311. Circular Airgram From the Department of State1


REF: Roger channel. For the Ambassador.

The President’s letter of December 9, 1969,2 setting out the authority and responsibilities of the American Ambassador of course applies fully to the CIA Station as it does to other elements making up the U.S. Diplomatic Mission. To make it possible for you to discharge your responsibility for direction and coordination, your Chief of Station has been instructed by his headquarters to insure that you are sufficiently informed of covert action projects and espionage and clandestine counterintelligence programs to enable you to make an informed judgment as to the political risks involved.
You may expect the Chief of Station, among other things, to review with you the covert action programs, such as psychological war [Page 696] fare, black and grey propaganda, political action and economic action being carried out pursuant to directives approved at the Washington level. Similarly he will present his clandestine intelligence programs in terms of their scientific, political, technical and military information objectives, carried on against approved intelligence community requirements, through working relationships with local intelligence and security services and through independent activities. He will also review his clandestine counter-intelligence programs to acquire knowledge of other intelligence organizations, to manipulate some members of these to U.S. advantage, to obtain information by counter-intelligence activities, as well as by espionage, about Communist parties and to counter their objectives through local services and independent activities, and to develop a higher capability through training the so-called friendly services.
Many of the activities of your CIA station involve sensitive source identities and sensitive techniques which the Director of Central Intelligence has a statutory responsibility to safeguard. As a general rule, you will not be expected to be cognizant of operational details (such as agent identities) and communications involved in the work of the CIA. In certain cases you may need to know these. For example, you should normally know the identity of any person with whom you have official dealings who may also have a covert or clandestine relationship with CIA. However, in some cases judgment with respect to disclosing source identities and sensitive techniques may ultimately have to be made in Washington. Your Chief of Station has been directed that if he is in serious doubt about passing on these ultimate details, the matter should be referred to Washington where decision will be made after consultation between the Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretary of State.
Apart from the question of sources and techniques, it is recognized that differences of view may arise as to whether an operation should be undertaken or continued. When such differences cannot be resolved locally, they should also be referred to Washington preferably by CIA channels, unless you wish to communicate your position privately to the Department in which case the Roger channel is available.
This message has been seen and concurred in by the Director of Central Intelligence.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–M00165A, State/Letters to all Ambassadors. Top Secret. Drafted by Sidney Buford (INR/DDC) on December 16, cleared by Karamessines, Karamessines and Cline and Coerr, and approved by U. Alexis Johnson. Helms had informed Johnson in a May 7 memorandum, that after reviewing a draft of the Presidential letter that was eventually sent to Ambassadors on December 9, he was willing to concur in the letter on the understanding that a classified Roger Channel message would be sent as a codicil to the Presidential letter. The message was designed to make clear to Ambassadors that they were not expected to be cognizant of the sensitive details of clandestine operations and communications of CIA, while also assuring Ambassadors that Station Chiefs would continue to keep them “appropriately informed of covert action projects and clandestine intelligence and counterintelligence programs,” especially those involving “high policy sensitivity.” (Ibid.)
  2. Document 310.