In the 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America disclosed it had used clergy, journalists, and academics in covert operations. In 1977, an intense campaign by religious groups and civil libertarians led to rules by the CIA which prohibited it from hiring or establishing any intelligence relationship “with any U.S. clergy or missionary, whether or not ordained, who is sent out by a mission or church organization to preach, teach, heal, or proselytize.” Similar rules were later adopted barring employment of journalists and academics in covert operations overseas.
In 1996, the CIA director declared that the ban on the use of journalists would be waived only in cases of “unique and special threats to national security.” The CIA has thus far not clarified the possibility of a clergy loophole circumventing the 1977 rules. Because lifting the ban would jeopardize all missionaries, church, relief, community development and refugee assistance workers ministering in politically sensitive areas, the National Association of Evangelicals urges our sending agencies to avoid any relationship with, or supply any information to, any intelligence agency or service.
We insist that the CIA close any loophole that allows for intelligence gathering collaboration with clergy, missionaries, and aid workers. We insist that the CIA clarify and publish its policy for the protection of United States citizens serving in ministry abroad.
We request the Executive Branch of the United States government and the Select Committees on Intelligence of the Congress to cooperate in continuing to prohibit such inappropriate collaboration. We request that, if necessary, Executive Orders of the president be issued and legislation be introduced in Congress to correct this intolerable situation.