141. Letter From the Director of the U.S. Information Agency (Murrow) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (Sylvester)1

Dear Arthur:

Don Wilson is out of the country, and I am replying to your letter of November 16 on Defense Department accreditation of USIA representatives.2

I am surprised at your equation of USIA representatives with commercial news media correspondents, particularly since you well understand the use of news and public affairs as “weapons” of diplomacy and power. It would be more accurate to equate our representatives with uniformed and civilian staff of the Defense Department who work with the commercial media people.

USIA representatives are government officials, not “correspondents” as the meaning is applied to representatives of the Washington Post or CBS. We are not in the news business as such, but in the business of furthering U.S. objectives through information activities abroad. The importance of our activities in supporting the national interest was re-emphasized in the Cuban affair.

We seek Defense Department accreditation and authorization for travel on military carriers only when successful carrying out of our mission requires us to do so. I hope, therefore, that you will not treat us “on the same basis as a non-government newsmen” but on the basis of our common desire to further the government’s interests. This to me means taking care of our needs (along with yours) first, not last.


Edward R. Murrow3
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA Files: FRC 68 A 4933, Government Agencies-DoD/1962. No classification marking. Drafted by Tom Sorensen on November 30.
  2. This letter contained the message: “Recent increase in the number of requests for Defense Department accreditation suggests there may be some misunderstanding on this subject. . . . We will continue to do this but not on the basis of blanket accreditation of your correspondents any more than any other group.” (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.