144. Memorandum From President Kennedy to the Director of the U.S. Information Agency (Murrow)1

The mission of the United States Information Agency is to help achieve United States foreign policy objectives by (a) influencing public attitudes in other nations, and (b) advising the President, his representatives abroad, and the various departments and agencies on the implications of foreign opinion for present and contemplated United States policies, programs and official statements.

The influencing of attitudes is to be carried out by overt use of the various techniques of communication—personal contact, radio broadcasting, libraries, book publication and distribution, press, motion pictures, television, exhibits, English-language instruction, and others. In so doing, the Agency shall be guided by the following:

Individual country programs should specifically and directly support country and regional objectives determined by the President and set forth in official policy pronouncements, both classified and unclassified.
Agency activities should (a) encourage constructive public support abroad for the goal of a “peaceful world community of free and independent states, free to choose their own future and their own system so long as it does not threaten the freedom of others;” (b) identify the United States as a strong, democratic, dynamic nation qualified for its leadership of world efforts toward this goal, and (c) unmask and counter hostile attempts to distort or frustrate the objectives and policies of the United States. These activities should emphasize the ways in which United States policies harmonize with those of other peoples and governments, and those aspects of American life and culture which facilitate sympathetic understanding of United States policies.

The advisory function is to be carried out at various levels in Washington, and within the Country Team at United States diplomatic missions abroad. While the Director of the United States Information Agency shall take the initiative in offering counsel when he deems it advisable, the various departments and agencies should seek such counsel when considering policies and programs which may substantially affect or be affected by foreign opinion. Consultation with the United States Information Agency is essential when programs affecting communications media in other countries are contemplated.

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United States Information Agency staffs abroad, acting under the supervision of the Chiefs of Mission, are responsible for the conduct of overt public information, public relations and cultural activities—i.e. those activities intended to inform or influence foreign public opinion-for agencies of the United States Government except for Commands of the Department of Defense.2

Where considered advisable, and except for direct international broadcasts by the Voice of America, the United States Information Agency is authorized to communicate with other peoples without attribution to the United States Government on matters for which attribution could be assured by the Government if necessary. The United States Information Agency shall, when appropriate, coordinate such activities with the Central Intelligence Agency.3

John Kennedy4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, USIA, Box 290. Confidential. Murrow submitted this restatement of the USIA’s mission to the NSC on September 26; see Document 140.
  2. In an October 25 memorandum to Bromley Smith, the Chief of the Bureau of the Budget’s International Division, Robert Amory, Jr., commented negatively on this paragraph of the draft statement submitted to NSC on September 26: “we do not believe USIA has legal authority to carry out all public information activities of other agencies abroad, e.g., Peace Corps, HEW, Commerce, AEC, etc.” The paragraph, however, was not changed.
  3. President Kennedy signed an unclassified version of this memorandum on February 25 for public dissemination that omitted the last paragraph on CIA coordination. (Department of State, USIA Historical Collection, Agency History/63) In a May 25 memorandum to Bromley Smith, Tom Sorensen requested that the January 25 statement be declassified except the last paragraph, which should remain confidential in order that the USIA have a single statement with more force. McGeorge Bundy replied affirmatively in a June 17 memorandum to Sorensen. (Both in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, USIA, Box 290)
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates President Kennedy signed the original.