198. Memorandum From the Director of Central Intelligence (Colby) to the Chairman of the 40 Committee (Kissinger)1


  • Project MATADOR—Second Mission

1. In view of recent media exposure,2 I feel it may be appropriate to arrange for a thorough airing in the 40 Committee of the question whether a second MATADOR mission should take place. The paragraphs below are offered as a point of departure for consideration.

2. The following arguments would weigh in favor of a second mission:

a. The target is still of value.

b. Relatively little more money is required to proceed—i.e., $24M beyond $260M already expended (termination costs and potential offsets not included).

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c. Recovery system can be ready to proceed in June 1975 although timing of summit meeting between President Ford and Chairman Brezhnev may delay departure.3

d. We retain the option to back off at any time prior to target acquisition if the Soviets oppose.

e. Precedent—1928 Soviet salvage of a British submarine lost off Kronstadt in Baltic Sea in 1919.

f. Absence of formal Soviet protest in response to media exposure.

g. U.S. has not formally confirmed media exposure.

h. Loss of submarine still not admitted by Soviets.

i. Media has pinpointed wrong site—mission may be seen as diversionary, cover maneuver.

j. Intelligence assessment is that:

—Despite extensive search, Soviets failed to locate wreckage in 1968.

—Despite surveillance, Soviets failed to see our first mission for what it was.

As a consequence, Soviet bureaucracy may be loath to admit above failures, prefer to claim site of loss is somewhere else—or that media exposure is part of elaborate attempt to cover some other application of ship.

k. Boldness of decision to proceed will catch Soviets off balance—we may be able to complete mission before they get organized.

l. Official confrontation is not likely, since such confrontation would mean admission of loss of submarine and admission of U.S. technological superiority. This view is supported by the failure of Soviet press, to best of our knowledge, to repeat revelations in U.S. press.

3. The following arguments weigh against the second mission:

a. Target value may be diminished by Soviet knowledge of first mission.

b. Technical risk remains.

c. Legality is not entirely clear.

d. U.S. press will monitor and flag movements of HUGHES GLOMAR EXPLORER, thus little chance of surprise remains.

e. Project and Administration will be target for claims of money waste, brinkmanship, and strong arming.

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f. Continuation will back Soviets into corner publicly; responses may be:

(1) Formal protest, international furor—as in U–2 incident.

(2) Informal (hot-line) protest.

(3) Attempt to thwart the operation, possibly using force.

[Responses (1) and (3) are to U.S. disadvantage in foreign and domestic relations.]

g. Erroneous and conflicting information reported by media may have confused Soviets on first mission success; such uncertainty may already be enough to force counterexpenditures.

h. Although media has been inaccurate as to target site, Soviets may have identified the site from surveillance during first mission.

i. Secrecy has been viewed in the past as essential to the operation. Abandonment of that philosophy will be noted and proclaimed by press. This will become a political football, with renewed cries to curb the intelligence establishment and possibly generate an avalanche of leaks.

j. Risk of incident at sea [3.f.(3) above] leading to catastrophic climax.

k. Cover/security breakdown will increase crew anxiety and perhaps decrease effectiveness.

l. Intensified investigation into union, insurance, tax, Midway arrangements—substrata of sources and methods.

4. The conclusion of my own weighing of the above arguments is, I regret to say, that it is inadvisable to undertake a second mission.4

W. E. Colby
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M01009A: Subject Files, Box 16, MATADOR. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]; MATADOR. Brackets in the original memorandum. A handwritten note on the memorandum indicates that Colby presented it to the USIB Ad Hoc Committee Meeting on May 30, of which no record was found.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 197.
  3. President Ford met with General Secretary Brezhnev in Helsinki, Finland, at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, on July 30 and August 2, 1975. Records of their meeting are in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976, Documents 171174.
  4. Graham also opposed continuation of Project MATADOR in his February 21 memorandum to Colby. (Ibid.)