33. Memorandum From the Acting Director of Central Intelligence (Cushman) to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Termination of Radio Liberty
[Page 103]
We have just learned of the decision by higher authority to terminate the Radio Liberty project. We wish to appeal that decision at once for the reasons listed below.
Radio Liberty Committee (RLC), together with its counterpart Free Europe Committee (FEC), have been subjected to a series of exhaustive inter-agency reviews since mid-1967. In February of this year the 303 Committee examined fully and carefully the findings of previous studies, and endorsed the conclusions sustained by the latter.2 Subsequently and pursuant to the 303 Committee endorsement, the President on 22 February 1969 approved the continuation of Radio Liberty [less than 1 line not declassified] with CIA covert funding.3
RLC operates Radio Liberty, a book distribution program to the USSR, and the Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR, under a current budget of [dollar amount not declassified]. Radio Liberty broadcasts 24 hours of the day in 18 languages of the Soviet Union with 1840 kilowatts of transmitter power from sites in Germany, Spain, and Taiwan. The main programming office is in Munich, Germany, and is supplemented by programming from a New York office. [6 lines not declassified]
While the size of Radio Libertyʼs audience cannot be firmly established, technical measurements indicate that with favorable propagation conditions the radio can cover 90% of the territory of the USSR. Although mail tests show that only a fraction of letters from listeners reach the radio, Radio Liberty has received as many as 1,000 letters in a year, reflecting audience interest. Several hundred interviews with Soviet and Western travelers confirm extensive listening to Radio Liberty, and denunciations by Soviet media are frequent and strong. Finally, the jamming effort against Radio Liberty has never ceased since it went on the air in 1953. This represents a budgetary burden to the Soviet Government substantially in excess of the cost of operating the radio.
Since 1965, intellectual dissent in the USSR has grown from a small pressure group within the literary-artists circle to the level of political dissent involving other elements of Soviet society. Radio Liberty, in its role as a free voice from abroad, serves as a catalyst for the growing number of Soviet dissidents who strive for freedom to interpret their society, its purposes and goals. They actively seek information and ideas and turn to foreign radio outlets like Radio Liberty, which, unlike VOA, is almost exclusively concerned with intensive coverage of Soviet internal developments, and seeks to correct the distortions and omissions of Soviet domestic output.
Before the decision to continue was made, the 303 Committee considered other alternatives such as shifting to public funding and possible merger with USIA, as well as termination. It was felt that continuation under CIA [less than 1 line not declassified] covert funding was the only desirable solution.
Congressional attitudes elicited in October 1967, when the future of the radios was under scrutiny, showed a strong interest in the radios and a desire to see them continue in operation.
The Department of State has recently restated the U.S. Governmentʼs recognition that the Soviet émigrés, especially those who work for Radio Liberty and other émigré activities, have a special contribution to make to United States information programs, both overt and covert, which are aimed at influencing the attitudes of the Soviet people and their leaders in directions which would make the Soviet Government a more constructive and responsible member of the world community. Ambassador Thompson, while still in Moscow, recommended against termination.
[7 lines not declassified]
Since 1950, over $132,000,000 has been spent in building up a smoothly running professional operation, which reaches its target effectively and is a source of concern to the Soviets. Once liquidated, an instrumentality of this type cannot be rebuilt.
Estimates of liquidation costs are roughly the equivalent of one year of normal operations, i.e., approximately [dollar amount not declassified]. Thus, Radio Libertyʼs termination results in no budgetary saving in FY 1971.
Over and above the considerations summarized above, we would place maximum stress on the fact that unilateral termination of Radio Liberty would entail a major political concession to the USSR, with no quid pro quo. This would be both unfortunate and unnecessary. It could lead to miscalculation by the Soviets as to our intentions and strength of purpose. It would, we believe, call into serious question the survival of Radio Free Europe.
The Agency urges, in the strongest possible terms, that the decision to terminate be reconsidered.
R.E. Cushman, Jr.
Lieutenant General, USMC
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 379, Subject Files, Radio Free Europe & Radio Liberty, Vol. I. Secret.
  2. See Document 30.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 30.