131. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Katzenbach to President Johnson1


  • Ramparts—NSACIA

I spent several hours yesterday and today reviewing the situation and attempting to come up with the best way of handling it. The [Page 410] following recommendations are tentative, since it may be important to know exactly what tomorrow’s newspapers say.2

I do not believe a backgrounder as such is a possible way of dealing with the situation since (1) I am not absolutely confident that we are in possession of all of the facts and I am concerned that whoever attempted the backgrounder (Foy Kohler or myself) would inadvertently answer incorrectly questions; (2) a backgrounder will open up for questioning related programs of CIA, and it would be extremely difficult to control this aspect.

I am working on the following tentative scenario:

1. A statement the State Department would give at the noon briefing attributable to CIA.3 This would be a bare bones admission of the fact of NSA subsidy, coupled with the fact that this program was tapering off to complete ending at the request of NSA and as a result of Government review. The statement would note that the program had continued for many years.

2. A statement on background which explained some of the reasons for the initial decision in the most favorable light it could be put. This would be attributable only to official sources.4

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3. A statement from the State Department, in response to a question, that this sort of program was reviewed inter-departmentally at a high level.5

I think that it would not be wise to involve the State Department more directly than this, since I see little to be gained from the point of view of protecting CIA and considerable to be lost from the view of the State Department.

As soon as we have seen the morning papers I will send drafts of the proposed statements indicated above, as well as any changes in the scenario which might be called for.

Nicholas deB Katzenbach
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Box 44, Ramparts—NSACIA. Secret; Exdis. Katzenbach was acting for Rusk, who was in Buenos Aires attending the Third Special Inter-American Conference.
  2. Reference is to possible publication of an article in Ramparts magazine that alleged covert attempts by the CIA to influence the National Student Association in order to get information about international student leaders. On February 14, the Washington Post and the New York Times printed full-page Ramparts advertisements which announced: “In its March issue, Ramparts magazine will document how the CIA has infiltrated and subverted the world of American student leaders, over the past fifteen years.” (Washington Post, February 14, 1967, p. 9; New York Times, February 14, 1967, p. 31) Ramparts published the article, entitled “NSA and the CIA,” as advertised. (Sol Stern, “NSA and the CIA,” Ramparts, March 1967, pp. 29–39) Also on February 14, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune printed stories on student groups and the CIA. (Neil Sheehan, “A Student Groups Concedes it Took Funds from C.I.A.,” New York Times, February 14, 1967, p. 1; “U.S Student Group Admits Subsidy by CIA,” Chicago Tribune, February 14, 1967, p. 9) The Washington Post reported on the story the following day, February 15. (Andrew J. Glass and Gerald Grant, “NSA Officers Describe Aid Given by CIA,” Washington Post, February 15, 1967, p. A1)
  3. In circular telegram 137161 to all diplomatic posts, February 14, the Department reported: “At press briefing Feb. 14 Department spokesman made following on-the-record statement: ‘We have confirmed with the Central Intelligence Agency that as stated by National Student Association yesterday, its leadership has been working over the past two years to terminate the financial relationship concerning support of NSA’s international activities, which began in the early 1950’s. Even prior to that time, the degree of governmental support for those activities had begun tapering off sharply.’” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Box 44, Ramparts—NSACIA)
  4. In circular telegram 137161 (see footnote 3 above), the Department reported that “additional information was provided on background basis, for attribution to U.S. officials” and listed eight points.
  5. In a February 15 memorandum to Christian, Rosenthal outlined “the general press line” Katzenbach had approved, adding that Katzenbach “is undertaking an immediate and full survey and study of the problems involved in this matter, in an effort both to clarify the present situation and to suggest sensible future course of action. We would then seek to deflect any questions on the ground that it is impossible to answer them sensibly until the study is complete—and that there is no immediate way of knowing the length of time that would take.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Box 44, Ramparts—NSACIA)