438. Telegram 153621 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Mexico, September 11, 1969, 0044Z.1 2

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Department of State

11 SEP 69 0044Z

STATE 153621

1. Recent press leaks about Operation Intercept have meant that the Government of Mexico is learning about this operation through the press rather than, as we intended, through official channels. This has raised serious question in our minds as to whether our credibility and our reputation for good faith with the Mexicans may not have been damaged, with consequent impairment of out ability to ensure continued Mexican cooperation in our narcotics enforcement activities along the border. For this reason, the Action Task Force agreed today that you should be authorized to brief the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of Gobernacion and the Attorney General on the general scenario of Operation Intercept in the following manner.

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2. You should seek appointments with these three officials at the earliest opportunity. Recalling your earlier conversation with Carrillo Flores (State 147028), you should say that the Action Task Force created by enforcement activities pursuant to the report of the special Presidential Task Force (copies of which you are authorized to give the three officials) is now putting the final touches on a large-scale intensification of inspection and surveillance operations along the Mexican border. This operation will require the assignment of additional Immigration and Customs personnel and additional equipment and will inevitably lead to some inconveniences and disruption of normal traffic patterns. You should in no circumstances indicate the date on which this operation will commence but you may assure the Foreign Secretary and [Page 3] the other officials that they will be given advance information of this date. If you are asked how long this increased surveillance will last, you should say that you understand that it is for an indefinite period. FYI. While the Task Force appreciated the validity of the point made in your letter to Deputy Attorney General Kleindienst that it would be helpful in minimizing Government concern to assure key officials that the restrictive measures associated with the operation are of a temporary nature, it believed it would seriously jeopardize the success of the operation if smugglers were assured that it was of only limited duration. END FYI.

3. The Task Force considered your question whether advance notice should extend to Governors and Mayors of important cities in the border region. It decided that they should not be given advance notice but that they might be briefed [Page 4] by our border consular officers at the time the operation begins.

4. It is important, in your briefing of the Mexican officials, to stress once again the very great concern of President Nixon and the United States Administration with the narcotics and marihuana problem and their determination to bring this problem under control. You should also stress the appreciation of the Administration for the valuable cooperation we have had from the Mexican authorities in the past and our confidence that this cooperation will continue to be forthcoming.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 787, Country Files, Latin America, Mexico, Vol. I, January–December 31, 1969. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted on September 10 by Petrow (ARA); cleared by Justice, Treasury, and the Bureau of Customs; and approved by Hurwitch. In telegram 5007 from Mexico City, September 12, McBride suggested that repeated leaks had minimized the possibilities of success for Operation Intercept and increased the damage it would cause to U.S. relations with Mexico. McBride questioned whether Operation Intercept was really worth the risk. (Ibid.)
  2. The Department of State indicated its concern that press leaks about Operation Intercept had damaged the U.S. ability to insure continued Mexican cooperation in our narcotics enforcement activities along the border.