124.516/247: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State

2349. On September 13 a circular mimeographed note sent to all diplomatic missions was received by the Embassy from the Foreign Office stating that (1) no codes may be used by anyone on or across French territory; (2) secret codes may be used only between diplomatic missions and their governments.

Having been assured 2 or 3 days later by the Commission de Controle Télégraphique Internationale that the first paragraph of the Foreign Office circular was a temporary measure never actually put into effect the Embassy by note of September 19 asked the Foreign Office if Consuls would have the same privileges as diplomatic missions for the use of secret codes. The Embassy has not yet received a reply to that note.

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Meanwhile, the Commission de Controle Télégraphique Internationale informed the Embassy informally by telephone that code messages from Consuls to the Embassy, from the Embassy to Consuls, from Consuls to the Department and from the Department to Consuls were being stopped by their office since Consuls have the right neither to send nor to receive coded telegrams. Pending a settlement of the question the Embassy on October 3 telegraphed all Consuls in France to mail to the Embassy en clair all telegrams sent in code since September 15th and in the future to send telegrams only en clair.

The Commission de Controle Télégraphique which is charged with the censorship of all coded messages to, from and across France, informally made a number of exceptions (about 10) for telegrams sent by this Embassy to Consuls and vice versa and suggested to a representative of the Embassy that the Foreign Office if approached informally by the Embassy would very probably ask the Commission de Controle to continue exceptional treatment for coded telegrams to and from American Consuls. (As the Consuls of certain countries are not considered reliable by the French Government, there is no possibility that it will ever allow during wartime the Consuls of all countries to use codes.)

Today the Consulate at Havre telephoned that it has been notified by the telegraph authorities that three telegrams from the Department are being held up because they are in code. Until some decision in the matter is taken the Department should send messages to Consuls only en clair and other Embassies and Consulates should be notified that only telegrams en clair will be delivered to Consuls in France or French territory.

I am taking up this entire question today with the Foreign Office requesting that it be given urgent attention. I shall telegraph immediately a decision has been reached.