts U.S. Law: The Iran-Contra Case.” In Strategic Intelligence – 3, by Johnson K. Lock. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007.

Long, Austin and Luers, William. Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran, 2007. Web.

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