234. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to President Carter 1

SUBJECT

  • Significant Actions, Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense (June 2–8, 1979)

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

Panamanian Involvement in Nicaragua—Sandinista Rebellion: LTG McAuliffe had a lengthy session before Carroll Hubbard’s House Merchant Marine Panama Canal Subcommittee Thursday2 on Panamanian involvement in the Nicaragua—Sandinista rebellion. We think he was able to field the questions reasonably well considering the hostile intent. His basic approach was that General Torrijos and President Somoza have made no secret of their open hostility, but that does not indicate that Panama is an unreliable and trouble-making partner or cannot be trusted with gradually assuming control of the Panama Canal. The Committee requested a special classified hearing today for Members only. At best this series of hearings offers us no advantages; it will surely be used to attack the Panama Canal implementing legislation during House floor action next week.3

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 6, Defense Department: 5-7/79. Carter initialed the memorandum. Brzezinski forwarded the memorandum to Brown under a June 13 covering memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. June 7.
  3. The week of June 11. In a June 11 letter to colleagues, Hubbard and Bauman discussed their conclusion from the hearings that the Government of Panama had “knowingly and systematically undertaken to authorize and underwrite provocative acts of indirect aggression against the Government of Nicaragua” in violation of international law and the Neutrality Treaty signed between the United States and Panama. Hubbard and Bauman concluded that the evidence presented at the hearings called “into question the political judgment and reliability of the Panamanian Government” and asked members to take this into account. (National Archives, RG 59, Files of Assistant Secretary J. Brian Atwood, Subject Files and Chrons. 1977/78/79/80, Lot 81D115, Box 2, Panama Implementing Legislation)