254. Memorandum From William E. Odom of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Terrorist Incident in Bogota, Colombia: Situation Report2

A Task Force is at work under Tony Quainton in the State Operations Center.3 [less than 1 line not declassified] As you already know, Ambassador Asencio is not wounded but being held hostage within the Dominican Republic Embassy. His wife did not attend the reception and, therefore, is free.

State has been in touch with President Turbay, the Chief of Policy, and other officials in Bogota expressing our desire that they not use undue force which might cause injury to Ambassador Asencio.4

Colombian officials initially asked if we could provide tear gas and other riot control equipment.5 [2 lines not declassified]

The situation remains unclear. No negotiations with the terrorists have begun. There are unconfirmed reports of two dead and one wounded in the Embassy. Our intelligence indicates that the group is most likely an off-shoot of the M–19, the urban guerrilla organization in Bogota.

[Page 740]

The JCS has placed a C–141 medivac on alert at Charleston, South Carolina.

[1 line not declassified]

Until the situation settles between the terrorists and Colombian officials, there is little else we can do at present. One possible decision may face us this evening if [less than 1 line not declassified] to Bogota to gather planning information on the situation. I have discussed this at length with State. Quainton and the JCS agreed with me that we should only approve it if the Colombian officials are willing and interested.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory File, Box 84, Sensitive XX, 2/80. Secret. Sent information. Denend initialed the top right-hand corner of the memorandum. At the top of the page, Brzezinski wrote, “need DR early a.m. 28th.”
  2. In telegram 2039 from Bogota, February 27, the Embassy reported: “During a Dominican Republic national day diplomatic reception at the Embassy of the Dominican Republic,” “between fifteen and twenty terrorists armed with shotguns and small arms attacked the Dominican Embassy,”entering the Embassy and taking hostage “the diplomats and Colombian Foreign Ministry officials therein. According to early reports, present at the reception were the Ambassador of the United States Diego Asencio, the papal nuncio and the Ambassadors of Brazil, Austria, Switzerland, and Venezuela.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800117-1097)
  3. In a February 27 note to Brzezinski, Denend indicated that Aaron showed telegram 2034 from Bogota, February 27, to Carter and instructed Odom “to activate the terrorism group.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 12, Colombia, 1/80-1/81)
  4. In telegram 2039 from Bogota, February 27, the Embassy reported, “We contacted Colombian governmental officials at all levels and urged in the strongest terms that violence be avoided to the extent possible. While there was some initial shooting between terrorists and Colombian authorities, at this time we are told that the Colombians plan no violent reaction and will merely seal the area off.” See footnote 2, above.
  5. See telegram 2036 from Bogota, February 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800101-0920)
  6. In a February 27 SCC meeting regarding El Salvador, participants also discussed the embassy seizure in Colombia: “In response to a request from the Government of Colombia for assistance in dealing with the terrorist seizure of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogota, the SCC agreed [2 lines not declassified] (Carter Library, NSC Institutional Files, 1977–81, Box 109, SCC 279 El Salvador, 2/27/80) (S) The SCC Summary of Conclusions is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Document 419.