375. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State 1

SUBJECT

  • Control of Air Incursions over Cuba and Other Exile Activity Directed Against Cuban Government

The recent leaflet “raid” on Habana and the subsequent reaction in Cuba have brought into sharp focus the problem which the activities of Cuban exiles in the Florida area pose for the United States in the conduct of its foreign relations with Cuba and the rest of the hemisphere. The available evidence indicates that the planes which conducted the “raid” on Habana came from the United States. The Cuban government had previously and officially complained on several occasion that light planes coming from the United States have dropped arms and ammunition to anti-Government elements in Cuba. The anti-Castro groups in Florida are numerous, apparently well-financed and their activities have been steadily increasing in recent months.

ARA believes that the activities of these groups in collecting arms, making clandestine flights over Cuba and agitating against the present Cuban regime are highly prejudicial to our relations with Cuba and detrimental to our posture as the protagonist of efforts to ameliorate tensions in the Caribbean area. In particular, the continuation of such activities in Florida is likely to give Castro the one issue which could be sure to rally the Cuban people around him and win the sympathy of other Latin Americans, thus undermining the efforts of all those desiring to bring about in Cuba a more moderate policy and one of increased friendship with the United States. Unless a concerted effort is made to halt such activities, it is probable that they will increase in scope and seriousness and the impression will undoubtedly be gained in Cuba and other quarters that they have the tacit approval of the USG.

The problem of detecting violations of U.S. laws by these groups is undoubtedly a difficult one and the responsibility for enforcement of the pertinent laws is divided among a number of agencies. However, the activities of these groups continue to increase, and ARA believes [Page 634] that a concerted effort by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies must be made not only to investigate reported violations, but where possible, to prevent such violations.

In view of the above considerations, I would recommend that you communicate with the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Defense to point out the importance of this matter from the point of view of our foreign relations and enlist their help in mobilizing all available investigative and law enforcement agencies and personnel, to prevent violations of our Neutrality, Customs and other laws. The Under Secretary for Political Affairs might similarly communicate with the Administrator of the F.A.A. and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

I would also strongly recommend that the Department seek the agreement of the agencies concerned for the following proposals or suitable alternatives to them:

Representatives of Justice, Treasury and other appropriate agencies be sent to the Miami area to step up and coordinate investigative and enforcement activities.

Governor LeRoy Collins of Florida be apprised of the situation and that he be requested (a) to instruct state police and county sheriffs to make periodic investigations of air fields in their respective territories to determine the presence of suspicious aircraft, reporting same to appropriate Federal authorities; (b) that as an alternative or complementary measure, elements of the National Guard be posted on a 24-hour watch for the next two weeks at all airports in Florida to discourage the type of flight described above and to report movements of suspicious aircraft; (c) that the Air National Guard of Florida initiate periodic patrols of waters off the coast of Florida to note identification markings of suspicious aircraft particularly unidentified C–46, C–47, B–25 and B–26’s. (The U.S. Air Force may also be able to help—see paragraph 3.) A preliminary contact with the Governor’s office to this end has already been made.

3.
The U.S. Air Force alone or in coordination with the Air National Guard of Florida, initiate an air patrol of the coastal waters off Florida in order to identify suspect aircraft. We have already discussed this with the Department of the Air force, which has indicated its desire to cooperate to the fullest and designated General Struthers to draw up plans.
4.
The Federal Aviation Agency in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force undertake more intensive monitoring through radar and radio of suspect aircraft movements and review their legislative authority to determine whether legal action can be taken against those responsible for the flights described or for acquiring and registering aircraft for such purposes.
5.
That a public announcement of these actions be made as soon as possible.

[Page 635]

Recommendations:

1.
That you telephone the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Defense to point out the importance of this matter from the point of view of our foreign relations and to enlist their help in mobilizing all available investigative and law enforcement agencies and personnel, to prevent violations of our Neutrality, Customs and other laws.
2.
That you authorize the Under Secretary for Political Affairs to telephone the Administrator of the F.A.A. and the Director of CIA to enlist their assistance along the same lines.
3.
That you approve the over-all course of action represented by the five numbered paragraphs on the preceding page and authorize ARA, in conjunction with other appropriate areas of the Department, to take all appropriate steps for its immediate implementation.2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/10–2359. Confidential. Drafted by Vallon, Owen, and Hill, and initialed by Rubottom. Concurred in by Hanes, who wrote the following comment at the end of the source text: “I concur, with the reservation that we should make no public announcement unless we can take some reasonably effective action to halt or prevent or punish violations.” A copy was also sent to Murphy.
  2. Herter initialed his approval of each recommendation on October 24. In a memorandum of October 26 to Herter, Rubottom discussed the various steps that had been taken since October 23 to control activities against the Cuban Government by exiles in the United States. (ibid., 737.00/10–2659)