The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the U.S. Government. The Historian of the Department of State is charged with the responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The staff of the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, under the direction of the General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes in the series. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg first promulgated official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.

Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, established a new statutory charter for the preparation of the series which was signed by President George H.W. Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102–138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C. 4351, et seq.).

The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant U.S. diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the U.S. Government. The statute also confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded. The editors are convinced that this volume meets all regulatory, statutory, and scholarly standards of selection and editing.

Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the Nixon and Ford administrations. The volume documents the Panama Canal treaty negotiations from January 1973 until December of 1976, focusing on Ellsworth Bunker’s efforts to create a series [Page IV] of threshold agreements with the Panamanians, based loosely on the Kissinger-Tack Principles of 1974. The volume also documents Congressional challenges to the negotiations with the Panamanians, as well as discussions between the Department of State and the Department of Defense regarding the breadth of Bunker’s negotiation instructions.

This volume continues the narrative regarding the Panama Canal treaty negotiations established in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume E–10, Documents on American Republics, 1969–1972, which covers U.S.-Panamanian relations from 1969–1972. Readers interested in the outcome of the negotiations during the Carter administration should consult the forthcoming Foreign Relations, Volume XXIV, Panama, 1977–1980, which covers the negotiation and signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the debate over ratification in Congress, the drafting of implementation legislation, as well as non-Canal issues between the United States and Panama. For regional context, readers should consult Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume E–11, Part 1, Documents on Mexico; Central American; and the Caribbean, 1973–1976, and Volume E–11, Part 2, Documents on South America, 1973–1976.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XXII

The four compilations included in this volume provide a record of the Nixon and Ford administrations’ policy regarding the Panama Canal Treaties, which were concluded by the Carter administration in 1977 and ratified by the Senate in 1978. Each compilation examines one year of the negotiations.

The 1973 compilation looks at the Nixon administration’s decision to resurrect the stalled negotiations with Panama, after a tense session at the United Nations where Panamanian officials embarrassed the United States by drawing attention to the unfinished treaties. The compilation tracks the nomination of Ellsworth Bunker as chief negotiator, notes objections to the Treaty from the Department of Defense and Congress, and examines the early stages of negotiation between the two governments.

In 1974, the United States and Panama finalized the Kissinger-Tack Principles, a series of eight statements that formed the skeleton for the eventual Carter-Torrijos Treaties. Throughout the year, negotiators concluded a series of threshold (draft) agreements based upon these principles. Documents in this compilation focus on the myriad challenges that the negotiators faced, from nationalist sentiment in Panama, to the resignation of President Nixon, to continued obstinacy from the Department of Defense, and to Strom Thurmond’s Senate Resolution 301 which threatened to halt negotiations.

By 1975, Ambassador Bunker and his team had exhausted their negotiating instructions and needed President Ford to allow them [Page V] greater flexibility with the Panamanians. Officials from the Department of Defense, however, objected strenuously to reducing the duration of the treaty and feared the consequences of turning the Canal (and the responsibility to protect it) over to Panama too quickly. Thus, the 1975 compilation focuses heavily on the negotiations between State and Defense, which took up most of the year and placed negotiations between the United States and Panama in a holding pattern. In August, State and Defense were able to strike a compromise and President Ford issued National Security Decision Memorandum 302, which instructed the negotiators to seek a treaty that preserved U.S. control of the treaty until at least December 31, 1999 and “to propose to the Panamanians that the treaty duration applicable for defense be separated from its application to operation of the Canal,” mandating a minimum of 40 years for defense rights. While NSDM 302 failed to provide enough flexibility to finalize a treaty with Panama, it allowed talks to continue and reduced opposition within the Department of Defense.

The 1976 compilation examines treaty negotiations during an election year. With President Ford facing criticism about his policy towards the Canal from both Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the U.S. negotiating team proceeded slowly. The delays, however, created anxiety in Panama, where economic problems, combined with the slow pace of the talks, led to unrest. Several bombings in the Canal Zone, believed to be the work of Panamanian Colonel Manuel Noreiga, threatened to scuttle negotiations altogether. The defeat of President Ford in November only exacerbated anxieties within Panama. The lobbying of Henry Kissinger and Sol Linowitz, however, convinced the incoming Carter administration to embrace the treaty, and the Carter transition team reassured the Department of State and the Panamanians that the negotiations would continue, setting the stage for the ratification of the Carter-Torrijos Treaties in 1978.

Editorial Methodology

The documents are presented chronologically according to time in Washington, DC. Memoranda of conversation are placed according to the time and date of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.

Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the Chief of the Editing and Publishing Division. The documents are reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents within the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and [Page VI] punctuation are retained as found in the original text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the documents are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the original document are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the original text, and a list of abbreviations and terms is included in the front matter of each volume. In telegrams, the telegram number (including special designators such as Secto) is printed at the start of the text of the telegram.

Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount and, where possible, the nature of the material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of text that were omitted. Entire documents that were withheld from release have been accounted for and are listed with headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the original document are so identified in the footnotes. All ellipses are in the original documents.

The first footnote to each document indicates the sources of the document and its original classification, distribution, and drafting information. This note also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates whether the President or his major policy advisers read the document.

Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts has been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record.

The numbers in the index refer to document numbers rather than to page numbers.

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under the Foreign Relations statute, reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and advises on all aspects of the preparation and declassification of the series. The Advisory Committee does not necessarily review the contents of individual volumes in the [Page VII] series, but it makes recommendations on issues that come to its attention and reviews volumes, as it deems necessary to fulfill its advisory and statutory obligations.

Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act Review

Under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974 (44 USC 2111 note), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has custody of the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The requirements of the PRMPA and implementing regulations govern access to the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA to review for additional restrictions in order to ensure the protection of the privacy rights of former Nixon White House officials, since these officials were not given the opportunity to separate their personal materials from public papers. Thus, the PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA formally to notify the Nixon Estate and former Nixon White House staff members that the agency is scheduling for public release Nixon White House historical materials. The Nixon Estate and former White House staff members have 30 days to contest the release of Nixon historical materials in which they were a participant or are mentioned. Further, the PRMPA and implementing regulations require NARA to segregate and return to the creator of files private and personal materials. All Foreign Relations volumes that include materials from NARA’s Nixon Presidential Materials Project are processed and released in accordance with the PRMPA.

Declassification Review

The Office of Information Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, conducted the declassification review for the Department of State of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 13526 on Classified National Security Information and applicable laws.

The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security as embodied in law and regulation. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments. The declassification review of this volume, which began in 2012 and was completed in 2014, resulted in the decision to withhold 2 documents in full, excise a paragraph or more in no documents, and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 11 documents.

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The Office of the Historian is confident, on the basis of the research conducted in preparing this volume and as a result of the declassification review process described above, that the documentation and editorial notes presented here provide a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of the Panama Canal Treaty negotiations from January of 1973 to January 1977.


The editors wish to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project of the National Archives and Records Administration (Archives) in College Park, Maryland, and at the Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition, they are grateful to the Richard Nixon Estate for allowing access to the Nixon Presidential recordings and the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace for facilitating that access. Research in the Kissinger Papers, including transcripts of telephone conversations, could not have occurred without the kind permission of Henry A. Kissinger. The editors would like also to thank Sandy Meagher for her valuable assistance in expediting the use of files of the Department of Defense. The editors also wish to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Jimmy Carter Library, as well as Thomas Pearcy, John Collinge, and Michael McCoyer for their work on the research for this volume.

The editor collected and selected documentation and edited the volume under the supervision of Myra Burton, Chief of the Africa and the Americas Division, and Adam Howard, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Dean Weatherhead coordinated the declassification review under the supervision of Carl Ashley. Erin Cozens did the copy and technical editing. Do Mi Stauber prepared the index.

Dr. Stephen P. Randolph, Ph.D.

The Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
September 2015