271. Memorandum from Coerr to Johnson, August 21

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  • Program of Covert Action Directed at the Castro Regime

I recommend that you concur in the program of covert action directed at the Castro regime as described in the Agency’s memorandum of August 1, 1961.

This Bureau has previously commented upon the two Agency papers which have been combined in that of August 1, and feels that the latter takes these comments into consideration. It is hoped that the internal plan of action can be fully implemented as soon as possible in the hope that the Cuban opposition can be revived and encouraged.

One consideration not noted in the memorandum is the wish of ARA to be kept fully informed of the development of the operations and fully consulted at every stage.

It is noted that the two previous papers were approved with comments by Mr. Woodward.

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Program of Covert Action Directed at the Castro Regime.


The basic objective of the program is to provide support to a U.S. program to develop opposition to Castro and to help bring about a regime acceptable to the U.S.


a. Agency Assets in Cuba: The Agency assets in Cuba which survived the recent severe repressive measures of the Castro regime consist of:

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[less than 1 line not declassified] intelligence agents with one radio plus several secret writing systems. (Remainder of previous stay-behind net.)

[less than 1 line not declassified] CIA singleton agents each with a secret writing system.

[less than 1 line not declassified] general purpose* agents (active) with 3 radios.

[less than 1 line not declassified] general purpose* agents (inactive at present).

[less than 1 line not declassified] trained propaganda agents (could be used as general purpose*)

b. Agency Assets outside of Cuba: Agency assets outside of Cuba but ready for use consist of:

[less than 1 line not declassified] trained intelligence and counter-intelligence agents.

[less than 1 line not declassified] trained general purpose* agents.

[less than 1 line not declassified] trained radio operators.

(*—General purpose agents are agents who in addition to intelligence collection have been trained in paramilitary activities.)

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c. In addition to the foregoing, recent reports from Cuban exfiltrees justify conservative estimates of a guerrilla group of about 100 men active in the Escambray plus approximately 625 members of leading opposition parties presently living normal lives but willing to participate in organising and militant action. These individuals are distributed in various provinces and are believed to have the following party associations:

MRR (Artime’s old group—left of center) 150
MRP (Ray’s party—left) 150
MDC (Catholic Labor Group) 100
DRE (student organization) 75
UR (a mixed group covering a broad political area) 75
30th of November (labor group) 50
Rescate (remnants of Tony Varena’s Authentics group) 25

d. The internal Cuban opposition which is presently agreed to attempt to achieve a unification of the main elements (i.e. the parties listed above) has access to caches totalling about 17 tons of arms and equipment previously infiltrated by CIA. In addition, the Agency either owns or has access to several vessels adequate for maritime operations and has continued to maintain a potential for mounting air operations. There is a complete propaganda apparatus, including weekly magazines and newspapers, newsletters, and production and [Facsimile Page 4] placement of [Typeset Page 669] radio shows, covering all of Latin America. There is also Radio Swan, covering the Caribbean basin, and contacts with national and international press for exploitation of themes. Moreover, CIA is prepared to continue its present contacts with the Cuban Revolutionary Council, other politically-acceptable Cuban groups and any individuals who appear to play a key part in internal exposition activities.

e. Operational Concept: The primary objectives of the present plan are to increase insofar as possible the collection of intelligence on the internal Cuban situation and the attitude of the Cuban people particularly with regard to opposition elements; the identification of political leadership; and the recruitment of additional members of opposition groups together with the organisation of these groups into the most effective anti-Castro opposition. There is no intention to undertake for the present any paramilitary activities except insofar as they may contribute to the strengthening of the opposition. In this connection it is believed that some outside manifestation is essential for morale purposes and as an aid to recruitment. This manifestation is considered to be best provided by minor acts of sabotage such as additives in gas leaks, lacks on highways, small nuisance bombings to disrupt public meetings with no intention to injure, and harassment of public officials. Such acts should, of course, be exploited by propaganda.

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No prognosis as to the success of the effort to build up the internal opposition is possible. Conversely, however, a failure to provide support to such an effort, particularly in the light of existing specific requests, would inevitably be interpreted as an affirmative U.S. decision that internal opposition has no place in U.S. planning. Such a conclusion would surely disrupt if not destroy anti-Castro elements. Should the expansion effort fail, support can always be withdrawn. Should it succeed, additional support is in no sense committed but such success would at least provide the U.S. with the opportunity to continue encouragement if it should so choose.

f. FY 1962 Operational Budget (Annex A Attached). The funds requested in the budget for each activity outlined below of the covert program are necessarily estimates and they do not contain any funds for support of political groups for the administrative support of their organizations nor for continued payments to dependents of Cubans who participated in the April invasion. A general outline of the budgeted activities follows:

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(1) Intelligence: In addition to the targets mentioned above, every effort will be made to improve and expand our collection of operational intelligence on Castro’s plans, intentions, and capabilities; our counter intelligence activities will concentrate on penetrating the Cuban Security Services and preventing detection of our operations by these Services.

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(2) Political Action: In the political action field we will endeavor to foster support for U.S. national policies on Cuba throughout Latin America, to combat Castro’s subversive efforts in that area, and to assist, where possible, in strengthening a unified opposition to Castro among the Cubans inside and outside Cuba. Particular effort will be made to identify and support, if found, any opposition group with a real potential for overthrowing and replacing Castro’s regime.

(3) Propaganda: As already stated, a number of previously created propaganda assets are being supported. Consequently, the budget is fairly high without undertaking anything new. Although these existing assets are considered good, they are being reviewed to determine if any should be terminated. Meanwhile, our propaganda activities will be devoted to destroying the popular image of Castro in Cuba, and combatting [Facsimile Page 7] Castro’s propaganda efforts, creating a militant opposition to Castro, and developing a climate of support for future action against Castro throughout Latin America.

(4) Paramilitary: Our primary task will be to expand our present personnel and support assets both inside and outside Cuba, for use in working with or through Cuban groups in developing an underground organization or several such which, hopefully, will achieve island-wide coverage. After secure reorganization, this mechanism could be used in exfiltration/infiltration of personnel, supplies and matériel, intelligence collection and propaganda operations as well as in a low-key sabotage and resistance program against Castro designed to harass the regime and to maintain and mobilise the spirit of resistance among the people of Cuba. We propose to develop more elaborate large-scale sabotage activities to be performed after approval by the Special Group. Although the program does not contemplate significant direct encouragement of guerrilla hands during FY 1962, the Agency will maintain equipment to provide modest support, if requested and approved, to those guerrilla elements which might arise, either spontaneously or as an effort on the part of Cuban or Agency assets to survive. We have also budgeted funds to maintain a limited air capability for possible resupply, leaflet and deception operations.

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(5) Support: The primary financial need is for salaries, travel, and related expenses for personnel assigned to Cuban operations. In addition, we must provide funds for the maintenance and logistical support of a forward operating base, a maritime base, operational or training sites, and communications facilities and equipment.


It is recommended that approval be granted for the above covert action program against Cuba and that a maximum of $12,738,132 be authorized for the implementation of this program. Only fifty percent [Typeset Page 671] of this total will be withdrawn initially from the Bureau of the Budget, with later withdrawals to be dependent on a review, within six months, of the operational progress made.

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Annex A


Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence Operations—Total [illegible in the original]

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Intelligence Collection [text not declassified]
Collection Networks in Cuba [text not declassified]
Agent Salaries (20 on board) [text not declassified]
Agent Salaries (20 planned) [text not declassified]
Courier Operations [text not declassified]
Training, Equipment and Other Expenses [text not declassified]
Singleton Legal Travel and Resident Agents [text not declassified]
Agent Salaries (64 on board) [text not declassified]
Agent Salaries (37 planned) [text not declassified]
Principal Agents & Cutout Salaries [text not declassified]
Training, travel & other expenses [text not declassified]
Third Country Operations [text not declassified]
Agent Salaries (20 planned) [text not declassified]
Travel and Expenses [text not declassified]
Other Operational Activity [text not declassified]
Counter-Intelligence [text not declassified]
Penetration Operations [text not declassified]
Detention Operations [text not declassified]
Other Operational Expenses [text not declassified]
Political Action Oppositions—Total [illegible in the original]
Support for covert contacts with political leaders in third countries to influence their National policies against Castro $ [text not declassified]
Support for covert actions in third countries to bring about support for a unified anti-Castro organization and its objectives. [text not declassified]
Propaganda Operations—Total $ [illegible in the original]
[illegible in the original] Publications [text not declassified]
[text not declassified] (weekly) [text not declassified]
Newspaper (daily) [text not declassified]
News Bulletin (weekly) [text not declassified]
Other Publication Activities [text not declassified]
Leaflet, pamphlet production [text not declassified]
Book and article production [text not declassified]
Mailing Operations [text not declassified]
Radio Swan [text not declassified]
Other Radio [text not declassified]
Cuban Freedom Committee cover for Swan and production of programs for broadcast from Florida Station [text not declassified]
Maintenance and planned use of vessel for broadcasting off Cuba [text not declassified]
Radio Equipment for use inside Cuba [text not declassified]
Preparation and distribution of radio tapes throughout Latin America [text not declassified]
[illegible in the original] Clandestine Operations [text not declassified]
[illegible in the original] into Cuba for clandestine propaganda and harassment operations [text not declassified]
[text not declassified] [text not declassified]
Western Hemisphere and Other Operations [text not declassified]
Maintenance of selected exile Cuban groups (students, labor, lawyers) and companies for anti-Castro propaganda tours by these groups throughout Latin America [text not declassified]
Tours of above groups to other areas of world [text not declassified]
Operations, including placement of selected motion picture and TV footage, throughout Latin America to create opposition to Castro [text not declassified]
Black operations (exposure of arms ostensibly from Castro for subversive actions, decreased manipulation) throughout Latin America [text not declassified]
Funds for development of new operations or one-time propaganda operations [text not declassified]
Cost of personnel involved are included in the estimates for the various activities above.
Paramilitary Operations—Total $7,370,000
Recruitment, training, emplacement and support of paramilitary agents [text not declassified]
Fee agents at $ [illegible in the original] (including compensation and death benefits, etc.) [text not declassified]
Communications equipment, facilities, and special training [text not declassified]
Development and maintenance of maritime capabilities [text not declassified]
Repair of present craft [text not declassified]
Operating costs for one year (include crews’ salaries) [text not declassified]
Infiltration-exfiltration operations (includes infiltration of personnel, supplies, funds, and exfiltration of agents, defectors, and agent prospects) [text not declassified]
Conduct of sabotage operations [text not declassified]
Training and operational [illegible in the original], [text not declassified]
safehousing and other operational support [text not declassified]
Technical services and special equipment [text not declassified]
Raiding operations-establishment and operation of training sites [text not declassified]
Support of guerrilla activity [text not declassified]
Operation control of ten [illegible in the original] or equivalent [text not declassified]
Purchase of special devices and equipment [text not declassified]
Support of operations as proposed by emerging Cuban groups [text not declassified]
Development and maintenance of air capability [text not declassified]
Support Operations—Total $4,325,000
Personnel [text not declassified]
Salary (265) and related charges [text not declassified]
Travel and [illegible in the original] [text not declassified]
Other charges [text not declassified]
Safe Establishment and Maintenance [text not declassified]
Forward Operating Base [text not declassified]
Maritime Base [text not declassified]
Training and/or operational safehouses and alias [text not declassified]
Communication Base [text not declassified]
Support from other U.S. agencies for security, [illegible in the original], etc. [text not declassified]
Logistics support [text not declassified]
Logistical support or bases, safehouses, alias, (transportation, security, etc.) [text not declassified]
Other [text not declassified]
Legal fees, cover companies, etc. [text not declassified]
Communication equipment and maintenance [text not declassified]
  1. Transmits a memorandum for the Special Group on program of covert action directed at the Castro regime. Secret. 13 pp. DOS, INR/IL Historical Files, S.G. 4, August 3, 1961.