Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

Mr. Butler12a of the British Embassy called on me this afternoon at the request of Lord Halifax.

Mr. Butler said that he had just received a message from his Government with regard to Admiral Lais, the Naval Attaché of the Italian Embassy, who was due to return to Europe on a Spanish vessel, the British Government having informed the United States that he would not be detained by British naval authorities. The British Government wished this Government to know that while Admiral Lais would not be detained, nor would his personal effects be detained, it nevertheless intended to search the papers which he might have with him. The British Government wished to give this advance notice in order that the Government of the United States would not feel that the British Government had gone back on its assurances, and the British Government further took the position that the search of his papers was in line with agreements recently entered into between the two Governments covering cases of this character and likewise in line with the precedent established when Von Papen13 was handed his passport by the United States Government during the last war.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Nevile M. Butler, British Minister.
  2. Franz von Papen was the German Military Attaché in Washington; in 1915 his recall was requested by President Wilson. See Foreign Relations, 1915, Supp., pp. 947 ff.