298. Memorandum of Conversation and Understanding0


  • Implementation of NSC 10/21

The following is a memorandum of conversation had and understanding arrived at at a conference in Mr. Souers’ office on the morning of Friday, August 6, 1948. Present at the meeting were Messrs. Souers, Kennan, Blum, Wisner, Admiral Hillenkoetter, and Colonel Yeaton.

Mr. Kennan opened the meeting with a statement that the conference had been requested in order to clarify certain points and to make certain that there was general understanding and agreement concerning the manner in which the contemplated implementation of NSC 10/2 would be carried out. He stressed the fact that political warfare is essentially an instrument of foreign policy and accordingly that the activity which serves this aim must function to the fullest extent possible as a direct instrumentality of the Departments of State and of the National Military Establishment. It is recognized that because of certain of its attributes this activity should be placed within the framework of CIA and must therefore be conducted with due deference to the organizational requirements of that body. It must nevertheless be recognized that [Page 720] it must take its policy direction and guidance from the Departments of State and the National Military Establishment and for this purpose the operating chief of the new Office of Special Projects must have the fullest and freest access to representatives of these two Departments who have been designated by them as their respective points of contact. Mr. Kennan further stated that it must be considered that the activity is a major political operation and that it must have special recognition as such, as well as the greatest flexibility and freedom from the regulations and administrative standards governing ordinary operations. Finally, Mr. Kennan made the point that as the State Department’s designated representative he would want to have specific knowledge of the objectives of every operation and also of the procedures and methods employed in all cases where those procedures and methods involve political decisions.
Mr. Souers indicated his agreement with Mr. Kennan’s thesis and stated specifically that it has been the intention of the National Security Council in preparing the document2 that it should reflect the recognition of the principle that the Departments of State and National Military Establishment are responsible for the conduct of the activities of the Office of Special Projects. (The Department of State taking pre-eminence in time of peace and the National Military Establishment succeeding to the pre-eminent position in war time.) Mr. Souers expressed the view that this principle is manifest in the document.
Admiral Hillenkoetter expressed the opinion that the new activity would be given sufficient scope and flexibility to accomplish its objectives by the contemplated setup within the organization of CIA. He pointed to the fact that the present Office of Special Operations also enjoys a large measure of freedom and autonomy within CIA, and that it has many special privileges. Admiral Hillenkoetter agreed with Mr. Kennan’s statement that the political warfare activity should be conducted as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy and subject in peacetime to direct guidance by the State Department. He insisted that it was essential for the State Department to accept the political responsibility, giving decisions in regard to individual projects, and he was critical of the fact that at times in the past the handling of individual cases had been turned over to him by the State Department without any political guidance. (Mr. Kennan agreed that it was necessary that the State Department assume responsibility for stating whether or not individual projects are politically desirable and stated that as the State Department’s designated representative he would be accountable for providing such decisions.)
Admiral Hillenkoetter pointed out that the organization being set up is to some extent parallel to the British arrangement, except that [Page 721] the British Chiefs of Staff have made military units available to their special operations people. There was some discussion as to who would be responsible for organizing and training units for special military operations, and Colonel Yeaton said that a JCS paper on this subject is in process of completion. It was agreed that the Office of Special Projects should propose and take a continuing interest in the necessary preparation and training of military units.
Mr. Wisner said that it would be necessary that the head of the new Office of Special Projects have continuing and direct access to the State Department and the various elements of the military establishment without having to proceed through the CIA administrative hierarchy in each case. Admiral Hillenkoetter agreed to this point, but said that it would be necessary that he be kept informed in regard to all important projects and decisions. Mr. Wisner concurred. It was agreed that the designated representatives of the State Department and the National Military Establishment would be kept informed of all problems and that they would attempt to reconcile any differences between their respective Departments concerning political and military guidance and advice given to the Office of Special Projects. In the event that the two representatives are unable to resolve their differences, the matter would be referred to the Secretaries of State and of the National Military Establishment.
Mr. Blum raised the question as to what would happen to Mr. Raymond Murphy under the new arrangement. Mr. Kennan said that he thought Mr. Murphy should come under the Chief of the new office. Admiral Hillenkoetter doubted whether this was desirable, but said that he would be willing to leave that up to the Chief of the new office.
The question was raised as to possible difficulties in dealing with foreign nationality groups in the United States for the purpose of developing operations abroad. Mr. Blum said that he had the impression that CIA was experiencing difficulties in its dealings with foreign nationality groups because of the restrictions imposed by the FBI. Admiral Hillenkoetter replied that although it was necessary to secure FBI approval for all contacts, this had not been too difficult a problem for CIA.
Mr. Kennan said that it might be desirable for the new operation to be able to work through some kind of public “American freedom committee” in dealing with foreign nationality groups in the United States. It was pointed out that there had been a number of suggestions for setting up some kind of committee of this nature.
Mr. Wisner said that the head of the new office would require broad latitude in selecting his methods of operations, for example, as to whether he would use large numbers of Americans working abroad or whether he would work primarily through foreign groups. He did not think the new chief should be committed to any existing methods of [Page 722] operations. Admiral Hillenkoetter agreed to this statement. Mr. Wisner also pointed out that the new position would also require considerable assistance from other Government Departments and agencies, including State and the National Military Establishment, and he raised the question whether the necessary help would be available. Admiral Hillenkoetter said that he felt there was a general spirit of cooperation in all the departments. It was agreed that Mr. Kennan and Colonel Yeaton would be responsible for soliciting the help of the State Department and the National Military Establishment respectively and that if any major troubles arose in obtaining cooperation from other departments, the problem could be referred to the National Security Council.
Mr. Wisner stated to Admiral Hillenkoetter that there were a number of internal organizational matters concerning which he felt there should be some discussion and clarification, but that these might be more appropriately discussed in a separate meeting between himself and Admiral Hillenkoetter. Admiral Hillenkoetter agreed that this was important and suggested an early meeting for this purpose.
It was agreed that a memorandum of the conference should be prepared and circulated to all who attended for their concurrence. Mr. Wisner undertook to prepare this memorandum in consultation with Mr. Blum and Colonel Yeaton, who had likewise taken notes on the discussion.
Frank G. Wisner 3

August 12, 1948.

The individuals whose names appear below and opposite the spaces provided for their respective initials, being all of the participants in the conversation hereinabove referred to, acknowledge that this memorandum comprises an accurate record of the conversation and further that the views therein set out correspond to their conception of the manner in which the activity shall operate.4

  • Rear Adm. R.H. Hillenkoetter
  • Colonel Ivan D. Yeaton
  • Mr. Robert Blum
  • Mr. George Kennan
  • Mr. Sidney W. Souers
  • Mr. Frank G. Wisner
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Historical Files, HS/CSG–771, Job 83–00036, Box 5, Folder 8. Top Secret. The source text is a transcript prepared for the CIA Historian on March 27, 1953.
  2. Document 292.
  3. Reference is to NSC 10/2.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  5. None of the names has been initialed on the source text.