Editorial Note

In a memorandum of January 9, 1953, to Secretary of State Acheson, the Counselor of the Department of State, Charles E. Bohlen, summarized the discussion regarding NSC 138/1 which had taken place at the meeting of the National Security Council earlier that day. Bohlen said that the Department of Justice “on the whole presented a rather weak case and in line with the paper submitted to [Page 1345] the Council tended to stray into areas in which they were not as well informed as Interior.” He also noted that after the President had rendered his decision, the meeting had been adjourned immediately with no opportunity to discuss procedures. According to the memorandum, Bohlen had therefore conferred with Lay, who had asked that the Department of State prepare an announcement, as provided in the recommended course of action, as soon as possible. At Bruce’s suggestion, Legal Adviser of the Department of State Fisher had undertaken to prepare such a statement in conjunction with the Department of Defense. Bohlen also noted that the question of whether the President should appoint the Commission or should recommend its appointment to President-elect Eisenhower had been left undecided. (S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, NSC 138)

In testimony before the Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1974, Emmerglick recalled that on Sunday evening, January 11, 1953, he and Bohlen had been called to the White House by President Truman, who told them that he had reached his decision on the oil Cartel case with great reluctance and that he had been constrained to take that decision, not on the advice of the Cabinet officers who had attended the NSC meeting, but “solely on the assurance of Gen. Omar Bradley that the national security called for that decision.” The President had also informed them that he wanted the civil action to be vigorously prosecuted. (Multinational Subcommittee Hearings, Part 7, page 107)

On January 12, 1953, the White House released the text of a letter of that date from President Truman to Attorney General McGranery, giving his opinion that “the interest of national security might be best served at this time by resolving the important questions of law and policy involved in that investigation [the oil Cartel investigation] in the context of civil litigation rather than in the context of a criminal proceeding.” The President stated, however, that he believed “that this would be the case only if the companies involved agreed to the production of documentary material which the companies are required to produce under an existing order of court based on grand jury subpoenas.” He asked the Attorney General to confer promptly with representatives of the companies to determine if they would agree to enter into a stipulation to that effect. If they were to agree, the President asked that a civil proceeding then be instituted and that the pending grand jury proceedings be terminated. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1952–1953 (Washington, 1966), pages 1168–1169)