97. Memorandum From Ambassador at Large (Bunker) and the Panama Canal Treaty Co-Negotiator (Linowitz) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

The question has apparently arisen as to whether, during the course of the Panama Canal Treaty negotiations, General Torrijos or the Panamanian negotiating team ever used tactics of duress or threats of exposure of intelligence activities as a means of placing pressure on the United States Negotiators to grant concessions.2

We have no recollection or knowledge of any efforts by General Torrijos or his negotiators having used threatening tactics of any kind in order to obtain concessions. The Panamanian negotiators were persistent and fought hard for the best bargain they could obtain, but never resorted to such improper negotiating tactics. Moreover, it was clear that they were prepared to take whatever time was necessary to reach an agreement which they considered acceptable.

If any pressure tactics were ever used at any level, they never came to our attention and could have had absolutely no impact on our conduct of the negotiations.

We were, of course, aware through intelligence channels of some of the statements made on the Panamanian side about their concern over the toughness of our position and their possible response. But neither in the negotiations nor in Washington consideration of these issues did this factor have any role or effect whatsoever. In fact, the United States continued to maintain its position which had so exercised the Panamanians until it was the Panamanian side which conceded.

  • Sol M. Linowitz
  • Ellsworth Bunker
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Brzezinski Donated Material, Box 7, Carter, Jimmy—Sensitive (1/77–9/78). Confidential. Carter initialed the top-right corner of the memorandum.
  2. On September 14, the SSCI decided to hold a closed hearing on September 16 to investigate the role that NSA’s operations may have had on the treaty negotiations. (Memorandum for the Record, September 14; Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 79M00983A, Box 8, SSCI Countries—Panama, June-Sept 1977) On September 16, CBS News reported that the SSCI encountered allegations the United States electronically eavesdropped on Panamanian negotiators and that after the discovery Panamanians had blackmailed and bribed U.S. officials to keep the bugging secret. (Daniel F. Gilmore, UPI, September 16; NSC Intelligence Files, Box I026, Subject Files: F–R, Panama/NSA)