181. Telegram From the Embassy in Jamaica to the Department of State1

6948. Subject: Meeting With Prime Minister on “Penthouse” Article and Duncan Poisoning Charge.2 Reference: (A) State 276345 (B) Kingston 6824.3

1. Summary: Prime Minister still believes “some CIA people” were trying to destabilize his government and perhaps “even” assassinate him last year.4 He is prepared to believe that “top level officials” of the USG, including the Director of CIA, gave no orders to interfere in Jamaican affairs last year, but claims that there is sufficient “irrefutable” intelligence which he cannot divulge but which makes him believe that at least some lower echelon CIA personnel were involved with members of the JLP opposition in the alleged plots. Regarding the Duncan poisoning charge, he is “satisfied” that CIA was not involved but says he is not willing to say this publicly because he never “publicly claimed CIA involvement.” He said he is “satisfied” also that “as of this moment” no elements of CIA are interfering in Jamaica. Also that he “has confidence in the integrity of the present Ambassador to Jamaica and leaders of the present administration and will sincerely believe whatever they say concerning actions since January of this year”, but cannot believe any of us had access to the full range of USG activities for us to exonorate the entire CIA in last year’s exploits. End summary.

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2. My conversation with the Prime Minister on these subjects lasted about half an hour and can best be described as spirited. He entered the room taking the offensive immediately. He said that he knew what I wanted him to do but in no way will he “perjure his conscience” and say things in public just for the sake of maintaining US/Jamaican friendly relations. I told him that nobody was asking him to speak untruths but that we were puzzled by his recent statements which have led not only some of us, but Jamaicans as well to believe he was implicating USG in the alleged plots against him. He said that Andy Young and I tried to convince him that CIA was not out to get him, but as much as he wants to believe us, he cannot because we, nor “anyone else” in the present administration know with certainty what was going on at the “lower echelons of CIA.”5 He is not willing to believe that we had access to all records and all actions under the previous administration.

3. He said that his intelligence service and his military service have proof that opposition leader Seaga had met with Cuban exiles in Miami and with lower echelon CIA officials last year on several occasions. He said he is willing to believe that the top levels of the last administration were unaware of these meetings and were unaware of the plots Seaga was perpetrating against him and his government. He said he has proof that lots of elements in Jamaica and elsewhere were involved in the destabilization attempt. When I asked him if he would give me an instance of such proof, he said that it was not the type he could just lay out.

4. The Prime Minister said that there was an attempt on his life in Canada and if I wanted proof, to ask the Canadian police. I asked him if the police implicated the CIA. He replied that no one was certain who was involved. I asked him if there was an attempt on his life at Jamaica House, which “Penthouse” article describes. His answer was that he was not aware of any attempt at Jamaica House. I asked him why then was he being selective in choosing which items to believe. He did not respond.

5. He said the “Penthouse” article must be looked at with some credibility. He said the conversation with Kissinger, for instance, in December 1975, as reported by Penthouse, is “absolutely accurate.”6 [Page 445]He then went into a description of how Kissinger tossed out the possibility of a $100 million line of credit to Jamaica with the strong implication that it was tied to Manley taking Kissinger’s position on Angolan issue. When he, Manley, did not go along with what Kissinger wanted, the $100 million line of credit “seemed to have evaporated.”

6. With respect to the Duncan poisoning, he said he is “satisfied” that CIA had nothing to do with it but he is “convinced” that some of the same elements that were involved in the destabilization effort last year were also involved in the poisoning. When I asked him whether he would be willing to make a public statement absolving the CIA or the USG, he demurred saying that since he never accused the USG publicly of complicity he could not make such a public statement. We had quite a go-around on this one too. In the process he remarked that proof is developing which will clearly implicate Seaga and his “reactionary” followers, some of whom are abroad.

7. Comment: Our conversation was characterized by the same frankness that he and I have used with each other. The only difference was that he was more excited than he usually is and displayed more showmanship than he usually does on such occasions. As reported several times earlier, Manley does, indeed, believe there were destabilization attempts against him and his government last year. I doubt that anyone other than perhaps the President can make him believe otherwise. Even so, I doubt he will admit it publicly because of the extreme political embarrassment it would cause him locally. Although he denied any intention of publicly absolving USG complicity in the Duncan “plot”, I would not rule out that possibility.7

Irving
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770431–1160. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Reference is to an article entitled “Murder as Usual,” published in the December 1977 issue of Penthouse, in which the investigative journalists Ernest Volkman and John Cummings alleged that the CIA was plotting against Manley. The article was published more than a year after the Jamaican Government accused U.S. officials of planning a destabilization campaign. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–11, Part 1, Documents on Mexico; Central America; and the Caribbean, 1973–1976, Documents 463 and 467. Duncan and Manley announced on November 12 that Duncan’s recent illness had been caused by poisoning by “reactionary forces.” (Telegram 6772 from Kingston, November 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770421–0365)
  3. In telegram 276345 to Kingston, November 18, the Department instructed the Embassy to approach Manley about making make a public statement condemning the accuracy of the Penthouse article. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770427–0283) In telegram 6824 to Kingston, November 6, the Embassy reported Irving’s efforts to meet with Manley after the release of the article. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770424–1189)
  4. Manley’s allegations about the CIA are discussed in telegram 824 from Kingston, February 21. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770060–0872)
  5. Ambassador Young visited Jamaica and met with Manley on August 6. (Telegram 3637 from San Jose, August 9; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770288–0203)
  6. Kissinger vacationed in Jamaica December 26, 1975–January 4, 1976. A memorandum of conversation transcribes a January 3, 1976, meeting during which Kissinger and Manley discussed Law of the Sea issues, bauxite negotiations, and the situation in the Middle East and Angola. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P820117–0507)
  7. In a memorandum from Christopher to Turner through Blake, December 15, Christopher denied the CIA was involved in efforts to destabilize Jamaica during the nation’s 1976 elections. Turner noted, however (in reference to Manley’s claim of “irrefutable evidence” of CIA covert action in Jamaica), “Jack, Let’s ask [less than 1 line not declassified] what that [evidence] could be.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron, Box 23, Jamaica, 1977)