341. Memorandum From the Chief of the Latin America Division of the Central Intelligence Agency (Warren) to Director of Central Intelligence Turner1


  • Response to Venezuelan President’s Request for CIA Support

1. Action Requested: Your approval to provide the limited support described below to the Venezuelan President.

[Page 979]

2. Background: On 22 September 1977 the Special Security adviser to Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez (CAP) contacted [less than 1 line not declassified] on behalf of CAP to request assistance in the investigation of the kidnapping of William Niehous, a U.S. businessman in Caracas.2 [less than 6½ lines not declassified]3

3. [less than 2 lines not declassified]4 Your comments at that time were that the Agency should make no moves toward the Venezuelans without your approval, and that if we could do something, you were inclined to have President Carter relay the reply and material since President Carter was planning to visit Venezuela in late November.

4. The Division proceeded to explore our alternatives with both the Department of State and our own legal counsel. [less than 6 lines not declassified] We thought we might be able to provide some assistance on the Niehous case and the Ambassador and the Department of State have asked us to provide this assistance so long as the CIA does not become directly involved in carrying out the investigation.5

5. There are no legal restrictions against the CIA providing limited assistance to the Venezuelan President on the Niehous case. [less than 3 lines not declassified] The Department of State and Ambassador Vaky agree that this is a desirable course of action and we believe this assistance will demonstrate to President Perez that the U.S. Government is willing to cooperate when we can on subjects of mutual concern.

6. Now that President Carter’s trip has been cancelled, at least temporarily, and the request from President Perez is more than a month old, we believe we should make a decision on the question of whether we will respond in a positive fashion. We believe there are the following options:

a. [less than 1½ lines not declassified] review the Venezuelan investigative files on the Niehous kidnapping and to make recommendations, but not to participate actively in the investigation. This option would have the advantage of being responsive to a request from the Venezuelan President and reflect concern for the well-being of an American citizen.

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b. Our alternative would be to decline the request, indicating our reluctance to help in the Niehous investigation because we see little that can be contributed to the case since 21 months have elapsed since the kidnapping occurred. This stance would have the disadvantage of appearing totally uncooperative and unsympathetic about the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen.

7. We recommend the alternative posed in paragraph 6(a) above.

Raymond A. Warren6
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M00165A, Box 2, Folder 38. Secret. Sent via the Acting Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and the Deputy Director for Operations. [less than 1 line not declassified]
  2. Not found.
  3. [1 line not declassified].
  4. [less than 2 lines not declassified].
  5. In telegram 10343 from Caracas, October 21, Vaky recommended that USG assistance on the Niehous investigation should be “clearly limited to advise and review and not direction of the GOV investigation.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Roger Channel, Caracas 1963–79) (S) In an October 31 memorandum for the record regarding a weekly ARA/CIA/INR meeting, Todman, Stedman and Warren agreed on this response to the requests from Perez. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Africa and Latin America Inter-agency Intelligence Committees, ARA-CIA Weekly Meetings 1976–77)
  6. Wells concurred on November 12. Turner approved on November 28. The date is stamped.