60. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (Bennet) to Secretary of State Vance 1

Panama Canal Hearings by Senator Allen’s Judiciary Subcommittee

Issue for Decision

We must designate a Department representative to testify July 22 at an open hearing on the Panama Canal being held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Separation of Powers chaired by Senator James Allen (D-Ala.).


Senator Allen has invited you, Ambassador Bunker, and Ambassador Linowitz to testify at this hearing. (His letter to you is attached.)2

The announced purpose of the hearing is to examine the constitutional authority of the Executive to dispose of US Government property and territory by means of a new Panama Canal treaty. However, it is clearly an attempt by treaty opponents, who dominate this Subcommittee by a four-to-one margin, to publicize the case against a treaty in the final crucial stage of the Canal negotiations.

While we cannot avoid providing a witness, it is essential to minimize the exposure which the hearing receives and to limit the opportunity for the Committee to delve into the treaty negotiations in an open [Page 205] hearing prior to the conclusion of a new treaty. This view is shared by the White House staff, the negotiators, and the Defense Department.

Invitations have also gone to two Defense officials—Canal Zone Governor Parfitt and General Macauliffe, who heads the Southern Command. Defense intends to provide only Governor Parfitt, who will appear with the understanding that his testimony will be confined to factual data on Canal operations and will not enter into the negotiations.

I believe that the best solution would be to have Legal Adviser Herbert Hansell appear as the Department witness. This choice can be justified on the basis of the subject of the hearings. It will also facilitate confining testimony to the legal/constitutional issues and avoiding discussion of the negotiations. In addition, it will provide less of an incentive for media attention than would an appearance by you or the negotiators. The negotiators and L concur in this view.


That you authorize us to inform Senator Allen that Legal Advisor Hansell will be the Department witness at the hearings, with the understanding that he will testify on the legal/constitutional issue and will not address the substance of the negotiations.3



  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770138–0754. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Beckel and cleared by Hansell, Moss, and Guthrie. Vance’s initials are stamped on the memorandum.
  2. The letter, dated July 5, is attached but not printed.
  3. Tarnoff indicated that Vance approved the recommendation on July 16.