Department of State Atomic Energy Piles

Memorandum by the Secretary of State of Conversation With President Truman

top secret

Item No. 6

atomic energy program

Secretary Johnson handed the President a memorandum supporting the Secretary’s legal views. A copy of this was handed to me and is attached.1

Secretary Johnson and I recommended to the President, and he approved, my making a statement to the Committee along the following lines:

Any impression that the President has considered the question as to his legal powers under the Atomic Energy Act or is pressing the view that he has power to make an agreement regarding information [Page 499]without further authority from Congress is erroneous. In regard to this matter the President believes that any further action to be successful should be taken as the result of a wide area of agreement between the Executive and Legislative branches.
After considering the views of the Joint Committee, the President believes that he should instruct me (a) to endeavor to obtain from the British an extension of the present modus Vivendi in order to hold the matter in status quo and give ample time for a full and deliberate consideration of the proposals involved; (b) that he does not intend to make any other agreement at the present time with the British or Canadians or to extend the present areas of collaboration with the British or Canadians; (c) that he wishes me to explore with the British and Canadians the various problems discussed with the Committee, informing them frankly of the difficulties in the information field in order to ascertain what can be done in the matters of pressing importance to the United States, and that this is to be done purely on the basis of examining the problem and not with a view to making any agreements or exchanging any information; (d) that, after these discussions have taken place, further consultation will be had with the Joint Committee at a time when Congress is in session, and that in the meantime no action will be taken or commitments made other than to extend the status quo.

  1. Secretary Johnson’s memorandum, not printed in its entirety, concluded as follows:

    “In view of the unanimity on the part of the Executive Branch in regard to the policy that should be followed, it is desirable that differences of opinion on how this policy should be implemented should not be permitted to prejudice the result of the pending negotiations. My recommendation, therefore, is that the President should not press the point of his legal rights, based on considerations of national security, however meritorious the legal arguments in support of this position may be. Instead, as a practical matter, I recommend that it be conceded to Congress that in this particular case whatever arrangements are negotiated with the United Kingdom and Canada will be referred to Congress before final executive action is taken.”