[Page 163]

54. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary Ingersoll
  • Deputy Under Secretary for Management Lawrence S. Eagleburger
  • Mr. William G. Hyland, Director, INR
  • Ambassador McCloskey,, Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations
  • Mr. Monroe Leigh, Legal Advisor
  • Mr. L. Paul Bremer, III, Executive Assistant to the Secretary
  • Mr. Wesley Egan, Notetaker


  • Secretary’s October 31 Appearance before the House Select Committee on Intelligence (The Pike Committee)

Kissinger: I’ve talked to Aspin2 who admits that the Committee has lost on the Boyatt issue3 and said they now want a solution.

Eagleburger: According to Kasten, Aspin and Dellums4 are two of those who are out for a confrontation. Aspin, like Pike, is itching to serve a contempt citation on somebody in the Executive Branch. They’re bothered by the deletions we’ve made in the documents we’ve provided the Committee thus far and continue to object to the restraints the Department has applied to middle and junior level officers on their testimony before the Committee. John Day’s error in this sense didn’t [Page 164]help any.5 Apparently he could have answered the Committee’s question re the facts involved but did not.

Hyland: The Committee is looking for a bigger principle as a target. They want to get us on a gag rule or on a false use of principles. They still want to show that we’re trying to cover up.

Kissinger: I am not willing to release the opinions and recommendations of FSOs as such. God knows they deserve to be thrown to the wolves; it’s no problem for me; I don’t get any protection out of all this. Nor will I release communications from foreign governments and their expressions of opinion; the same applies to the recommendations issue.

Eagleburger: Pike will say we’ve gone far beyond the restrictions laid down in my own testimony before the Committee in that we’ve refused to supply NODIS, etc., and may try to get you to expand on those restrictions.

Hyland: In addition, he’ll try to get to you by getting at the policy recommendations and subsequent instructions given to embassies abroad in an attempt to see how we handled the crisis per se.

Kissinger: How relevant is that to the Committee’s charter?

Hyland: They consider it part of their investigation into the costs, procedure and productivity of intelligence.

Kissinger: How long will they be in business?

Hyland: They are trying to wind up by mid-November in an attempt to get their report out before the Church Committee does. The Committee’s mandate formally expires at the end of the year.

Kissinger: What if they ask, “Are you prepared to turn over NODIS?”

Eagleburger: Colby and DOD have already undercut us on that issue.6

Hyland: No doubt they will try to show that we are the least cooperative department of the executive branch.

Kissinger: I don’t care about that. We’ll do what is right. Never before has this issue of putting cables before a Congressional committee [Page 165]come up. I am responsible for policy and I will defend it. This is a vicious circle.

Eagleburger: I think you should say that you will do all you can except . . .

Kissinger: But there’s another principle. I will under no circumstances release instructions to our negotiators to a Congressional committee.

Eagleburger: It’s a question of tactics.

Kissinger: Will they be hostile?

Eagleburger: Pike, Dellums and Giaimo7 will try and take you on. They’ll say, “Aren’t you trying to cover up the mishandling of the Cyprus crisis; aren’t you trying to punish Boyatt and that isn’t this typical of your excessive secrecy”, and things along that line. They will certainly try to imply that you are in the process of gagging the Department and that you are not prepared to cooperate with the Congress.

Kissinger: I want you to put down on paper for me the kinds of critical questions they may ask, the categories of issues they’re likely to try and get me on and after seeing that I’ll make up my own mind. You keep telling me they’ll ask me questions, what kinds of questions, I need to know that. My grandmother could tell me there may be hostile questions. I need to know specifically what they might be. You’ve seen my schedule. You know that between now and Friday8 I have perhaps 30 minutes to look at this. I refuse to be in a position of getting an already drafted statement as a fait accompli.

Eagleburger: We’ll get you a list of the questions and a draft of the opening statement within two hours.9

Hyland: For instance, the Committee will allege that we are cooperating with Greeks and that we wanted the coup to fail.

Kissinger: If I can’t destroy them on substance, then it’s clear I don’t deserve to be the Secretary of State. The substance is easy. Give me a chronology I can read from. Why can’t EUR produce a usable chronology?

Hyland: The Committee knows that they’ll lose on the substance of the Cyprus issue. We already have a 40-page chronology on Cyprus in [Page 166]your briefing book for the Pike Committee appearance.10 Pike is convinced that he can build up a good record for himself and that he can show that you’ve run a series of programs irresponsibly.

Kissinger: Like what?

Hyland: Like the Kurds.

Kissinger: Am I involved in the Kurdish operation? I haven’t seen anything about it. What are the facts?

Hyland: The Shah had asked for some help; Helms drew up a program; you and the President approved it and it went forward. Everyone else was cut out. It was a sizable program [less than 2 lines not declassified].

Kissinger: I’m positive that it must have gone to the 40 Committee.

Hyland: They were informed after the fact.

Kissinger: Did they protest? Anybody could have gone to the President on it and said “No.”

Hyland: The Committee will say this is a case where the CIA went berserk.

Kissinger: But people can object.

Hyland: The Committee will also say that we got absolutely nothing out of efforts in helping the Shah.

Kissinger: My recollection . . .

Hyland: The Shah asked for your help when you were in Tehran with the President.

Kissinger: He must have asked the President because I had no private meetings with the Shah in the course of that visit.

Hyland: On substance the Kurdish issue is an easy one to explain and it will be simple to rebut the Committee’s charges. But the Committee will probably concentrate on procedures. They’ll go on from that to the [less than 1 line not declassified] and that that program went forward involving a great deal of money and there was no effort whatsoever to control it.

Kissinger: But that was done by [name not declassified] with the approval of the NSC. It couldn’t have been done by me. It was simply an execution of Presidential orders.

[Page 167]

Hyland: You shouldn’t forget that some of the members of the Committee and the staff as well are for the first time learning how business is really done in this town. Needless to say their approach is somewhat sophomoric.

Kissinger: Aspin told me that they won’t get into covert operations.

Eagleburger: This is one more example of the confusion that exists on the Committee itself and among the Committee staff.

Hyland: Pike runs the show over there and he doesn’t really give a damn about any of the substantive issues. He made a bad deal with the President on the classification issue and you have become his prime target. Pike himself would very much like the Democratic seat from New York, in addition to which he wants to show that the current Administration is beyond control and is taking wild risks.

Kissinger: Did we brief the Congress on the Kurdish issue?

Hyland: Yes, but at a very low level.

Kissinger: But it only started in 1972.

Hyland: It was turned down three times. The Committee will also turn to the Angola question but they’re disappointed on this one, largely because they have discovered that Colby was not forced into anything, and that there were numerous meetings on the issue and a great deal of Congressional briefing.

Kissinger: So they have [less than 1 line not declassified] the Kurds. Will they try to go public with this.

Hyland: No, it will probably be in executive session. They’ll also raise the issue of your wearing two hats, something they consider very dangerous. And naturally they’ll zero in on the guidelines for middle and junior level officer testimony before the Committee as an example of your refusing to allow criticism on issues like Angola and the Kurds. Basically, they’ll try to get at you in two ways: 1) they’ll look for principles that they can hang you with and 2) they will charge you with mishandling of assorted crises and make constant references to unusual procedures.

Eagleburger: We are pulling together all the documents previously supplied to the Committee as well as indications of those portions of the documents that were deleted. We’ll pull all that together by tomorrow.

Kissinger: I must know the facts. I must have the categories of questions and I must have them now. What’s been deleted from the cable traffic?

Hyland: Instructions to and recommendations from our ambassadors. The Committee has been told what categories have been deleted but they don’t understand why they can’t see instructions.

[Page 168]

Kissinger: The answer to that is simple. The entire foreign policy process depends on confidentiality.

Bremer: Won’t the Committee then respond that it’s clear that the Secretary does not trust the Committee or the Committee staff.

Hyland: They’ll say that you are charging them with being irresponsible, to which you can naturally reply that if foreign governments realize or learn the extent and the detail with which we are discussing major substantive foreign policy issues with the Congress, they will be scared to death and we’ll be in real trouble.

Kissinger: Previously Congressional committees have wanted testimony from Department officials. Never before have they asked for cable traffic. This becomes a real precedent problem for us.

Hyland: You might consider releasing to the Committee the transcript of your August 5, 1974 talk with Assistant Secretaries and senior Department officials on the way in which the Department handled the Cyprus crisis and the substantive issues involved from your own perspective.

Kissinger: Show me the document (the Secretary then reads from his briefing book). What would be the advantage of releasing this document?

Hyland: It would meet the Committee’s charge that we are trying to withhold information.

Kissinger: The people that prepare these transcripts are absolute morons. Can’t they tell the difference between the word flexibility and publicity?

Eagleburger: That August 5 statement is eloquent and I think would be extremely useful.

Kissinger: If we let this Committee rummage through our files, foreign policy will collapse.

Hyland: We need to stress to them our willingness to allow senior officials to testify before the Committee.

Kissinger: How in God’s name did the CIA get into their current position?

Hyland: It grew out of the arrangement they had with the Church Committee and the fact that the White House didn’t feel the Executive Branch could refuse anything. Committee staffers were allowed to go out to Langley to browse through their files and then request specific documents. When the Pike Committee was created, this procedure was already rolling.

Eagleburger: The White House’s attitude is to simply give out everything.

Kissinger: I think the newspapers have helped us on this so far. But once this damn thing starts unravelling, there will be no end to it.

[Page 169]

Eagleburger: Most of the people on the Hill have no real argument with this.

Kissinger: So they’re not really worried except for the fact that they can’t see our instructions.

Hyland: Pike wants to take the requirements you’ve laid down and expand them to illustrate massive obstruction on our part and thus get the Congress behind him.

Kissinger: That’s totally different. It doesn’t involve the foreign relations of the United States.

Hyland: But Pike wants to blame the current status on us.

Eagleburger: The problems on substance are quite small.

Hyland: The Committee and the staff are substantive morons. Furthermore Pike pays no attention to substance. He’s trying to look at the procedures and wants to know why the Committee can’t be told who signed what, who made what decision, and did this or that, etc.

Kissinger: The Kurdish issue then is a simple one.

Hyland: You can argue that as a result of our assistance there were almost no Iraqi troops involved in the Mideast war, there were no TU–22s involved, and that Iran was not part of their oil embargo. Furthermore we can show that there would have been real consequences in not helping the Shah. If Nixon had simply brushed the Shah’s request aside, the Shah would have felt isolated and obvious problems would have resulted.

Kissinger: I have no trouble with the policy. Will they ask about consulting the 40 Committee?

Hyland: They might.

Kissinger: We’ll simply say “No.” It’s something the President did and the 40 Committee was so informed. Colby framed us on the Track II operation. It was merely carrying out a Presidential decision in the manner in which the CIA implemented the 40 Committee decision. Is Colby a complete coward?

Hyland: Let’s say he was open and forthcoming. Brent has asked Colby to prepare a summary of the issues that he has already testified on.

Kissinger: Will the Committee be nasty?

Hyland: They’ll probably be pointed and sarcastic but not necessarily nasty.

Kissinger: Well they can’t win on sarcasm. I want an opening statement that is conciliatory and which discusses the issue as a common problem but which stresses that I must maintain the integrity of the foreign policy process, the Foreign Service and the Congress. Further[Page 170]more, it should say that I am willing to discuss any other issues. However, I will not raise specific substantive issues.

Eagleburger: We’ll have the opening statement for you in two hours.

Hyland: After the opening statement, Pike will go after the guidelines for junior and middle grade officers and the whole question of our deleting instructions and recommendations from the documents already supplied to the Committee.

Kissinger: I’ll simply tell them that I’ll have to look at the issue of instructions on a case-by-case basis. I also want the opening statement to somehow explain the rather unique structural character of the Department of State. We can probably let them see some of the instructions.

Hyland: That should meet the main attack. The open session versus closed session question will probably be addressed rather haphazardly. Certainly any discussion of the Kurdish situation, [less than 1 line not declassified] and Angola will be in closed executive session. They’ll probably also ask if you can come back.

Kissinger: No. This will be enough.

Eagleburger: If you agree to go back, they will simply collect all the other testimony and then try to clobber you with it at the end.

Hyland: I think we ought to have your opening statement point toward the discussion of Cyprus.

Kissinger: Not at all. I’m willing to help but I have to draw the line. Their approach would destroy the foreign policy process. I’ll ask them what I can do to help but I have no intention of making an issue out of something that they don’t raise.

Bremer: It would be useful to examine all this with the Committee.

Kissinger: Yes, what we want to do is address the cost effectiveness of intelligence. But not the question of policy decisions. I get the impression this is not a very high-powered committee and I doubt seriously that they can brow beat me. (to Eagleburger) Call Aspin Monday to see what he now thinks.

Hyland: Pike’s now on a short side.

Eagleburger: I think at least four of the members will be nasty and sarcastic.

Kissinger: Well, like what. Don’t just tell me they’ll be nasty and sarcastic in their questioning. Give me an example of the kinds of questions they’re likely to ask.

Leigh: For example, the Committee may very well ask under what authority you instruct a Foreign Service Officer as to what questions he can and cannot respond to before the Committee. They’ll say isn’t this a violation of first amendment rights.

[Page 171]

Hyland: They’ll also probably say that their impression is that the lower level officers in the building are the only people who really know what’s going on and that senior “policy level” officials are interested only in protecting themselves.

Kissinger: I can handle that. If you follow that argument through to its logical conclusion, then it appears that junior and middle level officers are in fact running the Department and that if you don’t follow their advice then you run the risk of a Congressional investigation.

Ingersoll: Are they interested in the efficacy of foreign policy or the use of intelligence?

Hyland: The Committee wants to know why raw intelligence received from overseas is not acted upon.

Kissinger: Never in history has Congress taken this approach to foreign policy.

Leigh: They did it with China but after the fact.

Hyland: Pike will probably try to sum up that since no middle or junior level officials can testify as to their recommendations, the Committee is unable to do its job regarding the investigation of foreign policy.

Eagleburger: It would be a mistake to argue with the Committee on their own charter.

Hyland: The Committee is bored stiff by intelligence on Portugal and Pike for one does not conceal his own cynicism.

Eagleburger: Pike has told Wayne Hays that his real purpose is to get the Secretary.

Hyland: Pike is out for the publicity. He wants to beat the Church report out and will then probably walk away from the issue.

Kissinger: I don’t want the opening statement to be more than 10 minutes. If Pike wants to make the instruction thing a gut issue, I don’t see how he can win.

Hyland: His style is innuendo and sarcasm. His questions are designed to embarrass the witness but he’s not very good with witness who comes back at him.

Kissinger: I want a description of the foreign policy process and an explanation of my concerns regarding the integrity of the foreign policy process, the difficult situation the United States is in at the present, etc.

Leigh: I agree. We want to put our emphasis on the Boyatt case and the dissent issue.

Kissinger: No, I want the emphasis on the question of recommendations and the delicacy of foreign policy. If the Committee succeeds in the approach they apparently have taken, it will take years to rebuild our foreign policy structure. I want to use the Boyatt case as an illustra[Page 172]tion of the need to preserve the integrity of the Foreign Service and I want to use the other cases as illustrations of the need to protect the integrity of the foreign policy process.

McCloskey: Hyland is right. The open session should concentrate on the dissent channel issue itself and the principles at stake.

Kissinger: How long will I be there?

McCloskey: Until about noon or 1:00 o’clock and they may want to go into the afternoon. It certainly would be preferable if you could appear at 10:30 rather than 11:00 because of the Committee’s own schedule.

Kissinger: But open sessions are always long. When are we going into executive session?

Hyland: You may not have to.

Kissinger: I’ll give them from 10:30 to 1:00. How they divide the time between open and executive session is their problem. They’ve been clobbered in the press.

McCloskey: That by itself has added significantly to their own frustration.

Kissinger: I don’t think they can get out of a hole they have dug for themselves right now unless they latch onto a new issue. You must restate the need for the confidentiality of recommendations. I don’t want any mention of the dissent business in the opening statement. I want to stress the nature of the foreign policy process and my main concerns regarding that process.11

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 346, Department of State, Memoranda of Conversations, Internal, October–November 1975. Secret; Administratively Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office.
  2. Representative Les Aspin (D–Wisconsin).
  3. On September 25, the Pike Committee attempted to interview Thomas Boyatt regarding his role as Director of Cypriot Affairs at the Department of State in 1974, but was prevented from doing so by a Departmental order, presented to the Committee by Eagleburger, prohibiting junior and middle-level Department of State officials from testifying on recommendations made to senior decisionmakers. (Draft telegram to Kissinger, September 24; Department of State, Files of Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Lot 84 D 204, Chron—September 1975) On October 2, the Committee ordered Kissinger to release a dissent memorandum written by Boyatt on the Department’s handling of the 1974 Cyprus crisis. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, p. 194) Kissinger responded in a letter to the Committee, October 14, that he would not release Boyatt’s memorandum in order to preserve the integrity of the Department’s Dissent Channel. (National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry A. Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 10, Nodis Memcons, October 1974)
  4. Representative Robert W. Kasten, Jr. (R–Wisconsin) and Representative Ronald V. Dellums (D–California).
  5. Not further identified. Foreign Service officer John K. Day served in the Office of Greek Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.
  6. In his memoirs, Colby recalled that he was a “dove” compared with some of his colleagues when it came to complying with Congressional requests for documentation. His position was that “committees should be given the materials they requested with the exception of those that revealed the identities of our officers and agents, our relations with foreign intelligence services and particularly sensitive technological data about our systems.” (Colby, Honorable Men, p. 437)
  7. Representative Robert N. Giaimo (D–Connecticut).
  8. October 31, the date of Kissinger’s appearance before the Pike Committee.
  9. A first draft of Kissinger’s opening statement was produced the following day, October 25. (Department of State, Files of Lawrence S. Eagleburger: Lot 84 D 204, Chron—October 1975)
  10. The briefing book for Kissinger’s appearance before the Pike Committee, which includes a copy of Boyatt’s August 9, 1974, “Dissent Memorandum;” an October 13, 1975, briefing memorandum from Leigh to Kissinger on alternative steps open to the Pike Committee to enforce its subpoena; an October 14 memorandum from Leigh to Kissinger on the use of executive privilege; and Kissinger’s October 15 memorandum to Pike refusing to provide the Boyatt Dissent Memorandum, is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 411, Subject File, Congressional Hearings, House of Representatives, Select Committee on Intelligence (Pike Committee), Chronological File, Sept. 1974–Oct. 1975.
  11. In his testimony before the Pike Committee on October 31, Kissinger proposed to solve the deadlock over the Boyatt memorandum by providing the committee with an “amalgamation” memorandum of internal dissent and criticism of the Department’s Cyprus policy. The Pike Committee accepted this compromise solution on November 4. A copy of the dissent amalgamation is attached to a memorandum from Hyland and Eagleburger to Kissinger, November 5. (Department of State, Files of Lawrence S. Eagleburger: Lot 84 D 204, Chron—November 1975)