Memorandum by the Associate Chief of the Division of International Security Affairs ( Bancroft ) to the Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs ( Hiss )52

Subject: Transmission of Material from Washington to the U.S. Representative on the Security Council

The several teams of the Department of State under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Liaison Committee are presently engaged in the preparation of background material and policy position papers on questions which, it is anticipated, may arise in the Security Council.

Before a question has actually been brought to the attention of the Security Council, the policy position is formulated only in general and indefinite terms. Most of the work at this stage consists of the assembly and organization of the relevant background material.

Questions arise accordingly not only as to at what stage of the preparation the United States Representative on the Security Council should be furnished with appropriate material by the Department but also of the manner in which this material should be prepared and cleared at various levels of authority in the Department.

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It is obvious on the one hand that the U.S. Representative should be kept informed of the development of the situations which are potential Security Council cases as well as of the progress of the work being done in Washington.

On the other hand, events in some cases develop so rapidly that it would be dangerous for the State Department to crystallize its position and transmit it to New York when the underlying facts are fluid. Furthermore, in certain instances, it may be desirable for the U.S. Representative on the Council to be able to say simply that he does not have the necessary facts in his possession and must refer to his Government for instructions.

In the light of this discussion, the following general rules are submitted for the purpose of establishing working practice:

Until a case is actually brought to the attention of the Security Council, papers prepared for the benefit of the United States Representative should be designed primarily for background use.
While usually it will be advisable for such papers to state the United States position and policy applicable to the specific case and, in so far as is possible in advance, the initial position to be taken in the Security Council, such guidance should be couched in general terms and it should be indicated that it is subject to change in the light of the receipt of new information or in the light of conditions existing at the moment when the case is presented to the Council. When a case covered by a preliminary background memo becomes active in the Security Council the statements on U.S. position, policy guidance, and initial position to be taken in the Council contained in the background paper will be confirmed or amended by instructions.
The level at which such background papers should be cleared in the Department before transmission to New York should be decided on a case to case basis. Generally, it should be borne in mind that as the papers are primarily background in nature it may often be unnecessary to clear them in the Department initially at a level above that of Office Directors. On all cases, however, involving specific countries, papers either for background or action and instructions must be approved by the geographic divisions and the Director or Deputy Director of the Geographic Office or Offices concerned. The papers or the accompanying instructions should indicate in each case the level at which clearance has taken place.
Instructions either separate or accompanying the papers should indicate in each case to what extent, if any, our representative in the Security Council can disclose the United States position or policy contained in the paper to representatives of other Governments in informal preliminary discussions.
The weekly progress reports on the status of preparation of the potential Council cases should be regularly transmitted to New York.

  1. Although the exact status of this memorandum is not clear, it throws considerable light on the thinking and practice of the Department at the time on the problem of documents liaison between the Department and the Permanent Delegation and on the status of background and position papers prepared in the Department for the use of the Delegation in New York.