103. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee (Intelligence) Meeting1


  • Covert Action


  • State

    • David Newsom (missed first twenty minutes)
    • Ronald Spiers
  • OSD

    • ADM Daniel Murphy
    • Robert Komer
  • JCS

    • Lt Gen Eugene Tighe
  • CIA

    • ADM Stansfield Turner
    • Frank Carlucci
    • Walter Raymond
    • [name not declassified]
    • [name not declassified]
  • OMB

    • John White
  • Justice

    • Kenneth Bass III
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Paul Henze (Notetaker)


Ethiopia: CIA proposed a $130,000 program with two major features: (a) stepping up propaganda both outside and inside the country to encourage strain between Mengistu and his Soviet/Cuban supporters, and (b) developing exploratory support for opponents of Mengistu, both individuals and organizations. The purpose of the second part of the program is to assess the needs and likely effectiveness of various groups and thus to judge which might be worth more substantial support in the future. Support envisioned is primarily for purposes of improved organization and communications; no arms support is currently envisioned.

The propaganda portion of this program was strongly endorsed by all SCC members. The program for supporting regime opponents was endorsed by all except State, which recommended that contact with regime opponents take place only outside Ethiopia and that it be confined to gathering information. The DCI said that Agency experience demonstrated that contact for information-gathering alone is unproductive because regime opponents are unwilling to risk supplying information without some promise of modest help in furthering their efforts to generate pressures for change in Ethiopia. Limiting contact to people outside Ethiopia is undesirable because the individuals with the greatest potential as opponents of Mengistu were those still in Ethiopia, some of them still in the Government. Finally State proposed that each step in the process of contacting regime opponents be reported back for review by the SCC. Both the DCI and the Chairman considered such a procedure operationally unworkable. It was noted that our Ambassador in Addis Ababa has fully endorsed the CIA program as submitted and, in fact, favors a more ambitious effort.

A vote of the membership revealed full endorsement for the program for support for regime opponents by all agencies except State, which maintained its reservations. The Chairman stated he would recommend approval of the program as submitted to the President.

The Chairman then said he had heard that State had decided to withdraw our ambassador to Ethiopia and reduce relations to charge level. There had been no coordination of this decision, which reversed a basic policy action approved by the President two years ago. The chairman [Page 283] said it was important to keep our ambassador in Addis Ababa both for contact and as a symbol of our interest in Ethiopia. The State Department representative said he was unaware of decisions on this matter but would look into it immediately.

Mr. Komer said that it was becoming increasingly clear that our efforts to secure facilities in Somalia entailed the danger of entanglement in the Ogaden War.2 Before we let this happen, he proposed that we take a longer look at the Horn and decide whether we did not perhaps want to adopt elimination or transformation of the Mengistu regime as our ultimate objective, [less than 1 line not declassified]. After some discussion, the Chairman directed CIA to make a preliminary assessment of the longer-term implications of present trends in the Horn and then to develop a plan with State and Defense for review of policy options for a more comprehensive approach.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 30, NSC/SCC Minutes, 3/1/80–4/15/80. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. The SCC discussed basing rights in Somalia on April 14. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Document 73.