211. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Attached is George Bush’s recommendation for providing intelligence briefings to Governor Carter following his nomination.2

The recommendation that CIA conduct the briefings is sound. It will remove any possibility of policy considerations, with their possible elements of awkwardness for both sides. I am somewhat concerned, however, by the proposal that the briefing be handled by professional intelligence officers. I believe that, at least in the early stages, the briefings should be conducted by George Bush himself. It seems to me important that we retain some political (in the best sense of the word) control over the exact contents of the briefings. If, after several briefings have been held, the situation appears to warrant it, we could move to more junior briefing officers. George’s recommendation may be colored by his perception of his own personal situation, which may lead him to conclude that Carter would consider him suspect and feel we may try to take advantage of the briefings. George is the Director of Central Intelligence, however, and it is my feeling we should treat him solely as that and ignore his antecedents.

I concur with the remainder of George’s recommendations. We might initially think of a briefing approximately every three weeks or more often if the situation warrants.

I suggest that you call Governor Carter and propose intelligence briefings by the DCI with the understanding that:

1. They do not put him under any obligation, but you would ask his cooperation in protecting intelligence operations.

2. Director Bush will treat the discussions with the Governor as privileged.

3. The briefings will be conducted periodically, with the frequency as mutually agreed.

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That you call Governor Carter and, making the points above, inform him that Director Bush is prepared to meet with him at his convenience to work out details.3


Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Bush to President Ford 4

1. At our meeting with you last Friday we discussed the question of providing intelligence briefings to Governor Carter after his nomination.5 I understand that Governor Carter has since asked you for such briefings. I recommend that you concur in his request and that you charge the DCI with this responsibility.

2. In 1952, President Truman first offered CIA briefings to General Eisenhower and Governor Stevenson.6 Since that time, it has been customary for the President to make such an offer. With the exceptions of Senator Goldwater in 1964 and Senator McGovern in 1972, all candidates have accepted and have been briefed at least once.7

3. There has been no established pattern for the briefings themselves. The number and depth has varied with the individual candidate’s interest and the demands of his schedule. In 1952 a CIA officer was assigned to each candidate and was prepared to brief whenever the candidate requested, which turned out to be several times in each case. In 1960 Allen Dulles chose to brief Senator Kennedy himself and had two or three long sessions with him.8 In 1968 I believe President [Page 705] Johnson had a single meeting with Mr. Nixon in which he was joined by Secretaries Rusk and Clifford and Mr. Helms.9

4. To the extent that there have been any ground rules for these sessions, they have been that the briefer would try to stay clear of immediate policy (or political) issues and of intelligence operations, but would otherwise try to give as full and frank a discussion of events abroad as he would provide to the President himself. The candidates in turn have been scrupulous not to exploit what they have learned for political advantage. Rather they have treated the offer in the spirit it was made: to enable them to deal responsibly with questions of foreign policy and to avoid saying things in the heat of the campaign that might be damaging to the national interest. On occasion, a candidate has designated a trusted staff officer to be used as an alternate channel to him.

5. The continuing need for responsible public treatment of sensitive foreign issues, taken with the precedents set by your predecessors, argue that you should extend this service to Governor Carter. If you decide to do so, I believe it would best be handled by professional intelligence officers. This would:

  • —Minimize political overtones
  • —Meet Governor Carter’s expressed interest
  • —Make it possible for him to be briefed on his own schedule and on his own agenda (awkward if Cabinet-level officers are doing the briefing)
  • —Maintain the proper separation between factual briefings and policy discussions

6. I recommend you call Governor Carter and tell him that I am available to meet him at his convenience to discuss detailed arrangements. You should assure him that we are prepared to make the full range of foreign intelligence information and analysis available to him but that we will be unable to discuss policy matters or sensitive sources and methods. You may also wish to assure him that our briefing officers will be expected to protect him as well. They will not report his particular interests or concerns to you or the NSC Staff. Suggested talking points are attached.10

7. When I see Governor Carter I would suggest that we proceed as proposed in Paragraph 5. If he wishes to involve his staff officers in these briefings, I would stipulate that they must receive appropriate security clearances.

George Bush
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 2, Carter, Jimmy—Intelligence Briefings. Secret; Sensitive. Scowcroft wrote “President has seen” on the memorandum.
  2. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter secured the Democratic Presidential nomination at the party convention in New York City on July 14, 1976, defeating his closest challenger, Representative Morris Udall of Arizona. As his running mate, Carter selected Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota.
  3. President Ford’s next telephone call to Governor Carter was made on July 15. No record of the substance of the 2-minute conversation has been found. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of the meeting has been found.
  4. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].
  5. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place on June 25 between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary)
  6. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Republican Presidential candidate in the 1952 election; former Illinois Governor Adlai E. Stevenson II was the Democratic candidate.
  7. Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater was the Republican nominee for President in the 1964 election. South Dakota Senator George S. McGovern was the Democratic nominee in the 1972 election.
  8. Allen Dulles was Director of Central Intelligence, 1953–1961. Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy won the 1960 Presidential election.
  9. Clark Clifford was Secretary of Defense, 1968–1969.
  10. Attached but not printed.