376. Memorandum for the Record0


  • Cuban Operations

A meeting was held this morning with higher authority on the above subject. Present were: Mr. Rusk, Mr. McNamara, Mr. Robert Kennedy, Mr. Bundy, Mr. McCone, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Gilpatric, Mr. Vance, General Taylor, Mr. Helms, Mr. FitzGerald, Mr. Cheever, and Mr. Shackley.

Mr. McCone gave a brief summary of recent developments inside Cuba. He stated that the military is generally loyal to Castro. There have been some disorders but not very extensive. Castro’s internal security forces appear to be well organized. He has developed a system of informers which is becoming increasingly effective. The economic situation is deteriorating largely because of the enforcement of economic sanctions, [Page 886] and Hurricane “Flora” although its damage was not as great as originally thought. The Soviets appear to be continuing the gradual withdrawal of personnel from Cuba although recently 1,000-2,000 troops have come in. There now seems to be a kind of “Soviet MAAG” program concerned mainly with training Cubans in all types of military activity including the handling of missiles. There has been some removal of the more sophisticated types of electronic equipment. Some new tanks have arrived in Cuba, estimates rUN from 25 to 50.

Mr. FitzGerald reported on Cuban operations under six main headings: (a) Covert Collection, (b) Propaganda, (c) Economic Denial, (d) Disaffections in the Military, (e) Sabotage and Harassment, and (f) Support of Autonomous Anti-Castro Groups.


Covert Collection. Mr. FitzGerald pointed out that inside Cuba CIA has three kinds of agent activities: (1) “singleton,” (2) collection nets, and (3) agents involved in “black net” operations. While there is encouraging improvement in the geographical spread of these agents, there is still, understandably, a fairly heavy concentration of agents in the Havana area.

A question was raised as to how many agents in all of these activities have been lost. Mr. FitzGerald said that in the neighborhood of 25 had been either captured or killed in the past year. The reasons for these casualty figures are the increasing effectiveness of Castro’s internal security forces and discovery brought about when agents try to obtain food. No matter how good the documentation, an outsider in a community is viewed with suspicion.

Propaganda. The activities of CIA in this field are the mailing of leaflets and radio broadcasts. Some 30-40,000 leaflets per month have been mailed and during a day there are 32 hours of programs emanating from seven different stations. It is believed that there is a very excellent listening public. The programs appeal to people in a wide variety of jobs and professions. There is some jamming but it is spasmodic and generally confined to Havana.
Economic Denial. Mr. FitzGerald reported that the U.S. economic denial program is contributing to Cuba’s declining economy. Mention was made that the economic denial program would be more effective if the Canadians were willing to cooperate. Up to now they have not gone along with U.S. efforts, and they are supplying many items essential to Cuban economy. The UK and Spain are continuing to deal in certain types of goods required by the Cubans. Commodities going into Cuba in 1962 from the free world reached $101 million. While this represents less than in 1961 the amount is still too high.
Disaffections in the Military. While the military is loyal to Castro as has been noted there are indications that some leaders would like to break with the regime but lack courage and opportunity. Mr. FitzGerald [Page 887] commended a CIA-DIA task force which prepared a report covering some 150 Cuban military leaders. Out of this figure there are some 45 which look interesting from CIA’s operational viewpoint. Mr. FitzGerald reported that CIA is in touch with three persons who are in the military or who have highly placed contacts in such circles. The aim is to use these three individuals to establish contact with military personnel inside Cuba. The principal aim is to get military leaders who have become disenchanted with the Castro regime to dare to talk and plot Castro’s downfall with each other.
Sabotage and Harassment. Mr. FitzGerald mentioned four successful sabotage operations against a power plant, oil storage facilities, a sawmill, and an underwater demolition operation against a floating crane in one of Cuba’s harbors. It is believed that the publication of these successful sabotage activities in the Cuban press has tended to raise appreciably the morale of the people. Also, such sabotage continues to keep pressure on the Castro regime and adds to the growing economic problems facing the country.
Support of Autonomous Anti-Castro Groups. The question was asked from where would the autonomous groups operate. Mr. FitzGerald replied that they would operate from outside U.S. territory. He mentioned two bases of the Artime group, one in Costa Rica and the other in Nicaragua. Also it was hoped that the autonomous group under Manolo Ray would soon get itself established in a working base, possibly Costa Rica. Mr. FitzGerald said that much could be accomplished by these autonomous groups once they become operational.

A question was asked as to what decisions remain to be made. Mr. FitzGerald replied that we were looking for a reaffirmation of the program as presented, including sabotage and harassment. When asked what was planned in sabotage for the immediate future, he said that destruction operations should be carried out against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships. The question was also raised as to whether an air strike would be effective on some of these principal targets. The consensus was that CIA should proceed with its planning for this type of activity looking toward January.

The State Department raised questions with respect to sabotage activities in Cuba. The thought was advanced that there may be a relationship between such hit and rUN attacks on Cuba and the delay of American convoys en route to Berlin. A further question was posed as to the over-all importance to the United States of sabotage operations, especially since it is so difficult to keep them from being directly attributable to the U.S. It was thought that the hit and rUN type effort might in fact invoke loss of support inside Cuba and may even result in bringing more [Page 888] Soviet troops back into Cuba. Somehow the U.S. must pin responsibility for these activities on Castro. The U.S. in fact must be ready to retaliate when it can be fairly well established that Castro is attempting with arms, money and men to foment Communist uprisings in any Latin American country.

The consensus was that since CIA’s sabotage operation is in the main low cost and since it does worry the Castro regime, denies him some essential commodities, stimulates some sabotage inside Cuba and tends to improve the morale of the Cubans who would like to see Castro removed, CIA should proceed with those operations planned for the coming week end (November 15 though 17).

The view was expressed that CIA, in connection with the Department of Defense, should concentrate on attempting to catch Castro red-handed delivering arms to Communist groups in Latin American countries. It was determined that during the next 90 days from this date an attempt would be made by means of air patrols and surface ships to identify ships carrying arms for Castro to Latin American countries. It was hoped that a ship with Cuban arms could be picked up. Conversations are to be initiated by the Secretary of the Navy with CIA to map out a three-month operation against Cuban shipping. It was also determined that the Colombian and Venezuelan governments should be asked to join with the U.S. in developing a joint patrol designed to identify ships carrying weapons from Cuba destined for revolutionary groups in Latin American countries.

Paul Eckel
  1. Source: Department of State, INR Historical Files, Special Group Meeting No. 105, December 6, 1963. Secret; Eyes Only. For McCone’s account of this meeting, see Document 375.