326. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1

SUBJECT

  • Nicaragua and Terrorism (S)

As you will recall, before we could disburse the $75 million in aid to Nicaragua, you were required by law to make a positive determination that the Government of Nicaragua was not supporting terrorism in other countries. You did that on September 11, 1980.2 However, the law also states that if “at a later time” you determine that the Government of Nicaragua is supporting terrorism, then you are required to terminate assistance, and the outstanding balance of any loan to the Government of Nicaragua becomes immediately due and payable. (C)

On December 4, the CIA published an item in the National Intelligence Daily (Tab A)3 which said that they found “a persuasive case that the Sandinista National Directorate—and by extension, the Nicaraguan Government”—is supporting terrorism in other countries. We immediately asked the State Department to prepare an analysis of the CIA’s information, and to provide us with its own judgment. State described the CIA’s article as “unbalanced, contains little that has not been [Page 796]reported previously, and ascribes an unwarranted degree of certainty to intelligence reports of varying reliability” (Tab B).4 State does not believe that the CIA information constitutes “conclusive evidence” of Nicaraguan Government involvement. As you will recall, “conclusive evidence” was our criterion when you made your initial determination, and there is no reason to change the criterion now. The CIA has still never brought to our attention any evidence which either we or they would judge as “conclusive” that Nicaragua is supporting terrorism, and therefore I do not believe that you need to change your judgment or the Presidential determination. Nevertheless, I wanted to bring these two reports to your attention.5 (S)

We have also received an assessment from Ambassador Pezzullo and his country team concludes that there is no new evidence which “would justify a change in the President’s determination on this issue” (Tab C).6 Moreover, the Ambassador points out that both the U.S. and Venezuela have been very clear about our concerns about Nicaraguan involvement in third countries, and if this were established, that it would have “negative consequences” for our relationships with Nicaragua. Our Ambassador believes this is a very important factor in FSLN calculations.7 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 39, Nicaragua (Terrorism): 12/79–1/81. Secret. Sent for information. Carter initialed the top of the page on January 5.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 316.
  3. Tab A is attached but not printed.
  4. Tab B, attached but not printed, is a memorandum prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, December 5.
  5. In a December 8 memorandum to Brzezinski, Pastor recommended that Brzezinski “ask Turner for a specific answer (yes or no)” to the question: “Does the CIA have conclusive evidence that the Government of Nicaragua cooperates or harbors any international terrorist organization, or is aiding, abetting, or supporting acts of violence or terrorism in other countries?” Aaron added the following for Pastor: “Leave well enough alone,” and to Brzezinski: “This is wrong headed.” He also noted at the bottom of the page: “This is stupid. We have done enough. We should do brief report to the P. on the [unclear] NID.” Brzezinski responded on December 9 by writing: “DA I agree. ZB.”
  6. Tab C is not attached. Reference is to telegram 6015 from Managua, December 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800602–0507)
  7. Spiers included an extended critique of the December 4 National Intelligence Daily in a December 16 briefing memorandum to Muskie. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 39, Nicaragua (Terrorism): 12/79–1/81)