Covert Action in Angola Documented in New FRUS Volume

“The Clark Amendment** was one of the infrequent occasions in modern times that the US Congress has exercised a direct and pivotal influence upon American foreign policy. (…)  Thereby avoiding the slippery slope to another Vietnam.”

William Blum


U.S. covert action in Angola during the Carter Administration is among the topics documented in a new volume of the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series that was released yesterday. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977–1980, Volume XVI, Southern Africa. [SECRECY NEWS]


“Fidel Castro decided to send troops to Angola on November 4, 1975, in response to the South African invasion of that country, rather than vice versa as the Ford administration persistently claimed. The United States knew about South Africa’s covert invasion plans, and collaborated militarily with its troops, contrary to what Secretary of State Henry Kissinger testified before Congress and wrote in his memoirs. Cuba made the decision to send troops without informing the Soviet Union and deployed them, contrary to what has been widely alleged, without any Soviet assistance for the first two months.

“In a meeting including President Ford, Secretary of State Kissinger, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, and CIA Director William Colby among others, U.S. intervention in Angola’s civil war is discussed. In response to evidence of Soviet aid to the MPLA, Secretary Schlesinger says, “we might wish to encourage the disintegration of Angola.”

Kissinger describes two meetings of the 40 Committee oversight group for clandestine operations in which covert operations were authorized: “The first meeting involved only money, but the second included some arms package.”

Beginning in 1975, the CIA participated in the Angolan Civil War, hiring and training American, British, French and Portuguese private military contractors, as well as training National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels under Jonas Savimbi, to fight against the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) led by Agostinho Neto. John Stockwell commanded the CIA’s Angola effort in 1975 to 1976. [WIKIPEDIA]

About John Stockwell

As a Marine, Stockwell was a CIA paramilitary intelligence case officer in three wars: the Congo Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the Angolan War of Independence. His military rank is Major.


Former CIA John Stockwell

Beginning his career in 1964, Stockwell spent six years in Africa, Chief of Base in the Katanga during the Bob Denard invasion in 1968, then Chief of Station in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1970, before being transferred to Vietnam to oversee intelligence operations in the Tay Ninh province and was awarded the CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit for keeping his post open until the last days of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

In December 1976, he resigned from the CIA, citing deep concerns for the methods and results of CIA paramilitary operations in Third World countries and testified before Congressional committees. [WIKIPEDIA]

In Search of Enemies

Two years later, he wrote the exposé ‘In Search of Enemies’, about that experience and its broader implications. He claimed that the CIA was counterproductive to national security, and that its “secret wars” provided no benefit for the United States.

The CIA, he stated, had singled out the MPLA to be an enemy in Angola despite the fact that the MPLA wanted relations with the United States and had not committed a single act of aggression against the United States. [WIKIPEDIA]

In 1978 he appeared on the popular American television program 60 Minutes, claiming that CIA Director William Colby and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had systematically lied to Congress about the CIA’s operations.

Documents Released

Officials settled on a covert propaganda operation to focus on criticizing the Cuban presence in Angola. The new FRUS volume “contains inter-departmental records pertaining to the development and implementation of the covert operation in Angola.”

The new collection details the mechanics of covert propaganda with unusual clarity. “We […] need to get the story out in the open so that our controlled assets can use it,” wrote DCI Stansfield Turner in a 1977 memorandum (document 16).

The effectiveness of legislation as a constraint on CIA covert action was notable, and the new assertiveness of Congress regarding intelligence policy was recognized and largely accepted by intelligence officials. “Before embarking on a covert action program involving direct or indirect paramilitary support, it would be wise to ascertain the sense of Congress.”

“Our previous covert paramilitary support of UNITA in Angola [in 1975] generated a great deal of controversy. Angola may be a poor choice as to the place where we try to engage in some further covert paramilitary action. An abortive attempt to reopen the issue of covert paramilitary support of UNITA–even indirect–could lead to damage to our capability and flexibility to undertake any covert action in the future,” wrote DCI Turner. (document 21) [SECRECY NEWS]


** The Clark Amendment was an amendment to the U.S. Arms Export Control Act of 1976, named for its sponsor, Senator Dick Clark (D-Iowa). The amendment barred aid to private groups engaged in military or paramilitary operations in Angola. Even after the Clark amendment became law, however, then-Director of Central Intelligence, George H. W. Bush, refused to concede that all U.S. aid to Angola had ceased. According to foreign affairs analyst Jane Hunter, Israel stepped in as a proxy arms supplier for the United States after the Clark Amendment took effect. The Clark Amendment was repealed by the U.S. Congress in July 1985.

On Covert Action in Angola in the Carter Years — Secrecy News


Covert Action in Angola  Documented in New FRUS Volume

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