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Since 1954, oversight of United States covert operations has been carried out by a series of sub-committees of the United States National Security Council.

NSC 5412/2 Special Group

The NSC 5412/2 Special Group, often referred simply as the Special Group, was an initially secret, but later public, subcommittee of the United States National Security Council responsible for coordinating government covert operations. Presidential Directive NSC 5412/2, issued December 28, 1954, assigned responsibility for co-ordination of covert actions to representatives of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the President respectively.

The Federation of American Scientists list of national security documents for the Eisenhower administration does not show a directive 5412/2. It does however show a 5412/1 with a classified title (one of only three such documents for the entire administration).

A National Security Archive chronology of the Bay of Pigs Invasion indicates a membership in December 1960 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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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[6]

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.[7]

Special Intelligence Office

In 2002–2003, during the Bush Administration, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith created a special-purpose group encompassing and focusing on all military and intelligence efforts involving Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Near East countries, as well as all activities falling under the rubric of the Global War on Terror. This group has been said to have been responsible for stovepiping selective raw intelligence data, bypassing analysis processes as well as bypassing customary cooperation and coordination with NSA, Mossad, and other intelligence entities in order to shape decisions as to the war with Iraq. Its functions were morphed in the Office of Special Plans, which was subsequently investigated for manipulations of intelligence, unlawful activities, and espionage.[8]


  1. "Bay of Pigs: 40 Years After - Chronology". The National Security Archive. 
  2. "Covert Action in Chile: 1963–1973". United States Department of State.,%201969-1973.. 
  5. "Proposals for Intelligence Reorganization, 1949-2004" (PDF). United States Department of State. 
  6. "Executive Order 11985". Federation of American Scientists. May 13, 1977. 
  7. Loch K. Johnson (March 1989). "Covert Action and Accountability: Decision-Making for America's Secret Foreign Policy". International Studies Quarterly. 
  8. Julian Borger in Washington, Richard Norton-Taylor and Michael Howard (30 January 2003). "Al-Qaida and Iraq: how strong is the evidence?". The Guardian. 


  • 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 0-13-798173-2.
  • Wise, David, and Thomas B. Ross. The Invisible Government. New York: Random House, 1964.

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