128. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to All Assistant Secretaries of State and Bureau Heads 1


  • White House Clearances of Policy Telegrams

The Executive Secretariat has had many questions recently about White House clearances and the procedures involved in obtaining such clearances. I hope that the following comments will be of assistance to you and your Country Directors and Desk Officers.

In general, when a Bureau is following policy already established by the NSC system, the highest clearance needed on an outgoing telegram is that of an Assistant Secretary or his Deputy or a Country Director. (Procedurally, both Exdis and Nodis cables receive an S/S clearance for administrative reasons.)
In cases where a telegram has major policy implications or involves the interest or special competence of one of the principal officers (the Secretary, the Under Secretaries, the Deputy Under Secretaries or the Counselor) a clearance from the appropriate Principal should be obtained.
If a Bureau believes that, because of policy changes or innovations, a White House clearance may be required on a telegram, the telegram should be drafted for the approval of a Principal, and S/S should be advised of the possible need for White House clearance. S/S will seek the Principal’s judgment as to whether a White House clearance is necessary.
When need for White House clearance is established, S/S is charged with responsibility for obtaining the appropriate clearance in coordination with the NSC Secretariat.
Please ask your staffs to bear in mind in considering requests from other offices to be included “on clearance,” the need for clearance as contrasted with the need to be informed (which can be covered with a copy of the outgoing cable). As you are aware most substantive telegrams are routinely distributed to the NSC.
Procedures for obtaining White House clearance on non-policy telegrams (e.g., those involving the schedules of the President or members [Page 277] of the White House staff, non-substantive Presidential messages to foreign leaders) are the same as the foregoing except that approval by a Principal is not necessary.

Don’t hesitate to call on me or one of my Deputies (Mr. Brewster or Mr. Curran) if you have any general or specific questions on this matter.2

Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/SNSC Memoranda Files: Lot 72 D 370, Memos, November 1970, Vol. 2. No classification marking. Copies were sent to Veliotes and Williams (U); Getz and Monjo (J); Suchman (D); and McHenry (C).
  2. The Executive Secretary provided the same guidance in a memorandum distributed on April 21, 1971. (Ibid., S/S Memos, April 1971, Vol. 4)