193. Memorandum of Conversation1

The President saw General Doolittle and other members of the Committee appointed to investigate the activities of the CIA.

[Page 562]

The report was presented by General Doolittle,2 who said they had gone over it with Allen Dulles for three reasons: (1) to be absolutely fair; (2) to study Mr. Dulles better to watch for his reactions to a report not wholly favorable; (3) and their hope that the maximum good would come out of the report. Mr. Dulles made several recommendations that were incorporated in the report.

The President prefaced his remarks by saying that of course Mr. Dulles knew, as does everyone, that no two men would have the same judgments about certain things. That what we wanted to know was did we have a good man for the CIA head, and was he being selective and skillful in getting his assistants, and was his team working together in the best interests of the United States.

General Doolittle emphasized that the report was constructive criticism and in no sense a white wash. Some of the recommendations were very technical.

About Dulles: his principal strength is his unique knowledge of his subject; he has his whole heart in it, his life, he is a man of great honesty, integrity, loyally supported by his staff. His weakness, or the weakness of the CIA is in the organization—it grew like topsy, sloppy organization. Mr. Dulles surrounds himself with people in whom he has loyalty but not competence. There is a lack of discipline in the organization. There is a complete lack of security consciousness throughout organization. Too much information is leaked at cocktail party.

There is the family relationship with the Secretary of State. Such relationship can be important as it leads to protection of one by the other or influence of one by the other. Doolittle feels that it is a relationship that it would be better not to have exist. The President thought, however, there was something more favorable to be said about the relationship; he appointed Allen Dulles in full knowledge of the relationship and thinks it might be beneficial.

About Dulles’ two chief assistants. Frank Wisner is a chap of great promise but not a good organizer.

About Dulles’ readiness to accept criticism, Doolittle said he is highly emotional; wherever criticism was against him he took it well; he fought for his staff people, however, to the point of becoming emotional.

Doolittle had said that Bedell Smith had at one time said that Dulles was too emotional to be in this critical spot. He said further he thought his emotionalism was far worse than it appeared on the surface. The President said he had never seen him show the slightest disturbance. He said further that we must remember that here is one of [Page 563] the most peculiar types of operation any government can have, and that it probably takes a strange kind of genius to run it. The President said that what did disturb him was what the Committee reported about his assistants—Wisner and Cabell. Doolittle said in his opinion Allen Dulles did not have an administrative individual in either. Eisenhower said he was convinced no military man could do the job. President pointed out importance of Allen Dulles’ contacts throughout world. President further said, with reference to lack of security, that it was completely frustrating to find always evidence that people are talking. Security Council has gotten pretty good.

President said his next move would be to get Dulles in and talk to him about it. The relationship with Secretary of State did not disturb him because part of CIA’s work is extension of work of State Department. He further feels the confidential relationship between the two brothers is a good thing.

Someone in room said Bissell was not a good man. Also that Amory was an exceptionally fine man.

President said we were interested in two things: (1) improvement within CIA itself; (2) improvement in relationship and better understanding between CIA and rest of intelligence committees in government.

President said he was astonished at the difficulty of getting good administrators in government; that he had found a good many fine administrators throughout his long career.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administrative Series, Dulles, Allen, Box 13. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the memorandum.
  2. For the written report, see Document 192.