28. Minutes of Meeting0


  • State Department: James F. Byrnes, Secretary of State
  • War Department: Robert P. Patterson, Secretary of War, Col. Charles McCarthy
  • Navy Department: James V. Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, Major Correa


  • H.F. Matthews

[Here follows discussion unrelated to intelligence.]

Unified Intelligence Service

Mr. Byrnes said that he would like to make a suggestion which had been brought to him by Mr. Donald Russell with regard to a unified intelligence [Page 64] service.1 He thought there was general agreement that there should be a single intelligence service but the question is to whom should this service report. He suggested that the group of the three secretaries present should be formalized as a Council of National Defense. Mr. Forrestal remarked that this was just what the JCS had proposed in a paper on the subject.2 Mr. Byrnes then read from a draft executive order establishing a Council of National Defense and a unified intelligence service. He pointed out that one problem arose with regard to the digestion and evaluation of intelligence reports; he had seen many of General Donovan’s memoranda but they had become too voluminous and were not coordinated and what was needed was someone to pull them together. Mr. Forrestal said that Commander Inglis had prepared a very intelligent presentation of this question3 and suggested appointment of a Director of Intelligence to concentrate all the material. The fact that such a director would report to the council of the three secretaries would answer the argument that in effect we were setting up a “Gestapo.” Mr. Byrnes said that this latter argument was the principal objection to Donovan’s plan and that he agreed that reports should come to the three secretaries. Mr. Patterson said that he agreed; and that the director must sift out the reports as well as initiate and direct intelligence activities. Mr. Byrnes thought it highly important that ours be made the most efficient intelligence service in the world. Mr. Forrestal stated that he thought the Army and Navy were pretty close together on this question with the principal difference that the Navy wished to keep operational intelligence in ONI. Mr. Byrnes mentioned that a further question is whether such a unified intelligence service should be set up now or in six months and indicated that he was not entirely satisfied with the interim arrangement whereunder certain functions of OSS have been placed in the State Department. Mr. Forrestal said that he had sent a memorandum to Mr. Byrnes on Sunday with regard to the intelligence question.4 He said he thought the general scheme outlined in the proposed executive order was sound. Mr. Byrnes referred to his talks in France with General Eisenhower and the high regard which was held throughout SHAEF of General Strong, the British Chief of Intelligence. It was felt that the British Intelligence Service was the best in the business. Mr. Byrnes also heard a number of our Air Corps Officers complain of a lack of adequate American intelligence and praise the high quality of British intelligence. One explanation was that in the past our Congress had had no confidence in our intelligence service and consequently was not inclined to grant adequate [Page 65] appropriations. This created a vicious circle where Congress complained that our intelligence service was deficient and not worthy of funds and our intelligence service complained that the lack of funds prevented improvement. Mr. Forrestal pointed out that there is a further contradiction in Congress at present as they are now attempting to compel the presentation of the exact text of foreign intercepts. Congress is charging that while we had the intelligence we didn’t use it properly. There followed some discussion between Mr. Forrestal and Mr. Patterson as to whether harm would be done by making available to Congress official texts of foreign government communications or whether the fact that we had such communications was already so well known as to obviate the need for secrecy.

Mr. Patterson raised the question of the relationship of the proposed intelligence service and its director to SWNCC and whether there would be any overlapping of jurisdiction. It was felt that this question should be looked into.5 Mr. Forrestal suggested that Mr. Donald Russell get in touch with Commander Inglis on the intelligence question.6 Mr. Byrnes concluded by stating that the proposed plan should provide for the coordination of foreign policy with intelligence.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to intelligence.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Diplomatic Branch, Reference File, Minutes of the Committee of Three, 1944–1947. Top Secret.
  2. This appears to be the enclosure to Document 31.
  3. The JCS proposal of September 19; Document 13.
  4. Not found.
  5. Presumably Document 27, which was dated Saturday, October 13.
  6. The State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) was established in 1944 to serve as a forum and coordinating group on issues of common concern to the three Departments.
  7. On the following day Forrestal sent a memorandum to Inglis asking him to “get in touch with Don Russell of the State Department and discuss with him the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposal for a central intelligence agency.” (Memorandum, Forrestal to Inglis, October 17; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 80, General Records of the Department of the Navy, Records of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, 1940–47, General Correspondence 1944–47, 80–1–19, Box 129) No other record of this contact has been found except for the reference in Document 53. At their October 30 meeting the three Secretaries touched only briefly on intelligence. The record notes only that “Mr. Forrestal mentioned this question and the JCS paper on the subject and it was agreed that he should discuss the question in detail with Mr. Donald Russell, Assistant Secretary of State.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Diplomatic Branch, Reference File, Minutes of Meetings of the Committee of Three, 1944–1947) No record of a meeting or discussion has been found.