Notes on the First Meeting Between Messrs. Christopher Warner and Edward Barrett, at London, Saturday May 20, 1950 1

Present: Christopher Warner Information Policy Department, Foreign Office
Ralph Murray
P. L. Carter
Edward Barrett State Department and United States Embassy, London2
W. T. Stone
Mallory Browne

The following topics were discussed at the first meeting: (1) general aims and objectives of U.S. and British information services; (2) information functions of the NAT organization, and (3) arrangements for closer cooperation between our services in promoting common objectives and combatting Communist propaganda.

I. General Aims and Objectives

Mr. Warner, in welcoming Mr. Barrett, said it was apparent from the preliminary talks3 that the State Department and Foreign Office were in general agreement regarding the need for closer cooperation between the information services of our governments. While there may be differences of emphasis and variations in our methods, and our [Page 1642] approach to certain problems, we have arrived at much the same ideas about the importance of exchanging information and ideas on the broad range of information activities.

Mr. Barrett reviewed briefly the changing attitude in the United States toward the information program, noting the increase in Congressional support, and the President’s recent speech4 urging stronger efforts to combat Communist propaganda with truth. He described the closer integration of the information program within the State Department, the current review of information policy objectives and the tentative plans for expansion of activities in critical target areas. He stressed the fact that our plans for expansion are still in the preliminary stage and have not yet been presented to Congress. What we have attempted to do is to survey information needs and possibilities in the light of the present international situation, without regard to the normal budgetary or administrative limitations. First priority has been given to critical areas, including the Soviet Union, the Satellites, Western Europe, South East Asia and certain other peripheral areas. Preliminary estimates look toward something like 78 million dollars the first year and 120 million the second year, as compared with our present information and educational exchange budget of 34 million. Mr. Barrett asked that these figures be held in strict confidence.

Mr. Warner reviewed British information objectives since the Cabinet directive of 1948 authorizing anti-Communist activities, and noted the difference between U.S. and British target area priorities. The Foreign Office gives a higher priority to areas outside the Iron Curtain and concentrates its effort on parts of the free world in danger of Communist penetration. Thus, first priority is given to France, Italy and Germany in Europe, and South East Asia in the Far East. Second priority is given to India, Pakistan and the Middle East. The European satellite states are regarded as more important than the Soviet Union.

Mr. Warner stressed the importance attached by the Foreign Office to the use of local channels for the dissemination of anti-Communist propaganda, rather than flooding the market with publicly identified British propaganda. British experience shows that overt propaganda has very little value in areas like South East Asia or the Middle East, and the danger of over-reaching the saturation point in other areas should not be lost sight of.

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Guidance to field Missions is provided in fortnightly telegrams and special instructions. A useful form of guidance is furnished through the “Diplomatic transmission” of the London Press Service, the British Counterpart of our Wireless Bulletin which is prepared by the Central Office of Information. By inserting comments on newspaper articles or press summaries, the Foreign Office can indicate its line to Missions in the field. The BBC receives no formal written directives from the Foreign Office, but does receive information telegrams and special items sent in for broadcasting purposes. General Jacob, BBC director of Overseas Broadcasting, has the full confidence of the Foreign Office and participates in policy conferences as though he were a permanent member of the F.O.

Mr. Murray described the methods and techniques of anti-Communist propaganda. Basic materials are developed by a central research staff in London, and processed for specific areas by a group of writers who work through an agency set up outside of the Foreign Office for this purpose. Trade Union organizations and various groups are used to place articles published under the by-line of well known writers; these articles and additional anti-Communist materials are then sent to regional field offices in Singapore and Cairo, or to Information officers in individual countries for adaptation to meet local needs. The materials are never used directly by BIS, but are placed in local journals or made available to local groups. Careful attention is given to the selection of the most effective channels and target groups and themes.

Mr. Barrett expressed our interest in developing similar techniques for effective use of gray propaganda, particularly in South East Asia, and in learning more about British experience in this field. However, we believe that much could be done to strengthen the effect of our positive propaganda, through overt media, by using public statements stressing the unity of purpose of the nations of the free world.

II. NAT Information Activities

In line with our approved position papers, it was agreed that the primary function of the public information section of NATO would be to promote and stimulate publicity in furtherance of the objectives of the treaty through the national programs of the member governments. The man to head the publicity work should be a high calibre American or British expert, preferably with some government experience. It was agreed that we would canvass the field for the best possible candidates and come up with suggested names. The final choice would be made by the new Chairman of the Council of Deputies.

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III. Arrangements for US–UK Cooperation

It was agreed that close and continuous liaison in both Washington and London will be essential if our present general cooperation in the information field is to be strengthened effectively. Mr. Warner said that the Foreign Office was ready to appoint a qualified Foreign Service officer to the British Embassy in Washington. They have in mind a man like Adam Watson, who would be attached to the Chancery, rather than to Gore-Booth’s information staff.5

Mr. Barrett said that we would welcome such an officer in Washington, and would like to establish a similar officer in London. Both liaison officers should be in a position to cover all aspects of current information activities, including broadcasting and certain special activities. It was agreed that duplication of channels could be avoided if these officers functioned in the same manner as political officers attached to our respective Embassies.

  1. The notes were prepared by the United States Information Service.
  2. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Chairman of the Interdepartmental Foreign Information Staff, and Counselor of Embassy, respectively.
  3. No record of the preliminary talks under reference has been found in the Department of State files.
  4. For text of President Truman’s speech at the luncheon of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington on April 20, 1950, see Department of State Bulletin, May 1, 1950, p. 672, or Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1950, p. 260.
  5. Paul Henry Gore-Booth, Director of the British Information Services in the United States.