72. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Turner to President Carter 1


  • New Executive Order on Intelligence

One provision of the new Executive Order on intelligence [Section 4 (c)] requires the SCC to make recommendations or give approval to sensitive intelligence collection operations. As understandable as it is to place some form of control over such operations, I believe that this provision may cause more problems than the added control will be worth. Specifically:

a. We all recall the instance in which you cancelled two clandestine operations because they had been disclosed to a few members of one committee of Congress. I suggest that the visibility of the SCC process and its track record on security warrants more concern than the Congress. If, to meet this danger, we drastically curtail SCC staffing procedures, we may place a very high burden on the SCC principals, depending on the number of such operations considered to be sensitive.

b. There is no way to define “sensitive” in this context, e.g., expense, location or number of U.S. persons involved all could miss the mark. What is sensitive in one country may not be in the next, at one moment not the next, etc. Also, operations approved and in train as nonsensitive can turn sensitive for a wide variety of reasons. In short, we are virtually dependent on the DCI to recognize and identify sensitive operations, no matter what the review process. What the Executive Order can do is to establish pressures on the DCI to identify sensitive operations and subject them to added scrutiny outside the Intelligence Community. This could be achieved with the following wording:

“The DCI shall report in writing to the SCC on the following types of collection programs:

(1) All national reconnaissance programs involving manned vehicles.

(2) [1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]

(3) Any program which by its nature might raise questions of propriety or legality. (Included in this category would be operations [Page 353] along the following lines: operations involving the use of persons or organizations with whom relationships are prohibited under CIA regulations [DOI 50–10] in those instances where in the Agency’s judgment the potential intelligence gains justified a waiver of the regulation; operations in United States trust territories; operations involving cooperation with private American corporations or other private institutions [other than cover arrangements] which by their nature could raise ethical or conflict of interest issues.)

(4) Programs to counter international terrorism.

(5) Programs to counter international narcotics traffic.

“The DCI shall be held responsible for making the basic determination of which other clandestine operations shall be reported to the SCC prior to their implementation and which should be reviewed by the SCC on a periodic basis. The procedure for SCC notification shall be an oral report to the Chairman by the DCI, leaving it to the Chairman’s discretion as to whether or not to advise the Secretary of State, other members of the SCC, and/or to refer the operation to the President for approval. In addition, the DCI shall provide an annual oral briefing to the SCC on ongoing clandestine operations which he deems to be politically sensitive. The DCI shall also be required to immediately call to the SCC Chairman’s attention any ongoing operation that for reasons of compromise, possible compromise or because of contemporary political developments may cause embarrassment to the United States and/or which in his judgment may have assumed unacceptable political risks.”

This wording avoids the requirement for a specific written review process of the most sensitive operations which:

(a) Might have to be circumvented in some instances due to extreme sensitivity;

(b) Might well lead to enactment in Congressional charters of a provision for notification to Congress of all operations approved as a result of the SCC process (in the image of notification on covert actions). Note that the Intelligence Oversight Board has already asked to see all such SCC actions on clandestine operations.

Stansfield Turner 2
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Box 134, Intelligence Charter EO 12036, 1/9/78. Secret. Carter wrote at the top of the memorandum, “Zbig & Stan—I agree w/this, but prefer to let it be omitted from E.O. & handled as a standard issued by me. J.” Brackets are in the original.
  2. Turner signed “Stan Turner” above this typed signature.