23. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Gerald R. Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: What is happening is worse than in the days of McCarthy.2 You will end up with a CIA that does only reporting, and not operations. He has turned over to the FBI the whole of his operation.3 He has offered to resign and I refused. It is not my prerogative, but I said not until you are proved guilty of criminal conduct.

The President: I agree.

Kissinger: Helms said all these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If they come out, blood will flow. For example, Robert Kennedy personally managed the operation on the assassination of Castro.

[He described some of the other stories.]

I told him Buchen would warn him and he won’t say anything incriminating.

The President: I know Dick Helms and think very highly of him.

Kissinger: The Chilean thing—that is not in any report. That is sort of blackmail on me.

[Page 55]

The President: What can we do? We can get Griswold, Lemnitzer, Friendly, Reagan, Jack Connor, Shannon, Dillon.4

Kissinger: You might think of Rusk. This will get very rough and you need people around who know the Presidency, and the national interest. What Colby has done is a disgrace.

The President: Should we suspend him?

Kissinger: No, but after the investigation is over you could move him and put in someone of towering integrity.

When the FBI has a hunting license into the CIA, this could end up worse for the country than Watergate.

The President: Would Rusk have known any of this stuff?

Kissinger: Why don’t you ask him?

[Discussed the Moorer spying incident5 and what he did to protect the institution of the JCS.]

[Rumsfeld enters to talk about Rusk.]

Kissinger: [Discusses some of the legislative restrictions.]

The President: [Talks to Rusk.]

[Tries to call Dave Packard.]

[Buchen and Marsh come in.]

[The Blue Ribbon announcement is reviewed.]6

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 8, January 4, 1975, Ford, Kissinger. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R–Wisconsin), 1947–1957.
  3. A reference to Colby.
  4. The individuals referred to are: former Solicitor General Erwin N. Griswold; former JCS Chairman and Supreme Allied Commander, NATO General Lyman L. Lemnitzer; former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Henry J. Friendly; former California Governor Ronald Reagan; former Secretary of Commerce John T. (Jack) Connor; former University of Virginia President Edgar F. Shannon, Jr.; and former Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon.
  5. For the JCS “spying” operation on the White House by Navy Yeoman Charles Radford, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Documents 164 and 166.
  6. The statement announcing the creation of the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States was released on January 4. Ford mandated the Commission to “ascertain and evaluate any facts relating to activities conducted within the United States by the Central Intelligence Agency that give rise to questions as to whether the Agency had exceeded its statutory authority” and to evaluate existing safeguards “to preclude Agency activities that might go beyond its authority and to make appropriate recommendations.” The full text is in Public Papers: Ford, 1975, Book I, pp. 19–20. On January 5, the White House announced the appointment of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller as Chairman and Connor, Dillon, Griswold, Lemnitzer, Reagan, Shannon, and labor union leader Joseph Lane Kirkland as members of the Commission. (Ibid., p. 20) It was known informally as the Rockefeller Commission.