145. Memorandum From the 40 Committee Executive Secretary (Ratliff) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1


  • Covert Action Program for Portugal

Members of the 40 Committee were asked to vote telephonically on a covert action program for Portugal. They considered the following items:

Tab B: Ambassador Carlucci’s contingency plan which calls for attempts to moderate the radical left elements of the Armed Forces Movement (AFM), and to stimulate the moderates to oppose the radicals. Specific objectives include:

AFM. Covertly support Embassy efforts to convince the leadership of U.S. support; convince them to hold to the democratic path with elections as scheduled; and expose and denigrate its radical and leftist activists.

Portuguese Communist Party. Expose its subversive activity.

Armed Forces Information. Develop a modifying influence to bring it more under the control of AFM moderates.

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The Ambassador envisages covert contacts with selected leaders, development of intelligence agents, possible support of a newspaper, and use of international labor groups. He urges working through third-country assets where possible, particularly of other European countries. His caveats underscore this point, and that any covert action program must be part of a broad over-all U.S. action plan.

Tab C: CIA’s implementing annex to Ambassador Carlucci’s plan which includes directing the attention of the rest of Europe to the scheduled 12 April elections. Specifically:

• Attempt to generate a program of moral, material and financial support for non-Communist parties from Western European counterparts.

• Arrange for prominent Portuguese and Europeans to transfer funds to moderate political leaders.

• Support moderate publications.

• Help moderate parties print election tracts outside Portugal if Communist-dominated printers continue to block printing inside Portugal.

• Stimulate visits by journalists.

• Attempt to influence international labor organizations to support moderates and try to break Communist control of Portugal’s unions.

Tab D: Ambassador Carlucci’s comments on CIA’s implementing annex, which declare covert action would be most productive if centered on [5 lines not declassified]

He reports that Communists are “flooding the country” and “are obviously going all out.” He recommends being “ready to move with a very deep cover program oriented toward [less than 1 line not declassified] if we determine need exists and funds will be used productively.” He repeats his emphasis on working through European countries “with no hint of U.S. involvement.”

Tab E: Director Colby endorses the program and recommends Presidential approval of up to [dollar amount not declassified] (and I informed other 40 Committee principals of this dollar figure so that they might consider it as part of their vote). He also reports that European parties have made $655,000 and material support available to the PSP; [less than 1 line not declassified] has only hinted at the need for funds in talks with Department officials; that only [less than 1 line not declassified] has made a formal request for aid from the Department (asking for $2 million). He also observes that we have only six weeks (counting this one) to take limited action before the scheduled 12 April election.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Clements and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Brown also approve the proposals including the funding level.

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Tab F: Mr. Sisco, voting for State, says “No.” State believes that the program will have marginal impact, carries high risk, and probably is not necessary. It will be small scale and spread over various projects; the chances of exposure are “abnormally high”—it is “inconceivable” that some Congressman won’t leak information, and even if not immediately, our involvement would eventually be leaked by the House or Senate Select Committees, and a leak would be exploited by the Communists. State also believes that the Ambassador’s caveat that our actions should be taken “with no hint of U.S. involvement” is a condition which probably makes the proposals “unworkable.”

In short, State does not believe in accepting a high risk backlash in Portugal and in the Congress for little return. The real struggle is still within the AFM where State believes overt influence would be as effective as covert efforts. State also believes that this would be “the worst” test case to get Congressional approval and endorsement of the concept that covert action programs “are still legitimate.” State advocates doing nothing so that we can disclaim any interference in the election results—which State says will be “quite favorable to the non-Communists.”

In Summary: Three members of the 40 Committee approve; State does not.


If you wish to forward this proposal to the President for decision, at Tab A is a memorandum from you recommending his approval and his signature on the necessary finding to designate it as in the interest of our national security.

  1. Summary: Ratliff discussed the status of the proposal for a covert action program in Portugal.

    Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Portugal—GRF. Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System. Sent for action. Attached but not published are Tabs A through F. Tab A is an undated and unsigned memorandum from Kissinger to Ford; Tab B is a February 4 CIA memorandum for Kissinger summarizing Carlucci’s plan; Tab C is a February 15 memorandum from Colby to Kissinger; Tab D is telegram 1021 from Lisbon, February 24; Tab E is a February 28 memorandum from Colby to Kissinger; and Tab F is a March 4 memorandum from Sisco to the 40 Committee. A handwritten notation on Ratliff’s memorandum reads, “OBE.” On February 25, Kissinger told Ford: “What we are doing to ourselves—like Portugal. I don’t dare do anything.” Ford replied, “I think we should.” Kissinger said, “Okay, let’s vote the Portuguese program. I guess a half-hearted program is better than none.” Ford responded, “Let’s do it.” (Memorandum of conversation, February 25; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 9)