632. Memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson to Rusk, March 131

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  • McCone’s Report on Cuban Intelligence prior to the October Crisis

Mr. McCone telephoned me yesterday morning and, referring to the last paragraph of my memorandum to him of March 6, asked what our objections were to his report to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He said he did not want to exchange any more memoranda but wanted to [illegible in the original] “bothering us”.

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[illegible in the original] in the course of which [illegible in the original] (1) the problem [illegible in the original] of the juxtaposition of your suspension on September 11 of our flights, together with the [illegible in the original] statement on the limited number of flights [illegible in the original] delays, as [illegible in the original] with it the implication that you were seeking to delay [illegible in the original], whereas anyone had [illegible in the original] jointly agreed to your suggestion and did not then nore later even point out that any delay was involved. I also noted that the [illegible in the original] to you at that time was not correct and that a correct version was contained [illegible in the original] in my memorandum of March 4.

[illegible in the original] it the way the object of the [illegible in the original] refugee reports on [illegible in the original] throughout the [illegible in the original] the impression that they [illegible in the original] for a “strong suspicion” that MRBMs were in Cuba and then “the decision-making levels of the Government” were not aware of this suspicion prior to October 14. I said that, to the best of my knowledge, this was not the case and that the application in the report that it was the case could raise the question concerning the [illegible in the original] faith of the statements [illegible in the original] made by Government officials on the absence of [illegible in the original] errors in Cuba [illegible in the original] including McGeorge Bundy’s statement of October 14.

[illegible in the original] I [illegible in the original] of the on that the [illegible in the original] sufficiently to the [illegible in the original] re a fair [illegible in the original] in view of the [illegible in the original] installation reports in the [illegible in the original] were distributed until after the October/November 19 as [illegible in the original]

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With respect to the first point, Mr. McCone said he did not propose in his testimony before the Stennis Committee that afternoon to deal with what the Secretary or other individuals said, and he thought it was “fair for the Secretary to take the position that no one at the September 10 meeting warned him that his insistence on four flights might cause a delay”. He discussed at great length the “climate” in Washington at the time adverse to U–2 flights. He did not feel that “the responsibility for the photographic gap was necessarily the total responsibility of any particular individual or any particular agency, but was due to the climate [illegible in the original]. In this connection he referred to the “famous telephone call” to [illegible in the original] prior to the September 12 meeting from Tom Parrot who said he was willing on Mac Bundy’s behalf stating that Bundy [illegible in the original] questions that would be asked by the Secretary of State:

1. Was the intelligence necessary?

2. Was there any other means of getting it?

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3. Was [illegible in the original] trying to create a U–2 incident over Cuba?

I replied that I had no recollection or [illegible in the original] call. With respect to the substance, it seemed to me that the [illegible in the original] and I did not [illegible in the original] as far as I was [illegible in the original] could I recall that Mr. McCone had sought to justify U–2 flight on the basis of the suspected presence of missiles, but rather at the October 10 meeting [illegible in the original] simply in terms of areas in the west which [illegible in the original] for some time. He said that the [illegible in the original] collateral report on missiles which had been brought to my attention had carried a [illegible in the original] that the report was probably seen an [illegible in the original] existed, they certainly [illegible in the original] checklist but, [illegible in the original] McCone said he [illegible in the original] the reports in the [illegible in the original] [Facsimile Page 3] personally had the reports called to our attention we would not have done anything about them”. He said that, in view of what he (McCone) had said at the August 23 meeting at the White House and the issuance of [illegible in the original] on what they said prior to [illegible in the original] out the presence of missiles in Cuba.

On the “climate question” I said I felt that, as far as my personal knowledge was concerned, I thought he was laying too much emphasis on this. Everyone was of course concerned over the possibility of the loss of a U–2 as the Soviets completed the installation of their SAM sites in Cuba and everyone was interested in doing all they could to minimize the possibility of such a loss. However, I was certainly not aware of any “climate” adverse to obtaining all the intelligence we easily could on Cuba. If the “suspicion” on missiles in Cuba had [illegible in the original] clearly brought out during that period it would of course [illegible in the original] our attitude on the risks. Nevertheless, [illegible in the original] of any respect for [illegible in the original].

In view of this conversation, in which I clearly recorded our discent with these portions of McCone’s report to the Intelligence Advisory Board, I do not propose to reply in writing to his memorandum of March 7.

I would appreciate your passing this memorandum [illegible in the original]. If you are agreeable, I plan to show a copy to Mac Bundy.

  1. McCone’s report on Cuban intelligence prior to the October crisis. Top Secret. 3 pp. DOS, S/S Files: Lot 65 D 38, Miscellaneous.