266. Memorandum for the File0


  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Over the past two weeks I have had several discussions concerning nuclear test ban agreement. The purpose of this memorandum is to record the position that I have taken:
In discussions with Mr. Foster and the Executive Committee1 I have stated that the intelligence input which is referred to in the Disarmament Position Paper2 is based very largely on special intelligence which has to do with the travels of individuals and the movement of equipment related to Soviet nuclear testing. I pointed out that these intelligence sources might readily be lost by the establishment of land lines and the taking of other precautionary steps on the part of the Soviets which would lose these intelligence sources to us.
In my talks with Foster I asked him the specific question as to how far the Soviets could go in underground testing and be free of detection and identification under his proposed system of utilizing national seismic resources plus black boxes, plus 8 to 10 on-site inspections per year. He responded that the upper limit would be one kiloton in granite, 2 kiloton in tuff, and 10 to 20 kiloton in alluvium. He then added that under the theory of probabilities that it was probably unrealistic to assume the Soviets could conduct a series of tests at these limits without getting caught; however they could conduct a single test and probably get away with it in Foster’s opinion. I then told Foster that under those circumstances, I could not support the treaty and while I would not oppose it, since doing so would not be consistent with my position on the part of the President’s organization, nevertheless I wanted him to understand that my position before Committees of Congress in both closed and open hearings, in a number of public speeches, in press conferences and in TV appearances such as “Meet the Press,” I have taken a position which called for the suspension of only those tests which could be reasonably verified and since the thresholds he mentioned were sufficiently high to permit Soviet nuclear weapon development, when we would be foreclosed from doing so, my subscribing to the proposed treaty would be inconsistent with what I thought was the right thing to do and what I [Page 654] had consistently advocated publicly. Foster said he thought I should talk to the President.
I did meet with the President on 20 February 1963 and I did review this matter substantially as outlined above for I wished him to understand my position. The President made no particular comment although he did recognize my position. I went on to say that I doubted if such a treaty would be approved by the Senate and the President concurred in this view.3
At a reception given by President Betancourt for President Kennedy,4 Secretary McNamara came to me, reviewed his difficulties with this subject before the Senate Armed Services Committee and proposed a most dynamic action on the Hill in the interests of getting the treaty, which he felt imminent, approved by the Senate. I told Secretary McNamara my position as outlined above and this resulted in an exchange of views as to the relative US/USSR position in nuclear weapon technology with, or without, testing. Secretary McNamara seemed to feel that we were better off with a test ban treaty even though the Soviets cheated a little bit than we would be otherwise. I disagreed with this viewpoint.
At a dinner on Wednesday, February 27th, Senator Symington queried me and I told him that for the reasons which are outlined above, I could not support the treaty, that I would not oppose it, that the Soviets could make important advances by clandestine testing under the threshold, and that these advances would be significant and important but probably would not affect the relative US/USSR balance of power, although the USSR would make advances in the nuclear weapon field by clandestine testing which we would be deprived from making. On Friday, March 1, in flying south, Senator George Smathers asked me my ideas and I expressed the same concern as I did to Senator Symington.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI, ER Subject Files, White Papers—Nuclear Test Ban, 3/1/63-1/21/64. Secret. Drafted by McCone.
  2. See Documents 260 and 264.
  3. See Document 264.
  4. McCone’s memorandum of this February 20 meeting with the President contained ten points covering many subjects. Points 6 and 7 summarized their discussion on the test ban issue:

    • “6. I told the President that I was concerned over the concessions in the test ban treaty; we had gone far past my public position and that I felt the treaty if negotiated would encounter great difficulty on the Hill. The President said he felt the treaty would not be worked out, and if it was, he concurred that the securing of a two-thirds vote was almost an impossibility.
    • “7. The President questioned the need for further nuclear development except in the field of anti-ballistic missiles, and I suggested, and he agreed, to meet with the laboratory directors, indicating that they felt their particular points of view had not reached those in a policy making position. The President then stated that the China problem was the only reason for pursuing this negotiation.” (Central Intelligence Agency, McCone Files, Meetings with President, 1/1/63-3/31/63)

  5. The reception was held on February 20. (Kennedy Library, President’s Appointment Books)