File No. 811.711/27

The Ambassador in Greed Britain ( Page) to the Secretary of State


5988. My 5602, February 5, 4 p.m.1 For Harrison from Bell:2

Have had conference with War Office regarding postal and cable censorship. British method based on geographical conditions is to have main office and control in London with branch office at Liverpool for censorship of mail to and from America. French are obliged to have branches at Paris, Marseille, Swiss and Spanish frontiers, and at Brest and Havre for cable service, thus losing advantage English censor has in reading answer to the letter or cable he has already seen, which advantage is great in the detection of codes concealed in commercial phraseology, and in the detection of plans to trade in contraband. I hope it will be possible to arrange that all United States foreign mail may pass through say two ports each on Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific coasts where branches might be established which will relieve us of difficulties and obviate necessity for establishment of censorship at inland points, such as Chicago, et cetera.

War Office inform me they and the French both hope our earliest efforts at censorship may be directed at the Central and South American and the Far Eastern mails and cables, virgin fields hitherto untouched by the Allies and of the greatest importance. British and French can continue with the transatlantic censorship indefinitely until we are ready for business.

[Page 1232]

Major Dansey of the Intelligence Department, War Office, attached to Balfour’s mission, is taking copious memoranda on censorship. He personally may be well acquainted with the theory but can have but little practical knowledge. War Office have promised me that, if our Government requests it, they will lend us their best technical experts capable of explaining to ours the organization and practical workings of this vitally important department. Frank Worthington, deputy chief censor, second in command, who understands this work better than any Englishman living, has promised me he will go to America if asked. …

I consider this a splendid opportunity to start our censorship right and can not sufficiently urge importance of doing so and of profiting by the knowledge gained by bitter experience here.

War Office agree with me no need await arrival of Dansey to decide this matter. Please consult proper people and have Ambassador officially instructed to ask for loan of Worthington and assistants if you want them. If so I suggest all expenses be paid and per diem allowance made by our Government, proportionate to their present pay.

Please consult Gibson and Patchin 1 and refer to military attaché’s recent telegrams to War Department. He is too overwhelmed with work to attend to this really military matter and has asked me to take it over.

I sincerely hope that suggestion may be adopted. Please telegraph early intimation of our Government’s probable decision so that, if favorable, Worthington and others may be prepared to leave immediately it is settled. Time is precious.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Edward Bell, Secretary of Embassy at London.
  3. Hugh S. Gibson and Philip H. Patchin, Co-chiefs of the Division of Foreign Intelligence.