48. Editorial Note
In its June 3, 1969, issue, The New York Times carried a front page story by Hedrick Smith headlined “U.S. Said to Plan an Okinawa Deal Barring A-Bombs.” Henry Kissinger telephoned U. Alexis Johnson, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, early that morning and told him the President was “fit to be tied” by the article. (Notes of telephone conversation; National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, U. Alexis Johnson Files: Lot 96 D 695, Telcons, Personal) The President’s Assistant H. R. Haldeman wrote in his diary for that day: “Big flap about Okinawa leak in New York Times. Rick Smith had complete and accurate story about contents of an NSC Decision memorandum. P[resident] really upset because of jeopardy to national security. Had me call Cushman, Richardson and Laird, have them get complete internal report on who had access, etc.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) Haldeman telephoned Richardson and told him: “the point is that it is obvious that this seriously impairs our negotiating position; also obvious that the leak was by someone who had access to the NSC paper; and the President feels that unless we find out who it is, the entire NSC meetings are compromised.” (Notes of telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Richardson Papers, Box 104, Telcons)[Page 106]
In a telephone conversation between Laird and Kissinger, June 3 at 11:40 a.m.: “L said President had given him a note about his concern over the story today in the New York Times. K said concern is no expression—he is climbing walls. L said he is sure it is not out of his shop. K said L will get an official request by President to conduct an investigation. K said we have a pretty good idea where it came from, but in order to be fair we are going to ask every senior official to make an investigation. L said it was the worst thing that could have happened over there. K said there was one argument that it was leaked in order to get the hard-line Senators stirred up. L said he would wait for the memo. K said he would get it from Haldeman on the plane. K said frankly we do not think it comes out of L’s shop. L said it is a lousy thing to come out now and K said it was disastrous.” (Ibid., Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
The referenced memo, if it was prepared, has not been found.
The next morning The New York Times carried a front-page article by Hedrick Smith headlined “Nixon–Thieu Talk May Bring Accord on U.S. Troop Cut.” In a conversation between Secretary Rogers and Kissinger at 10:30 a.m. that day: “R again said he was concerned about Okinawa thing—we have to be sure that deliberations made by NSC are secure. K asked if R had any idea as to where leak came from. R said no reason why anyone at State would do it—it is quite contrary to our best interests. K said only one on his staff involved was State Dept man, close associate of Alex Johnson’s and has the same views.” (Ibid.)
In a 2 p.m. conversation with Kissinger on June 3: “The President wanted to know if HAK had any more ideas on where the story came from. HAK felt there was a pattern that is emerging by people trying to get out ahead to steal the thunder. Richardson is really shaken and realizes that the President just won’t discuss anything with them if this continues and the President agreed. Only one person in his office was aware of this HAK said. The President’s opinion was that it was coming from State. HAK said someone called his attention to the fact that Beecher had not written a byline since these stories started coming from Smith. The President wasn’t as concerned about this as he was the Okinawa story. He wanted to make sure HAK had told Rogers he had changed his mind and HAK confirmed that he had discussed this. They agreed to go along the three guidelines and to reaffirm just that.” (Ibid.)
Haldeman entered the following in his diary for June 4: “New security flap about troop withdrawal leak. [The President] had me call all Departments again, this time to say we know someone gave a back-grounder, wants report on who. Of course all denied it. Then wanted more detailed push on NSC Okinawa investigation. By evening was really mad. Kept calling me from San Clemente house with new orders [Page 107] to investigate.” Haldeman’s informal, handwritten notes for June 4 included the following entries: “skip NSC Weds—P. has decided to skeleton them. cut NSC to one every 2 wks—or once a month. less papers[.] more brought privately to P. for his decision w/K. go right fm subcomm to P—not to NSC”; and later in his notes, “decided because of leaks—no NSC mtg on SALT talks[;] none from now on until further notice[;] no paper on any of this.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, Haldeman Notes, Box 40) In his diary for June 4, Haldeman wrote that the President “decided no more NSC meetings. Result of leak. Can’t trust to papers. Will make decisions privately, with K.”
Haldeman conveyed the same information in telephone conversation with Kissinger on June 4 at 5:25 p.m. In reply, “K said he agrees with much of this but we have to go thru the NSC on next two sessions on strategic arms talks. K said we have to have a meeting on the 13th and one on the 18th—after that we can put into effect what the Pres wants. K said NSC is President’s one way of keeping control of the Govt. K said we need to cancel the Wednesday meeting, but it should be held some other time during the week because we do not want Pres accused of holding up talks. It was agreed to tentatively block out 3:30 on Friday, June 13, for two hours.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological Files)
In a June 9 memorandum, Alexander Haig, Kissinger’s deputy, advised Kissinger “to discuss [with Nixon] procedures associated with future NSC meetings in the light of the President’s reaction to recent leaks. Termination of formal NSC meetings would adequately constitute an unacceptable modification in the announced policy formulation process and would open the Administration to serious charges, which we would have difficulty answering in the face of the justifications promulgated earlier.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Haig Chronological File, Box 957, Haig Chron—June 1969). The National Security Council met on June 13 and again on June 18 and 25.
The Okinawa leak also spurred further discussion about phone taps. Haldeman noted in his diary for June 3 that he had a “long talk with K[issinger] about his leaks. E[hrlichman] and I had breakfast with him and advised him to move out the suspect people. He later told P that this is what he’s doing. Set up detailed plan for tapping all suspects, not carried out.” According to Haldeman’s informal, handwritten notes for June 3, Ehrlichman made the following proposal: “full list of all who have access to NSC papers[;] tap all exc. K. Haig & members of NSC[,] all sub cab & others—tap on.”