36. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Leak of Documents


  • German
    • Ambassador Grewe
  • US
    • Mr. Kohler
    • Mr. Cash

Mr. Kohler began the meeting by commenting that a pretty full briefing was behind the stories out of Bonn.1

[Page 110]

Ambassador Grewe said yes that was true. He said he had been in touch with Bonn, and that Professor Carstens had assured him firmly that there had been no briefing by any official German source and that everything possible had been done to prevent a leak. The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry had stated that the Bonn meeting was merely an exchange of views. He had expressly denied any connection with further talks on Berlin. He had said the Federal Government was fully informed, but further details could not be given. In answer to a question he had said the project of an international access authority had been under discussion since the President’s interview with Adzhubei. This was all that was said officially. The text of the documents was known only to the small number of people who attended the Chancellor’s meeting including the three floor leaders of the three parties. Thus, the Ambassador said, he was really not in a position to agree that these stories were the result of a German leak. The first information concerning the exist-ence of a document was in an AP story in the Washington Post yesterday. Just because a story has a Bonn dateline, he continued, does not mean that it comes from a German source. The New York Times, for example, frequently plants in Bonn stories acquired elsewhere. In addition, there are a number of foreign missions in Bonn.

Mr. Kohler said in this case it was pretty obvious that the story had not originated with the New York Times.

Ambassador Grewe said he could not say what the three floor leaders had done, but he and Professor Carstens had done everything possible to keep the documents secret. There had, of course, been much speculation around the meeting in Bonn.

Mr. Kohler said it was pretty obvious that this story came from an authoritative briefing.

Ambassador Grewe said he failed to see what the Germans could have hoped to gain from a leak. It would not, after all, improve the Ambassador’s position, and that is well-known in Bonn.

[2 paragraphs (3–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Mr. Kohler said this was a serious problem, and the President and the Secretary had both been shocked.

Ambassador Grewe said he could understand this

Mr. Kohler said that in Geneva everything had been given to the Germans, including the draft principles paper, and nothing had leaked. Thus, he had thought the Ambassador’s telegrams might be the source. He said we would just have to review the situation and see if there were not a more secure means that could be used.

Ambassador Grewe commented that the US method of handling this consultation had been overly dramatic. For two weeks the Germans [Page 111] had heard nothing, and then they were given 48 hours in which to respond.

Mr. Kohler said there had really been nothing new in the revised documents. Ambassador Grewe demurred.

Mr. Kohler said he did not agree that there was anything basically new. Furthermore, he did not see how the Germans could disown the technical commissions, which they had previously approved.

Ambassador Grewe said this was unfortunate, and he didn’t know how it had happened. In any event this was not a crucial point.

Mr. Kohler said there was some inclination in the US Government just to turn the whole problem over to the Federal Government and let it handle the matter.

Ambassador Grewe repeated he could not agree that the leak came from a German source.

Mr. Kohler said that the only communication he knew of that had gone to Bonn on this subject was the German message. None had gone to the US Embassy. Therefore, the source had to be German.

[1 paragraph (2–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Mr. Kohler said he doubted that this was the kind of message that would be broadcast by the Embassies here. (Subsequent checks with the French and British Embassies indicated that the French did not repeat their message to Bonn, but the British did. The latter do not, however, regard themselves as primary suspects.) Mr. Kohler continued by saying that he thought the Secretary was going to send a personal message to Foreign Minister Schroeder saying how shocked we were about this and asking if he had any suggestions as to how this could be prevented in the future. It is, after all, pretty fantastic to read such an accurate account in the newspapers.

Ambassador Grewe said the Germans feel that it would be a better method to be in permanent contact and not to ask for a response on such short notice.

Mr. Kohler said he would report this.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/4–1462. Secret. Drafted by Cash and initialed by Kohler. The meeting was held in Kohler’s office at the Department of State.
  2. In the evening of April 13, Kohler had telephoned Grewe to say that all the main newspapers carried stories that included the principal points of the two U.S. papers. Kohler added that the top levels of the U.S. Government were “distressed” and wondered if “purposeful consultation is possible.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation; ibid., 762.00/4–1362) Grewe discussed the leak, telephone conversation with Kohler, and the Chancellor’s meeting referred to in this memorandum in Ruckblenden, pp. 549 ff. During this meeting Grewe also transmitted the Chancellor’s letter (Document 37) to the President.