354. Memorandum Prepared for the 40 Committee1


  • Covert Action in Italy


This is a proposal for covert political action in Italy to work against the participation of the Communist Party of Italy (PCI) in the Italian Government and has been prepared at the request of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The PCI has suggested a “historic compromise,” in which the Christian Democratic Party (CD) would share governmental power with the PCI at the national level. To prevent this from happening we propose a long-range program of three parts. These are:

A. To give limited covert support [less than 1 line not declassified] where we can determine that such support will strengthen these politicians against the “historic compromise” with the Communists.

B. To provide covert support to younger [less than 1 line not declassified] politicians who seek [less than 1 line not declassified] to create a party with a more populist and cleaner image.

C. To nourish divisiveness within the PCI over the question of joining the government. There are elements of the party which oppose the “historic compromise” and which can be stimulated by subtle covert activity [2 lines not declassified]

We recommend a funding level [dollar amount not declassified] for fiscal 1975. Our Ambassador in Italy has concurred in this general proposal and has observed that any covert political action should be a part of an overall U.S. Government effort. The Assistant Secretary of [Typeset Page 1080] State for European Affairs does not concur with the need for a covert action program at this time.

[Omitted here is the remainder of the memorandum.]

  1. Summary: The memorandum outlined a proposal for covert action in Italy.

    Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Italy—GRF 1974–1977. Secret; Eyes Only. During a 40 Committee discussion of the proposal on February 4, Colby suggested that “what could be done through covert action was marginal compared with the over-all policy position.” Kissinger said that it was “strange that we always turn to the Secretary of State when we are supposed to be talking about covert action. Everything is a game of inches. We will make it clear that we won’t hold still for a coalition with the Communists, but the question is, will covert action add an inch or two to our efforts and give us a better chance for success?” Colby responded “that a certain amount could be done under present approvals—the general ‘work with media’ concept, for example. We can do this much.” Hyland reported that Hartman opposed the program as too small to be of any likely value; given the risks involved, Hyland said that Hartman believed that the United States would be “likely to catch hell without any commensurate gain.” (Memorandum for the record, February 4; ibid., 40 Committee Meetings, Minutes/Approvals, 1975 GRF)