28. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • PRM/NSC–22: Integrated Telecommunications Protection Policy2


  • White House:

    • The Vice President
    • Denis Clift
    • Stu Eizenstat
    • Richard Neustadt
  • State:

    • Harold H. Saunders
    • Mark Garrison
  • Defense:

    • Charles Duncan
    • Adm. Daniel J. Murphy
  • JCS:

    • Lt. Gen. William Y. Smith
  • Justice:

    • Michael Kelly
    • Newell Squyres
  • OSTP:

    • Frank Press
    • John Marcum
  • NSC:

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • Samuel M. Hoskinson
    • Robert A. Rosenberg
    • John Hewitt
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
    • [name not declassified]
  • Commerce:

    • Jordan Baruch
    • John Richardson
  • OMB:

    • Randy Jayne
    • James Oliver
  • OTP:

    • William Thaler
    • Wayne Kay


The Vice President opened the meeting by discussing the increasing political concern over the threat to individual privacy posed by Soviet intercept activities within the U.S. In his view the legal, economic, defense, human rights and philosophical aspects of this problem all require a strong public posture. He recognized that laws exist to protect individuals from domestic interception and efforts to force the Soviets to desist could well be counterproductive, but was nonetheless very concerned about legitimate public fears about invasion of individual privacy by foreign governments. The public, he felt, must be informed about the basic facts and what the Administration is [Page 110] doing about this situation. The Vice President also asked Stan Turner to continue working with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to provide them with a better understanding of the actions presently underway, the complex nature of counteractions, and pros and cons of their ultimate effectiveness.

The following conclusions were reached:

1. Not enough is known of the threat of Soviet interception to the “national interest-government” and especially “national interest-private” categories of unclassified information. There is also uncertainty about Soviet intentions and objectives. Stan Turner was, therefore, asked to assume responsibility for preparation of a risk-benefit estimate that assesses more systematically the threat of Soviet telecommunications intercept to all categories of classified and unclassified information, including that solely in the private sector, and the benefit of similar U.S. telecommunications intercepts abroad. This estimate is to be given highest priority, with a preliminary report due before the end of August.

2. The broad outlines of a National Telecommunications Protection Policy were agreed upon as follows:

Government classified information relating to national defense and foreign relations should, as presently required, be transmitted only by secure means. NSA should continue to have responsibility for provision of adequate cryptographic security.
Unclassified information transmitted by and between Government agencies and contractors that would be useful to an adversary (so-called “national interest: government”) should be protected. Identification of such communications should be a priority task.
Non-governmental information that would be useful to an adversary (so-called “national interest: private”) should be identified and the private sector informed of the problem and encouraged to take appropriate protective measures. Government R&D information and protective technology should be made available to the common carriers. The additional provision, however, of government equipment and funds to the private sector would probably require legislation and raises some fundamental issues and concerns about government involvement.
More attention must be given to the threat to strictly private communications of Americans, especially in view of public concern about the need to safeguard civil rights and to protect against blackmail. Specifically:
The FCC should be requested to work with the common carriers to determine system capabilities to protect the privacy of individual private communications. If regulatory directives are needed to ensure [Page 111] such protection, the necessary legislative changes should be made in the FCC charter.
The Attorney General should consider a temporary modification in his current operating guidelines to permit NSA to analyze the extent to which the Soviets may be collecting and exploiting individual private communications.

3. The technology to protect terrestrial microwave circuits is continuing to evolve. As a result, protection is a complex problem with significant technical and legal aspects and relatively little is known about the cost-effectiveness of expensive alternative solutions. Nevertheless, subject to continuous review of available technology and reassessment of the foreign intercept threat, the following immediate actions should be taken:

An R&D program covering both system and user oriented protection approaches should be funded at about $15 million per year.
Phases I and II of the DUCKPINS cable program should be completed as soon as possible and no later than in 1978. This program should be funded at a level of about $4 million per year.
DOD should have an option of selectively installing ESVN systems if a high priority requirements can be validated.

4. A special interagency National Telecommunications Protection Board should be established under the NSC Special Coordination Committee to review, assess and insure implementation of effective protection techniques for the government and maximum assistance to the private sector to enhance its protection from interception. The Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy should chair the Board and head this program with the assistance of the Secretary of Commerce. At the request of DOD, the specific longer term functions of the Board will be given further review by the SCC, but its most immediate tasks should be the following:

Develop a possible program for active interference, including the technical approach, cost and political and intelligence implications for consideration by the SCC.
Determine the specific questions Stan Turner should address in the estimate of the Soviet intercept threat.
Define subcategories of national interest information and establish standards for protecting those categories determined to be significant (this should go along with decisions in PRM–29).3

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5. Frank Press, in coordination with other appropriate officials, is to prepare a public announcement for early release.

The SCC will meet on this subject again by the end of August. The agenda will include: final review of Board responsibilities, report on preliminary judgments of new threat assessment and resolution of all other remaining issues on PRM/NSC–22.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 41, [PRM 22, 2 of 2]. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter initialed the summary next to the subject heading. Minutes of the meeting were not found.
  2. See Document 8.
  3. Reference is to PRM/NSC–29, which Carter signed on June 1. The Presidential Review Memorandum called for a new Executive Order to replace Executive Order 11652 governing the handling and declassification of national security information and material.