150. Memorandum From Denis Clift of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • The Azores—Possible Armed Uprisings

On March 26 we briefed a sensitive CIA report (at Tab B) that Portuguese exile groups in Spain have reactivated long-dormant plans to infiltrate the Azores and Madeira islands for the purpose of seizing control of the islands and declaring their independence from the mainland government. At the same time that the uprising takes place on the islands, the plan calls for a diversionary military action to be staged at some unspecified location in northern Portugal to occupy the immediate attention of the government and allow the rebels to consolidate their position on the islands. The CIA commented that the plans seem somewhat farfetched, and that the groups appeared to be making the same mistake as the sponsors of the abortive March 11 coup in Lisbon—counting on spontaneous support rather than organization for success.

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Meanwhile, members of Azorean independence/autonomy groups have been active in Washington in recent weeks seeking U.S. support for their programs.

With the cable at Tab A, Ambassador Carlucci has expressed his own concern over these reports concerning armed action in the Azores. He comments that the assumption by the plotters in Spain that they will be able to stimulate a popular uprising in mainland Portugal after securing a base in the Azores is a “pipedream,” adding that such a plan would receive little popular support in Portugal and that the government is in a strong position to resist coup attempts from the right, particularly since the abortive attempt of March 11. The Ambassador believes that a safe assumption is that the exile groups have been successfully penetrated by leftists and that the Portuguese Government is well aware of their activities. This judgement is supported by the American consul in the Azores. Ambassador Carlucci adds that if the Portuguese find substance to support their already existing suspicions that the United States is backing right-wing dissident groups, our base rights could be in danger of immediate termination.

I agree with Ambassador Carlucci’s assessment of the situation concerning dissident right-wing exile groups in Spain and plots relating to the Azores. Recent intelligence supports his view that the Lisbon regime has not turned a blind eye to political developments in the Azores. I concur with his proposed course of action, namely:

—That we inform the exile group in Spain that the U.S. will not only not support them but might even be obliged to assist the GOP by providing transport and supplies should they try anything in the Azores. A firm warning of this nature may be the only thing that will dissuade this group.

—That Embassy, [less than 1 line not declassified] be authorized to inform the GOP that we have information that an unidentified group of plotters in Spain is planning something in the Azores and that we have tried to pass word to them that we will actively oppose their efforts in the fashion described above.

—That through appropriate channels we inform MAPA that the United States Government is firmly opposed to any separatist activities on their part and that Ambassador Carlucci be authorized to let the GOP know that we have done so.

Ambassador Carlucci’s cable raises anew the issue of U.S. security interests in the Azores. I recommend that you review earlier staffing on the subject and approve the Azores base NSSM forwarded with NSC Log #1790, March 24, 1975.


That you approve the Azores NSSM forwarded with NSC Log #1790.

  1. Summary: Clift discussed the possibility of armed uprisings in the Azores.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 1, Azores. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Attached but not published is Tab A, telegram 1878 from Lisbon, April 2; and Tab B, a March 24 intelligence information cable. A handwritten notation at the top of Clift’s memorandum reads, “Noted by HAK.” Clift sent Kissinger the draft NSSM under cover of a March 24 memorandum that is ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 35, NSSM 221—U.S. Security Interests in the Azores (1). In an April 17 memorandum to Kissinger, Hartman requested his guidance on U.S. policy towards Azorean independence. On April 21, Kissinger approved this option: “That we continue to maintain a posture of neutrality towards these Azorean groups, advising them in response to any approaches that they are acting entirely on their own and that we do not intend to become involved; and that we respond to press questions about our position by saying that the status of the Azores is strictly an internal Portuguese matter.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 206, Portugal, April–June 1975)