284. Editorial Note

Following President Nixon’s re-election on November 7, 1972, the President and his closest advisers turned their attention to replacing key administration officials for the second term. During a dinner discussion with President’s Assistants H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman on November 9, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger raised the possibility of replacing Director of Central Intelligence Helms with James Schlesinger, then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. The next day Haldeman reported the discussion to the President, who responded that replacing Helms with Schlesinger was a “very good idea.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

On November 20 the President met with Helms, told him he was going to make a change at CIA, and offered him an ambassadorship. According to Haldeman’s diary entry for November 20, “Helms lobbied for Iran, P responded very favorably and agreed to hold Iran open until Helms decides whether he wants it or not. He urged Helms to take it.” Helms “pushed” William Colby or Thomas Karamessines as his successor. (Ibid.) The next day Helms sent the President a memorandum again urging consideration of the two men and providing detailed information on their careers. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Confidential Files, Subject Files, FG 6–2) That same day the President met with Schlesinger. According to Haldeman’s diary entry for November 21, “P made him the pitch on wanting him to consider CIA, asked him how he would go about it. Schlesinger had some ideas. Agreed with P’s view that it needed to be changed and that the DIA was even worse, and that the Director of Central Intelligence should exercise overall control of both but does not now.” Haldeman noted further that Schlesinger “obviously wants the CIA job and is perfectly willing to leave the AEC. He did suggest holding it until March, when Helms becomes sixty and would logically retire, which would also give him time to get cleaned up at the AEC.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition)

On November 22 the President had Haldeman call Helms “to tell him we want to make the change in March when he reaches sixty, but we want to make the announcement earlier, and that we’ll keep Iran open for him.” However, on November 28 the President indicated he wanted “Helms to move sooner, rather than waiting till March if he will.” That same day Helms told Haldeman that “he would be delighted to take the Iran post.” (Ibid.) The President appointed Schlesinger Director of Central Intelligence on December 21. He was confirmed by the Senate on January 23, 1973, and was sworn in on February 2, the same day that Helms resigned. Helms was appointed Ambassador to Iran on February 8 and presented his credentials on April 5. He served as Ambassador to Iran until December 27, 1977.