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Document Creation Date: 
December 22, 2016
Document Release Date: 
October 4, 2012
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Publication Date: 
December 8, 1986
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4-7 Declassified and Approved For Release 2012/10/04 CIA-RDP90-00965R000302320003-2 -- ART1?.11. APFApcn ON PAGE WASHINGTON TIMES 8 December 1986 North belonged to secret group that planned global covert action ? By tilicteLiZ THE WASHINGTON TIMES Former National Seem* Council Ode Lt. Col. Oliver North par- ticipated in in a secret Reagan ad- ministration covert action planning group dubbed the "208 Committee," according to informed sources. The committee, unofficially named after the Old Executive Of- fice Building conference room where it met, could become a focal point in investigations of the Iran arms scandal and secret funding of Nicaragua's anti-Marxist rebels, Sources said. :About a dozen specialists from the U.S. intelligence and defense ketnmunity made up the inter- aency group, including covert ac- Ott specialists from the CIA's Direc- torate of Operations, the State and efense departments and Joint let's of Staff. me NSC staff members par- doipated, including Col. North, who planned and directed covert action programs in Central America, Af- rica, the Middle East and Asia until he. was dismissed last month by Prbsident Reagan, sources said. The group met irregularly to dis- cuss ways of implementing covert action programs. Decisions were reached by informal consensus and tat written records were kept. The grim) was authorized to commit mil- gs of dollars in secret White th , se and CIA funds to e prog- *Os. sources said. urrently, there is nothing to in- te that the secret Nicaragua re- funding scheme run by Col. h was ever discussed_ by the committee. Nevertheless, members of the group are likely to be ques- tioned at length by federal and con- gressional investigators looking into the Iran-Nicaragua scandal, the sources said. Moreover, the scandal is likely to prompt broader congressional in- quiries about the Reagan adminis- tration's use of covert aid in other areas of the world. Deputy CIA Directer B&W who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee for four hours Thursday, has described v ction as "an appropriate in- strument o oreign policy, as long as it is undertaken in the context of a larger policy" "The decision to undertake covert action is a policy decision.,. made by the National Security Council, and CIA is the instrument by which it is implemented. And I believe that when that decision is made, that CIA has the obligation to implement it as effectively as it can:" Mr. Gates said in congressional testimony last Ap- ril. Covert action describes three types of secret activities designed to be untraceable to the U.S. govern- ment: funding of foreign political parties, foreign media manipulation and, as in the case of U.S.-backed anti-communist insurgencies, large paramilitary operations that are dif- ficult to keep secret. Between 1950 and 1974, CIA agents played active roles in the Philippines, Iran, Congo, Chile, Ec- uador, Greece, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Press accounts in 1974 of CIA do- mestic covert activities, in violation of the agency's charter, led to a se- ries of debilitating congressional in- quiries that virtually shut down the agency's covert operations, accord- ing to former intelligence officials. The CIA began to rebuild its covert action capabilities in the late 1970s and the process was ac- celerated in 1981 by the incoming Reagan administration. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been devoted to covert action pro- grams throughout the world, in such places as Nicaragua, Afghanistan and southern Africa. Thditionally, the CIA has been solely responsible for carrying out covert action programs. But revelations of Col. North's activities indictate that NSC staff also had begun playing operational roles in covert action programs. Last week the president ordered his NSC staff, which coordinates covert action policies, to refrain from taking part in "the operational aspects of sensitive diplomatic, military or intelligence missions" pending the outcome of a three- member Special Review Board. Sources said NSC Director of In- telligence Programs Vincent Cgo- _.was known "1fg nistraro ?"M8 oriC'u?iuttee's "controller"? the NSC official who granted access to the top-secret planning sessions. Mr. Cannistraro directed the CIA task force supporting Nicaragua's so-called Contra rebels until 1984, the sources said. He was removed from that post following disclosures that the CIA helped formulate an in- surgency handbook for the rebels calling for "neutralization" ? the CIA euphemism for assassination, an activity banned by U.S. law, sour- ces said. Mr. Reagan and then-National Se- curity Adviser Robert McFarlane said at the time that all officials in- volved in developing the insurgency manual would be dismissed. Mr. Cannistraro, however, was trans- ferred to the NSC, sources said. His future is uncertain in light of reports that incoming National Security Ad- viser Frank earlucci; who takes over Jan. I, has promised a thorough NSC staff reorganization. Mr. Cannistraro coordinated the 208 Committee's drafts of "find- ings," or orders, that were later sign- ed by Mr. Reagan and represent the first step in setting a covert action program in motion. Once signed, copies are sent to the Senate and House intelligence com- mittees and a team is dispatched to answer congressional questions. "If the committees don't ask the right questions, they don't get the right answers" about covert pro- grams, said one source. Information on covert programs is tightly guarded among the few of- ficials allowed access to the commit- tee. Analysts at the State and Defense departments and the intel- ligence bureacracy are not notified about covert programs. "Big things could be going on in- side a country that only a few government officials know about," the source said. The handful of U.S. officials 'granted access tO all covert action findings includes the president, the secretary of state and two senior State Department officials, the sec- retary of defense and two senior deputies, the CIA director and two deputy directors, and three or four representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It's considered the high politics of national security" one source said of the covert action group. neclassified and Approved For Release 2012/10/04 CIA-RDP90-00965R000302320003-2