175. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the President’s Meeting on Human Rights Policy


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ms. Patt Derian, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights
  • Leslie G. Denend, NSC Staff Member (Notetaker)

Assistant Secretary Derian began the meeting by reviewing implementation of the policy over the past two years. She stressed the sustained high level of public support for the policy, and the importance of including an adequate assessment of the human rights situation particularly in decision papers to the President concerning military exports. The President indicated that he felt he was receiving this kind of information particularly in sensitive cases. Secretary Vance confirmed this procedure to the President. The President cited Argentina as a clear case where his approvals are specifically designed to encourage progress in human rights. He went on to describe the support of the European and Japanese leaders for human rights.

Ms. Derian indicated that the policy is misunderstood by some and wondered if it would not be possible to release an unclassified version of PD–30 which is now classified Confidential. The President thought the idea had merit and directed Dr. Brzezinski to review PD–30.2

The President then turned to the role of diplomacy in advancing the cause of human rights. Using the example of the Soviet Union, he indicated that he had learned a great deal about Soviet reactions to U.S. human rights initiatives and felt that more had been accomplished recently in the emigration of Soviet Jews, for example, through quiet diplomacy than through more public measures.

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Ms. Derian responded by characterizing her meetings in Singapore and the Philippines.3 The President reflected Senator Inouye’s concern that our more confrontational approach in the Philippines had set the U.S. back there. Secretary Vance said that he would follow that point up with Senator Inouye and attempt to allay his concern.

The President reiterated his view of the value of quiet diplomacy citing our recent experience with Libya. He offered support for Ms. Derian’s efforts and encouraged her for the future. Secretary Vance emphasized the President’s observation, noting that where we could talk to people there was a chance to influence their behavior. He felt that was an argument for universal diplomatic recognition.

The President asked Ms. Derian to prepare a brief report outlining recommendations for possible changes in our human rights approach to those countries where she thought it might be improved.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 37, Memcons: President: 12/78–1/79. Secret; Outside the System. Drafted by Denend. The meeting took place in the White House Oval Office.
  2. Denend sent Brzezinski a copy of the memorandum of conversation under a December 7 covering note, indicating that he would review PD–30 and coordinate with Schecter on developing a statement on PD–30 for release to the public. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Mathews Subject File, Box 10, Human Rights: Policy: 10–12/78)
  3. Derian met with officials in the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand in January 1978. See Henry Kamm, “Asians Explain Restrictions on Freedom to U.S. Aide,” The New York Times, January 18, 1978, p. A–3.