28. Report Prepared by an Ad Hoc Interagency Committee0



The nature and methods of the conflict with the communist bloc and international communism have undergone major modifications since basic guidelines in this field were established in 1954,1 though the conflict itself continues.

With reference to the present screening program, the following general considerations are significant:

  • —Criteria for the propaganda screening process are easily established only in those instances in which the propaganda is clearly in conflict with existing law, [i.e., advocating treason or insurrection or not marked as to country of origin].2 Criteria suitable for screening propaganda which supports communist cold-war strategy but does not conflict with existing law are less easily established due to changes in both United States and communist policy and tactics. The establishment of such criteria, to be effective, would require high level policy guidance on a continuing basis.
  • —Propaganda not specifically identified as to foreign origin can be more insidious and sometimes more effective than that which is clearly identifiable.
  • —The program has had definite though declining value as a means of obtaining an intelligence informational product which may, however, be adequately provided for now by other mechanisms.
  • —should the program machinery be dismantled, its re-establishment in the event of a shift in security requirements, such as an [Page 65] intensification of the cold war or a major shift in United States or bloc policy, could be accomplished, though with difficulty.
  • —The program has provoked some public complaints that constitutional liberties are being impaired. On the other hand, objection to the receipt of communist propaganda through the mail has been indicated by some addressees. It is by no means certain that the courts, in the four pending law suits discussed in the body of the Report, will sustain the legality of the program as presently conducted.
  • —The program is a relatively inexpensive operation.

The Committee considers that two broad interests must be weighed in determining future policy in this field:

Internal—The extent of any threat to the national security which would result from delivery of material now withheld.
External—The extent of damage to our national objectives abroad by the withholding of material other than that covered by existing legislation.


The screening program for communist propaganda entering the United States has devolved since 1954 to a point where it excludes only a small portion of the totality of communist propaganda which is projected at the United States by way of all media and carriers. It is possible for material similar to that excluded to be disseminated internally. The total communist propaganda effort supports the global communist offensive. It is in part designed to further the aims and purposes of the communist movement in this country. The impact of communist propaganda upon recipients in the United States cannot be readily ascertained or precisely measured. From the point of view of internal security, a program of control of the influx of propaganda into the United States is consistent with an over-all program of measures which seek to neutralize the communist effort in the United States.

A definitive evaluation of the effect of the propaganda now withheld if it were released to the addressees is not feasible, given present measurement techniques. Quantitatively, its total effect may be considered to be as minimal as its proportion to the total volume of communist propaganda which reaches residents of the country at the present time.

The Committee has been unable to conclude that delivery to addressees of material presently withheld on the basis of the current screening program would effect such a change from the present situation that an additional threat of significance to the national security would result.


We are engaged in a total national effort to produce evolutionary changes within the bloc and to orient uncommitted nations to the free world. In this endeavor, a vital element is the stimulation of a free flow [Page 66] of information. Another important element of our effort is the projection of an image of the United States including the open society aspect of our national conduct. The knowledge that we ourselves maintain what is loosely considered a “censorship” program impairs the effectiveness of our presentation abroad.

Adequacy of N.S.C. Action No. 11143

The objectives of N.S.C. Action No. 1114 do not require reformulation. Procedures for implementing these objectives should be revised in accordance with the following recommendations.


The Committee recommends that:

The present program of controls (described in detail in the Committee Report as based on the Foreign Agents Registration Act) under which decisions may be made to withhold delivery, destroy as non-mailable, or proceed to forfeit printed material coming into the United States from communist-dominated areas or communist sources in other areas, should be terminated;
The procedures under which printed material coming into the United States from communist-dominated areas or communist sources in other areas is examined should be maintained; such examination should be adequate to:
Identify, and permit the taking of requisite action against, material advocating or urging treason, sedition, insurrection or forcible resistance to any law of the United States (18 U.S.C. 1717; 18 U.S.C. 957; 19 U.S.C. 1305, see Exhibit 9).4
Ensure that communist propaganda material is marked with the English name of the country of origin in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1304 (Exhibit 9) without regard to dollar value of the individual item.
Make available at the request of interested agencies of the Government, appropriate exemplars and statistics covering material processed. Should changes in the intensity and nature of the communist propaganda be detected possibly constituting a significant danger to the national security, the information should be brought to the attention of the ICIS.

If the foregoing recommendations are approved, N.S.C. Action No. 1365b5 should be rescinded as no longer applicable.

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The Committee considers that the above recommendations will (1) provide continuing information regarding the intensity and nature of communist propaganda imported into the country on which to base policy decisions, should it be decided that such inflow constitutes a significant danger to the national security, (2) provide necessary protection against illegal forms of propaganda, (3) continue the availability of intelligence information, (4) retain a portion of the assembled skills, thus providing ability to increase the intensity of screening if necessary, (5) eliminate some legal problems for the Treasury and Post Office Departments, and (6) be in accord with the over-all United States policy toward the communist bloc.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.60/6–1560. Confidential. The 42-page body of the report and the 25 pages of annexes are not printed.

    According to a memorandum of February 14, 1961, from Kohler to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the Committee was established on August 21, 1959, at the direction of the Planning Board of the National Security Council. Its task was to study the question of the importation of Communist propaganda and to make recommendations to the Board. The Committee included representatives from the Departments of State and Justice, the Customs Bureau, the Post Office Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Information Agency, the Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security, and the National Security Council. The Committee was chaired by Richard D. Kearney of the Office of the Department of State Legal Adviser.

    According to a memorandum from Secretary Rusk to President Kennedy on March 13, 1961, the report was considered by the NSC Planning Board on July 20 and August 19, 1960, at which time the Board agreed that further action on the report should be deferred until late 1960. (Ibid., 511. 60/3–1361)

  2. Not further identified.
  3. Brackets in the source text.
  4. Dated May 13, 1954. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) NSC Action No. 1114–b is quoted in Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXIV, p. 207.
  5. Exhibit 9 is included among the annexes to the report, which are not printed.
  6. Taken by the NSC at its 243d meeting on March 31, 1955; see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXIV, pp. 208210.