371. Memorandum From Walter Raymond of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark)1


  • Assassination Attempt Against the Pope

Attached is the memorandum that Bill Casey forwarded to you on December 202 which reviews all the information available to the Agency on Bulgarian involvement in the attempt to assassinate the Pope. I am concerned about the depth of effort undertaken by the Intelligence Community on this issue. I confess that my concern is fueled by the fact that several private investigators produced material as long as a year ago which developed substantial evidence pointing to Bulgarian complicity. As best I can judge (from long distance) the Intelligence Community did not make an all court press to seek to verify aspects of this circumstantial evidence [less than 4 lines not declassified].

It strikes me that an issue of this magnitude requires a very serious commitment of time and effort by the Intelligence Community. We need to know if the Bulgarians and subsequently the Soviets were behind the plot. I realize that if we do develop this solid evidence it will create a major political issue. I further recognize that if we allow the “Italians to stay out front” it gives us greater flexibility on how we wish to handle the case. Nevertheless, I think we have to pose the question to ourselves and subsequently to Bill Casey:3 Do we want to know? Do we want to deploy increased resources so as to make an all out effort? Have we increased our capability and our efforts in this area?

You will have seen the press reports which indicate that Brzezinski believes that the Bulgarians (and the Soviets) are behind the plot.4 Brzezinski’s source may well be Paul Henze, a former NSC staffer who produced papers suggesting a Bulgarian connection as early as October [Page 1189] and December 1981.5 But more probably, Brzezinski’s confidence in his analysis is based on his excellent access to the Vatican. Has the Intelligence Community debriefed Brzezinski? Henze? Mike Ledeen? Claire Sterling? [less than 4 lines not declassified]

I realize the profound issues raised by this whole subject, but I believe in the quiet of the 5 p.m. meeting with the DCI6 in your office we should ask and answer some of the hard questions.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, System IV Intelligence Files, 1983, 400405. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A copy was sent to deGraffenreid. “WPC has seen” is stamped at the top of the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed. See Document 370.
  3. An unknown hand highlighted this sentence and the subsequent questions by drawing a line adjacent to them in the right-hand margin.
  4. In an interview with an Italian newspaper on January 3, Brzezinski stated his belief that the KGB was behind the assassination plot. (“Brzezinski Believes KGB Plotted to Kill the Pope.” Washington Post, January 4, 1983, p. A9)
  5. Not found.
  6. No memorandum of conversation of this meeting was found.