760.00/2–1953: Circular airgram

No. 72
The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Offices 1


1923. Following is advance text of cleared information policy instruction regarding escapees. The text will shortly be issued by IPO as a Special Instruction with copies going to all Diplomatic and Consular Offices:


(FYI and to be treated as Secret Security Information: Communist propagandists have exploited with telling effect the inadequate conditions and general neglect which greeted escapees upon their arrival in the West. Continuation of these conditions as a basis for communist propaganda of this character militates against attainment of specific United States interests in the fields of intelligence, psychological warfare, and basic United States political objectives vis-à-vis Soviet Russia and its satellites. The United States Escapee Program was undertaken, therefore, as a matter of Inter-Agency concern with administrative responsibility assigned to the Department of State, to bring about an improvement in the conditions of reception and care afforded to escapees, to promote their permanent resettlement and to exploit psychologically such accomplishments as the program might achieve. After an initial organizational period, the Escapee Program is now producing an increasing volume of program accomplishments. The Department’s Circular Airgram To Certain American Diplomatic and Consular Officers, 3:05 p.m. January 30, 19532 directs the establishment of necessary field arrangements to assure, as a matter of importance and priority, the collection and transmission, for effective dissemination, of exploitable escapee news items. We now look forward to an increased flow of informational material concerning escapees and the Escapee Program for psychological exploitation, through media available to the Department and other interested United States agencies in negating communist propaganda and in advancing essential United States interests and objectives.

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Utilization of these materials should be governed by following considerations:

We do not seek through our information program to appear to invite increased influx of all types of refugees into the countries of primary asylum. For example, Berlin is already over-crowded with refugees from the Eastern zone; an analogous problem prevails in Hong Kong. In such areas we would especially wish to avoid appearing to contribute further to the staggering responsibilities of the local authorities.
We believe that appropriate publicity of Escapee Program accomplishments is of vital importance to demonstrate continuing United States interest and concern for the welfare of Soviet dominated populations.
We consider that useful publicity concerning Escapee Program achievements will combat, in large measure, effectiveness of internal Soviet orbit propaganda asserting that escapees receive “shabby” treatment in Western countries.
Utilization of materials concerning Escapee Program accomplishments can also be viewed as contributing to the objectives of other United States programs, such as the encouragement of escapees from the USSR and the defection of key, satellite personnel who have specialized knowledge and information. In this connection, however, and with reference to (a) above, we should bear in mind that neither conditions in free countries nor broadcasts emanating therefrom are primary factors in influencing the rate of flow of escapees which is more the result of pressures within the communist-dominated countries from which they flee. End FYI to be treated as Secret Security Information.)

FYI Background

At the direction of President Truman, the Escapee Program was established in the spring of 1952. Administration of the program was assigned to the Department of State with dollar funds (4,300,000) for its operation transferred from MSA to the Department out of monies authorized under the Kersten Amendment of the Mutual Security Act. The operation goal of the program, as expressed in the Truman–Harriman exchange of letters of March 23, 1952, is “To improve the reception and treatment and secure the resettlement of qualified people who escape from Soviet dominated countries”.3 In its present form the essential concern of the Escapee Program is limited to an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 escapees from Soviet dominated Eastern European countries already in Western European countries of first asylum, plus an additional several hundred who are expected to escape into these areas each month. The program is not designed to assist refugees, such as [Page 187] German expellees, Soviet zone Germans or ethnic Turks expelled from Bulgaria to Turkey, who have a status essentially equivalent to that of nationals of countries in which they now reside. From the point of view of the Escapee Program, refugees in this category are essentially at home in these countries and constitute respectively a charge of the West German and Turkish Governments. As such, they do not qualify for Escapee Program assistance.

To the maximum possible extent consistent with United States objectives, Escapee Program is being carried out through contractual arrangements with private and intergovernmental agencies in this field. Although the program places particular emphasis on promoting and subsidizing resettlement, it is concerned also with care and maintenance of qualified escapees. Care and maintenance assistance, however, is purely supplemental in character and is in no sense designed to supersede the efforts now being made by the governments of the receiving countries on the European periphery of the Soviet orbit, which carry the main responsibility for taking care of escapees. End FYI background.


In Russian-language output we should, as a matter of highest priority, utilize a continuing flow of reliable information concerning successful escape, accomplishments in improving reception and care, resettlement to constructive life of freedom both of Soviet and satellite nationals, as well as other psychologically useful information relating to escapees and Escapee Program activities.
Output to Soviet satellite audiences is of special significance and importance to the attainment of U.S. political and psychological objectives in those areas and consequently should provide for a continuing and effective flow of detailed information as provided for in point (1) above.
For the time being, and until further notice, Escapee Program achievements should be de-emphasized in German-language output.
Output to Yugoslavia should confine itself to minimal, routine coverage of Escapee Program achievements and should always be expressed in terms of assistance to escapees from Soviet-dominated repeat Soviet-dominated and not “Communist-dominated” countries.
Reporting to peripheral receiving areas (Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Trieste) should be confined, where feasible, to hard news of efforts to promote resettlement of escapees.
For the time being, Department considers no useful purpose is served by publicizing program to audiences in areas such as India and Pakistan in the Middle East and Hong Kong and Korea in the Far East, which contain large numbers of refugees, who, while not [Page 188] admissible for escapee aid, nevertheless regard themselves as bona fide refugees worthy of assistance. However, we anticipate a considerable volume of escapee human interest materials reflecting true conditions inside the Soviet world: persecution of religious and other groups, economic spoliation, nature of border controls which Soviet and satellite governments have been compelled to establish to keep tormented peoples from escaping. These materials concretely and compellingly illustrate and clarify the true nature of the Soviet system and as such should be put to good general use.
Before the names or other identification of escapees are utilized in official information output, assurances must be obtained from the Department of State, UNA/R, by media in the United States, from the appropriate escapee unit in the case of field operations or from escapees themselves, that no reprisals are likely to be taken against friends or relatives still behind the Iron Curtain. Lacking such assurances output should refer generally to region or nationality of origin of escapees.
We should emphasize the humanitarian aspects of assistance and should avoid use of materials suggesting that program may have other than humanitarian purposes.
Discussion of Escapee Program accomplishments should contain acknowledgement of valuable contribution to program of U.S. voluntary agencies and governments of receiving countries.


We should not disseminate information identifying channels, routes, or contacts employed by escapees in their flight to freedom.
We avoid direct discussion of Escapee Program in relation to Soviet charges of subversion under the Kersten Amendment.
We do not refer to escapees as “defectors”.
We subordinate the statistical approach to exploitation of case histories. (The flow of escapees may well decrease as a result of increasingly severe measures imposed by Soviet bloc governments to prevent escapes.)
  1. Drafted by Dawson, E. Lewis Revey of the U.S. International Information Agency, and L. Roger Williams of the Bureau of United Nations Affairs and cleared in RA, IPO, GER/P, FE/P, P, R,EUR/P, and NEA/P. Sent to all the major European posts.
  2. Not printed. (760.00/1–3053)
  3. The quoted passage is taken from Harriman’s letter to President Truman of Mar. 20, 1952, described in footnote 4, Document 65. No correspondence dated Mar. 23, 1952, has been found on this subject in Department of State files.