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


  • Covert Action Exploitation of Cuban Involvement in Angola

1. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide you with a preliminary status report on actions being taken by the Central Intelligence Agency to commence a covert action campaign abroad on the issue of Cuban involvement in Angola.

2. Pursuant to our discussion with the President on 8 November 1977,2 I am forwarding, as an attachment to this memorandum, a background paper for Ambassador Young’s use in preparing a speech on this subject.3 We have included in this paper a number of themes on issues stemming from the presence of Cuban armed forces in Angola along with supporting factual information derived from our intelligence reporting. This approach will allow Ambassador Young to pitch his speech or other public comments to an African, Latin American or internal Cuban audience, as he desires. If, after Ambassador Young reviews this paper, he requires additional information or other assistance on his speech, we, of course, stand ready to render all possible help.

3. Following the President’s formal authorization of this effort on 8 November 1977,4 we immediately notified the Hughes/Ryan committees of the Congress that a new covert action finding had been made, and that we are ready to brief the committees at their convenience on [Page 31] the nature and scope of these operations. A schedule for these briefings is being arranged commencing early next week.

4. Along general lines it might be helpful if I first provide you with some conceptual comments on our approach to the implementation of the covert action aspects of this proposal. First of all, although there have been a few sketchy reports in the press about some of the problems resulting from the presence of Cuban troops in Angola, this is not now a prominent issue in the international press. For the purpose of credibility and to protect the security of our covert action assets we need a pretext for this effort. However, as you know, the anniversary of Angola’s independence from Portugal is 11 November. Therefore the appearance of press and editorial comments on this issue at this time will not appear unusual. We also need to get the story out in the open so that our controlled assets can use it. For this purpose we are arranging to place a major feature story drawing on our intelligence in a prestigious [less than 1 line not declassified] daily. We will also try to arrange through [1 line not declassified] pick up this story for replay into Africa and other areas. [2 lines not declassified] At this point our controlled media assets and influence agents can also draw on this placement for press stories, local editorial comments, and to encourage political or psychological action within their governments or organizations. The text of this story has been prepared and was cabled to [less than 1 line not declassified] on the evening of 8 November 1977 along with guidance and implementing instructions.5 We expect to know shortly when the story will be placed and in what outlet.

5. Along more specific lines, also on the evening of 8 November a preliminary guidance cable was sent [less than 1 line not declassified]. This cable stressed the urgency and importance of this covert action assignment, outlined the intelligence facts relating to this effort, articulated the covert action theme lines, provided general operational and tasking guidance and solicited suggestions for actions beyond routine media placements. For the latter purpose, we are also sending out today a cable to these stations and bases providing a summary of press items that have appeared spontaneously recently that coincide with our covert action theme lines. This will enable our media assets to commence replay of editorial comment now as we await the surfacing of our major feature story in [less than 1 line not declassified].

6. As a result of the preliminary guidance cable, a number of our stations have already forwarded some suggestions, for example:

a. [less than 1 line not declassified] notes that Peking domestic broadcast service is hitting the issue of “the Angolan people oppose the [Page 32] Soviet mercenaries.” Selective replay of this material where Chinese opinion holds some weight may prove useful.

b. [less than 1 line not declassified] reports that it will be difficult to get a handle on this proposal in [less than 1 line not declassified] because of the strong support that government has given to the Cuban presence in Angola. [less than 1 line not declassified] notes that the government might be susceptible to approaches by influential Africans reporting on the problems that Cuban troops are causing the Angolan people and we are looking into this possibility.

c. [less than 1 line not declassified] has asked for and we are cabling an intelligence brief on this subject for use by a well placed local agent of influence.

d. [less than 1 line not declassified] reports that it will pass the guidance and supporting materials to local press assets.

e. [less than 1 line not declassified] asked for and is being provided with a tailored story for placement in a leading [less than 1 line not declassified] weekly.

f. [1 line not declassified] have indicated they can possibly place appropriate materials in the local press and have asked for background materials which are being provided.

g. [1 line not declassified] all report that they are ready to undertake appropriate local press exploitation as soon as they have a suitable international press item for attribution. The [less than 1 line not declassified] story will serve this purpose.

h. [less than 1 line not declassified] reports that it is moving to task several local media assets on this requirement.

i. [less than 1 line not declassified] reports that it will utilize a number of local media assets and has suggested that an influential local contact be encouraged to invite journalists from key foreign countries to UNITA-held territory in Angola to collect first-hand stories about Cuban actions. We are considering the advisability of the latter suggestion.

7. The foregoing information is intended to provide you with some of our initial thoughts on and early field reactions to this proposal. I will be providing you with regular status reports as this campaign proceeds.

Stansfield Turner
  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Subject Files A–E, Box 25, Angola 11 July 1977–18 April 1978. Secret.
  2. In a November 8 memorandum for the record, Turner summarized the discussion: “Brzezinski brought up the Angolan covert action propaganda program. I briefed that it was under way, with a major [less than 1 line not declassified] newspaper story our first objective, along with directions to 90 other stations to put out these stories. The view was expressed that they were anxious to see this one through: (a) to see that the Presidential order was carried out; and (b) to see that the mechanism for this type of activity could and would function.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M00165A, Executive Registry Subject Files (’74–’78), Box 23, Memo of Conversation with the Pres 010177–311277)
  3. Attached but not printed. In a November 8 memorandum for the record, Turner noted Brzezinski’s request for a point paper for Young and his agreement to “take on the job of the Cuban radios.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M00165A, Executive Registry Subject Files (’74–’78), Box 23, Memo of Conversation with Brzezinski 010177–311277)
  4. Presidential Finding not found. For a summary of the initiative, see Document 18.
  5. An unknown hand underlined this sentence.