APPROVED FOR4 CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM
TITLB: Cover In Unconventional Operations
AUTHOR: Harvey B. McCadden
a collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ot intelligence.
All statements of fad. opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of
ihe authors. They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Inielligencc Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in ihe contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement oran article's factual statements and interpretations.
Broad reflections on the role of concealment in unconventional warfare and other clandestine operations.
IN UNCONVENTIONAL OPERATIONS Harvey B. McCadden
Mr^Jamea Thurber!^ewn^ complained that "the author has told me more about the caterpillarished torospective readers of this paper are promised no such exhaustive or exhausting treatment, but some remarks on cover and concealment seem appropriateime when studies are In progress lookingore effective and better polished conduct ofwarfare operations.
Unconventional operations, bellicose or otherwise, if they are to retain the cccumiratorial and secret attributes they have had in the past, bespeak cover and concealment, at least In their organizational stages and sometimes through their entire life cycle. Cover Is almost always necessary for the protection of conspiracy and conspirators as they organize for action. If surprise Is to play any part In tbe fruition of the conspiracy, coverseful andecessary ingredient In mounting the action. And If for politicalabroad the government sponsorship or perpetration of the action is not to be revealed, then coverine qua non throughout. Cover affords protection against counteraction eitherirect sort or through mobilization of adverseopinion.
Cover Isonsideration to be weighed Inwith any examination or reexamination of the modusope rations. It Is not, of course, the onlyconsideration; for one thing. It Is never quiteother pervasive protective elements of theparticularly security and ccnmtertntclllgence. Butconcealment are worth singling out here as one aspectoperation sometimes obscured by theof the
Cover as Integral to Planning
A major point to be emphasized Is that cover, theot some ostensible legitimate status to conceal the hand of intelligence or operations personnel and protect theirmust be treated as an integral part of the plan for the conduct of any clandestine operation. It does not fall Into the categoryupport factor on the peripheral framework of the plan nor Is It an element solely of its execuUonal phase.
plan itself,ound concept of its application must be worked out In advance. All persons responsible for theof the plan must know the "legend" beforehand, andthe execution they must accept the discipline it requires and adhere to the regimen It Imposes.
Because of this burden of maintaining cover and theoff for no other reason, clandestineshould not be adopted for an action unless the national Interest clearly demands it. For once It Is decided that an operation Is to be clandestine, there Is no recourse In itsfrom this burden and these hazards.
An example of operational cover consistently maintained is the Soviet deploymentrawler fleet into internationalincluding the sea lanes of the Western powers.the plan of clandestine operations for this fleet may be, the cover of commercial fishing Is an Integral part of It. When suspicions have been voiced that the "fishing" Iseculiar surreptitious kind, the Russians have steadfastlyosition of international legality and rectitude. Thelegend Is always vigorously reasserted, and It is accepted by those who are Inclined to believe the best of the Bulwark of Socialist Society. In adopting this cover the Russiansconsidered protection against adverse public opinion worth themen, money, materials, and planningcreating for their clandestine activity this elaborate equipment identified with peacetime pursuits.
1 The usual agents ot exposure are not only enemy counterintelligence services, but also friendly counterintelligence services, newsmen with exaggerated teal, and fellow citizens competing in the cover capacity or Just Infected with one-upmanship.
As corollary to the proposition that cover Is Integral to the concept of an operation. It follows that the conduct of the operation must be shaped to fit its cover legend. For one thing, personnel overtly connected with the operating agency, or with other government agencies and departments, can playimited role In the executionlandestine operation, one that permits them to remain In the background unldentl-fleld with the plan or Itsnd the drive to "get thing .done" must frequently rive, way to measured, curabersorne,'sometimes rrlefDclentTrnethods^fiecesiary to" serve the cover legend.
Extemporization of cover In the conductlandestine operation must be closely controlled and in each Instanceevaluated in relation to the totality of the coverture. Cover contrived empirically for an act ancillarylanned operation may conveniently cover the act but at the same time be Inimical to or Inconsistent with the cover legend; coverture of the part may tend to expose the whole. Forthe purchase of expensive equipmentprivatefor cash may hide the Identity of the buyer but mayhirlwind of conjecture in the business community, leadingonsensus, particularly if the purchase Is oneeries of suspicious incidents, that the cover legend Is an official contrivance. Even in an agency composed of civilians trained ln the use of cover. Itormidable task to enforce unremitting applicationover legend in the face of more expeditious ways of "getting on with theithin astructure, the accommodation to such an Inhibitingposes an even graver problem to personnel trained Inmethods of direct action.
Magnitude and Concealment
Since requirements for concealment may vary according to circumstance, cover may beariable bothand quantitatively. It may. vary qualitatively accord-
'Although it laruism, it Is perhaps worth repeating that once an Individual, however well qualifiedarticular assignment. Is publicly identifiedovernment department or agency, there are no mechanics of dlaassoclaUoa that can assure him protection from Identification br hostile intelligence services and propagandists or tor that matter by friendly enemies.
tng lo the depth of concealment required by politicaland also quantitatively with the size of theor the nature of the support available for it,undertakenavorable political climate and with the tacit consent of the local government may requirehin veil to conform to political niceties, whereas those mountedostile regime may require the ultimate In concealment.
With respect to size and complexity. It may be said that Umx&Mg^.W,
and materials, the better the chance for its completeSome large operations are ofature that they may be covered upiven point In their unfoldment but then inevitably become apparent. Forudgment must be made as to whether the advantagesemporary cover legend are worth the effort entailed andffects of the subsequent exposure. The sheer magnitudeivensometimes limits the reliance that can be placed on cover and concealment, but even here particular aspects of the whole may be cloaked by the controlled use of physicalsurprise, and operational deception, as well as cover. When all tricks of the trade are skillfully applied, much can be accomplished, probably more than is realized by thecrop of expostulators who seek the public ear and eye. In this broad sense remarkably good coverture was attained for many aspects of the largest operation in which thisever participated, Overlord.
There are of course other limiting influences on cover and concealment besides the magnitude of thefor example, if we speak of an infiltration operation. It goes without sayingross-border operation from awooded area can be concealed much more easilyenetration fromarge Intervening stretch ofsand, or exposed flatland. In addition, ethnological and ecological limitations play their part. These latter have been well debated and categorized in the past and this Information Is available for future guidance.
It is, however, the limitations imposed by magnitude and complexity that undoubtedly need le-examlnation and debate at this point We came out of Worldith some fairly
firm Ideas on the limitations Inherent in clandestineby their very nature, particularly those of the kindby the early Resistance, based largely on hopeassurance of ultimate deliverance from the Nazis.of small, compartrnented units and closely heldso painfully achieved at that time, seems of late toits currency. We have fallen into habits of thoughtcovert operations to take on any degree ofthe deploymentolitary agent to actionsi >MWl aWaW-"
Butiris not our purpose here to prejudge the problem of scope and magnitude; It should be tbe subjectareful and well-paced examination, which should at the same time consider the inhibitions Imposed on unconventional operations by the necessity ofenignant world opinion. In the process of any such evaluation, however, we mustguard against any tendency to derogate the very concept of the use of covert operations In the nation's
Having begun these reflectionsuotationrophet of Joy, we might end with comment on onerophet ofolumnist In the Washington Post1 was moved to say, "It is not possibleree and open society to organizepectacular,The United States, like every other government, must employ secret agents. But the United States cannotconduct large secret conspiracies. It Is impossible to keep them secret."
A free society may not be able tospectacularor that Is an outright contradiction in terms. Butation we can do Just about all we need to do in the way ofIt Is carefully planned with due regard to the mtegrallty of Its elements. If the plan Is continuously weighed against the consequences of failure, and If It Iswith the required care and deliberation. Our freedom was gained ln substantial part by conspiratorial action; In the same fashion much can be done to keep it.Original document.