149. Letter From the Chairman of the United States Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs (Babbidge) to Secretary of State Rusk1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The recent disclosures about the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in international educational and cultural programs came as a surprise and shock to the members of this Commission, as indeed they did to large numbers of the academic community and the general public.

It is our belief that incalculable damage was done by the concealed subsidies of the CIA to American participants in these programs. Questions have now been raised in the minds of foreign scholars, intellectuals, and artists about the objectivity, integrity, and independence of American foundations and the role of any U.S. citizen abroad. Even persons connected with private institutions, to say nothing of those having overt government grants, have been tainted as possible agents of the American intelligence community.

It is ironic that an intelligence agency, working covertly, found it in the national interest to engage in programs which this Commission has always underscored as a vital instrument of foreign policy. In our annual and special reports we have long urged an increase in the size and an improvement in the quality of the U.S. government’s international educational and cultural programs. We have stated repeatedly, however that only programs of academic validity and unquestioned [Page 462] integrity can achieve the purpose for which they are intended, namely, the promotion of mutual understanding and the elimination of national stereotypes.

The Commission is pleased to note that many people in and out of government have recognized that, as a result of the revelations of CIA’s activities, the time is now ripe for decisive action and a great step forward toward the proper support of present and ongoing programs.

We write to you in your capacity as chairman of the committee set up by the President to consider the implications of the reports of the panel chaired by Under Secretary Katzenbach.2 The panel’s suggestion that consideration be given to establishing a quasi-public organization to become the main vehicle of educational and cultural exchange of this government is surely a stride in the right direction. In addition to the models proposed by the Katzenbach panel we suggest that consideration also be given to the admirable Canada Council,3 then hope that the executive branch and the Congress will approve bold, comprehensive, and pervasive action.

If this Commission can be of assistance to you and your committee in the crucial tasks before you, please call on us.4

Sincerely yours,

Homer D. Babbidge, Jr.5
  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. Copies were sent to Frankel and Donovan. Attached to this letter is an undated typewritten note marked “urgent” that reads: “Mr. Donovan called to say that Mr. Frankel should have this for his meeting with the Secretary tomorrow morning.” There is no record of a meeting between Frankel and Rusk. In the upper right-hand corner of the letter a time stamp indicates that the letter was received in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at 2:27 p.m. on May 5. Babbidge sent a similar and lengthier letter to Vice President Humphrey on the same day. In it, he stated that the Advisory Commission members “are convinced that a basic problem is one of funding and that existing authorities are not wholly effective because of a lack of funds,” and “what is needed is much greater visibility of these programs, and we welcome the opportunity provided by the report of the Katzenbach panel to put down some of our thoughts on this subject.” Babbidge also noted “that any responsible citizen must recognize a need for an intelligence-gathering operation in modern society and a similar need for an apparatus to explain American foreign policy overseas—both in its day-to-day operation and its long-range effects. Nevertheless, both of these instrumentalities should be meticulously separated from education and cultural exchange programs, public and private.” (National Archives, RG 306, Director Subject Files, 1967–1967, Entry UD WW 108, Box 1, Advisory Groups—U.S. Education and Cultural Programs, 1967)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 144.
  3. Reference is to the institution, also referred to as the Canada Council for the Arts, founded by the Government of Canada in 1957, which provides funding to cultural and arts organizations. Although established by the Canadian Government, the Council operates like a private entity, setting its own policy. It answers to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage and publishes annual reports for Parliament. For additional information, see Jean Battey, “Culture’s Flowering (With Bit of Help),” Washington Post, May 23, 1965, p. M6; and Harry Trimborn, “All Canadians Are Art Patrons Via Council of Royal Authority,” Washington Post, December 5, 1965, p. G2.
  4. In a July 12 letter to Rusk, the new Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Education and Cultural Affairs, Joseph Smiley, reported that during the Advisory Commission meeting a month earlier, he had lunch with Frankel, Babbidge, and others. According to Smiley, “We talked of a possible new public-private entity, which might take over grant programs now conducted directly by certain existing Government agencies. The fundamental purpose of such an arrangement would be to make the clearest possible distinction between cultural and educational efforts as such and information or propaganda functions. It is our thought that such a mechanism would take care of at least some of the so-called ‘CIA orphans’ and that the educational programs of USIA (for example, libraries as contrasted with reading rooms) as well as the many cultural and educational exchange programs now handled through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State would also become the responsibility of the new agency.” (National Archives, RG 306, Director Subject Files, 1967–1967, Entry UD WW 108, Box 1, Advisory Groups—U.S. Educational and Cultural Programs, 1967)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.