6. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara 1
- State—Secretary Rusk
- Defense—Secretary McNamara
- CIA—Mr. McCone
- ACDA—Mr. Fisher
- White House—Mr. McGeorge Bundy
- White House—Dr. Wiesner
- White House—Dr. Welsh
- White House—Mr. Johnson
- NASA—Mr. Webb
- USIA—Mr. Murrow
- Possible Disclosure of Satellite Reconnaissance
Following discussions among your representatives, we have concluded that no additional action to disseminate more knowledge of our [Page 14]satellite reconnaissance capability is required at this time in support of our disarmament and other policies.
This memorandum summarizes our findings on the nature of present official and unofficial knowledge of U.S. satellite reconnaissance, and on ways in which wider knowledge might affect allied and Soviet acceptance of our disarmament proposals.
State of Allied Knowledge of U.S. Satellite Reconnaissance Program:
As a result of actions taken following the review of the political and public handling of the U.S. satellite reconnaissance program under NSAM 1562 in the summer of 1962, all NATO heads of government, Foreign Ministers and NAC Permreps were told officially of our reconnaissance satellite program—the fact that we had it, that it was developing well and was directly benefiting the alliance, and finally, that the U.S. must maintain it at all costs. A somewhat similar briefing was given to several selected neutral officials. None of those briefed [2 lines of source text not declassified] were shown pictures, and no details of the quality or extent of coverage were given. Changes have occurred in four NATO Governments and in the NAC since these briefings, and we have made arrangements to brief the appropriate [3 lines of source text not declassified].
A list of foreign officials who have been briefed on the program is at Tab A.3
Much satellite-derived information is presently being incorporated into NATO planning documents, particularly the Target Data Inventory which provides exact locations on such military targets as Soviet SAM, MRBM and ICBM launch pads. This information is classified Secret and there is no attribution of source. The nature of the data is such, however, that we must assume that many of the more than 500 non-U.S. NATO officials who have access to the TDI deduce its overhead photographic origin.
We are aware of no basic disagreement within NATO on the accuracy of our intelligence, and thus find no present necessity for additional disclosures to our Allies, either in terms of briefing more people or of giving more details about the program.
We have examined NATO and other non-Bloc press coverage of reconnaissance satellites but, with the exception of the U.S. press, find [Page 15]nothing of significance. We plan to query selected U.S. Embassies in an effort to determine more clearly the level of public and official awareness of the U.S. satellite program and attitudes toward it. If our experience with recent proceedings of the UN Outer Space Committee is a valid indicator, most non-Bloc states tend to accept space reconnaissance as a fact of life and to view attendant political considerations with indifference. This situation is satisfactory from our standpoint.
Soviet Statements on and Awareness of U.S. Satellite Reconnaissance Program:
Over the past 18 months we have noted a decline in Soviet press articles and statements on U.S. satellite reconnaissance. The Soviet press regularly reports “secret” launches of U.S. “spy” satellites, but these are only two or three sentence summaries of U.S. press agency stories, usually without Soviet comment. We have seen little else in the Soviet press since last summer on any aspect of reconnaissance satellites, and certainly nothing to compare either with earlier Soviet assaults on such activity or with recent U.S. articles on this subject. There has been no Soviet commentary yet on these U.S. articles adverting to extensive U.S. space reconnaissance operations.
In the UN Outer Space Committee negotiations, the Soviets have relaxed (but not abandoned) their position of long standing on banning reconnaissance satellites, at least to the extent of making agreement possible last fall on general principles of space law, without reference to reconnaissance. It is clear that the Soviets have taken this action without prejudice to future negotiations, but it does represent a significant shift in Soviet tactics.
The new Soviet attitude may result in part from experience they have acquired with reconnaissance satellites. In the last year the USSR has launched a large number of recoverable satellites, some of which carried low resolution cameras. We have intercepted Soviet video transmissions of pictures from these cameras. It is quite possible, given the 10,000 lb. weight of the Soviet Cosmos vehicles, that higher resolution cameras were aboard as well. Khrushchev hinted as much when he told Spaak last summer that the Soviets were photographing the U.S. and even offered to show Spaak some pictures. Adzhubey is reported to have made a similar statement in Finland in September 1963.
On the basis of the inconclusive evidence we have acquired in the last year or so, we believe that (a) the Soviets are certainly aware of the program, although probably still uncertain of its precise scope and quality; (b) they are prepared for the moment to live with it, in part [Page 16]because there is no feasible alternative open to them to stop it, and (c) they are probably engaged in a reconnaissance effort of their own. As they acquire first hand experience, their awareness of the strength and weaknesses of space reconnaissance may have some influence on their future proposals in space and disarmament matters.
Relationship of Satellite Reconnaissance to Current U.S. Disarmament Proposals:
At Tab B is a study, prepared by ACDA, attempting to gauge the impact of satellite photography on the principal current arms control proposals under consideration in ACDA, and on the contribution satellites can make in monitoring agreements already in effect, i.e., the test ban and the resolution against bombs in orbit.
A separable first stage proposal on strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and production cutoff would, of course, be heavily dependent on our unilateral reconnaissance capabilities. The degree of this dependency may well have to be revealed in part to make a separable first stage proposal acceptable to our Allies and domestically. Until a U.S. position on this matter is fully worked out, however, we cannot usefully anticipate possible solutions to this problem.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, TKH Jan. 1964–Feb. 1965, Box 1. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. Copies were sent to William Bundy and Brockway McMillan (DOD); Wheelon and Cline (CIA); and Ambassador Thompson, Chayes, and Hughes (Department of State).↩
NSAM No. 156, May 26, 1962, requested
the Department of State to organize an interagency committee to review
the negotiations on disarmament and international cooperation in outer
space. For the workings of this committee, see
Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. VII, Document 226.↩
- This two-page list is not printed.↩