In 1984, President Reagan ordered the Director of Central Intelligence to develop “capabilities for the pre-emptive neutralization of anti-American terrorist groups which plan, support, or conduct hostile terrorist acts against U.S. citizens, interests, and property overseas.”
The President further ordered the DCI to “develop a clandestine service capability, using all lawful means, for effective response overseas against terrorist acts commmitted against U.S. citizens, facilities, or interests.”
Those instructions were contained in National Security Decision Directive 138, “Combatting Terrorism,” which was issued on April 3, 1984.
A few weeks earlier, Hezbollah forces in Lebanon had kidnapped William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut.
NSDD 138 remained classified for many years and was not fully declassified until two years into the Obama Administration.