281. Letter From the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Sullivan) to Director of Central Intelligence Helms 1

Dear Dick:

Reference is made to my desire to discuss with you matters affecting the American intelligence community. As you know, I mentioned this to you some months ago and you said you would like to have Rufe Taylor in on the discussion. This, of course, is most acceptable to me.

To give you a very brief general idea of what I have in mind, a few thoughts are being set forth below as follows:

  • First, rightly or wrongly I do not believe that the American intelligence community is functioning at the peak of its efficiency. In fact, as a whole I think we are considerably below this level. (Naturally I am much better able to substantiate this view relative to my own work than I am with the work of others.) The community has but one basic objective and that is the security of the United States. We should let no stone go unturned in achieving this end.
  • Second, as we exist now I think we suffer from (1) lack of effective coordination; (2) inadequate knowledge of each other’s operations; (3) obsolete administrative procedures and relationships; (4) thinking which is geared at times to past decades; (5) conflict of organizational interests; (6) on occasions unnecessary organizational and personality clashes and rivalries; (7) certain negative overtones in delimitations agreements; (8) failure to use fully each other’s resources; (9) duplication and, at times, working at cross-purposes with each other; (10) a too limited use of the great scientific resources that could be applied to intelligence problems; (11) an inadequate sharing of highly specialized skills, talents, and abilities of certain employees of our respective agencies; (12) fixing of definite responsibilities individually, collectively and organizationally; etc.
  • Third, there is no need to tell you that we are living in an age of profound and rapid flux. It has been well said that the recurrent shock of our age is the discovery that concepts and patterns of action of a more secure past no longer fit present reality. It is suggested that the entire American intelligence community might do well to start with this as a premise and conduct a most searching, honest, and exhaustive analysis [Page 608]of our respective agencies for the purpose of re-structuring them to meet the great changes of our age. Your own thinking was in this context some weeks ago when at USIB you mentioned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the need for all of us to engage in penetrative self-examination.
  • Fourth, with a new Administration of one kind or the other coming to the White House in January, it would seem this is the time for the American intelligence community to reassess its position, its policies, procedures, goals, etc., with the idea in mind of moving ahead of the winds of change instead of being blown by them later on willy-nilly.
  • Fifth, I am not certain just where and how we should begin, or the course to be set, or the means to pursue it. This is one reason I would like to have a talk with you.
  • Sixth, attached you will find some fragmentary thoughts relating to the type of thing that comes to mind when I examine our own operations here in the FBI. Obviously this is very incomplete and sketchy, but it may give you a working clue to what I have in mind and the over-all context to which I allude.

This week I must go to Iowa Wesleyan College to lecture. On my return I intend to take some annual leave and will not be back into the city until around November 10. When convenient for you and Rufe Taylor, I would like to get together following my return. It may be that this could be arranged after a USIB meeting. Sam Papich is familiar with the contents of this letter and will be in contact with your secretary to work out the necessary arrangements.

With all good wishes,


Bill Sullivan
[Page 609]


Recognizing that other agencies have resources such as files, equipment, overseas coverage, experienced intelligence officers, technical specialists, linguists, and research capabilities, we have conducted a self-examination of our current efforts in order to determine what constructive steps could be taken to improve on existing coordination and/or dialogue with other agencies. Set forth are some suggested courses of action.

Do more to utilize selected Negro personnel, including ROTC members attending Negro colleges where manpower problems exist.
Utilization of selected and appropriate ethnic military personnel previously trained for the development of information in riot areas.
Increasing the screening of Negro military service personnel preparatory to their discharge as potential sources in racial areas and related fields.
The utilization and exploitation of military personnel with foreign backgrounds in whom hostile nations have expressed interest. Institution of steps to insure that such personnel are assigned to the continental United States rather than transferred to other areas throughout the world where their potential cannot be utilized to the best advantage of the United States.
Expand the use of Communist Party sources under Bureau control where foreign travel would bring the sources in contact with the communist leadership in foreign countries.
The reinstitution of sophisticated mail coverage between the United States and selected foreign countries.
The development of a program whereby all agencies making up the intelligence community would exchange lecturers at various training schools.
Improve the exchange of technical information between the FBI Laboratory and counterparts of other agencies making certain we take advantage of the research facilities available to those other agencies.
The utilization of professional intelligence officers in various colleges and universities under the cover of graduate students.
Revise the Legal Attaché system so our foreign service men can better assist foreign operations of The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and military intelligence.
Work as a unit to extract from the best brains in science concepts which can be translated into practical devices relevant to the gathering of intelligence information.
Develop a program for utilizing the United States as a base and source for developing persons who can be utilized in foreign intelligence operations of CIA.
Dovetailing specific practical programs to help accomplish the ends of item 12.
Pooling the best brains and individuals with the greatest amount of specialized experience for the purpose of helping to solve each other’s problems and to arrive at solutions for difficult courses of action. Working out a joint program for developing intelligence information on investigative subjects who are constantly traveling into and out of the United States.
Designating personnel from respected members of the intelligence community to perform joint research and analysis on highly specialized operational matters.
Utilization of the total resources of the American intelligence community for penetration in various forms of the countries and the communications of hostile nations.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, Job 80–B01580R, FBI. Secret; Personal. William C. Sullivan was FBI Assistant Director in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division.
  2. Secret.