116. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Italian covert political assistance

Some weeks ago you asked me to review this problem and bring you up to date on it more specifically. I have now done so, and the situation is as follows:

Over the years the US has assisted the democratic Italian political parties and trade unions at a very high rate. Over the period 1955-1965, the total amount of assistance is just under [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. In recent years we have been cutting this assistance back, primarily because the professionals closely related to the operation have concluded that we have not been getting our full money’s worth and what the Italian political parties need is not so much U.S. money as energetic administrative leadership. President Kennedy had a personal feeling that political subsidies at this level were excessive, and they were scaled down.

In the last two or three years, assistance has been running at a rate of about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], except in the election year of 1963. The recommendation for next year runs to a total of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The interdepartmental review committee for covert operations—Vance, Thompson, Raborn and myself—has approved this recommendation subject to your concurrence.

Meanwhile, by separate and somewhat unusual channels, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] have let us know that they would like a lot more money. They have given no practical justification, and indeed have been at pains to suggest that our orthodox channels are stuffy and uncooperative. I have had a long interview with the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] man most familiar with this subject (he was in Rome for 8 years), and he persuades me that this end run is as unjustified in fact as it appears to be on the surface. Having begun with a sympathetic view that money might beat the Communists, I have been entirely converted by his detailed account of the efforts we have made to get the Italian parties to do better with the money we have already given them.

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In this situation, I believe that we should approve the recommended budget for this year and go back to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] by appropriate quiet channels to say that we cannot do more unless and until there is evidence that additional money is what is really needed, and that such money can be used really effectively. This would put the responsibility with them, where it belongs, while leaving us free to do more if and when a really good opportunity presents itself. It remains true that the anti-Communist battle in Italy is one of politics and resources; but simple hand-outs and intelligently applied resources are two entirely different things.

McG. B.

Go ahead as you suggest

Speak to me2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Mc-George Bundy, Vol. 13. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Neither option is checked.