9. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to Secretary of Defense McNamara1

Dear Bob:

I am disturbed by the effect on our relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Poland of the recent incidents involving clashes [Page 27] between United States Military Attachés and local officials in those two countries. I have in mind particularly the Khabarovsk affair and the shooting incident in Poland.2 These are the latest manifestations of a problem which has caused serious difficulties in our relations with the Communist countries for some years. Although the fault lies in most instances with the authorities of the other governments concerned, our people sometimes contribute to incidents through over-zealousness, violation of local laws or failure to appreciate the responsibilities underlying the enjoyment of diplomatic privileges and immunities.

I think the time has come to review our policies, regulations and instructions governing the intelligence-gathering activities of our military personnel in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in an effort to reduce the chance of future incidents which might cause further complications in the pursuit of our over-all foreign policy objectives. We are also concerned that the present trend, if not checked, may result in the curtailment or even termination of the activities of our Attachs in the Communist countries. There have occurred in the past few years several developments that have a significant bearing on this problem. In the first place opportunities for political gains among these countries have increased, while the improvement in our relative power position and a reduction in U.S.-U.S.S.R. tensions have reduced the likelihood of military engagement. Second, other methods of intelligence collection have become available, thereby raising the question whether the risks Attachés should take need be so great as formerly. A further relevant consideration is that last year for the first time we imposed restrictions in the form of closed zones on the movement of Attachés of the Eastern European countries in the United States.3 This step, taken without regard for reciprocity, has, as expected, produced a reaction from the Eastern European Governments prejudicial to our relations with them and to the environment in which our Attachés operate.

The Department and our diplomatic missions abroad, particularly those in Communist countries, appreciate the contribution of our Military Attachés to national security. Their responsibilities receive and will continue to receive the full support of the Department of State and our Ambassadors as one of several important and interrelated functions of our diplomatic posts. In the light of recent developments, however, we should make sure, in the effort to protect the diplomatic immunity of the Military Attachés themselves as well as all other members of our missions [Page 28] in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, that the operations of our Attachés conform as far as possible to diplomatic standards. I have two suggestions.

Renewed attention to the points in President Kennedy’s letter of May 29, 19614 regarding the Ambassador’s authority to coordinate and oversee activities of all personnel of United States Government agencies assigned to his mission, and in National Security Council Intelligence Directive No. 2 (Revised January 18, 1961)5 concerning the coordination of collection activities and the Ambassador’s responsibility in this regard.
The development of guidelines to govern the activities of all United States personnel engaged in the overt collection of military intelligence in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The guidelines, which would be formulated by appropriate officers of our Departments, should have as their basic theme the obligation of all of the officers on an Ambassador’s staff to contribute to the creation and maintenance of a climate which will give this Government the best possible opportunity to implement United States foreign policy in the country concerned. This would, for example, call for Embassy officers to seek required intelligence to the maximum extent possible through overt collection activities, and to avoid pointless conflict with a security system which is an ever-present fact in Communist countries, though at times and after appropriate clearance exceptions could be made.

May I have your approval of or comments on these suggestions as well as any other views you have on this general subject? If you agree to a more detailed exchange between our Departments on this matter, may I suggest that you have the appropriate officers of your Department make contact with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard H. Davis and Deputy Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research George C. Denney, Jr.

I shall look forward to hearing from you in this matter.6

With warm regards,


Dean 7
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, PER 12. Secret. Drafted by Vedeler, Henry, and McAfee and cleared by Llewellyn Thompson, Denney, and Davis.
  2. Documentation on the incident in Khabarovsk, September 28, is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIV. The reference to a shooting incident has not been identified.
  3. For texts of the November 12, 1963, statement outlining travel restrictions of East European diplomats, the U.S. notes to individual countries, and a list of U.S. counties closed to travel, see Department of State Bulletin, December 2, 1963, pp. 860–863.
  4. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 1345–1347.
  5. The revision was approved at the 474th meeting of the National Security Council, January 18. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) The text of the original paper, dated September 15, 1958, is ibid., Gray Papers, NSCID series.
  6. No reply was found.
  7. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.