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161. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) and the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Clements)1

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

DSD—I talked to Ken Rush a few minutes ago (are you by yourself)?

CJCS—Yes.

DSD—I also told Ken Rush that I thought that it was wrong for us not to have a WSAG Meeting.

CJCS—I do, too, because I just can’t find out anything.

DSD—That’s right and I am in the same position and God dammit, Tom, I don’t like this a bit with Jim and he’s not running the CIA and you have certain responsibilities and they are clearly established and in several different directives. And, I also feel that I have certain responsibilities that come right from the President himself and, at the time I took this appointment, God dammit, Tom, I want to know what is going on. And, not only do I want to know what is going on I also feel I have the right of expression, as I know you do and if I make these expressions and they don’t like my ideas that’s fine—but dammit, Tom, I want to express them and that’s the basis on which I came up here!

CJCS—I agree with you. We haven’t had a WSAG Meeting since . . .

DSD—Monday.2

CJCS—And I can’t get, you know, any decision and then yet when something happens they call over here raising hell because they didn’t like it. Yet we never get a chance to talk about it.

DSD—I told Ken Rush that I wanted to know how he felt about this before I started anything moving or made any inquiries as I have here. And you know, yesterday I called Brent and got them to schedule a WSAG meeting and the God damned thing got cancelled and I’m going to call Brent again and tell him that what I’d like to do, Tom, is to tell Brent that you and I want a WSAG Meeting today—is that a fair statement?

CJCS—Sure.

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DSD—Because I am absolutely going to tell him that it has to happen and that you and I also feel the same way; but, if you don’t, that’s all right too, but I’m going to do it.

CJCS—I think it’s crucial to have a WSAG meeting; that way we we can bring everything up-to-date and take a new point of departure here.

DSD—I think that’s absolutely right. We’re entering a critical period here this weekend and, in the next three days, could really be the turning point of what we do and how we do it and in what the Israelis are going to do and I’d like to have a WSAG so that everybody could express their feelings as to where this thing sits and to know what we are doing.

CJCS—I couldn’t agree with you more. I am in the dark.

DSD—One last word, then I am through, I don’t like (and I told Ken and he agrees) I am going to come back in a moment to this, but I don’t like the idea of Jim and HAK informally meeting whether it be in the Men’s Room, or the White House, or on a Street Corner and those two people are informally making decisions which affect anything as important as what we are involved in here and that is not right and I don’t like it a damn bit and I’m sure you don’t either.

CJCS—No, because we are going to have to testify on this some day and it wouldn’t be good if we had to tell them “like it is.”

DSD—That’s right and Ken came back and said, “I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t want HAK, on these kind of issues, I don’t want HAK speaking for me.” And, I know that and in the same sense that you feel responsible to what you are doing and the charter you have and that you have a responsibility to the President and you don’t want Jim speaking for you. He may be in complete accord with what you agree to but, on the other hand, it may not be true and you don’t know what he is saying and, under these circumstances, we do need to have a meeting. His final point being that, for the protection of the President himself we need to have a meeting. That the President needs to have this documented that there was a meeting and, generally we agreed to do this and this and that. But, on the other hand, if it is not generally agreed, he needs to know about that, too.

CJCS—Absolutely and I couldn’t agree with you more.

DSD—I wanted you to know what I am going to do.

CJCS—Right. And, sure as hell, what they’ll do is when the thing comes down to a “crunch” that they’ll want us to bail them out by saying, “Yes, we supported that and it was a wonderful thing to do.” When, in fact, we didn’t know a thing about it.

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DSD—Exactly right, Tom, and you and I (for one) am overly sensitive to this after having gone through the Menu Exercise3 and Freedom Deal Exercise.4 If anything points out that we needed to inform those involved and formalize some of these things, that’s just the kind of deal that shows it.

CJCS—Absolutely, I couldn’t agree with you more.

DSD—Ken agrees with everything and he said I’m absolutely right, etc., but then he finally ended up by saying, “Of course, you know what my position is. I can’t say these things to HAK.” Shoot, you know that anyway.

CJCS—All right, sure I have been trying and hoping that they’d have one every day now.

DSD—That’s fine, Tom. I’m going to call Brent and tell him again that is the way I feel about it and that we should have a WSAG Meeting this afternoon and, if I have to—in the final analysis—I am going to tell him something else and that is if we don’t have a WSAG that I’m going over to talk to Al Haig and tell him what I think about this in not having a WSAG Meeting and that it is important for the President himself this is absolutely a requirement—we must do this and get it on the record as to where we stand. Tom, how do you feel about that?

CJCS—Good.

DSD—Do you agree with this?

CJCS—I sure do.

DSD—That position is well-taken?

CJCS—I think it’s reasonable, I think logical, and the way to do business.

DSD—That’s fine. I’ll let you know what happens. I am going to come down in a few minutes and see what the board looks like.

CJCS—Have Janey give me a call and I’ll join you.

DSD—That’ll be fine, thank you, bye.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of Admiral Thomas Moorer, Diary, October 1973. Secret. The original is an entry in Moorer’s Diary.
  2. October 8. See Documents 129 and 131.
  3. Clements is referring to Operation Menu, the secret bombing of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong bases within Cambodia, which was authorized by President Nixon in February 1969.
  4. In response to reports in late 1971 that the North Vietnamese were planning an invasion of the South, President Nixon authorized in the spring of 1972 “Operation Freedom Deal,” which called for the renewal of air strikes throughout North Vietnam above the 20th parallel for the first time since 1968.
  5. Moorer wrote the following note at the end of the transcript: “The events of the last weeks indicate that in a crisis situation the SecState finds it almost impossible to also act as Director of the National Security Staff and preside at WSAG meetings.”