The National Clandestine Service (NCS) (formerly known as the Directorate of Operations), a semi-independent directorate-level service within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is the main United States intelligence agency for coordinating human intelligence (HUMINT) services. The organization absorbed the entirety of the CIA's one-time Directorate of Operations and also coordinates HUMINT between the CIA and other agencies, including, but not limited to, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Diplomatic Security Service, Defense Intelligence Agency, Air Force ISR Agency, Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, and Office of Naval Intelligence. The current Director of the NCS is John D. Bennett. The Director of the NCS reports to the CIA Director.

The creation of the NCS was officially announced in a press release on October 13, 2005.[1] The NCS was created by a bill from US Senator Pat Roberts in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The investigation by the 9/11 Commission reported that HUMINT had been severely degraded in the past two decades, principally because of the end of the Cold War and because of startling revelations about CIA operations uncovered by the investigations of the Church Committee of the US Senate.

The NCS has analogues in the National Security Agency (signals intelligence), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (imagery intelligence), and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Background Edit

The Directorate of Operations was the branch of the CIA that ran covert operations and recruited foreign agents. The DO reportedly employed 1,000–2,000 peopleTemplate:Citation needed and was headed by a deputy director for operations (DDO). This directorate consisted of, among other subdivisions, a unit for political and economic covert action (the Covert Action Staff, or CAS), for paramilitary (PM) covert action (the Special Operations unit), for counterintelligence (the CI staff [CIS]), and for several geographic desks responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence. It was created August 1, 1952, as the Directorate of Plans and was renamed the Directorate of Operations on March 1, 1973.[2]

The Directorate of Operations also housed special groups for conducting counterterrorism and counternarcotics, for tracking nuclear proliferation, and other tasks. Administrated by the DO, the paramilitary (pm) operations officers from the legendary Special Operations Group or (SOG) are maintained in the elite Special Activities Division (SAD). They are highly skilled in weaponry; covert transport of personnel and material by air, sea, and land; guerrilla warfare; the use of explosives; assassination and sabotage; and escape and evasion techniques. They are prepared to respond quickly to myriad possible needs, from parachute drops and communications support to assistance with counter narcotics operations and defector infiltration. Special Activities maintains a symbiotic relationship with the Joint Special Operations Command, and is run largely by former member of JSOC.[3] SAD/SOG is one of three special missions units. The other two are Delta and SEAL team six.[3]

In the 2003 book, Special OPS: America's elite forces in 21st century combat, the author states:

"Highly classified, the SAD is regarded as the preeminent special operations unit in the world. Members are the elite of the elite; "the best period." This results from the sources from which the organization recruits its members: Special missions units (SMUs); such as Delta Force and NSWDG (United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group)..." [4]

For special operations missions and its other responsibilities, the Special Operations staff attempted to recruit assets with the appropriate specialized skills, though the geographic desks remain the principal units involved in the recruitment of personnel in so-called denied areas (Libya, Iraq, Iran, etc.). Special operations also provided special air, ground, maritime and training support for the Agency's intelligence gathering operations.

The DO has been subject to harsh criticism in the media, and due to its covert and independent nature did not, or could not, effectively respond. Its capabilities had been in decline since the public outcry resulting from the revelations of activities seen as highly questionable by the Church Committee. Furthermore, the DO fought frequent "turf" battles amongst the Executive Branch bureaucracies, most prominently with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Department and the Department of Defense. This was one of the principal reasons that the NCS was formed.


The National Clandestine Service consists of four different types of officers:

  1. Collection Management Officers: the connection between the operations officer in the field and the U.S. foreign policy community, both in the United States and abroad. They guide the collection of intelligence and direct the dissemination of that intelligence. Managing the collection effort requires contact with US policymakers to determine what they need to know, and then communicating those requirements to the operations officers in the field for collection. They must understand operations and local operating environments, as well as maintain substantive knowledge about the countries and issues against which the Agency is collecting information.
  2. Staff Operations Officers: These officers contribute to the Clandestine Service mission primarily from the CIA's Washington, D.C. area headquarters, providing fast-paced research and case management in support of colleagues overseas. This includes monitoring counterintelligence issues and providing support needed to deal with foreign contacts in the field. Staff operations officers must be knowledgeable on both operational tradecraft and international issues in order to enhance their interaction with field-based officers.
  3. Operations Officers: Also known as "case officers," they are responsible for the actual recruitment of sources (also known as agents, assets, or sources) or collecting intelligence themselves. They work undercover with either diplomatic or non-official cover. The job is described on the CIA's website as follows:
    For the extraordinary individual who wants more than a job, this is a way of life that will challenge the deepest resources of your intelligence, self-reliance and responsibility. It demands an adventurous spirit, a forceful personality, superior intellectual ability, toughness of mind and the highest degree of integrity. It takes special skills and professional discipline to produce results and to deal with fast-moving, ambiguous and unstructured situations that will test your resourcefulness to the utmost. The Clandestine Service is the vital human element of intelligence collection - on the cutting edge of American intelligence. This is an elite corps that gathers the vital information needed by our policymakers to make critical foreign policy decisions. The Central Intelligence Agency's Clandestine Service Trainee Program (CST) is the gateway to a unique overseas experience.
  4. Paramilitary Operations Officers: The National Clandestine Service's primary action arm is the Special Activities Division (SAD), which conducts direct action-like raids, ambushes, sabotage, assassinations, unconventional warfare (e.g. training and leading guerrillas), and deniable psychological operations, the latter also known as "covert influence." While special reconnaissance may be either a military or intelligence operation, these usually are executed by SAD officers in denied areas.[3][5] Paramilitary operations officers are chosen mainly from the ranks of: the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group and other SEAL teams; the U.S. Army's Combat Applications Group (Delta Force), Army special forces, and U.S. Army Rangers; the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations battalions (MARSOC); and the Air Force Combat Controllers and Air Force Pararescuemen.[3] SAD operatives are the most specialized because they combine the best special operations and clandestine intelligence (spy) capabilities in one individual. They operate in any environment (sea, air, or ground) and with limited to no support. They originate in the Special Operations Group (SOG) of SAD, considered one of the most elite special operations units in the world.[6] Paramilitary operations officers are the primary recipients of the coveted Distinguished Intelligence Cross and the Intelligence Star, the two highest medals for valor in the CIA. Not surprisingly, the majority of those memorialized on the Wall of Honor at CIA headquarters were covert operatives.[7]

Mission definitionsEdit

Covert actionEdit

Covert action is defined as an operation planned and executed to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor. A covert operation differs from a clandestine operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of identity of sponsor rather than on concealment of the operation.[5]

Covert operations include paramilitary and psychological activities. See Psychological Operations (United States) for a more general discussion of US psychological operations, including those operations for which the CIA is responsible and those that belong to other agencies. Some of the policy for guiding the overall strategy is detailed there, as well as in the citation starting this section. Even for the IC, the Department of State generally guides the message.

Clandestine operationEdit

Clandestine operations are sponsored or conducted by governmental departments or agencies in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment. A clandestine operation differs from a covert operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of the operation rather than on concealment of the identity of the sponsor. In special operations, an activity may be both covert and clandestine and may focus equally on operational considerations and intelligence-related activities.[5]

Clandestine HUMINTEdit

Human-source intelligence HUMINT is mentioned in this section, since the classic HUMINT technique is espionage. The CIA is the principal US agency for collecting clandestine human-source intelligence, by espionage. They develop and train their staff in clandestine tradecraft.

Clandestine technical collectionEdit

The Agency also may be responsible for developing communications systems appropriate for clandestine operations. In 1962, the Central Intelligence Agency, Deputy Directorate for Research (now the Deputy Directorate for Science and Technology), formally took on ELINT and COMINT responsibilities.[8] "The consolidation of the ELINT program was one of the major goals of the reorganization... it is responsible for:

  • ELINT support peculiar to the penetration problems associated with the Agent's reconnaissance program under NRO.
  • Maintain a quick reaction capability for ELINT and COMINT equipment."

"CIA's Office of Research and Development was formed to stimulate research and innovation testing leading to the exploitation of non-agent intelligence collection methods....All non-agent technical collection systems will be considered by this office and those appropriate for field deployment will be so deployed. The Agency's missile detection system, Project [deleted] based on backscatter radar is an example. This office will also provide integrated systems analysis of all possible collection methods against the Soviet antiballistic missile program is an example."

Sometimes in cooperation with technical personnel at other agencies such as NSA when the collection discipline is SIGINT, or DIA when the techniques come MASINT, or other appropriate agencies such as the United States Department of Energy for nuclear information, CIA may work to place technical collection equipment in denied territory. They have also cooperated in placing such equipment into US embassies. Emplacing and servicing such equipment is another form of clandestine operation, of which the adversary should not be aware.These include:[8]

  • Research, development, testing, and production of ELINT and COMINT collection equipment for all Agency operations.
  • Technical operation and maintenance of CIA deployed non-agent ELINT systems.
  • Training and maintenance of agent ELINT equipments
  • Technical support to the Third Party Agreements.
  • Data reduction of Agency-collected ELINT signals.

See MASINT from clandestinely placed sensors. CIA took on a more distinct MASINT responsibility in 1987.[9] The National Security Archive commented, "In 1987, Deputy Director for Science and Technology Evan Hineman established... a new Office for Special Projects. concerned not with satellites, but with emplaced sensors – sensors that could be placed in a fixed location to collect signals intelligence or measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) about a specific target. Such sensors had been used to monitor Chinese missile tests, Soviet laser activity, military movements, and foreign nuclear programs. The office was established to bring together scientists from the DS&T’s Office of SIGINT Operations, who designed such systems, with operators from the Directorate of Operations, who were responsible for transporting the devices to their clandestine locations and installing them".

Overt HUMINTEdit

In addition they may produce HUMINT from overt sources, such as voluntary interviews with travelers, businesspeople, etc. Some of the latter may be considered open source intelligence OSINT and be performed by other agencies, just as reports from diplomats are another form of HUMINT that flows into the Department of State.

At times, this function may be assigned to CIA, because its counter-intelligence staff has biographical indexes that let them check the background of foreign citizens offering information. For example, there may be a name check on a business or scientific contact who meets either with CIA representatives or staff of the National Open Source Enterprise


The current structure of the National Clandestine Service, under the Director of the NCS, is as follows, according to the Official CIA Organizational Chart:[10]

  • Deputy Director of the NCS
    • Counterproliferation Division
    • Counterterrorism Center
    • Counterintelligence Center
    • Regional & Transnational Issues Divisions
    • Technology Support Divisions
  • Deputy Director of the NCS for Community HUMINT
    • Community HUMINT Coordination Center

A major headquarters element was the Counterintelligence Staff, most powerful when headed by James Jesus Angleton. It was the principal US organization responsible for vetting potential new clandestine HUMINT assets, and for US offensive counterespionage and deception.

Under an assortment of names, such as Special Activities Division, there is a paramilitary function that may enter and prepare an area of operations before United States Army Special Forces enter in a more overt military role. This may or may not include psychological operations, especially black propaganda; paramilitary and psychological functions have split and joined under various historical reorganizations.

Various groups provide support services, such as cover documentation and disguise.[11] A technical services unit, sometimes in the clandestine division and occasionally in the Directorate of Science and Technology, contained both espionage equipment development and sometimes questionable research, such as the MKULTRA mind control program.

Approval of clandestine and covert operationsEdit

The Directorate of Plans (DDP) was created in 1952, taking control of the Office of Policy Coordination, a covert action group that received services from the CIA but did not go through the CIA management. The other main unit that went into the Directorate of Plans was the Office of Special Operations, which did clandestine intelligence collection (e.g., espionage) as opposed to covert action.

Approval of clandestine and covert operations came from a variety of committees, although in the early days of quasi-autonomous offices and the early DDP, there was more internal authority to approve operations.[12] After its creation in the Truman Administration, the CIA was, at first, the financial manager for OPC and OSO, authorized to handle "unvouchered funds" by National Security Council document 4-A of December 1947, the launching of peacetime covert action operations. NSC 4-A made the Director of Central Intelligence responsible for psychological warfare, establishing at the same time the principle that covert action was an exclusively Executive Branch function.

Early autonomy of OPCEdit

At first, the supervision by committee allowed the OPC to exercise

"early use of its new covert action mandate dissatisfied officials at the Departments of State and Defense. The Department of State, believing this role too important to be left to the CIA alone and concerned that the military might create a new rival covert action office in the Pentagon, pressed to reopen the issue of where responsibility for covert action activities should reside. Consequently, on June 18, 1948, a new NSC directive, NSC 10/2, superseded NSC 4-A.

NSC 10/2 directed CIA to conduct "covert" rather than merely "psychological" operations, defining them as 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 US Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them".

NSC 10/2 defined the scope of these operations as: "propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberations Template:Sic groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world. Such operations should not include armed conflict by recognized military forces, espionage, counter-espionage, and cover and deception for military operations." [13]

Guerrilla warfare was outside this statement of scope, but such operations came under partial CIA control with NSC 10/5 of October 1951. See "Psychological Strategy Board" below. To implement covert actions under NSC 10/2, OPC was created on September 1, 1948. Its initial structure had it taking "guidance from the Department of State in peacetime and from the military in wartime, initially had direct access to the State Department and to the military without having to proceed through CIA's administrative hierarchy, provided the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was informed of all important projects and decisions. In 1950 this arrangement was modified to ensure that policy guidance came to OPC through the DCI. During the Korean conflict the OPC grew quickly. Wartime commitments and other missions soon made covert action the most expensive and bureaucratically prominent of CIA's activities.

"Concerned about this situation, DCI Walter Bedell Smith in early 1951 asked the NSC for enhanced policy guidance and a ruling on the proper "scope and magnitude" of CIA operations. The White House responded with two initiatives. In April 1951 President Truman created the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) under the NSC to coordinate government-wide psychological warfare strategy."

Putting special operations under a "psychological" organization paralleled the military's development of United States Army Special Forces, which was created by a Pentagon unit called the Psychological Warfare Division. "NSC 10/5, issued in October 1951, reaffirmed the covert action mandate given in NSC 10/2 and expanded CIA's authority over guerrilla warfare"[14] The PSB was soon abolished by the incoming Eisenhower administration, but the expansion of CIA's covert action writ in NSC 10/5 helped ensure that covert action would remain a major function of the Agency.[12]

As the Truman administration ended, CIA was near the peak of its independence and authority in the field of covert action. Although CIA continued to seek and receive advice on specific projects group or officer outside of the DCI and the President himself had authority to order, approve, manage, or curtail operations.

Increasing control by CIA managementEdit

Main article: Oversight of United States covert operations

After Smith, who was Eisenhower's World War II Chief of Staff, consolidated of OSO, OPC, and CIA in 1952, the Eisenhower administration began narrowing CIA's latitude in 1954. In accordance with a series of National Security Council directives, the responsibility of the Director of Central Intelligence for the conduct of covert operations was further clarified. President Eisenhower approved NSC 5412 on March 15, 1954, reaffirming the Central Intelligence Agency's responsibility for conducting covert actions abroad". A series of committees, containing reprresentatives from State, Defense, CIA, and sometimes the White House or NSC, reviewed operations. Over time and reorganizations, these committees were called the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB), NSC 5412/2 Special Group or simply Special Group, Special Group (Augmented), 303 Committee, and Special Group (Counterinsurgency).[12]

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. Template:Cite press release
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Waller, Douglas (2003-02-03). "The CIA Secret Army". TIME (Time Inc).
  4. Special OPS: America's elite forces in 21st century combat, Fred J. Pushies, MBI Publishing, 2003, page 20.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Template:Citation
  6. Template:Cite news
  7. Gup, Ted (2000). The Book of Honor: Cover Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA.Template:Pn
  8. 8.0 8.1 Template:Citation
  9. Template:Citation
  10. Template:Citation
  11. Template:Citation
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Template:Citation
  13. Template:Cite web
  14. Template:Citation

Sources Edit

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External links Edit


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