370. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Casey to Secretary of State Shultz, Secretary of Defense Weinberger, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark), and the Deputy Secretary of State (Dam)1


  • Bulgarian Complicity in the Papal Assassination Attempt (S)
Attached is a memorandum requested by Ken Dam reviewing all information available to the Agency on Bulgarian involvement in the attempt to assassinate the Pope.2 As you will see in the memorandum, [less than 6 lines not declassified].
While the memorandum is very careful in its review of the reporting, [less than 12 lines not declassified].
William J. Casey


Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency3

Bulgarian Complicity in the Papal Assassination Attempt

Introduction. We are unable at this juncture to develop a clear-cut, conclusive picture of Bulgarian involvement with would-be papal assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. [less than 8 lines not declassified].
[1 paragraph (12 lines) not declassified]
[1 line not declassified] the Italian magistrate system, which gives investigators and prosecutors independence and wide latitude and prohibits public disclosure until trial. This system also protects magistrates [Page 1187] from public scrutiny and has in the past led to selective press leaks for political purposes, particularly in cases that capture public attention. [less than 2 lines not declassified]
[6 paragraphs (93 lines) not declassified]
[less than 1 line not declassified] Agca maintained that he had no confederates in his attempt against the Pope.
Subsequently, arrest warrants have been issued [less than 1 line not declassified] for three Bulgarian nationals and four Turkish nationals on grounds that they assisted in Agca’s attempted assassination. The Bulgarians are:
Sergey Ivanov Antonov, a Bulgarian airlines representative in Rome, arrested on 25 November and now in Italian custody [less than 5 lines not declassified].
Zhelyo Kolev Vasilev, a former secretary to the Bulgarian military attache in Rome who returned to Bulgaria in July, 1982.
Todor Stoyanov Ayvazov, the chief Bulgarian embassy accountant, who returned to Bulgaria in November, 1982.
[1 paragraph (11 lines) not declassified]
[1 paragraph (11 lines) not declassified]
[less than 4 lines not declassified] According to the US Embassy in Rome, the alleged Bulgarian connection, currently a cause celebre in Italy, has prompted political maneuvering within the newly formed four party coalition. The Socialists, Social Democrats, and Liberals charge that the Christian Democrats, who control the Foreign and Interior ministries, have been reluctant to pursue the Bulgarian angle. While sensitive to the criticism leveled by their coalition partners, the Christian Democrats insist that the government must proceed cautiously until Martella’s evidence has been completely aired. Foreign Minister Colombo told Secretary Shultz on 13 December that his government was not certain whether Agca’s statements [less than 1 line not declassified] were true, or were designed to secure for Agca a reduced sentence.
[1 paragraph (8 lines) not declassified]
The assassination attempt has been described, from the point of view of the tradecraft demonstrated, as shoddy and therefore, antithetical to the sound practices expected of a professional intelligence organization. The US Embassy in Sofia offers the view that it is difficult to believe that the Bulgarian security services were directly involved in Agca’s assassination plot “because it would have been so stupid.” Neither of these two considerations, however, necessarily exclude the possibility of official Bulgarian involvement.
[1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 87M00539R: Policy Files, Box19, Folder 298: I–111 Attempted Assassination of Pope Paul II. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].
  2. A December 10 note to the Deputy Directors for Operations and Intelligence from the Deputy Director indicated that Dam “would like to know any and all information” on Bulgarian involvement. (Ibid.)
  3. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].