202. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Austria 1

2047. Field aware of considerable volume criticism much of it either uninformed or extremely vague of part US information media may have played in recent Hungarian events. Charges have been made media held out promises of US aid to patriots and indulged in inflammatory reporting thereby causing needless loss of life to patriots. In present circumstances it seems to Dept highly undesirable there be conducted any formalized or widespread system interrogations of refugees, since that could lead to charge US heartlessly exploiting misery these people.2 As an alternative Dept arranging for temporary assignment Vienna and Salzburg four FSOs with Eastern European experience. (Travel Orders for Keppel, Valdes, Nickels and Recknagel3 telegraphed separately). Officers should operate as part of normal visa-issuing machinery but basic reason assignment is enable Dept gather impressions and factual data on US media in period preceding and following October 23. Dept interested in obtaining answers questions such as following:

Do refugees consider US radio and pamphlet campaign over period years preceding October 23 had as purpose instigation armed revolt?
What differences if any were noted as between US and other Western media and as between US media?
During period October 23–November 15 were there any specific broadcasts that could be termed inflammatory?
Were commentaries regarded as more influential in above respects than selection straight news items, including statements by prominent Western leaders?
Were any concrete promises of material aid made by any US or other Western media?

As suggested earlier Dept hopes answers these and related questions backed by supporting data can be gathered by Officers discreetly in course normal duties, and that refugees do not gain impression any special effort being made conduct interrogation. Dept has selected four [Page 482] officers because their backgrounds and demonstrated ability gives reason to believe useful data for future will be forthcoming. Dept attaches particular importance to suggestions from officers, who should not confine their thinking to any particular media (Voice, RFE, RL, etc) nor to questions listed. Non-urgent information obtained should be submitted by letter to Higgs, and should include all subjects normally within competence peripheral reporting officers such as current info on political situation in Hungary etc. Urgent matters can be reported by telegram through established Departmental channels.

Further background info respecting project (to be referred to as “Operation Lookout”) will be conveyed by letter from Higgs to Amb. Thompson.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/11–2656. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Horner; approved by Beam; and cleared in substance with Freers and Murphy. Repeated to Paris, Bonn, Rome, and Munich.
  2. On November 21, at the 50th meeting of the Special Committee on Soviet and Related Problems, Alfred V. Boerner of USIA mentioned a proposal to conduct a survey of refugees to determine their sources of news. Both Beam and Comstock opposed the idea. (Ibid., 100.4–OCB/11–2156)
  3. John Keppel was Second Secretary of the Embassy in Rome; Philip H. Valdes held that same position in Paris and also Vice Consul; Horace J. Nickels was Consul at Munich; Thomas M. Recknagel was Second Secretary of the Embassy in Bonn.