NSC oversight of covert operations

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From 1955, until at least 1981, oversight of United States covert operations was assigned to a series of sub-committees of the United States National Security Council.

Oversight of United States covert operations

Under presidential directive NSC 5412/1, issued March 12, 1955, oversight of covert operations became the responsibility of the Planning Coordination Group.[1]

NSC 5412/2 Special Group

Under presidential directive NSC 5412/2, issued December 28, 1955, responsibility for oversight of covert operations transferred to a National Security Council secret subcommittee with members representing the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the President. The group was identified as the NSC 5412/2 Special Group, or simply as the Special Group.

A National Security Archive chronology of the Bay of Pigs Invasion indicates a membership in December 1960 of Allen Dulles, Chairman of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Gordon Gray, National Security Advisor; James Douglas, Acting Secretary of Defense; and Livingston T. Merchant, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.[2]

303 Committee

The covert actions oversight group was renamed the 303 Committee after National Security Action Memorandum No. 303 on June 2, 1964. McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor, became Chairman for the committee.

The successor to the Special Group was the 40 Committee.[3]

40 Committee

The 40 Committee was a division of the Executive branch of the United States government whose mandate was to review proposed major covert actions. In 1970 the 40 Committee played a major role in so called "Track I" efforts to prevent Salvador Allende from taking office following the Chilean popular vote of September 4, 1970.

The Committee was a successor to earlier covert oversight and planning groups, variously known as the Special Group 10/2, 5412 Panel, NSC 5412/2 Special Group, Special Group (until 1964), 303 Committee (to 1969), existing since 1954 at the latest.

Operations Advisory Group

On February 18, 1976, 40 committee was replaced by the Operations Advisory Group, in accordance with Executive Order 11905 issued by Gerald Ford. The new group was composed of the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence.[4]

NSC Special Coordination Committee

The following year, on May 13, 1977 President Jimmy Carter issued Executive Order 11985 which updated the previous order such that the Operations Advisory Group thereafter would be known as the NSC Special Coordination Committee[5]

National Security Planning Group

Under the Reagan administration, the Special Coordination Committee was replaced by the National Security Planning Group which included the Vice-President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Assistant for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the CIA.[6]


  1. Note on U.S. Covert Action Programs.
  2. Bay of Pigs: 40 Years After - Chronology.  The National Security Archive.
  3. Covert Action in Chile: 1963–1973.  United States Department of State.
  4. Proposals for Intelligence Reorganization, 1949-2004.  United States Department of State.
  5. Executive Order 11985.  Federation of American Scientists.
  6. Loch K. Johnson (March 1989) Covert Action and Accountability: Decision-Making for America's Secret Foreign Policy.   International Studies Quarterly


  • Prouty, L. Fletcher. The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973 (first edition), revised 1997. ISBN 0137981732.
  • Wise, David, and Thomas B. Ross. The Invisible Government. New York: Random House, 1964.

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