[Page 900]

197. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • Philip Buchen, Counsel to the President
  • John O. Marsh, Jr., Counsellor to the President
  • Amb. Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • William E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence

SUBJECT

  • MATADOR Meeting

Schlesinger: This episode has been a major American accomplishment. The operation is a marvel—technically, and with maintaining secrecy.

President: I agree. Now where do we go?

Schlesinger: If we don’t confirm the mission details—acknowledge the bare facts. It has been confirmed privately by Colby.2 There is no plausible denial story, so “no comment” will be taken as a confirmation. If we move now we can take the high ground—if not we will be pilloried.

Marsh: Who would put it out?

Schlesinger: Probably me, rather than Colby—unless the President wants to.3 It is a Navy role also. We should go public so it doesn’t look like they are part of a covert operation.

[Page 901]

President: Bill, what do you think?

Colby: I go back to the U–2.4 I think we should not put the Soviet Union under such pressure to respond.

President: CBS reported from Moscow there was no official comment but that they were aware.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 10, March 19, 1975—Ford, Schlesinger, Colby, Buchen, Marsh, Rumsfeld. Secret; Nodis. The meeting, held in the White House Cabinet Room, lasted until 12:25 p.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Brief)
  2. In conversations on February 1, 1974 and February 10, 1975, Colby urged journalist Seymour Hersh, who had been investigating the story since as early as January 1974, to delay publication. (CIA, Executive Registry, Job 80M01048A, Box 7, Seymour Hersh, and ibid., Job 80M01009A, Box 16, MATADOR) On March 18, 1975, syndicated columnist Jack Anderson mentioned the Glomar Explorer on his national radio show, and declared his intention to reveal more details about the operation. The next day, several major newspapers—including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the The New York Times—published front-page stories revealing that HughesGlomar Explorer, in an operation led by the CIA, had recovered a portion of the sunken Soviet submarine during its mission in the Summer of 1974.
  3. No record of a statement by Schlesinger or Ford was found. The press reported that the administration refused to comment upon the matter. Colby, who cancelled an interview scheduled for March 19, was quoted as saying “at this point I have to stop talking. Honestly, we can have international problems and I have to be careful.” (Jack Nelson, “Administration Won’t Talk About Sub Raised by CIA,” Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1975, pp. A1, A14–A16)
  4. Reference is to the U–2 spy plane that was shot down over Soviet airspace on May 1, 1960. As a result of the incident, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev cancelled his summit meetings in Paris with President Eisenhower.