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FAS Note: The following selected documents on U.S. covert action in Italy were published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, vol. XII, Western Europe, April 16, 2001. That entire volume is available on the State Department web site here.

92. Letter From the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Meloy) to the Deputy Chief of Mission in Italy (Williamson)1

Washington, January 24, 1964.

Dear Francis:

The general question of our future covert support activities in Italy has come up again, this time in connection with the Civic Action project. EUR has agreed to continue support for Civic Action this fiscal year, but with the understanding that it will not be asked to approve further extension of this support before we have reviewed the entire program.

As the new government takes hold I hope you can give us the benefit of your thoughts on the suitability of existing programs in the new situation and what might be changed usefully.2




113. Memorandum for the Record1

Washington, June 28, 1965.



[Here follows discussion of items 1-6 covering other national programs.]

7. Italy—Covert Action Program in Italy for FY 19662

The Italian proposal was generally viewed as a "necessary evil" and approved with the following proviso: Mr. Bundy, deploring the chronic failure of the Italian democratic political parties to utilize their own bootstraps, used the term "annual shame" and stated that he felt obliged to advise higher authority of this continuing subsidy. Until such time as the attitude of higher authority is known, final approval remains pending.

[Here follows a discussion of item 8.]


116. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1

Washington, August 4, 1965, 5:15 p.m.


Some weeks ago you asked me to review this problem and bring you up to date on it more specifically. I have now done so, and the situation is as follows:

Over the years the US has assisted the democratic Italian political parties and trade unions at a very high rate. Over the period 1955-1965, the total amount of assistance is just under [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. In recent years we have been cutting this assistance back, primarily because the professionals closely related to the operation have concluded that we have not been getting our full money's worth and what the Italian political parties need is not so much U.S. money as energetic administrative leadership. President Kennedy had a personal feeling that political subsidies at this level were excessive, and they were scaled down.

In the last two or three years, assistance has been running at a rate of about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], except in the election year of 1963. The recommendation for next year runs to a total of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The interdepartmental review committee for covert operations--Vance, Thompson, Raborn and myself--has approved this recommendation subject to your concurrence.

Meanwhile, by separate and somewhat unusual channels, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] have let us know that they would like a lot more money. They have given no practical justification, and indeed have been at pains to suggest that our orthodox channels are stuffy and uncooperative. I have had a long interview with the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] man most familiar with this subject (he was in Rome for 8 years), and he persuades me that this end run is as unjustified in fact as it appears to be on the surface. Having begun with a sympathetic view that money might beat the Communists, I have been entirely converted by his detailed account of the efforts we have made to get the Italian parties to do better with the money we have already given them.

In this situation, I believe that we should approve the recommended budget for this year and go back to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] by appropriate quiet channels to say that we cannot do more unless and until there is evidence that additional money is what is really needed, and that such money can be used really effectively. This would put the responsibility with them, where it belongs, while leaving us free to do more if and when a really good opportunity presents itself. It remains true that the anti-Communist battle in Italy is one of politics and resources; but simple hand-outs and intelligently applied resources are two entirely different things.

Go ahead as you suggest

Speak to me2


125. Memorandum From the Ambassador to Italy (Reinhardt) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1

Washington, September 12, 1966.


I want to elaborate further on our discussion on Tuesday about the Italian covert program.2 The coming months may represent a critical period for political stability in Italy. Decisive steps to reunify the Socialist and Social Democratic parties are anticipated this fall. This prospect, in conjunction with the strong rivalries within the Christian Democratic party, could put new strains on Moro's center-left coalition. An additional unsettling factor is the approaching general elections. They must take place not later than April 1968.

Since my assignment to Rome I have consistently recommended the gradual reduction of covert activities in Italy. The record in fact shows sharp year-to-year cuts in expenditures. The level of funds has dropped from [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in FY 1964 to a recommended [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in FY 1967. The latter figure represents a cut of 35% from FY 1966. It is also significant that in recent years we have progressively discontinued direct subsidies to political parties—the last was the small program in FY 1966 for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. All other support to political parties has been contingent on approved action programs in support of U.S. policy objectives, in the absence of which no funds have been made available. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is now on notice that any support for FY 1967 would be on such a basis. Accordingly the proposed program contains no unstructured contributions to any political party's finances.

In the circumstances, I recommend that the program proposed for FY 1967 be approved. An abrupt discontinuance of the program at this time would be interpreted by some of our friends, on whom we must depend for achievement of our policy objectives in Italy, as a change in our long-standing support for them and for what they are attempting to achieve. I am particularly concerned that we avoid any action which might disturb the Moro-Nenni-Saragat leadership, which is relatively strong by post-war Italian standards and which seems to offer the best chance of strengthening political stability and democracy in Italy. At the same time, I feel that we should continue the gradual reduction of the covert program in Italy with the general objective of a final phase-out in connection with the 1968 elections.


133. Memorandum for the Record1

Washington, August 22, 1967



[Here follows discussion of agenda item 1, concerning programs for the Soviet Union.]

2. Italy—Covert Action Program for FY-1968

The wind-down of covert political support to Italian parties ahead of schedule was enthusiastically welcomed by the committee. The paper was approved as submitted.2

[Here follows discussion of the remaining agenda items on programs for Latin America and Africa.]


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