279. Memorandum From the Secretary of the 303 Committee (Jessup) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Notes on 303 for PFIAB

[2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified], what do we do about projects once we have approved them to maintain some sort of check.

The answer is quite simple: We call explicitly for progress reports as frequently as we want them, and since projects are approved on a yearly basis their renewal automatically comes before us.

We have had some 18 status reports specifically requested during the past 18 months and 30 project renewals. The minutes handed to the Board members give an indication of this. We also feel free to request summaries of certain situations such as Haiti where an unstable situation exists, and from time to time the committee recommends some action.

To the question: Are there any activities which should come under the committee which for one reason or another evade the committee’s scrutiny?, we can answer: Following the Katzenbach committee explorations in December 1967, the 303 ordered that all projects involving covert action programs not specifically considered by the Katzenbach committee should be rounded up for review by the 303. We are satisfied that this has been done with complete goodwill, and in those areas where there may be laggards (projects approved earlier but not reviewed recently) we can direct that they be placed on the agenda.2

The only countries to which I would not give a complete clean bill of health as of this moment are [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. In each of these instances, appropriate persons are aware of the covert activities there but the committee as such, with its present makeup, cannot be said to have signed off on them.

Examples of the gradual tightening noose on all activities of potential embarrassment are twofold. First, the Chief of Naval Operations Binnacle program, a long-standing extensive U.S. submarine reconnaissance program which had semiannual briefings for the committee, is now considered mission by mission on a monthly basis and has been incorporated into the JRC forecast. Second, certain U.S. Coast Guard [Page 606] and Geodetic Survey nonreconnaissance missions have been brought into the monthly schedule since they have a small embarrassment potential.

I think you can emphasize that this is one of the less cumbersome, more effective, tight working groups in government with Rostow, Bohlen, Nitze and Helms, men who have worked closely over the years and understand each other’s problems. There is no friction and a sense of accomplishment.

Two trends might be noted: One is the “platter is full” attitude of Secretary Rusk, who is reluctant to entertain additional new risks at a time of sensitive talks, problems like the Pueblo and an election year. This is to say that Secretary Rusk takes a very careful look and is “from Missouri” as far as requirements are concerned-they had better be of an urgent nature in these times.

The second trend is that of the heavy hand of the Bureau of the Budget which increasingly, due to its Presidential directives, does not necessarily accept the unanimous approval of the 303 without taking issue in its battle to cut costs.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, 303 Committee. Top Secret.
  2. [text not declassified]
  3. [text not declassified]