95. Report Prepared by the National Security Council Planning Board1


Purpose. To review existing arrangements relating to the distribution through the U.S. mails of imported Communist periodicals which are published primarily for consumption in Soviet bloc countries rather than for the purpose of being disseminated as “political propaganda” in the United States.
Basis For This Review. Recent press criticisms alleging that postal regulations have made it difficult for some individuals and organizations to receive Izvestia and Pravda through the U.S. mails.
Facts Bearing on This Problem:
With certain exceptions, including first class mail, it is the general practice of the Treasury Department (Customs) to screen with special intensity mail imports from Soviet bloc countries. These imports are examined to ascertain (1) their dutiable status, and (2) their admissibility under various U.S. laws and regulations, including those dealing with “political propaganda” within the meaning of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which defines “political propaganda” as:

“any oral, visual, graphic, written, pictorial, or other communication or expression by any person which is reasonably adapted to, or which the person disseminating the same believes will, or which he intends to, prevail upon, indoctrinate, convert, induce, or in any other way influence a recipient or any section of the public within the United States with reference to the [Page 207]political or public interests, policies, or relations of a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party or with reference to the foreign policies of the United States or promote in the United States racial, religious, or social dissensions. …2 The term ‘disseminating’ includes transmitting or causing to be transmitted in the United States mails or by any means or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce or offering or causing to be offered in the United States mails.”

Even though the material so screened contains “political propaganda” it is promptly released for delivery through the U.S. mails, provided it is destined for (1) any individual or organization complying with the provisions of the Foreign Agents Registration Act; (2) Governmental agencies; (3) certain bona fide individuals and groups of a non-Governmental character, in the absence of evidence indicating that the material, if delivered, would be disseminated further for propaganda purposes (included in this non-Governmental category are libraries, news establishments, educational institutions, scientific and other private research groups).
If the material so screened contains “political propaganda” but is not destined for individuals or organizations in the categories outlined above, it may be, and if detected is, barred from the mails by the Post Office Department pursuant to its understanding of (1) interpretations by the Department of Justice of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and other statutes relating to the non-mailability of printed matter, and (2) NSC Action No. 1114–b, dated May 13, 1954.
In essence the interpretations of the Department of Justice authorize the Post Office Department to exclude from the mails “political propaganda” introduced from abroad by agents not registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for the purpose of effecting dissemination within the United States

NSC Action No. 1114–b follows:

“Agreed that, in lieu of legislation on the subject [Importation of Communist Propaganda],3 the responsible departments and agencies should remain alert to this problem and should do everything possible within the means now available to defeat the Communist objectives in importing propaganda into the United States.”

(It is to be noted that the subject of this review is limited to but one aspect of the broad study on which NSC Action No. 1114–b was based.)

Inquiry indicates that: (1) approximately 1000 copies of Izvestia and 1000 copies of Pravda are sent to the United States daily; (2) they arrive by air freight, air mail and ordinary mail; (3) about 550 copies of each publication are promptly released for delivery to recipients listed in paragraph 3–b, above; (4) the balance are excluded [Page 208]from the mails because the processing agencies (a) construe them to be non-mailable “political propaganda” within the meaning of the Foreign Agents Registration Act as that Act has been interpreted by the Department of Justice; (b) are unaware of their intended use; (c) do not know whether they have been requested by the addressees.
In the implementation of NSC Action No. 1114–b, it appears that the national security would not be adversely affected by permitting, in addition to the deliveries permitted under 3–b, above, delivery through the U.S. mails of imported Communist periodicals which are published primarily for consumption in Soviet bloc countries, provided they are not introduced into the United States for the purpose of being disseminated as “political propaganda”.
The Departments of the Treasury, Justice and the Post Office, in appropriate consultation with the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency, should be governed by the preceding paragraph in resolving problems arising in the implementation of NSC Action No. 1114–b and the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Planning Board Member Files. Confidential. Circulated to the members of the NSC and other officials under cover of a memorandum of March 29 from Lay, in which he stated that the report was prepared by the Planning Board with the assistance of representatives of the Departments of Justice, the Post Office, and Commerce, the U.S. Information Agency, and the White House Press Secretary. Hagerty’s diary account of the discussion of this issue at an OCB meeting on March 24 is in Eisenhower Library, Hagerty Papers.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.
  3. Brackets in the source text.