280. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Karamessines) to the Executive Director—Comptroller (Colby)1


  • Presidential Letter

Dear Bill:

I am delighted to see that you share my view that we need to get a Presidential letter to Ambassadors instructing them to give our representatives in the field greater support and to discontinue the practice (which some of the Ambassadors actively pursue) of actually placing [Page 636] unnecessary impediments in our way.2 I touched on this in talking to Ken Dam, I have briefed the PFIAB full secretariat along these lines, I have given Gordon Gray a specific suggestion along these lines, and I have mentioned it to the DCI whose reaction was that I was perhaps being overly optimistic. He certainly is in favor of a try.
With respect to your draft, I really do not believe it serves the purpose. I am afraid that any Ambassador reading it would see it as a further order from the President to bear down on CIA and to call for more direct participation and control in what we do. I think much of the language in your draft would be useful in impressing Ambassadors with the importance of the collection of national intelligence, but I would be interested in seeing such a letter define more clearly the fact that much of our activity in many countries overseas is so-called “third country” operations. This could be spelled out in more definitive terms since I know at least two or three Ambassadors who would not understand it otherwise.
I have taken another look at the roger channel message which went out on December 17, 1969 as a Top Secret supplement3 to the President’s letter to Ambassadors of December 9, 1969. That message was the best we could get from the Department at the time. What we need now, I believe, is a shorter, simpler Presidential communication which stresses the importance of national intelligence collection, makes clear that the President must look primarily to the Director of Central Intelligence and his overseas representatives for this intelligence, and reminds Ambassadors that their full support and that of their missions is essential to the accomplishment of this national task. The one specific item which should be covered would be the “third country” operational item mentioned above. Normally, Ambassadors are quite content with our internal operations which support their local interests but take a dim view of our maintaining additional personnel in order to do our counter-intelligence work and our Soviet, ChiCom, Satellite and related activities both within and beyond the host country. This is the area on which the State Department has been zeroing in in an effort to get us to lay it all out in black and white and in great detail for the Ambassadors. I do not believe that it would serve our best interests to accede to this kind of enlargement of State and Ambassadorial direct interest in the details of our operational activities.
We made a copy of your draft letter and will see if we can come up with something that incorporates some of the thrust of your proposal as well as some of the thrust of my augmentation above.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–M00165A, Box 21, Folder 446, State/Letters to All Ambassadors. Secret.
  2. In an August 8 memorandum to Karamessines, Colby reported that he suggested to Helms “the possibility of a Presidential letter to Ambassadors to obtain their full support of the intelligence effort,” and Helms “indicated interest in the idea.” (Ibid.) Colby attached a draft of the letter, which he viewed as a counterpart to President Nixon’s December 9, 1969, letter to Ambassadors (Document 310).
  3. Document 311.