Is Our Choice Democracy or Covert Activities?; Executive Order 12333 – Letter to the Editor NY Times

To the Editor:

The President, or at least his aides, have made the argument that the Boland Amendment did not restrict the National Security Council from supporting the contras. The claim is that the amendment covered only intelligence agencies and that the N.S.C. is not an intelligence agency. This assertion is belied by the President’s own executive order setting forth the functions of the N.S.C.

Executive Order 12333, signed by the President in 1981, states that the ”N.S.C. shall act as the highest executive branch entity that provides review of, guidance for and direction to the conduct of all national foreign intelligence, counterintelligence and special activities, and attendant policies and programs.” In addition, under the order the N.S.C. is responsible for reviewing all covert operations and submitting recommendations to the President for approval.

In view of the National Security Council’s role in directing all intelligence gathering, it is disingenuous to argue that the N.S.C. is not, in the language of the Boland Amendment, an ”agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities.” It is surprising that none of the members of the Congressional committees investigating the Iran-contra affair have brought the President’s executive order to the attention of the witnesses.


Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights New York