171. Study Prepared by the Intelligence Community Staff for Director of Central Intelligence Colby1


Principal Findings

The Record of Performance

1. Like most international crises, the Cyprus crisis of 1974 consisted of a series of interlocking events, each, in sequence, presenting new problems for U.S. policy makers and posing new challenges to the U.S. intelligence community. Seen, as it is here, as a test of both the sagacity of intelligence analysts and the ingenuity of intelligence collectors, the record of the community’s performance during the Cyprus affair must be adjudged a mixture of strengths and weaknesses:

  • —There were a number of exemplary successes [21/2 lines not declassified] and some prescient calls by analysts (including their forewarning of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus).
  • —But there were some notable shortcomings as well. On the basis of a single [less than 1 line not declassified] the analysts in early July, notwithstanding their earlier concern, conveyed the impression to the policy makers that the world had been granted a reprieve: Ioannidis, they suggested, had now decided not to move against Makarios, at least for the time being. And, later, after the Turkish landing, the analysts misjudged Ankara’s ambitions on the island, were persuaded that the crisis was about over, and thus gave scant attention to the possibility that Turkish forces might soon be on the move once more.
  • —There was one “peripheral” analytical success which should receive explicit mention: an assessment of the role the Soviets were likely to play in the crisis which subsequently proved to be wholly sound. Quiet and undramatic as it was, this particular accomplishment was important and impressive none the less.

The Analytical Aspect

2. Ultimately, intelligence will be judged in the context of its ability to provide the consumer with premonitory assessments. The ability of the community to provide its consumers with the news after a crisis has erupted is widely recognized (and is pretty much taken for granted); it is the ability of the community to provide warnings of crises to come which is so often questioned. And it was here, again, in re [Page 581] Cyprus, where the community’s analytical performance fell quite short of the mark, specifically its failure in July to estimate the likelihood of a Greek-sponsored coup against Archbishop Makarios (the incident which precipitated the entire crisis).

3. As was the case in the period before the Arabs’ attack on Israel in October 1973, this inability to foresee critical events—in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary—seems to rest in part on an old and familiar analytical bias: the perhaps subconscious conviction (and hope) that, ultimately, reason and rationality will prevail, that apparently irrational moves (the Arab attack, the Greek-sponsored coup) will not be made by essentially rational men.

4. If this bias does in fact unduly influence the mind of the analyst, there is obviously no pat solution. But identification of the problem is a necessary beginning; the further development of training techniques

The Collection Effort

5. The bulk of information on the Cyprus crisis, especially in its early stages, was supplied by human sources.

  • —With one notable exception [21/2 lines not declassified] contributed significantly to the intelligence effort during the pre-coup period. Clandestine reporting [less than 1 line not declassified] concerning the possibility of a Turkish invasion of Cyprus was also very good.
  • —The quality of reporting from U.S. diplomatic missions was uneven. Thoughtful, accurate assessments were prepared in the weeks preceding the coup by the embassy in Nicosia, and strong reporting on the possibility of a Turkish landing on Cyprus was dispatched by both the embassy and the DAO in Ankara.
  • —But reporting from the embassy in Athens, especially in the pre- coup period, was weak; it fairly consistently downplayed the likelihood of serious trouble over Cyprus, even in the face of repeated expressions of great concern from Nicosia and Washington.

6. Analysis of the crisis may also have suffered as the result of the nonavailability of certain key categories of information, specifically those associated with private conversations between U.S. policy makers and their representatives on the scene and between these policy makers and certain principals in the dispute. Because ignorance of such matters could substantially damage the ability to analyze events as they unfold, in this or in any future crisis, the problem is serious and one which should be addressed by the community and by policy makers as well.

7. [1 paragraph (8 lines) not declassified]

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Consumer Reactions

8. Interviews with a number of consumers of intelligence on the Cyprus crisis indicate a degree of displeasure with both the performance and the procedures of the intelligence community. There were, surprisingly, few complaints about the failure to provide forewarning of the Cypriot coup, perhaps because the concern of policy makers and their staffs over the possibility of a coup did not seem to abate very much during the first half of July, despite some reassurances from the community.

9. But there were specific complaints (some legitimate, some not) from officers on the NSC Staff and in the Department of State about a variety of other matters: the alleged failure of the community to alert policy makers to the impending Turkish invasion of Cyprus (a notion which seems to rest on the complainants’ failure to get the word); the plethora of CRITIC messages received during the crisis [less than 1 line not declassified] the significance of many of which was obscure; [11/2 lines not declassified] the purported failure of the community to highlight significant items (there may be some substance to this) and to keep the reader abreast of military developments (a highly puzzling assertion which, on the face of it, seems contrary to the facts); and the redundancy of the CIA and DIA Situation Reports and the confusion occasionally engendered when these reports seemed to disagree.

10. Some of these problems are correctable, some not. Those which probably reflect in the main the inability of harried consumers to keep abreast of fast-breaking developments—indeed, to read all the relevant reports issued by the community—can be addressed but not solved. But others, such as the failure to call quick attention to highlights, can be remedied by improvements in the formats of the situation reports and by the issuance of Alert Memoranda by the DCI. And the problem of redundancy and confusion could be eliminated by the issuance of a single community situation report during major crises (a proposal now under development by the IC Staff).

The Impact of Intelligence on Policy Decisions and Actions

11. We note, finally, that the Cyprus crisis provided excellent examples of the role intelligence plays in helping to shape (and to inhibit) policy decisions and actions. In five of the six key developments prior to and during the crisis, State Department initiatives (or lack thereof) were clearly consistent with, and were presumably based at least in part on, intelligence.

  • —When intelligence warned of dire developments (Ioannidis’ June threats against Makarios, Greek threats to attack the Turks in Thrace), the State Department acted to prevent them. When, on the other hand, intelligence failed to provide explicit warning (Ioannidis’ coup against Makarios, Turkey’s Phase II offensive on Cyprus), the State Department failed to act. And the State Department’s relatively sanguine [Page 583] attitude towards possible Soviet reaction to Cyprus developments was clearly consistent with intelligence on that subject.
  • —The only occasion when there appeared to have been an inconsistency between intelligence and policy action was with respect to the Turkish invasion. The intelligence warning of that event appears to have been explicit, but the State Department apparently did not act on it.
  • —The following table summarizes these correlations:
Date Event Intelligence Policy initiative
June 1974 Ioannidis threatens action against Makarios. Intelligence provides explicit warning of growing confrontation. Embassy passes message to Ioannidis seeking to discourage action against Makarios.
3–15 July Ioannidis plans coup against Makarios; passes
reassuring message to USG. Intelligence reassures consumers; provides no warning. No preventive action; USG clearly caught off guard.
15–20 July Turks plan Cyprus invasion. Intelligence provides
explicit warning, including date. State Department takes
little, if any, preventive action; claims it did not get the message.
20–25 July Greeks threaten Thrace offensive. Intelligence
provides strong warning. [3 lines not declassified]
20–30 July Soviets react benignly. Intelligence provides
reassuring appraisal. State Department accepts intelligence
appraisal and remains relaxed about possible Soviet initiatives.
1–15 Aug. Turks plan Phase II offensive. Intelligence warning
is confused and unconvincing. State Department takes no action to
dissuade; is clearly caught off guard.

[Omitted here is the body of the study.] Cyprus 583

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, Job 86–B00269R, Box 12, Folder 83. Top Secret; Ruff; [codeword not declassified]; No Foreign Dissem; Byeman– Talent–Keyhole.