203. Memorandum From Peter Jessup of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Proposed Name Change for Special Group (5412)

There seems to be some merit in changing the name of the Special Group (5412)2 to something utterly drab and innocuous. Following the publication of the Wise/Ross book3 additional interest may be focused on it.

Since the Group does make highly classified decisions, its working methods and the people who compose it should be protected. If it is surfaced as an elite policy command, its members will be more vulnerable to speculative publicity, i.e., “The second most powerful man in Washington, Alexis Johnson”, “Bundy’s Secret Task Force”, “McCone’s Three Musketeers”, “The hand inside McNamara’s glove, Cy Vance”, “The Four Horseman”, etc. etc.

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Therefore, the mildest, most easily forgotten or confused description would be best. Anything clever, startling, or attractive should be avoided. No SMERSH men, we. The words “Special” and “Group” and any number should be dropped.

The following banalities come to mind:

  • Positive Actions Board (PAB)
  • Periodic Decisions Unit (PDU)
  • Executive Review Committee (ERC)
  • Security Review Staff (SRS)
  • Joint Committee on National Security (JCNS)
  • Subcommittee on National Security (SNS)
  • Plans Review Board (PRB)
  • The Invisible Group (IG)
  • International Affairs Problem Unit (IAPU)
  • Periodic Review Directorate (PRD)
  • International Affairs Council (IAC)
  • Interim Decisions Council (IDC)
  • Interdepartmental Decisions Unit (IDU)
  • National Policy Decisions Forum (NPDF)
  • Executive Action Adjustment Unit (EAAU)

All of these are repulsive but might suit our purpose.4

Peter Jessup 5
  1. Source: Department of State, INR Historical Files, Special Group Meeting, February 21, 1964. Secret.
  2. Special Group 5412 was the name given to the group assigned responsibility for the planning and conduct of covert operations, as set forth in NSC 5412, “National Security Council Directive on Covert Operations,” March 15, 1954. See footnote 5, Document 263.
  3. Reference is to David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, The Invisible Government (New York: Random House, 1964).
  4. A handwritten notation, probably by Bundy, in the left margin just below this sentence reads: “McC[one] v. any change.” Nevertheless, at a meeting of the Special Group on May 21, the members agreed after a brief discussion to issue an NSAM redesignating the Group “as a committee with the number which will be assigned to the NSAM.” (Department of State, INR Historical Files, Special Group Meeting, May 21, 1964) For text of this NSAM, see Document 204.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.