17. Memorandum for the Record1


  • NSC Review Group Meeting, 23 January 1969
The first meeting of the NSC Review Group was held in the White House Situation Room on 23 January under the chairmanship of Henry Kissinger.2 Others in attendance as regular members of the Review Group were Dick Pederson, Department of State; Paul Warnke, Department of Defense; Lt. General William Rosson, Joint Staff; and Haakon Lindjord, Office of Emergency Preparedness. In addition, Morton Halperin, Helmut Sonnenfeldt and Spurgeon Keeny—all members of the White House Staff; General Andrew Goodpaster, temporary advisor to Kissinger; Hugh Ryan, U.S. Information Agency; and Samuel DePalma, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
The first part of the meeting was devoted to a description by Kissinger of the functions of the NSC Review Group. He described it as being essentially like the NSC Planning Board of the Eisenhower [Page 44] administration but with the primary task of presenting papers on major policy issues to the NSC in such form that choices could be made among feasible alternatives. He made a sharp distinction between policy exploration and operational decisions. He said the Review Group would deal only with the policy issues and leave operational decisions to the appropriate departments. The fundamental role of the Review Group is to select, on the basis of the best information and judgment available, those issues appropriate for NSC decision and to present those issues in a format which would facilitate choices among options.3
Kissinger placed considerable emphasis on the President’s desire for secrecy regarding all NSC discussions. The President wishes to have a free give-and-take during NSC meetings and wishes not to be restrained by fear of leaks or public discussions of views expressed. He wishes to keep secret even the subjects under discussion. Regarding Review Group meetings, Kissinger at first urged that the information be handled as NoDis is now handled. In the subsequent discussion he was made aware that the various agencies could not perform their tasks without providing dissemination to IRG representatives as well as heads of key offices. At this point Kissinger invited each member to present at the next meeting his needs for communicating within his own agency the actions of the Review Group. It was also agreed that the Secretary of the Review Group, presently Morton Halperin, would distribute minutes of the meetings which could be used as a basis for briefing within the separate agencies.4
This organizational discussion was followed by a discussion of the paper on [the] Non-Proliferation Treaty. This was a crisp substantive discussion during the course of which a number of descriptions of pros and cons underlying key issues were modified. A revised draft was to be circulated to the members on the following day for coordination. Early in the following week the paper is to be distributed to the NSC members as a basis for discussion at the next meeting.
R. J. Smith
Deputy Director for Intelligence
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80–B01086A, Executive Registry, Box 7, Folder 223, NSC Review Group Meeting. Secret. Drafted by Smith on January 25.
  2. According to the Record of Decisions at the meeting, it was decided that the Review Group would meet weekly. (Johnson Library, Halperin Papers, Chronological File) According to a list compiled by the NSC Staff in 1974, the NSC Review Group and its successor the Senior Review Group met 140 times from 1969 through 1972. (Records of NSC and Related Meetings, January 20, 1969–December 31, 1972; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 311, Listings of NSC and Related Committees’ Meetings, 1969–75) Other records indicate, however, that there were additional meetings not included on the list. See also footnote 2, Document 178.
  3. In reporting on the Review Group meeting at the DCI’s morning meeting on January 24, R. Jack Smith, Deputy Director for Intelligence, emphasized that the group “will make no decisions but will identify choices and options.” (Memorandum for the Record by R. J. Smith, January 24; Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80–B01086A, Executive Registry, Box 7, folder 223, NSC Review Group Meeting) Kissinger reported at the Review Group’s March 6 meeting that the President had told him “he likes the options format for NSC papers. He wishes, however, that obviously absurd options be removed and wants the Review Group to indicate which options appear to be the more logical or ‘respectable.’ “(Memorandum for the Record by R. J. Smith, March 7; ibid.)
  4. According to the Record of Decisions at the January 23 meeting, no record was to be made of the group’s discussions but instead the NSC staff would distribute a record of decisions that would provide the basis for de-briefings of decisions according to a procedure to be determined at the group’s next meeting. (Johnson Library, Halperin Papers, Chronological File) However, beginning in June 1969 and continuing into 1973 minutes for most meetings are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Boxes H–111-H–113, SRG Meeting Minutes, Originals. Talking points, papers for discussion, and other briefing and background material for individual meetings from January 1969 to December 1976 are ibid., Boxes 90–103. Briefing and background material for meetings from January 1969 to January 1977 along with minutes for many meetings are also at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Boxes CL 302–307. R.J. Smith’s records of discussion at a number of meetings between January 1969 and June 1970, including meetings for which there are no minutes at the NSC, are in the Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80–B01086A, Executive Registry, Box 7, Folder 223, NSC Review Group Meeting.