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


  • Covert Action in Italy

1. We believe we should take a hard look at the Italian political situation. Frankly, it is hard to tell just what to do here. Italian political crises are cyclical. We have met them in the past by strongly supporting Christian Democratic leadership and the center parties. Despite some hand-wringing in the press and a great deal of political science commentary on the instability of Italy, this approach has been successful for twenty years.

2. We recommend, therefore, that we continue to work directly with senior Italian politicians, providing them with some limited funds [Typeset Page 1075] to be disposed of as they see fit, with the general understanding that they keep the Italian Communist Party out of the Italian government. [6 lines not declassified] If you approve, we will [less than 1 line not declassified] determine the extent to which they could usefully employ our assistance, and submit some specific funding suggestions to Ambassador Volpe and you.

3. We believe, however, that the current critical commentary on Italy should not be ignored. We recommend a parallel program (to the political funding discussed above) in which we develop a continuing dialogue with, and modestly fund, young Italian politicos who are the up and coming men in the [less than 1 line not declassified] center parties. We will avoid the rightist movements and [less than 1 line not declassified] We will also fund selectively certain young [less than 1 line not declassified]

4. It is not certain that the PCI wishes to join the government. There are factions within the party which feel that the famous “historic compromise” would vitiate both party discipline and the will of the party to take over and govern Italy on Leninist principles. There are political operations we can run to increase this intra-party debate. Such operations will cost little; current approved funding will suffice.

5. As in Portugal, [1 line not declassified] our work will be more effective. The historic Agency approach to the senior politicians will, in many cases, continue, [6 lines not declassified]

6. All of this effort will be devoted to the present goals of keeping the PCI out of the government (as our part of the overall U.S. Government effort to this end) and to the development of long-term relationships with young blood in political Italy.

W.E. Colby Director
  1. Summary: Colby discussed the possibility of a covert action program in Italy.

    Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Italy—GRF 1974–1977. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Published from a copy that indicates that Colby signed the original. In telegram 13042 from Rome, September 20, Volpe discussed his concerns regarding the Italian political scene. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974) On October 17, NSC staff member Robert Gates attended a session on Italy [text not declassified], where the general consensus “was that there is no rational assessment of Italy’s future that is optimistic.” (Memorandum for the file, October 18; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Europe, Canada, and Ocean Affairs Staff Files, Box 12, Italy 1974 NSC)