182. Memorandum From Frank Chapin of the National Security Council Staff to Director of Central Intelligence Helms1

After a half hour wait in an outer office permeated with understandable turmoil, I had my first meeting with Mr. Kissinger at 5:00 p.m. yesterday.
It was largely a question-and-answer session with little opportunity for an orderly presentation on the origins and functioning of the 303 Committee, although some of the functioning aspects were worked in. Mr. Kissinger observed that I would find he asked many questions. I responded that I would do my best to answer them or get him answers promptly. [2 lines of source text not declassified]
Prefacing his questioning with the comment that he is inexperienced in the intelligence field and in covert actions, he wanted to know:
Once a proposal is considered and approved by the Committee, does he then have to obtain the President’s approval? I explained that this would be a matter for his judgment. Sometimes the Committee approves, sometimes it is elevated to the Secretaries of State and Defense, and some items are taken to the President. I cited the Radios2 as certainly falling into the latter category.
Once a proposal is approved, does it go on ad infinitum? I assured him not and stated that the Committee would be so advised. I also mentioned status reports.
Are there contingency plans in every proposal covering what will be said and done in the event something goes wrong? I explained that there is contained in every 303 Committee paper an assessment of the security and risks involved but generally not a specific contingency plan—although this is taken into consideration in the operational planning. In this connection I explained that in submitting any proposal to the Committee your procedure is to have standing by outside of the Situation Room the Division or Staff Chief, or other most qualified officer, to discuss any details Committee principals might request. Mr. Kissinger stated rather emphatically he was going to want to know about contingency plans in order to protect the President. I would suggest that a new section in the 303 papers might be appropriate on this point.
What is the origin of proposals? How do they reach the Committee? I explained that they might originate with an ambassador, COS, Headquarters, in the State Department or in the Committee itself. He expressed considerable interest in the latter and thought the Committee members should be generators. He said I would find that he was not averse to covert operations (despite his previous line of questioning) as long as they were supplemental to U.S. policy and overt operations. I assured him we felt the same way. I think it would be useful to get to him fairly soon the long range think-piece that the CA Staff is compiling in view of his expressed interest in new ideas.
Other highlights:
Mr. Kissinger will not consider a paper at a 303 Committee meeting unless he has it in hand at least 48 hours in advance. He wants the other principals to have the same opportunity to staff and study them. I assured him this would be done.
He expressed a preference for scheduling 303 Committee meetings at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays. He would like the first meeting on Tuesday, 28 January 1969, to be a general briefing on the Committee and on-going activities contained in the Briefing Book which he had quickly scanned in an earlier meeting with you. He indicated that this meeting should encompass at least two hours. I suggested that such briefings might be spread out a bit more and that the decisions on the Radios were rather pressing, but he was called to the President’s office at this point. As he left, he indicated a desire to talk to me further on Friday, 24 January.

Mr. Kissinger requested that I identify for him, as his staff member, those items in the Briefing Book on which he should brief the President. If you have particular guidance on this I shall appreciate it.

In response to his query, I suggested that the special relationship existing with [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was one item on which the President should be knowledgeable. [3½ lines of source text not declassified] I would guess that at least in earlier meetings of the Committee Mr. Kissinger may wish to ask for more detail on operational methods and techniques than has been usual in the past.

Mr. Kissinger expressed absolutely no knowledge of the JRC and NRO Schedules, which I had listed as a tentative agenda item. It would therefore seem desirable for General Steakley to provide a briefing, either at the Committee meeting or beforehand.3
  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, NSC Files, 303/40 Committee Records, The 40 Committee. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Reference is to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.
  3. In a February 13 memorandum to Helms, Karamessines indicated that he and Chapin planned to meet with Mitchell on February 17 to “give him a very brief rundown on the history of the 303, describe its current procedures, and give a general indication of the types of matters that are referred to it.” (Central Intelligence Agency, O/DDO Files, Job 79–00480A, Box 7, Folder 1, US4—Other Government Agencies, 1969)