35. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • USIA—Memorandum from John Reinhardt

John Reinhardt has written you a friendly, positive memorandum proposing that he meet with you to discuss ways in which USIA can assist in promoting the foreign policy interests of the United States. He emphasizes three points: USIA’s access to foreign leaders and foreign audiences, through VOA, PAOs, etc.; USIA’s ability to analyze foreign attitudes and trends; and USIA’s ability to report on the impact of the Administration’s initiatives abroad.

If you can find the time in the near future I recommend you invite Reinhardt to come over for a talk.2 It would be good for his morale and you could give him encouragement to take a firm hold on his agency and put more efficiency and dynamism into it. You could also offer him support in keeping VOA operating essentially as it does now, rather than being “Stantonized.”

I believe it would be useful for you to make direct use of USIA’s facilities, including VOA, by giving occasional interviews and statements for broadcast and by making videotapes on subjects of interest to elite foreign audiences—journalists, professors, intellectuals, etc. [Page 94] Embassies can make very good use of this kind of thing to cultivate and inform selected opinion-leaders.

Alternatively, if you cannot find time for Reinhardt, I will be happy to go and talk to him on your behalf.3

Tab A

Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Reinhardt) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)4

Now that the hurdle of my confirmation has been cleared,5 I would like to meet with you soon to discuss ways in which the United States Information Agency can assist you in promoting the foreign policy interests of the United States. As the government’s principal instrument for directly reaching foreign publics, the USIA, with a budget of over $260 million, has impressive resources and unique capabilities. It is a flexible, versatile tool which can respond quickly to your needs in pursuing foreign policy goals.

I know you are familiar with some of our operations, but let me mention three areas in which this Agency can be of unique service to you. USIA can provide 1) direct access to foreign publics and opinion leaders; 2) insight into foreign public attitudes and likely public reaction to contemplated U.S. actions; and 3) systematic feedback on the effects of our actions or policies on foreign opinion.

1. Access and Reach. We have many ways to convey messages to foreign audiences. The Voice of America, reaching perhaps 74 million regular listeners, provides instant access to people throughout the world without passing through any censors or intermediaries. Our 650 Foreign Service Information Officers, serving at 188 posts in 114 countries, constitute a skilled corps of professionals closely attuned to the political and psychological environment of the countries in which they operate and experienced in the art of getting our message to opinion leaders, educators and intellectuals. They deliver that message in the languages of and in forms adapted to their audiences. They [Page 95] know and understand the people with whom they are dealing and are trained to respond quickly to events or to Administration instructions.

When the Cairo press reacted unfavorably to the incomplete commercial wire service summaries of the President’s March 9 press conference,6 our post sent the complete version of his statements, which it had received by radio teletype (“Wireless File”),7 to Egyptian officials and the media, with the result that the semi-official Al Ahram not only printed the full text but also carried a helpful commentary. Subsequent discussion of the issues was somewhat more balanced and informed. In the same week our people in Manila had similar results with texts supplied by the Wireless File when the Philippine press criticized testimony given by Assistant Secretary Holbrooke which originally had been reported out of context.8 This effectiveness is a product of intimate knowledge of the beliefs, attitudes and information gaps of our audiences.

Last Friday9 we sent both a thousand-word lead story and the full 5,500-word transcript of your news conference by radio teletype to posts throughout the world.10 Not only was this material distributed by our posts, but we have evidence that these press transmissions—like the Voice—are regularly monitored and used by high-level officials in the PRC, Egypt and Yugoslavia (and undoubtedly the Soviet Union), adding to their use as communication channels which can be of great value in ensuring that what we have to say reaches other governments instantly in unadulterated and unfiltered form.

In the longer range we can provide to elites abroad, through the wide array of Agency publications and other media at your disposal, the context in which foreign policies are made and the purposes they serve of mutual interest to other countries. As you know from your own experience, American experts are sent by the Department of State and ourselves through our posts to talk directly with their foreign colleagues. Where U.S. officials are not able to travel abroad for this [Page 96] purpose, we can arrange a special “electronic dialogue” with key foreign audiences through an advance videotaped statement by the official followed by a radio-telephonic Q and A discussion. For example, Elliot Richardson will participate in such a dialogue with Japanese leaders on Law of the Sea issues in the near future. In any case, we regularly videotape discussions and interviews with government officials or experts on timely subjects for showing to strategically placed invited audiences or for placement on the local television stations. When Jimmy Carter became President, the leadership in many countries already was familiar with his philosophy of government through his interview with Bill Moyers11 which our posts had shown, often in collaboration with our ambassadors.

2. Insight. As a result of their knowledge of and rapport with foreign audiences our people not only have established their credibility but have gained insights into what shapes attitudes toward the United States so that our public affairs officers often are invaluable advisors to our embassies on public opinion factors. In addition, in many countries we are able to contract for public opinion polls on current issues of concern to the U.S., enabling us to provide the Executive Branch with unique information which may vary significantly from what we hear from official sources and editorialists. For instance, before the Vice President went to Japan12 we were able to provide him with evidence that the Korean troop withdrawal issue was not a major concern of the Japanese public, although it certainly is to the Japanese Government.

3. Feedback. As you know, USIA reports extensively on foreign media reaction. A number of these reports are already going to members of your NSC staff. These include the summary of significant “think pieces” which you requested and wrap-ups on foreign reaction to specific subjects. A digest of foreign media comment is delivered daily to Jerry Schecter. Our public opinion polls and the assessments of our officers overseas can provide additional light and perspective on foreign public reaction to U.S. policy initiatives.

These examples indicate our capabilities in broad scope. But these services can be tuned to very specific needs if prepared in consultation with your staff and in anticipation of Administration moves. It is my hope that USIA’s capabilities to inform influential foreign audiences and to understand their attitudes and behavior can be of direct assist [Page 97] ance to you. I will seek an early appointment with you to discuss how we might do this.

  1. Source: Carter Library, White House Central Files, Subject File, Federal Government, United States Information Agency, Executive, Box FG–210, FG 266 1/20/77–1/21/81. No classification marking. Sent for action. Inderfurth initialed the top right-hand corner of the memorandum. Brzezinski wrote Inderfurth’s initials below this and drew an arrow from the initials to Henze’s initials in the “from” line of the memorandum. Another copy of the memorandum is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special (Henze), Box 1, Chron File: 4–5/77.
  2. Inderfurth underlined the portion of this sentence beginning with “recommend” and ending with “talk.” In the left-hand margin next to the sentence, Inderfurth added, “I agree. USIA & Reinhardt have been very helpful to us so far. RI.” Brzezinski placed a vertical line in the right-hand margin next to this paragraph and wrote “do” in reference to the recommendation that he invite Reinhardt to the White House for a talk. According to an April 27 memorandum from Henze to Brzezinski, Reinhardt and Brzezinski were scheduled to meet on April 28. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special (Henze), Box 1, Chron File: 4–5/77) In an April 29 Evening Report to Brzezinski, Henze stated: “Sat in on your meeting with John Reinhardt morning 28 April and had useful and rather extensive talk with him both before and after your meeting.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special (Henze), Box 5, Evening Reports File: 2–6/77)
  3. In the margin below this paragraph, Brzezinski wrote: “1—invite 2—get me feedback on item p. 2 [of Reinhardt’s memorandum].” Below it, Henze wrote, “Done. PH 18 Apr 77.”
  4. No classification marking.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 21 and Document 29.
  6. The text of the President’s March 9 press conference is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 340–348.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 15.
  8. Presumable reference to Holbrooke’s testimony before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs of the House Committee on International Relations on March 10. Holbrooke’s prepared statement is printed in Department of State Bulletin, April 4, 1977, pp. 322–326.
  9. April 8.
  10. Reference is presumably to Brzezinski’s April 1 news conference, during which he discussed the U.S. SALT proposals made during Vance’s meetings in Moscow. For the transcript of the news conference, see Department of State Bulletin, April 25, 1977, pp. 414–421. In the left-hand margin next to this sentence, Brzezinski drew a vertical line with an arrow pointing to the sentence.
  11. According to the December 26, 1976, issue of Chicago Tribune, Moyers planned to interview Carter for an hour-long CBS Reports program, to be aired prior to the inauguration. (Maggie Daly, “Jimmy Carter to ‛star’ in Moyers documentary,” p. 42)
  12. See footnote 8, Document 9.