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


  • Proposed Covert Action in Portugal

1. I am attaching a report on the actions which the Agency has taken to carry out the exploratory phase of the program of covert action in Portugal we proposed for consideration by the 40 Committee on 27 September 1974. In the intervening two months, it has become increasingly apparent that the Armed Forces Movement (AFM) is, and apparently will remain, the key element with which the United States Government must come to terms if we are to have a relatively stable and productive relationship with Portugal. This assumption has two further implications for the program of covert action in Portugal which we proposed.

a. The program will not be a one-shot deal but must be a continuing one. The present proposed program foresees a period of highly concentrated activity during the first three months of 1975 leading up to the March constituent assembly elections. U.S. interest and efforts will be necessary for some time after that, however. The March elections will be an important benchmark, indicating if, and how much, the AFM will relinquish political control. We do not expect the AFM to wither away but to remain as the prime power factor exercising its influences either from behind the scenes or through some institution it is able to write into the constitution.

b. The proposed covert action program will be effective in relation to the institutions which the AFM permits to carry out its program. Our positive program concentrates on the centrist parties and works primarily through surrogate parties and institutions in Europe. It will have only a tangential effect on the AFM itself. The AFM is the proper target of a larger scale overt program to be carried out by the entire United States Government.

2. We believe that a program which takes account of the professed democratic aims of the AFM is a good gamble at this time. The AFM leadership is still shopping among ideologies and charting its course. We expect that as young men whose formative career experience has been that of fighting an unpopular colonial war they will find the Third World con[Page 487]cept attractive. They have little group experience with NATO and no individual memories of the conditions which made Portuguese membership relevant. They have, however, shown no disposition to cast off Portugal’s established relationships. They have shown sensitivity to U.S. opinions and actions. These factors are relevant to both the content and style of our U.S. program concerning Portugal. We believe that a sustained series of actions, geared to the sensitivities of these young officers, demonstrating U.S. interest and concern that they carry out their avowed program of guiding Portugal to democratic practices, would be useful in holding these men to the delivery of these goals. These need not be massive programs. An aid package containing social projects of interest to the AFM, small military training groups sent to Portugal to train their counterparts in an active military exchange program, an information program geared to the young and the spirit of democratic revolution which the United States shares as a tradition, a generous reception of men like Major Alves should he visit the U.S., and encouragement of similar visits by his AFM colleagues, are illustrative of the types of activities that we feel the AFM would respond to constructively at this time. I have been encouraged to hear that activities such as some of these are currently under consideration.

3. We will, meanwhile, consider it our primary responsibility to monitor the activities of the AFM to insure that continued U.S. official investment in its future is sound.

W. E. Colby Director
  1. Summary: Colby forwarded a report on the exploratory phase of the covert action program in Portugal.

    Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Portugal—GRF. Secret; [text not declassified] Attached but not published is an undated 7-page paper on the “Status of Operations Proposed for 40 Committee Consideration.”