146. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1

1. Panama Treaties. Warren met this morning with Bob Byrd to continue their discussions on the ratification process. He told Byrd in confidence that we have established a channel through Ambassador Jorden to obtain a Panamanian reaction to proposed understandings which may be offered during the course of the debate. General Torrijos [Page 380] has designated four members of his Administration to deal with these matters.

Warren went over with Byrd the reaction of the Panamanian group to a number of the understandings which are being discussed on the Hill and on which we have been consulting with the Senator. The value of such a channel with the Panamanians was proven when they alerted us that an understanding on proper Canal maintenance would be offensive if applied only to the years of Panamanian operation after the year 2000.2 As a result, we have redrafted the understanding to call for proper maintenance by the US and Panama during their respective periods of responsibility.3

The Canal debate will resume next Monday4 with the continuation of opening speeches, including one by Senator Allen. Over the next few days, there will be a barrage of leaks and press stories on drug matters.5 Senator Byrd hopes that this diversionary issue can be contained in the secret session on Tuesday.6 I have written Senator Bayh objecting to the declassification of the highly sensitive report which Bayh, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, made to the SFRC on intelligence and drug-related issues.7 We hope that Bayh can be persuaded to make public only a summary of the Committee’s procedures and its conclusions that neither the intelligence issue nor the drug issue had any effect on the Treaty negotiations.8

Senator Byrd expressed great concern today about “killer” amendments to the Treaties. He recognizes the need to mobilize pro-Treaty [Page 381] forces to fend off such amendments which may seem plausible on their face but will be unacceptable to the Panamanians and/or require another plebiscite.

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 19, Evening Reports (State), 2/78. Secret. Carter initialed the top-right corner of the memorandum and wrote: “Cy.”
  2. In telegram 950 from Panama City, February 11, the Embassy reported this message from the Panamanians. (Carter Library, Chief of Staff, Landon Butler Files, Box 9, Panama, 5/26/77–5/12/78 (CF, O/A 740))
  3. Carter wrote in the left margin: “good move.”
  4. February 20.
  5. According to an October 12, 1977, CIA routing and record sheet, Carter asked the Attorney General and the SSCI to take a look at any relationship between drugs and the treaty negotiations in Panama. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 79M00983A, Box 8, Folder 6: SSCI Countries—Panama March 1972–Nov 1977)
  6. February 21. In a February 14 memorandum to Brown, Murphyexplained that the Senate scheduled this secret session to consider reports from Senators Dole and Bayh regarding alleged drug trafficking activities of the Torrijos family. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC: 330–81–0202, Panama, 1978)
  7. A copy of Vance’s February 10 letter to Bayh is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 41, Pastor, Country, Panama, 3/78. A sanitized version of Bayh’s undated report to the SFRC is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 41, Pastor, Country, Panama, 3/78. The report stated the SSCI’s conclusion that “U.S. intelligence activities had no adverse impact on terms of the Canal treaties.” The report further stated that the SSCI “found no evidence that narcotics intelligence activities affected the final terms of the Panama Canal accords.”
  8. Carter wrote in the left margin: “He called me—Wants to work c” us. Keep Frank Moore briefed.”