341. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Republic 1

88396. Eyes only for the Ambassador from the Secretary.

A New York lawyer for ALCO, Mr. James Birdsall, has recently reported to Department substance of a lengthy conversation he had with Nasser in Cairo on October 12.2 Main thrust of conversation was reaffirmation of desire maintain good relations with US, arguments aimed at demonstrating that US and UAR had many common interests in area and request that USG exert new initiative to resolve Yemen impasse. There was strong plea for resumption PL 480 wheat shipments [Page 674]and expectable indications of what Nasser and UAR would do to be helpful if wheat forthcoming. Disturbing element was Nasser’s statement to Birdsall that within last 18 months to two years he had become convinced that US determined overthrow his government and possibly go so far as to assassinate him. He added that “he had indisputable evidence that within the last several months agents of the CIA had entered into a conspiracy with Egyptians aimed at his assassination and violent overthrow of his government.” He said he would be prepared to disclose evidence and to discuss matter with any representative of USG.
In same conversation Nasser, while not accusing you of being active participant in any “plot,” said he had no evidence that you not aware of plot. Birdsall’s answers were responsible, forthright, and adroit. He refused as private citizen examine any so-called “evidence” and said only he would convey Nasser’s concern to USG. Problem of UAR suspicions of USG intentions is one with which both you and we have been wrestling for many months. We have no illusions that any single action on our part can in itself reestablish new atmosphere of mutual evidence. At same time we feel that Nasser’s open-ended offer disclose “evidence” to a USG official carries with it an opportunity that should not be cast aside.
I believe it would be appropriate, unless you perceive serious objection, for you to see Nasser to make following points:
It has been brought to attention of USG that reports have reached the highest levels of the GUAR to the effect that the USG is involved in an alleged “plot” to interfere directly in the internal affairs of the UAR in opposition to President Nasser and his government.
You have been personally authorized by me to deny categorically the authenticity of such reports and to assure Nasser that the USG has no intention or desire to interfere in the UAR’s internal affairs.
I want President Nasser to know of my concern at this indication of an obstacle to confidence between our two Governments and my belief that it is to the interest of both countries that this matter be expeditiously dealt with.
I believe that these reports and accompanying material should be subjected to joint scrutiny by competent intelligence technicians from the US and the UAR. I would like to send a high-ranking and responsible official of the Central Intelligence Agency to Cairo to discuss this matter with the appropriate UAR authorities and carefully to examine and comment on any material which the UAR may wish to make available to him. [2 lines of source text not declassified]
The USG would give serious consideration to any alternative suggestions which President Nasser might care to make as we strongly desire to set the record straight as quickly as possible.3
  1. Source: Department of State,INR Historical Files, Roger Channel Telegrams, Cairo. Secret; Roger Channel; Special Handling. Approved by the Secretary. A draft of the telegram was sent to Rusk with a November 10 memorandum from Hare setting forth its background. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL UAR-US)
  2. Hare’s November 10 memorandum states that Birdsall’s memorandum of the conversation (not found) had been shown to and discussed with James Critchfield of the Central Intelligence Agency, who state that “CIA is involved in no operations in the area which could in any way be interpreted by the Egyptians as ‘evidence’ of the kind they claim they have.” Hare noted that although it was highly unusual for a Chief of State to communicate through a private individual, Nasser had since 1952 had significant conversations with prominent but non-official Americans such as Robert Anderson. Hare thought they should take Nasser’s statements seriously and act on the assumption that he would expect a response.
  3. Battle reported in telegram 3300 from Cairo, undated, received on December 11, that he raised the subject with Nasser on December 10. He followed paragraphs 3a through e of telegram 88396 closely, telling Nasser that he was following Rusk’s personal instruction. Nasser said immediately he had no feeling that Battle was personally involved. Battle thought he seemed “extremely surprised at the subject of our conversation and a little flustered.” When Battle pressed him to make available the evidence he had mentioned, he replied that except for the Mustapha Amin case, he had not had anything for perhaps 2 years. Nasser made numerous efforts to change the subject and indicated no willingness to pursue the matter with Battle or anyone else. Battle thought he either had no evidence or was uncertain about making it available. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 UAR)