All posts by Loch K. Johnson

Loch K. Johnson is Regents Professor of Political Science in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia. Dr Johnson was Special Assistant to the Chair of the Senate Select Committee House Sub-committee on Intelligence Oversight from 1975 to 1976. He also served as Staff Director of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Oversight from 1977 to 1979. In 1995 and 1996 Dr Johnson worked with the Chair of the Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence. He was a Visiting Scholar at Yale University in 2005. Loch Johnson’s expertise lies in the activities of United States intelligence agencies, and he was also instrumental in founding the School of Public and International Affairs. Loch Johnson edits the Praeger Security International Series Intelligence and the Quest for Security and is co-editor of the journal Intelligence and National Security. Dr. Johnson earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Riverside in 1969. He has won the Josiah Meigs Prize, the highest teaching honor at the University of Georgia in addition to the Owens Award, its highest honor for research.

Intelligence Analysis and Planning for Paramilitary Operations

Paramilitary operations – “PM ops” in American spytalk – may be defined as secret war-like activities. They are a part of a broader set of endeavors undertaken by intelligence agencies to manipulate events abroad, when so ordered by authorities in the executive branch. These activities are known collectively as “covert action” (CA) or, alternatively, “special activities,” “the quiet option,” or “the third option” (between diplomacy and overt military intervention). In addition to PM ops, CA includes secret political and economic operations, as well as the use of propaganda. Often
used synergically, each form is meant to help nudge the course of history – insofar as this is possible – in a direction favorable to the United States. Since the creation of the modern U.S. “intelligence community” by way of the National Security Act of 1947, PM ops have been conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known by insiders as “The Agency.”

This article offers a brief history of America’s paramilitary activities, with special attention to the relationship between intelligence analysis – the attempts by the CIA and its fifteen companion agencies to understand contemporary world events and forecast how they will unfold – and the use of paramilitary forces to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals.