96. Memorandum of Discussion at the 243d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 31, 19551

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Importation of Communist Periodicals (Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Importation of Communist Propaganda”, dated April 19, May 4 and 12, 1954;2 NSC Action No. 1114;3 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 29, 19554)

Mr. Cutler advised the Council that during the last several weeks there had been a “rash” of press stories and letters to editors, alleging that the Post Office Department was obstructing the receipt of copies of Pravda and Izvestia sent through the mails to recipients in the United States. Based on these allegations the Planning Board, supplemented by representatives of the Departments of Justice, the [Page 209] Post Office, and Commerce, and by the White House Press Secretary, prepared the reference report of March 29 which was scheduled on today’s Council agenda. He said that the report focused upon only one particular aspect of the much broader subject of “Importation of Communist Propaganda”. He noted that at its May 13, 1954, meeting5 the Council considered that broader subject and agreed that in lieu of seeking legislation with respect thereto, the responsible agencies should remain alert to the problem and do everything possible within the means now available to defeat Communist objectives in importing propaganda.

Mr. Cutler then summarized the March 29 report of the Planning Board, which dealt with the more limited subject of “Importation of Communist Periodicals”. He then read to the Council paragraph 4 of the report, which paragraph was submitted for action by the Planning Board.

The Postmaster General6 said his Department would have no objection to paragraph 4; that it could see no great danger in releasing the 450 copies of Pravda and the 450 copies of Izvestia which were currently being withheld from the mails. He said, however, that in the case of certain other foreign Communist publications, the Post Office Department had some question as to whether they should be permitted to pass through our postal system, inasmuch as they contained political propaganda. He added that he did not think this question was a major one, and expressed the view that if problems did arise with respect to other publications, the Post Office Department would get together with the agencies concerned, as outlined in paragraph 4–b of the reference memorandum on the subject. He said that his Department would prefer to see the language in paragraph 4 qualified by including a provision that only a limited number of such periodicals would be permitted to pass through our postal system to their ultimate addressees. Mr. Cutler pointed out that if the numbers of such periodicals increased greatly, and if they were construed to contain propaganda, they would be kept out under paragraph 4 as presently written. The Postmaster General responded that there would be no necessity for amending the paragraph along the lines suggested by him so long as the interpretation expressed by Mr. Cutler was understood by all parties concerned.

The President concluded the Council discussion on this subject with the statement that he was astonished that the Post Office Department couldn’t lose these things and not say anything about it.

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The National Security Council:

Discussed the subject on the basis of the reference memorandum of March 29, 1955.
Agreed that:
In the implementation of NSC Action No. 1114–b, the national security would not be adversely affected by permitting, in addition to the deliveries permitted under paragraph 3–b of the enclosure to the reference memorandum of March 29, 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” as defined in the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
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 action in (1) above in resolving problems arising in the implementation of NSC Action No. 1114–b and the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General and the Postmaster General for implementation, and to the Secretary of State and the Director, USIA, for information.

[Here follows the remainder of the memorandum.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Item 1 was prepared by Coyne on April 1.
  2. None printed. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Planning Board Member Files)
  3. NSC Action No. 1114–b is quoted in paragraph 3– C–(2), supra.
  4. See footnote 1, supra.
  5. A memorandum of the discussion at this meeting is in Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records.
  6. Arthur E. Summerfield.