82. Telegram From the Department of State to All Diplomatic Posts1

91048. For Chief of Mission from the Secretary. Subject: Improving Reporting and Analysis.

1. The President wants to sharpen the responsiveness of foreign reporting, including intelligence gathering, to the needs of those who make and implement policy. Abroad he looks to you to do this as his personal representative in your country of accreditation.

2. As one step toward more responsive foreign reporting, the President has directed in Executive Order 12036 on Intelligence Activities that the NSC Policy Review Committee itself periodically review and set national intelligence information priorities. The members of that [Page 378] committee for this purpose include the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of Central Intelligence and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. That committee has approved two lists: (A) a list of issues of current concern to the policy makers and (B) a list of subjects which require continuous attention.2 The lists will be sent to you in a separate message.

3. As another step, the President has asked that Chiefs of Mission as his personal representatives actively exercise their overall responsibility for reviewing and improving reporting and analyses from their Missions. As I indicated in my message on reporting last June (77 State 131292),3 the focus should be on quality, not quantity. I want to share with you the current thinking here on what is needed. Of course, in many cases these needs are already being met, but everyone can review efforts to see where an even better job can be done.

4. The need as it is presently felt here is for more precise information on and analyses of (A) the objectives and intentions of foreign leaders, particularly toward the US, and (B) the basic political and economic factors which affect their governments’ ability to carry out their policies. More specifically, we are interested in foreign leaders’ views of US intentions, strengths, weaknesses; and, conversely, their own ability to achieve their own objectives. In other words, we are interested in knowing as intimately as possible the basic thinking of foreign leaders and what will determine their actions. We need both your analysis and the evidence you are using in as concrete a form as possible.

5. The kinds of questions that are helpful to keep in mind include these:

—Thinking of host country officials, particularly their underlying motives and goals: “What do they really want; why; how do these fit in with US objectives; what will they settle for?”

—Likely future developments and the potential impact on US interests: “What comes next, how will it hit us?”

—How the US can influence developments, what we can and should do to meet anticipated developments: “How can we get a handle on the situation?”

—Host country response to future US moves and policies: “If we do this, what will they do?”

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—Presenting all developments against a backdrop of US interests and policies: “How are we in the picture?”

6. We recognize that the key to pointing your reporting at the needs in Washington is to have an always current picture of exactly what those needs are. This can be done only through a continuing dialogue between the desks and bureaus here and your posts. I am asking the Director of INR, the Assistant Secretaries, and others with equivalent responsibilities here to give their attention to improving this dialogue and their feedback on your reporting. The Department will make every effort to reflect the foreign affairs informational and analytical needs throughout the government to you. A good rule of thumb is to try to put yourself in the place of the President and his advisors, keeping always in mind not only direct US interest but also the worldwide context in which your reporting must be read and acted upon.

7. It should be understood that none of the above is meant to curtail the timely reporting of the facts of important developments in your host country. We continue to need to know what is happening, as well as why it is happening and what it means for us.

8. Taking the goals and objectives for your country, the reporting priorities articulated by the Policy Review Committee, and the suggestions of this instruction into account, you should review the USG reporting program in your country with the appropriate members of your Country Team (including any plans of your Chief of Station to increase collection against host country targets) and ensure that your resulting decisions allocating reporting responsibilities among them with respect to your country and other countries (if elements of your Mission report on third countries) are clearly understood by the appropriate Country Team members and shared with the Department.

9. In most cases, the bulk of required information will be available overtly through the normal diplomatic activities of your Mission’s staff, which should be the primary basis for overall reporting from your country of accreditation. In those cases where desired information may exist but is not obtainable through normal diplomatic means, clandestine collection may be considered. In rendering judgment as specified in paragraphs 6 and 7 of State 2576484 as to whether or not clandestine collection should be attempted in a given case, such factors, as the importance of the desired information, its probable availability, the feasibility of acquiring it, and the risks attendant upon its collection by clandestine means, particularly in terms of sensibilities of host government officials should be weighed by you and the Chief of Station. [Page 380] Your direction of the USG reporting effort in your country will be guided by PL 93–475, the President’s instructions to you in his October letter (State 256085)5 and by State 257648.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Executive Order on Intelligence, 1978. Secret; Roger Channel; Special Handling. Drafted by Saunders, Read, Mason, and Galloway; cleared by Theodore Heavner (INR), and McAfee; approved by Vance.
  2. See Documents 61 and 67. The revised lists of national intelligence topics are attached to a memorandum from Brzezinski to Turner, February 23, in Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 32, INT Documents: #800s–900s: 2/78.
  3. See Document 45.
  4. See Document 65.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 65.