319. Editorial Note

At the 512th meeting of the National Security Council, April 20, 1963, the issue of Cuba was briefly raised. Most of the discussion at the meeting dealt with Laos; for text, see volume XXIV, pages 976980. According to Bromley Smith’s summary record, the discussion of Cuba was as follows:

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“Director McCone said that our latest information was that the remaining twenty-three American prisoners would probably be leaving Cuba on Monday. He had reports that these prisoners were being moved from the Isle of Pines to Havana. Donovan appeared hopeful that the removal would be completed Monday.

“The President commented that with the prisoners out of Cuba, we might be in a position to act against Cuba if Khrushchev made no move to halt the deterioration in Laos. He asked what action we could take against Cuba.

“Director McCone said we should fly low-level reconnaissance missions which were necessary no matter what happens in Laos. He said we need to have pictures of Soviet convoys, some of which were described in considerable detail by Donovan upon his return from his last visit to Havana.

“Ambassador Thompson pointed out that a U.S. bombing raid on Pathet Lao forces in Laos would be easier for Khrushchev to accept than U.S. action against Cuba.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, National Security Council Meetings, No. 512, 4/20/63)

William Colby, Chief of the Far East Division, Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency, prepared an account of the meeting which he sent to Director of Central Intelligence McCone. Colby’s extract relating to Cuba reads:

“The President stated his belief that it was necessary to raise the pressure somewhat in Cuba. He felt that we could hardly continue to carry out a mild policy in Cuba at the time the Communists are carrying out an aggressive policy in Laos. He thus approved certain U-2 flights over Cuba. These flights and other activities against Cuba, however, will be delayed until the anticipated release by Cuba of prisoners on April 22. The President requested recommendations on April 22 for additional efforts which can be taken in Cuba.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI Meetings with the President, 1 April-30 June 1963) The memorandum is printed in volume XXIV, pages 985988.