492. Memorandum for the Files Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research1


  • Covert Action Review—Latin America


  • INR—Ambassador Spiers
  • Mr. Kux, DAS for Coordination
  • ARA—Mr. Bushnell, Senior DAS
  • CIA—[name not declassified] Deputy Chief, DDO/LA
  • [name and title not declassified]
  • [name and title not declassified]
  • INR—Mr. Flanegin, Director, INC/IC

The following emerged from the first year-end review, covering the covert action programs authorized for Central America and the Caribbean:


—Approval was given CIA’s Memorandum of Notification of December 5, 1980, updating progress of the Nicaraguan program and requesting additional FY 81 funds for a list of activities consonant with the Finding.2 (A series of MONs, including one for El Salvador, will be submitted via the NSC for State comment since it is expected the SCC will rarely convene until after the new Administration takes office.)3

—Support of independent institutions such as [1 line not declassified] highly politicized, and the encouragement of free political parties to coalesce form the centerpiece of the current program. Ambassador Pezzulo backs both overt and covert means of strengthening the independent sector.

—The Agency places particular emphasis on subvention [1 line not declassified] on which the largest single amount in the Nicaraguan program has been spent.

—We may be winning the battle to preserve the independent sector while losing the war; as the independent groups wax, they wane relative to the FSLN as the latter takes countervailing measures. Although [Page 1299]the need for more funds is clear, the strategy of institution-building may need reexamination, including use of non-monetary measures.

—Use of ESF is being investigated by ARA as an overt means of institution-building, complimenting covert means.

—[1 paragraph (1 line) not declassified]

El Salvador

—One of the most serious weaknesses in the El Salvador program is the absence of a single national intelligence service for focussing operations liaison and training. It appears that each military and law enforcement entity has its own, fairly mediocre, service. [1 line not declassified] is in El Salvador advising on coordination of these elements; a significant effort is underway to increase professionalism.

—The Soviets and Cubans have mounted a sophisticated and very successful anti-Junta worldwide campaign through various surrogates, witting and unwitting (e.g. social democrats) which has out-classed our efforts and badly hurt our side.

—Covert action won’t work without an overt aid program, since individuals in positions of influence see no point in accepting subsidies under the table when there are no assistance funds available as an earnest of our backing.

—An effective covert program in support of a large moderate left labor grouping [1 line not declassified]. A MON will soon be available giving further details of the program to date, and plan for the future.


—The covert action program in Honduras is nascent. [2 lines not declassified]

—There is a single Honduran service, a plus.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Central America.]

Costa Rica

—The Senate Select Committee placed a ban on all covert action activity in Costa Rica, to eliminate any possibility that activities might be undertaken which could destabilize the Government of a democratic, friendly nation. An exception was later made in the case of CA targetted against Nicaragua.4 To a recent CIA request that the exception be [Page 1300]broadened to include actions targetted against Central American countries (explicitly excluding Costa Rica) and Cuba, the Committee replied it would ease the embargo upon review of CIA plans having State approval.5 CIA argues this is a dangerous precedent, opening the way to demands it seek approval of other covert actions when they are only required to notify Congress of actions under a Finding.

NOTE: DDO/LA will provide Ambassador Spiers with a periodic updating of ARA covert action programs prepared for Ambassador Bowdler.

Robert L. Flanegin6 INC/IC
  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Records, Box 18, ARACIA Weekly Meetings, 1979–1981. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 325.
  3. For the El Salvador memorandum, see Document 454.
  4. According to an August 10, 1979, letter to Turner from the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Birch Bayh (D–IN), and the committee’s Vice Chairman, Barry Goldwater (R–AZ), the committee had “directed termination” of covert media placement activities in Costa Rica in its fiscal year 1978 budget authorization “on the grounds that the national interest would be seriously harmed if it were ever discovered that the United States was subverting the free press of a close and democratic ally.” A committee vote authorized a “partial resumption” of these activities dealing “solely with the Nicaragua question.”(Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 37, Nicaragua: 8/11–31/79)
  5. Carlucci made the request in a November 25 letter to Bayh. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 82B00035R: Committee Files, Box 2, Folder 2: Covert Action) Bayh and Goldwater sent the response in a letter to Turner, December 2. (Ibid.)
  6. Flanegin signed “Bob F.” above his typed signature.