87. Editorial Note

Executive Order 10938, May 4, 1961, established the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) in the wake of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and increased attention to the role and activities of the intelligence community. The proposed order was prepared in the Bureau of the Budget from a draft submitted by the Special [Page 179] Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and was forwarded to President Kennedy by Attorney General Robert Kennedy on April 27. A May 4 White House press release announced the issuance of the new executive order and listed the members of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board as follows: Chairman Dr. James R. Killian, Jr., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. William O. Baker, Vice President of Research of Bell Laboratories; Lieutenant General (ret.) James H. Doolittle; Dr. William L. Langer, professor of history at Harvard University; former Under Secretary of State Robert D. Murphy; and General Maxwell D. Taylor (ret.). J. Patrick Coyne, Executive Secretary of the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities, PFIAB’s predecessor, continued to serve as Executive Secretary. Documentation is in the Kennedy Library, White House Central Subject Files, FG 732 (Executive), President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Box 205.

The text of Executive Order 10938 signed by President Kennedy reads as follows:

“By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, it is ordered as follows:

  • “Section 1. There is hereby established the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The function of the Board shall be to advise the President with respect to the objectives and conduct of the foreign intelligence and related activities of the United States which are required in the interests of foreign policy and national defense and security.
  • “Sec. 2. In the performance of its advisory duties, the Board shall conduct a continuing review and assessment of all functions of the Central Intelligence Agency, and of other executive departments and agencies having such or similar responsibilities in the foreign-intelligence and related fields, and shall report thereon to the President each six months or more frequently as deemed appropriate. The Director of Central Intelligence and the heads of other departments and agencies concerned shall make available to the Board any information with respect to foreign intelligence matters which the Board may require for the purpose of carrying out its responsibilities to the President. The information so supplied to the Board shall be afforded requisite security protection as prescribed by the provisions of applicable laws and regulations.
  • “Sec. 3. Members of the Board shall be appointed from among qualified persons outside the Government and shall receive such compensation and allowances, consonant with law, as may be prescribed hereafter. Such compensation and allowances and any other expenses arising in connection with the work of the Board shall be paid from the appropriation appearing under the heading ‘Special Projects’ in title I of [Page 180] the General Government Matters Appropriation Act, 1961, 74 Stat. 473, and, to the extent permitted by law, from any corresponding appropriation which may be made for subsequent years. Such payments shall be made without regard to the provisions of section 3681 of the Revised Statutes and section 9 of the act of March 4, 1909, 35 Stat. 1027 (31 U.S.C. 672 and 673).
  • “Sec. 4. Executive Order No. 10656 of February 6, 1956, is hereby revoked.” (26 Federal Register 3951)

According to Clark Clifford, who was one of the original members of PFIAB and its Chairman from April 1963 until the beginning of 1968, PFIAB met for the first time on May 15, 1961, under Killian’s chairmanship. Thereafter PFIAB met regularly during President Kennedy’s administration, holding 25 meetings between May and November 1961 and presenting to the President 170 formal recommendations, of which the President approved 125, rejected 2, and deferred action on the remainder. Clifford recalled that 85 of the 125 approved recommendations were implemented. President Kennedy met at length with the PFIAB on at least 12 occasions. Clifford’s account of his service on PFIAB under President Kennedy emphasizes the President’s objective of seeking a Board membership of diverse backgrounds and expertise. Clifford recalled that for him the two most valuable members of PFIAB were scientists Dr. Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid Land camera, and Dr. William Baker, who brought to the PFIAB the most recent scientific knowledge and discoveries bearing on the technical acquisition of intelligence information. (Counsel to the President: A Memoir, New York: Random House, 1991, pages 350 ff.)

The editors of this volume researched the historical records of PFIAB for the purpose of documenting the Board’s main lines of activity and its major recommendations to the President. PFIAB subsequently suspended the research access for Department of State historians for security reasons, and at PFIAB’s request the Department’s Office of the Historian returned to PFIAB all copies of documents obtained from PFIAB files, before declassification of any of those records was approved by PFIAB.

Documentation on the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities established by President Eisenhower’s Executive Order No. 10656, February 6, 1956, is scheduled for publication in a volume of the Foreign Relations series documenting the development of the intelligence community beginning in 1950 through 1955.