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


  • Bogota Terrorist Incident: SCC Needed (C)

Bob Pastor and I had a discussion with State (Tony Quainton and Sam Eaton, DAS/ARA) this afternoon that revealed the need for an SCC discussion of where we are headed in the Bogota incident.2 State is proceeding down a path which will lead to concessions and at least a minor victory for the M–19 group. Bob Pastor believes that such an outcome is not acceptable for our Latin American policy. It will lead to a series of future embassy takeovers. (S)

Basically, we have two choices. We can leave the responsibility for the outcome of the incident up to the Colombian government. Or we can become involved, sharing the responsibility. (S)

a. Leave it to Colombia. Although we are becoming involved by a series of small steps, we can still take this course. It will require, however, that we tell the Colombians that we are not asking them to forego a rescue effort even if it means casualties. The Presidential message3 has left the impression that we disapprove of the use of force even if [Page 742] a negotiated solution can only be gotten with major concessions. The Austrians, Swiss and the Vatican are giving the same anti-rescue advice. (S)

b. Become involved. We are headed this way at present. As we go farther, we shall reach the point where we make concessions or use force. Whose force? We and the Israelis are the only involved countries with a credible capability. The Colombians do not have the capability. (S)

Bob and I believe that the President ought to have the choices put to him clearly by an SCC discussion. Bob is concerned about “caving” as it impacts on our Latin American policy. He sees a spate of future takeovers if we concede. I am concerned about the relationship between this case and Tehran and what it means for the President politically at home and abroad. Therefore, we recommend that the following agenda for the SCC on Thursday morning:4

1. A State briefing on the present situation, particularly the extent of our involvement and likely future involvement.

2. What is the U.S. attitude toward the negotiating process as it concerns the following hostage demands:5

a. Asylum.

b. Ransom.

c. Release of prisoners.

3. Our choices on the above are:

a. Encourage.

b. Discourage.

c. Acquiesce, i.e., accept Colombian decisions without expressing our feelings.

4. What is our attitude toward the use of force?

Are we willing to let the Colombians use force? If not, are we willing to join the Colombians and let them use our force? (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 52, Terrorism: Bogota Crisis, 2-3/80. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. An unknown hand wrote “Urgent” at the top of the memorandum. A copy was sent to Pastor.
  2. See Document 255.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Thursday” refers to March 6. An unknown hand underlined the phrase “SCC on Thursday morning” and wrote “ok” in the left-hand margin.
  5. In his February 29 evening report to Carter, Vance wrote: “In addition to demanding the release of 311 prisoners, $50 million in ransom, and publication of their manifesto, the terrorists have asked for safe passage for themselves and the prisoners to a third country.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 22, Evening Reports [State], 2/80)