98. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the Assistant to the President (Jordan) to Secretary of State Vance 1

SUBJECT

  • Task Force on the Canal Treaties: An Information Bank

As the debate on the Canal Treaties intensifies, the Administration will need to be able to respond quickly and accurately to arguments made by those who oppose the new treaties. An incorrect response or a flawed argument could be extremely costly not only in terms of disseminating inaccurate information, but more importantly, because it could put us on the defensive and leave the erroneous impression that we haven’t adequately reviewed the treaties or that we aren’t on top of the issue.

We expect that Ambassadors Bunker and Linowitz and the Panamanian Office in the State Department should have primary responsibility for responding to facts or arguments generated by the treaty’s opponents, but there are many other people in the Administration who are regularly asked questions about new facts or arguments and need to be prepared to respond. We therefore suggest that the Panama Canal Task Force in State in coordination with Defense, JCS, and NSC be asked to do the following additional tasks:2

—On a daily basis, monitor all important national newspapers, television, and radio broadcasts, and provide a brief summary of new facts or arguments which are either inaccurate or cast doubt on the need for the Canal treaties.

—On a daily basis, provide a 1–2 page paper with this summary and a suggested Administration response. Please provide this to the following people in the White House:

Joseph Aragon, White House West Wing

Landon Butler, White House West Wing

Denis Clift, Office of the Vice President

Rick Inderfurth, NSC

Hamilton Jordan

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Robert Pastor, NSC

Jody Powell

Jerry Schechter, NSC

Robert Thomson, White House Congressional Relations

Walt Wurfel, White House Press Office

—On a weekly basis, prepare a summary of the past week’s activities (relating to consideration of the Canal Treaties by the Congress, by the U.S. public, and by Panama) and a schedule of the anticipated activities of the next week. In addition to the advance schedule, please suggest initiative which the President or the Administration might take to keep the momentum going.

—Please put together a package of materials on the Canal Treaties which can be given to all Congressional offices.

—Please compile a list of well-known supporters of a new treaty.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 40, Pastor, Country, Panama, 9/8–15/77. No classification marking.
  2. In a September 16 memorandum to all Department of State Assistant Secretaries and office heads, Read outlined the organization and responsibilities of the newly created Panama Task Force. (Department of State, Principal and S/S Memoranda for 1977, Lot 79D31, Box 1, S/S–S Memoranda File July-September, 1977)