272. Memorandum for the Record0


  • Meeting on Cuba, 1400 Hours, 4 November 1961
Pursuant to the Presidentʼs instructions at a meeting on 3 November, a further meeting on Cuba was held in the Cabinet Room on 4 November. It was attended by the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Paul Nitze, General Lansdale, Mr. Alexis Johnson, Mr. Richard Goodwin and the undersigned.
Mr. Goodwin had tabled a paper1 on a proposed organization for an accelerated build up of resistance to Castro. The suggestions in this paper were not, however, discussed at the meeting. The Attorney General mentioned that he had not seen the paper until the meeting, which I believe to have been the case with other participants. On the matter of organization, however, there seemed to be tacit but general acceptance of views that had been expressed the preceding day to the effect: (a) that there was a need for close operational coordination of all arms of the U.S. Government that could contribute to the operation, and (b) that responsibility for its direction should be lodged in a task force, conceived of at the minimum as a committee and at the maximum as a separate office, partly for the express purpose of making possible denial that this was another exclusively CIA undertaking.
I gave some further account of the kinds of operations we are now preparing and of what we believe to be the state of resistance within Cuba. In summary, I endeavored to make the following points: (a) Our approach to date has been to build up competent CIA controlled and independent Cuban capabilities and to set as their first priority task the creation of one or more competent resistance organizations within the Island. This is necessarily a rather slow business unlikely to begin to yield spectacular results for some time. Meanwhile, however, we are encouraging minor sabotage and planning for larger scale action. (b) In the pursuit of this course we have been in touch with numerous Cuban groups and are trying to bring them along to a point where they can do sound operational planning and hopefully will be able before long to mount infiltration, exfiltration and sabotage operations in a reasonably professional manner. (c) A different approach to the problem would be one which would offer maximum support to any and all politically acceptable elements who wish to infiltrate men and arms into the country [Page 674]or to undertake externally based commando type activities. We have a number of plans before us submitted by Cuban groups for such action. If we adopt the policy of encouraging the promptest possible action on the largest possible scale, it must be understood that sizeable losses will be involved because this implies launching operations before there is an internal organization ready and able to cooperate, before training has been completed, and without taking the time required for the observance of maximum security and counter-espionage precautions. (d) If we are prepared to accept the losses implied in this different approach, the two approaches can be pursued simultaneously with some hope that they will be mutually reinforcing. As we are successful in building a competent resistance organization, it will be in a position to give invaluable help to cruder and larger scale operations. At the same time, if some of these operations are successful they will contribute immeasurably to the climate in which a professionally organized resistance can be built up.
The Attorney General urged as the main action to be taken that there was needed an impartial survey of the operational situation and opportunities by someone who had not been close to the operation. It was agreed that this would be undertaken by General Lansdale. I said there could be no objection to such a survey provided (a) it would not interfere with on-going operations and (b) those employed on it were competent in clandestine operations. In connection with the latter reservation, I emphasized we are not now and will for some time not be at a stage in which there is large scale guerrilla fighting; rather the kinds of things that will need to be done for some little time are typical covert operations and an understanding of them requires knowledge of and experience in such operations.
In connection with on-going activities, I said I took it to be the consensus of the meeting, without waiting for the outcome of the survey, that their pace should be stepped up as rapidly as possible, including what has been referred to as large scale sabotage if feasible against really strategic targets. It was agreed that this was the sense of the meeting.
After the meeting broke up I had a brief conversation with the Attorney General. I emphasized to him (a) that the Agency personnel now active in operations against Cuba were a completely new group and that he should not be under the impression that people physically and emotionally tired from [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] were those upon whom we were relying for new activities, (b) that if he had any criticism of the Agencyʼs organization or approach I hoped he would state them directly to us, and (c) that I specifically disagree with certain of Goodwinʼs organizational proposals especially that which would place responsibility for underground and guerrilla activities in a Department of Defense designee.
Richard M. Bissell, Jr.
Deputy Director (Plans)
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/DDP Files: Job 78-01450R, Box 5, Area Activity-Cuba. Secret. Prepared by Bissell on November 5.
  2. Goodwinʼs paper is apparently the unsigned paper dated November 4 which is ibid. For text, see the Supplement.