102. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1 2


  • Measures to Combat Terrorism

I want to give you an initial report on the steps we have already taken, and some idea of what we have in mind for the future, pursuant to your directive to me to initiate international and domestic actions to combat terrorism.

Your strong statement the morning after the Munich tragedy and the follow-on actions we have taken with other Governments have had a considerable impact in imparting a sense of urgency on this question throughout the world community. Our veto of the one-sided Security Council Resolution on Sunday and George Bush’s forceful remarks in the Council have clearly signaled the seriousness of our concern and our determination to convince others that the time has come to get tough in the fight against terrorism. We intend to keep up the momentum we have generated and are now considering our strategy on this question at the forthcoming UNGA, where we expect terrorism to be a priority item.

I have established two special committees in the Department of State under Deputy Secretary Irwin, one to stimulate and coordinate international actions against terrorism chaired by Assistant Secretary Sisco, and the second to protect foreign persons and property in the United States headed, in Deputy Under Secretary Macomber’s absence this week, by Acting Deputy Under Secretary Donelan. The following is a summary of the more important specific actions we have taken and are contemplating:


Immediately after the September 5 Munich incident and the killing of the Israeli hostages, we asked the [Page 2] Executive Protective Service to provide increased protection for Israeli, Arab, German and Soviet diplomatic and consular establishments against attacks by the JDL or other groups. In response to Mayor Lindsay’s request to you for federal assistance, 40 Secret Service and EPS officers were made available to man 23 fixed posts in the city. Security during the UN General Assembly in New York will pose a special problem, to which we will give priority consideration.
We have taken steps to screen more closely visa applications of potential terrorists.
We are looking into ways to tighten controls over foreign groups and organizations in the United States which have ties to movements advocating or practicing political terrorism; e.g., the Palestine Liberation Office in New York, and groups of Arab and Iranian students in this country.


September 6-7 we initiated consultations with Ambassadors and Charges of nearly 50 countries in Washington to solicit any ideas which their governments might have on ways to tackle the problem of political terrorism.
We have approached some 42 governments urging them to get across to the Arab governments that the latter cannot evade responsibility for acts of fedayeen terrorism so long as they do not take steps to deny support and facilities to them. We have also made known our views on this point directly to certain Arab governments.
Paralleling these approaches we sent a circular to all diplomatic posts instructing our Chiefs of Mission to deliver a personal letter from me to the Foreign Ministers and Secretaries September 11 stressing the need for more effective international action to prevent terrorist acts. I also urged that they join us in encouraging as many governments as possible to become parties to existing international [Page 3] conventions in dealing with criminal interference with civil aviation and to expedite efforts to enforce the principles of these conventions. Finally, I made it very clear that we are prepared to join in the most effective international action which other governments are willing to undertake.
Secretary General Waldheim has moved rapidly to include the issue of terrorism on the agenda for the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly. I will be sending him a message shortly expressing our appreciation for the attention which he has directed to this pressing problem and assuring him of our readiness to cooperate fully to obtain effective international action against political terrorism.
To stress the importance which we attach to this problem, I intend in my opening address to the General Assembly to emphasize the need for early international action to come to grips with the problem of terrorism. I am also urging other Foreign Ministers and other heads of delegation to focus on this subject in their speeches.
The Legal Adviser has contacted several nongovernmental organizations in the field of international law and protection of human rights to enlist their assistance in contributing ideas and in possibly adopting statements or resolutions deploring the spread of terrorism and calling on governments to fulfill their international obligations to prevent terrorism and to punish terrorists. Charles Rhyne of the World Peace Through Law Center, Whitney Debevoise of the International Commission of Jurists, and John Carey of the International League for the Rights of Man all expressed a willingness to help, and we are sending them draft resolutions for their consideration. The International Law Association (Cecil Olmstead) and the American Society of International Law (Stephen Schwebel) are also possibilities which we will contact in this regard.
Our delegation to the Interpol General Assembly in Frankfurt September 19-27, which will be headed by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Rossides, will make a major effort [Page 4] to get the Assembly to focus on terrorism as an international police problem. Specifically, we will seek to obtain Interpol Assembly endorsement of a resolution agreeing to use of existing Interpol machinery and services for this purpose.
We have set up an ad hoc interagency committee to coordinate intelligence data regarding terrorist organizations and their activities and to improve exchanges of such information with other governments.
We have also noted Senate Resolution 358 and House Resolution 1106, both passed unanimously, which resolved that “all means be sought by which the civilized world may cut off from contact with civilized mankind any peoples or any nation giving sanctuary, support, sympathy, aid, or comfort to acts of murder and barbarism such as those at Munich”. We are looking closely to see what steps might appropriately be taken in conformity with the views expressed in Congress. However, the idea of a boycott of certain countries poses a number of serious questions which must be carefully considered before reaching any decisions. Meanwhile, we are drafting a suggested “sense of the Congress” resolution which would re-enforce the kinds of action the Executive Branch is pursuing.
Finally, we are urging the Senate to complete action on HR-15883, an Act for the Protection of Foreign Officials and Official Guests. This bill, as amended, would make it possible to extend the facilities of the Executive Protective Service not only to foreign officials in the United States on official business but also to official guests such as the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra which will commence a tour of this country later this month.

We are keeping in particularly close touch with the Israelis with regard both to (a) the measures we have already undertaken and have in mind to protect Israeli installations and personnel in this country, and (b) our efforts in the international field. They have expressed their satisfaction [Page 5] with these steps and appreciation for the Administration’s determination to protect Israeli personnel and installations in the United States.

I will be giving you progress reports from time to time as our plans develop and as progress toward combatting terrorism is achieved.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 23-8. Confidential. Drafted by Atherton on September 14 and cleared by Donelan, Sisco, Armitage, Boyd, Wright, Fessenden, and Ross.
  2. Rogers provided the President with an initial report on current measures to combat terrorism and proposals for the future.