841.721/6: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State

1361. My 1340, August 31, 10 p.m. Following is text of circular note dated August 31 received from the Foreign Office regarding government censorship over telecommunications: [Page 273]


The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs69 presents his compliments to the United States representative, and has the honour to state that it has become necessary for His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to avail themselves of the powers which are accorded under Article 27 of the International Telecommunication Convention of 193270 to all states who either signed or acceded to that instrument, and to exercise the right of censorship over telecommunications.

2. Notice of the establishment of the censorship has been duly given through the Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union, Berne, to all the powers who are parties to the International Telecommunication Convention.

3. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom desire however to minimize the inconvenience which the censorship might cause to the diplomatic representatives of foreign states in London, and in the circumstances directions have been given that until further notice telegrams in code, cypher or any language exchanged between the United States representative and the United States Government shall be passed without delay or censorship, provided that the telegrams fulfill certain conditions which will be a guarantee to the censors of their authenticity.

4. The first condition is that every telegram to the United States Government emanating from the United States Embassy should be certified by the actual signature of either the United States representative or a member of his staff empowered by him so to act, and, so certified, be handed in either at the Central Telegraph Office in the city or at the Leicester Square Telegraph Office.

5. The Secretary of State has therefore the honour to request that the United States representative will be so good as to forward to him at his earliest convenience, for transmission to the Postmaster-General, specimen signatures of those members of his staff, not exceeding two in number (or of himself and one member of his staff), who are authorized to frank the official messages of the United States Embassy and that he will give the necessary orders for handing such messages in at either of the above-mentioned offices.

6. The second condition is that every telegram should include the official designations in plain English or French, of both addressee and sender, e. g., address ‘Minister for Foreign Affairs’ and signature ‘London’.

The object of this precaution is to ensure that British censors at intermediate telegraph stations may recognize the nature of the telegram and pass it on at once. The code address of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in a foreign capital and the name of a foreign representative in London might not be known to a British censor at an intermediate station, and in such a case considerable delay would probably result.

7. As the second condition also applies to telegrams in the reverse direction, the United States representative is requested to be so good [Page 274] as to ask his Government to issue instructions that such telegrams shall conform to the same requirements.

8. The Secretary of State regrets that no message in code, cypher or any language other than English or French can be accepted for transmission by wireless telegraphy.”