The objective of this study is to investigate and analyse covert action as an option in national security policy. To achieve this aim, the study focused on aspects such as changes in the current international security environment; new challenges that exist; and a conceptual framework of covert action as an element of intelligence. An analysis of the conduct of covert action by the United States of America (US) during the Cold War era as well as the post-Cold War era was also done with the specific intention of identifying problem areas, reasons for success, as well as legislative control measures instituted to regulate the activity. A similar study referring to the situation in South Africa, with the focus on the pre- and post-1994 eras, is also presented. The nature of covert action and especially negative perceptions within society, have led to the questioning of the use of covert action as a legitimate option within security policy. However, as shown in the analysis of case studies, reality indicates that governments continue to conduct covert action. The importance of the study lies in its clarification of the concept of covert action, not only for policy-makers but also for intelligence functionaries. It indicates the measures that should be in place for covert action to be an effective element of national security options; its advantages and disadvantages; the circumstances in which it should be conducted; and the fact that it is still a viable option in the current security milieu.
Dissertation (MSS (Political Science))--University of Pretoria, 2007.