246. Memorandum From the Secretary of the 40 Committee (Jessup) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Possible Ways to Improve 40 Committee Procedures

It does no harm to have a look at work in progress. In this connection, facing an election year, two summit-type visits, and who knows what unforeseen crises, it seemed worthwhile to examine what we have been doing in the covert action approval process and to determine if there is any way to streamline the procedures.

In any approach to the type of material discussed in these meetings, it should be emphasized that there is no other existing forum in which covert actions designed to remain nonattributable can be approved.

You, yourself, made it quite clear on 17 October 19692 that covert action proposals approved by the 40 Committee are automatically cancelled if not reviewed annually.

Therefore, in a sense we are in a box. To create another committee to handle non-urgent nickel and dime projects would hardly be efficient.

At Tab A is a list of pending approvals, mostly renewals, which fit the context of this memo.

At Tab B is a memo worked on by Colonel Kennedy and myself which analyzes the type of projects reviewed since 1 January 1970. Three additional breakdown charts are attached to that memo as Tabs C, D, and E.

However, I can recommend that we adopt the following step: On such routine matters as renewals and/or completely noncontroversial projects we could do the ground work in advance by clearing the paper through the other principals, getting their o.k.’s, determining whether they have any questions or reservations, then submitting a group of them to you with the normal NSC staff input, and you could sign off or resubmit as an agenda item as you saw fit, much in the same way as the monthly JRC reconnaissance schedule is handled.

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Such a system would save your time as well as the time of others and get the papers cleared more rapidly than now when less pressing items are just postponed from week to week. The meetings would have a lower tedium factor, and specific projects of more immediacy could be handled more promptly.

In other words, Action projects such as [1 line of source text not declassified] could take their place in meetings as Category 1 items, whereas obscure [2 lines of source text not declassified] et al could be packaged as Category 2 items in a folder for your consideration after all staff work is completed.

I would recommend we try this. Any member who disputes a paper (no matter how innocuous) would, of course, have the right to raise his objection in a meeting and provoke discussion. Dealing with a small intimate group of six persons well known to each other, this could be done easily.




  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, 303/40 Committee Records, The 40 Committee. Secret; Eyes Only; Outside System. Sent for action. Sent through Haig. The tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. See Document 195 and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. Kissinger initialed this option.