29. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President 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: I think we have to sell a little more the purpose of your program. More conceptual.

The President: I am talking at 11:00 to the Cabinet; to Governors and Mayors at 2:00; and I’m having lunch with Sulzberger.2

[Page 64]

Now the Democrats are dragging their feet. They’re thinking of barring the import restrictions. If they are going to be negative, I think we will be in good shape because we have a tough positive program.

Kissinger: Colby has laid out all the CIA cover operation in this country. [He read from the report.]3

The President: Has Helms testified before Rockefeller?4

Kissinger: Yes.

The President: How did he do?

Kissinger: He was very aggressive. But now every businessman, professor, and American company will be suspect abroad. The morale of the CIA must be terrible.

[Omitted here is discussion of topics unrelated to intelligence issues.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 8, January 17, 1975, Ford, Kissinger. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. No transcript of this luncheon with Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, has been found. Colby, who was not present at the “strictly off-the-record” meeting, wrote about it in his memoirs. He reported that in the face of criticism that the Rockefeller Commission would not do a “hard-nosed investigation,” Ford responded that he had chosen the members with “extreme care” since Colby told him that there were CIA activities the members would encounter “that were a lot more sensitive than those Hersh had reported on and that, in the nation’s best interest, he felt had to remain secret.” “Like what?,” New York Times managing editor Abe Rosenthal reportedly asked. “Like assassination,” Ford is said to have responded, “off the record.” The exchange was leaked to Daniel Schorr of CBS News. On February 28, Schorr reported, “President Ford has reportedly warned associates that if current investigations go too far they could uncover several assassinations of foreign officials involving the CIA.” (Colby, Honorable Men, pp. 409–410)
  3. Brackets in the original. Presumably a reference to Colby’s January 15 testimony; see Document 28.
  4. Helms, along with Schlesinger and Colby, testified before the first session of the Rockefeller Commission on January 13.