I recently was a guest lecturer on covert action in a law school seminar. For anyone interested, my instructional approach (fictional scenario, issues for consideration, operational proposals) is available here —feel free to use it (or, better yet, improve on it). In this post I offer a few practitioner-focused thoughts on the “why,” “what” and “how” that informed my planning for this class. I hope this background description and approach are useful to others teaching about covert action.
In the aftermath of bloody and inconclusive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has relied heavily on covert operations. Drone strikes, the signature tools of the “light footprint” war the United States is increasingly fighting, have devastated Al Qaeda’s senior leadership. Special forces raids have produced key intelligence coups. The CIA has steadily transformed itself from an organization combating the intelligence efforts of foreign countries into a key operational tool in the fight against terror groups. But many observers worry that such tactics create more enemies than they kill and lack the accountability of more overt military conflict. As the long war continues, covert action is the new normal.