62. Message From Director of Central Intelligence Turner to Chiefs of Station1

To: [1½ lines not declassified]. Ref: Director [message indicator not declassified].

1. Ref transmits the text of new agreement between myself and Secretary of State on relationships between Chiefs of Station and Ambassadors. I want in this supplementary message to share with you both the reasoning behind my role in negotiating this arrangement and the spirit in which I hope it will be executed.

2. The basic thought which motivated me toward this agreement was the essentiality of as complete cooperation and teamwork between ourselves and the State Department as possible, both in the field and in Washington. I have received a sufficient number of reports from Ambassadors during my six months as Director to recognize the value of the close relationships most of you have established with your Ambassadors. I know that most Ambassadors value the contributions you make to their efforts to implement our foreign policy. While you may not have experienced it personally, however, there are some cases [Page 318] where relationships between an Ambassador and a Chief of Station have been strained. We all recognize that to some extent this is because our requirements—as specified in the agreement—for holding private some of the details of our activities from even the Chief of a United States Mission can engender suspicion. The last few years of publicity which often exaggerated the nature and independence of our operations have perhaps placed an added strain on this relationship. By making our agreement with State more explicit, I hope to reduce, if not eliminate, some of the causes for friction.

3. Accordingly, I approached this new agreement from the point of view of how much more could we share with our Ambassadors while still preserving our essential elements of secrecy. I sincerely believe that we can go further than in the past. Essentially what I believe we can do is to inform our Ambassadors to a degree of detail such that they will never be surprised to learn that one of our operations is taking place. This does not mean that every detail must be disclosed. It does mean that you must continue to improve your partnership with your Ambassador. There is no way that such a partnership’s terms can be spelled out in precise detail in a written agreement. I anticipate, though, that at one extreme you could be willing to discuss any cable or communication with the Ambassador. At the other extreme you will have to make extensive deletions before sharing. In between there will be a ground on which you feel comfortable. Detailed specifics of our more sensitive operations, however, are not needed by Ambassadors and most would shun exposure to them. Ambassadors, like myself, are in contact with the public and neither of us want to be placed in the danger of inadvertent exposure that could cost an agent of ours his life or risk the loss of a valuable source. Occasionally, a Chief of Station and Chief of Mission will not see eye to eye on the appropriate level of disclosure. In such instances I expect you to hold your ground politely but firmly. Secretary Vance and I are fully prepared to arbitrate any differences which may arise. You must never neglect the obligation you have to my statutory responsibility for protecting our sources and methods of collecting intelligence. I can only fulfill this responsibility by dependence on you. At the same time we have to recognize the Ambassadors’ statutory responsibility for the activities of all elements of his Mission. I am confident that these two obligations can be discharged in cooperation and harmony.

4. Let me also say that I view this new arrangement as an integral part of the new oversight procedures which have been evolving over the past two-three years. The Intelligence Oversight Board, the congressional oversight committees and the greater involvement of the National Security Council in intelligence matters are all part of this process. Oversight can be a bureaucratic impediment and a risk to [Page 319] security. It also can be a tremendous strength and benefit to us. It shares our responsibilities. It ensures against our becoming separated from the legal and ethical standards of our society. It prevents disharmony between our foreign policy and intelligence efforts. It helps us build a solid foundation for the future of our intelligence operations. Bringing the Ambassadors more into our confidence will provide us the benefit of a critical perspective on our intelligence production and its contribution to foreign policy. I think you would be interested to know that when I was in London recently, I discussed this question with MI–6. What came through clearly was that even in the very secretive British model of intelligence, Ambassadors are integral to the process of approving sensitive clandestine operations.

5. Additionally, I see several other advantages to us of increased cooperation with Chiefs of Mission. In my view we will need more than ever in the years ahead to dovetail the reporting from Foreign Service channels with that from ours. There are gaps in the State Department’s ability to provide information which we can neatly fill. There are areas of traditional intelligence reporting which can be better achieved at less risk by Foreign Service channels. Beyond this, there are a number of areas today where we need support from the State Department. Our cover problem is an issue of great concern to me. If we do not solve it, our capability to fulfill our mission will evaporate in the long term. We also need to increase our representation in areas that have been neglected in the past. We will do better in these and other areas the more we are truly a part of the Mission’s team. The reorganization recently directed by the President has established a new foundation for better cooperation here in Washington. Under my direction, the new National Tasking Center will be fixing requirements for intelligence collection which will apply to the Agency as well as to other intelligence collectors. Although the Foreign Service is not an intelligence collector as such, the Department and the Ambassador will be advised of these requirements to help the Foreign Service in planning its own reporting. I expect that the needs of our policy-makers will be more sharply defined, that our resources will be more efficiently utilized, and that we will establish more cooperative efforts here and in the field to meet those needs. As this new concept evolves, we will all feel its impact. I fully expect that it will increase the benefits of teamwork which you have already established with your Ambassador and which the President expects the Ambassador to establish with all elements of our government in the country to which he is the President’s representative.

6. I do want to make several points clear on dimensions to which these new relationships do not take us.

A. To begin with, you must always remember you work for me and between us we have a responsibility for producing intelligence [Page 320] that is entirely divorced from considerations of policy. You must be most conscientious in reporting to me on the political, economic and military situations in your area entirely independently of your Ambassador for that is part of providing intelligence separate from considerations of policy. If your reports in these areas are ever at marked variance with your Ambassador, I would want to know that so as to make my independent judgment. I would also expect that you would let the Ambassador know of your honest differences of opinion.

B. These new arrangements must not be allowed to stifle the innovations and imagination which have made this agency great over the past 30 years. I fully recognize the risks that this policy entails. There may be some Chiefs of Mission who will never want to accept a risk. There may be others who will not accept a risk today for a potential benefit some years away. In such instances you will be placed on your mettle first to make our case lucidly on the local scene, and next to hold your ground and pass the baton to me. Yet I doubt that these risks need be serious. Moreover, I hope that as we work closer with State, the value and quality of our product will come into greater recognition. The more we are able to bring our State Department partners into an understanding of and appreciation of our role, the stronger our agency will be, not only in the near term but in the years after you and I have long left the scene. Because we must build toward that objective, I believe this new relationship is going to be much to our benefit.

7. I would appreciate your making this message a permanent part of the file with reference, and your showing it to your Ambassador if he wishes to read it.

8. Finally, I could not have negotiated this new arrangement were it not for my confidence in each of you and the spirit and manner in which you will carry it out. You can count on me and your colleagues here to support you in every way possible to make your efforts more productive, meaningful and significant. I continue to meet with visiting Chiefs whenever possible. I am taking every opportunity to meet with Ambassadors to make them aware of our role in each overseas mission, what he and I expect from you, and how we can be effective members of his team. I meet about once a week with Secretary Vance to exchange candid views on matters of importance to our nation and our organizations. My participation in inter-agency forums, my weekly sessions with the President, Vice President and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, my increased community responsibilities as recently directed by the President—all of these are signs of the growing teamwork developing in the intelligence community here. That same spirit must be cultivated in the field. I expect you to be out in front to do this.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, TIN: 980643000017, State-CIA Relations, January–May 1978. Secret; Priority; Unintel Rybat; [handling restriction not declassified].