USIA files, lot 56 D 581, “Info Guide Bulletin 303”

Summary Memorandum Prepared by the Office of Policy and Plans, United States International Information Administration1


Background Information Relating to the IIA Instruction of the Use of Materials by Controversial Persons

The purpose of this instruction was to establish criteria to govern the use in the IIA program of already existing books, writings, [Page 1678] paintings, music, etc., produced by persons who are subjects of public controversy.

The instruction restricted a recommendation from the US Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange which recommended in the case of books for USIS libraries abroad that the criterion be based on content without regard to authorship.

Considering these recommendations too all inclusive, Dr. Compton directed that specific criteria be established to govern the use of materials by controversial persons, and to state that controversial authors would be used only under exceptional circumstances.

Criteria established to govern the exceptions are listed in the instruction which states that materials produced by persons whose ideologies or views were questionable or controversial would not be used unless:

It supported importantly, not incidentally, a specific psychological objective and none of the content was detrimental to the objectives of the US Government.
It was substantially better than other material available for the purpose.
Failure to include it would impair our general credibility.

To illustrate, works by Howard Fast, some of which are favorable to the US were cited. The idea was to use such materials, in exceptional circumstances, particularly to influence a left winger or fellow traveler who knew that some of Fast works were Soviet endorsed, and we could use the materials favorable to the US as opening bait. A copy of the instruction is attached.2

2. On February 12 Mr. McCardle was informed that the Voice3 had been instructed to use Soviet endorsed writers like Howard Fast. Mr. McCardle asked Mr. Connors who found the instruction of February 3 which mentioned Mr. Fast.

3. On February 13 Mr. McCardle ordered the instruction rescinded. This was done. Mr. McCardle also asked that the works of all communist, fellow travelers and the like be banned.

4. On February 18 a written instruction4 was issued to all IIA media stating: “In connection with IA Instruction PO–9 dated February 13, 1953, rescinding IA Instruction PO–5 of January 30, 1953, concerning use of materials by controversial persons, in order to avoid all misunderstanding, no repeat no materials by any controversial persons, Communists, fellow-travelers, etc., will be used under any circumstances by any IIA media.”

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5. On February 19 an Infoguide Bulletin (attached)5 was issued to the Media and the field repeating the above instruction but with the deletion of the phrase “controversial persons.” This instruction was approved by Mr. McCardle and Mr. Phleger.

6. February 20, teletype message from Morton (Voice Director in New York) to Connors referring to Infoguide Bulletin 272 and stating:

IBS in accordance with existing policy will continue to use the works and words of Communists, fellow-travellers, etc., to expose them or to make them eat their own words or in furtherance of the American national interest.

“As an example of the implementation of the above standing procedure: IBS will quote Stalin, Vishinsky, Gromyko and other Communists to the extent that the use of such material advances our causes.”

7. February 20, teletype message to Morton New York from Connors stating:

“Reference your 4:15 p.m. memo, Infoguide Bulletin 272 of February 19 is binding policy and under no circumstances can be amended. IBS will not, repeat not, use the works or words of any Communists, fellow-travellers, etc.”

8. February 21, Mr. Lourie on the Hill was informed by Mr. Flannagan (Chief Counsel to McCarthy Committee) that a message had been sent either to New York or Washington (between Morton and Connors) to disregard Secretary’s instruction. Mr. Connors provided the exchange of messages to Mr. Lourie.

9. On February 21 after a telephone conversation, New York sent down a draft of a proposed VOA directive quoting Infoguide Bulletin 272 in full and making several suggestions for approval. This was received at 5:12 p.m.

This was discussed by Mr. McCardle, Mr. Phillips and Mr. Connors.

Clarification as approved here and issued in New York provided:

“The news desk will continue to report accurately and within the frame of established policies, legitimate news emanating from Communist sources based on credible news services. Original shirt-tails quoting Communists or fellow-travellers for any purposes will be suspended.

“Original comment using Communist or fellow-traveller authors for any purpose is banned.

IBS will make maximum use within the framework of US policies of material appearing in US published sources to refute Communist propaganda.

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IBS will make maximum use of statements by administration officials and Members of Congress to refute Communist propaganda.

“A maximum effort to present positive Americana of an unreproachable nature will provide us with ample material to bridge the gap until our directives regarding psychological warfare are clarified.”

Because of the week-end holiday, IBS did not issue this directive until February 23rd.

10. February 25, special arrangements made for coverage of General Assembly.

Compliance with Infoguide Bulletin 272

The attached memoranda indicate the action taken. The media activities affected are outlined in Connors’ memorandum to Mr. Phillips of February 26.6 It involves, for example, whether or not we can use the words of communists to refute their own stories on such subjects as forced labor in the Soviet Union, germ warfare charges and the prisoner of war issue in Korea.
Informational Media Guaranty Program: The question arose as to whether this instruction pertained to magazines which are bought on contract and which may include articles or quotations from communists. ICS was advised not to cancel the contracts until further consultation with the legal advisor. The opinion of the legal advisor was transmitted to Mr. Humphrey.7 Meanwhile, however, a letter was written on February 246 to all the contractors under the guaranty program requesting that they give assurance that none of the materials they provided fell within the prohibited categories. This letter was based upon a misinterpretation of the instruction, which did not contain the phrase controversial persons, and was rescinded on February 27.
Ruling on Communists, fellow-travellers, etc.: Connors has asked that the A area provide us with a list of such persons. He has been informed that no such list is in existence. It was suggested that IIA submit a list of all materials which it now uses or is considering using for a name check. This is done on a routine basis by the press and motion picture service. In the case of libraries, however, some tens of thousands of authors are involved. Also it is not feasible that the list of articles in all magazines bought on subscription be submitted for advance checking.
In addition to program activities, this instruction also raises questions relating to the publication and use of a number of documents [Page 1681] produced by the intelligence area of the Department, including Soviet Affairs notes which is based almost entirely upon the writings and statements of Communists.
We have recommended that in view of the above considerations, Infoguide Bulletin 272 cannot be fully applied without a serious cut in both the nature and effectiveness of IIA operations, and should be amended.
  1. Source text is accompanied by a covering memorandum from W. Bradley Connors of the Office of Policy and Plans to IIA Acting Administrator Johnson dated Mar. 3, which reads: “Attached for your information is a summary of the background of this instruction and the action taken to date.”
  2. Not found attached.
  3. Voice of America, New York.
  4. The reference instruction cannot be further identified.
  5. Not attached. Presumably this was Infoguide Bulletin 272 a copy of which is in file 511.00/2–1953 as circular telegram 889.
  6. Not found.
  7. Presumably Richard A. Humphrey, Acting Assistant Administrator of the International Information Center Service, U.S. International Information Administration.
  8. Not found.