68. Memorandum From Michael Armacost and Michael Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • NSC Staff Access to State Evening Notes and PDB Items

We are increasingly concerned that we are not being kept informed of important intelligence and policy items going regularly to the President. This problem, we understand, may soon become even more serious since the President will now be receiving selected raw intelligence items each day.

Naturally, we do not gainsay the President’s right to have privileged channels of communications with his key advisors. Our concern is that the system does not adequately protect the President’s interests. For example, on several occasions State has sent forward items affecting Vietnam, Korea, or Indonesia that had not been cleared with EA. The regional considerations had not been adequately addressed. Moreover, the PDB system—particularly with the added call for raw intelligence—allows the CIA upon occasion to advance parochial views and interests. We are concerned, in short, that items in our area reach the President without adequate context or perspective.

We are also concerned that we cannot effectively acquit our own responsibilities to you and to the President if we are unaware of important recommendations that are going to him on Asian matters. Insofar as State officials are convinced, moreover, that their Evening Reports are not regularly distributed to the NSC Staff, they have begun to seek more and more of their guidance from the President through that informal vehicle. We are only erratically informed of these items by the Front Office, and are frequently placed in the position of having State people quote back to us Presidential marginal notes which we have not seen. The Indochinese refugee problem is but one recent example where State did not like your memorandum and therefore used the Evening Report to go directly to the President.2

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If this situation continues, the NSC’s role in the interagency process will be further depreciated. Our principal bureaucratic leverage with the Departments—which after all have large staffs, lines of communications to the fields, and better access to the Congress—inheres in our proximity to the President and knowledge of the information that goes to him. We feel we are losing that advantage, and thereby are positioned less effectively to serve the President’s and your own needs.


That you routinely circulate on an “eyes only” basis the PDB and State Evening Reports to each cluster.

Approve_________ Disapprove _________3

Alternatively, that the Front Office send to each cluster all items of interest on an “eyes only” basis.

Approve_________ Disapprove _________4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 11, NSC, 4–12/77. Confidential. Sent for action. Brzezinski wrote “RI [Rick Inderfurth] Speak to me” at the top of the memorandum.
  2. Brzezinski wrote “agree” beside this paragraph. The Indochinese refugee problem refers to the vast number of individuals fleeing Vietnam, Laos, and Kampuchea to find refuge in safer territories like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Brzezinski’s memorandum was not found.
  3. Brzezinski underlined “the PDB” and checked the “Disapprove” line.
  4. Brzezinski changed “items of interest” to “action items” and checked the “Approve” line. Beneath the recommendations, Rick Inderfurth wrote, “Comment: 1. The President would never approve distributing the PDB to the staff. Also, remember that about 90% of the items contained in the PDB are, either sooner or later, contained in the National Intelligence Daily (NID) which the staff does see.” Aaron wrote “irrelevant” adjacent to this comment. Inderfurth continued, “2. With few exceptions, action items contained in Vance’s evening report are sent to the appropriate NSC staff member after the Pres. has commented. 3. My recommendation: That you discuss this problem with Vance + ask his views (due to Vance’s desire for confidentiality for his Evening Report channel). Rick.” Aaron wrote “weak” adjacent to comment number 3.