181. Paper Prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board1


1. Purpose


To assure coordination of information (which term as used in this paper includes propaganda and other related activities) unattributed to the U.S. Government, the National Security Council, in NSC 165/1,2 dated 24 October 1953:

Authorized the U.S. Information Agency, when considered advisable, and except in the case of operations of the Voice of America, to communicate with other peoples without attribution to the U.S. Government on matters for which attribution could be assumed by the Government if necessary, and
Directed that the Operations Coordinating Board agree upon principles which will govern such unattributed activities (hereinafter such activities are included in the definition of gray).

These principles, having been agreed upon by the OCB, are published herewith for the guidance of officials concerned.

The intent of this paper is to underline the need for field coordination, to insure that all information activities are conducted [Page 502]securely and effectively, to prevent duplication and to avoid embarrassment to the U.S. Government. Responsibilities in the white and black fields are clearly established, but in the gray field responsibility has been assigned to more than one agency. Therefore, this paper concerns itself primarily with the criteria to use in determining whether USIA or the Department of State or the OCB designee will undertake a particular gray activity. Thus to carry out fully the intent of this paper, there must be close liaison in the field among representatives of the agencies concerned so that each item of gray activity will be considered in light of:
The assignments of responsibility and the criteria set forth in Paragraph 3.
The merits of the case, assets available, and other considerations which may apply locally.
Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions or Principal Officers (the ranking State Department official at a subordinate post) have the overall responsibility for insuring that field coordination at all posts for which they have supervisory responsibility is satisfactory (Paragraph 4.2). Moreover, State and USIA both at headquarters and in the field will be responsible for initiating liaison with the OCB designee concerning their respective gray activities, so that the latter knows of existing or contemplated activities and can preserve the security of its own activities.

2. Definitions

For the purpose of this paper, the following definitions of terms are used in describing both the content of information and the type of activity.

White Acknowledged as an official statement or act of the U.S. Government, or emanates from a source associated closely enough with the U.S. Government to reflect an official viewpoint. The information is true and factual. It also includes all output identified as coming from U.S. official sources.
Gray The true source (U.S. Government) is not revealed to the target audience. The activity engaged in plausibly appears to emanate from a non-official American source, or an indigenous, non-hostile source, or there may be no attribution.3 Gray is that information whose content is such that the effect will be increased if the hand of the U.S. Government and in some cases any American participation [Page 503]are not revealed. It is simply a means for the U.S. to present viewpoints which are in the interest of U.S. foreign policy, but which will be acceptable or more acceptable to the intended target audience than will an official government statement.
Black The activity engaged in appears to emanate from a source (government, party, group, organization, person) usually hostile in nature. The interest of the U.S. Government is concealed and the U.S. Government would deny responsibility. The content may be partially or completely fabricated, but that which is fabricated is made to appear credible to the target audience. Black activity is also usually designed to cause embarrassment to the ostensible source or to force the ostensible source to take action against its will.

3. Responsibility for Operations

Since the responsibility is assigned for gray activity to more than one agency, liaison officers in the field, and in Washington whenever necessary, must determine which agency will undertake an activity. The inherent risk must be assessed by means of criteria set forth in Paragraph 3.4, bearing in mind that activities in which USIA or State engage must be those which the U.S. Government could acknowledge if necessary.
Authorized to engage in white activity directed at foreign audiences are: The State Department, USIA, the Foreign Operations Administration (as assigned in Reorganization Plans 7 and 8) the Defense Department and other U.S. Government departments and agencies as necessary.
Responsibility for engaging in black propaganda and other related activities is assigned solely to the designee of the OCB. Likewise it should be kept in mind that activities, either gray or black, conducted into denied areas from their peripheries, other than radio, are the sole responsibility of the OCB designee.
Responsibility for gray is assigned to the OCB designee, USIA and State. The following criteria will assist in determining the responsibility for the execution of a proposed gray activity. If the answer to any of the three questions below is affirmative, the activity is the sole responsibility of the OCB designee. If government interest is not to be revealed but the answer to all three questions listed below is negative, the activity may fall within the charter of State, USIA or the OCB designee:
Would the disclosure of the source occasion serious embarrassment to the U.S. Government or to the agencies responsible for the information activity?
Would the activity or the materials disseminated be seriously discredited if it were to become known that the U.S. Government were responsible?
Would the outlet be seriously damaged if it were to become known that the activity is subsidized or otherwise assisted by the U.S. Government?
The Department of State and USIA may engage in gray activity which can be acknowledged by the U.S. Government if necessary, provided that before a decision or commitment is made, the OCB designee’s representative, wherever one is stationed, is consulted and his concurrence obtained. Concurrence shall be given unless the OCB designee is of the opinion that a proposed operation will jeopardize its activities or established mechanisms, or does not comply with the criteria in 3.4. In giving its concurrence the OCB designee is not assuming responsibility for the successful completion of an activity conducted by another agency. Necessary coordination between State and USIA and the OCB designee will be undertaken through liaison channels described in paragraph 4. Wherever the OCB designee has no such representative approval of the Chief of Diplomatic Mission or Principal Officer will be obtained.

4. Machinery for Application of the Criteria

The coordination required for application of the criteria stated in Paragraph 3.4 is to be achieved by creation and use of appropriate liaison arrangements in the field and in Washington.
The Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, the Director of USIA and the designee of the OCB will each designate mutually acceptable points of contact in selected missions for field coordination. In any case in which an agency authorized to engage in gray activities proposes to use the personnel or facilities of the Department of Defense abroad, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Special Operations) will designate a mutually acceptable point of contact at the appropriate location. Responsibility is vested in the Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions or Principal Officers for insuring that field coordination at all posts for which they have supervisory responsibility is adequate, that criteria are correctly applied, and that decisions are within the framework of national policy.
Coordination in Washington, to supplement that in the field, is the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and the Director of USIA. They will be responsible for initiating appropriate liaison arrangements and clearances within and between their respective departments and with the designee of the OCB.
Whenever deemed necessary by the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, the Director of USIA and the OCB designee, representatives of other United States Agencies engaged in information activities abroad will be included in such coordination machinery. [Page 505]In any case in which an agency authorized to engage in gray activities proposes to use the personnel or facilities of the Department of Defense abroad, the representative of that Department designated pursuant to paragraph 4.2 shall be informed of the nature of the activity.
Whenever the field representatives of the agencies herein concerned are unable to reach an agreement as to which agency will undertake a gray project, the matter will be referred to Washington for advice and decision by the appropriate representatives of the agencies involved. Communications from the field on such matters will be via the channels of the OCB designee whenever the OCB designee is mentioned.
The designated liaison officers at each station in the field will meet at the earliest practicable date to review all gray operations of State and USIA which are currently functioning, and apply the criteria herein described to determine if they should be continued, transferred to the OCB designee, or terminated.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, History Staff, Job 83–00036R, Box 5. Secret. OCB Executive Officer Staats circulated this paper to the Operations Coordinating Board by memorandum on May 18. (Ibid.)
  2. Entitled “Mission of USIA”; text in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 2, pp. 1752 1754.
  3. In areas where activity is conducted without any attribution and it may result in embarrassment to an agency of the U.S. Government, liaison officers will carefully weigh all aspects of the proposed activity before deciding whether such an operation should be undertaken. [Footnote in the original.]