6. Memorandum From Secretary of Transportation Brinegar to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, April 19, 1973.1 2



SECRET “Downgraded to Confidential upon removal of enclosure”

April 19, 1973

  • Assistant to the President for National security Affairs


  • Access to Charleston, South Carolina

The attached memorandum from the Assistant secretary of Defense is forwarded as a matter of interest to the National Security Council.

Denial of access to Charleston by Communist flag vessels has been considered by the Port Security Committee which consists of representatives of Coast Guard, Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Justice and Central Intelligence Agency.

Unless guidance to the contrary is received, it will be the practice of the Port Security Committee to deny all Warsaw Pact vessels and all People’s Republic of China vessels access into the port of Charleston.

Vessels of the above flags requesting to enter Charleston under a claim of Force Majeure will be directed to the port of Savannah.

By copy hereof the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Director, Central Intelligence Agency are requested to forward their concurrence directly to your office.

The concurrence of the Secretary of Defense is stated in the attachment.

[Page 2]



7 MAR 1973

In reply refer to: I-21217/73



  • Access to Charleston, South Carolina

(S) A survey of the vulnerability of the Charleston, South Carolina, port area to intelligence collection from shipborne collectors has been completed by the Department of the Navy. As in the case if Hampton Roads, serious security problems were uncovered. Based on the findings of this survey, the Secretary of the Navy has recommended that WARSAW PACT vessels be denied access to the Charleston area. This recommendation was based on the following significant results of the survey:

  • - Charleston is the largest naval complex in the Sixth Naval district, which comprises virtually all the Southeastern United States coastal area.
  • - Charleston is homeport for 18 nuclear submarines, 6 diesel submarines, 17 destroyers of various types, and other Navy ships.
  • - Charleston is heavily involved in many phases of sensitive Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) and Nuclear Attack Submarine (SSN) activity.
  • - The intelligence collection vessels (AGI’s) which the Soviets deploy to our East Coast spend more time near Charleston than any other port except Norfolk. Clandestine intelligence collection vessels in port would complement the patrolling AGI’s since they could:
  • — Intercept electronic emissions that cannot be received at sea;
  • — Visually verify emission sources; and
  • — Contribute toward continuity in electronic collection when an AGI is not near the port.
  • — The concentration of nuclear submarines, with several antenna and hull configurations and in various states of dry docking and disassembly, provides many unique photographic intelligence collection opportunities.

[Page 3]

(S) The Department of the Navy will attempt to correct these vulnerabilities. However, in view of the gross security problems in the Charleston area, it is not possible at this time to estimate: 1) whether corrective action can ever totally eliminate the security problems; 2) a completion date for actions which can be taken.

(S) Acting for the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense has concurred with the Secretary of the Navy in his recommendation that access to the Fort of Charleston be denied Warsaw Pact vessels. He has authorized me to take the necessary steps to obtain interdepartmental agreement to close this port not only to Warsaw Pact vessels, but to ships of the Peoples Republic of China as well. Accordingly, I am forwarding this recommendation though you to the Port Security Committee for consideration by that body.

(U) If the Committee concurs in this recommendation, the Department of Defense will brief appropriate Congressional leaders and concerned government agencies on the reasons for this decision.


Lawrence S. Eagleburger
Acting Assistant Secretary
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-242, NSDM 232. Secret. On September 1, the President issued NSDM 232, barring access of Warsaw Pact and PRC ships to Charleston. (Ibid.) The attachment is a copy with an indication that Eagleburger signed the original.
  2. Brinegar informed Kissinger of the Port Security Committee’s decision to close the port of Charleston, South Carolina, to vessels of the Warsaw Pact and the People’s Republic of China.