243. Memorandum From the Assistant Deputy Director for Plans of the Central Intelligence Agency (Karamessines) to Director of Central Intelligence Raborn1


  • Operating Relationships with Ambassadors
This is in response to your request, passed on to me by Mr. Warner, for a statement of our operating relationships with Ambassadors.
There are several documents setting forth guide lines for these operating relationships. Principal of these the agreement between the State Department and CIA which was [1 line of source text not declassified] sent to all Diplomatic and Consular officers, 10 October 1957.2 Subsequent to this, President Kennedy’s letter of May 1961 reaffirmed the Ambassador’s overall responsibility for all U.S. Government activities in his area. Shortly after President Kennedy’s letter, and in order to resolve any possible ambiguity which might have been caused by that letter when taken together with [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] clarifying instructions, worked out jointly between State and CIA, were sent to our field stations on 10 August 1961. Among other things, they directed all Chiefs of Station, if they had not done so before, to brief their Ambassadors on the substance of their operations with particular reference to intelligence operations and to all major covert action operations.3
The above documentation is attached for your convenience.4 In practice, our operating relationships with Ambassadors are completely in accord with the principles and general requirements enunciated in this documentation. We divide our operational activity into two general sectors as far as the briefing of Ambassadors is concerned. In the first of these, covert action, we work very closely with the Ambassador and frequently with one or more members of his senior staff since we are operating in an area in which policy plays a major role. We almost never recommend to Headquarters from the field a covert action operation of any importance or magnitude without first securing the approval of the Ambassador. This is essential because the Director of Central Intelligence will normally be reluctant to go before the 303 Committee with a proposal for such an operation unless it has the sanction of the Ambassador. Furthermore, the Department of State will normally not favor an operational proposal which does not enjoy the Ambassador’s support. It should be pointed out that, on occasion, the operational proposal originates with the Ambassador and is proposed to the 303 Committee by us at his request. Thus, in the area of covert actions, there is an almost intimate working relationship with an Ambassador although we reserve unto ourselves as a general rule the selection and the protection of sources and methods.
Such misunderstandings as do infrequently arise between a Station Chief and an Ambassador these days will usually be found in the area of clandestine collection as opposed to covert actions. In this area, we have occasional difficulty along one or more of the following lines:
An Ambassador may feel that our reporting on the internal political situation is unnecessary or troublesome. In such cases, we point out that the Ambassador, who invariably receives an immediate copy of all such reports, has the right to file a “dissenting opinion” if he does not agree with the report or with the field’s comments on the report.
An Ambassador may demand to know the identity of the source of our information. Although this does not happen often, we have had one or two instances of it within the past few months. In such cases, we cite the responsibility under the National Security Act of 1947 of the Director of Central Intelligence for the protection of sources and methods and, if he presses the matter, it is referred to Headquarters for resolution. We take the position that only the DCI can empower our field representatives to reveal the identity of a source.
An Ambassador may feel that we are employing an agent or clandestine source who is so highly placed in the local government that compromise of the operation could well result in a major diplomatic incident affecting not only the Ambassador but the existence of the Embassy itself. [Page 531] We recognize the extreme sensitivity of such exceptional cases and where these occur the Ambassador is made aware of the identity of the source.
The recent study5 of the comments of some 60 or 70 Ambassadors on our Chiefs of Station shows an overwhelming majority expressing confidence and trust in our Chiefs of Station and full satisfaction with the manner in which we keep them informed of our activities. We do have occasional difficulties with Ambassadors [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] but these instances are rare. Occasionally, an Ambassador [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] will demand to see our files on a given operation. We regularly decline to comply on the grounds that compliance would tend to compromise sources and methods. In almost all such cases, when the problem is explained by our Chief of Station with Headquarters guidance and support, there is no further difficulty.
Recent initiatives, ostensibly stemming from budgetary and managerial considerations, have been made to codify and systematize the budgetary and manpower aspects of all our civilian overseas activities taking place within the cognizance of an Ambassador. Our participation in these efforts has been granted special protection in the form of separate highly classified annexes to the main studies and plans. Nevertheless, it will continue to require diligence if we are not to be caught up in such exercises in a way which would make it virtually impossible to keep our budgetary and manpower figures as well as our operations from being compromised.
Thomas H. Karamessines
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/IMS Files, Job 78–5505, US Govt-State. Secret.
  2. Scheduled for publication in a Foreign Relations intelligence retrospective volume for 1956–1960. A copy is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/MS Files: Lot 60 D 220, 1957/61, Inter-Agency, CIA.
  3. The instructions specified that the Ambassador “be made sufficiently aware of them so that, in his capacity as principal officer responsible for the United States position in the country to which he is accredited, he is enabled to make an informed judgment as to the political risks involved.” The instructions stated further that “in many of your activities there are involved sensitive source identities and sensitive techniques, which it is desired that you safeguard. The Ambassador at times will feel he needs to know these, and in some instances, has a right to know. Judgment with respect to these, however, may have to be made ultimately in Washington.” Also, “there will be occasions when an objectively discussed problem will result in an honest difference of opinion between you and your ambassador regarding whether an operation should be carried on. President Kennedy’s letter makes clear that you have your own channels of communication and may use them to refer your problem to higher levels here. While the ambassador also has his own channels to Washington, he will normally expect you to convey his views on such matters via your channels.” (Attachment to draft memorandum from Helms to Crockett, October 5, 1965; ibid., Job 78–3805, US Gov’t-Dept of State)
  4. Not found attached.
  5. Not further identified.