Regulating Covert Action

In This Review

Regulating Covert Action

By W. Michael Reisman and James E. Baker
Yale University Press, 1992
250 pp. $28.50
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The need for covert operations may decline in the post-Cold War world, the authors acknowledge, but such operations will continue to be occasionally necessary. What should be the international and national norms for regulating them? Two respected legal scholars carefully analyze the question. The most original section deals with international law and the U.N. Charter, where on first appearance there is little precedent and guidance, yet they identify norms of law on case-by-case examination far more than one might expect. As for American policy, Reisman and Baker recommend that "an act accomplished covertly should be overtly lawful." One reason is that it is likely to become public knowledge, sooner or later, and the government must be prepared to live with the consequences. This sophisticated book examines governmental actions toward which many will be opposed or ambivalent, but that are still likely to be undertaken even in the new world order.

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