9. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Cubans in Africa—Covert Action Proposal

The SCC on 27 March 1978, after a discussion on Cubans in Angola which came to no clear conclusion, did reach consensus . . .

“that there should be increased covert media activity on Cubans in Africa with special effort to project information on Cuban casualties and problems into Cuba itself. CIA will prepare plans for implementation, including additional Presidential Findings, if required.” (Excerpt from Summary of Conclusions of this meeting.)2

In implementation of this decision, CIA prepared a Memorandum of Notification entitled “Covert Action Campaign to Enlighten Cuban Population as to the Price of Cuba’s Intervention in Africa” (attached, Tab A), dated 14 April 1978,3 which according to established procedures we sent to SAWG members on 18 April with a deadline for comment/concurrences of 24 April.

The Attorney-General’s office in the person of Ken Bass gave us a wishy-washy comment (Tab B)4 which concluded that the proposal is “arguably within the scope of the 8 November Finding. The determination of that scope of the Finding is . . . primarily the responsibility of CIA and those NSC personnel involved in its submission to the President.”

Walter Slocombe at DOD/ISA came in with a dissent, (Tab C)5 which repeated the familiar refrain that the program ought to be overt, or at least in large part overt. He ignored the fact—as I have observed repeatedly in passing on other OMB and DOD comments to you—that CIA has no overt capability. The SCC specifically charged CIA with preparing a covert program, the only kind of program for which it has authority or capability.

[Page 26]

State, after delaying three days, sent a mushy memorandum (Tab D)6 endorsing the concept of spreading information about the Cuban role in Africa but questioning CIA’s implementation plans and calling for “a more narrowly focussed clandestine effort” involving only agents of influence not the printed word. State’s recommendations add up to scuttling the effort by advocating implementation so minimal that it would constitute no significant action at all. State also questions the “legality” of the action and says its Legal Office should be consulted about it . . .

I reported this problem to you in summary fashion in my Evening Report of 26 April.7 In response to your strong reaction, I notified CIA by phone this morning that the SCC decision is to be implemented immediately without further ado. I attach a memorandum from you to the DCI advising him officially of this position (Tab E).8

We have witnessed here a striking example of how unproductive the “Special Activities Working Group” mechanism has been. The group might better be called the “Special Activities Obstruction Group,” since that has been the net effect of this uncooperative body of middle-level bureaucrats since it was instituted last spring.

CIA is not going to be able to respond to the President’s desires and to SCC decisions unless we circumvent, streamline or abolish the “Special Activities Working Group.” As Chairman of the SCC, you have the authority to define the role of any “Working Groups” which are necessary to support the SCC in its deliberations. No mention of the SAWG was made in E. O. 120369 so as to preserve your maximum flexibility. Moreover from the beginning we have established the principle that no “Working Group” as such has continual or unlimited status or authority but undertakes only such tasks as the SCC requires done at any given period. The authority for review and approval of covert actions rests only with the SCC, with you as its Chairman and with the President when the sensitivity or scope of the planned action requires his authorization of it. OMB should have advisory authority only in respect to resource availability and the Attorney-General’s role should be confined to advise on legalities—President Finding requirements, interpretations, etc.

[Page 27]

Sam Hoskinson endorses this approach. If you concur in the above-outlined principles, I will prepare a revised set of SCC Chairman’s guidelines which reflect it.10

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Subject Files: A–E, Box 29, USSR-Cuban Intervention in Africa, 9 Jan 1978–7 July 1978. Secret; Sensitive. Outside the System. Sent for action.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 1, Horn of Africa, Document 76.
  3. Not attached; printed as Document 8.
  4. Dated April 24; attached but not printed.
  5. Slocombe’s memorandum to McMahon, undated, is attached but not printed.
  6. Bowdler’s memorandum to McMahon, dated April 27, is attached but not printed.
  7. The evening report is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Staff Evening Reports, Box 11.
  8. See Document 10.
  9. On January 24, 1978, Carter signed Executive Order 12036, which instituted several reforms to the Intelligence Community.
  10. Brzezinski checked the “Agree” option.