143. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Cater) to President Johnson1

Attached is a letter from Under Secretary Katzenbach which reports today’s review meeting with Gardner and Helms and includes a revised page 42 which resulted from that meeting. Katzenbach says that Helms “assures me that he can go along with the report without complaint.”

The revision on page 4 simply makes it clear that termination of covert support to certain private organizations such as Radio Free Europe may not be entirely completed by December 31, 1967.

If you are satisfied with Katzenbach’s letter, we can issue the report on Tuesday afternoon.3 Ramsey Clark has reviewed the report and finds no problems. Katzenbach suggests that it would be useful for him to conduct a background briefing at Christian’s press conference.

The following Members of Congress have agreed to serve on the new committee:

Carl Hayden

William Fulbright

George Mahon

Mendel Rivers

Frank Bow

Thomas Morgan

Milton Young

[Page 442]

Katzenbach believes Russell will serve if you call him personally.

Rusk says he is willing to serve as Chairman, but believes that it would be better to have Herman Wells as Chairman. In addition to Rusk, Gardner and Schultze will represent the Executive Branch. You may wish to indicate, not for publication, that McPherson and I can serve as White House liaison for the committee.

For nongovernment membership we suggest the following:

Herman Wells, former Chancellor, University of Indiana

William Marvel, President, Education and World Affairs

Dr. Frank Rose, President, University of Alabama

James A. Linen, President, TIME, Inc.

James Perkins, President, Cornell University

If you approve the Katzenbach report, the attached draft statement to the press,4 and the proposed membership for the committee, Christian can make arrangements for a briefing.

Approve_______ Rusk serve as Chairman_______

Disapprove_______ Herman Wells serve as Chairman _______

See me _______5


Letter From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson6

Dear Mr. President:

Secretary Gardner, Mr. Helms and myself, have reviewed our report of March 247 in the light of Mr. Helms’ letter to you of March 25.8 I am attaching a new page 4 to the report which makes some minor editorial changes in line with recommendations contained in the last [Page 443] paragraph of Mr. Helms’ letter. With this change, Mr. Helms assures me that he can go along with the report “without complaint”.

I think it would be wise if I backgrounded the press at the time the report is released. While I think that the report speaks for itself, a backgrounder would insure a common interpretation and understanding of its provisions.

As you know, I took it to be the function of our small committee to review only one small aspect of CIA operations—the covert support it has been giving for many years to domestic private organizations which operate programs abroad. I have no doubt that these programs performed a useful and necessary function. I believe that many of them could today be overtly financed by the Government. Others can be continued within the policy of the committee by shifting financing abroad.

Secretary Gardner and I strongly believe that it is necessary for the report to state a firm policy with respect to these domestic organizations. Mr. Helms fully understands and appreciates the reasons for such a policy. From the point of view of CIA operations, he would prefer more flexibility and latitude, but appreciates the force of the arguments made in the report. He believes CIA can “live with” this policy, as presently modified, and has therefore signed the report.


Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, Oversized Attachments, Box 192 [2 of 2], C.F. Oversize Attachments: 12/2/68, Packet 2 [Cater 2/67–10/67 material re U.S. Government and Private Voluntary Organizations, Committee on Voluntary Overseas Activity (COVA), also the Rusk Committee]. No classification marking. Cater sent the memorandum to Johnson under a March 28 note, in which Cater stated that he had “held up sending in this new report from Katzenbach until I could talk to Helms this morning. He tells me that it is ‘properly descriptive of my attitude.’ He says that the report is the best consensus that the three of them [Helms, Katzenbach, and Gardner] could reach.” Cater also indicated that Helms urged that the President consider Milton Katz, Professor of International Law at Harvard University, for the follow-up committee as “the most knowledgeable man he [Helms] knows about the overseas aspects of these activities by non-government organizations.” Cater added that Gardner also believed that Katz “would be a strong man on the committee.” Although a line on this note written in an unknown hand reads “Put on President’s Desk” there is no indication that Johnson saw it. Attached to both the memorandum and the note is a handwritten note from Roberts to Cater, in which she wrote: “any need for this to stay on Pres’s desk?”
  2. Attached but not printed is the revised version of page 4 from the March 24 draft of the Katzenbach Report.
  3. March 28.
  4. Not printed.
  5. The President did not check any of these options.
  6. Eyes only. Copies were sent to Gardner and Helms.
  7. A copy of the report dated March 24 is in the Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, Oversized Attachments, Box 193 [2 of 2], C.F. Oversize Attachments: 12/2/68, Packet 4 [Cater 2/67–10/67 material re U.S. Government and Private Voluntary Organizations, Committee on Voluntary Overseas Activity (COVA), also the Rusk Committee]. The final version of the report was released on March 29; see footnote 3, Document 144.
  8. See Document 142.