139. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Marks) to President Johnson1

The following will summarize steps taken to meet press criticism of the Agency activities:

1. During the past month only one story appeared that was critical of Agency operations—the Washington Post on February 52 in its book section referred to the fact that USIA had subsidized books for overseas distribution under an arrangement which permitted the publisher to circulate these books in the U.S. This story was taken from testimony offered to the House Appropriations Committee in September 1966 relating to activities in 1965.3

2. The writer made no effort to determine whether there had been a change in policy since my appointment in September 1965. If he had, he would have discovered that no books of this nature had been commissioned since October 1965, when two volumes which had been under consideration for a period of time were permitted to be released.

3. On February 6 a letter explaining these facts was sent to the Washington Post.4 It was printed on February 9.

4. On February 9 Senator Gale McGee discussed the program on the floor of the Senate and introduced our explanation.5

[Page 430]

5. On February 17 Clayton Fritchey wrote a column6 explaining that I had not followed previous Directors’ policies but had not intended to criticize their actions.

6. On February 19 the UPI carried a similar story.7

In view of these steps, I believe that the Agency’s position has been fully clarified.

Leonard H. Marks
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Federal Government Organizations, EX FG 296, Box FG–315, FG 296 3/1/67–4/24/67. No classification marking. Sent through Kintner. An unknown hand, presumably that of one of Johnson’s secretaries, wrote the letter “L” and “brought to the ranch 3/2/67” in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. See “Well Poisoners,” Washington Post, February 5, 1967, p. E6. An unknown hand wrote “D.C.” following “Washington Post.”
  3. Marks testified before the House Appropriations Committee on September 13 and 14, 1966. For text of Marks’ testimony, see Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, The Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1967: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Eighty-Ninth Congress, Second Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1966), pp. 337–769.
  4. For text of the letter, see Reed Harris, “Letters to the Editor: On the USIA and Books,” Washington Post, February 9, 1967, p. A20.
  5. For text of the discussion, see Congressional Record, February 9, 1967, pp. 3261–3262.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. Not further identified.