141. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson1


  • Report of your committee on CIA Relations with Private Voluntary Organizations

1. Nature of the Report

I thought that you might wish, prior to our meeting today,2 to have an idea of the direction in which our study is going. Hence I enclose a very nearly final draft report.3 There may yet be language changes, but I believe this has the general approval of the committee.

You might focus particularly on the two underlined recommendations on pages 1 and 2 and the proposed Statement of Policy on page [Page 436] 4. The footnote is particularly important.4 I believe it fair to say that Dick Helms would wish more leeway than the Policy allows and that John Gardner would prefer virtually no leeway at all. The footnote represents a position that we ought to try to achieve a flat ban, but without handcuffing the Administration or the United States Government, whatever the future danger. I believe the footnote is acceptable to both Messrs. Gardner and Helms—but they can speak for themselves.5

2. Public Reaction

In my view, this report would be a satisfactory solution to the first public problem of how to sweep up the broken china.

The committee also has sought to provide a platform for the second problem—a constructive alternative. We did not attempt to particularize a recommendation of a new funding mechanism for the reasons stated in the report. (But we also thought it unwise for a committee on which CIA was represented to undertake this task).

[Page 437]

I would suggest that you now have an opportunity to turn the whole issue to advantage and to win substantial credit with the liberal, academic, intellectual community, by going forward promptly with the recommended followup committee. For this reason, you might wish to release a response to our report at the time it is released. This response could announce the new committee and reflect your determination to achieve and support a sensible solution.


Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, Oversized Attachments, Box 193, C.F. Oversize Attachments: 12/2/68, Packet 3 [Cater 2/67–10/67 material re U.S. Government and Private Voluntary Organizations, Committee on Voluntary Overseas Activity (COVA), also the Rusk Committee]. Secret. Copies were sent to Gardner and Helms. A notation in an unknown hand in the bottom right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum indicates that it was received at the White House on March 17 at 6:54 pm. Attached to the memorandum are a March 23 typewritten note indicating that the memorandum and its attachment were sent to Clark “at President’s request” and a March 23 routing slip transmitting the memorandum and report. Another copy of the memorandum is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Box 44, Ramparts—NSACIA.
  2. No record of a meeting was found.
  3. The final report will include a series of classified appendices which do not affect the substance of the report proper, which is drafted in a way to permit you to make it public. [Footnote is in the original. The undated draft final report is attached but not printed.]
  4. Reference is to the footnote on page 5 of the draft report (see footnote 3 above) which reads: “If the Statement of Policy is to be effective, it must be rigorously enforced. In the judgment of this committee, no current programs would justify any exception to this policy. At the same time, where the security of the nation may be at stake, it is impossible for this committee to state categorically now that there will never be a contingency in which overriding national security interests may require an exception—nor would it be credible to enunciate a policy which purported to do so. We therefore recommend that, in the event of such contingencies, the interdepartmental review committee be permitted to make exceptions to the Statement of Policy, but only where the overriding national security interests so require; only on a case-by-case basis; only where open sources of support are shown to be unavailable; and only when such exceptions receive the specific approval of the Secretaries of State and Defense. In no event should any future exception be approved which involves any private educational, philanthropic, or cultural organization.” An unknown hand crossed out the word “private.”
  5. Helms sent McPherson his thoughts regarding the report in a paper, which he dated by hand “16 March ’67,” entitled “Implications of a Policy Statement Prohibiting Covert Assistance to ‘Educational, Philanthropic, or Other Voluntary Organizations.’” In the paper, he stated: “For the most part I agree with the position taken in the proposed report. I completely concur in the conclusion that covert financial support to most of the organizations formerly supported by the CIA should be terminated, and I have no objection to public announcement of this decision. I continue, however, to be deeply concerned about the implications of a public policy statement which categorically provides that after December 31st, 1967, no further covert financial assistance will be given to any ‘private educational, philanthropic or other voluntary organization.’” He continued that a public announcement would present the CIA with “an impossible dilemma” and he described an example: “Perhaps the best illustration of this dilemma is RFE. I am convinced that with the best possible cooperation from all concerned, it will take considerable time, if indeed it is ever possible, to arrange alternative sources of funding for RFE, via a Congressionally approved council or foundation or otherwise. As a practical matter, in my opinion, it will not be possible between now and December 1967 to provide RFE with funds through covert channels which are adequate to permit it to continue its activities until alternative sources of funds are established. Therefore, CIA will almost inevitably be forced either to violate the wording of the proposed policy statement by continuing covert support to RFE, or to liquidate RFE entirely.” (Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, Box 68, CFOA 12/2/68 Packet #3)