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


  • Status Report on CIA’s Covert Action Operations on Issues Relating to Soviet-Cuban Intervention in the Horn of Africa

1. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide you with a status report on where the Agency stands in its efforts to provide covert action support on issues relating to Soviet-Cuban intervention in the Horn of Africa. As you know, this matter was discussed at the Special Coordination Committee (SCC) meeting on 26 January 19782 in regard to a draft “Perspectives” dealing with the situation in Ethiopia.3 The SCC endorsed covert action on sections of the “Perspectives” dealing with actions outside of Ethiopia.

2. As you know the Department of Justice (DOJ) has questioned the legal sufficiency of “Perspectives” under the Hughes/Ryan amendment4 and has recommended that henceforth “Perspectives” be approved by the President. Our past practice has been to coordinate these guidelines with the Department of State only. In order to remedy this problem the Agency has prepared and submitted to you, for approval by the President, two new Presidential findings covering our international covert action infrastructure and the “Perspectives” tasking procedure.5

3. Under the DOJ opinion we are now in a period of legal limbo insofar as current tasking of the [Page 115] infrastructure under the “Perspectives” procedure. Briefly, the situation now is that we may only task the infrastructure under “Perspectives” guidelines previously approved under the old procedure.

4. In this regard, there are aspects of the Ethiopia/Horn situation which we are exploiting in the interim under policy authority contained in two currently valid “Perspectives”: (1) “Drawing Attention to Soviet Activity in the Horn of Africa” (approved 20 September 1977)6 and (2) “Expanding Cuban/Soviet Presence in Africa” (approved 27 April 1976).7 These “Perspectives” allow us to pursue two of the five objectives stated in the draft endorsed by the SCC, namely:

a. “Mobilize international criticism against the interventionist role of the Soviet Union and Cuba in the Horn of Africa, particularly citing problems this is creating in Ethiopia,” and

b. “Encourage states, particularly in Africa, to pursue energetically a ceasefire and mediation of the Ethiopian/Somali dispute.”

5. Even here, however, the covert action authority is cramped because the two valid “Perspectives” were written before events in Ethiopia loomed so large. For example, we can discuss Ethiopia only in connection with earlier developments in Somalia. We have no policy authority for covert action involving the other three external objectives cited in the draft Ethiopia “Perspectives,” namely:

a. “Support the U.S. role of impartial but concerned party who is seeking to establish a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement,”

b. “Stimulate foreign governments to deny use of local facilities and passage privileges to the Soviet Union and other powers engaged in transferring military equipment and troops to the Horn region,” and

c. “Promote a greater public awareness in Cuba of the political and economic consequences of Cuba’s African adventures.”

5. In addition to the currently valid “Perspectives” guidelines on issues in the Horn, we also have a Presidential finding covering covert action on the issue of Soviet-Cuban military intervention in Angola in response to which our infrastructure assets have been very active since November 1977.8 It seems clear, however, in order to carry out the decision of the SCC on 26 January 1978, we need to obtain expanded and updated “Perspectives” guidelines. For this purpose, we are pre[Page 116]paring a new consolidated “Perspectives” on Ethiopian/Somali issues, which I will forward to you shortly for inclusion in the “Perspectives” tasking finding now awaiting approval by the President. When approved, this new “Perspectives” will permit the Agency to address fully the Soviet-Cuban role in the Horn.

Stansfield Turner
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 2, Chron File: 2/78. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 46.
  3. The draft Perspectives detailed ideas for exploiting low morale in the Ethiopian Armed Forces, exacerbating tensions between Ethiopians and the Soviets/Cubans, and advertising Soviet interventionism. (National Security Council, Carter Intelligence Files, Box 20, Minutes-SCC Intelligence Meetings 1978)
  4. The Hughes/Ryan Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 (P.L. 93–559) requires the President to notify Congress of all CIA covert operations within a set time period. It also stipulates that appropriated funds may not be used for covert operations without a Presidential Finding.
  5. These Presidential Findings are attached to a December 15, 1977, memorandum from Wells to Turner. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 81M00980R: Subject Committee Files, Box 27, Folder 13: Covert Action)
  6. This Perspectives deals with publicizing the Soviet role in arming both Somalia and Ethiopia and fueling the conflict in the Horn of Africa. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 81M00980R: Subject Committee Files, Box 27, Folder 11: Covert Action)
  7. This Perspectives is attached to a December 15, 1977, memorandum from Wells to Turner. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 81M00980R: Subject Committee Files, Box 27, Folder 13: Covert Action)
  8. Not found. For a summary of the finding, see .