94. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5508/1


General Considerations

Introduction. As a part of its “coexistence” campaign since the death of Stalin, the USSR has eased restrictions on travel to and from the Soviet orbit. Under the new Soviet policy, 101 U.S. private [Page 201] citizens were admitted to the USSR during 1953 and 1954.2 The United States, on the other hand, for practical, security and political reasons arising from an enhanced awareness of the Communist threat, has been reluctant to admit European Soviet Bloc private citizens. As a result, the U.S. is placed in a paradoxical position, which is being exploited by Communist propaganda. Despite its traditional policy favoring freedom of travel and its record of having favored a liberal exchange of persons with the USSR in the post-war period, the U.S. is being accused of maintaining an “Iron Curtain”; and these accusations are being made not only by representatives of international Communism but also by otherwise friendly persons in the free world. This situation is causing damage, and may cause further damage, to U.S. prestige and the U.S. reputation for liberal world leadership.
Present Law and Policy. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, non-official alien visitors who are communists and subversives are excludable from admission to the U.S. Such of these aliens who there is reason to believe would enter to engage, even incidentally, in activities prejudicial to the national security, or who would probably engage in subversion or participate in the activities of a subversive organization, are admissible under no circumstances. The Act does permit the Attorney General, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, to exercise discretion to admit temporarily communists and other potential subversives not included in the above categories. Under the present statute, the Attorney General has exercised his discretion in favor of admitting 33 Soviet Union private citizens during 1953 and 1954.3
Restrictions on Travel in the U.S. and USSR (see maps at end of paper).
Restrictions on Travel by Foreigners in USSR. The present Soviet regulations which restrict the travel in the Soviet Union by foreigners went into effect June 22, 1953. Whereas the previous regulations, effective January 15, 1952, closed nearly 50% of Soviet territory, the present Soviet regulations permit travel to all but about 30% of the Soviet land area. Americans and other foreigners may visit over 70% of large Soviet cities (of over 100,000 population) and may travel in such densely populated and heavily industrialized areas as European Russia. Inasmuch as the majority of places that hold interest for visiting foreigners are open, Intourist, the government agency which [Page 202] arranges, coordinates and supervises the travel of temporary foreign visitors, can usually keep such visitors from entering off-limits areas or cities without their becoming aware of the existence of restrictions. Occasionally, American or other foreign visitors are permitted access to a closed area or city for some specific purpose. The present regulations also permit rail or air transit through closed areas en route to open areas. Because of this transit privilege, foreigners may traverse the entire breadth of the Soviet Union via the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
Restrictions on Travel by Soviet Citizens in the U.S. All Soviet citizens in possession of valid Soviet passports other than Soviet employees of the United Nations Secretariat are subject to travel restrictions during their stay in this country similar to the restrictions imposed by the Soviet Government on the travel of U.S. citizens and other foreigners in the USSR. A previous requirement that certain Soviet officials in this country, not including the Soviet delegation to the UN, give advance notification of travel outside the Washington, D.C. area, was extended on January 3, 19554 to include the broader category of Soviet citizens as defined above. The new regulations also closed 27% of the U.S. to travel by those persons. They may still visit approximately 70% of large American cities and may transit closed areas by air, rail and, in certain specified cases, by automobile along designated routes. In order to permit greater flexibility in handling temporary Soviet visitors as opposed to Soviet officials stationed in the U.S., the new regulations contain a provision whereby, at the discretion of the Department of State, they may be permitted access to closed cities or areas if their presence in such cities or areas is germane to the purpose of the visit for which they were admitted.
Advantages of a Modest Broadening of U.S. Admissions Policy. U.S. admission of a larger but still modest number of European Soviet Bloc nationals (in categories falling within the discretionary power of the Attorney General on recommendation of the Secretary of State) would tend to maintain the reputation of the U.S. as a mature leader and as a believer in freedom. Such admission would thus counter Communist propaganda and tend to strengthen free world cooperation with the U.S. It would have the following additional advantages:

Admission of European Soviet Bloc travelers may lead to admission of more U.S. travelers into the Bloc,.…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Some European Soviet Bloc travelers to the U.S. could not but be privately impressed by the American scene and American technological accomplishments. Some of these would report to at least limited local audiences a reasonably accurate picture of the U.S.
There is a possibility that some travelers from the European Soviet Bloc countries might defect.
… The present restrictions have discouraged in advance the holding of some scientific and cultural conventions in the U.S. Under a broadened policy, such gatherings would probably bring to the U.S. important (and unquestionably admissible) non-Bloc visitors as well.

Disadvantages of Broadening U.S. Admissions Policy. It must be assumed that any European Soviet Bloc visitors would be selected on an official basis, and carefully screened and supervised for security; and that their visits would be designed to obtain maximum advantage for the Bloc. In particular:

Any group of European Soviet Bloc travelers admitted would probably include some intelligence agents.
Any group of European Soviet Bloc travelers would probably be able to gather, if only by observation, some strategic information on the U.S.
There is a risk that returning visitors might be exploited for propaganda purposes since the fact that they had been in the U.S. might lend personal authenticity to any distortions concerning the U.S. (However, in the past this risk has not proved serious.)
The selection by the European Soviet Bloc countries of disciplined groups who would distinguish themselves by superior performance might enhance the general prestige of the Bloc countries.
A relaxation of U.S. vigilance toward the Soviet peril might be fostered.

In addition, there is a risk that local public feeling in the U.S. might react against travel in the U.S. of Soviet Bloc nationals, leading to “incidents”.

Net Evaluation. On balance, provided (a) appropriate internal security safeguards are established, and (b) prompt decisions are made on requests for visas, the advantages to the U.S. of a broadened admission policy outweigh the disadvantages. Such disadvantages will be more than counterbalanced by upholding the U.S. reputation for adherence to the principles of cultural exchange and freedom of movement, and by the other advantages cited above.
Administrative Questions.
Appropriate internal security safeguards must be established when European Soviet Bloc nationals are admitted to the U.S. The Attorney General has responsibility for approving the security provisions made in each instance. In most cases contemplated under this paper, total surveillance will not be necessary, but responsible private or governmental agencies may be entrusted with the burden of keeping account of the Bloc nationals’ activities and of informing the Department of Justice (FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service) where its responsibility may be involved. It is recognized that any increase in the number of admissions, while entailing an [Page 204] increased burden on some agencies for administrative arrangements and, in some cases, on the Department of Justice from an internal security point of view, is not likely to require additional personnel.
The travel restrictions on European Soviet Bloc nationals admitted under a broadened admissions policy should conform to NSC 5427,5 except where specific cases make a specific departure therefrom desirable.
Possibility of a Radically Broadened U.S. Admissions Policy. Consideration has been given to broadening the exchange of visitors between the Soviet Bloc and the United States to proportions greater than the limited program contemplated in this paper. While it appears that a considerable intelligence advantage would be gained by large-scale visits of U.S. citizens to the Soviet Bloc nations, and while a broader program would give this nation more freedom in seizing the initiative in the propaganda warfare over the “Iron Curtain” allegedly erected by the United States, it does not appear that such a program is feasible within the framework of present law or national security policies. It must be recognized that waiver of inadmissibility is an exception and that the policy written into the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act itself is a policy of exclusion. Exercise of the Attorney General’s discretion to waive inadmissibility in any great number of cases would convert the exception into a rule, and a legal basis for any such program would probably require an amendment of the existing provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It must further be recognized that the admission of any great number of Soviet Bloc nationals would increase the internal security problems attendant upon any such program, with a consequent increase in the administrative burden imposed on the responsible agencies.
Related Problem of Excludable Non-Soviet Bloc Nationals. Note must be taken of the fact that the exclusion provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act applicable to Soviet Bloc nationals apply equally to Communists, Communist sympathizers and other potential subversives from non-Soviet Bloc countries. A policy which admits excludable Soviet Bloc nationals and at the same time denies admission to excludable non-Bloc visa applicants is open to a challenge of inconsistency. Such persons, of course, are more apt to be Communists by conviction than many visitors from the Bloc countries. They are more likely to be effective propagandists. Their admission leads to no reciprocal travel advantages. They are not subject to travel restrictions applicable to USSR citizens. On the other hand, exclusion of such persons may be detrimental to the U.S. reputation among foreign free world nations. Their admission might permit the [Page 205] holding of many world-wide scientific and cultural meetings in the U.S. Adequate security safeguards might be provided, and as a condition of entry, some travel restrictions could be imposed. It seems desirable, therefore, that where such persons have important cultural or professional contributions to make to the U.S. by temporary visits to the U.S. for specific engagements or for participating in meetings held in this country, they should be considered for admission in the light of the same factors applicable to European Soviet Bloc visitors, under adequate security safeguards.

Policy Guidance

It would be in the national interest for the U.S. to admit European Soviet Bloc nationals to the U.S., provided:
They are admissible under U.S. law.
Their visits are of short duration.
Admission is based on general reciprocity as to the numbers and categories of U.S. nationals admitted to the European Soviet Bloc.
Admission is for the purpose of participation in specific and bona fide cultural, educational, religious, scientific, professional or athletic activities.
Appropriate internal security safeguards are established.
A limited number of non-Soviet Bloc nationals excludable only under Section 212(a) (28) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (1952) should be admitted to the U.S. provided:
They have an important cultural or professional contribution to make to the U.S.
Their visits are of short duration.
Admission is for the purpose of participation in specific and bona fide cultural, educational, religious, scientific or professional meetings or engagements.
Adequate internal security safeguards are provided.
The Secretary of State will informally advise the Attorney General or the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of any individual or group, falling within paragraphs 10 or 11 above, that desires to come to the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service will then develop, in consultation with the Department of State, the necessary plans and controls which should be put into effect, including the selection of a non-Governmental organization to make arrangements for and to monitor the visitor or visitors while in the United States in cases where such action is appropriate. When such plans are complete, the Secretary of State will be advised, at which time the necessary formal actions will be taken to authorize admission.
The Executive Branch should endeavor to enlist support for the above policy from influential leaders in the Congress, and to promote understanding of it among the American people.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5508 Series. Confidential. NSC 5508/1 was circulated to the members of the Council under cover of a memorandum of March 26 from Lay, in which he noted the discussion and action taken at the Council’s 242d meeting on March 24 and stated that the President had approved on March 26 the statement of policy as set forth in NSC 5508/1. In addition to the statement of policy, NSC 5508/1 included a table of contents, annexes, and maps, none printed, that were identical to those included in NSC 5508.
  2. An additional limited number of U.S. commercial travelers may also have been admitted to the USSR without their presence being made known to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Figures on the number of U.S. private citizens admitted to the European Satellites are not available. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. In addition, the Attorney General admitted 25 private citizens from the European Satellites during 1953 and 1954. This paper does not cover European Soviet Bloc nationals entering the U.S. in official capacities (including residence or attendance at the United Nations or specialized agencies) or as more or less permanent residents. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. See Document 1.
  5. See footnote 2, supra.