202. Minutes of a Cabinet Meeting, Washington, January 18, 1957, 9–10:50 a.m.1

[Here follows a list of persons present (35), including the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Director of USIA, and Attorney General Herbert Brownell.]

USIA Program—Mr. Larson introduced this presentation2 by stressing the need for the help of all Cabinet members, since the program for telling the United States’ story can succeed only if everyone in public and private life is alert to the impact of our actions on world opinion.

Mr. Larson then set forth, with the aid of charts, the scope of USIA facilities for disseminating information throughout the world. He commented that if desired a major statement by the President could be carried to half of the world’s population within twenty-four hours.

With regard to the content of the Information Program, Mr. Larson stated that the purpose of the USIA, as directed by the President, is to “submit evidence to peoples of other nations …3 that the objectives and policies of the United States are in harmony with and will advance their legitimate aspirations for freedom, progress and peace”. Mr. Larson then showed film clips being used or under preparation concerning developments in Hungary, the Open Skies Program,4 and the Sukarno visit to the United States.5 He emphasized that USIA programs are designed to spread knowledge of Russian activities, as in Hungary, or to build support for particular US programs or policies. He stressed that every effort is made to enlist interest in various countries by emphasizing the country’s own aspirations and activities. He noted that in some countries our effort is accomplished through assistance to and strengthening of the native Information Service—as in Thailand.

Mr. Larson requested specifically that—

Every department and agency designate a “watch dog” officer to keep informed of the agency’s activities and to keep in touch with the State Department and the USIA;
That these officers meet together regularly; and
That the briefing given here be presented to the top officials of each agency.6

Mr. Brownell asked about the foundation for charges by the press that USIA was engaged in undue competition with the regularly established press.7 The President and Mr. Larson commented on the generally fine reception accorded the USIA activities. Mr. Larson made clear that the USIA published magazines and similar material only where it was necessary to fill a void.

[Here follows discussion of other matters.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Cabinet Secretariat Records. Confidential. Prepared by L.A. Minnich, Jr.
  2. A copy of the USIA Director’s presentation, not printed, is attached to the source text.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text.
  4. Reference is to the aerial inspection program proposed by the President at the Summit Conference in Geneva, July 18–23, 1955, during talks with Soviet leaders on disarmament.
  5. Dr. Sukarno, President of Indonesia, visited Washington, May 16–19, 1956.
  6. According to the Cabinet Record of Action, prepared on January 22, 1957, the Cabinet concurred in proposals 1–3. The Cabinet also decided to ensure that the foreign opinion factor would be weighed in deciding upon actions and statements and that the Department of State and USIA would be informed in advance when such actions or statements would have an impact abroad. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Cabinet Secretariat Records)
  7. Memoranda in the USIA Director’s Chronological Files contain indications of complaints by various members of the U.S. press that USIA was competing with regular press services. On March 25, 1957, USIA Director Larson suggested that Sherman Adams tell Roy Howard, publisher of Scripps–Howard newspapers, “that Mr. Larson and his associates will keep a close watch to see that the Information Agency’s press services does [sic] not compete with the commercial services or damage their effectiveness.” (Department of State, USIA/I Files: Lot 60 D 322, Reel 2, 1957)