Borrowing the words of former Idaho senator Frank Church, one widespread notion of the Central Intelligence Agency is that it tends to behave like a "rogue elephant" rampaging out of control, initiating risky covert action programs without the sanction of either Congress or the White House. In Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency, William J. Daugherty, a seventeen-year veteran operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, addresses these and other perceptions about covert action that have seeped into the public consciousness.
Daugherty cites congressional investigations, declassified documents, and his own experiences in covert action policy and oversight to show convincingly that the C.I.A.’s covert programs were conducted specifically at presidential behest from the Agency’s founding in 1947. He provides an overview of the nature and proper use of covert action as a tool of presidential statecraft and discusses its role in transforming presidential foreign policy into reality. He concludes by detailing how each president conducted the approval, oversight and review processes for covert action while examining specific instances in which U.S. Presidents have expressly directed C.I.A. covert action programs to suit their policy objectives.
A former Marine Corps aviator with a combat tour in Vietnam, Daugherty’s first tour with the C.I.A. was in Iran, where he was one of fifty-two Americans held hostage for 444 days during the Carter administration. Daugherty combines unique inside perspectives with sober objectivity in judging the true nature and scope of C.I.A. covert actions during the last half century.