41. Memorandum for the Files1

  • Subj: Meeting with Senators Byrd, Cranston, Ambassadors Bunker and Linowitz and Curt Cutter on the PANAMA CANAL TREATY Negotiations

Ambs. Bunker and Linowitz briefed Majority Leader Byrd and Senate Whip Cranston on the Panama Canal Treaty negotiations. They indicated at the beginning of the conversation that agreement on major points of the treaty could well be concluded within two to three weeks, and felt it was important to begin briefing Senators on the key issues [Page 146] of the treaty. Amb. Bunker described the major points of the agreement to date, including lands and water, and most importantly, the neutrality issue.

Amb. Linowitz then gave a more in depth description of neutrality which was clearly the issue Senator Byrd was most interested in. After describing the neutrality agreement, Senator Byrd asked a series of questions concerning the defense of the Canal after the year 2000, as well as the involvement of the Defense Dept in the negotiating process. Amb. Linowitz told him that the Defense Dept was in perfect agreement, and described in brief, the DOD program for defending the Canal after the treaty expires. He stated that the DOD did not want or need troops in the Canal Zone after the expiration of the treaty.

Senator Byrd explained he had been an original signer of the Thurmond Resolution,2 but seemed generally pleased with the description of the neutrality issue, which he agreed was the single most important aspect of the treaty. Senator Byrd then suggested that a meeting be convened the week of June 12 with Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Leadership positions in attendance. He specifically mentioned Senators Humphrey, Jackson, Stennis, Baker, Stone.3 He directed Senator Cranston to convene the meeting that week. The Ambassadors then described the potential problems with the economic package to be discussed next week, but insisted that the U.S. position would be to avoid asking Congress for additional appropriations. Both Senators Byrd and Cranston agreed that this would be very important to the success of the treaty. The meeting ended on a very positive note.


At one point during the discussions Senator Byrd indicated that the Senate would never have passed a treaty that did not include a neutrality agreement as strong as the one that Ambs. Bunker and Linowitz had negotiated. I read this to be an important sign of his willingness to continue to listen and remain open on the issue.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, Office of Congressional Liaison, Jeff Neuchterlein Subject Files, Box 237, (Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations), 1/3/77–4/2/77 (CF, O/A 193). No classification marking.
  2. See footnote 15, Document 3.
  3. Beckel wrote: “Eastland” in the right margin. According to telegram 141764 to Panama City, June 18, Linowitz and Bunker met privately with Baker on June 15 and Bunker, Linowitz, Alexander, Rogers and Dolvin briefed a group of senators assembled by Byrd on June 16. In addition to Byrd, the following senators attended the June 16 meeting: Bellmon, Case, Cranston, Curtis, Eastland, Goldwater, Humphrey, Jackson, Laxalt, Long, Sarbanes, Sparkman, and Tower. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770218–0646)
  4. At the end of the memorandum, Beckel wrote: “It was also suggested that at the next briefing Gen. Brown accompany the negotiators.”