192. Draft Memorandum From the Executive Director of the National Security Council (Smith) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

I have seen a copy of Ray Cline’s memorandum2 regarding the President’s Intelligence Checklist and would like to offer my opinions.

One of the most important functions of the Checklist is the open invitation for the Director of Central Intelligence and his boys to comment on everything in the Government they want to talk about. Furthermore, it gives them an avenue of written approach to the President and to you, and to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, where they can put in highly sensitive material which they could be sure no one else would see and yet wouldn’t have to brief individually men who are hard to catch.

A third and most important factor is that a small group of people can prepare this, it can be prepared rapidly without any detailed coordination in the Government, and if there is a mistake in it, or if there is something in it which the President might see and not want to have disseminated, it is very easy for us to go back to the originators of the material and turn off the water before it gets spread over town.

Last but not least, if there is to be criticism of the CIA on things which are put out from the Director’s office, this certainly would enlarge the number of people who can shoot at the CIA and its material.

As far as I can see, this just makes it another intelligence paper which has lost most of its value to the President. If they are going to enlarge it to this extent, I would suggest that we drop our subscription and settle for the Central Intelligence Bulletin, and then have only individual reports, summaries and analyses from the Director to the President as we see a need for them.

Perhaps you will recall some of our problems with a simple Eyes Only message and how we try to keep the distribution down. With this many people fumbling with the Checklist, disseminating it, [1 line of source text not declassified] we might just as well print it in The New York Times. I think we will reach more people faster, but not much.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Bromley Smith Papers, Chronological File. No classification marking. The memorandum is unsigned. Its filing location suggests it was prepared between February 21 and 24.
  2. Under cover of a February 21 memorandum to Bundy, Cline forwarded a new distribution list that included the President and 12 other U.S. Government officials. (Ibid., National Security File, Clifton Files, CIA)