314. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Turner to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

1. Last week David called me and asked for a paper setting forth our assessment of the extent to which Nicaragua is involved in exporting revolution.2 The attached paper gives our best judgment on the extent to which Nicaragua is aiding the Salvadoran revolutionaries. Please note the extreme sensitivity of this information as its disclosure could jeopardize a key source. (S/NF)

2. As this is a subject of some concern, especially with regard to the pending aid legislation for Nicaragua, perhaps it would be advisable to have an SCC/PRC meeting in order to air all views. (C/NF)

Stansfield Turner3


Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency4

Nicaragua: Aid to Salvadoran Revolutionaries

There has been a volume and consistency of human intelligence reporting over the past year, much of it from reliable sources with good access, that the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) has adopted a policy of providing assistance to Salvadoran insurgents in the form of training, transit, materiel, and arms. Seven separate clandestine sources have either directly implicated members of the FSLN Directorate in specific actions in support of Salvadoran leftists or reported FSLN policy decisions implementing the effort. Additional sources report Nicaraguan involvement in training Salvadoran insurgents and in providing Sandinista advisers and [Page 762] other support to El Salvador’s leftists. This reporting has been in five general categories, some of which overlap. (S)

—Information concerning a Sandinista organization in Costa Rica for training and funneling support to revolutionaries in El Salvador has been reported since early this year. Both a fairly reliable Costa Rican source and a generally reliable Nicaraguan source have provided initial and followup reporting on planning, and a separate generally reliable Nicaraguan asset has corroborated implementation. The effort is linked directly to the FSLN Directorate, and the existence of an FSLN apparatus partially supported by circumstantial evidence. We believe it highly likely that this officially approved activity is being carried on. (See Annex A)5 (S)

—In addition to these linkages, five other sources—two fairly or generally reliable, two of undetermined reliability and one informant—have also either implicated National Directorate members directly in assistance to Salvadoran revolutionaries or provided information that strongly implies high level FSLN approval for these efforts. Three other reliable sources in different countries have reported on advice on revolutionary strategy given to the insurgents by individual members of the National Directorate. Given the degree of unanimity displayed by the Directorate on other issues, and the importance of this particular issue, we strongly doubt such members would have acted as individuals or in the absence of official policy. Taken together with the reports of actions suggesting policy approval, the likelihood of official Sandinista involvement in these activities is quite high. (See Annex B) (S)

—Five generally reliable sources from both Nicaragua and El Salvador have reported the training of Salvadoran insurgents in Nicaragua, dating back to last year. In addition, an untested source reported similar activities and a defector from the Salvadoran insurgent forces publicly stated that the Nicaraguan government was collaborating in such training. We have been unable to penetrate any permanent training site for insurgents in Nicaragua, but the numerous individual reports of instruction at various locations in the country leave us reasonably convinced that it is occurring. (See Annex C) (S)

[Page 763]

—Our reporting on arms trafficking is fragmentary, partly reflecting the extremely well compartmented nature and relatively moderate level of arms shipments to El Salvador’s radicals. Although the information fits the general pattern of Sandinista support for the Salvadoran guerrillas, our evidence is not conclusive. (See Annex D) (S)

—The presence of Sandinista advisers in El Salvador has been reported by several sources of varying reliability. Although some of the information in the reporting is highly plausible, there are clear exaggerations and some inconsistencies that make it difficult to reach any firm conclusions. The Nicaraguan government’s public admission that some individuals have gone to El Salvador to fight provides the Sandinistas with deniability under most circumstances. (See Annex E) (S)

Our overall intelligence judgment, based on the multiple and often corroborative sources from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, is that there is a very high likelihood that such support activities are occurring and that they represent official FSLN policy. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 79, Sensitive X: 8/16–31/80. Secret: Noforn.
  2. No other record of the telephone conversation between Aaron and Turner has been found.
  3. Turner wrote “Stan” above his typed signature.
  4. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon.
  5. Annexes A–E are attached but not printed. In a September 15 memorandum to Aaron, Pastor noted that CIA officials had testified that day before the House Select Committee on Intelligence and that the Committee requested a copy of the August 27 CIA memorandum. Aaron recommended against submitting the report to the Committee, writing a note to Brzezinski on the memorandum: “The report is advice to the President. I think it should be covered by privilege. They got the basic poop.” Brzezinski wrote: “Agree.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, For President or Brzezinski Only, Box 88, Presidential Advisory (PA)—Very Sensitive: 7–9/80)