Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear Mac from Dez re: Cuban Ops

National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy and Desmond Fitzgerald, head of CIA Cuban Ops



249. Letter From the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Central Intelligence Agency (FitzGerald) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs


Washington, March 6, 1964.

Dear Mac:

Dick Helms and I are most appreciative of the opportunity you gave us this morning for a thorough discussion of the Agency's various operational problems in connection with Cuba. It was very helpful to us and has served to clarify to a great extent our own thinking on the future of our various operational programs. It might perhaps be well to set forth, in this informal fashion, a list of the various topics which we discussed together with the considerations that appear to me to apply.

In the first place, as you know very well, although the Agency appears as the proposer of most covert action programs at the Special Group and elsewhere, we do this only in response to what we understand to be policy requirements and have no interest in either commencing or perpetuating any programs which are not demanded by policy and which are not geared to the accomplishment of a specific objective. The interdependent program of actions which we proposed last spring and which was accepted in June2 was based on three propositions which were accepted at the time: (a) that it was in the U.S. interest to get rid of Castro; (b) that, in attempting to do so, the U.S. did not wish either to employ overt force or to raise the international “noise level” to an unacceptable degree; and (c) that the ultimate objective of the program was not mass uprisings but to encourage disaffected elements within the military establishment and other power centers of the regime to carry out a coup.

The resulting program represented a maximum covert effort but only a minimum overall national effort which could result in overthrowing Castro. The percentage of chance of achieving this purpose was admittedly never too high even had the program proceeded on full blower. In fact the economic part of the program suffered a serious, if not fatal, reverse with the Leyland bus contract and subsequent moves by European suppliers to take advantage of Castro's improved cash position. The sabotage raids, built into the program as a sort of firing pin for internal unrest and to create the conditions for a coup, which was to be the main force leading to Castro's defeat, ran only from August to December and only five were actually conducted. The effectiveness of these five raids is certainly debatable; there are strong proponents on both sides of the argument. Regardless of how that debate might come out, however, five rather low-key raids followed by the present three-month hiatus, the latter clearly noted by pro- and anti-Castroites alike, adds up to a program of a much smaller dimension than originally envisioned which could not be expected to have had the desired detonating effect.

At the present time, as a result of a number of circumstances well known to you,Castro is in a strong upswing and the spirit of resistance within Cuba is at a very low point indeed. In my estimation, a covert program at this time designed to overthrow Castro is not realistic. Acceptance of risks and noise level of a greater magnitude than we had in mind in June would be needed to stand a chance in view of the developments since last June. This then raises the question of what should happen now to the various bits and pieces of the June program. I would like to mention these separately and refer to some of the considerations typical to each.

The sabotage raids are conducted by Cuban exile groups held and trained in Florida and entirely subject to our planning and control. There are three of these groups totaling approximately 50 men. To place them in position and recover them there requires an extensive maritime apparatus in Florida, which likewise serves intelligence agent infiltrations and exfiltrations. To maintain the raiding capability on a stand-by basis is expensive but, more importantly, the raiding groups themselves have a relatively short shelf life; if not employed their morale deteriorates and some of the members, usually the best motivated, drop out. Replacements can be acquired and trained but their caliber and morale is in large part determined by the morale of the exile community as a whole. We probably can retain the present raiding groups at roughly their current capabilities for another month or two, although the well-known Cuban volatility is capable of causing sudden and more rapid deterioration.

In short, we will need to know within a reasonable time whether we should continue to effect repairs to and keep in being our sabotage raiding apparatus. The dismemberment of these raiding teams could be accomplished without too much shock to the exile community. It would be noticed, but, if done carefully, particularly if it coincided with the commencement of “autonomous” operations, it should not cause undue repercussions and polemics against U.S. policy.

As you know, again as part of the June plan, we are supporting two “autonomous” exile groups headed respectively by Manuel Artime and Manolo Ray. In both cases we have gone to maximum lengths to preserve the deniability of U.S. complicity in the operation. Artime, who now possesses the greater mechanical and paramilitary apparatus, has required a good deal of hand-feeding although still within the context of deniability. He will probably not be ready for his operations against Cuba before April or May of this year. He possesses most of his hardware and maritime equipment and has negotiated geographical and political bases in Central America. Manolo Ray has been handled on a much more independent basis. We have furnished him money and a certain amount of general advice. He does not possess the physical accoutrements that Artime has and is probably not as well equipped in terms of professional planning. Ray has a better political image inside Cuba among supporters of the revolution and has recently acquired, according to reports, some of the other leftwing exile activist groups such as Gutierrez Menoyo and his Second Front of the Escambray. He is said to be ready to move into Cuba on a clandestine basis late this spring. His first weapon will be sabotage inside Cuba, apparently not externally-mounted hit-and-run raids.

If U.S. policy should demand that the “autonomous” operations be suspended, we could of course cut off our support immediately. Artime and his group might or might not disintegrate at once. Manolo Ray almost certainly would continue. Both groups are based outside the United States and our only real leverage on them is through our financial support but withdrawal of this support would probably be fatal to their operations in time. A cutoff of this support, even though this support has been untraceable in a technical sense, would have a considerable impact within the exile community. U.S. support is rumored, especially in the case of Artime, and the collapse of the only remaining evidence of exile action against Castro would hit the exile community hard which is what it in turn would do to its favorite target, U.S. policy. The exile of today, however, appears to have lost much of his fervor and, in any case, does not seem to have the capacity for causing domestic trouble which he had a year or two ago. The Central American countries in which the exile bases exist would be greatly confused, although we have carefully never indicated to the governments of these countries any more than U.S. sympathy for the “autonomous” groups.

We have a capacity, which is increasing, to sabotage Cuban merchant ships calling at foreign ports. We are emphasizing in this program the more subtle forms of sabotage as against large explosions obviously stemming from agent-placed bombs and limpets. The Cuban merchant fleet, among the most badly run in the world, can be helped along to a measurable degree by this program.

On the economic warfare front, as you know, we have for many months conducted a covert denial program based on limited capabilities directed at very narrow targets. The effectiveness of this program is dependent on the careful selection of items to be denied in terms of their critical value to a key element of the Cuban economy. Despite the virtual collapse of the U.S. overall economic denial program against Cuba, we still retain the capacity, using unofficial and covert methods, to hurt but obviously not to destroy certain bits of the Cuban economy. This effort can be complemented by carefully concealed contamination of lubricants and similar actions.

Our program to get in touch with and subvert members of the military establishment and other elite groups in Cuba continues. Its chance of success naturally rises and falls with the state of morale inside Cuba as influenced by the success or inactivity of our other programs and the U.S. posture in general.

Our intelligence program continues at full force. It will be affected by anti-Castromorale but we believe that we can offset the effects of further deterioration in this morale by increasingly tightened and efficient operations.

We are seeking your advice to know which of the above lines of actions we should continue, which we should try to retain as a shelf capability and which to abandon. (Of course, intelligence collection would continue.) As parts of an integrated national program designed to have at least a fighting chance to get rid of Castro, they seemed to us to make sense; as separate pieces they can serve to exert some braking effect on Castro's progress, but that is about all.



1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cuba, Intelligence, Covert Program, 1/64–6/65. Secret; Eyes Only.
2 For text of the proposed program of action, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XI, Document 346.

346. Paper Prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency for the Standing Group of the National Security CouncilSource
Washington, June 8, 1963.

• Proposed Covert Policy and Integrated Program of Action towards Cuba

I. Introduction

1. Submitted herewith is a covert program for Cuba within CIA's capabilities. Some parts of the program have already been approved and are being implemented. Being closely inter-related, the total cumulative impact of the courses of action set forth in this program is dependent upon the simultaneous coordinated execution of the individual courses of action.

2. This program is based on the assumption that current U.S. policy does not contemplate outright military intervention in Cuba or a provocation which can be used as a pretext for an invasion of Cuba by United States military forces. It is further assumed that U.S. policy calls for the exertion of maximum pressure by all means available to the U.S. Government, short of military intervention, to prevent the pacification of the population and the consolidation of the Castro/Communist regime. The ultimate objective of this policy would be to encourage dissident elements in the military and other power centers of the regime to bring about the eventual liquidation of the Castro/Communist entourage and the elimination of the Soviet presence from Cuba.

3. While the effect of a program of maximum pressure is unpredictable, it is suggested that a sustained intensive effort undertaken now to prevent the consolidation of the Castro/Communist regime may in the future present the United States with opportunities and options not now foreseeable. The consequences of a policy of allowing Castro to “stew in his own juice,” however, are foreseeable. According to current estimates, barring Castro's death or a decisive change in the U.S. posture or Soviet policy towards Cuba, the Castro regime is likely to be more firmly established a year hence, despite possible economic setbacks. The mere passage of time tends to favor Castro as the population and elite groups in Cuba become accustomed to the idea that he is here to stay and as his regime gains in administrative experience and the security organs become more efficient. Over the longer run, the existence of an organized party apparatus as well as a stable governmental machinery could reduce the indispensability of Castro's personal leadership. Thus, if left to chance, the U.S. must be prepared to accept for the indefinite future a Communist regime in Cuba closely tied to and a significant component of the Soviet world power structure.

4. Within the context of the policy assumptions and estimate of the situation in Cuba outlined above, CIA submits a program consisting of the following interdependent courses of action:

A. Covert collection of intelligence, both for U.S. strategic requirements as well as for operational requirements.

B. Propaganda actions to stimulate low-risk simple sabotage and other forms of active and passive resistance.

C. Exploitation and stimulation of disaffection in the Cuban military and other power centers.

D. Economic denial actions on an increased basis.

E. General sabotage and harassment.

F. Support of autonomous anti-Castro Cuban groups to supplement and assist in the execution of the above courses of action.

5. A vital feature of the foregoing program to exert maximum pressure on theCastro/Communist regime is the dependence of the impact of each course of action on the simultaneous and effective execution of the other courses of action. Thus, intelligence information is needed to permit the planning and mounting of operations against economic denial and sabotage targets. Covert propaganda actions are designed to produce a psychological climate in Cuba conducive to the accomplishment of the other courses of action in the integrated covert program. Only after the effects of economic denial and sabotage actions are deeply felt by the populace and the elite groups can one hope to convert disaffection in the armed forces and other power centers of the regime into militant revolt against theCastro/Communist entourage. It is also at this point where CIA-controlled and autonomous activist elements in the Cuban exile community can begin to assume genuine resistance proportions. As a consequence of this inter-related and continuous process, it is reasonable to expect a considerable increase in the volume and quality of the intelligence product on the basis of which additional and increasingly more effective operations can be mounted. Unless all the components of this program are executed in tandem, the individual courses of action are almost certain to be of marginal value, even in terms of achieving relatively limited policy objectives. This is clearly a cause where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

II. Discussion of Components of an Integrated Program

6. In amplification of the courses of action listed in paragraph 4 above, the following additional description and terms of reference are offered:

A. Covert collection of intelligence, both for U.S. strategic requirements as well as for operational requirements.

Covert collection of intelligence continues to be a major CIA mission. Without detracting from our strategic intelligence efforts, emphasis is being given to increasing the volume and quality of intelligence needed for planning and mounting the operations contemplated in the integrated program described in this paper, particularly for defections and penetrations and for economic denial and sabotage actions against vulnerable sectors of the Cuban economy.

B. Propaganda actions to stimulate low-risk simple sabotage and other forms of active and passive resistance.

In accordance with a previously approved psychological program in support of U.S. policy on Cuba, CIA-controlled radio programs and other propaganda media directed at Cuba encourage low-risk simple sabotage and other forms of active and passive resistance. These media also seek to stimulate and exacerbate tensions within the regime and between Cuba and the Soviet Bloc, taking advantage of Sino-Soviet tensions. All of these propaganda operations are calculated to create a psychological atmosphere within Cuba which will facilitate the accomplishment of the other courses of action within the integrated covert action program.

C. Exploitation and stimulation of disaffection in the Cuban military and other power centers.

We are undertaking an intensive probing effort to identify, seek out and establish channels of communication with disaffected and potentially dissident non-Communist elements in the power centers of the regime, particularly in the armed forces hierarchy. The objective is to promote the fragmentation of the regime and possibly lead to an internal coup which would dislodge Castro and his entourage, and make it possible to eliminate the Cuban Communists from positions of power and force the withdrawal of the Soviet military presence and the termination of its economic aid. Several promising operations are already underway.

D. Economic denial actions.

Overt official U.S. economic sanctions in conjunction with covert economic denial operations (such as denial of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]) is causing a marked adverse effect on the Cuban economy. For maximum impact on the Cuban economy this effort must be coordinated with sabotage operations. We propose to continue and intensify economic denial operations which would be greatly enhanced by an inter-agency committee with a charter enabling it to call upon member agencies for rapid action.
E. General sabotage and harassment.

Sabotage in this program is both an economic weapon and a stimulus to resistance. As an economic weapon, it is a supplement to and therefore must be coordinated with the economic denial effort. As a stimulus to resistance, there must be visible and dramatic evidence of sabotage to serve as a symbol of growing popular defiance of the Castro regime.
These operations will be conducted either by externally held assets now available or by existing internal assets or those to be developed. Assets trained and controlled by CIA will be used as will selected autonomous exile groups. Initially, the emphasis will be on the use of externally held assets with a shift to internal assets as soon as operationally feasible.

The types of sabotage considered appropriate for this program are:

(1) Simple low-risk sabotage on a large scale stimulated by propaganda media (approved and being implemented).

(2) Sabotage of Cuban ships outside Cuban waters (approved and being implemented).

(3) Externally mounted hit-and-run attacks against appropriately selected targets.

(4) Support of internal resistance elements, providing materiel and personnel to permit them to undertake a variety of sabotage and harassment operations.

It must be recognized that no single act of sabotage by itself can materially affect the economy or stimulate significant resistance. However, it is our opinion that a well-planned series of sabotage efforts, properly executed, would in time produce the effect we seek. Each action will have its dangers: there will be failures with consequent loss of life and charges of attribution to the United States resulting in criticism at home and abroad. None of these expected consequences should cause us to change our course if the program as outlined can be expected to be successful.

Annex A is an elaboration of a proposed sabotage and harassment program against Cuba.

F. Support of autonomous anti-Castro Cuban groups to supplement and assist in the execution of the above courses of action.

In the past, CIA has utilized only fully controlled and disciplined agent assets as a safeguard against unilateral and irresponsible action by Cuban exiles intent upon the liberation of their country. If sabotage and resistance activities are to be undertaken on a larger scale, it will be necessary to accept the risks involved in utilizing autonomous Cuban exile groups and individuals who will not necessarily be responsive to our guidance.CIA proposes the following “rules of engagement” to govern the conduct of these autonomous operations:

(1) It is the keystone of autonomous operations that they will be executed exclusively by Cuban nationals motivated by the conviction that the overthrow of the Castro/Communist regime must be accomplished by Cubans, both inside and outside Cuba acting in consonance.

(2) The effort will probably cost many Cuban lives. If this cost in lives becomes unacceptable to the U.S. conscience, autonomous operations can be effectively halted by the withdrawal of U.S. support; but once halted, it cannot be resumed.

(3) All autonomous operations will be mounted outside the territory of the United States.

(4) The United States Government must be prepared to deny publicly any participation in these acts no matter how loud or even how accurate may be the reports of U.S. complicity.

(5) The United States presence and direct participation in the operation would be kept to an absolute minimum. Before entering into an operational relationship with a group, the U.S. representative will make it clear that his Government has no intention of intervening militarily, except to counter intervention by the Soviets. An experienced CIA officer would be assigned to work with the group in a liaison capacity. He would provide general advice as requested as well as funds and necessary material support. He may be expected to influence but not control the conduct of operations.

(6) These operations would not be undertaken within a fixed time schedule.

III. Recommendation

7. Policy authority already exists for courses of action described in paragraph 6 A-D. In order that full advantage can be taken of an integrated covert action program, the Standing Group is requested to approve courses of action outlined in paragraph 6 E and F within the terms of reference and rules of engagement therein.

Annex A

• Sabotage/Harassment Program

The broad target categories against which the sabotage/harassment operations would be mounted and a preliminary evaluation of their effect, can be summarized as follows:

A. Electric Power

Disruption of any of the existing power grids which might be effected by damage to or destruction of the generating facilities or of the critical sub-stations in the distribution network, would significantly weaken the existing economic and social structure, particularly in view of the fact that in many areas the power now available is not adequate to meet the demands of industrial and public consumers. Smaller acts of sabotage/harassment by the populace such as throwing chains over high tension lines to short them out, would also exacerbate the current power shortage, and the cumulative effect of all such actions could cause a prolonged breakdown of the power system as there is already a shortage of spare parts and replacement materiels.

B. Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL)

Damage to or destruction of POL production and/or storage facilities would seriously affect almost all aspects of the Cuban economy. The electric power industry depends almost entirely upon POL as fuel for the generating plants and the sugar industry depends upon POL powered processing and transportation facilities as does all intra-province transportation. Production and storage facilities are susceptible to external attacks by heavy weapons or by more subtle methods if internal assets having an appropriate degree of accessibility can be developed. The loss of refining facilities could be offset by increased Bloc shipments of refined products but such a shift would require a period of readjustment during which there would be a heavy strain on the Cuban economy. An additional burden on the Bloc refining capacity would also exist until Cuba's refining capacity is restored.
C. Transportation
Damage to or destruction of railway and/or highway rolling stock or the destruction of key bridges would lead to breakdowns in the regional economics which to a large degree are dependent on the distribution of imported products. The processing and export of the vitally important sugar crop is also entirely dependent on transportation. It is not anticipated that we could achieve that degree of disruption which would cause a collapse of the economy or social structure, but even a minor degree of disruption will adversely affect the standard of living and the output of the economy, both of which are key factors in the stability of the regime. The type of operations envisioned in this category would range from fairly sophisticated attacks by external or internal assets against the rolling stock, key bridges and repair facilities to simple low risk acts by the populace such as the derailing of rail transportation or placing tire puncturing material on highways.
D. Production Processing and Manufacturing Facilities
While the Cuban economy primarily depends on imports for indigenous consumption and even though the sugar crop is by far the most important item in Cuban exports, there are still a number of other facilities such as the nickel complex at Nicaro, cement plants, distilleries, and the myriad industries associated with the provision of food, clothing and shelter, which are worthwhile targets in that stopping or lessening their output will weaken the economy and breed discontent against the regime. These targets are particularly susceptible to attack by external or internal assets in that due to their profusion and their relatively low strategic importance they are not well guarded or otherwise secured against attack.

The selection of specific targets within the above categories and the determination of timing and tactics will be predicated upon detailed analysis of the following factors:

1. The extent to which the target can be physically damaged.
2. The resultant effect upon the Cuban economy.
3. The cost or effort required if additional burdens are placed on Bloc support.
4. The psychological effect on the Cuban population.
5. Anticipated adverse reactions.
6. Operational capabilities and limitations of CIA assets.

* Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 6/63. Secret; Eyes Only. According to a covering memorandum from Smith to Bundy, June 10, this paper was to be submitted to the NSC Standing Group on June 11. The next (8th) meeting of the Standing Group was held on June 18, not June 11.Bundy's record of action of the June 18 meeting indicated that the group discussed this paper and approved it for final decision by the President. (Ibid., Meetings and Memoranda Series, Standing Group Meeting, 6/18/63)

[Many thanks to Tree Frog and his friends for these notes - BK]

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