Brief History: Secret CIA Missions

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

One of the many documents released by the CIA is seen at the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington June 26, 2007.

The Central Intelligence Agency was designed to work in the shadows. But Director Leon Panetta's recent allegations that the Bush Administration conceived a covert program to assassinate al-Qaeda leaders have blindsided even those lawmakers accustomed to its stealthy habits.

They shouldn't be shocked. Secret overseas operations are nothing new for the CIA, which was created in 1947 with the broad authority to conduct foreign intelligence missions. In 1953 the agency orchestrated a coup against Iranian Premier Mohammed Mossadegh that returned the pro-American Shah to power. Over the ensuing decade, it supported coups and assassinations in places such as Guatemala and the...

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