168. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1
- Documents Relating to Cuban Intervention Captured in Bolivia
CIA’s interim technical report on the guerrilla documents found by Bolivian security forces in early August, 1967 is attached.2
The report focuses on the evidence pertaining to “Che” Guevara. The other material is still being analyzed. The documentation on Guevara—two passports, identity cards, health certificates and snapshots— show the following:
- —the two passports bearing different names carry the same photograph and fingerprints.
- —the fingerprints are identical to examples of prints of Guevara furnished to CIA [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in 1954 and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in 1965.
- —a CIA photo comparison analyst is of the opinion that the photographs are “most probably” photographs of Guevara in disguise.
- —the passports show that Guevara most likely travelled legally from Madrid to Sao Paulo, Brazil at the end of October, 1966, and from there to La Paz on November 3, although the documents do not indicate arrival in La Paz.
- —certain snapshots of what looks like Guevara in the jungle give no evidence of a montage.
These findings lead to a strong presumption that Guevara arrived in Bolivia last November, but they are still short of conclusive proof. The CIA report does not draw conclusions at this stage.
In furnishing us the documents, the Bolivians asked that we give them the results of our analysis so they could use the information in the impending trial of Regis Debray—the young French Marxist intellectual who is known to be close to Fidel Castro. He was arrested in Bolivian guerrilla territory last April after having entered the country clandestinely.
We do not want to become this closely involved with the Debray trial, which has already become a cause celebre in France. The nature of the evidence is such that it can be attacked as fabrication. Exclusive US analysis will add credibility to the almost inevitable charge that CIA planted the material. Debray, echoed by the French press and the Communist propaganda mill, is already claiming CIA and FBI involvement.3
To get around these problems, the 303 Committee has decided that we should tell the Bolivians to surface the documents and request the assistance of several governments in analyzing them. This could include Argentina where Guevara was born, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico where he resided; Uruguay, whose passport he used; and Brazil through which he travelled enroute to Bolivia. We would, of course, also cooperate. By broadening the analysis base, we narrow our exposure and enhance credibility of the evidence.4
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Bolivia, Vol. IV, Memoranda, January 1966–December 1968. Secret. The memorandum indicates the President saw it.↩
- Not attached. The undated report was a preliminary technical analysis of the documentation and other material found in five caches in various parts of Bolivia in early August. The material included 21 different passports, 5 Bolivian internal documents, photographs, notebooks, maps, and 7 reels of magnetic recording tape. The report contained an inventory of the materials. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303 Committee Files, c. 58, September 8, 1967)↩
- In an August 24 memorandum to Oliver, James R. Gardner (INR/DDC) had urged that the Department be prepared to address charges by Debray of CIA involvement: “Normally the Department and CIA have taken the line that we should neither confirm nor deny charges about CIA activities even though in some cases the temptation to deny is strong. (The Secretary has asked, incidentally, that in no case should such a denial be made without consulting him if there is any chance whatever that such a denial might later be exposed as false or misleading.)” (Ibid., Bolivia, 1962–1980) INR was aware “that CIA agents have participated in some of the Debray debriefings.” (Memorandum from Gregory B. Wolfe (INR/RAR) to Hughes, August 23; ibid.)↩
- The 303 Committee decided this on September 8. (Minutes of September 8 meeting of the 303 Committee, September 12; ibid., 303 Committee Files, c. 58, 9/8/67)↩