136. Memorandum Prepared for the 40 Committee1


  • Plans for Political Operations in Portugal

1. Summary

This is a proposal for covert action designed to maintain a stable government in Portugal, which will permit continued U.S. use of the Azores Base, and honor Portugal’s membership in NATO. It is a two-part program: an exploratory phase will be completed before December 31, 1974; the major implementation phase would begin in late [Page 471]1974 and be highly concentrated during the first three months of 1975, leading up to the March constituent assembly elections. These covert activities would be complementary to an overall U.S. Government program with the same basic objective. This program follows from General Walters’ fact-finding trip to Portugal in August 1974. During this trip, General Walters discussed his observations with ranking Embassy officials, and, subsequently, with the Secretaries of State and Defense. If all the courses of action contemplated are necessary, it is estimated that this program will cost about [dollar amount not declassified]. There are early indications that the Soviets will fund the Communist campaign in Portugal. We estimate that the PCP will have massive funds available and that the campaigns for Communist candidates, under the PCP or other banners, will be highly sophisticated and well financed. A report of the projects initiated and further recommendations based on our assessment by the end of the exploratory phase (December 31, 1974), will be submitted to the 40 Committee. This report will also include a full plan for the March 1975 constituent assembly elections.

2. Proposal

A. During the coming three months of the exploratory phase of this program, the Agency will undertake traditional intelligence activities directed primarily against the four key elements of political power in Portugal—the Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA), the Government, the political parties and the labor sector.

[Omitted here are details of the exploratory stage of the program.]

D. Implementation Stage: If, as a result of our exploratory effort, we feel that a political action program is needed and would be effective, it could include the following types of activities:

(1) Assuming that a centrist coalition looks like the best prospect for ensuring the type government the U.S. Government would like to see in Portugal, support could be given to selected political candidates and/or parties. This might include financial assistance, and/or training of party organization staffs. This may be done directly or indirectly through Western European political parties [1 line not declassified].

(2) Encouragement and assistance could be given to those MFA officers who appear to favor a centrist government (either center right or center left) in Portugal, and attempt to influence these officers to work in concert with centrist political leaders or groups.

(3) [less than 1 line not declassified] to determine and monitor support to appropriate candidates or groups. [2½ lines not declassified] Clandestine capabilities also exist to give professional counsel to political parties and individuals on effective election organizations and campaigns.

(4) [5 lines not declassified]

E. To be effective, the above covert activities must be carried out in a broader U.S. Government program. This might include such overt ac[Page 472]tion as official invitations to visit the United States, extended to key Portuguese Government officials such as General Costa Gomes, and others, as well as prominent leaders or ranking officials of the major centrist political parties. Some of the above actions such as [less than 1 line not declassified] professional counsel on effective election organizations and campaigns and earlier funding starts to political parties and individuals, [less than 1 line not declassified] labor, [less than 1 line not declassified] may have to be implemented in part during the exploratory phase of this proposal. In view of the limited time available between December 31, 1974 and the March 1975 elections, and to save decision delays regarding the implementation of certain activities directly related to the March elections, policy approval is also requested for earlier funding starts if CIA assessment suggests they are likely to be productive. An after the fact report will be submitted to the 40 Committee giving details of such activities implemented earlier than December 31, 1974, along with a cost breakdown.

3. Alternatives

The U.S. can stay out of Portuguese politics and let the natural course of events take place. The action indicated in the implementation stage would be undertaken only if the assessment during the exploratory stage indicates that the Communist and/or others hostile to the U.S. Government are likely to dominate the next government. The possibility of encouraging right-wing elements either singly or in combination with like-minded military groups of individuals is not considered in this alternative since it is assumed that the U.S. Government does not favor a return to an authoritarian rule of the country at this time.

4. Risks and Contingency Planning

This proposal, as noted above, is designed to be complementary to a broader U.S. Government program with the objective of preventing a Communist take-over of the Portuguese Government. This proposal, therefore, should fit into the overt, public U.S. position. The fact that the U.S. would be openly throwing its weight against a Communist attempt to dominate the next government will generate some criticism; however, such criticism would be acceptable in terms of our objectives.

The covert activities described in this paper are designed to conceal U.S. official involvement, thereby minimizing risk of embarrassment to the U.S. and a friendly Portuguese Government. Covert activities will be implemented after we have developed the basis for a judgment by the end of the exploratory phase (December 31, 1974) on whether undertaking the risks of electoral operations is dictated by the situation.

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5. Coordination

This proposal has been prepared at the specific request of the Department of State. It has been coordinated and approved, in general, by the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission in Lisbon.

6. Costs

It is estimated that the cost level of this proposal will be approximately [dollar amount not declassified] which will be funded by CIA. The exploratory phase may require some additional funds which would be spent by CIA under this policy approval if needed. Based on our assessment at the end of the exploratory phase (December 31, 1974) and depending on the feasibility and advisability of further involvement in an election operation, additional funds may also be needed during the implementation phase which will be conducted during the first three months of 1975, leading up to the March election. A report will be prepared by 31 December and sent to the 40 Committee covering the results of any activities initiated during the exploratory phase, along with full plans and recommendations for future activities and projected expenses for the March election.

A breakdown of these funds by general categories is as follows:

[chart (10 lines) not declassified]

7. Recommendation

It is recommended that the 40 Committee approve the proposal including the funding level.

  1. Summary: The memorandum outlined a proposal for covert action in Portugal.

    Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Portugal—GRF. Secret; Eyes Only. A handwritten notation at the top of the memorandum reads, “Votes requested 9–30—JCS–OK 2 Oct, DOD–OK 8 Oct.” No indication of how the other 40 Committee members voted was found, but the proposal was apparently approved by the 40 Committee.