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138. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Colby to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Proposed Covert Action in Portugal

1. This is a proposal for direct covert action in Portugal.

2. In a paper presented to the 40 Committee a fortnight ago, we discussed our need for more intelligence on the leadership in Portugal, particularly the officers of the Armed Forces Movement (AFM). In this paper we also outlined our planning to influence the Portuguese constituent assembly election scheduled for March 1975. We are now implementing the first phase of this paper; that is, the collection of information on these subjects.

3. Spinola’s departure from the Portuguese political scene has strengthened the position of the left-leaning officers in the AFM. While the Communist Party of Portugal (PCP) has made substantial progress since the 25 April coup, both organizationally and in the development of political support from the unorganized masses (not least by attempting to identify itself as the mouthpiece of the generally inarticulate AFM), current reporting suggests that the PCP’s advances have not yet reached a point that would enable it to anticipate a national electoral victory, unless it is able to contest the election in a front which would include other leftist parties, most importantly the Socialist Party. To defeat PCP strategy, we need a stronger Socialist Party—one which has sufficient confidence to insist on its own independence and to conduct its electoral campaign separately from the PCP. Recent statements by Socialist leaders and the withdrawal of the Socialists from the Communist-dominated MPD front testify to Socialist Party willingness to follow this path—it is in our interests to support and reinforce this [Page 477]policy. The development of a viable centrist party which would act in coalition with the Socialists to defeat the PCP would also be a significant contribution to avoiding the installation of a Communist controlled government in Portugal.

4. We have reporting which estimates the strength of the Communist element in the AFM to approximate ten percent of this elite group. The remaining officers are not politicized, which is also true of the military officer corps as a whole. They are, however, highly conscious of their responsibilities as the motor force of the coup, for the overthrow of Spinola, and their image to the Portuguese people as the guardians and guarantors of the restoration of democracy in Portugal. The development of two parties, a strong Socialist Party and the formation of an effective centrist party, capable of contesting Communist domination of the reformist left, would provide noncommitted AFM officers with an attractive alternative to acquiescent acceptance of the PCP.

5. [1 paragraph (34 lines) not declassified]

6. [3 lines not declassified] to give this party advice, guidance, and funding in the development of a political base which can successfully oppose the PCP. Although some means can be found to do this directly, using American channels, there is no need to delay until these channels can be found. We believe that we can begin funding [2 lines not declassified] almost immediately. It may be possible to accomplish this on a clandestine basis [2 lines not declassified] If you approve of this proposal, we will submit an immediate plan for the appropriate funding.

7. As you know the centrist and rightist groups in Portugal are badly divided and many factions exist. We propose to extend similar funding to a centrist grouping through a notional political organization. [4 lines not declassified] we will work on finding a specific contrist candidate to support. This candidate should receive the support of a number of noncommitted political personalities in Portugal, the wealthy, and the technocrats within the Portuguese government.

8. If you approve these initiatives we will move ahead.

W. E. Colby Director
  1. Summary: Colby discussed a proposed covert action program in Portugal.

    Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Portugal—GRF. Secret; [text not declassified] In an October 7 meeting with Ford, Kissinger said of Portugal: “I predicted this in April. We should have mounted a massive covert program—but in this environment it’s impossible. I sent Walters and all we have done is spring [dollar amount not declassified] If we don’t get in shape, in a year we will be in the same condition in Greece.” Kissinger added, “It may be too late in Portugal.” Ford asked, “Do we have people there?” Kissinger replied, “The Ambassador is a disaster. Portugal is probably down the drain. But I could get Walters in, tell him we want to do something massive in Portugal, [less than 1 line not declassified]” Ford asked, “Are they good there?” Kissinger responded affirmatively and Ford said, “Let’s do it.” (Memorandum of conversation, October 7; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 6)