'On October 15, 1984, Associated Press reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had written a manual for the Nicaraguan Contras (then involved in a civil war with the Nicaraguan government), entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerrillas). The ninety-page book of instructions focused mainly on how "Armed Propaganda Teams" could build political support in Nicaragua for the Contra cause through deceit, intimidation, and violence. The manual discussed assassinations. The CIA claimed that the purpose of the manual was to "moderate" the extreme violence already being used by the Contras.
** Political reaction
A Reagan administration official stated privately that the manual had been written by an "overzealous" independent low-level employee under contract to the CIA. Further, the manual had not been cleared for publication and was "clearly against the law", and the manual violated Reagan’s 1981 Executive Order banning political assassinations.
On October 18, 1984 President Ronald Reagan ordered William Casey to initiate an investigation by the CIA's inspector general. Reagan stated that "whoever is guilty [of preparing the manual], we will deal with that situation and they will be removed."
In a news conference the day after his reelection victory, Reagan dismissed the entire controversy as “much ado about nothing.”
The next month a White House spokesman said Reagan had approved the inspector general's report recommending discipline of several mid-level officials. Five mid-level CIA employees received punishments from written reprimands to suspension without pay for “poor judgment and lapses in oversight” because of the manual. In 1987 it was found that Casey blocked any punishment of the two senior CIA officials involved with producing and distributing the manual, including one, Duane Clarridge, who after initially denying that he had anything to do with the manual, admitted he was “fully responsible” for the document. In closed testimony to a congressional committee, Casey reportedly declared, “There’s no reason to discipline them for one little slip-up.”
The manual recommended “selective use of violence for propagandistic effects” and to “neutralize” (i.e., kill) government officials. Nicaraguan Contras were taught to
[lead] demonstrators into clashes with the authorities, to provoke riots or shootings, which lead to the killing of one or more persons, who will be seen as the martyrs; this situation should be taken advantage of immediately against the Government to create even bigger conflicts.
The manual also recommended:
selective use of armed force for PSYOP [psychological operations] effect.... Carefully selected, planned targets — judges, police officials, tax collectors, etc. — may be removed for PSYOP effect in a UWOA [unconventional warfare operations area], but extensive precautions must ensure that the people “concur” in such an act by thorough explanatory canvassing among the affected populace before and after conduct of the mission.
** Nicaragua v. US
The manual was one of the issues the International Court of Justice (IJC) analyzed in the Nicaragua v. US 1986 I.C.J. 14 case. The court's jurisdiction for this case was disputed by the United States, an issue that has never been resolved.
The ICJ in the voted on statements "Finds that the United States of America, by producing in 1983 a manual entitled Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerrillas, and disseminating it to contra forces, has encouraged the commission by them of acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law; but does not find a basis for concluding that any such acts which may have been committed are imputable to the United States of America as acts of the United States of America"
"The Court has to determine whether the relationship of the contras to the United States Government was such that it would be right to equate the contras, for legal purposes, with an organ of the United States Government, or as acting on behalf of that Government. The Court considers that the evidence available to it is insufficient to demonstrate the total dependence of the contras on United States aid. A partial dependency, the exact extent of which the Court cannot establish, may be inferred from the fact that the leaders were selected by the United States, and from other factors such as the organisation, training and equipping of the force, planning of operations, the choosing of targets and the operational support provided. There is no clear evidence that the United States actually exercised such a degree of control as to justify treating the contras as acting on its behalf."
"Having reached the above conclusion, the Court takes the view that the contras remain responsible for their acts, in particular the alleged violations by them of humanitarian law. For the United States to be legally responsible, it would have to be proved that that State had effective control of the operations in the course of which the alleged violations were committed."https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_Operations_in_Guerrilla_Warfare