205. Memorandum for the Record1

SUBJECT

  • 40 Committee Meeting, 5 June 1975, 10:00 a.m.

Members Present:

  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman; Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements; Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Joseph J. Sisco; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs GeneralGeorge S. Brown; and Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby.

Also Present:

  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Lt. General John Pauly, William G. Hyland, Captain Joseph Gleason (USN), and Carl Duckett

Item 1—MATADOR

Mr. Duckett said the ship is 67 miles off the coast of California, the technical tests have shown no problems and demonstrate that the system is in first-rate condition. There were no Soviet reactions to the [Page 920]sea trials, and there was a surprising lack of publicity. However, a Soviet tug is in place at the target site on a full-time basis. [3 lines not declassified] From a technical standpoint, there is a very high probability of our success if a second mission is authorized.

Mr. Clements noted that the first attempt was rated a 50–50 probability of success, and that technically the chances of success are much improved this time. Our first operation was actually an expensive R & D activity on the site.

Dr. Kissinger said that was not the question—that we had to look at what the Soviets would do.

Mr. Clements said that he would have to vote No.

Mr. Colby said he thought the risk of Soviet reaction was too great.

Dr. Kissinger said that in private Presidential channels the Soviets have inquired2 about our intentions and have asked about the number of dead.

General Brown said it should be understood that when the Soviets rotated the watch at the target site, one ship was relieved by another on station, not by passing each other in transit some distance away from the site.

Dr. Kissinger observed that this means that the Soviets intend to maintain their surveillance at the target site.

Mr. Hyland said he thought a second mission would be too risky.

Dr. Kissinger said we would have to see what the President decides.

Mr. Colby said an important question is how we are to handle this publicly. He thought that the best course would be to allow the ship to feed off into deep ocean mining.

Mr. Clements said he understood that the Hughes company had first refusal on the ship if it is decided to make it available, and he personally supported that idea and the plan to let it go into deep ocean mining operation. However, the Department of Defense—including the JCS and the Navy—had not yet had an opportunity to decide whether we should let the ship go or not, and Defense would like to develop a position on this before any decision is made.

Dr. Kissinger agreed and asked Mr. Clements to give the Committee the Defense position.

Mr. Duckett said there was a mixed Congressional reaction—some wanted to go ahead, others thought we should stop. He agreed with Mr. Colby’s interjection that the majority wanted us to stop, but said he wanted the Committee to be aware of this mixture of views and that [Page 921] CIA had been instructed to report back to several chairmen of congressional committees.

Dr. Kissinger said that he saw no way we could go back when there is a Soviet ship right at the site and what we propose to do is clearly illegal.

Mr. Colby said he was not so sure that it was illegal, that the Soviets raised a British submarine and incorporated it into their own fleet.

Dr. Kissinger replied that this did not necessarily make it legal; it simply established that the Soviets got away with it.

Mr. Colby declared that many observers are waiting to see what our answer is and then there will be a wave of publicity.

Dr. Kissinger said that it appears that the Soviets will block a second attempt and that it would really take very little to disrupt our efforts. Why get into an argument with them on this? He asked Mr. Clements to get the Defense report to the Committee soon. He asked about the newspaper reports of tax assessments levied by California.3

Mr. Duckett said that the assessor appeared to want to get his name in the papers and has been very successful in doing so. He said this man had been briefed and had helped to outline the steps to take to avoid just what is happening, but appears to want personal publicity now. We may be forced to declare that ownership belongs to the U.S.

Dr. Kissinger demurred, and Mr. Colby said he believed that we could present a classified statement to Governor Brown4 and stop any further action. The California Attorney General has been helpful and outlined steps to be taken to settle this issue. In any event, Hughes won’t pay anything, it would be U.S. money, and we are not going to pay anything.

Mr. Colby said what was needed was guidance on how to handle the publicity. He recommended advising a few key people of the decision and then sitting back and let it gradually leak.

Dr. Kissinger said we should not have any leaks.

At the suggestion that some of the crew would leak information about the project, Mr. Duckett described efforts made by the media to purchase information from crewmembers and declared that not one had done so. Mr. Colby confirmed that the record had been remarkable.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Project MATADOR.]

  1. Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Administration Intelligence Files, 40 Committee Meetings, Minutes/Approvals, 1975. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]; MATADOR. Drafted by Ratliff.
  2. See Document 199.
  3. The Los Angeles Times reported on May 1, 1975 that Los Angeles County would place at least a $40 million value on the hull and undersea mining equipment of the Hughes Glomar Explorer, resulting in a tax levy of over $1.2 million. (Ray Zeman, “Hughes’ Glomar Explorer Faces Tax of $1.2 Million,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1975).
  4. Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr., Governor of California, 1975–1983.