511.4921/2–850: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Czechoslovakia 1


131. Embtels 137, Jan 30; 146, Feb 1; 187 and 188, Feb 8; and Deptel 85, Feb. 3.2 Dept appreciates weight arguments favoring Emb’s recommendations re reciprocation and retaliation for Czech refusal permission distribution Czech edition Amerika Magazine but unable endorse such action.

Since Commies constantly strive confuse issues of principle, especially those which are fundamental strengths of democracy, they will, disregarding their own record, possibly make effective worldwide propaganda use opportunity presented by apparent US violation fundamental Amer principle freedom of info if we are ones to take initiative in officially eliminating existing non-subversive publication circulated by a Fon Govt. Fine distinctions leading to such Amer action wld not be understood by liberal world opinion, even if we had facilities to make details fully clear everywhere.

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As illustrated by Sov caution in attempt eliminate Russ edition Amerika Mag, Commies recognize importance ostensible solicitude principle freedom info. It possible delay in promised Czech aide-mémoire, to confirm Clementis’ oral refusal circulation, ascribable reluctance take such position in writing while possibility exists we may assume onus initial infraction principle freedom info respecting existing pubs.

Aside from issue principle, Dept considers protection USIE operations behind “Curtain” may not be possible by measures reciprocation or retaliation which probably more likely offer pretexts accelerate demise USIE local operations. Dept believes Kremlin has decided nullify or eliminate USIE work behind Curtain over period of time. Maximum US gain will come from keeping USIE operating effectively as possible long as possible.

Division of Amer domestic opinion at present time is such that arbitrary measures taken here to eliminate distribution of any Sov or Satellite pubs might have serious repercussions. Temper of Amer people might bring, from one sector public opinion, cry of police state; pressure likely from other quarters for precipitate anti-Commie action. Neither desired by Dept.

Re retaliatory action on either Czech Economic, Bulletin or Czech Life, fol is legal position:

No statute exists for US official control contents or distribution. Neither pub required register under Foreign Agents Registration Act. Provision in act grants exemption to “a duly accredited diplomatic or consular officer of a foreign Gov who is so recognized by the Dept of State, while said officer is engaged exclusively in activities which are recognized by the Dept of State as being within the scope of the functions of such officer”.

Dept has previously recognized issuance of Sov Info Bulletin, Czech Economic Bulletin, and Czechoslovak Life and pubs of other Embs as being within the scope of functions of an officer of an Emb or Consulate of a duly recognized gov in the US. For the Dept to take unilateral action against Czechs and withdraw permission for this recognized function of a mission wld lead to result that US wld be put in awkward position, which Dept not willing incur in this case, of denying to Czechs that which is granted to Embs of other Govts in Washington. Also, Dept wld thereby commencing process of restricting previously permitted range of diplomatic or consular activities, thus giving opening to Commie Govts.

In view these considerations if Czechs determined prohibit Amerika, Dept does not believe it can with existing means change situation. Furthermore, US Govt machinery not easily adaptable conduct contest with Commie authorities in matters administrative “delay” such as slowdown customs or postoffice handling printed matter.

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Dept feels free distribution Amerika on largest scale possible through libraries (Deptel 85, Feb 3) best approach this time.

Dept interested in obtaining further gain if possible from further prof of Commie fear of free info. To do so our hands must be clean.

Dept considers that denial of visas (Deptel 110, Feb 103) as a retaliatory measure shld be reserved for a specific case at a future date.

  1. This telegram was repeated to Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest, Belgrade, Moscow, Warsaw, and Frankfort.
  2. None of the referenced messages are printed, but regarding telegrams 137 and 85, see footnote 3, p. 530.
  3. Ante, p. 531.