380. Memorandum for the President of Discussion at the 37th Meeting of the National Security Council0

The following notes contain a summary of the discussion at the 37th meeting of the National Security Council.

Mr. Webb called the meeting to order and remarked that the President had asked him to preside in the absence of the Secretary of State.

1. The Central Intelligence Agency and National Organization for Intelligence (Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 24, March 2, March 8, and April 4, 1949, respectively)1

Mr. Webb suggested, and the Council agreed, that Admiral Hillenkoetter should remain during the discussion of the first four points in the Department of State’s memorandum,2 but that he should retire during the discussion of point five, with respect to whether the Director of Central Intelligence should be a civilian, after making a statement with respect thereto.

Mr. Souers reviewed the action of the Council at its last meeting, when it was agreed that the Department of State should prepare a statement of the issues involved in the reference papers.

Mr. Webb then proposed that the Council consider whether each of the issues was properly stated, and turn to point one, that CIA is properly placed in the Government under the NSC.

Secretary Johnson referred to the comment in the Dulles Report, that CIA might be just another intelligence agency, and asked if it was intended that the Report be released to the public.

Mr. Souers said that the Report contained considerable highly classified information and that he knew of no intent to release it.

Secretary Johnson then said that he agreed with the statement of the first issue.

Since there was no other comment on that issue, Mr. Webb turned to point two, with respect to the Intelligence Advisory Committee.

Secretary Johnson said he did not agree with the statement of this issue and that he reserved the right to be heard. Although he did not concur now, he said he might later, and that he had the backing of the President [Page 966] to reserve his opinion until he had an opportunity to formulate his views. He mentioned that he wished to consider the problem in relation to the broad question of peace or war. In response to Mr. Webb’s suggestion that only an agreement as to the statement of the problem was involved, Secretary Johnson replied that he wished no implications to flow from his remarks and that he did not wish to be stampeded into taking a position.

Mr. Ford said the Attorney General had some doubts about this point, too.

Mr. Webb then suggested, and the Council agreed, to defer consideration of the second issue until Secretary Johnson had formulated his views. He then turned to point three with respect to the proposal that the Director of the FBI be made a member of the IAC.

Mr. Ford remarked that the Attorney General had not been consulted in the drafting of the Dulles Report, and said he would speak briefly on the issue and then file a memorandum by the Department of Justice on the whole Report. He accepted, however, the statement of the issue.

Since there was no other comment, Mr. Webb then turned to point four, with respect to the integration of secret operations with secret intelligence. He suggested that perhaps the Secretaries of State and Defense, in seeking an answer to this issue, should follow closely the secret operations work and consult with the Director of Central Intelligence.

The Council accepted the statement of the fourth issue, and Mr. Webb turned to point five, with respect to the recommendation that the Director of Central Intelligence be a civilian. Mr. Webb remarked that the Department of State was inclined to feel that a civilian Director was preferable, but did not wish to tie the hands of the President in getting the best person available, civilian or military. He suggested that we might have a civilian Deputy Director if the Director was a military man. He then asked Admiral Hillenkoetter to comment on this issue.

Admiral Hillenkoetter said he felt that the whole question was unnecessary and that the question of a uniform should not enter into the selection of a Director. Only the man himself and his qualifications should be considered, he said. If he had any leaning, he said, it would be for a military officer. [5 lines of source text not declassified] CIA, he said, is primarily a military operation intended to foretell possible attacks on our national security and to provide information to beat our enemies in the event of war. If peace could be assured by the United Nations or other means, then there would be no need at all for a CIA. He concluded that the Director should be chosen solely as the man to do the job. He agreed, however, that the issue was correctly stated.

(Admiral Hillenkoetter retired at this point.)

[Page 967]

Secretary Johnson said he was not sure that the issue was correctly stated, because it did not take into account the added issue as to whether the Director of Central Intelligence was to be the permanent chairman of the U.S. Communications Intelligence Board.

Mr. Webb inquired, if the Director were to be chairman of the USCIB, whether he would have to be a military officer.

Secretary Johnson said that would pre-judge the issue. He added that the Dulles Report recommended that the Director be permanent chairman of the USCIB and suggested that Mr. Souers prepare and circulate a restatement of this issue for consideration by the Council.

Mr. Souers referred to the growing stack of papers that had accumulated on the whole subject and the difficulty of the Council in dealing with any one or all of the issues which had been raised. Accordingly, he suggested that the Council refer all these papers to the Secretaries of State and Defense, as the most interested parties. They, in turn, might designate officers to sift through all the material and prepare specific recommendations in appropriate form for Council action.3

Secretary Johnson thought this was a good suggestion and said he would designate General McNarney to do the job.

Mr. Souers also suggested that State and Defense consult with Treasury and Justice in preparing recommended actions for the Council.

Secretary Johnson said he felt that Justice had a general stake in the whole intelligence problem.

The National Security Council:4

Considered the reference papers on the subject and referred them to the Secretaries of State and Defense to prepare, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General and in the light of the discussion at this meeting, specific recommendations for Council action.

Note: The above action subsequently transmitted to the Secretaries of State and Defense.

[Here follows agenda item 2, NSC status of projects.]

  1. Source: Truman Library, Papers of Harry S. Truman, President’s Secretary’s Files, Subject File. Top Secret. Prepared on April 8.
  2. Regarding the memoranda dated January 24, March 2, and March 8, see footnote 1, Document 376; regarding the April 4 memorandum, see the source note, Document 378.
  3. Document 378.
  4. The State-Defense recommendations are in NSC 50, July 1; Document 384.
  5. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 202. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Record of Actions, Box 55)