RESEARCH DOCUMENT /// The Shevardnadze File : Late Soviet Foreign Minister Helped End the Cold War

Politburo Notes and Memcons Detail Surprising Rise, "New Thinking" Candor, Diplomatic Partnerships, and Sense of Missed Opportunities

Eduard Amvrosievich Shevardnadze, In Memoriam

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 481

Posted July 24, 2014

Compiled and edited by Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, July 24, 2014 –Former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who passed away on July 7, brought a new diplomatic style and candor to bear in changing U.S.-Soviet relations in the late 1980s and ending the Cold War, according to Soviet and U.S. declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (

The posting includes the 1985 Politburo minutes of Shevardnadze’s surprise selection as foreign minister, contrasted with the behind-the-scenes account from senior Central Committee official Anatoly Chernyaev in his diary. The e-book also includes the transcripts of Shevardnadze’s remarkable first conversations with his American counterparts, George Shultz (in the Reagan administration) and James Baker (in the George H.W. Bush administration); other memcons featuring Shevardnadze’s leading role in summit meetings between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and American presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Shevardnadze’s last conversation with Bush before the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in the Oval Office, September 23, 1988. (photographer unknown)

Shevardnadze’s rise to leadership of the Foreign Ministry in 1985, only months after Gorbachev became general secretary, was a "bolt from the blue," in Chernyaev’s words. Shevardnadze’s talks with Shultz brought a whole new tone to U.S.-Soviet discourse, while the Soviet minister’s growing friendship with Baker, including 1989’s fly-fishing outing in Wyoming, led to actual partnership between the former Cold War adversaries by the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But the memcons also reflect Shevardnadze’s frustration with American "pauses" and missed opportunities for dramatic arms reductions across the board, and for earlier domestic political transformation in the Soviet Union.

The National Security Archive obtained the Shevardnadze documents through Freedom of Information Act requests to the Reagan and Bush presidential libraries and to the U.S. State Department, and through generous donations from Anatoly Chernyaev. Additional material comes from the files of the Gorbachev Foundation, the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, and the former Communist Party (SED) archives in Germany.

General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze at a meeting of European leaders, November 21, 1990. (photographer unknown)

Two key aides to Shevardnadze played leading roles in developing the new Soviet foreign policy during the 1980s, and deserve mention for helping scholars afterwards understand the end of the Cold War. Experienced diplomat Sergei Tarasenko had already served in the Soviet embassy in Washington and provided Shevardnadze with expert advice on relations with the U.S., including in most of the U.S.-Soviet meetings transcribed here. Tarasenko also participated in the seminal 1998 Musgrove discussion published in the award-winning book, Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989 (Budapest/New York: Central European University Press, 2010). Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze served as Shevardnadze’s chief of staff, having come with him from Georgia to the Foreign Ministry, and subsequently donated his invaluable diaries and notes of the period to the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University.


DOCUMENT 1: Excerpt of Official Minutes of the Politburo CC CPSU Session, June 29, 1985

Source: Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), Fond 89. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.

Perhaps the most audacious personnel change made by Gorbachev came very early, only four months into his leadership, when longtime Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko (known to the Americans as "Mr. Nyet") retired upwards to the job of chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet — the titular head of state— as part of the deal that earlier had featured Gromyko advocating for Gorbachev’s election as general secretary. Gromyko understood that his successor would be his carefully-groomed deputy, Georgi Kornienko — so there was shock-and-awe throughout the Central Committee and the Foreign Ministry when Gorbachev instead proposed as foreign minister the ambitious first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, Eduard Shevardnadze. During the Politburo session on June 29, 1985, Gorbachev stepped down from his position as chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which he held together with his position as general secretary (Leonid Brezhnev had merged the two jobs in 1977). By kicking Gromyko upstairs, Gorbachev opened a key position-Minister of Foreign Affairs — where he wanted to place his close ally, whom he already knew shared his reformist thinking on both international and domestic policy. This official record of the Politburo session shows Gorbachev nominating Shevardnadze, ostensibly after discussing several alternative candidates with Gromyko and jointly coming to the conclusion that Shevardnadze was the best choice. All Politburo members express their full support for Gorbachev’s candidate— testament to the power of the general secretary.

Secretary of State James Baker and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze fly-fishing in Wyoming, September 24, 1989. (photographer unknown)

DOCUMENT 2: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, July 1, 1985

Source: Diary of Anatoly S Chernyaev, donated to the National Security Archive.

Translated by Anna Melyakova.

Anatoly Chernyaev, who at the time was first deputy head of the International Department of the Central Committee (CC CPSU), describes in his diary the nominations of Gromyko and Shevardnadze as they were announced at the CC CPSU Plenum. The Plenum had to approve the nominations that the Supreme Soviet would confirm the next day. Shevardnadze’s nomination was like a "bolt from the blue," Chernyaev writes. The diary relates how Boris Ponomarev, head of the International Department, told Chernyaev what had actually happened at the Politburo, an account that differs substantially from the official minutes (see Document 1). According to Ponomarev, the Shevardnadze nomination was a total surprise to other Politburo members, and Gromyko and Ponomarev tried to protest by suggesting career diplomat Yuli Vorontsov as a candidate, but Gorbachev disregarded their protest completely. Chernyaev concludes that Gorbachev’s nomination of Shevardnadze is "very indicative of the end of Gromyko’s monopoly and the power of the MFA’s staff over foreign policy."

DOCUMENT 3: Record of Conversation between George Shultz and Eduard Shevardnadze in Helsinki, July 31, 1985

Source: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of State.

This U.S. State Department memcon records the meeting with the U.S. secretary of state during Shevardnadze’s first foreign trip in office — to Helsinki for a meeting of CSCE foreign ministers on the tenth anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act. In this first meeting with George Shultz, the Soviet foreign minister mainly reads from his notes, giving the American a tour d’horizon of the Soviet positions on arms control. However, his tone is strikingly different from previous meetings when Andrei Gromyko had represented the Soviet side. Even on questions of human rights, Shevardnadze reacts not with "indignation or rage" (as Shultz comments in his memoirs) but asks Shultz jokingly, "When I come to the United States, should I talk about unemployment and blacks?" In the second part of the conversation, where Shultz and Shevardnadze are accompanied only by translators, Shevardnadze urges his counterpart to move fast on arms control, indicating that the Soviets are willing to reassess their positions — "there is no time now to postpone solutions." He ends the conversation with the statement: "you have experience but we have the truth," a remark that would win him some positive points from the Politburo.

DOCUMENT 4: Minutes of Politburo discussion of Shultz-Shevardnadze talks in Vienna, November 13, 1986

Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.

Shevardnadze was an active participant at the historic summit between Gorbachev and Reagan in Reykjavik in October 1986, where the two leaders almost agreed to abolish nuclear weapons. Just after the summit, the Soviets, trying to build on the momentum of Reykjavik, tried to offer the U.S. side concessions on laboratory testing for the missile defense program so close to Reagan’s heart – a change in position that might have made a difference at Reykjavik. But it was too late. Enmeshed in the growing Iran-contra scandal and under attack from allies like Margaret Thatcher for nuclear heresy, the Reagan administration had already retreated from the Reykjavik positions. Here the Politburo reviews the results of the November Shevardnadze-Shultz talks in Geneva, where Shultz refused even to discuss Shevardnadze’s new proposals concerning what testing would be allowed and not allowed under the ABM treaty. Shultz’s position notwithstanding, Gorbachev emphasizes the need to press the U.S. to move forward on the basis of Reykjavik. He stresses that "we have not yet truly understood what Reykjavik means," referring to its significance as a new level of disarmament dialogue and reduction of the sense of nuclear threat.

DOCUMENT 5: Record of Shultz-Shevardnadze Conversation in Moscow, April 21, 1988

Source: FOIA request to the Department of State.

This State Department memorandum of conversation records the third set of negotiations between the U.S. secretary of state and the Soviet foreign minister leading up to the 1988 Moscow summit (February in Moscow, March in Washington, now April back in Moscow). Shevardnadze presses for progress on the START treaty aimed at reducing nuclear weapons, but Shultz responds that still-unresolved issues like sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) would not "reach full closure during the next month," so agreement would be unlikely for the summit. Arguments over these nuclear-armed cruise missiles would hold up START negotiations for years, pushed by the parochial interests of the U.S. Navy rather than a consideration of the national interest, but by 1991 their lack of strategic value would lead to President George H. W. Bush’s unilateral decision to withdraw all tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. ships.

The bulk of the discussion here concerns human rights issues, including an interesting exchange about the Vienna follow-up meeting on the Helsinki Final Act. Shultz raises his "disappointment with the performance of the Soviet delegation" at Vienna, which "was not prepared to go as far in its statements as what the Soviet leadership was saying in Moscow." Shevardnadze responds, "We have a hard delegation" in Vienna; we tell them one thing, "They do something different."

DOCUMENT 6: Minutes of the Politburo discussion of Mikhail Gorbachev’s United Nations speech, December 27-28, 1988

Source: RGANI. Published in "Istochnik" 5-6, 1993. Translated by Vladislav Zubok.

The December 27-28 Politburo meeting was the first following Gorbachev’s return from the United States after his historic announcement at the United Nations of massive unilateral Soviet withdrawals of forces from Eastern Europe. Observers in the United States ranging from Sen. Daniel Moynihan to Gen. Andrew Goodpaster hailed the speech as marking the end of the Cold War; but incoming Bush administration "hawks" such as Brent Scowcroft did not agree (as Gorbachev would only find out later, with the 1989 "pause"). Part of the context here in the Politburo for Gorbachev’s lengthy monologues and Shevardnadze’s proposals for a "businesslike" withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe is the growing bewilderment of certain military and KGB leaders who were not fully informed in advance about the scale and tempo of Gorbachev’s announced unilateral arms cuts.

Still, there is no trace of real opposition to the new course. The Soviet party leader has learned a lesson from the military’s lack of a strong reaction to previous discussions of "sufficiency" as a national security strategy, and he is now ramming change down their throats. Ever obedient, Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov states, "everyone reacted with understanding," even after Shevardnadze’s aggressive attacks against the military for retrograde thinking, for directly contradicting the U.N. speech, and for proposing only "admissible" openness rather than true glasnost. Ironically, however, when Shevardnadze and Ligachev suggest announcing the size of Soviet reductions "publicly," it is Gorbachev who objects: if the Soviet people and party learn how huge Soviet defense expenditures really are, it will undermine the propaganda effect of his U.N. speech.

DOCUMENT 7: Record of Conversation between Erich Honecker and Eduard Shevardnadze, June 9, 1989

Source: Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR-Bundesarchiv, SED, ZK, JIV2/2A/3225. Translated by Christiaan Hetzner.

This is one of many documents that became available in the Communist party archives of the former East Germany (GDR) after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany. Less than a week after Solidarity had swept the Polish elections, to the dismay of the Polish Communists, the hard-line GDR leader Erick Honecker is rapidly becoming a dinosaur on the verge of extinction. At this moment in mid-1989, only Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania surpasses Honecker in his resistance to Gorbachev’s perestroika and the new thinking in Moscow represented in this meeting by Shevardnadze. Honecker has even banned some of the new Soviet publications from distribution in the GDR. The conversation reveals Honecker’s deep ideological concerns, and his understanding of the geostrategic realities in Central Europe. He reminds Shevardnadze that "socialism cannot be lost in Poland" because through Poland run the communications lines between the Soviet Union and the Soviet troops in the GDR facing NATO’s divisions.

This same consideration led Honecker and his predecessor, Walter Ulbricht, to urge Soviet military intervention to suppress previous East European uprisings such as the Prague Spring in 1968 or the strikes in Poland in 1980-1981. But here Honecker is most dismayed by Gorbachev’s upcoming trip to West Germany (FRG), which threatens Honecker’s own political "balancing act," which in turn depends on poor relations between the Soviets and the West Germans. Shevardnadze has an impossible mission here, to assuage the East German leader’s concerns about all the changes taking place in Poland, Hungary and inside the Soviet Union. Shevardnadze’s opening words — "our friends in the GDR need not worry" — sound more than ironic today. In fact, Shevardnadze does not believe in Honecker’s concept of East German "socialism," and in only a few months, the Moscow leadership would signal to Honecker’s colleagues it was time for him to go.

DOCUMENT 8: Memorandum of Conversation between George Bush and Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington, September 21, 1989

Source: FOIA request to the George H.W. Bush presidential library.

This meeting in Washington marks the start of Shevardnadze’s trip to the United States that will culminate with his fly-fishing expeditions with James Baker in Wyoming, where the two men established a close personal connection. This was also Shevardnadze’s first meeting with George H.W. Bush as president of the United States. He tells Bush about the progress of domestic perestroika and democratization in the Soviet Union, the work on economic reform, and the new tenor of U.S.-Soviet relations. However, Shevardnadze laments that the desired progress toward a 50% reduction in strategic nuclear weapons is not on the horizon, and he urges his U.S. counterparts to pick up the pace. He also enumerates other Soviet arms control proposals, including banning fissionable materials and eliminating short-range nuclear weapons.

DOCUMENT 9: Memorandum of Conversation between George Bush and Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington, April 6, 1990

Source: FOIA request to the George H.W. Bush presidential library.

Shevardnadze is in Washington for this meeting, working out arrangements for the long-planned summit meeting between Bush and Gorbachev that will take place at the end of May. The Lithuania crisis has created a rift in U.S.-Soviet relations, "lost momentum" in Bush’s phrase, as the independence demands of Lithuanian nationalists build on the long-standing American position of non-recognition of Soviet incorporation of the Baltics, as well as domestic U.S. political pressures from émigré groups. Gorbachev’s own lack of understanding for Baltic nationalism has produced an inconsistent Soviet policy alternating between crackdowns, threats of an embargo, and attempts at dialogue. Shevardnadze tries to explain to the Americans why the Soviets needed "Presidential authority" to deal with the problems between ethnic groups in Lithuania, not to mention Soviet claims to ownership of the factories there. But when Bush says the Soviets have backtracked on arms control agreements (such as how to count air-launched cruise missiles, or ACLMs), Shevardnadze is quick to point out how the Americans have reneged on their on-site inspection pledges.

Perhaps most remarkably, Shevardnadze describes the Soviet argument for a nuclear test ban as based on domestic political pressures from mass demonstrations (such as in Kazakhstan against the Semipalatinsk test range). The Soviet foreign minister also makes a plea for partnership in international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, saying the Soviets are "not looking for your help." This would change within a year. On the American side, the conversation reveals a clear expression of Bush’s vision when he reports he is often asked, "Who is the enemy?" Bush’s answer: "unpredictability." And perhaps it is just diplo-speak, but it is all the same music to Shevardnadze’s ears, when the American president combines his own "Europe whole and free" phrase with Gorbachev’s "common European home" and remarks that the latter idea is "very close to our own."

DOCUMENT 10: Memorandum of Conversation between George Bush and Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington, May 6, 1991

Source: FOIA request to the George H.W. Bush presidential library.

This is Shevardnadze’s last meeting with President Bush, and he appears only in his unofficial capacity as president of the Moscow-based Foreign Policy Association. Shevardnadze resigned as foreign minister in December 1990, warning against the coming dictatorship, and protesting Gorbachev’s turn toward the hard-liners. But here Shevardnadze comes to Washington asking for support for the embattled reform still underway in the Soviet Union. He describes the dismal situation in his country, pointing specifically to economic instability, the nationalities crisis, and the rising conservative opposition. He regrets delays on every important issue, especially the Union treaty that would precipitate the hard-line coup in August 1991: "if we had offered this treaty in 1987 or even 1988, all would have signed it." But most of all, the former foreign minister is "concerned, indeed frightened, by the pause in our relations." He urges Bush not to delay the planned Moscow summit (it would ultimately happen at the very end of July) and to keep engaging with Gorbachev. In effect, progress in U.S.-Soviet relations has become the only strong card Gorbachev has left to play in the context of his domestic crises.

Bush and Shevardnadze talk about Gorbachev’s relationship with Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and wonder why they cannot find a way to work together. Shevardnadze appeals to Bush to move fast on reductions in conventional forces (CFE) and in nuclear weapons (START) because "demilitarization is the best way to help the Soviet Union." For Bush, however, completing these two treaties remains a precondition for even holding the 1991 summit. Shevardnadze’s plea for farm credits is especially poignant; a year earlier, he sought economic partnership, but now he says, "We must let people [in the Soviet Union] feel something tangible. I know it is hard, but if it is possible, give the credits." Prophetically, Shevardnadze remarks, "Even if we can’t maintain a single Soviet Union, reform will continue."

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : Studies by Once Top Secret Government Entity Portrayed Terrible Costs of Nuclear War

After Briefing on Likely Death Tolls, JFK Remarked: "And We Call Ourselves the Human Race"

Net Evaluation Subcommittee Nevertheless Initially Projected U.S. Prevailing in Global Nuclear Conflict — Although Final Report Described a "Nuclear Stalemate"

Some Studies Depicted U.S. as Launching First, Preemptively

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 480

Posted – July 22, 2014

For more information contact:
William Burr – 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Estimated distribution of radioactive fall-out on U.S. caused by a Soviet retaliatory launch-on-warning (LOW) attack in mid-1965 on a range of U.S. target systems: urban-industrial (also Canadian), air defenses (also Canadian), SAC bases, naval bases, command-and-control, and military depots.

Washington, D.C., July 22, 2014 – On the morning of 20 July 1961, while the Berlin Crisis was simmering, President John F. Kennedy and the members of the National Security Council heard a briefing on the consequences of nuclear war by the NSC’s highly secret Net Evaluation Subcommittee. The report, published in excerpts today for the first time by the National Security Archive, depicted a Soviet surprise attack on the United States in the fall of 1963 that began with submarine-launched missile strikes against Strategic Air Command bases. An estimated 48 to 71 million Americans were "killed outright," while at its maximum casualty-producing radioactive fallout blanketed from 45 to 71 percent of the nation’s residences. In the USSR and China, at the end of one month 67 and 76 million people, respectively, had been killed.

This was President Kennedy’s first exposure to a NESC report, but the secret studies of nuclear war scenarios had been initiated by his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. It may have been after this briefing, described by Secretary of State Dean Rusk as "an awesome experience," that a dismayed Kennedy turned to Rusk, and said: "And we call ourselves the human race."

The NESC reports on nuclear war were multi-volume, highly classified studies and none has ever been declassified in their entirety. The summaries published here today — for the annual reports from 1957 to 1963 — provide a glimpse of the full reports, although important elements remain classified. Besides the summaries and fuller reports for 1962 and 1963, today’s posting includes a number of special studies prepared by the NESC, including an especially secret report requested by President Eisenhower that led to the production of the comprehensive U.S. nuclear war plan in 1960, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP).

The National Security Council’s Net Evaluation Subcommittee was a small and highly secret organization that prepared annual reports analyzing the "net" impact of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange, in terms of losses of people, military assets, and industrial resources. For Eisenhower such studies were essential; he came to believe that a U.S.-Soviet military conflict would quickly go nuclear and that as long as winning was what mattered, "one could not be meticulous as to the methods by which the force was brought to bear."[1] Studies on nuclear war, mainly the estimated impact of a U.S. atomic air offensive, had begun during the Truman administration — for example, the 1948 Harmon report and Weapons System Evaluation Group [WSEG] study 1 — but they were not prepared at the presidential level and did not estimate the impact of a Soviet attack on the United States.[2]

For years, the very existence of the NESC was a well-kept secret. Its name leaked to the press only once when a deputy director died in a 1956 plane crash in the Potomac, but the news stories provided no explanation of the NESC’s work. Historians and the interested public did not know anything about the Subcommittee until the 1980s and 90s, when presidential libraries started to declassify documents about its role in government, and the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States series began to publish records of NSC meetings where the NESC presented its findings.[3]

Directors of the National Security Council’s Net Evaluation Subcommittee, from the late 1950s through 1964

Gen. Gerald C. Thomas (U.S. Marine Corps), 1957-1958.

Lt. General Thomas Hickey (U.S. Army), 1959-1961.

General Leon W. Johnson (U.S. Air Force), 1962-1964.

With the end of the Cold War, the NESC scenarios of a U.S.-Soviet general nuclear war appear obsolete and irrelevant. Even with renewed tensions with Russia, the possibility of nuclear war or even a direct conventional military confrontation is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, the terrifying NESC scenarios are a reminder of the concerns that motivated Kennedy and his successors to seek to control the nuclear arms race and to avoid conflicts by pursuing détente with the Soviet Union. In any event, the threat of nuclear war is not an imaginary one. Today India and Pakistan are pursuing a dangerous and destructive nuclear arms race and war could produce terrible consequences for the people of South Asia. Whether the leaders of those countries have asked their nuclear experts to undertake NESC-like studies is unknown, but they may find the reports of the Eisenhower-Kennedy era to be useful examples for projecting the possible consequences of the worst-case scenario.

With the focus on the relative power positions of the United States and the Soviet Union, the conclusions of the annual reports present an interesting progression, with some confidence about the outcome in the earlier studies and a more sober assessment at the end. The 1958 study suggested that despite the terrible destruction, the United States would come out ahead in terms of the "balance of strength" in strategic nuclear forces and industrial capacity. In the 1959 study, the Soviet Union "would receive the greater industrial damage and population casualties." Some of the conclusions are excised from the 1961 study, but the 1962 report concluded that in the two general war scenarios reviewed the "US strategic military posture would remain superior to that of the Soviet Union." The next year, however, the NESC found no advantage: "neither the US nor the USSR can emerge from a full nuclear exchange without suffering very severe damage and high casualties." That held true even if the United States launched first. Thus, President Kennedy concluded that Moscow and Washington had reached a "nuclear stalemate."[4]

The 1963 report was the last of the NESC’s annual assessments. Perhaps because the studies showed the same terrible consequences year after year, policymakers asked the NESC to look more closely at crisis management issues. A report in late 1963 focused on "The Management and Termination of War with the Soviet Union," while one the following year examined a military crisis in Western Europe. By early 1965, at the instigation of a turf-conscious Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the NESC no longer existed. McNamara argued for its abolition on grounds of organizational efficiencies, but a key problem was that the NESC had prepared a report that was not to his liking [See documents 10A-C].

The declassification of NESC reports raises questions about the claim that the "U.S. was never the aggressor" in war games and other exercises depicted as occurring in an "official future."[5] This claim needs to be considered carefully because the Subcommittee produced several reports — namely, for 1962 and 1963 — that postulated the United States as the initiator of preemptive nuclear attacks, close to a classic first strike. Whether a preemptive strike is "aggressive" depends on the point of view; the concept of preemption depends on accurate strategic warning of an attack, so it could be seen as an aggressive response to imminent aggression. But a preemptive strike based on an inaccurate warning would be both aggressive and catastrophic. In any event, well before 1962, preemption was an element of U.S. nuclear war planning and U.S. military planners continued to assess whether it was advantageous or not.[6]

The classified NESC reports are under the control of the National Security Staff at the White House. At the close of the Clinton administration, the NSS turned over most of the historical National Security Council institutional files to the presidential libraries but a sub-set of intelligence files, such as records of the 303 and 40 committees that vetted intelligence operations, remain in White House hands. The Staff works with the presidential libraries and documents in this collection can be requested from the relevant library. Because the NESC reports are large, multi-volume works, the Archive began by requesting summaries of the reports during 1957-1963. That alone, including a prolonged appeals process, took over 12 years to accomplish. In the meantime, the Defense Department has denied in its entirety a 2001 FOIA request for reports from the Eisenhower period, necessitating a new appeal. Separate requests for declassification of the first volumes of the 1956, 1961 and the 1963 reports are also underway.


Document 1: Report of the Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee, 3 November 1954, Top Secret, excised copy, released under appeal

Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (DDEL), National Security Council Staff Records, 1948-1961. Disaster File, box 37, Net Evaluation Subcommittee (3)

The NESC had forerunners, including a Special Evaluation Subcommittee and a Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee, both of which focused on the methodology of a Soviet attack and the damage that it would cause the United States.[7] The report of the Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee, which reviews a Soviet attack on the United States in mid-1957, was recently declassified. It provides great detail on how and why the Soviets would attack — to strike the "first blow" against an expected U.S. attack, essentially a preemptive strike. According to the report, the Soviets would prefer a non-nuclear war because of the U.S. nuclear advantage, but they also understood that Washington "would not permit itself to be deprived of its most powerful weapon."

The estimated Soviet nuclear stockpile was relatively small, which led the analysts to posit an attack centering on Strategic Air Command bases and strategically important U.S. metropolitan areas. The bases were critically important because Moscow would see destroying them as essential to "blunting the retaliatory blow that … would be directed at the USSR upon the initiation ofhostilities." Reflecting Cold War suspicions and anxieties, clandestine detonations were an essential element of the Soviet attack. The Soviet air offensive could take different forms, low- or high-altitude or even a small "sneak attack." However the offensive unfolded, Soviet air crews would be flying one-way missions and would have to be induced to "accept missions forwhich there would be little chance of return."

The report includes a detailed description of the estimated damage that an attack by some 1,000 Soviet long-range bombers would cause to U.S. military installations and economic resources, including industry, money-credit system, and nuclear energy facilities. The damage assessment includes an estimate of death caused by high-altitude or low-altitude attacks, with or without evacuation from cities. Without evacuation, the high-level attack would cause 9,600,000 deaths in industrial areas; but with evacuation the numbers would be in the range of 4,400,000. For the low-altitude attack, the numbers were 3,100,000 and 5,100,000 respectively.

Document 2: National Security Council Staff, "Megatonnage Involved in Previous Net Evaluation Studies," attached to "Planning Board Questions Net Evaluation Presentation," 26 April 1960, Top Secret

Source: National Archives, Record Group 273. Records of the National Security Council, box 84, 442nd Meeting of the National Security Council, April 26, 1960

When the NSC Net Evaluation Subcommittee was established in 1955, it started by focusing on the net impact of a Soviet attack, although U.S. retaliatory strikes would be taken into account. In 1956 the NESC received instructions to look in detail at the impact of the U.S. attack on Soviet bloc targets. Each of the reports would postulate the total megatons detonated by Soviet and U.S. nuclear strikes. Over the years this information has been classified but it was disclosed in this FOIA release. For the purposes of comparison, one megaton-a million tons-of explosive yield is equivalent to about 66 of the 20 kiloton weapon that devastated Hiroshima.

Document 3: "Summary and Conclusions," 1957 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, 15 November 1957, Top Secret, excised copy

Source: DDEL FOIA release

The NESC’s report for 1957 analyzed the consequences of four Soviet bomber-missile attacks launched under various circumstances in 1960, three of which were surprise attacks on U.S. forces at different states of readiness. Except for air defenses, U.S. forces were at "full alert" for the fourth scenario. All four attacks were devastating although the attack under condition II was less so because U.S. air defense forces were in a high state of readiness. Thus, the U.S. suffered an estimated 46 million fatalities instead of 85 million.

The attack scenario began with the detonation of clandestinely-introduced nuclear devices in New York City and Washington, D.C. This was a scenario that reflected Cold War suspicions and obsessions, but by the mid-1950s, U.S. intelligence estimated that the Soviets had the capability to introduce clandestine devices under diplomatic cover but would be more likely to use them as an "auxiliary" method of attack than as an important means of disabling the United States. In the NESC scenario, the surprise detonations provided early warning to SAC alert forces which made it possible for them to launch a devastating strike that left the Soviet Union with "no remaining capability to deliver a nuclear attack" against the United States. Nevertheless, "a nuclear war initiated by the USSR against the United States under circumstances of either ‘Strategic Surprise’ or ‘Full Alert’ would result in the devastation" of both countries.

The NESC looked closely at the U.S. retaliatory attack that would be launched in response to the Soviet attack under condition VI. Seven hundred and twenty SAC bombers and 47 strategic missiles delivered an attack on military targets in the Soviet Union, including 74 government control centers. SAC did not target industry or populations per se, so devastation and fatalities were caused by the "fallout and the bonus received from the blast and thermal effects of’ weapons detonating off their desired targets or on military targets in population centers." "Bonus" conveyed the idea of unplanned but nevertheless useful destruction, but is misleading because blast and thermal effects were inherent features of the weapons.

The NESC analysts argued that the study demonstrated the need for more effective defenses and robust alert forces: air defenses, anti-ballistic missile systems, dispersed nuclear forces on constant alert, hardened ballistic missile sites, fallout shelters, and electronic systems for warning of Soviet missile attacks. Such recommendations recurred in subsequent reports.

Document 4A-D: The 1958 Report

A:"Summary and Conclusions," 1958 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, 10 November 1958, Top Secret, excised copy

B: Memorandum by NSC Executive Secretary S. Everett Gleason, "Discussion at the 387th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, November 20, 1958," 20 November 1958, Top Secret

C: Gerard C. Smith to Under Secretary of State Herter, "Oral Presentation of the Annual Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee," 25 November 1958, Top Secret

Sources: A: FOIA request to DDEL; B: DDEL, Ann Whitman File. NSC Series. Box 10. 387th Meeting of the National Security Council; C: Record Group 59, Records of the Department of State, Policy Planning Staff Records, 1957-1961, box 205, S/P Chron, 1957-59

The NESC report for 1958 presented a devastating Soviet attack in 1961 involving the detonation of 553 nuclear weapons on the United States with a total yield of 2,186 megatons. The attack produced "widespread fires" burning out 169,000 square miles or 5.7 per cent of the U.S. land area.[8] Moreover, a "lethal blanket of radiation" covered "at its maximum one-half the nation, and persisted in small areas for over two years." Fifty million Americans were dead and nine million were sick or injured, out of a pre-attack population of 179 million. When housing and food supplies were destroyed, exposure and starvation caused more deaths.

The U.S. retaliatory attack on the Sino-Soviet bloc was by 805 bombers, 5 ICBMs and 41 IRBMs. At President Eisenhower’s instruction, the NESC staff was to posit an attack on a combined military/urban-industrial target system. That included, according to the NSC minutes and a memorandum by Gerard C. Smith, every city with a population of over 25,000. Moscow itself was targeted with a 100-megaton attack by missiles and bombers.

The contemplated U.S. attack completely destroyed "command facilities" in Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang and killed 71 million people at once; 30 days later, a total of 196 million people had died (out of a total of 952 million people in the bloc). The attack reduced the Soviet GNP by 75 per cent for the year following the attack. The total bloc GNP was decreased by about 56 percent. The U.S. attack "would virtually eliminate [the Soviet Union] as a world power." Thus, as the NESC observed, the 1958 report, like the earlier one, drew a picture of a devastated U.S. and Soviet Union. Nevertheless, according to the report, at the end of the nuclear exchange, "The balance of strength would be on the side of the United States."

The report generated rather differing assessments by Smith and President Eisenhower, but also an important nuclear planning initiative. Smith raised questions about morality and over-destruction, while Eisenhower suggested that the destructiveness was about right, but should not be increased. . Noting that that the estimated attack would "paralyze the Russian nation" and "[destroy] the will of the Soviet Union to fight," Eisenhower thought it would be wrong to go further and to "require a 100 per cent pulverization of the Soviet Union." "There was obviously a limit — a human limit — to the devastation which human beings could endure." These considerations led Eisenhower to request a study on what types of retaliatory attacks would best deter the Soviet Union from future attacks: an attack on a military-target system or an "optimum mix" of military and urban-industrial targets. The request was NSC Action 2009 and the resulting studies would lead to the first Single Integrated Operational Plan.

Documents 5A-B: The 1959 Report

A: "Summary and Conclusions," 1959 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, n.d., Top Secret, excised copy

B: Lt. Col. Brian Gunderson to General Martin, "Briefing to Net Evaluation Subcommittee," 2 December 1958, Top Secret

Sources: A: DDEL FOIA release; B: FOIA release from NARA, Record Group 341, United States Air Force (Air Staff), Directorate of Plans, Records for 1958, box 36, OPS 40 (Speeches, Briefings, Presentations) (6 Sept 58-Dec 58).

This report evaluated a different Soviet surprise attack, occurring in 1962 but under different circumstances: with U.S. and allied military forces on high alert beginning 48 hours in advance. The damage to the United States inflicted by the Soviet attack was: "of such magnitude that [it] could not fully return to pre-attack status for years." Within a year of the attack, 60 million Americans had died, over half from radiation exposure. In this scenario, Soviet missiles caused about 1/3 of the damage. The U.S. counterattack caused 96 million Russian fatalities, over half from fallout as in the United States. Because U.S. forces were on high alert, The USSR would receive the greater industrial damage and population casualties. But, according to the NESC, the "initial nuclear exchange" did not settle the war’s outcome since both sides "would retain significant military forces capable of further limited operations."

A briefing by Colonel Brian Gunderson on "Air Force Concept of Operations in the 1962 Time Period for Unrestricted General War" provides an example of the kind of input that the NESC received to develop its scenarios. Noting that U.S. policy rejected preventive war, Gunderson argued that this did not mean the United States must "suffer a surprise, direct and possibly massive and devastating attack before our strategic offensive force is launched." It was possible to initiate "hostilities … under other circumstances" To destroy Soviet counter-force targets, the Air Force could take the "initiative" by which Gunderson probably meant preemption; consistent with this, he later mentioned the possibility of receiving a strategic warning. In the event of a surprise attack that inflicted substantial losses, the Air Force needed a force that could "prevail" by having a capability to destroy remaining Soviet strategic-nuclear forces.

For Gunderson, a force that could "prevail" would be a deterrent. "The U.S. must have a force in-being that can inflict decisive damage on the complete nuclear delivery capability of the Soviets, and we must convince our enemies of our determination to employ this force if we are to deter them and save this nation from nuclear devastation."

Document 6: The Origins of the SIOP, Net Evaluation Subcommittee, Appraisal of the Relative Merits, from the Point of View of Effective Deterrence, of Alternative Retaliatory Efforts, 30 October 1959, Top Secret, excised copy. Page 13 missing in file and page 39 incomplete.

Source: DDEL MDR release, under appeal

In late 1960, as one of the last acts of his administration, President Eisenhower signed off on the first Single Integrated Operational Plans, SIOP-62 (for fiscal year 1962). The history of SIOP-62 is well known, thanks to David A. Rosenberg’s path-breaking studies and the declassification of significant documents from the period.[9] Nevertheless, this study, a key starting point for SIOP-62, has been classified for decades and is still only available in part. Requested by President Eisenhower in December 1958, the study was so secret that the regular members of the NESC, such as the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Federal Civil Defense Administrator, were out of the loop. Only Staff Director Lt. General Thomas Hickey (U.S. Army) and the Committee staff were involved in its production.

Following Eisenhower’s instructions, General Hickey and the NESC staff reviewed three target systems-military, urban-industrial, and an "optimum-mix" of urban-industrial/military targets-to determine the extent to which a capability to destroy them would provide an effective deterrent and enable the United States to "prevail" in the event of general war. The result of the NESC’s effort was a several-hundred-page study, some of which has been declassified with excisions (annexes E, F, and G are still undergoing review). But the basic conclusion stands out: compared with retaliation against urban-industrial targets or military targets only, the attack on the "optimum mix" target-system, if successful, would "substantially destroy or neutralize the enemy nuclear delivery capability, retard the movement of land, sea, and air forces in the USSR and China, substantially destroy primary and secondary military and government controls, cause in excess of 35 percent casualties in the USSR and 15 percent in China, and indefinitely paralyze the war-supporting industries of both countries. Such extensive destruction would place the United States in "a position of relative advantage from which to ultimately prevail." That sanguine assumption became the premise of SIOP-62.[10]

The official definition of "prevail," found in National Security Council document 5904 (and repeated in Annex C) posited that the United States would "survive as a nation" and that its adversaries will have "lost their will and ability to wage war." Yet the NESC observed that by the early 1960s the assumption of prevailing would become "questionable" when the Soviet Union had a long-range missile force, whether ground- or submarine-launched. With both bombers and missiles, the Soviets would be able to launch an attack with such "overall-weight" that "survival might be doubtful." Therefore, the United States would in the future have to develop a capability to counter a missile attack by "destroying the force at its source." Moreover, a capability to provide adequate warning of a missile attack was essential: "The point cannot be made too strongly that survival and prevailing are directly dependent on receiving the maximum amount of warning at the tactical level."

Estimates of destruction or damage expectancy and of assurance of delivering a weapon to the Bomb Release Line were significant elements of the report. Assurance of delivery ranged from 75 to 90 percent. Because 100 percent destruction was impractical and too expensive, the NESC called for a 90 percent probability of achieving varying degrees of damage-ranging from "severe" to "significant." Anything less than 90 percent would raise questions about the value of the target as such. When the first SIOP was constructed by the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, 90 percent (or higher) was boiler plate, which White House science adviser George Kistiakowsky and some Navy and Army leaders saw as a sign of excessive destruction or "overkill" that needed to be scaled back. Nevertheless, high levels of damage expectancy remained a basic feature of the SIOP for years to come.

Document 7A-D: The 1961 Briefing

A: "Summary and Conclusions," 1961 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, n.d., Top Secret, excised copy

B: "Notes on National Security Council Meeting, 20 July 1961," Top Secret

C: President’s Daily Schedule, 20 July 1961, excerpt

D: Memorandum for the President, 21 November 1961

Sources: A: FOIA Release, B: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, VP National Security File. National Security Council (II); C: John F. Kennedy Library, President’s Office File, President’s Secretary File, D: John F. Kennedy Library at

President Kennedy received his first NESC briefing during a well-attended NSC meeting at 10 a.m. on 20 July 1961, in the midst of the Berlin crisis. What has been declassified from the summary presents a dire picture of a post-attack United States and Soviet Union, and the excised portions may show an even more calamitous picture. It may have been after the presentation, described by Secretary of State Dean Rusk as "an awesome experience," that a dismayed John F. Kennedy turned to Rusk and said: "And we call ourselves the human race."[11]

On the basis of a sketchy record of this NSC meeting, one researcher concluded that the 1961 report was an actual plan for a "preemptive strike" on the former Soviet Union.[12] But this confuses the NESC’s analytical purposes with the nuclear war planning which went on elsewhere in the federal government. The topic of the 1961 report was the usual Soviet surprise attack and U.S. retaliation, all taking place in the fall of 1963. The summary included a striking overview statement: "the scope and intensity of destruction and the shattering of the established political, military and economic structure resulting from such an exchange would be so vast as to practically defy accurate assessment." Estimated population losses were huge: in the USSR and China at the end of one month: 67 million and 76 million people respectively. The United States "suffered severe damage and destruction from the surprise Soviet attack … Tens of millions of Americans were killed outright; millions more died in subsequent weeks. The framework of the federal and of many state governments was shattered." Between 48 and 71 million were killed and casualties increased during the year that followed.

A detailed record of this meeting has not surfaced, but the previously mentioned summary includes President Kennedy’s admonition that the meeting and its purpose were to be kept secret. Nevertheless, some word about the event leaked and an article by Fletcher Knebel-co-author of Seven Days in May published in 1962-mentioning the briefing appeared in Look Magazine on 21 November 1961. In a memorandum to President Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy rebutted the Knebel article point-by-point.

Documents 8A-B: Strategic Systems Requirements

A: "A Study of Requirements for US Strategic Systems; Final Report," 1 December 1961, Top Secret, excised copy

B: Memorandum for Secretary of Defense from Defense Department Comptroller Charles Hitch, "Review of the Hickey Study," with evaluation attached, 22 December 1961, Top Secret, excised copy

Sources: A: FOIA request; B: MDR request

The report on targeting [Document 6] was not the last special project requested of the NESC. Another one came in March 1961 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara asked General Hickey to prepare a study that would serve as a "foundation for the determination of requirements for delivery vehicles for strategic nuclear weapons" and to do this by laying out alternative U.S. nuclear postures and strategic objectives and to evaluate them in terms of the achievement of strategic objectives, implications for budgets, Soviet objectives/postures/budget levels, and "alternative circumstances of war outbreak and termination." The first study, not yet available, was due 1 June 1961. The Final Report, prepared months later, represented an attempt to "flesh out" the actual strategic force levels, for each year from 1961 to 1971, required for implementing the Kennedy administration’s "controlled response" strategy.

Among the new systems proposed by the report was an Advanced Minuteman, a new Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile, an advanced Titan II ICBM, "Supersonic Low-Altitude Penetrators" launched by "Standoff Missile Launching Aircraft," and a reconnaissance strike aircraft (RS/X). Some of the proposed systems would contribute toward the strategic "reserve force"-the heart of "controlled response"-needed to survive a surprise attack and help improve "intra-war bargaining power." Other purposes were to deter "wanton wartime strikes against U.S. cities," and provide a capability to "strengthen prospects for war termination on favorable terms by having an option to selectively attack urban-industrial targets even during the later stages of a war."

The Final Report was the topic of a detailed summary and assessment prepared for McNamara by his comptroller, Charles Hitch, who noted that the force postures proposed by Hickey "inherently have varying degrees of first-strike capability" which needed to be analyzed. Taking exception to some of the specific recommendations, Hitch argued that "the requirements for a controlled response strategy are … exaggerated and its feasibility is underestimated." According to Hitch, strategic programs then under way, should provide a "satisfactory posture" for controlled response by 1964 "if not sooner."

Documents 9A-C: The 1962 Report

A: Introduction and Conclusion, 1962 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, n.d. [Circa 22 August 1962], Top Secret, excised copy

B. "1962 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council," Volume 1, n.d., [circa 22 August 1962], Top Secret, excised copy

C: Memorandum for the Chairman, Net Evaluation Subcommittee, 22 August 1962

Source: A: FOIA release by Kennedy Librry; B and C: NARA, Record Group 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of JCS Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer, box 19, 381 Net Evaluation

In 2006, five years after the Archive requested summaries of the NESC reports from the Kennedy years, volume 1 of the 1962 report was declassified from JCS records at the National Archives. So far, this is the most complete release of any of the NESC annual reports and it is more complete than the excerpts for 1962 released under FOIA. The declassification at NARA included a list of the attendees at the briefing: President Kennedy and members of the National Security Council, along with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, civil defense chief Edward McDermott, and several senior White House staffers. Substantially fewer people attended this briefing than the one held the previous July, probably because of the press leak mentioned earlier.

This NESC report is of a Vietnam War scenario in 1965 with conflict stemming from a North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam and Laos escalating into general war with China and Soviet Union. The NESC depicted two "general wars," one involving Soviet preemption against the U.S., the other a U.S. preemptive attack against the Soviet Union. Both wars started out with counterforce strikes against nuclear targets, but they culminated with massive targeting of urban-industrial targets. As expected, both wars involved enormous destruction with millions of fatalities and injuries on both sides; nevertheless, the NESC found that in both wars "the net balance …would favor the US." In both scenarios, the "US strategic military posture would remain superior to that of the Soviet Union." In overall terms, the Subcommittee found that in both scenarios "the net balance … would favor the US." The next year’s report provided a striking contrast.

Documents 10A-B: The 1963 Report

A: "Summary and Conclusions," 1963 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council," n.d., Top Secret, excised copy

B: 1963 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council Oral Presentation, 27 August 1963, Top Secret, excised copy

C: McGeorge Bundy to President Kennedy, "Net Evaluation Subcommittee Report 1963," 12 September 1963, Top Secret

Sources: A: John F. Kennedy Library; B: NARA, Record Group 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of JCS Chairman Maxwell Taylor, box 25, 381 Net Evaluation; C: NARA, Record Group 273, Records of the National Security Council, Records of NSC Representative on Internal Security, box 66, Net Evaluation Subcommittee, 1961-64

Summarizing the longer report, the "Oral Presentation" prepared for an NSC meeting analyzed several hypothetical nuclear wars during 1964-1968; like the 1962 report, in each, one of the superpowers initiated a preemptive strike and the other retaliated. The NESC’s conclusions were grim: for "the years of this study … neither the US nor the USSR can emerge from a full nuclear exchange without suffering very severe damage and high casualties."

Soon after the report was completed, the National Security Council received a briefing by the NESC’s director, General Leon Johnson, on 12 September 1963. McGeorge Bundy had already prepared President Kennedy with the basic conclusions as well as some questions that he could raise. According to the record of the meeting, the judgment that the United States would not suffer less damage than the Soviet Union brought President Kennedy to the conclusion that the superpowers were in a "nuclear stalemate" and that preemption, which Bundy had equated to a first strike, no longer offered an advantage. While NESC director Johnson believed that in the new stalemated situation "nuclear war is impossible if rational men control governments," Rusk was skeptical, arguing that "if both sides believed that neither side would use nuclear weapons, one side or the other would be tempted to act in a way which would push the other side beyond its tolerance level."

Even with the stalemate, the SIOP would continue to include a preemptive option in the unlikely event that decision-makers had "strategic warning" of an impending Soviet attack. Moreover, by the 1970s, with the Defense Support System giving approximately 25 minutes of warning before an attack, a launch on warning option became available although it was fraught with risk of a false alarm.

Documents 11A-B: The War Termination Study

A: Net Evaluation Subcommittee, "The Management and Termination of War with the Soviet Union," 15 November 1963, Top Secret

B: Memorandum from Colonel William Y. Smith to General Maxwell Taylor, 7 November 1963, Top Secret

Sources: A: Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records of Policy Planning Council, 1963-64, box 280, file "War Aims," previously posted on National Security Archive Web site; B: Record Group 218, Records of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maxwell Taylor Papers, box 25

Not long after the presentation of the 1963 report, the NESC staff completed the first U.S. government systematic study of the problem of nuclear war termination. Worried about the inflexibility of U.S. nuclear strategy, the Kennedy administration had begun to look closely at "flexible response" and "controlled response" strategies for fighting conventional war or lower-level nuclear conflicts in NATO Europe. Consistent with that, the NESC took up the daunting task of considering whether it was possible to fight a nuclear war in a "discriminating manner" so that it ended on "acceptable terms" to the United States while avoiding "unnecessary damage" to adversaries and allies. To illustrate the problem of war termination, the NESC presented three scenarios of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear war, 1) an all-out Soviet attack on the U.S., 2) a U.S. preemptive counterforce attack (based on certain knowledge of Soviet attack preparations), and 3) escalation from conventional to limited nuclear conflict, with scenarios of European and Far Eastern conflicts.

Commenting on a nearly final draft of this study, Col. William Y. Smith, then assistant to JCS Chairman Maxwell Taylor, summarized key points. He found the recommendations unsurprising: a need for improved command and control, better planning, more discriminate weapons, etc. Some readers, he observed, "may question that [the report] makes the unreal seem possible, by treating the possibility of exerting some control over the use of nuclear weapons at the tactical and strategic level."

Documents 12A-C: The End of the NESC

A: JCS Chairman Wheeler to McGeorge Bundy, 15 October 1964, Top Secret

B: McGeorge Bundy to Wheeler, 26 October 1964, Confidential

C: Robert McNamara to Secretary of State et al., enclosing memorandum to the President, "Elimination of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Security Council," 23 December 1964

Sources: A and B: NARA, Record Group 273. National Security Council. Records of NSC Representative on Internal Security, box 66. 1964 Net Evaluation; C: NARA, Records of Department of State Participation in the Operations Coordinating Board and the National Security Council, 1947-1963, box 96, NSC 5816

The last NESC report on the management of possible U.S.-Soviet crises remains classified but a short summary is available, as is Secretary of Defense McNamara’s proposal to abolish the NESC immediately thereafter. To prepare the report, members of the subcommittee staff, including James E. Goodby, met with top U.S. military officers in Western Europe, including Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Lyman Lemnitzer. A meeting with 7th Army Commander General William Quinn (father of Washington Post journalist Sally Quinn) was especially important because Quinn questioned the deployment of Allied forces in West Germany and the degree to which they could counter a Soviet attack. Goodby recalls that the report addressed a number of issues that the military thought needed attention, but which Defense Department planners were not considering, such as maldeployment of Allied forces across the North German plain. The implication was that the task of creating a non-nuclear flexible response that would be compatible with forward defense was a tougher problem than McNamara was portraying and would probably require greater defense expenditures by the Allies than he had proposed..

Recalling that McNamara became "visibly angry" during the briefing, Goodby surmised that he saw the NESC as a challenge to his authority because it was an independent channel for the military to provide its analysis to the White House. The next day, McNamara proposed to President Johnson that he abolish the NESC.[13] McNamara’s proposal did not mention policy disagreements. Instead, he emphasized organizational efficiencies; for example, that the Subcommittee duplicated functions that Pentagon offices, such as the JCS Special Studies Group, were already performing better. According to McNamara, while the NESC’s "annual study program …had value and relevance in 1958, its contribution today is marginal." President Johnson concurred and the NESC was soon disbanded.


[1] Quoted from Marc Trachtenberg, "A Wasting Asset: American Strategy and the Shifting Nuclear Balance," History and Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), page 138.

[2] David A. Rosenberg, "American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision," Journal of American History 66 (1979): 62-87.

[3] See, for example, Andreas Wenger, Living with Peril: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nuclear Weapons (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 143, and Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 282-284. Freedman does not mention the NESC as such, but discusses the findings of the 1963 report as referred to in FRUS (see note 2).

[4] See "Summary Record of the 517th Meeting of the National Security Council," 12 September 1963, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1963 VIII (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), Document 141

[5] Matthew Connelly et al, "’General, I Have Fought Just as Many Nuclear Wars as You Have’: Forecasts, Future Scenarios, and the Politics of Armageddon," The American Historical Review 117 (2013), 1451.

[6] For the role of preemption in nuclear planning and its relationship to launch-on-warning options, see Bruce Blair, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993).

[7] For the work of the NSC Special Evaluation Subcommittee, see Report to the National Security Council by the Special Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Security Council, 18 May 1953,and Memorandum of Discussion at the 148th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, 4 June 1953, both published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Volume II, Part 1 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979).

[8] This is one of the few explicit references to mass fires in the NESC summaries, although fires and fire storms are a predictable feature of nuclear explosions and can be much more destructive than blast effects. See Lynn Eden: Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).

[9] David Allan Rosenberg, "The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-1960," International Security 7 (Spring 1983): 3-71. See also "New Evidence on the Origins of Overkill," National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 236.

[10] For divergent JCS views on the NESC report, but approval of the "Optimum Mix" concept, see Memorandum from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Eisenhower, "Appraisal of Relevant Merits, from the Point of View of Effective Deterrence, of Alternative Retaliatory Efforts," 12 February 1960," U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960 Volume III (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), 383-385.

[11] Dean Rusk, As I Saw It (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990): 246-247.

[12] James K. Galbraith,"Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear Strike for 1963?," The American Prospec, Fall 1994.

[13] Telephone conversation with Ambassador James Goodby, 5 June 2014.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : Soldiers, Spies and the Moon: Secret U.S. and Soviet Plans from the 1950s and 1960s

Declassified Documents Reflect the Covert Side of Lunar Programs

Posting Marks 45th Anniversary of First Human on the Moon

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 479

Posted July 20, 2014

Edited by Jeffrey T. Richelson

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, July 20, 2014 – Forty-five years ago, astronaut Neil Armstrong took his "one small step" for mankind, becoming the first person to set foot on the moon. The program that resulted in that historic event — managed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — had been a very public one ever since its announcement by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Even the Soviet government had publicized aspects of its own effort.

But there were also highly secret elements to the U.S. and Soviet schemes, which are the subject of today’s National Security Archive posting of previously classified records. The documents focus on three topics — early U.S. military plans, including the possibility of conducting nuclear tests in space, the use of the moon to reflect signals for military or intelligence purposes, and U.S. intelligence analyses and estimates of Soviet missions and their intentions to land a man on the lunar surface.

The posting includes:

  • Army and Air Force studies from 1959 – 1961 on the creation of a military lunar base, with possible uses as a surveillance platform (for targets on earth and space) and the Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System (Document 1a, Document 1b, Document 3, Document 4).
  • A study on the detonation of a nuclear device on or in the vicinity of the moon (Document 2).
  • The use of the lunar surface to relay signals from Washington to Hawaii and from U.S. spy ships (Document 15).
  • Collection of Soviet radar signals after they bounced off the moon — a technique known as Moon Bounce ELINT (Document 11, Document 14).
  • The U.S. theft and return of a Soviet space capsule during an exhibition tour (Document 13).
  • A 1965 estimate of Soviet intentions with regard to a manned moon landing (Document 5).
  • Several analyses of Soviet Luna missions, including Luna 9 — the first mission to result in a soft landing on the moon (Document 6, Document 7, Document 8, Document 10, Document 16).

* * * *

Soldiers, Spies, and the Moon

By Jeffrey T. Richelson

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, an event watched by a worldwide audience of approximately 600 million people. Armstrong’s "one small step" was the result of a prolonged and intense campaign initiated when President John F. Kennedy told Congress on May 25, 1961, that "this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."1

Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong left a small, gold replica of an olive branch on the moon in 1969. "The gesture represented a wish for peace for all mankind," according to NASA. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

The prolonged and public U.S. effort that resulted in Armstrong’s arrival on the lunar surface took place along with a competing Soviet program that involved spacecraft in lunar orbit as well as unmanned landings. While the U.S. had attained a number of important firsts with regard to the secret efforts to employ space for military, particularly intelligence, purposes, the Soviets had beat the United States in the more visible achievements of placing a spacecraft in orbit (Sputnik) and a man in space (Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961). For much of the U.S. effort there was the concern that the Soviet astronauts would also arrive on the moon first.

While the U.S. civilian program to reach the moon, and some details of the Soviet one, were public, there were other aspects of the race to the moon that were more secretive. They included the details of earlier proposals for military activities on or near the moon, the ability to use "moonbounce" for intelligence or communications purposes, and the U.S. intelligence community’s attempt to collect and analyze information about the Soviet lunar program.

Lunar Bases and Detonations

Before the mission of landing a man on the moon was definitively assigned to the civilian National Aeronautics and Space Administration, both the Army and the Air Force lobbied to establish outposts on the moon. A two-volume Army study (Document 1a, Document 1b), Project Horizon, argued that there was a need for a military moon base that would be used to develop techniques for surveillance of both earth and space, communications relay, and operations on the lunar surface. The study examined not only the technical aspects — the necessary space transportation system, its launch, construction of the base, and communications — but political, management, policy and legal implications.

One Air Force study (Document 3), produced by the service’s Ballistic Missile Division in April 1960, had alternative titles — one classified (Military Lunar Base Program) and one unclassified (S.R. 183 Lunar Observatory Study). It laid out a six-phase effort, beginning in November 1964 and concluding with a lunar base becoming operational in June 1969. Among the options being considered, according to the study, was a Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System. The second Air Force study (Document 4), published in May 1961, was the Air Force Systems Command’s Lunar Expedition Plan — LUNEX. A key reason for such an expedition was to demonstrate that the United States could successfully compete with the Soviets in the technology sphere.

A different potential military use of the moon was found in a study (Document 3) produced by Leonard Reiffel of the Armour Research Institute at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1959. Its title, A Study of Lunar Research Flights,did not reveal the proposed purpose of those flights — to deliver a nuclear device to the surface or to the vicinity of the moon, where it would be detonated. Also involved in the study effort was the yet-to-become-famous astronomer Carl Sagan. Many years later, Reiffell said that the "foremost intent [of such a detonation] was to impress the world with the prowess of the United States" and that the Air Force ended the project when its leadership decided the risks exceeded the potential benefits.2


Footprint left on the moon by an Apollo 11 astronaut. (Photo courtesy of NASA Langley Research Center)

While NASA’s lunar program helped preclude — undoubtedly along with international political considerations — any military service ambitions to establish an outpost on the moon, the military and the Intelligence Community found at least two ways, after 1961, to make use of the moon without leaving Earth. Both approaches involved signals bounced off the moon, a possibility that had been confirmed by experiment as early as 1946.

In one case, the U.S. was purposefully bouncing signals off the Moon as a means of relaying intelligence information. Carried on-board U.S. Navy signals intelligence ships, such as the U.S.S. Liberty, was a system designated TRSSCOMM — Technical Research Ship Special Communications — a successor to the Communications Moon Relay (CMR) system established in 1956 to relay teletype and facsimile messages between Washington, D.C. and Hawaii (Document 15). As James Bamford reported, TRSSCOM consisted of a "sixteen-foot, dish-shaped antenna mounted on a movable platform and capable of bouncing a 10,000-watt microwave signal off a particular spot on the moon and down either to the receiving station at Cheltenham, Maryland or to one of the other Navy SIGINT ships." He also noted that, while the system had the advantage of allowing large volumes of information to be transmitted without giving away the location of the ship carrying out the transmissions, it seldom worked properly.3

In the second case, as explained in two articles (Document 11, Document 14) in the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence journal, the United States Intelligence Community was intercepting signals from Soviet anti-ballistic and air defense radar systems after they had exited the Earth’s atmosphere and bounced off the moon. The CIA employed a 150-foot dish antenna at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California to monitor Soviet radar signals reflected off the moon, while the National Security Agency used the Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory in Puerto Rico to intercept signals that had originally been transmitted from a Soviet Arctic Coast radar. The Air Force also had its own moonbounce project — designated FLOWER GARDEN — which relied on several antennas, including the 250-foot antenna at Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory in England. Other moonbounce antennas were located at Sugar Grove, West Virginia, and the Naval Research Laboratory’s Chesapeake Bay Annex. The latter made the first intercept of a signal from the Soviet Hen House radar.4

Monitoring the Soviet Lunar Program

While NASA pursued its lunar program, the U.S. Intelligence Community closely monitored the entire Soviet space program, including its lunar component. The declassified documents in this posting concern a number of aspects of that effort — collection through a variety of means, different levels of analysis, and analysis of specific missions.

Two very different collection activities are the subjects of two Studies in Intelligence articles. One, published in 1964 (Document 6), examined the interception of Soviet space pictures that had been transmitted from their assorted space programs — including Sputnik, Cosmos, and Lunik — to stations in the Soviet Union. A second, published three years later (Document 13), involved a more unconventional approach – the temporary theft of a Lunik spacecraft that was part of an exhibition of Soviet industrial and economic achievements in an unspecified country.

Early in the U.S. lunar program, in April 1963, the CIA’s Office of National Estimates, the forerunner of today’s National Intelligence Council, explored the subject of Soviet intentions concerning a manned lunar landing (Document 5). It reviewed relevant developments in the Soviet program as well as tried to assess the extent of the Soviet commitment to beating the U.S. to the moon.

One particular mission — the Luna 9 mission of February 1964 — produced a number of different classified publications. Two of those (Document 7, Document 8) followed closely after the mission and were intended to provide reasonably current intelligence. One (Document 7) was an assessment of the entire mission, while the other (Document 8) was more narrowly focused — a preliminary technical analysis of Luna 9 photography performed by the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) at the request of the CIA’s Foreign Missile and Space Analysis Center (FMSAC). (A similar study (Document 12) with regard to Luna 13 photography was also produced by NPIC at FMSAC’s request).5

Two articles published in CIA and NSA journals represented retrospective accounts concerning the Luna 9 collection and analysis effort. One (Document 16) recounted in the NSA’s Crytpologic Almanac the author’s participation in intercepting and processing Luna 9 imagery. Another (Document 10) contains a broader account of the U.S collection and analysis effort concerning Luna 9 and the years preceding it.


Much of the U.S. lunar program that followed President Kennedy’s decision to assign NASA the responsibility to send men to the moon was conducted openly — but there are other aspects of U.S. plans with regard to the moon are revealed, at least in part, by declassified documents.

The Soviet lunar program was only one part of the Soviet space program, which involved launch facilities and vehicles, production facilities, earth-orbiting military and civilian spacecraft, and interplanetary probes to Mars and Venus.6 While Soviet military satellites were the most important targets due to their potential threat to U.S. national security, the Cold War competition between the United States and Soviet Union meant that space exploration efforts, even if devoid of military activities, were significant elements of the propaganda war — which made them important targets for the U.S. Intelligence Community, a story which is also partially told by declassified documents.


Document 1a: United States Army, Project Horizon, Volume I: Summary and Supporting Considerations, March 20, 1959. Classification Not Available.


Document 1b: United States Army, Project Horizon, Volume II: Technical Considerations and Plans, March 20, 1959. Classification Not Available.


This two-volume study was based on the Army’s premise that "there is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon" and that outpost was required to develop techniques in moon-based surveillance of the earth and space, in communications relay, and in operations on the lunar surface. Volume I consists of four chapters (introduction, technical considerations and plans, management and planning considerations, non-technical supporting considerations) and three appendices (U.S. space policy, legal and political implications, and technical services support capabilities). The second volume, fully focusing on technical considerations, examines the possible outpost, the space transportation system required, communications, the launch site, program logistics, research and development, and program cost and schedule.

Document 2: L. Reiffel, Armour Research Foundation, Illinois Institute of Technology, A Study of Lunar Research Flights, Volume I (Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico: Air Force Special Weapons Center, June 19, 1959). Classification Not Available.


This volume focuses on the possibility of a nuclear detonation on or near the moon’s surface. The introduction notes the possibility that both scientific and military purposes would be advanced — including information on the space environment as well as the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare. The chapters of volume I focus on optical studies concerning the nuclear device’s trip to the moon, the blast, and the thermal conductivity of the lunar surface; seismic observations on the Moon; the lunar radiation environment; the Moon’s magnetic field; and other topics. Two, probably classified/sensitive, chapters are contained in Volume II.

Document 3: Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Military Lunar Base Program (C) or S.R. 183 Lunar Observatory Study (U), Volume I: Study Summary and Program Plan , April 1960. (Extract)

Source: Air Force Freedom of Information Act Release

This volume summarizes a study whose objective was to "determine an economical and sound approach for establishing a manned intelligence observatory on the moon" — with technical requirements being the subject of Volume II. It delineates a six-phase effort beginning with lunar probes in late 1964 and progressing through lunar orbits, a soft lunar landing, lunar landing and return, manned vehicle development, and concluding with an operational lunar base in June 1969. It also states that decisions concerning the types of strategic systems to be placed on the moon (including a Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System) could be safely deferred for three to four years.

Document 4: Air Force Systems Command, Lunar Expedition Plan – LUNEX , May 1961. Secret.

Source: Air Force Freedom of Information Act Release

This document identifies the purpose of a Lunar Expedition as being manned exploration of the moon with first landing and return in late 1967. It asserts that "this one achievement if accomplished before the USSR, will serve to demonstrate conclusively that this nation possesses the capability to win future competition in technology." Its main sections provide a program description, and discuss master schedules, development and production, budget matters, program management, materiel support, engineering, personnel and training, and intelligence matters.

Document 5: Office of National Estimates, Central Intelligence Agency, Memorandum for the Director, Subject: Soviet Intentions Concerning a Manned Lunar Landing, April 25, 1963, Top Secret/ DINAR [DELETED] RUFF .

Source: CIA Records Search Tool (CREST), National Archives and Records Administration, College, Park, Maryland.

The summary to this estimate notes the uncertainty about Soviet intentions with regard to a moon landing: while repeating the Office of National Estimate’s previous view that the odds were better than even that the Soviets would seek to beat the U.S. to moon, it also states that it was possible "Soviet lunar objectives are less ambitious." The authors examine the resumption of Soviet unmanned lunar launchings, Soviet statements concerning a manned lunar landing, an analysis of Soviet ground facilities, and offer conclusions.

Document 6: Henry G. Plaster, "Snooping on Space Pictures," Studies in Intelligence, Fall 1964, pp. 31-39. Secret.


One component of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s effort in gathering intelligence on the Soviet space program was intercepting the signals, including video, from Soviet spacecraft. This article reports on the efforts and results with regard to a variety of categories of Soviet spacecraft operations – Sputnik, Cosmos, and Lunik. Included is a discussion of the efforts with regard to Lunik III’s video of the lunar surface.

Document 7: Office of Scientific Intelligence, Directorate of Science and Technology, "Preliminary Analysis of Luna 9," Scientific Intelligence Digest, March 1966. Top Secret.


This heavily redacted article, which appeared in a journal of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, focuses on the Soviet Luna 9 mission — which concluded with the first soft landing on the moon and the transmission of images of the lunar surface. Portions of the article cover the configuration of the Luna 9 spacecraft, its missions, and the implications of radiation measurements on the Moon for human safety.

Document 8: National Photographic Interpretation Center, NPIC/R-5017/66, Preliminary Analysis of Luna-9 Photography , June 1966. Secret.


In response to a request from the CIA’s Foreign Missile and Space Analysis Center, the agency’s National Photographic Interpretation Center produced a preliminary analysis of the photography transmitted by the Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft. The analysis focused on the spacecraft’s photographic system, the spacecraft, and identifying new information on the lunar surface.

Document 9: Carl Berger, USAF Historical Liaison Division Office, The Air Force in Space, Fiscal Year 1961, April 1966 (Extract). Secret.

Source: Air Force Freedom of Information Act Release

This extract titled "Man on the Moon – A National Objective" notes that the Air Force was concerned over "the apparent inadequacy of our current National Space Program" and reports that the "Air Force said that long-time studies showed convincingly that an orderly and phased lunar expedition culminating in a 1967 landing and return was perfectly feasible."

Document 10: James Burke, "Seven Years to Luna 9," Studies in Intelligence, 10 (Summer 1966), pp. 1-24. Secret.


This article also concerns the 1966 Luna 9 mission, examined more narrowly in earlier reports (Document 7, Document 8). Its purpose is "to tell the story of how intelligence kept track of that effort through the collection and analysis of telemetric and other information." The author covers a number of events and activities leading up to the mission and the U.S. collection effort — the early lunar program, Soviet launch vehicles, collection and prediction through 1961, US. deep-space collection, Soviet planetary shots in 1962, and Soviet space launches in 1964 and 1965 — and then the Luna 9 mission itself.

Document 11: Frank Eliot, "Moon Bounce ELINT," Studies in Intelligence 11, 2 (Spring 1967): 59-65. Secret.


While the moon figured in purely hypothetical plans to collect intelligence from the lunar surface, it was employed, in a different way, in an actual effort to gather intelligence on Soviet anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile radars. That technique, recounted in this article, was based on the 1946 detection of a man-made signal reflected off the moon.

Document 12: National Photographic Interpretation Center, NPIC/R-5015/67, Analysis of Luna-13 Photography, July 1967. Secret.


As with Document 8, this NPIC report was a response to a request from the Foreign Missile and Space Analysis Center for an analysis of the video signals transmitted by a Soviet lunar spacecraft — focusing on the photographic system, the spacecraft, and the lunar surface.

Document 13: Sydney Wesley Finer, "The Kidnaping of the Lunik," Studies in Intelligence, 11, 3 (Winter 1967), pp. 33-39. Secret.


While a common source of intelligence on Soviet space, including lunar, efforts was collected through satellite photography and electronic intercepts, a more unusual and less frequent source is described in this article. It describes how the CIA "borrowed," examined, and returned a Soviet Lunik spacecraft that was part of an exhibition touring several countries to promote Soviet industrial and economic achievements.

Document 14: N.C. Gerson, "SIGINT in Space," Studies in Intelligence, 28, 2 (Summer 1984). Secret.

Source: Author’s collection

Among the topics discussed in this article is the author’s work on the "moonbounce" phenomenon and the possibility of establishing an intercept site on the moon.

Document 15: Applied Research Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, From the Sea to the Stars: A Chronicle of the U.S. Navy’s Space and Space-related Activities, 1944-2009, 2010. Unclassified. (Extract)


These pages from an official history discuss two attempts to use the moon as a communication relay — the establishment of a Communications Moon Relay (CMR) system in 1956 for transmission of teletype and facsimile messages between Washington, D.C. and Hawaii, and the Technical Research-Ship Special Communications (TRSSCOM) for "spy ship" communications.

Document 16: John O’Hara, "Luna 9, the First Soft Landing on the Moon," Cryptologic Almanac, January – March 2003. Unclassified/For Official Use Only.


This article, from a National Security Agency journal, focuses on NSA’s role, and particularly that of the author, in intercepting and processing the images from the Luna 9 spacecraft — and in delivering them to the president’s desk that afternoon.


[1] William E. Burrows, This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age (New York: Random House, 1998), p. 330.

[2] William J. Broad, "U.S. Planned Nuclear Blast on the Moon, Physicist Says," New York Times, May 16, 2000, p. A15; Keay Davidson, Carl Sagan: A Life (New York: Wiley, 1999), pp. 94-95.

[3] James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace: A Report on NSA, America’s Most Secret Agency (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1982), p. 219.

[4] Jeffrey T. Richelson, The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 2001), pp. 89-90.

[5] On the Luna program see, William E. Burrows, Exploring Space: Voyages in the Solar System and Beyond (New York: Random House, 1990), pp. 160-163.

[6] A future National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book will cover U.S. Intelligence efforts focusing on the other elements of the Soviet space program.





National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 478

Posted July 8, 2014

Edited by Peter Kornbluh

For more information contact:

Peter Kornbluh 202/374-7281 or peter.kornbluh

Washington, DC, July 8, 2014 – The Brazilian military regime employed a "sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system" to "intimidate and terrify" suspected leftist militants in the early 1970s, according to a State Department report dated in April 1973 and made public last week. Among the torture techniques used during the military era, the report detailed "special effects" rooms at Brazilian military detention centers in which suspects would be "placed nude" on a metal floor "through which electric current is pulsated." Some suspects were "eliminated" but the press was told they died in "shoot outs" while trying to escape police custody. "The shoot-out technique is being used increasingly," the cable sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro noted, "in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives," and to "obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press."

Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Brazil Documentation Project called the document "one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government."

Titled "Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives," the document was among 43 State Department cables and reports that Vice President Joseph Biden turned over on June 17 to President Dilma Rousseff during his trip to Brazil for the World Cup competition for use by the Brazilian Truth Commission. The Commission is in the final phase of a two-year investigation of human rights atrocities during the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985. On July 2, the Commission posted all 43 documents on its website, accompanied by this statement: "The CNV greatly appreciates the initiative of the U.S. government to make these records available to Brazilian society and hopes that this collaboration will continue to progress."

The records range in date from 1967 to 1977. They report on a wide range of human rights-related issues, among them: secret torture detention centers in Sao Paulo, the military’s counter-subversion operations, attitudes of the Church on human rights violations, and the regime’s hostile reaction in 1977 to the first State Department human rights report on abuses. Some of the documents had been previously declassified under routine release procedures; others, including the April 1973 report on psychophysical torture, were reviewed for declassification as recently as June 5, 2014, in preparation for Biden’s trip.

Declassification Diplomacy.

During his meeting with President Rousseff, Biden announced that the Obama administration would undertake a broader review of still highly classified U.S. records on Brazil, among them CIA and Defense Department documents, to assist the Commission in finalizing its report. "I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future," he noted.

Since the inception of the Truth Commission in May 2012, the National Security Archive has been assisting the Commissioners in obtaining U.S. records for their investigation, and pressing the Obama administration to fulfill its commitment to a new standard of global transparency and the right-to-know by conducting a special, Brazil declassification project on the military era. "Advancing truth, justice and openness is precisely the way these classified U.S. historical records should be used," according to Kornbluh. "Biden’s declassified diplomacy will not only assist the Truth Commission in shedding light on the dark past of Brazil’s military era, but also create a foundation for a better and more transparent future in U.S.-Brazilian relations."

To call attention to the records and the Truth Commission’s work, the Archive is highlighting five key documents from Biden’s timely donation.


Document l: Department of State, "Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives," Confidential, April 18, 1973

This intelligence cable, sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro, provides detailed reporting on a "sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical" method of torture being employed by the Brazilian military against suspected militants. In response to growing international condemnation of human rights violations, the cable suggests, the Brazilian torturers have adopted more modern interrogation methods that leave less visible evidence of abuses. In cases where detainees are "eliminated," the military is also deceiving the press by claiming they were killed in a "shoot-out" while trying to escape.

The cable was declassified on June 5, 2014, only eleven days before Biden’s trip to Brazil in order for him to provide it to President Rousseff as a diplomatic gesture. But key sections of the document are redacted, presumably at the request of the CIA, that identify the military units responsible for these atrocities — information that would be of critical use to the Brazilian Truth Commission as it attempts to hold the military accountable for the atrocities of the past.

Document 2: Department of State, "Political Arrests and Torture in São Paulo," Confidential, May 8, 1973

The Consul General in Sao Paulo, Frederic Chapin, reports on a source described as "a professional informer and interrogator working for the military intelligence center in Osasco," an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo. The source has provided graphic details on methods of abuse, including a Brazilian form of "waterboarding" that involved putting prisoners in vats of water that forced them to stand on their tiptoes for prolonged periods of time to be able to breath. The informant also provides a description of methods of executing prisoners so that their bodies could not be identified. Prisoners would be machine gunned from head to toe — a method referred to as "sewing" the suspect up.

This document was declassified in 2005, and initially provided to the Truth Commission by National Security Archive Brazil project director Peter Kornbluh. It played a key role in enabling researchers to identify the April 18, 1973, cable on psychophysical abuses, which is cited as a reference telegram. A memorandum of conversation with the informant/torturer, however, is also cited in this document and would be of exceptional value to the Truth Commission in obtaining additional information about the torture center in Osasco.

Document 3: Department of State, "Allegation of Torture in Brazil," Secret, July 1, 1972

U.S. Ambassador William Rountree advises the State Department that openly protesting human rights "excesses" by the Brazilian military government will be counterproductive and "damage our general relations." Ambassador Rountree encourages the State Department to oppose a piece of human rights legislation known as the "Tunney Amendment" which would link U.S. aid to Brazil to a U.S. government certification that the Brazilian regime was not engaged in human rights violations.

Document 4: Department of State, "The Esquadrão da Morte (Death Squad)," Limited Official Use, June 8, 1971

Ambassador Rountree submits an 11-page report on death squad activity in Brazil. He advises that there has been an "upsurge" of victims of unofficial operations in recent months, believed to be the work of off-duty policemen. In Sao Paulo, the death squads are reportedly led by Sergio Fleury, who has now been charged in at least one murder. Some of the victims are common prisoners, others political figures and militant opponents of the regime. Much of the information in the report is gleaned from newspaper articles; the report appears to contain almost no intelligence information.

Document 5: Department of State, "Conditions in DEOPS Prison as told by Detained American Citizen," Confidential, October 7, 1970

This memorandum of conversation contains a report by a U.S. businessman, Robert Horth, who was detained by the military police in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Horth relates hearing from fellow Brazilian prisoners about torture at the prison where he is held in downtown Sao Paulo. The torture techniques include the Parrot Perch — known in Portuguese as "pau de arara" — and electrical shock to all parts of the body, as well as the "telephone technique" where an interrogator stands behind the seated prisoner and smacks both sides of his/her head repeatedly, almost destroying their eardrums.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT /// Iran 1953 : US Envoy to Baghdad Suggested to Fleeing Shah He Not Acknowledge Foreign Role in Coup

Shah "Agreed," Declassified Cable Says

Document Casts Doubt over Accuracy of US Reports from Tehran — and Adds to Debate over Responsibility for the Coup

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 477

Posted July 2, 2014

Edited by Malcolm Byrne

For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne 202/994-7043 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, July 2, 2014 –On August 16, 1953, the same day the Shah of Iran fled to Baghdad after a failed attempt to oust Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the agitated monarch spoke candidly about his unsettling experience to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. In a highly classified cable to Washington, the ambassador reported: "I found Shah worn from three sleepless nights, puzzled by turn of events, but with no (repeat no) bitterness toward Americans who had urged and planned action. I suggested for his prestige in Iran he never indicate that any foreigner had had a part in recent events. He agreed."

Despite the passage of more than six decades, fundamental questions persist about Mosaddeq’s overthrow, including who was responsible for this milestone event in Iranian history. The above cable, which was previously published but with these key passages excised for secrecy reasons, is one of several important pieces of evidence pointing to the United States role.

Nevertheless, the question of how important the U.S. and British were in the events of 1953 has recently come under intensified scrutiny. An article in the July/August 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs by noted Iran analyst Ray Takeyh is the latest in a series of analyses by respected scholars who conclude Iranians, not the CIA or British intelligence, were fundamentally responsible.

In the course of explaining "What Really Happened in Iran," however, the piece spotlights some of the risks of writing about such sensitive historical events, particularly when they involve covert intelligence operations. In particular — how do you know when to trust your sources?

Today’s brief posting is by no means a full assessment or refutation of this argument. (In the interests of disclosure, the author believes the evidence shows that both the CIA — with British help — and Iranians themselves were critical in their own ways to the end result[1]). Instead, the posting mainly points out one of the peculiar challenges confronting historians of 1953, especially on the question of the U.S. and British roles.

The challenge is simply that U.S. and British reporting about the coup cannot be taken strictly at face value. The main reason is secrecy. President Eisenhower underscored the need for confidentiality in a diary entry from the time. Dated October 8, 1953, but referring back to August 19, Eisenhower notes: "Another recent development that we helped bring about was the restoration of the Shah to power in Iran and the elimination of Mossadegh. The things we did were ‘covert.’ If knowledge of them became public, we would not only be embarrassed in that region, but our chances to do anything of like nature in the future would almost totally disappear." (See Document 1)

Because of that concern, even internal U.S. records (not just those aimed at public audiences, such as Kermit Roosevelt’s memoir, Countercoup) sometimes cast events in a particular light, exaggerated them, or omitted key facts for the sake of protecting the operation.

A case in point is U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson’s August 20 preliminary report to the State Department on the events surrounding the coup (Document 2), which the Foreign Affairs article cites. Henderson, initially opposed to the coup plan, was eventually read into the program in detail. Yet, he makes no mention whatsoever of the various CIA-planned activities, either in terms of their effectiveness or the lack thereof. Instead, he writes as if there had been no such activities at all.

Why? Because very few officials knew about the plans, including in the State Department, certain quarters of which were still innocently proposing approaches to Mosaddeq after the operation had been put into play. Henderson was not about to jeopardize operational security by divulging secrets in a reporting cable he knew would attract wide attention within the Department. Therefore, even if his expression of surprise at the size of the crowds on August 19 was genuine — and there is reason to believe it was overstated (see Document 2 description below) — it cannot be assumed he was telling the full story as he knew it, much less that he believed the covert operation had been immaterial.

Henderson’s follow-up cable (Document 3) to the Department the next day, August 21, makes this point even more starkly. In it, he coyly reports that "Unfortunately impression becoming rather widespread that in some way or other this Embassy or at least US Government has contributed with funds and technical assistance to overthrow Mosadeq and establish Zahedi Government." Since he knew all about the plans, this could only have been a deliberate attempt to protect the operation from wider disclosure.

The British engaged in the same Orwellian exercise. An example is the British Foreign Office report to the Cabinet shortly after the coup (Document 4). It also makes no mention of the joint clandestine operation, the success or failure of which would have been of high interest to anyone with access to it.

Ann K.S. Lambton, noted British Iran specialist and advocate of Mosaddeq’s ouster. (Photographer unknown)

For a better idea of how some British Iran watchers thought London should act during this period, see Document 5 from two years before the coup. In a conversation with a Foreign Office colleague, the venerable Ann Lambton brusquely spells out her preferences for how to deal with Mosaddeq — i.e. to "under-mine" him using "covert means" in order to "create the sort of climate in Tehran which is necessary to change the regime."

The desire to keep information about the operation hidden has continued long after the fact. It is worth recalling that the single most important compilation of U.S. records about the overthrow — Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume X, "Iran," 1951-1954 — became a symbol of historical manipulation when it was published in 1989 without a single reference to the American or British parts in the operation. (The State Department Historian’s Office expects to produce a "retrospective" volume in Summer 2014, which reportedly will contain CIA and other previously withheld documents that will shed new light on American thinking and activities during the coup period.)

The final document in this posting (Document 6) is an August 17, 1953, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad reporting on the ambassador’s meeting with the Shah who had just fled Iran that day. Although it deals with events prior to the second coup attempt (which is the focal point for those arguing the case for Iranian responsibility), the cable makes it clear the Shah was fully aware of the importance of the U.S. in recent events (see description below). The document first appeared in the FRUS volume above, but the key portions mentioned here were excised. The unexpurgated document, obtained from files at the National Archives and Records Administration, is presented in this posting.

These examples do not presume to deal with all the arguments made in Foreign Affairs or elsewhere by others with a similar take on the subject. They also certainly do not represent every instance of questionable sourcing that exists on the overthrow. But the documents below do point up a major wrinkle that anyone interested in the 1953 coup must take into account.


Document 1: Dwight Eisenhower, Diary entry, October 8, 1953, Secret

Source: Eisenhower Library

The section of this diary entry dealing with Iran sums up President Eisenhower’s understanding of events at the time. In a Weekly Standard piece in 2013 that closely parallels his Foreign Affairs article, Ray Takeyh implies that Eisenhower did not believe Kermit Roosevelt’s account, quoting the diary as saying the CIA agent’s report "seemed more like a dime novel than an historical fact." However, the full passage makes clear the president accepted Roosevelt’s version without reservation, commenting on "exactly how courageous our agent was in staying right on the job [after the first attempt] and continuing to work until he reversed the entire situation."

Document 2: Loy Henderson, Cable #416 to the State Department, August 20, 1953, noon. Confidential

Source: FRUS

This preliminary report on the events of recent days is suspect as a full and accurate record since it avoids any reference to U.S. involvement, even though that fact was well known to Henderson and others at the Embassy. That makes it more difficult to assess the rest of the detailed rundown of events it provides. The summary may well reflect the true beliefs or best information available to the Embassy, but without any sense of the sources used there is reason to be guarded. For one thing, the situation was by most accounts still highly fluid. Even the Americans and British were worried that the Tudeh might mount a serious counter-attack, and showed frustration that Zahedi had not been more effective in forestalling that possibility. Furthermore, it was entirely in line with the goals of the covert operation (regardless of one’s views about its efficacy) to present the events of 28 Mordad in as positive a light as possible, including portraying it as entirely spontaneous and far-reaching.

In that regard, a lingering question requiring further clarification — even after all these years — is what the true size of the crowds was. The scholar Ali Rahnema in a forthcoming book gives a detailed breakdown of the demonstrations on August 19.[2] Among other sources, he notes that even the pro-Zahedi press (Dad) came up with a crowd figure of 7,000. If accurate, that hardly compares to the numbers given for various Tudeh marches (e.g., in July 1952 and 1953), and would not by itself justify characterizing 28 Mordad as a major revolt.

Document 3: Loy Henderson, Cable #436 to the State Department, August 21, 1953, 2:00 p.m. Secret

Source: FRUS

Beyond the opening passage quoted above, this cable is interesting for the arguments it advances in the second paragraph in favor of keeping mum about the question of foreign involvement in the overthrow — even to the point of declining to deny the charge. Prophetically, the author notes that the current government, "like all governments of Iran eventually will become unpopular and at that time US might be blamed for its existence."

Document 4: Foreign Office, Brief for the Cabinet, "Persia," August 25, 1953. Secret

Source: British National Archives

It is hard to know whether the author(s) of this briefing knew about the joint U.S.-British operation. Clearly, the Cabinet was meant to be kept in the dark about it. Much of the analysis in the memo sounds perfectly reasonable in retrospect — a fact that does not at all imply that those in the loop believed their role had been insignificant.

Document 5: E. A. Berthoud, Minute, "Persia," June 15, 1951. Confidential

Source: British National Archives

Ann K.S. (Nancy) Lambton was a renowned scholar of Persian history and culture, well-connected with the British government, and regularly consulted on Iranian politics, especially during the Mosaddeq period. She reportedly had as little respect for the Shah as she did for the prime minister, whom she bluntly advocated overthrowing. Lambton proposes sending a colleague, Robin Zaehner, to Iran to put in place the pieces she sees as necessary to removing Mosaddeq. (Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison did in fact assign Zaehner to help put together a coup plan.) Lambton’s comment that Zaehner "was apparently extremely successful" at advancing British interests through propaganda during the 1945-46 Azerbaijan crisis says a great deal about British assumptions about their power to influence events in Iran.

Document 6: U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Cable #92 to the Under Secretary, August 17, 1953. Top Secret / No Distribution

Source: National Archives and Records Administration

This cable from U.S. Ambassador Burton Y. Berry in Baghdad was classified Top Secret and directed personally to the Under Secretary of State. Given its audience of one, the author feels freer than Henderson evidently did in the above reports to be forthright about such sensitive topics as the Shah’s state of mind and his admissions concerning the U.S. role in the coup to that point. Interestingly, the Shah made several statements to Berry that showed his dependence on the guidance of a person he refers to only as "an American." The cable notes this was "not (repeat not) an official of the State Department," leading to this author’s conclusion it was probably Kermit Roosevelt. The ambassador also makes clear the Shah intends to continue to get "advice from his American friend" before taking any further steps — a small indication that calls into further question the idea that the U.S. role can be entirely dismissed even after the initial failure of the CIA-British plan.


[1] For a comprehensive statement of this view, see the Conclusion of Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne (Syracuse, 2004). See also the various previous postings linked at the top of this page.

[2] Ali Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup in Iran: Thugs, Turn-Coats, Soldiers, Spies (Cambridge University Press: November 2014).

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : The Battle for Iran, 1953: Re-Release of CIA Internal History Spotlights New Details about anti-Mosaddeq Coup

U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson and Some CIA Officials Initially Disagreed with Certain Premises of Coup Planners

Declassified History Implies British Ties to the Operation, Criticizes London’s Policies in Period Leading up to the Overthrow

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 476

Posted June 27, 2014

Edited by Malcolm Byrne

For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne 202/994-7043 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, June 27, 2014 –During early planning for the 1953 Iran coup, U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson warned not only that the Shah would not support the United States’ chosen replacement for Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq but that the Army would not play its hoped-for leading role without the Shah’s active cooperation, according to a newly released version of an internal CIA history of the operation posted today by the National Security Archive.

The Archive, based at The George Washington University, obtained the latest release of this history — The Battle for Iran, written in the mid-1970s — in response to a Mandatory Declassification Review request.

The document goes on to say that members of the CIA’s station in Tehran and certain officials at agency headquarters sided with Henderson against some of the assumptions of American coup planners, who were working under "closely held" conditions in Washington during Spring and Summer 1953.

Mainly through interviews with coup participants, scholars have known generally that disagreements existed (and eventually Henderson went along with Mosaddeq’s overthrow), but freshly declassified portions of the document posted today provide a few more specifics about the nature of the differences and who held to which views. (An earlier internal CIA account downplayed Henderson’s dissenting views, choosing to emphasize that he was "always thoroughly cooperative" and "absorbed in a search for constructive suggestions.")[1]

A tank patrols a neighborhood in Tehran, soon after August 19, 1953. (National Security Archive collections)

The document also offers the most explicit declassified CIA references to-date to British participation in the operation. London’s role — undoubtedly the worst-kept secret in Britain’s relationship with Iran over the past 60 years — has never been formally acknowledged by either British or U.S. authorities. However, in this latest CIA release at least two references are tantamount to an official admission of the fact (see below).

Furthermore, the CIA study concludes that the British "misjudged their adversaries badly" in several respects, and that their actions effectively forced the Mosaddeq government to adopt untenable policies. London’s rash approach also risked a war with the Soviets, according to the author (see below).

The Battle for Iran is one of three agency histories of the coup that are known to exist. Although heavily excised, it contains a number of interesting details as well as insights into U.S. thinking both in the 1950s and two decades later. It also contains evidence to support the conclusion that the participation of both outside intelligence agencies and Iranians themselves (from the Shah to Mosaddeq to his political opposition to the clerics, the military and finally members of the general population) contributed to the eventual outcome:[2]

  • The document’s author does not view the coup as an undiluted success, noting that it left considerable "debris" in its wake (p. 71)
  • The history implies American coup plotters worked directly with certain Iranian clerics on the timing of the critical August 19 demonstration, noting "the mullahs wanted to hold it on Friday, 21 August, which was a religious festival day" but that this might be too late to stave off rumored plans by the authorities to hang a number of arrested officers on August 20 (p. 62). The previous and subsequent sections are excised, so it is not possible to tell how extensive the cooperation was or who the religious leaders were.
  • The document gives a less belittling portrait of the deposed prime minister than many Western accounts from the 1950s. It mentions his "often bizarre behavior" but concludes "most of his actions, even his most emotional and apparently irrational ones, were probably well calculated" (p. B-2).
  • The history repeats several of the generally negative characteristics of the Shah that many other U.S. and British accounts have noted. The author writes that "his indecision and susceptibility to bad advice were notorious," and he describes the monarch as a "mistrusting but gullible ruler" (pp. 47-48)
  • Fazlollah Zahedi, the general picked by the U.S. to replace Mosaddeq, had a "career balance sheet" with "nearly as many minuses as pluses" (p.32), according to the author. The document also highlights some of the personal and political conflicts between Zahedi and the Shah.
  • Contradicting published accounts that Mosaddeq was pinned down in his home on August 19, and that he was forced to escape over a garden wall, this version asserts, without sourcing, that the ousted prime minister "was not even in his house" but had gone next door and "taken temporary refuge" with none other than the head of the U.S. aid program Point Four – William Warne (p. 70). (The Wilber history speculates that Mosaddeq "had probably already left" his house by early afternoon [p. 70].)
  • The New York Times and other accounts "grossly exaggerated" the number of casualties during the coup, according to the history, which disparages Times reporter Kennett Love’s descriptions of events, including his use of the phrase "torn to pieces" to describe the fates of Foreign Minister Hossein Fatemi and Col. Ezatollah Momtaz, who led the defense of the prime minister’s residence on August 19. (Love put the number of dead at over 300. By comparison, a British report in early September 1953, without attribution, gave an estimate of over 50 dead and 300 wounded.[3])

Shortly after the overthrow, Shaban Jafari, celebrated wrestler and political enforcer, leads a pro-Pahlavi procession through Tehran. Propped up in the backseat of the crowded Cadillac is a large portrait of the Shah. (National Security Archive collections)

The CIA had first reviewed The Battle for Iran for release in 1981, but riddled it with exceptionally heavy excisions. A re-review occurred in 2011, and again in 2013 as the result of a National Security Archive request, leading to release of the version posted today. (The posting includes all three versions.) As a rough approximation, about 40 of the 150 pages include some amount of newly released material, sometimes the better part of a page, at other times only a few words. Most of the released text is in Sections III, IV and V, with about two-and-a-half pages newly available in Appendix D. Unaccountably, Appendix E, a chronology of events, has been withheld in its entirety.

The remaining excisions are too extensive to allow a thorough evaluation of the document, but some additional, preliminary comments are possible.

The earliest of the CIA’s three internal histories of the 1953 coup was a 1954 "Clandestine Services History" prepared by coup operative Donald Wilber. The Battle for Iran was produced some two decades later, followed by "Zendebad, Shah!": The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq in June 1998. Both Battle and Zendebad were written by historians at the CIA. The agency has released portions of the latter two documents, albeit with heavy excisions. Only one sentence of Wilber’s account has been officially declassified (see Archive posting) — although in 2000 The New York Times posted virtually the entire document on its Web site after an unnamed former official leaked it to reporter James Risen.

It is important to note that this version of The Battle for Iran is a draft. Each page bears the stamp "Administrative — Working Paper," and typed and handwritten edits are visible throughout. There is nothing in the public record to indicate whether a final version ever appeared and, if so, what happened to it.

Another important point, and a difference between this and the earlier Wilber report — other than the amount of time that passed between their writing — is that the author of this document was a member of CIA’s History Staff, not a direct participant in the operation. The current author therefore theoretically would have had less of a stake in portraying the coup in a positive light (one of the criticisms of skeptics of the Wilber history). Beyond that, it is unclear why the agency would have commissioned another internal history on the subject — much less seek a third account 20 years later.[4]

The Battle for Iran consists of five sections and six appendices. The 150-page document begins with a short introduction then 24 pages of background on Iran’s history, population, economics, politics and government (reminiscent of the content of CIA’s current "World Factbook"), more than half of which covers the Cold War period. After this section the agency, without identification or explanation, has inserted two pages of a handwritten outline of what may be the actual coup plan.

The third section is entitled "Covert Action" and over the course of 45 pages discusses the operation’s various stages, including planning, involving the Shah, putting the operation into play, the failure of the first attempt, and the recovery that finally produced success. A 9-page description of the aftermath follows, then the main body of the document ends with a one-and-a-half-page assessment of the coup’s long-term effects. Again, much of this remains classified, despite the wide public availability of corroborating material originating from other CIA sources.

Finally, seven appendices cover topics ranging from a history of the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute, to biographic information about key participants, to a set of talking points used with the Shah (heavily excised), to details about operational plans (entirely excised), and the trial of Mosaddeq.

The document’s overall perspective is interesting. On the one hand it accepts as given the standard precepts about the Cold War — primarily the threat of Soviet aggression, including the perception that Mosaddeq seriously intended to move closer to the Soviets. It also makes dubious assertions about the Iranian character — for example, "their tendency to be talkative was notorious" (p. 54) — that are of a piece with many Westerners’ attitudes in the 1950s. On the other hand, 20 years after the fact, the author does not fall entirely in line with Eisenhower administration caricatures of Mosaddeq, pronouncing him "neither a madman nor an emotional bundle of senility" (p. 26; see also p. B-2).

The matter of identifying Britain’s role in the coup has become something of a poor joke. While the deletion of several passages in the text is clearly aimed at concealing the British role, at least two declassified references spotlight the issue. The first characterizes the operation as an "official admission by both the United States and United Kingdom that normal, rational methods of international communication and commerce had failed." The second notes that a few weeks before the operation a State Department office insisted that, if a coup were to go forward, London would have to provide a "firm commitment" to be "flexible" on any future oil settlement with "the new government." Shortly thereafter, the British cabled their acceptance of the conditions (pp. 39-40).

In this connection, the State Department is reportedly close to publishing its long-awaited retrospective volume on the coup as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States series, which will apparently include much valuable new information. However, it seems unlikely Britain’s role will be discussed.

As mentioned above, the author freely criticizes the British approach. London’s main misjudgment was to assume that the loss of revenue from the oil crisis would "bring the Iranians to their knees." Instead, it "merely forced them to take the risky steps that increasingly endangered their country’s future" (p. 27). Moreover, if the British had "sent in the paratroops and warships," as earlier envisioned, it was "almost certain" the Soviet Union would have invaded, making the "danger of a third world war" seem "very real" (p. 27-28).

As noted, the history does not see the overthrow as an unqualified good. It may have removed Mosaddeq and restored the Shah but "it left behind a good deal of debris [words excised] to clean up, plus not a few complications." (The next half page of detail is excised.) (p. 71) The coup changed Iranian history, but it "did not, as Churchill hoped, enable the West to turn things around in the Middle East" (p. 79).

The author’s characterization of the Shah may raise some eyebrows. He was "by no means a dedicated Western ally" even though he served Western interests by being staunchly anti-Soviet. His reforms brought important changes, according to the author, and the White Revolution is credited with having "solidified the foundations of the throne that seemed so shaky and insecure in the violent days of 1952 and 1953." At the same time, the history acknowledges the obvious, that "the Shah has a monopoly of political power … although parliamentary elections and procedures may furnish the window-dressing of democratic government" (p. 79-80).

In one particular respect, the document is a reflection of its time. Written in the mid or possibly late 1970s, it comes in the wake of the revelations of widespread CIA misconduct by journalists such as Seymour Hersh and official investigations, notably the Church and Pike congressional committees and the Rockefeller Commission on CIA abuses. This was the era when the agency was publicly pilloried as a "rogue elephant" operating without presidential authority or accountability.

That is the background for the opening comments in Part III, which have a distinctly defensive tone. "The many chroniclers of Central Intelligence Agency misdeeds … have long placed the August 1953 coup … near the top of their list of infamous Agency acts … The point that the majority of these accounts miss is a key one: the military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government" (p. 26).

THE DOCUMENT: The Battle for Iran, CIA History Staff, ca. mid-1970s

For purposes of comparison, this posting includes all three releases of the document — each of which has very different excisions. Each version has been broken into segments for ease of viewing.

The Battle for Iran, 2014 release

A: Sections I and II (with attached handwritten outline of plans)

B: Section III, IV, and V

C: Appendixes

The Battle for Iran, 2011 release

A: Sections I and II

B: Section III

C: Appendixes

The Battle for Iran, 1981 release

A: Sections I and II

B: Appendixes


[1] Mark Gasiorowski of Tulane University has done the most extensive interviewing of former operatives. The leaked history is: Donald N. Wilber, CIA Clandestine Services History, Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 – August 1953 , March 1954, especially p. 18. When Wilber wrote this document, Henderson was still an active diplomat, and in fact still posted to Iran, necessitating some significant diplomacy on this point on Wilber’s part. (See Archive EBB No. 435.)

[2] This is the conclusion of the editors of the volume Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne (Syracuse University Press, 2004). In recent years a handful of analyses, downplaying or dismissing altogether the evidence in certain American and British sources, have claimed neither the CIA nor British intelligence contributed meaningfully to Mosaddeq’s actual overthrow.

[3] "Persia: Political Review of the recent Crisis," origin unknown but likely Foreign Office or British Embassy in Washington, September 2, 1953. SeeForeign Relations of the United States, Vol. X, "Iran, 1951-1954," p. 786. Love evidently did not make up the phrase that Battle’s author called "a favorite" of his. This same British document reports that pro-Shah forces announced from the radio station at 2:30 p.m. on August 19 that Fatemi had been "torn to pieces" (p. 785).

[4] An attempt in June 2014 to contact a member of the CIA History Staff familiar with the background of the 1998 history received no response.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : Being an Ottoman Vlach – On Vlach identity (Ies), role and status in western parts of the Ottoman Balkans (15th-18th centuries)

Being an Ottoman Vlach – On Vlach identity (Ies), role and status in western parts of the Ottoman Balkans (15th-18th centuries).pdf

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : An Inquiry into the Ottomans’ Knowledge and Perception of the Gypsies in the late 19th Century

An inquiry into the Ottomans’ knowledge and perception of the Gypsies in the late 19th Century.pdf

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : New Details on the 1961 Goldsboro Nuclear Accident

Multi-Megaton Bomb Was Virtually "Armed" When It Crashed to Earth in North Carolina, Sandia Lab Report Concluded

Nuclear Stockpile Safety Review from the Mid-1970s Identified Four Weapons Systems that Needed "Time Urgent" Evaluation Because of "Nuclear Detonation Safety Concerns"

1986 Sandia Lab Study Found that, with Respect to "Fully Assembled" and "Combat-Ready" Nuclear Weapons, U.S. Could Not Claim "in an Absolute Sense, that We Take Every Action to Ensure their Safety"

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 475

Posted – June 9, 2014

For more information contact:
William Burr – 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Safety Issues, 1957-1986

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2014 – A recently declassified report by Sandia National Laboratory, published today by the National Security Archive, provides new details on the 1961 Goldsboro, North Carolina, nuclear weapons accident. While both multi-megaton Mk 39 bombs involved in the mishap were in the "safe" position, the report concluded, by the time one of them hit the ground it was in the "armed" setting because of the impact of the crash. If the shock had not also damaged the switch contacts, the weapon could have detonated.

One of the two Mk39 thermonuclear weapons that landed when a B-52 bomber broke up over Goldsboro, North Carolina in February 1961. This was the weapon that came closest to detonation.

The T-249 switch used to arm nuclear bombs on Strategic Air Command bomber aircraft. Photo courtesy of Glenn’s Computer Museum

Since the advent of the nuclear age, the nightmarish possibility of an accidental detonation has made weapons safety a boiler-plate item in the U.S. nuclear weapons program — yet potentially serious errors continue to occur. A series of 2013 reports on the Goldsboro accident provided a fresh reminder of the role of luck in preventing nuclear disaster: the same switch involved in the 1961 event had failed in other incidents.[1]

Eric Schlosser’s extraordinary book Command and Control Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, raises important questions about the record of nuclear weapons safety in the United States during and after the Cold War. Two major studies by Sandia National Laboratory, cited by Schlosser in his book, have been recently released by the Department of Energy in response to National Security Archive Mandatory Declassification Review requests and are included in this publication. Both are demanding studies which require attentive readers. One is a 1959 study of nuclear weapons safety when experts at the national nuclear laboratories were beginning to review the problem more comprehensively. The other is an overview of safety history published in 1987 which reviews the impact of changing weapons design on safety policy, the impact of accidents on policy, and initiatives taken by experts at Sandia to improve safety.

Also included in today’s posting are recently declassified Joint Chiefs of Staff documents from early 1958 which address a problem that increased apprehensions about safety: the introduction of sealed-pit nuclear weapons into the arsenal. Embedding plutonium pits or highly-enriched uranium in the bombs or warheads themselves, unlike previous nuclear weapons where fissile material capsules were kept separate until arming occurred, this development made the weapons ready for use but created new vulnerabilities, including greater contamination risk. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff dismissed the risk of an accidental detonation — special features on the weapons allegedly made the probability a "negligible factor" — sealed-pit weapons would figure in the major accidents of the following years, including Jonesboro (1961), Palomares, Spain (1966) and Thule, Greenland (1968), where they would do considerable environmental damage.

Some of the highlights of the documents:

  • A memorandum of conversation involving President Dwight D. Eisenhower, JCS Chairman Nathan Twining, and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in which the two Americans made optimistic statements about weapons safety. Atomic Energy Commission chairman Lewis Strauss soon asserted that those statements did not address the conditions that would emerge when sealed-pit weapons entered the stockpile. He presciently observed that "In case of [high explosives/HE] detonation on crash there would be plutonium scattered outside of the HE danger area, and this might necessitate evacuation of personnel and even clean-up operations."
  • A statement in one of the JCS papers laid out the requirement that made future accidents possible by SAC bomber aircraft flying sealed-pit weapons: "A portion of SAC must be kept on continual alert status fully armed and ready for instant implementation of emergency war plans."
  • A declassified State Department letter from early 1958 indicating a growing risk of accidents in the European Command area because of the eventual "saturation" of nuclear stockpiles.
  • According to a Sandia Laboratory 1959 study, the Cold War goal of keeping nuclear weapons in a high state of readiness meant that safety was "fundamentally a matter of playing percentages." This meant that "absolute" nuclear safety was illusory and that giving ground "safety-wise" was necessary in order to have "useful" weapons.
  • According to the same report, one of the dangers of an accidental nuclear detonation was that it could produce "public and diplomatic reactions leading to disastrous curtailment of military readiness and nuclear capability." Even worse, "an accident might be mistaken for the opening round of an unannounced nuclear war."
  • A safety policy review performed in the late 1960s developed risk criteria for accidental nuclear detonations: in either "normal" or "abnormal" environments (where an accident had occurred) the annual risk of such an accident would be no greater than one in a million for an arsenal of ten thousand weapons or more.
  • Studies at Sandia Laboratory of stockpile safety in the mid-1970s identified four nuclear weapons systems which needed review on a "time-urgent basis because of nuclear detonation safety concerns."
  • The author of the 1986 safety policy history asserted that "the perceived need to keep weapons fully assembled and deployed on combat-ready systems … prevents us from claiming, in an absolute sense, that we take every action…. to ensure their safety."

This collection includes a declassified State Department history on two major U.S. overseas nuclear accidents, one near Palomares, Spain in January 1966, the other near Thule, Greenland, two years later, in January 1968. First published on the Archive’s Web-log Unredacted, this history, prepared by James Miller, provides a detailed account of how the U.S. government tried to manage the diplomatic furor that both accidents triggered. As the AEC had forecast in 1958, accidents involving sealed-pit weapons posed risks of contamination of radioactive material and the Palomares and Thule incidents required major clean-ups which the United States had to undertake. The recovery operation at Palomares was particularly challenging because one of the hydrogen bombs was lost underwater for several months.


Documents 1A -C: Introduction of Sealed-Pit Weapons

A: Note by the Secretaries to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Exercising of Special Munitions, 5 March 1958, J.C.S. 2019/287, with letters, memoranda, and memorandum of conversation attached, Top Secret, Excised Copy

B: Report by the Joint Strategic Plans Committee to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Custody, Maneuver, and Exercise of Special Munitions, 21 March 1958, J.C.S. 2019/290, Top Secret, Excised Copy

C: "Briefing for the President on SAC Operations with Sealed-Pit Weapons," [29 August 1958], Top Secret, Excised copy

Sources: A and B: National Archives, College Park, Md, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Record Group 218, Files of Chairman Admiral Arthur Radford, box 16, file 471.6 (8-15-45) ; C: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Office of White House Staff Secretary, Defense Department Series, box 1, Defense Department, Vol. II (9), also available on Digital National Security Archive

These reports show how civilian and military officials began to focus on the safety problems raised by sealed-pit weapons. When President Eisenhower and JCS Chairman Twining spoke with British Prime Minister Macmillan about nuclear safety they were not aware that a new nuclear weapons design was being introduced into the arsenal that raised new safety concerns. AEC director Lewis Strauss raised them, including the risk of contamination caused by the detonation of high explosives (HE), which were already being discussed in the military. The Strategic Air Command had plans for routine nuclear-armed airborne alert operations in the works which prompted new safety issues over and above those already raised by air and ground transportation of nuclear weapons.

The Joint Chiefs wrote assuring words that the risks of an inadvertent detonation by sealed-pit weapons were reduced to a "negligible factor" because of the existence of various safety controls and the "four separate control mechanisms" needed to detonate a weapon. Some months later, when President Eisenhower received a briefing on sealed-pit weapons, the briefing officer asserted with great confidence that "the probability of an inadvertent nuclear detonation of a sealed-pit weapon with proper safety controls is extremely remote-in fact, it approaches zero."

The two JCS documents (as well as the sealed-pit briefing) have numerous excisions, some of them describing the safety arrangements (spelled out in detail in documents 2 and 3 below), but also technical terms describing types of nuclear weapons. Some of the excisions are probably references to "two-stage" thermonuclear weapons (the detonation of an atomic bomb "primary" [stage one] ignites the "secondary" [stage two] producing a thermonuclear reaction). For example, document 1A at page 6 of the PDF cites the Mark 39 Mod 1 thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb) as being in the "[excised] configuration." The two-stage Mark 39, which contained highly-enriched uranium in its primary, came dangerously close to detonation during the 1961 Goldsboro incident. A number of the excisions, such as document 1B at page 9 of the PDF, read like, and have enough characters to be, "sealed-pit", but this is a puzzle because the term sealed-pit appears elsewhere in these documents.

Document 2: Letter from George S. Vest, Office of the Political Adviser, U.S. European Command, to B. E. L. Timmons, Bureau of European Affairs, 12 March 1958, Secret

Source: National Archives, College Park, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Office of European Regional Affairs. Politico-Military Numeric Files, 1953-1962, box 7, Safety

A recent nuclear mishap at the U.S. Air base in Sidi Slimane, Morocco raised consciousness among U.S. officials about the possibility of future incidents. George Vest, a political adviser at the U.S. European Command, noted that as Western Europe "becomes saturated with nuclear stockpiles, the chances of accidents will naturally increase." Most would not occur on U.S. bases but when, for example, an Air Force plane carrying nuclear weapons "overshoots" the base at Rhein-Main. U.S. diplomats must be prepared and so should local officials.

Document 3: Sandia Corporation, with the Advice and Assistance of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and the University of California Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, A Survey of Nuclear Weapon Safety Problems and the Possibilities for Increasing Safety in Bomb and Warhead Design , RS3466/26889, February1959, Secret, Excised copy

Source: Mandatory declassification review request

The problem that concerned George Vest — the growing risk of accidents caused by the eventual saturation of nuclear weapons stockpiles — also worried scientists at U.S. nuclear laboratories. Apparently drafted by Carl Carlson, then a young physicist at Sandia, this demanding and highly technical study is a "summary of studies and investigations" that had been conducted partly in response to a Defense Department request but also because of concern about the introduction of sealed-pit weapons into the arsenal.[2] As the author notes, the sealed-pit weapon was a "new species," which "contributed to increased military concern on the safety question." Also making an appraisal of safety policy essential was the fact that growing absolute numbers of nuclear weapons increased the risk of an accidental detonation. A nuclear weapons disaster could produce "public and diplomatic reactions leading to disastrous curtailment of military readiness and nuclear capability." Even worse, "an accident might be mistaken for the opening round of an unannounced nuclear war." Thus, to minimize the "probability of a nuclear disaster," it was necessary to apply "science, art, and intelligence."

Carlson’s report shows how nuclear safety policy began to take shape in the late 1950s, when the growing size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal encouraged senior defense officials and lower-level scientific experts to press for more systematic review of safety issues. Carlson reviewed the problem systematically, collecting accident data from recalcitrant armed services and assessing normal and abnormal hazard risks, which he defined in some detail, from risks of a launch of an armed bomb or missile (normal hazard) to detonation by an "overzealous" officer or accidental spontaneous nuclear detonation, both in the category of abnormal hazards. The risk of spontaneous detonation (exclusive of human error), Carlson rated at 10-8, or one in a hundred million.

At the time of this report the idea of one-point safety was beginning to take hold — nuclear yield would not be produced in the event of an accidental detonation at a given point in the weapons’ high explosive components — and it eventually became a requirement.[3] But this study shows how much more there was to the problem than one-point safety. An important chapter focuses on the role of electrical systems in preventing the accidental arming and release of nuclear weapons — for example, the T-249 on-off/arming switch, which was then the "almost universal aircraft monitor and control box." Installed on a panel near the weapon, the T-249 played a key role in the Goldsboro NC incident a few years later.[4] According to Carlson, the Air Force had plans underway to make the T-249 more secure by putting it under lock and key, but other fixes were under consideration, including a "war-peace" switch behind a glass barrier (like a fire alarm) and remote-control arming. Through these and other means, Carlson believed it important to make the weapons resistant to human error or "gross human misconduct, sabotage, and impulsive or psychotic actions." To reduce the opportunity for "human activity" around "critical bomb and weapons assemblies," Carlson favored the concept of a "wooden" bomb that was sealed and tamper-proof. Nevertheless, he believed that military readiness requirements meant that absolute safety was impossible and that it was necessary to "play the percentages," as "uncomfortable" as that was.

Carlson made two basic recommendations. One was the establishment by the Pentagon of a "uniform" policy treating the "safety problem in its entirety, in terms of all hazards, their causes their relative likelihood, and the severity of their consequences." The other was that the Defense Department establish a channel that relayed information on all accidents and incidents to the AEC. Whether and when such a channel was created needs to be learned, but the 1987 Sandia historical overview of nuclear safety suggests that a "uniform" policy remained a work in progress for decades after 1959.

Document 4: Letter from Commander-in-Chief Strategic Air Command General Thomas Power to Air Force Chief of Staff Thomas White, 27 February 1959, Secret

Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Thomas D. White Papers, box 27, Command-SAC

In this letter, CINCSAC Power found the possibility of an accidental detonation to be "extremely remote," in part because he was confident of the safety arrangements on SAC bombers, including mechanical and electrical controls in the cockpit and the "Two-Man Policy." Nevertheless, Power was dissatisfied with some of the safety controls, such as lanyards used to extract the safing pins (special pins that have to be pulled from the mechanism as part of the arming process) and proposed arrangements that he believed would be more advantageous operationally. Exemplifying Carlson’s point about the relationship between safety and military imperatives, Power highlighted the importance of "a point of balance" between safety and "weapon reliability and quick reaction time."

Document 5: J. M. de Montmollin and W. R. Hoagland, Sandia Corporation, "Analysis of the Safety Aspects of the MK 39 MOD 2 Bombs Involved in B-52G Crash Near Greensboro, North Carolina," SCDR 8-81, February 1961, No classification markings, excised copy

Source: FOIA request

The Goldsboro B-52 crash prompted an investigation by experts from Sandia, Los Alamos, and the AEC’s Albuquerque Operations Office (ALO). Subsequently, some of the weapons components were taken to Sandia for further analysis, which led to a detailed report on what happened to both MK 39 weapons during the accident. According to the report, the impact of the aircraft breakup initiated the fuzing sequence on both weapons. For example, on weapon 1, the crash yanked the safing pins from the Bisch generator which provided electric power to the weapon. Moreover, the lanyards (that General Power had proposed scrapping) actually pulled the safing pins from the weapons.

The normal workings of the arming mechanisms barely prevented a nuclear explosion. Weapon 1 was in the "safe" position when it dropped, preventing detonation. Thus, the T-249 Arm/Safe switch worked exactly as it was supposed to.The report implied that because Weapon 2 landed in a free-fall, without the parachute operating, the timer did not initiate the bomb’s high voltage battery ("trajectory arming"), a step in the arming sequence. For Weapon 2, the Arm/Safe switch was in the "safe" position, yet it was virtually armed because the impact shock had rotated the indicator drum to the "armed" position. But the shock also damaged the switch contacts, which had to be intact for the weapon to detonate. Perhaps this is what Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had in mind, a few years later, when he observed that, "by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted."[5]

The faulty operation of the lanyards worried the analysts. A modification program, ALT 197, was already underway to remove them and the analysts recommended rapid implementation of this change to all weapons in the "MK 15/39 family" involved in the airborne alert program.

Document 6: R. N. Brodie, A Review of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Safety Program- 1945 to 1986, Sandia National Laboratories, SAND86-2955, February 1987, Secret/Restricted Data, Excised copy

Source: Mandatory declassification review request

This demanding and technical Sandia nuclear safety study focused on the impact of changing weapons design, major accidents, and the weapons systems safety organization at Sandia Laboratory. Before the introduction of sealed-pit weapons, safety was achieved in a "visible and almost absolute manner by ensuring that the fissile material was kept physically separate" from the high explosives. But when sealed-pit weapons entered the arsenal, safety policy did not adequately or immediately address the problems they raised, leading government officials to take "frantic" efforts to remedy some of them.

Several accidents later — Brodie provides an overview of the major episodes of the 1960s, including the Jonesboro accident — a "new" approach was taken and basic criteria for nuclear safety were reconsidered. That review established a new standard: that in either normal or abnormal environments (in the event of an accident), the annual risk of detonation would be no greater than one in a million for an arsenal of ten thousand weapons or more. To mitigate risks, safety experts developed new design safety concepts and techniques to reduce the danger of contamination by using "insensitive high explosives."

Whatever was done after 1968 was not enough because in the mid-1970s Sandia experts identified new problems, notably that some weapons on continuous alert might be unsafe in "abnormal" environments. A formal review of stockpile safety found that for all weapons it was not possible to predict the "probability threshold for a nuclear detonation" in certain "abnormal environments." It was not even possible analytically to show "how ‘unsafe’ a weapon was." That level of uncertainty could lead to the conclusion that the whole stockpile had to be replaced, but senior officials concluded that because an accidental detonation had not occurred it was acceptable to "do more studies" and gradually improve the situation as better weapons became available. Experts at Sandia found this "laissez-faire" approach disturbing and prepared new studies identifying which weapons should be retired or retrofit and modified because of "nuclear detonation safety concerns." Four weapons — the B-28 bomb, Nike-Hercules, Genie, and the B53 — needed to be addressed on a "time urgent" basis. The Defense Department accepted the recommendations in principle in 1979, which led to changes that put the stockpile in an "improved safety position." Nevertheless, the same four weapons remained a concern.

Among Brodie’s conclusions was that as long as the Pentagon found it necessary to deploy nuclear weapons "fully assembled and deployed on combat-ready systems" it could not be claimed that "in an absolute sense, that we take every action… to ensure their safety." Indeed, the existence of assembled nuclear weapons meant the existence of a "nonzero probability that it could be unintentionally detonated." Thus as long as nuclear weapons were "deployed on ready-alert systems," the burden of preventing accidents and incidents would mainly fall on safe weapons design. "Constant vigilance" was essential to prevent nuclear weapons accidents.

Document 7: James Miller, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, Nuclear Accidents at Palomares, Spain in 1966 and Thule, Greenland in 1968, Historical Research Project No. 1421, April 1985, Secret, Excised Copy [originally posted on Unredacted]

Source: FOIA request

This study covers two major nuclear accidents and their consequences: the B-52 crash near Palomares, Spain and Thule, Greenland in 1966 and 1968 respectively, which cumulatively triggered the safety review described in Document 6, above. Both involved nuclear armed B-52 bombers on routine airborne alert patrols.[6] In the former accident, a bomber crashed into a KC-135 refueling tanker midair over the coastal village of Palomares. Seven crew members were killed and HE in three of the weapons exploded, causing plutonium contamination. One of weapons went missing in the Mediterranean until divers recovered it. In the Greenland accident, where a B-52 crashed on an ice-covered bay near Thule air base, four nuclear weapons broke up, scattering radioactive debris widely. One crew member was killed while others ejected safely.

Both accidents posed difficult public relations challenges for the U.S. government which followed a strict "neither confirm nor deny" policy on its overseas nuclear deployments. Thus, goaded by inquisitive journalists, but complying with Spanish government requests to avoid the nuclear aspect, Air Force press officers went through contortions to acknowledge that "the thing that is not a bomb" had still not been found.[7]

Prepared in 1985 by James Miller, then with the Office of the Historian at the State Department, this report was commissioned by the Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, which wanted to know if any lessons could be learned from the accidents. According to Colonel Michael Barrett Seaton, a Bureau official who wrote the foreword, overseas U.S. nuclear deployments were a "fact of life," and the risk of accident was always present. Thus, U.S. officials believed that "the degree of damage to U.S. national security from any future nuclear accident or incident would depend in large part on the quality of U.S. Government and host government management of the emergency." In this connection, Seaton found Miller’s study helpful because it provided "insight" into the demands that an accident could make on U.S. embassy staffs.

After a FOIA appeal, a State Department panel declassified most of the previously withheld information, as indicated by gray areas on the document. This included substantial portions of the foreword, information on the post-accident cleanup at Palomares, diplomatic negotiations over U.S. nuclear access, and the supporting documents appended to the history.[8] The appeals review panel left two excisions; both relate to the Thule incident (see PDF page 21). One is of a statement made by a U.S. official to a Danish diplomat a few days after the crash; the other concerns the search and clean-up efforts afterwards. The second deletion may relate to a missing piece of one of the H-bombs — what Danish scholar Svend Aage Christensen calls the bomb’s "spark plug," the uranium-235 in the weapon’s second stage or "secondary." Despite strenuous underwater search efforts, the "spark plug," around the size of a "marshal’s baton," was never found. A BBC story suggested that only three of the four bombs were destroyed and that an entire H-bomb may have gone missing, but Christensten’s fascinating study for the Danish Institute of International Affairs convincingly argues otherwise.[9]


[1] For an earlier account of the Goldsboro accident, see Chuck Hansen, Swords of Armageddon at pages 274-276 of PDF, For a useful discussion, see "The Full Story Behind the Goldsboro Incident."

[2] Eric Schlosser, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (Penguin, 2013), 172-173 (and sources cited on page 527).

[3] For origins of one-point safety concept and early problems, see Schlosser, Command and Contro, 163-164 and 197-198. See also Alex Wellerstein’s blog posting, "Accidents and the Bomb," Restricted Data.

[4] Schlosser, Command and Control, 245-246.

[5] See second page of image. McNamara is quoted by Schlosser at 301, but see also, Wellerstein, "The Final Switch: Goldsboro, 1961," Thanks to Alex Wellerstein for advice on interpreting of the Sandia report.

[6] For useful background on SAC airborne alert and the Palomares and Thule accidents, see Scott Sagan, The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons (Princeton, 1993), 156-198. The reason an accident took place at Thule was that SAC had a standing arrangement to fly a B-52 every hour of the day over the ballistic missile early warning station at Thule. In case the station went off-line because of an attack, the bomber could warn headquarters what had happened.

[7] See endnote 17 at pages 21-22.

[8] Apparently, the State Department could not find some of the documents because several items described as appendices in the endnotes do not show up in the attached material.

[9] Svend Aage Christensen, The Marshal’s Baton: There Is No bomb, There Was No bomb, They Were Not Looking For A Bomb, (Copenhagen, DIIS, 2009).

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : The United States and the Two Koreas, Part II : 1969-2010

President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Dae June meeting at the White House in July 1999. President Kim held an historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in June 2000 as part of the wider engagement both leaders sought with North Korea following the Framework Agreement of 1994. (Courtesy William J. Clinton Library)

Fears, Suspicions and Frustrations Arising from 1990s North Korean Nuclear Crisis Are Spotlighted in New Documents Publication

While Seoul Feared Another War Would Be "100 Times Worse" than the Korean War of the 1950s, Clinton Administration Pursued Hopes for Wider Engagement

Declassified History Offers New Insights into Worst Peninsula Crisis since the Korean War

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 474

Posted June 5, 2014

Edited by Robert A. Wampler, PhD

For more information contact:
Robert A. Wampler, PhD 202/994-7000 or wampler

Washington, DC, June 5, 2014 – During the North Korean nuclear crisis of the 1990s, the United States and South Korea shared blunt concerns about the possible outbreak of military hostilities with Pyongyang, according to newly published internal documentation from the National Security Archive. In April 1994, South Korean Defense Minister Rhee Byong Tae told U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, "If there is another war, the country will be totally wiped out," and all the progress built since the 1950s would be "turned into ashes." Perry saw no "imminent danger of war on the peninsula," but admitted that if sanctions were imposed on Pyongyang its unpredictability required the U.S. and its allies to be prepared militarily.

As Perry would later tell North Korean officials, his greatest apprehension was that war would erupt because of miscalculation by one or both sides. Despite these vivid concerns harbored by the U.S. and its ally, the documents confirm that the Clinton administration worked to turn the crisis into an opportunity for broader engagement with Pyongyang. But a combination of deep mutual distrust and North Korean intransigence and deception eventually undermined any positive developments, leaving the crisis for future administrations to try to resolve.

These and many other revelations, insights and details about the U.S. relationship with North and South Korea are contained in a major new compilation of U.S. government records just published by the National Security Archive. Today’s posting highlights selections of these previously unavailable materials from The United States and the Two Koreas, Part II: 1969-2010, a part of the "Digital National Security Archive" distributed by the academic publisher ProQuest.

The new collection contains over 1,600 recently-released documents, shedding fresh light on the events of 1994 — culminating in the October Framework Agreement to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program — and the ensuing, albeit ultimately abortive, period of more positive engagement with the communist regime. That promising interlude began with the Framework Agreement and continued until the end of the Clinton years, only to fall back into a more familiar phase of tensions and conflict under George W. Bush that continues today. The publication, the second in a series on the Koreas, covers U.S. relations with the two adversaries from Richard Nixon through the early Barack Obama presidency.

Among the new documents that open a window on the events of two decades ago are:

  • An account of Secretary of Defense Perry’s first meeting with Korean Defense Minister Rhee, in April 1994, to discuss the mounting crisis with North Korea over the latter’s nuclear weapons program. As Perry summed up the issue, "(1) We will not initiate war’ (2) We will not provoke a war; but (3) We should not invite a war by being weak." Rhee, while agreeing with Perry, made it clear that, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations with North Korea, war was unthinkable for South Korea. [Document 1]
  • Selections from the set’s over 200 Morning Intelligence Summaries prepared by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research providing assessments of current developments on the peninsula. Among the range of topics covered are renewed efforts to improve relations between the two Koreas, as well as Seoul’s fears that the U.S. efforts to engage with North Korea might harm South Korean interests. [Documents 2, 4 and 5]
  • A report providing a near-verbatim account of the meeting between U.S. and North Korean military officers in Panmunjon at which the U.S. sought the remains of one pilot and the release of another, imprisoned by North Korea after their helicopter strayed across the DMZ into North Korean airspace in December 1994. This document illustrates vividly the frustrations that often surround efforts to negotiate with North Korea, and the deep suspicion that seems to color all North Korean approaches to talks with the U.S. [Document 9]
  • Two examples of nearly 180 reports from the U.S. spent fuel team sent to Nyongbyon in September 1995 to work with North Korean technicians on storing and removing the spent nuclear fuel canisters from the Nyongbyon nuclear facility, as part of the Agreed Framework. These reports provide a fascinating "boots on the ground" perspective on the challenges faced by the Americans in working with the North Koreans, as well as uniquely detailed accounts of the two sides’ interactions. [Documents 10 and 12]
  • A detailed "Guide to Working and Living at Nyongbyon, DPRK" prepared by the U.S. spent fuel team that provides an intimate look at the wide range of practical challenges associated with travel, living and working in North Korea. [Document 13]
  • A State Department Memorandum from early 1996 that outlines the wide range of issues on which the U.S. was engaged with North Korea just a year after the Framework Agreement was reached. These included food aid, sanctions removal, a stable system for supplying Heavy Fuel Oil, the North Korean missile program, the return of POW-MIA remains, the opening of Liaison Offices, and the promotion of North-South dialogue. Set against these goals was the challenge of engaging with a North Korea that "internally is in parlous condition, beset by an economy that continues to nose down, by the spectre of increasing mal-nutrition, and by the uncertainties of an incomplete leadership transition." [Document 11]
  • Documents dealing with the Clinton administration’s efforts in the Four Party Talks and bilateral discussions with North Korea to defuse the delicate security situation on the peninsula through steps such as agreed tension-reducing and confidence building measures. To encourage Pyongyang to move forward in these discussions, the U.S. laid out a road-map for easing sanctions against North Korea as the Framework Agreement is being implemented and other steps taken to reduce tensions. [Documents 15 and 16]
  • A 1997 cable reporting on IAEA concerns that North Korea is not fully abiding by its agreement to allow IAEA inspection of its nuclear facilities under the Framework Agreement, in hindsight a possible omen of later revelations during George W. Bush’s first term. [Document 14]
  • A 1998 cable reporting on discussions among senior State Department and South Korean officials about the prospects for change in North Korea. One interesting point of consensus is that the late Kim Il Sung had wanted to initiate reforms to save his country, but after his death there was no one with the authority to push for change, so the "system went on now, locked to the compass course set" previously. [Document 17]
  • A part of former Secretary of Defense Perry’s "Script of Talking Points" for briefing North Korean leaders on his recommendations to President Clinton for a fundamental "reset" of U.S. policy towards North Korea. As Perry told the North Koreans, the Framework Agreement had opened a door into "an era of decisively improved relations between the US and the DPRK," but both sides had not managed to go through this door. Entering this new era required changes to a status quo that was unstable, including removing the "clear and present danger" presented by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. [Document 18]

The Clinton administration’s ambitious agenda would not survive his presidency, and relations with Pyongyang spiraled back to renewed tensions and acrimonious rhetoric under George W. Bush. The new president’s inclusion of North Korea within an "Axis of Evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address was followed that October by the revelation that Pyongyang had been secretly violating its Framework Agreement commitment to cease work on nuclear weapons. While a large part of the historical record remains classified (and the subject of National Security Archive FOIA requests), the new publication sheds considerable light on these developments, as well as on continuing efforts to re-engage North Korea in productive nuclear negotiations under Bush II and Obama.

The collection also provides extensive new documentation on U.S. relations with the two Koreas and efforts to manage the political and security challenges on the peninsula under Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and George H. W. Bush, building on the documents obtained for the Archive’s first Korea set. Taken together, the two collections provide an indispensible resource for scholars and journalists interested in understanding the often tortuous history of U.S. efforts to resolve the security dilemmas that are the legacy of an uneasy ceasefire on the Korean peninsula that has lasted over six decades.

The Documents

Document 1: Cable, Seoul 0331 to Secretary of State, Subject: SECDEF Meeting with ROK Minister of Defense Rhee, April 21, 1994 (Secret)

This cable reports on the first personal meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Rhee Byong Tae. Despite a developing crisis in Bosnia, Perry felt compelled to come to Seoul to establish a personal relationship with Rhee so that they could work together with confidence on the mounting North Korean nuclear crisis. Despite extensive redactions, this document is important for Perry’s clear statements of the U.S. position, the risks involved, and the need for close U.S.-ROK agreement on the threat and the steps to be taken. Perry is at pains to stress that while the U.S. does not believe there was "any imminent danger of war on the peninsula," Washington and Seoul still need to maintain the military deterrent to North Korea as the necessary backstop to negotiations, and then impose sanctions if need be. As Perry summed up the issue, "(1) We will not initiate war’ (2) We will not provide a war; but (3) We should not invite a war by being weak." To this end, according to Perry, the U.S. and South Korea must strengthen the deterrent against North Korea, regardless of assertions by Pyongyang that these steps would be provocative. Rhee, while agreeing with Perry, also stresses that war is unthinkable for South Korea, stating bluntly that "If there is another war, the country will be totally wiped out. … during the Korean War, there were two million casualties, with ten million family separations. A war now would be 100 times worse, and South Korean nation-building would be turned into ashes."

Document 2: "DPRK/ROK: Shall We Dance?" in The Secretary’s Morning Intelligence Summary, June 27, 1994 (Top Secret-Codeword)

In this, one of the numerous Korea-related entries from the Secretary of State’s Morning Intelligence Summaries in the DNSA set, State’s INR reports on progress towards a summit meeting between South and North Korea. Among the evidence suggesting reasons for optimism is the fact that the leaders of each country’s delegation to talks to arrange a summit, both of whom hold portfolios overseeing relations between the two nations, are viewed as flexible and pragmatic

Document 3: Cable State 183691 forwarding Seoul 05848, Subject: TFKN01: Death of Kim Il Sung Absorbs Both Koreas, July 11, 1994 (Secret)

This document, taken from the Wikileaks database, reports on how North and South Korea are responding to the death of Kim Il Sung. Overall, officials in South Korea expect basic policy continuity under Kim’s son, Kim Jong Il, including ongoing plans for a North-South summit, once the succession process plays out in Pyongyang. The cable also points out signs of differences of opinion within South Korea on handling the new North Korean leadership. Some "authoritative" voices had expressed concern that by extending condolences to North Korea, the U.S. may have diminished Pyongyang’s respect for Washington in future talks, while others, such as opposition leader Kim Dae Jung, fear the Seoul government may seize the opportunity to test the DPRK in the summit preparations. Public opinion in South Korea also poses a problem: "South Koreans do not hold a soft spot for the younger Kim [Jong Il], and a trip by Kim Young Sam to Pyongyang to meet with someone his junior in both age and leadership tenure would Invite widespread public criticism." In a final bit of gallows humor, the cable reports that "former President Jimmy Carter is now referred to in ROKG circles as ‘the angel of death’."

Document 4: "DPRK: Not Much Movement," in The Secretary’s Morning Intelligence Summary, July 23, 1994 (Top Secret Codeword)

In this Morning Summary, INR assesses the interplay of the succession process in North Korea with the parallel tracks of talks with Pyongyang – one relating to the planned North-South summit, the other to the bilateral talks with the U.S. in Geneva on the nuclear issue. While North Korea has criticized Seoul for its treatment of Kim Il Sung’s death, the INR analysts say that Pyongyang realizes that any deterioration in North-South relations could hamper the talks in Geneva, which places a brake on the North’s reactions.

Document 5: "ROK: Anxiety Attack", in The Secretary’s Morning Intelligence Summary, August 18, 1994 (Top Secret Codeword)

This INR assessment focuses on the delicate balancing act Washington faced in trying to push forward with the talks in Geneva on North Korea’s nuclear program and avoiding alarming South Korea that the U.S. is moving too quickly in these talks. South Korean leader Kim Young Sam’s concern that there be "no daylight between Washington and Seoul" on North Korea is viewed in the context of press criticism of the U.S. for giving away too much in the Geneva talks and failing to take ROK interests into account, and of Kim for promising to pay for light-water reactors to Pyongyang without gaining firm concessions from the North. Kim’s response to these criticisms is to try to increase his influence over the U.S.-DPRK talks, seeking to slow down moves towards normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations and linking the LWR issue to resumption of North-South talks, both steps that could hinder the bilateral U.S.-North Korean talks.

Document 6: Cable US Mission Geneva 008198 to Secretary of State, Subject: Amb. Gallucci’s opening statement at September 23 U.S.-DPRK Talks, September 24, 1994 (Secret)

This cable provides Ambassador Robert L. Gallucci’s opening statement at session two of the third round of U.S.-DPRK talks in Geneva. While this round would eventually result in the Agreed Framework signed on October 21, Gallucci’s statement indicates that as the talks opened significant issues continued to divide the two sides. A number of these issues, some new, some the U.S. believed resolved, had been raised by the North Koreans during the technical talks in Berlin held in the interim. The points included financing and roles regarding the Light Water Reactors, and the timing of the proposed construction freeze on North Korea’s nuclear facilities. Ambassador Gallucci proceeded to lay out the U.S. position on the necessary steps to be taken regarding the construction freeze, LWR financing, and North Korea’s return to the IAEA with safeguards obligations and commitments to permit inspections of North Korean facilities prior to the provision of the LWR technology. Gallucci also stressed U.S. opposition to any steps that would reopen the possibility of North Korea producing plutonium, the need to remove any spent nuclear fuel from the DPRK as soon as possible, and the need for any bilateral improved ROK.-DPRK agreement to accompany progress on the U.S.-DPRK agreement.[1]

Document 7: State Department Memorandum, Winston Lord to Secretary of State, Subject: Your Visit to Seoul, November 8-10, 1994: Scope Paper (Secret)

In this memorandum, Winston Lord lays out for Secretary of State Warren Christopher the goals of his upcoming trip to South Korea, where the key items on the agenda will center on reassuring Seoul. Lord describes a "demanding and exhausting collaboration with the ROK" to reach agreement with North Korea on the Agreed Framework to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and provide LWRs to North Korea. Lord advises that a "no-illusions" message assuring South Korea that Washington is working on the challenges that lie ahead should bolster Seoul’s confidence and help counter political and public ambivalence about the agreement, which will require funding on the order of $3 billion from South Korea to implement. To this end, Christopher should underscore how successful collaboration between the two countries has strengthened the bilateral alliance, and reassure Seoul that the U.S. commitment to its security remains firm. These reassurances are designed to counter South Korean fears that the U.S. "will now be friendly with the North to the South’s detriment, and that we will relax our guard against the North Korean military threat." Lord also cautions Christopher to avoid saying anything that might play well in Washington but could lead Seoul to "fall into a zero-sum view" of the relationship. As an example, Lord suggests emphasizing Seoul’s leadership role, rather than praising it for agreeing to provide the "lion’s share" of the LWR funding.

Document 8: Cable, State 305317 to Amembassy Seoul, etc., Subject: Status Report: Korea, November 10, 1994 (Secret)

This cable demonstrates the sense of optimism and new engagement with North Korea that has surfaced in the wake of the Framework Agreement reached the previous month. As the embassy reports, Secretary of State Christopher’s recent visit to Seoul was seen as an "unqualified success," with the secretary hitting all the points laid out for him by Winston Lord in the memorandum above. Adding to the sense of positive movement, the day before Christopher arrived in Seoul, ROK President Kim Young Sam had announced a new initiative aimed to facilitate opportunities pursued by South Korean businessmen in North Korea. While North Korea’s reaction was negative, as expected, overall the rhetoric out of Pyongyang had moderated somewhat in the wake of the Framework Agreement. This led some in the embassy, "applying the high art of nuance analysis," to "believe the DPRK may be trying to set the scene for dialogue with the South by shifting away from insisting on Kim’s overthrow to merely insisting that he apologize for his transgressions." Meanwhile, U.S. experts were heading to North Korea for talks on the storage of North Korea’s spent nuclear fuel canisters, while plans were being made for trilateral consultations with Seoul and Tokyo on establishing the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). Finally, a North Korean delegation would be visiting Washington in December for discussions preliminary to establishing liaison offices.

Document 9: Cable, Secretary of State for Operations Center, Subject: unc-kpa general officer-level meeting, 21 dec 94 – follow-up, ca. December 21, 1994 (Confidential)

A military incident threatened to upset the progress made in U.S.-DPRK relations when a U.S. helicopter flying near the DMZ crossed into DPRK territory on December 17 and was shot down, resulting in the death of one of the pilots and imprisonment of the other. The remains of the dead pilot were released on December 21, but it required protracted negotiations, involving Representative Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), before the other pilot was returned on December 30. This cable, while redacted, provides a fascinating look at the military talks on December 21 in Panmunjom, especially the manner in which the DPRK military representatives presented their position. At one point they asserted that U.S. military authorities were trying to undermine the progress made as a result of the Framework Agreement. The document also clearly shows the frustrations this engendered in the American officers.

Document 10: Facsimile Message, U.S Spent Fuel Team to Cherie Fitzgerald, Department of Energy re arrival of U.S. Spent Fuel team at Nyongbyon nuclear site, September 5, 1995 (Unclassified)

This message, reporting on the arrival of the U.S. expert team sent to North Korea to oversee the storage and removal of spent nuclear fuel from the nuclear facility in Nyongbon, is one of many in the DNSA set that provide a "boots on the ground" perspective on the challenges facing the U.S. team. While diplomats continued to work on matters of high policy, the U.S. delegates faced more mundane obstacles that included nature, in the form of bad weather, North Korean holidays, and dealing with Chinese visa fees.

Document 11: State Department Memorandum, "U.S. Policy Toward North Korea: Next Steps," ca. January 1996 (Secret)

Though severely redacted, this memorandum illustrates the wide range of issues on which the U.S. was engaged with North Korea one year after reaching the Framework Agreement. As the opening sums up the situation, implementation of the Agreed Framework was well under way with marked momentum, despite some serious remaining issues such as financing the provision of Heavy Fuel Oil to the DPRK. As the U.S. continued to focus on implementing the Agreed Framework, the larger goal was to build on this foundation to "address a wider range of issues with North Korea, including food aid, sanctions removal, a stable system for supplying Heavy Fuel Oil, missile talks, return of POW-MIA remains, opening of Liaison Offices, and creation of North-South dialogue." In pursuing this array of goals, the U.S. faced the challenge of engaging with a North Korea that "internally is in parlous condition, beset by an economy that continues to nose down, by the spectre of increasing mal-nutrition, and by the uncertainties of an incomplete leadership transition." Still, all in all, this document outlines an ambitious agenda, when compared to the state of affairs when the Clinton administration took office in 1993.

Document 12: Memorandum, Thomas Grim to Cherie Fitzgerald (DOE), Subject: DPRK Rack Modification Request (with attached transcript of conversation), February 8, 1996 (Unclassified)

This document provides another detailed account of the obstacles posed by talks with North Korea, in this case regarding changes a North Korean engineer working with the U.S. spent fuel team wants to make in the spent fuel canister and rack system designed by the American contractor NAC International. The cover memorandum cautions that the discussion "was not as confrontational as it may seem," given that the two individuals involved had discussed many difficult subjects before this one. Still, the U.S. feels that the changes requested could undermine safeguards, require major work and restarting the design and review stage of the project already completed. The exchange ends with the U.S. team member admonishing the North Koreans they are trying to change agreements their own superiors have agreed to, which leads the North Koreans to call for an end to the discussion.

Document 13: "An Informal Guide to Working and Living at Nyongbyon, DPRK," originally compiled by C. Kenneth Quinnones, U.S.Spent Fuel Team, September 1996 edition (Unclassified)

This guide, prepared by C. Kenneth Quinones, one of the original leaders of the U.S. spent fuel team in North Korea, provides another good picture of the practical hurdles facing the U.S. team in carrying out their mission. The basic goal of the guide was to "minimize potential misunderstandings between members of the Korean staff at the Nyongbyon nuclear facility and members of the U.S. Spent Fuel Team," in large part by pulling together numerous informal agreements between the two sides that arose out of the work. Covering practically every aspect of traveling, living and working in North Korea (at one point the guide says, in a bit of understatement, that "One does not simply drop into the DPRK"), the guide includes numerous tips on inter-personal relations and how to approach negotiations and meetings with North Koreans. While not a policy document, the authors see a clear policy relevance: "It is important to keep in mind that our continued professionalism in adapting to the varied living and working conditions in the DPRK will have a positive effect on the successful implementation of the other components of the overall DPRK-U.S. agreement. In a land where one’s ‘sincerity’ and ‘attitude’ often count for more than western-style logic, we in Nyongbyon are all, in a very real sense, active ‘ambassadors’ for the U.S."

Document 14: Cable U.S. Mission Vienna to Secretary of State, Subject: GAO Teleconference with IAEA on DPRK Issues, April 16, 1997 (Confidential)

This document provides further details on concerns that North Korea was not fully abiding by its agreement to allow IAEA inspection of their nuclear facilities under the Framework Agreement. The cable consists of questions posed by the General Accounting Office with IAEA officials (the identity of whom has been deleted) on inspection activities under the agreement in the DPRK. It is clear from the responses made by the IAEA official that "The DPRK has not fully accepted IAEA safeguards." Further problems included North Korea’s failure to fully comply with its safeguard agreement with the IAEA and the lack of progress in preserving essential information required to enable the IAEA to verify the validity of North Korea’s initial declaration under the safeguards agreement.

Document 15: State Department Memorandum, "Four Party Talks," ca. January 16, 1998 (Secret)

As this document shows, despite the concerns over North Korea’s failure to fully comply with its commitments under the Framework Agreement regarding inspection of its nuclear facilities, the Clinton administration continued to pursue talks with Pyongyang on defusing the delicate security situation on the peninsula. This briefing memorandum, apparently prepared for talks with South Korea prior to upcoming Four Party meetings in Beijing and Geneva, discusses U.S. goals for agreeing upon and implementing mutual tension-reducing measures (TRMs) and confidence-building measures (CBMs). Progress on these steps would be paired with a gradual reduction in U.S. sanctions against North Korea.

Document 16: State Department Briefing Paper – "Road Map/Sanctions," ca. March 10, 1998 (Secret)

This briefing paper, likely prepared for either bilateral US-NK talks in Berlin on March 13 and/or Four-Power talks in Berlin on March 16-20, further elaborates the U.S. position on easing sanctions against North Korea in response to continued progress in implementing the Framework Agreement and addressing other security issues. In outlining the steps the U.S is prepared to take, the unstated subtext of the U.S. strategy is that the U.S. clearly views the carrot of reduced sanctions and the positive impact this could have on the North Korean economy, as a key means to securing greater cooperation from Pyongyang.

Document 17: Cable, Seoul 002710 to Secretary of State, Subject: Prospects for Change in North Korea and in Its External Relations: USG/ROKG Officials’ Thoughts, May 12, 1998 (Confidential)

This cable reports on a dinner discussion, hosted by the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, between senior State Department and South Korean officials on the possible future political development of North Korea and how this could affect its relations with the outside world. Among the interesting points made was agreement that the late Kim Il Sung had wanted to institute reforms to "save his country," but following his death there was no one in a position to push for the necessary changes, so the "system went on now, locked to the compass course set" while he lived. In general, there was little optimism about significant change in North Korea, especially given the wide range of unknowns regarding the inner political and military dynamics of the secretive regime.

Document 18: "Script of Talking Points for William J. Perry," May 21, 1999 (Secret)

As concerns, including ongoing problems with North Korea’s adherence to the Agreed Framework, continued to mount, in October 1998 President Clinton asked former Secretary of Defense William Perry to carry out a fundamental review of U.S. policy toward North Korea. This document provides the detailed talking points for Perry’s remarks to North Korean officials, with revisions possibly in his own hand, on May 26 during his visit to the country to exchange views about his policy recommendations. Though the last half of his remarks have been redacted, the document still provides a good summary of U.S. concerns and goals regarding North Korea as it sought to reset relations with the country. As Perry presented the U.S. view, the Framework Agreement helped to avert a crisis and also opened a door into "an era of decisively improved relations between the US and the DPRK," though the two sides had not yet managed to pass through this door. To this end, Perry was recommending a fundamental change in U.S. policy toward North Korea, rooted in U.S. security interests and goals in Asia that had developed since World War II. This policy would seek to engage with North Korea on the basis of reciprocal respect for each nation’s security interests, with the goal of reducing threats that might endanger peace and stability on the peninsula and in Asia. This would require agreed changes to a status quo that is unstable, including removing the "clear and present danger" presented by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Document 19: State Department Briefing Paper – "Checklist of Key Issues – Your Meeting with North Korean Special Envoy Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok," ca. October 5, 2000 (Secret)

This document is part of the briefing materials prepared for Secretary of State Albright in connection with the visit of North Korean Special Envoy Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok to Washington. This meeting was an important step in improving relations between the U.S. and North Korea that sought to build on the historical summit meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in June 2000. An equally historic step would occur soon after, when Secretary Albright visited Pyongyang for talks with Kim Jong Il and other North Korean leaders.[2] As the memorandum stresses, the U.S. was seeking to end a half-century of hostility. While President Clinton was personally committed to this goal, the U.S. was also prepared to highlight the fact that continued lack of progress on key issues, specifically North Korea’s missile program, would remain an obstacle to normalization of relations between the two countries.


[1] For Ambassador Gallucci’s perspective on this meeting, see his account of the North Korean nuclear crisis, co-authored with Joel S.Wit and Daniel B. Poneman, Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis (Brookings Institution Press, 2004), pp. 298-299.

[2] For additional documentations on Secretary Albright’s visit to Pyongyang, see the Archives online briefing book North Korea and the United States: Declassified Documents from the Bush I and Clinton Administrations, available at


Chinese Military Was Split over Bloody Suppression of 1989 Student Protests, DIA Reported

Massacre Witnesses Described "Continuous Stream of Victims" at City Hospitals, Bravery of Doctors and Pedicab Drivers (the "Real Heroes") in Resisting Authorities, Transporting and Treating Dead and Wounded

Chinese Worried about Retaliatory Bombings of Airline Flights, Runs on Banks, Smuggling of Protesters Out of the Country

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 473

Posted June 3, 2014

Edited by Malcolm Byrne

For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, June 3, 2014 – Significant cleavages existed within the Chinese political leadership and security apparatus over the decision to use force against student protesters at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, according to US military intelligence. Declassified reports citing well-placed sources inside China describe sharp differences among some of the country’s military and political elite, as well as a range of other security-related concerns with important implications for the political longevity of the Chinese leadership.

Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the crushing of the Tiananmen protests, the National Security Archive is posting 25 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) records relating to the event and its aftermath. The Archive obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).[1]

Among the highlights of the DIA reporting cables are the following vivid accounts of events on the ground in Beijing during and after June 1989. (The local attachés are careful to note that the reports they are receiving are "not finally evaluated intelligence." In fact, at one point an author comments: "Each day everyone seems to have a new horror story about China" (Document 11). Nevertheless, these depictions effectively convey some of the great drama of the period:)

  • In the heat of the moment, rumors flew, including that paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had died (he lived until 1997); without accepting the rumor as true, a DIA cable noted that at a minimum there was "great chaos among the high-level military leadership" (Document 4)
  • Facing a "continuous stream of victims," doctors at a central Beijing hospital refused to turn over corpses to security officers when they discovered the bodies were being cremated before they could be identified (Document 17)
  • Risking their own lives, pedicab drivers — hailed by one source as "the real heroes" — were critical to the effort to get the wounded and dead to medical treatment (Document 17)
  • Some reports indicated military forces brought in from outside Beijing were spotted "laughing" and "shooting at random" at civilians (Document 9)
  • Arrests of student protesters continued for months, to the point where the capital reportedly ran out of prison space for them (Document 19)
  • Public reaction to the violence included a run on the Shanghai branch of the Bank of China that required the Army to airlift large quantities of foreign currency to meet demand (Document 20)
  • Fears of "counterrevolutionary" retaliation abounded, including concerns that Chinese passengers planes might be bombed (Document 11)

Former Chinese Party leader Hu Yaobang shortly before his death in April 1989, an event which touched off the massive protests at Tiananmen Square. (photo credit:

The question of whether China’s ruling Communist authorities were united in ordering a bloody crackdown on student protests has been debated since 1989. Secret US intelligence analyses concluded significant divisions existed. A CIA assessment from August that year described some high-ranking officers as being opposed to bloody force on principle while others were suspicious that hardliners were secretly planning a coup against party leader Zhao Ziyang (see the CIA analysis here).

In January 2001, The Tiananmen Papers, a collection of secret documents smuggled out of the Chinese archives, was published in the West and purported to show a much more limited split — one that existed "only at the top," and did not reach throughout the system.[2] More recently, an account in The New York Times,[3] based on interviews, leaked Chinese records and recent scholarship, essentially draws the same conclusion as the CIA analysis of 25 years ago but with considerable evidence that both senior officers and rank-and-file soldiers had basic qualms about confronting their fellow citizens with lethal force.

That viewpoint finds further support in the cables published today. At the same time, the records implicitly show that a more nuanced take on the issue is probably required. As one report (Document 12) points out, "reluctance" does not always mean "disobedience."

Li Peng, China’s premier, declared martial law on May 20, 1989, in response to growing protests in Tiananmen Square (photo credit: World Economic Forum).

This selection of 25 reports and analyses covers a range of security-related topics that were the typical focus of the DIA officers who collected the intelligence as well as those who analyzed the data in Washington. Originating from DIA headquarters and various overseas missions, the cables should be read in conjunction with other intelligence materials, White House records, and State Department and Beijing Embassy reporting contained in previous National Security Archive publications. The latter include two Electronic Briefing Books on Tiananmen and two large compilations of declassified documents on the US and China published as part of the "Digital National Security Archive" through ProQuest (see the links at top left of this posting).

Given DIA’s mission, the cables also focus on such issues as the uniformed services’ role in suppressing dissent, the relationship between the military and various police forces, as well as connections between the state of the country’s security apparatus and the ongoing succession struggles within China’s political system.

The Documents

Document 1: Cable from [excised] to AIG 9190, "IIR [excised]/ Internal Friction among Top Political Leaders in China," Confidential/Noforn, April 14, 1989

A high-ranking official, whose identity is excised for security reasons, gives DIA officials insights into the ongoing leadership struggle between Zhao Ziyang and Li Peng. A few months earlier, according to the source, Li Peng derided Zhao at a top leadership meeting: "I don’t see how a person who is always playing golf can know anything." The events at Tiananmen would decide the competition in favor of Li Peng and other hardliners.

Document 2: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "China: Student Protests," Confidential/Noforn, April 19, 1989

Four days before this cable was written, former General Secretary Hu Yaobang died, an event that helped touch off mass student protests against high-level government corruption and other issues. At this stage, the government reacts with a degree of "tolerance," but the authors predict the leadership may feel forced to take much stronger measures to keep order even at the risk of losing support among less hardline elements and losing face internationally in the lead-up to a high-profile Sino-Soviet summit with Mikhail Gorbachev.

The DIA is the country’s main foreign military intelligence arm; it primarily serves the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the Unified Combatant Command.

Document 3: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "China – Students Demonstrating for Democracy," Confidential, May 19, 1989

A month after the protests started, "the pressure is building" on China’s leaders in the wake of numerous rallies, a hunger strike and a demonstration of "about a million people" in Tiananmen Square the day before this cable is written. The authors optimistically foresee "serious concessions" in the making even as the authorities are reported to have begun moving troops into the capital. They see Zhao Ziyang as the most popular official figure with the students and remark on Deng Xiaoping’s (initially repudiated) hardline approach to the protests. Overall, the authorities appear at a loss over what to do, which the analysis implies may contribute, along with other factors, to a "crisis of legitimacy" for the Communist Party.

Document 4: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "Crisis in Beijing: ((Deng)) Xiaoping Reportedly Dead; President ((Yang)) Shangkun Orchestrates Military Crackdown in Beijing," Secret/Noforn/Wnintel, June 5, 1989

The day before this cable was sent, China’s authorities brutally crushed the demonstrations with military force. Reflecting the continuing confusion of the moment, DIA headquarters reports — prematurely (by almost 8 years) — on the apparent demise of hardline leader Deng Xiaoping. Although the identity of the source is excised, he is evidently a foreign government official who is in a position to telephone his Chinese counterparts directly (i.e. presumably from a country relatively closely allied with Beijing). Unfortunately, the source’s information is vastly off the mark, making the subsequent piece of news — that Deng’s last words were, "Originally, I did not want to use force" — equally suspect. Closer to the truth is the cable’s conclusion that "there is great chaos among the high-level military leadership," with or without Deng’s fictitious passing.

Document 5: Cable from [excised] to DIA Headquarters, "IIR [excised] Martial Law and Public Security," Confidential, June 6, 1989

As usual, the source’s identity for this report is excised, but he (his gender is provided) is presumably Chinese and has access to security facilities. The main subject of this report is the existence of divisions between regular police and the People’s Armed Police (PAP) on the one hand and other public security organs (i.e. the army) on the other. For example, the source indicates that roughly 200 policemen-in-training regularly demonstrated along with the other protesters. This along with a general lack of crowd control training are offered as reasons why the army handled the crackdown rather than the police.

Document 6: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "China: Relations Worsening," Confidential/Noforn, June 7, 1989

One of the Chinese leadership’s fears — a deterioration in relations with important foreign partners — is discussed here. In this case, the erstwhile partner is the United States which has just suspended military sales to Beijing because of the suppression of the demonstrations. The Chinese suspect Washington has some involvement with the protests, among other complicating factors.

Defense attachés serve in numerous US embassies as representatives of the Defense Department and acknowledged gatherers of military intelligence.

Document 7: Cable from [excised] to DIA Headquarters, "IIR [excised] Military Region Commanders Insthye [sic] Equation," Secret/Noforn, June 17, 1989

This analysis treats the question of the role of regional military commanders in quelling the student protests. It draws attention to a rumor that hardline figure Yang Shangkun summoned a meeting of these commanders at the end of May but that several if not all of them declined to attend — a circumstance rife with potential significance. The cable goes on to cite additional open-source intelligence and to identify several commanders and their likely stances on the question of using force.

Document 8: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised]/Chinese Military Attaché Comments on Situation in China," Confidential/Noforn, July 5, 1989

A Chinese attaché posted in an unidentified country offers some intelligence on the political situation. Deng is said to be securely in control in Beijing despite his age and health. The source denies the authorities ever faced losing control of the army but acknowledges the picture is "complicated" and that a prolonged "investigation (read: crackdown)" is about to ensue.

Document 9: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "[Excised]/China Scenes," Secret/Noforn/Wnintel, July 5, 1989

The unnamed source in this cable reports on events personally observed in Beijing during the lead-up to the violence and as the events unfolded on June 3. Apparently not from Beijing (the source stayed at a hotel in the capital), the individual provides information about the government’s initial attempts at a "one by one" crackdown before bringing in troops in large numbers. The main component of the assault is said to have been from the 27th Army, which reportedly did not use a Beijing dialect and allegedly was "laughing" and "shooting at random." The source discounts some of this information as rumor but adds that the 28th and 38th armies were allegedly "opposed to the 27th Army." The individual further adds that Deng had surgery just before Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Beijing and was not in good health. "Further, he did not want to take any repressive actions while Gorbachev was in China that could implicate" the Soviet ruler.

Document 10: Cable from [excised] to DIA Headquarters, "IIR [excised] Military Mobilization under Martial Law," Confidential, July 17, 1989 [Fragment of cable]

A source provides a detailed breakdown of elements assigned to different armies of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as well as their standard levels of readiness and their disposition during phases of the crackdown. One of the armies described is the 38th Army, whose commander, Major General Xu Qinxian, (not named in the document), refused to resort to force against the protesters, according to a much later report in The New York Times. "I’d rather be beheaded than be a criminal in the eyes of history," the general told a historian later, according to the Times.[4] Unfortunately, this cable is incomplete; the full version might go on to describe the 38th Army and its leadership in more detail.

Document 11: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised] Apprehension about Bombs on CAAC Flights," Confidential, July 21, 1989

A Hong Kong-based source reports current anxieties among travelers to Beijing that "Chinese counter-revolutionaries" might be planning to place bombs on Chinese passenger aircraft, adding that even Chinese security personnel seem to be wary of the possibility. An alternative theory is that extra scrutiny of containers being loaded onto airplanes is aimed at finding students being smuggled out of the country. The authors comment: "Each day everyone seems to have a new horror story about China."

Document 12: Cable from [excised] to DIA Headquarters, "IIR [excised] Domestic Situation in China and Sino-Soviet Relations," Confidential/Noforn, August 7, 1989

Another source offers his views on the current state of play within the PLA hierarchy, based in part on a Kremlinology-style reading of press accounts of public military celebrations. The source believes the PLA had "no serious breakdown" during the Tiananmen events. While he had heard reports that some military regions had shown an unwillingness to take part, he noted that "reluctance does not mean disobedience," in the wording of the cable. He follows with an assessment of the problems posed for the US and China by dissident Fang Lizhi, and a comment that Soviet leader Gorbachev will be "much more comfortable after the death of Deng." Whereas the USSR had disavowed the "hard approach" in favor of the "soft approach," China had done the opposite. "The two countries remain traditional enemies," the cable concludes.

Document 13: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised]/Chinese Riot Control Police Units," Confidential, August 8, 1989

This report details Chinese attempts to bolster the preparedness of riot control units. Although events as long ago as three years earlier had exposed deficiencies in methodology and trained personnel, little was done until the beginning of 1989 when the authorities launched a two-year project aimed at emulating Japanese techniques. Because civil units were not ready when the protests broke out, the leadership brought in the PLA, which itself had no experience with riot control and therefore, according to this report, resorted to "brute force" resulting "in the massacre of many Chinese demonstrators."

Document 14: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "Special Assessment for Customers of DIA NADA INTSUM," Secret, August 15, 1989

This 21-page document differs from the rest of the items in this posting in that it is not passing along information from sources but providing in-depth analysis of the events surrounding the Tiananmen catastrophe. It incorporates political as well as military topics, describing events such as Mikhail Gorbachev’s "embarrassing" visit and going into detail about the day-to-day unfolding of the crisis. The authors offer assessments of why martial law was slow to take effect, including the surfacing of disagreements within the party and military leaderships. They conclude most of the rifts were resolved by the end of May, in part because of a genuine shared concern about the spread of disorder. The cable ends with a lengthy discussion of the consequences of the episode for China and its rulers.

Document 15: Cable from [excised] to DIA Headquarters, "IIR [excised]/Democracy Movement Alive," Confidential, August 29, 1989

This report notes "a slow return to normalcy in the ‘after hours counterculture’" of nightclubs and rock concerts. A dissident is quoted as saying "the goal hasn’t changed, we are moving along slowly (taking it easy), slowly changing our thinking, but we are still alive."

Document 16: Cable from [excised] to [excised], "IIR [excised] Security Situation in Beijing, Dalian, Yantai, and Shanghai Cities, China," Confidential/Noforn, August 30, 1989

An unnamed source describes mostly "normal" conditions and no signs of disorder in various parts of the country, but the authorities are carrying out careful inspections of Chinese travelers, among other indicators all is not as it seems. City dwellers are said to be largely aware of the Tiananmen events but people in more remote areas and villages still tend to blame "villains" for provoking riots. Interestingly, a group of Chinese acquaintances of the source reacted suspiciously to a taped statement by a pro-democracy student leader, saying it "might be a fabrication by the West."

Document 17: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised] Disposition of Tiananmen Massacre Victims," Confidential/Noforn, August 31, 1989

A doctor in a central hospital in Beijing proudly describes the staff’s conduct in not only treating a "continuous stream of victims" from June 4-5 but in refusing to turn over corpses to public security authorities who they discovered were cremating them before they could be positively identified. The doctor also expressed pride in the fact that most of the staff were US-trained. She believed that the staff’s "friends in the US" would "protect them [from] persecution." The "real heroes" of the "massacre," according to the source for the cable, were "the flatcar pedicab operators who volunteered their services to transport the wounded and dead … at the risk of losing their own lives."

Document 18: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "China: Pressure Tactics," Confidential, August 31, 1989

Betraying their acute sensitivity to international condemnation for the Tiananmen violence, Chinese officials apply "strong pressure" on the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to reject a resolution critical of Beijing’s handling of the crisis. One delegate reports "he has never been under such pressure."

Document 19: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised] Conditions in Beijing under Martial Law as of 10 August 1989," Confidential/Noforn, October 3, 1989

Most signs of the crisis have disappeared by this time. Yet, road blocks exist, pedestrians continue to be banned from the main road leading to Tiananmen Square, a curfew is in effect at night, and inspections and searches routinely occur. Troops at central locations look "sharp," according to observers, but other units appear "slovenly" and "lack discipline." Authorities reportedly are concerned about the potential threat from armed civilians, and political leaders rarely leave their homes. With martial law still in effect, student arrests continue, to the point where "the government has more arrested students than they have prison space."

Document 20: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised] PLAAF Airlifts Foreign Exchange to Shanghai, June 1989," Confidential, November 15, 1989

One of the unanticipated effects of the Tiananmen crisis was a run on certain Chinese banks. According to this report, based partly on Chinese published accounts, the Shanghai branch of the Bank of China had to call on the Army to fly in planeloads of foreign currency to counter a flood of withdrawals in the days immediately after the clampdown, a task reportedly performed with unusual speed and efficiency.

Document 21: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised]/ The New MC Leadership – A Postmortem Analysis," Confidential, November 27, 1989

This lengthy cable reports on results of the Fifth Plenum which named Jiang Zemin, already head of the party, as chairman of the Central Military Commission (MC). Although the promotion of Jiang and others is meant to stabilize the political scene, the authors explore "unsettling" evidence to the contrary. Among signs of problems are public expressions of concern by Chinese officials and media about the prolongation of martial law and a general lack of adherence to party decisions. The report characterizes the current leadership setting as a "hostile political environment." It goes on to describe the position of several key players — including Deng, Jiang, Yang Shangkun and his brother, Yang Baibing — and assesses additional organizational changes and developments (with a lengthy concluding passage excised for national security reasons).

Document 22: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], , Secret/Wnintel/Noforn, April 17, 1990

A year after the first demonstrations in Tiananmen Square following the death of Hu Yaobang, the authorities make a show of normalcy by opening the square to public access but "many plainclothes security officers" are in evidence.

Document 23: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised]/The Directory of PRC Military Personalities," Confidential, August 31, 1990

Typically a subject of abiding interest to the DIA is the release of a new directory of foreign military figures. The latest edition listing China’s top-ranking officers is particularly interesting for US military intelligence since it follows an "eventful and crucial period in the history of the People’s Republic" and reflects "sweeping reshuffles" throughout the military establishment. In describing the details, this cable notes that seven of ten regional commanders have been taken from other regions, indicating a continuing concern about the development of competing power centers.

Document 24: Cable from Joint Staff to [excised], "IIR [excised]/Beijing’s Central Garrison Division and Its Possible Role in Determining a Post-Deng Xiaoping Successor," Confidential/Noforn, April 10, 1991

Two years after Tiananmen, the power plays continue among the Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng and other factions. As always, the military is seen as a central factor. This cable notes the interest of all concerned in gaining the support of the Central Garrison Division (known for, among other things, helping with the arrest of the "Gang of Four" in 1967). The CGD’s backing is considered "vital" for any person or group hoping to retain power in China. In describing the current state of play, the cable touches on the role of various players in the June 1989 crackdown, noting in passing that several Military Region commanders had been "passive in carrying out orders from headquarters" during the crisis and were later replaced.

Document 25: Cable from DIA Headquarters to [excised], "China: Security," Confidential, January 10, 1992

Almost three years after the student protests, "widespread dissatisfaction persists," "emboldened" in part by the sense of some dissidents that growing international pressure on China will help protect them from retribution. At the same time, this report notes ominously that a recent gathering of senior security officials is believed to have ended with agreement on assigning priority to the "suppression of dissent" over "criminal activity."


[1] The requests were originally filed by Archive staffer Michael Evans.

[2] The Tiananmen Papers , (New York: PublicAffairs, 2001), p. xxxiii.

[3] Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley, "Tales of Army Discord Show Tiananmen Square in a New Light," The New York Times, June 2, 2014.

[4] Ibid.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : Anatoly S. Chernyaev Diary, 1974

Ideological Superpower with Empty Stores

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 471

Posted May 25, 2014

Translated and edited by Anna Melyakova

For more information contact:

Anna Melyakova 202/994-7000 or annamelyakova

"Anatoly Chernyaev’s diary is one of the great internal records of the Gorbachev years, a trove of irreplaceable observations about a turning point in history. There is nothing else quite like it, allowing the reader to sit at Gorbachev’s elbow at the time of perestroika and glasnost, experiencing the breakthroughs and setbacks. It is a major contribution to our understanding of this momentous period."

— David E. Hoffman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Dead Hand

"Remarkable diary …"

— Historian Amy Knight, New York Review of Books, April 6, 2012

Washington, DC, May 25, 2014 – Today the National Security Archive is publishing — for the first time in English — excerpts from the diary of Anatoly S. Chernyaev covering the year 1974, along with edits and a postscript by the author. This is the ninth set of extracts the Archive has posted covering selected critical years from the 1970s through 1991 (see links at left).

Anatoly Chernyaev, the deputy head of the International Department of the Central Committee (and later the senior foreign policy aide to Mikhail Gorbachev), started keeping a systematic diary in 1972, in which he recorded the highlights (and low points) of his work at the International Department, his attendance at Politburo meetings, participation in speech — and report — writing sessions at state dachas, as well as his philosophical reflections on daily life in the Soviet Union from the point of view of a high-level Soviet apparatchik.

Today, Anatoly Sergeyevich remains a champion of glasnost, sharing his notes, documents and first-hand insights with scholars seeking a view into the inner workings of the Soviet government, the peaceful end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 2004, he donated the originals of his detailed diaries, covering the years 1972 through 1991, to the National Security Archive in order to ensure permanent public access to this record – beyond the reach of political uncertainties in contemporary Russia.

In his diary for 1974, Chernyaev continues to write about his work in one of the Central Committee’s key departments, documenting and reflecting on the preparations for the European Conference of Communist Parties, relations within the international Communist movement, the revolutions in Chile and Portugal, the crisis in the Middle East and the ongoing Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) negotiations that would lead to the Helsinki Final Act the following year. The year 1974 brings about the resignation of President Richard Nixon, who in the three previous years has been Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s respected partner in détente.

On the domestic front, Chernyaev follows the internal dynamics of Brezhnev’s leadership and the concentration of power in the General Secretary’s hands. On several occasions in 1974, Chernyaev provides a fascinating glimpse of the personal struggle that his boss, International Department head Boris Nikolayevich Ponomarev, experiences in connection with Brezhnev’s growing cult of personality; and illustrates Ponomarev’s own smaller personality cult. The little details of everyday Soviet politics — such as worrying about how many times to include the General Secretary’s name in a report — show the progression of the cult and the internal mechanisms of Soviet bureaucracy under a microscope.

The theme of ideology is a leitmotif for Chernyaev in 1974. A deep thinker, Chernyaev constantly analyzes the trends he observes in the leadership, in the apparatus, and in Soviet society. In 1974, the author is attempting to reconcile the bureaucratic reality of the ossifying Soviet apparatus with the fact that ideology is still a major part of the Soviet Union’s identity. The ideology of class struggle is an obstacle to Brezhnev’s détente and the CSCE negotiations, and yet Chernyaev sees that the Soviet Union cannot afford to back down ideologically: "Europe is a case in point. We already have détente and security in Europe. But in response they launched a counterattack. They demand an ideological détente. This is unthinkable for us."

Chernyaev notes that the Soviet Union is "an ideological superpower" and thus it needs ideology to maintain its following and sustain its domestic and international legitimacy. This role as an ideological hegemon is exemplified in the diary by Chernyaev’s descriptions of financial support the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) provides to other fraternal parties, which come to Moscow as supplicants.

The subject of European Communist parties and the international Communist movement is at the core of Chernyaev’s work in 1974. The USSR’s dominance as an ideological authority is eroding as European Communists and Socialists look to establish independence from Soviet influence. At the same time, Chernyaev realizes that "the real work that Brezhnev does every day will push us to tone down our ideology above all in our international relations. And our connection to the Communist movement will feel more and more like an impediment." The balance between maintaining authority over the Communist movement and moving forward on the world stage is closely reflected in Chernyaev’s diary during this period.

In 1974, Chernyaev visits for the first time the city that would become his favorite — London. He describes his meetings with Labour Party members and their internal politics. On his trips abroad, he makes comparisons between the standard of living in the West (including some fraternal countries in Eastern Europe) and in the Soviet Union, where shelves are empty and even Party bureaucrats have to stand in lines hunting for decent clothes and shoes. Chernyaev’s personal experiences, astutely recorded in his diary, sharply illustrate the paradoxical dissonance of the ideological superpower with empty store shelves.

Anatoly Chernyaev’s diary for the year 1974 presents a rich portrayal of the last year of Brezhnev’s détente, depicting the political nuances of the Soviet government, the social atmosphere in Moscow’s intellectual and cultural circles, and the author’s insights into the superpower’s uncertain future.


Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1974

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : U.S. Covert Intervention in Chile: Planning to Block Allende Began Long before September 1970 Election

Nixon Alerted in Advance to Date of Coup, Retired CIA Operative Writes in Foreign Affairs

Archive Commends Long-Awaited Release of State Department Compendium of Records on U.S. Involvement in Promoting Chilean Coup

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 470

For more information contact:

Peter Kornbluh 202/374-7281 or peter.kornbluh

The Pinochet File

By Peter Kornbluh, The New Press, Updated edition (September 11, 2013)

Pinochet: Los Archivos Secretos

By Peter Kornbluh, Critica (Barcelona)

Washington, DC, May 23, 2014 – Covert U.S. planning to block the democratic election of Salvador Allende in Chile began weeks before his September 4, 1970, victory, according to just declassified minutes of an August 19, 1970, meeting of the high-level interagency committee known as the Special Review Group, chaired by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. "Kissinger asked that the plan be as precise as possible and include what orders would be given September 5, to whom, and in what way," as the summary recorded Kissinger’s instructions to CIA Director Richard Helms. "Kissinger said we should present to the President an action plan to prevent [the Chilean Congress from ratifying] an Allende victory…and noted that the President may decide to move even if we do not recommend it."

The document is one of a compendium of some 366 records released by the State Department as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The much-delayed collection, titled "Chile: 1969-1973," addresses Richard Nixon’s and Kissinger’s efforts to destabilize the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende, and the U.S.-supported coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. The controversial volume was edited by two former officials of the State Department’s Office of the Historian, James Siekmeier and James McElveen.

"This collection represents a substantive step forward in opening the historical record on U.S. intervention in Chile," said Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Chile documentation project at the National Security Archive, and is the author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. Kornbluh called on the State Department to continue to pursue the declassification of all relevant records on the U.S. role in Chile, including all records of CIA contacts with the Chilean military leading up to the September 11, 1973, coup; CIA funding for the truckers’ strike as part of the "destabilization" campaign, and CIA intelligence on the executions of two U.S. citizens in the wake of the military takeover, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi.

The FRUS series is scheduled to release an electronic supplement of additional records in the fall, and to publish another volume, Chile, 1973-1976, next year. "The next volume could advance the historical record on CIA support for the Chilean secret police, DINA, CIA knowledge of Operation Condor, and Pinochet’s act of international terrorism in Washington D.C. that killed Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt," Kornbluh suggested.

In the aftermath of General Augusto Pinochet’s arrest in October 1998, the National Security Archive, along with victims of the Pinochet regime, led a campaign to press the Clinton administration to declassify the still-secret documents on Chile, the coup and the repression that followed. Some 23,000 NSC, State Department, Defense Department and CIA records were released. Some of those have been included in the new FRUS collection which contains a set of meeting memoranda of the "40 Committee" — an interagency group chaired by Henry Kissinger which oversaw covert operations in Chile, as well as dozens of formerly secret cables, including CIA communications.

The release of the records comes amidst renewed debate over the CIA role in supporting the military coup in Chile. The forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs contains an article by former CIA operative Jack Devine, "What Really Happened in Chile: the CIA, the Coup Against Allende, and the Rise of Pinochet," which reveals that intelligence he obtained on September 9, 1973, alerted President Nixon in advance to the timing of the coup. "I sent CIA headquarters in Langley a special type of top-secret cable known as a CRITIC, which takes priority over all other cables and goes directly to the highest levels of government. President Richard Nixon and other top U.S. policymakers received it immediately. ‘A coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September,’ the cable read."

Nevertheless, Devine asserts that the CIA "did not plot with the Chilean military to overthrow Allende in 1973."

However, according to a transcript of the first phone conversation between Kissinger and Nixon following the coup, when the President asked if "our hand" showed in the coup, Kissinger explained that "we didn’t do it," in terms of direct participation in the military actions: "I mean we helped them," Kissinger continued. "[deleted word] created the conditions as great as possible."

The Kissinger-Nixon transcript is reproduced in the 2013 edition of The Pinochet File.

Read the FRUS volume here.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT /// Rwanda : The Failure of the Arusha Peace Accords

International Community’s Lack of Support for Military Demobilization and Rwandans’ Inability to Implement Accords Led to Genocide in 1994

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 469

May 21, 2014

Edited by Emily Willard

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, May 21, 2014 – The Arusha Accords, a peace agreement between the Rwandan government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) signed in August 1993, failed in the worst way peace accords can fail — genocide. Documents posted today by the National Security Archive and the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum chronicle the international community’s role in the failure to implement the demobilization program, a key part of the Arusha Accords, ultimately leading to genocide in April 1994.

Today’s posting is the 7th in a series of a joint "#Rwanda20yrs" project, a partnership project between the Archive and the Museum to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. The documents posted today were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the State Department Electronic Reading Room, and from International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) evidence. Future briefing books will examine international diplomacy, intelligence reporting, and the fateful decision to withdraw the bulk of the United Nations peacekeeping force.

The Arusha Accords were a UN-sponsored agreement between the RPF, a predominantly Tutsi rebel group, and the Government of Rwanda. This posting will look specifically at the military power-sharing (demobilization and reintegration) section of the Arusha Accords which was a small but crucial part of the larger political context in which the genocide occurred. These documents shed light on the failure of the international community to fully support Rwanda’s efforts for peace, as well as the Rwandan government and the RPF’s failure to implement peace.

Map of Tanzania, edited by Emily Willard.

The Arusha Accords: Timeline of Events[1]

June 1990 — French President Francois Mitterrand and Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana meet to discuss setting up a multi-party system and elections in Rwanda

October 1, 1990 — The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invades Rwandan from Uganda

October 17, 1990 — Summits begin to resolve the conflict peacefully

March 28, 1991 — Ceasefire between RPF and Rwandan government signed at N’sele, Zaire; however ceasefire is broken almost immediately

June 10, 1991 — Under the new constitution, a multi-party political system is legalized

October 23-25, 1991 — First attempt to mediate negotiations between the Rwandan government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front RPF in Paris

January 1992 — Second round of Rwandan government and RPF negotiations in Paris

April 16, 1992 — Habyarimana allows opposition parties to join the Rwandan government — finally creating the coalition government

May 27-28, 1992 — Soldiers in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi mutiny in response to rumors of demobilization

June 5, 1992 — Rwandan government and RPF agree to a ceasefire

July 12, 1992 — Peace talks begin in Arusha, Tanzania

August 1, 1992 — Ceasefire goes into effect

August 10-17, 1992 — Arusha protocol on rule of law, political pluralism, and human rights is agreed upon

January 10, 1993 — Arusha protocol on power-sharing is negotiated, agreement reached on the creation of a broad-based transitional government

February 8, 1993 — RPF offensive, violating ceasefire

March 1993 — New ceasefire agreed upon

May 9, 1993 — Arusha protocol on refugees and displaced persons is agreed upon

July 1993 — Agathe Uwilingiyimana is named prime minister

August 3-4, 1993 — Arusha protocol on the integration of armed forces is negotiated, and the full set of Arusha Accords are signed

October 1993 — UN Security Council passes resolution to create UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)

December 1993 — UNAMIR escorts RPF battalion to Kigali as part of the implementation of the peace accords

January – March 1994 — Multiple unsuccessful attempts to install the broad-based transitional government

April 5, 1994 — UN Security Council passes Resolution 909 renewing UNAMIR’s mandate and orders Arusha Accords to be implemented or UNAMIR will pull out in six weeks

April 6-7, 1994 — President Habyarimana’s plane shot down, genocide begins

Arusha Negotiations

On October 1, 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda and clashed with Rwandan government troops. Weeks later, the parties began efforts to end the conflict peacefully. However, even before the beginning of the official negotiations in July 1992, all parties involved, including observers and facilitators, expressed doubts about the feasibility of a lasting peace. In May 1992, Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, and Defense Minister James Gasana knew that integration of the two militaries would be one of the most difficult negotiations of the entire Arusha process. (Document 1)

Tensions that grew during power-sharing negotiations leaked into the streets of Rwanda, clearly linking the tense political discussions to outbreaks of violence. The US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in Rwanda, Joyce Leader, wrote in August 1992: "…we can anticipate a new wave of internal insecurity, in some form or another, as peace talks proceed, especially if internal differences over power-sharing integration of [military] forces become acute." (Document 4)

Excerpt from Leader’s report, "Internal Insecurity," see Document 4.

Complicating the Arusha negotiations were the various splits among the political parties within the Rwandan government delegation. This is evident in various reports from US observers (Document 8) and the Rwandan delegation’s reports sent back to President Habyarimana in Kigali (Document 14). Major disagreements were: how the militaries would be integrated, the size of the overall force, and what proportions of RPF and former government forces would make up the new Rwandan Armed Forces (Document 9). The RPF and Rwandan government also disagreed about how to choose which soldiers and officers would be demobilized, how to successfully integrate them back into society, and security concerns about the demobilization process (Document 7).

DCM Joyce Leader speaks in a 2013 interview about the challenges of reintegrating Rwandan soldiers into the society:


"Between the time of the signing of the agreement, and the beginning of the genocide…a considerable amount of attention was being given to this whole issue about demobilization, and reintegration of the soldiers… this whole issue of reintegrating people in a society that doesn’t have a lot of development going on, that isn’t growing…most of the jobs are in the public sector, rather than in the private sector, and it was very hard and some very smart people were working on this. How do you go about this, how do you do this?"

National Security Archive, oral history interview with DCM Joyce Leader, October 29, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

As a part of the Arusha negotiations, the international community was asked to provide a "neutral international force" to assist in the implementation of the peace accords. Most notably this included helping to facilitate the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program, and to help secure funding for the program (Document 10 and Document 39). However, the international community struggled to come up with the funds, the Rwandans never installed the transitional government, and the demobilization program was never implemented (Document 23).

Implementation of Arusha Accords

The documents show that implementation of the Arusha Accords proved challenging for many reasons: distrust among the signatories, lack of funding for programs, security concerns related to the process of demobilization, challenges in integrating the militaries, and increasing political tensions.[2]

Weeks after the Arusha Accords were signed in August of 1993, (Document 32), Joyce Leader writes back to the US Secretary of State warning that "although leaders of both sides have signed the peace accord, neither side trusts the intentions of the other" (Document 18).

In late November 1993, the peace agreement and cease-fire were on very delicate footing when a massacre in the prefecture of Ruhengeri put the RPF and government at odds, both refusing to participate in the joint commission that had been set up to integrate the militaries, and thus further stalling demobilization efforts (Document 19 and Document 20).

Major Brent Beardsley, military assistant to UNAMIR force commander, General Roméo Dallaire, explains the apprehension among soldiers about the demobilization process:

There was a lot of officers, a lot of NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and a lot of troops, who for the previous three years during the war, had had a steady salary, they had food for them and their families, they had a job, and — and now suddenly they were going to lose their livelihood. There was no secret about us not having the money for the DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration]. So they’re sitting there going, and what am I going to do? In that society, where there’s no social safety net, when you fall, you fall far… I think that was a major…destabilizing factor in the military, especially on the government side, those troops were worried about their futures.


National Security Archive, oral history interview with Maj. Brent Beardsley, April 30, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

By January 1994, UNAMIR and the US Embassy were reporting that in fact the opposite of demobilization was happening: political parties increased training of armed militias, and were distributing weapons to civilians (Document 25). The international community failed to raise funds to support the demobilization program, and the Rwandans failed to install the broad-based transitional government week after week, leading to rising tensions among soldiers as their future became increasingly uncertain.

The RPF and Rwandan government negotiated pensions for demobilized soldiers, as part of the demobilization program agreed upon in the Arusha Accords, but neither the RPF nor the government could afford to pay for the pensions. Major Beardsley explains the international community’s failure to secure funding for the demobilization program:

…we had to go out with hat in hand saying, who’s going to pay for these pensions? Well, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] said, we don’t do that. The World Bank said, we don’t do that. The U.N. says, we don’t do that. So we said well, we better start figuring out who’s going to do it, because when we get all these soldiers into demobilization camps, and they’ve been promised this, and they know it, and they don’t get it, there’s going to be trouble.


National Security Archive, oral history interview with Maj. Brent Beardsley, April 30, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

The problem was complex and multi-fold: the international community would not provide humanitarian and development aid (including for the demobilization program) until the Rwandans installed their transitional government as agreed upon in the Arusha Accords. However, due to massive uncertainty and instability within Rwandan politics, and increasing tensions about demobilization, the transition government was never installed.

Documents show that the US was hesitant to commit any funding until it was clear what other countries were committing: "there [was] a general feeling that the Europeans and others should be doing more" (Document 23). "Turf battles" cropped up between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank over funding of the demobilization program, causing the organizations to "work at cross purposes" (Document 37). The international donor "roundtable" that was supposed to raise funds for Rwanda was delayed due to Rwanda’s failure to install the transition government (Document 40 and Document 41).

Excerpt of Tarnoff’s message to Amb. Rawson about why the US is stalling on providing funding for Rwanda’s demobilization program, see Document 23.

Throughout March 1994, the Rwandans failed to resolve the political impasse. The unresolved political tensions eventually reached a boiling point in April 1994, after President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. The next morning. April 7, 1994, the genocide began during which between 800,000 and one million Rwandans, predominantly Tutsi, were slaughtered.

While this collection of documents begins to help us better understand the failure of negotiated settlements in Rwanda, key records are still unavailable to the public. Access to Rwandan, French, and Belgian government documents, as well as key US government documents from the Clinton Administration would provide a clearer picture of state-level and individual motivations in the decision-making process, who the perceived winners and losers were in the negotiations, and how this affected the outcome.

Rwanda: "Land of 1000 Hills," circa September 1994. Photo from personal collection of Prudence Bushnell.


Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) soldiers in Rwanda, circa September 1994. Photo from personal collection of Prudence Bushnell.

Document 1
Date: May 13, 1992
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: Secretary of State
Subj: GOR Outlines Strategy to Negotiations to End War [sic]
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This document provides details about the complexities of the demobilization and integration of the government and RPF forces. Both parties in the negotiations, as well as observers, knew from the beginning that integration of the armies would be challenging.

In May 1992, the US Ambassador to Rwanda at the time, Robert Flaten, writes back to Washington about the beginning conversations and strategies for peace negotiations between the Rwandan government and the RPF. The RPF requests that the US be present at the negotiations "because of doubts over the neutrality of the French." The US agreed to be involved only if all parties, including the French, were "ready for the US to participate."

Flaten writes that "President Habyarimana believes that integration of the army will be the most difficult aspect of the RPF’s demands."

"Rwanda’s new Minister of Defense, James Gasana, noted several difficulties to reintegration of the armies: Many RPF fighters have served in the army of another country [meaning Uganda], raising the question of loyalty; variations exist in the level and quality of training of the two forces; [US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman] Cohen’s suggestion risked leaving minority Tutsi overrepresented in the army."

Document 2
Date: June 1, 1992
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: Secretary of State
Subj: Tensions in Rwanda
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

Ambassador Flaten writes that any mention of demobilization causes a surge in violence on the streets of Rwanda. He reports an outbreak of violence in Ruhengeri, a city to the northeast of Kigali, due to "inadequate reporting [on] the Kinyarwanda radio of the government plans for demobilization of the army." The French-language station reported that the "government was considering plans for retraining demobilized soldiers when the war was over," but on the Kinyarwanda station "it simply came out that the army was to be demobilized."

Document 3
Date: July 27, 1992
From: Lt. Col. Nsengiyumva Anatole
To: Army Chief of Staff, Rwanda Defense Ministry
Subj: Mood of the Military and Civilians
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Evidence

Lt. Col. Nsengiyumva Anatole, a Rwandan intelligence officer writes a memo to the Army Chief of Staff for the Rwandan Ministry of Defense about his personal opinions on rising tensions and opposition to the Arusha negotiations. He says that, "in a nutshell, many people severely criticize the contents of the Accords which only favor the RPF to the detriment of Rwanda…most people who criticize the Accords are worried about the possible merger between the Rwandan Armed Forces [government troops] and RPF elements. The civilian population is opposed to this eventuality and believes that it is a devious way of seizing power in Rwanda from within."

He also writes that "even members of some opposition political parties, especially the [Democratic Republican Movement] MDR, are not in favor of any merger between the Rwandan Armed Forces and RPF armed elements. In fact, all those who are against the merger believe that our country is being sold to the enemy."

Document 4
Date: August 21, 1992
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Internal Insecurity: an Ongoing Problem
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In this cable, Deputy Chief of Mission Joyce Leader clearly makes the connection between rising violence and internal insecurity in Rwanda and the on-going political discussions in Arusha.

Leader reports that the "party youth, the Interahamwe of the president’s MRND [Revolutionary Movement for National Development] party and the hard-line CDR [Coalition for the Defense of the Republic] youth, appear to have been the principal architects of recent roadblocks and attacks, while the main opposition party, the MDR, probably provoked most of the recent commune-level violence in the south." She notes that the judicial system has failed to hold accountable the perpetrators of the recent violence.

She reports that "many Rwandans are convinced that the internal insecurity rampant in the country in the last six months is no accident, but they disagree on the source. Both sides in Rwanda’s political dialogue believe the incidents of internal insecurity fit with the plans the other has to destabilize the country in order to achieve its goals."

In a foreshadowing conclusion, Leader writes that "the use of violence by either side in this political debate…threatens the very fabric of the society by stirring hatreds that will be difficult, if not impossible, to calm."

Joyce Leader speaks about this document and rising political violence in summer 1992:

" In 1992… July, the government and the RPF agreed to meet in Arusha, and they immediately…agreed to a ceasefire and to an agenda for peace talks…but at the same time, there was an increase in interparty violence that was happening… I also look at it as a perversion of political parties, because it was where parties [political groups] were being used as vehicles of violence, rather than as vehicles for getting out messages of the political parties."


National Security Archive, oral history interview with DCM Joyce Leader, October 29, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Document 5
Date: November 16, 1992
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Rwandan Minister of Defense on Integration of Forces
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Rwanda’s Defense Minister, James Gasana, travels with a delegation to meet with Department of State and Department of Defense officials in Washington, DC about planning to integrate Rwandan government and RPF forces, part of the Arusha negotiations.

US officials report that "the delegation expressed fears that the process of integrating the RP[F] into the security forces would lead to destabilization. In their view, a ‘disproportionately’ high percentage of RP[F] soldiers would upset the ethnic balance and lead to security problems. Similarly they fear that simultaneous integration and demobilization would destabilize further the economy by sending large numbers of soldiers into unemployment."

The delegation and US officials then discuss possible solutions, and look to demobilization plans in other countries as a model. The Rwandans find Nicaragua’s demobilization model irrelevant to their problems, claiming Nicaragua’s police forces are integrated across ideological lines rather than an army integrated across ethnic lines; Zimbabwe’s demobilization model is more promising.

Document 6
Date: November 20, 1992
From: US Embassy in Dar es Salaam
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Arusha V – Going Ahead on Nov. 23, Military Integration to Top Agenda
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

RPF and Rwandan government representatives reconvened in Arusha, Tanzania, to hold negotiations which were to develop into the "Arusha Accords." US observers (among observers from other five other countries) in Arusha report back to the Secretary of State on a possible delay in the negotiations due to disagreements about force proportions for integration of the two groups’ militaries. The report writes: "There was some concern that any delay would increase the restlessness of the troops in the field, endangering the cease-fire."

The report also gives an update of the status of what was being negotiated: "…on the integration of forces, Uganda would urge the RPF to accept a proportional formula substantially less than 50-50; 30 percent would be adequate and a better expression of their actual numbers."

US military advisor for the State Department, Colonel Toney Marley provides advice to the negotiations. The cable reports that "Col. Marley has already provided to the OAU [Organization of African Unity] information on military integration in the settlements in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, and Namibia; we think it might be appropriate to add Zimbabwe to that stack as well."

DCM Joyce Leader explains the power-sharing discussions:

" The military discussions were looking at a couple of issues…one was the restructuring of the army itself. How would…the RPF be integrated into the army, in what proportion? In what proportion at the leadership levels, in what proportion at the unit levels? And so this was a very big discussion, in and of itself."


National Security Archive, oral history interview with DCM Joyce Leader, October 29, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Document 7
Date: November 20, 1992
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Integration of the Armies and Demobilization
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

This document reports an update on the negotiations at Arusha including the integration and demobilization of the armies, discusses force proportions, possible processes of integration, and estimated numbers of troops to be demobilized. Ambassador Flaten writes: "the Rwandans are ready with a firm proposal for integration, and have done some good thinking on subsequent demobilization. The tough problem will be securing an agreement on the proportion of RPF to be integrated into the Rwandan army."

Demobilization entails the massive scaling down of forces from 40,000 to possibly 10,000, and the planning of how to reintegrate the demobilized soldiers. The document discusses the logistics of building secondary schools and providing security for demobilized soldiers born in Rwanda.

Document 8
Date: January 15, 1993
From: Colonel BEMS Bagosora, et al.
To: Juvénal Habyarimana, President of Rwanda
Subj: Negotiations in Arusha from 22 November 1992 to 9 January 1993
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Evidence

This document, written by several Rwandan military officers, including Colonel Théoneste Bagosora (later convicted of genocide), reads: "the atmosphere of the negotiations was one of dealings and differences of opinion among the government delegation, a logical consequence of the political situation that reigned in the country."

The document also details the impasse during the political part of the negotiations, specifically because of disagreement about whether or not to let CDR (Coalition for the Defense of the Republic) political party into the transition government, and also clarifies RPF alliances with other parties. Those involved decided to take a break from the political discussions, and move to discuss the military power-sharing and integration.

Document 9
Date: March 26, 1993
From: US Embassy Dar es Salaam
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Background to Rwanda Talks Concerning Military Force Size
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This document contains a report back from US military and political advisor at the Arusha negotiations Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley about an impasse in the discussions on negotiating the size of the new Rwandan armed forces. He writes that the Rwandan government wants 25,000 total (17,000 army and 8,000 Gendarmeries), and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) wants no more than 15,000 total, but are flexible with how many Army troops, and how many Gendarmes. Facilitators and observers generally agree that 25,000 is an excessive total number.

"The GOR [Rwandan government] believes it will face increased insecurity problems stemming from demobilization, the return of exiles to Rwanda, and the evolution of multiparty politics and ethnic tensions. This would require a gendarmerie or police-type force of one policeman per 1,000 citizens, which following the return of some 500,000 exiles, would mean 8,000 gendarmes…the transitional government could also demobilize the integrated armed forces below the level of 25,000 if the circumstances require."

Document 10
Date: May 3, 1993
From: US Embassy Nairobi
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Arusha Talks: Status Report
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

US observers to the Arusha negotiations report that the RPF wants the Gendarmes to be part of the demobilization/integration process, but the Rwandan government does not. A neutral international force used to monitor integration would play a key role in the demobilization and integration process. While the details of a demobilization plan are unclear, it would likely involve educational opportunities for demobilized soldiers.

Document 11
Date: May 7, 1993
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Rwanda: Update on Negotiations 5/6/1993
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

This document details plans for a citizen security apparatus under a new government and two key points of disagreement about demobilization. The Rwandan government wants soldiers identified for demobilization to be separated from rest of the troops, then "released to a demobilization activity." The RPF wants all troops to stay together until demobilization. Additionally, the RPF wants remuneration provided to the families of deceased soldiers, but the Rwandan government rejects this because "it has no comparable system and could never verify RPF claims."

Document 12
Date: May 14, 1993
From: US Embassy in Dar es Salaam
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Rwanda Negotiations: Texts from Arusha
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This report from a US observer, DCM Joyce Leader, contains ideas about how to have the armies meet as a part of the initial integration phase. Portions of documents from the peace talks enclosed in this cable provide a clear view of the initial challenges and practical complications involved, including establishing a basic level of trust before beginning to integrating the armed forces.

A copy of a text from the Arusha negotiations, contained in the cable from Leader and titled "Proposed Confidence Building Measures (CBM) for Rwanda," states the following as some of the first problems that need to be addressed: "There remains a high level of mistrust between the two sides, whose senior officers have not yet had a formal contact despite the fact that their representatives have been talking to each other for close to 10 months."

The same document also provides ideas of how to set up an initial meeting between the two armed forces: "The government and RPF forces could engage in a process of asking questions about each other’s activities, force level, intentions, trainings, weaponry, perception of the future, etc. There would be no obligation on either side to answer any question, but any answers given would have to be complete and truthful. As communication improves, issues of increasing sensitivity could be broached." Also, "Rank and file members from both armies could engage in joint cultural and sporting events."

Document 13
Date: June 1, 1993
From: Colonel Théoneste Bagosora
To: Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs
Subj: Negotiation Strategy
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Evidence

Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, and other members of the "strategy committee," write to the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, who also serves as the head of the Rwandan government’s delegation to the Arusha negotiations, to express their opinions on the issue of proportions within the National Army. Bagosora expresses his displeasure with the delegation’s negotiations. This document shows a clear disconnect between Kigali and the government delegation at Arusha about strategy and negotiating, and among the members of the government delegation itself.

Document 14
Date: June 11, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: The Military and the Political Process
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In a cable to the Secretary of State, Ambassador Flaten writes, "…post does not know if there is a critical mass in the military supportive of the transition to democracy. Should peace come, integration and demobilization will be the critical factors in determining whether democracy will survive in Rwanda."

Document 15
Date: July 14, 1993
From: US Mission to the United Nations (USUN)
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Possible Peacekeeping Operation in Rwanda

United States representative to the United Nations Madeline Albright writes to the Secretary of State about the possibility of sending a peacekeeping force to Rwanda to support the implementation of the Arusha Accords that the parties are expected to sign soon, and to "create the atmosphere of stability." She reports that a neutral international force should be a "classical peacekeeping operation" since "the peacemaking has already (almost) been accomplished by the Tanzanians" with the signing of the Arusha Accords.

She writes that it is a "moral obligation for the UN to help bring peaceful solutions to conflicts when asked. This is one case where both parties actually seem to be displaying the will to lay down their arms and move towards peaceful settlement as opposed to other areas (e.g. Angola, Bosnia, Georgia) where the goodwill of the protagonists is questionable…Turning away from this call for help could have tragic human consequences."

Document 16
Date: July 23, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Rwandan Military’s Point of View on Assistance Needed for Demobilization
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

In a cable to the US Secretary of State, US Ambassador to Rwanda, Robert Flaten provides details about the demobilization plan, and reports that the Rwandan government requires financial assistance for 6 areas of demobilization planning: "1. organization of cantonment sites [military quarters], 2. repossession of arms illegally in the possession of civilians, 3. demining operations, 4. payment of demobilization bonuses, 5. training and education of demobilized soldiers, 6. provision of employment for soldiers needing no further education/training."

Document 17
Date: December 23, 1994
Title: Peace Agreement between Government of the Rwandese Republic and the Rwandese Patriotic Front
Source: United Nations

The military section of the Arusha Agreement, (see section VI, "Protocol of Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and the Rwandese Patriotic Front on the Integration of the Armed Forces of the Two Parties") was signed by the RPF and the Rwandan government on August 2, 1993, after years of negotiations. Notable parts of the accords are as follows:

Members of the National Army "shall not be affiliated to political parties nor any other association of a political nature." They also "shall not take part in activities or demonstrations of political parties or associations."

The total size of the National Army is to be 13,000 people.

Article 18 states that "The Broad-Based Transitional Government [BBTG] shall take all necessary measures to ensure the integration of the armed forces from the two parties." But since the BBTG was never installed, the intended integration process never took place.

Regarding force proportions, the National Army and the National Gendarmerie, "the Government forces shall contribute 60% and the RPF 40% of the forces" except for specific officer positions that were to be 50% (see Articles 74 and 144).

Document 18
Date: August 19, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of state
Subj: The Rwandan Peace Process: Problems and Prospects for Implementing the Peace Accord
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

DCM Joyce Leader writes a long report back to the Secretary of State about the Rwandan peace process in the weeks following the signing of the accords. She writes that "the peace accord provides a blueprint for a complex, tightly scheduled 22-month transition period intended to end in multi-party elections…Goodwill on all sides should enable Rwandans to succeed in the difficult task of making the peace plan work. Nevertheless, they will need sustained bilateral and multi-lateral assistance from the international community."

She also questions the commitment on all sides to implementing the peace accords. She notes general mistrust of intentions of the other sides, which could cause problems for integrating the armed forces. She writes: "Although leaders of both sides have signed the peace accord, neither side trusts the intentions of the other. Historic rivalries between the majorities Hutu, who predominate inside the country, and the minority Tutsi, who predominate within the RPF, continue to fuel antagonism. On the one hand, doubts persist about whether the RPF is committed to democracy or to a takeover of the government and the restoration of Tutsi rule. On the other hand, doubts also persist about the commitment of the president and his close entourage to sharing governance of the country with the RPF. Mental and emotional adjustments won’t be easy. "

Joyce Leader, Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy in Rwanda at the time commented in an interview in 2013:

There are those who contend that Rwanda should never have been trying to have a peace process and a democratization process at the same time, because the one allowed the other to gain control of the situation.


National Security Archive, oral history interview with DCM Joyce Leader, October 29, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Document 19
Date: November 23, 1993
From: Dallaire/UNAMIR/Kigali/Rwanda
To: Annan/UNations/New York
Subj: Weekly Sitrep No. 6
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Database

The "neutral international force" was deployed to Rwanda as the United Nations Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in late October 1993 to help implement the Arusha Accords signed in August 1993. The UNAMIR force commander, General Roméo Dallaire, writes in a weekly situation report that the Rwandan government is "crying wolf" about possible attacks by RPF and Uganda troops, and also reports on a massacre in the prefecture of Ruhengeri, saying that both of these incidents are having an effect on the implementation of the Arusha Accords.

He writes that the Rwandan government "stated that they were breaking off their participation in the joint commission for the reconstitution of the forces and gendarmerie [sic] as per the Arusha peace agreement because of this massacre. The talks had been off since mid-October but head of mission has been influencing the Minister of Defense to come back to the table over the last week in order to avoid any delays in the demobilization calendar. Head of mission has demanded from the Minister of Defense the proof he has of the RPF participation in the massacre."

The sitrep also discusses other demobilization and integration issues in the "RGF Sector" section of the report.

Document 20
Date: December 26, 1993
From: Dallaire/UNAMIR/Kigali
To: Annan/DPKO/UNations
Subj: Interaction Force HQ/UNDP For Demobilization and Integration Process
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Database

This report from UNAMIR force commander Gen. Roméo Dallaire details the demobilization timeline, and the specifics of how UNAMIR plans to support the demobilization and integration process. Dallaire explains the phases:

Phase 1: BBTG installed in February of 1994
Phase 2: Prepare for disengagement and demobilization, beginning of May 1994
Phase 3: execution of disengagement, demobilization, and integration: to be concluded at end of March 1995

The report also lists figures, funding needs and potential problems implementing the plan.

Document 21
Date: December 27, 1993
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Ambassador Rawson’s Consultation with World Bank
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

This document details the new US Ambassador to Rwanda David Rawson’s meeting with the World Bank to discuss ideas and plans for demobilization in Rwanda, and potential funding issues and solutions.

Peter Tarnoff, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, reported that "while the [Rwandan] government is receptive to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank suggestions, the Bank staff noted that it is facing many constraints, and has pivotal decisions to make soon." He goes on to write that, "the Bank also supports having a UNDP-led [United Nations Development Programme] roundtable on Rwanda to assess humanitarian (including demobilization) needs, but only after there is a comprehensive macroeconomic agreement and funding is found to support it."

The cable concludes that "the Bank appears to have a strong desire to create a program that meets Rwanda’s needs."

Document 22
Date: January 4, 1994
From: J.R. Booh-Booh/SRSG/UNAMIR/Kigali/Rwanda
To: Annan/UNations/New York
Subj: weekly sitrep no. 12, 27 DEC 94 to 3 JAN 94
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Database

In a weekly situation report from the UN’s special representative, Jacques-Rogers Booh-Booh (General Dallaire’s civilian supervisor) reports that UNAMIR has successfully escorted the RPF battalion and VIPs from Mulindi to Kigali City. This is one of the first milestones for the implementation of the Arusha Accords, working towards the installation of the Broad Based Transitional Government (BBTG). Booh-Booh writes that "UNAMIR fulfilled timely the main military requirement for the establishment of the BBTG."

Document 23
Date: January 13, 1994
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Official-Informal
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

A short cable from the State Department back to the US embassy in Kigali reports the disapproval of a request for $2 million in ESF (economic support funds) for demobilization in Rwanda. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff writes: "Part of the reason [for the disapproval] seems to be that we only have a limited amount of ESF and there is a general feeling that we’ve already spent a lot in Rwanda and that the Europeans and others should be doing more."

Document 24
Date: January 21, 1994
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Official-Informal
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

US Ambassador to Rwanda David Rawson responds to a State Department request to argue why Rwanda should be provided with economic support funding (ESF), and why supporting the demobilization program is important. Rawson writes: "There is full agreement on both sides of this conflict regarding the necessity of demobilization, the importance of demobilization for the peace process and the utility of demobilization as an instrument in a reconstruction process. This is one thing that will have full support of all political sides in Rwanda."

He also discusses the World Bank’s stipulations on the size of the armed forces which provides a cap on the total size of 19,000 members, which would leave 30,000 to be demobilized. He also goes on to detail the total cost, which is proposed to be $136 million, and its five main components. Unfortunately, he writes, "no firm donor financing has yet been indentified for the demobilization program."

Document 25
Date: January 24, 1994
From: US Mission to the United Nations
To: US Embassy in Kigali, US Secretary of State, et al.
Subj: UN Concern Over Rwanda
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

US permanent representative to the UN Madeline Albright relates concern from the UN in New York that the opposite of demobilization is occurring in Rwanda. She writes in a cable to the US Embassy in Rwanda: "The government is actively involved in distributing arms and training its militia; these cover activities are particularly disturbing given the presence of a RPF battalion."

She reports that UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) official Hedi Annabi commented that "the militarization and political stalemate must be read against the backdrop of the deteriorating economic and political situation: there are no salaries for civil service employees, the military, and other public employees, which only adds to an increasingly flammable environment (and already has led to demonstrations and riots)."

Document 26
Date: February 17, 1994
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: The Military and the Transition to Peace
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The US Embassy in Rwanda writes back to the Secretary of State about concerns over the transition to peace, specifically tensions around the demobilization process. Ambassador Rawson writes that "at the enlisted level, many equate the multiparty system and the transition government with their imminent demobilization since most of the demobilized soldiers come from the enlisted ranks. Their biggest concerns are getting adequate training and compensation once they leave the military."

He reports on a conference about civil-military relations held with RPF and Rwandan government forces. He warns that low-level officers and enlisted troops might stage a mutiny out of fear that integration and demobilization will leave them without a source of income.

Document Annex

Document 27
Date: November 20, 1992
From: U.S. Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Insecurity Continues around Kigali
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 28
Date: December 27, 1992
From: Boniface Ngulinzira, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Rwanda
To: Juvénal Habyarimana, President of Rwanda
Subj: Desertion of Colonel Bagosora
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Evidence

Document 29
Date: January 27, 1993
From: Belgian Embassy in Kigali
To: Belgian Foreign Ministry in Brussels
Subj: Regarding: Visit to President Habyarimana

Document 30
Date: June 25, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Arusha Talks Suspended
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

Document 31
Date: September 24, 1993
Origin: United Nations Security Council
Title: Report of the Secretary-General on Rwanda
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

Document 32
Date: October 13, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Forming the GTBE (Transition Government)
Source: Freedom of Information Act

Document 33
Date: November 26, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj:UNAMIR Sidesteps Naming Culprit in Ruhengeri Incident; Parties to Explore Reconciliation
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 34
Date: December 10, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: RPF Perspective on the Peace Process
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 35 – A
Document 35 – B (English Translation of Kinihira Agreement)

Date: December 12, 1993
From: J.R. Booh-Booh/SRSG/UNAMIR/Kigali/Rwanda
To: Annan/UNations/New York
Subj: Daily Sitrep 10 Dec 93 to 11 Dec 93
Source: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Evidence

Document 36
Date: December 23, 1993
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Critical Analysis of UNAMIR’s Phase 1 Operations
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

Document 37
Date: February 2, 1994
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Official-Informal
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 38
Date: February 7, 1994
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Official-Informal
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 39
Date: February 10, 1994
From: US Secretary of State
To: US Embassy in Kigali
Subj: Official-Informal
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 40
Date: February 14, 1994
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Official-Informal
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 41
Date: March 11, 1994
From: US Embassy Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Establishing the Institutions: Next Steps
Source: State Department Electronic Reading Room

Document 42
Date: March 14, 1994
From: US Embassy in Kigali
To: US Secretary of State
Subj: Two Year Training Plan for FY95 and FY96
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request


[1] State Department Chronology of events in Rwanda; Uvin, Peter,Aiding Violence: the Development Enterprise in Rwanda. Kumarian Press, 1998, Table 4.1; and Melvern, Linda, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide. New York: Verso, 2004.

[2] The United Nations Rwanda Report, cited in Nancy Soderberg’s book, The Superpower Myth, found that "the United Nations mission was predicated on the success of the peace process…The overriding failure to create a force with the capacity, resources and mandate to deal with the growing violence and eventual genocide in Rwanda had roots in the early planning of the mission." Soderberg, Nancy. The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might, New York: Wiley, 2005,Pg. 287.




Posted May 21, 2014

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, May 21, 2014 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday joined the CIA’s cover-up of its Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 by ruling that a 30-year-old volume of the CIA’s draft "official history" could be withheld from the public under the "deliberative process" privilege, even though four of the five volumes have previously been released with no harm either to national security or any government deliberation.

"The D.C. Circuit’s decision throws a burqa over the bureaucracy," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive (, the plaintiff in the case. "Presidents only get 12 years after they leave office to withhold their deliberations," commented Blanton, "and the Federal Reserve Board releases its verbatim transcripts after five years. But here the D.C. Circuit has given the CIA’s historical office immortality for its drafts, because, as the CIA argues, those drafts might ‘confuse the public.’"

"Applied to the contents of the National Archives of the United States, this decision would withdraw from the shelves more than half of what’s there," Blanton concluded.

The 2-1 decision, authored by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (a George W. Bush appointee and co-author of the Kenneth Starr report that published extensive details of the Monica Lewinsky affair), agreed with Justice Department and CIA lawyers that because the history volume was a "pre-decisional and deliberative" draft, its release would "expose an agency’s decision making process in such a way as to discourage candid discussion within the agency and thereby undermine the agency’s ability to perform its functions."

This language refers to the fifth exemption (known as b-5) in the Freedom of Information Act. The Kavanaugh opinion received its second and majority vote from Reagan appointee Stephen F. Williams, who has senior status on the court.

On the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 2011, the National Security Archive’s Cuba project director, Peter Kornbluh, requested, through the FOIA, the complete release of "The Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation" — a massive, five-volume study compiled by a CIA staff historian, Jack Pfeiffer, in the 1970s and early 1980s. Volume III had already been released under the Kennedy Assassination Records Act; and a censored version of Volume IV had been declassified years earlier pursuant to a request by Pfeiffer himself.

The Archive’s FOIA request pried loose Volumes I and II of the draft history, along with a less-redacted version of Volume IV, but the CIA refused to release Volume V, so the Archive filed suit under FOIA in 2012, represented by the expert FOIA litigator, David Sobel. In May 2012, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler held that Volume V was covered by the deliberative process privilege, and refused to order any segregation of "non-deliberative" material, as required by FOIA.

The Archive appealed the lower court’s decision, and with representation from the distinguished firm of Skadden Arps Meagher Slate & Flom, brought the case to the D.C. Circuit, with oral argument in December 2013. The National Coalition for History, including the American Historical Association and other historical and archival professional organizations, joined the case with an amicus curiae brief authored by the Jones Day law firm arguing for release of the volume.

Titled "CIA’s Internal Investigation of the Bay of Pigs Operation," Volume V apparently contains Pfeiffer’s aggressive defense of the CIA against a hard-hitting 1961 internal review, written by the agency’s own Inspector General, which held the CIA singularly responsible for the poor assumptions, faulty planning and incompetence that led to the quick defeat of the paramilitary exile brigade by Fidel Castro’s military at the Bahia de Cochinos between April 17 and April 20, 1961.

The Archive obtained under FOIA and published the IG Report in 1998. The CIA has admitted in court papers that the Pfeiffer study contains "a polemic of recriminations against CIA officers who later criticized the operation," as well as against other Kennedy administration officials who Pfeiffer contended were responsible for this foreign policy disaster.

In the dissenting opinion from the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision yesterday, Judge Judith Rogers (appointed by Bill Clinton) identified multiple contradictions in the CIA’s legal arguments. Judge Rogers pointed out that the CIA had failed to justify why release of Volume V would "lead to public confusion" when CIA had already released Volumes I-IV. She noted that neither the CIA nor the majority court opinion had explained "why release of the draft of Volume V ‘would expose an agency’s decision making process,’" and discourage future internal deliberations within the CIA’s historical office any more than release of the previous four volumes had done.

Prior to yesterday’s decision, the Obama administration had bragged that reducing the government’s invocation of the b-5 exemption was proof of the impact of the President’s Day One commitment to a "presumption of disclosure." Instead, the bureaucracy has actually increased in the last two years its use of the b-5 exemption, which current White House counselor John Podesta once characterized as the "withhold if you want to" exemption.

The majority opinion also left two openings for transparency advocates. It invites Congress to set a time limit for applying the b-5 exemption, as Congress has done in the Presidential Records Act. Second, it concludes that any "factual material" contained in the draft should be reachable through Freedom of Information requests.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT /// Iran 1953 : The Strange Odyssey of Kermit Roosevelt’s Countercoup

CIA Approved Ex-Agent’s Memoir of "28 Mordad" Coup After Changes Rendered It "Essentially a Work of Fiction"

1979 Publication Delayed by Legal Threats from British Petroleum, Iran Hostage Crisis

Shah and CIA Director George Bush Okayed Memoir Idea

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 468

Posted May 12, 2014

Edited by Malcolm Byrne

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, May 12, 2014 –As the Iranian revolution crested in 1978-1979, the CIA approved a memoir by Kermit Roosevelt, one of the architects of the 1953 coup against Iran’s nationalist prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. After first balking at the potential exposure of numerous "secrets," the CIA relented when Roosevelt agreed to delete all mention of MI6 and made over 150 other changes that rendered the book "essentially a work of fiction," according to recently declassified CIA files posted today by the National Security Archive.

The internal CIA deliberations over Roosevelt’s Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran (McGraw-Hill, 1979 [sic]) were released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and provided to the National Security Archive by the original requester, researcher Faisal A. Qureshi. They are posted here for the first time.

Missing from the documents is what happened when British Petroleum discovered that Countercoup (falsely) identified its predecessor, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), as the instigator of the operation. In fact, MI6 originated the plan. The oil concern threatened to file suit, which prompted publisher McGraw-Hill to pull virtually the entire print run of 7,500 copies in 1979. 400 copies had already made it out to reviewers and bookstores, but most of those were returned.[1]

In a final twist, the revised version of the book hit the streets in August 1980 (retaining the 1979 date on the copyright page), but with the reinsertion of numerous references to "British intelligence" as the key player on the British side (replacing "AIOC"), even though disguising MI6’s role had been one of the principal reasons for censoring the volume in the first place.[2] No official explanation has ever surfaced for this decision, which has directly undermined continuing claims by both U.S. and British intelligence that any acknowledgement of London’s part in planning the coup would present a grave threat to the national security.

Tampering with history: Two versions of page 3 from Countercoup show how the author and publisher, with CIA approval, changed the initiator of the coup idea from the "Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC)" in the original version (left) to "British Intelligence" in the final edition (right). (Special thanks to Jain Fletcher, Library Special Collections, Young Research Library, UCLA — and particularly to the unnamed UCLA librarian who presciently preserved a copy of the original edition from pulping in 1979.)

The back story to the publication of Countercoup has long been a puzzling subplot to the troubled historiography of the 1953 events in Iran. How could the CIA permit a former operative to publish a 217-page personal account about a major covert operation, yet for decades rebuff virtually every public request to declassify the underlying documentation? One of those requests led to a National Security Archive FOIA lawsuitin the late 1990s. The Archive sought the release of a well-known CIA internal history of the operation but obtained only a single sentence out of the 200-page document. The New York Times, which obtained a leaked version of the classified history, subsequently published it on its Web site in April 2000.

This CIA Speed Letter from April 30, 1979, indicates two final changes the CIA wanted Roosevelt to make, on pages 91 and 195 (see following images). Presumably the 150+ other required changes were more substantive and consequential.

The Countercoup story is also relevant in light of the long-delayed publication of the State Department’s retrospective Foreign Relations of the United States volume on the coup. In limbo since first entering the declassification gauntlet in 2006, the volume is expected to be released finally in Summer 2014.

At CIA insistence, the reprinted version of Countercoup dutifully substituted the word "people" for "station" on page 91 (see April 30, 1979, Speed Letter).

Finally, the Countercoup experience offers insights into the larger questions of how the CIA decides what it will allow to be made public, by whom, and with what implications for our understanding of the past.

Running through several of the documents posted today is the theme of preferred treatment for favored individuals on the matter of what they are authorized to publish. Prior to the early 1970s, senior officials who wanted to write about intelligence activities or their own experiences typically met little resistance, if not outright encouragement.

That changed substantially with United States v. Marchetti, a 1972 court case involving former CIA operative Victor Marchetti who, with ex-State Department official John Marks, eventually published a groundbreaking, but censored, exposé of the agency, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (Alfred A. Knopf, 1974). After the courts in the case mainly sided with the intelligence community, the CIA instituted a formal mechanism for clearing works by current and prior officials, the early experience with which is reflected in today’s posting.[3] Still, Roosevelt had certain expectations about his freedom to write about his clandestine exploits and he enjoyed a level of responsiveness from former agency colleagues that would be unimaginable to the average FOIA requester.

Page 195 of the new version of Countercoup incorporated this highlighted change, per the April 30, 1979, Speed Letter (above).

While Roosevelt’s case has to do with former agents, at other times the CIA engages with outsiders — i.e. striking deals over special access to classified material — in ways that are manifestly self-serving and cast serious doubt on assertions about what secrets require protection. Those deals might involve granting a journalist direct access to internal agency operational histories, or allowing someone with a security clearance to take extensive notes from classified records then clearing those notes for the exclusive use of a particular author.

The best-known instance of the former kind of deal was Evan Thomas’s The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA (Simon & Schuster, 1996). A prominent case of the latter agreement was Benjamin Weiser’s A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country (PublicAffairs, 2004), about ex-informant Ryszard Kukliński.

Both Thomas and Weiser have candidly explained their decisions to enter into these special understandings, and their works have earned critical praise and added substantially to public knowledge. But other researchers have systematically been denied access to the same materials through standard declassification avenues like the FOIA. In the Weiser case, the agency has denied access to the notes he used not on national security grounds, since they were declassified for his use, but for ostensibly commercial reasons, using the (b)(4) exemption to FOIA.

The CIA’s granting of exclusive entrée to restricted information increases public uncertainty over the degree to which official control is coloring the telling of history. The less transparent government declassification policies are, and the more it appears their main purpose is simply to boost agency interests, the more likely will be outbreaks like the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, the CIA’s history of the 1953 coup, and the many revelations of Manning, Snowden, and Assange.

Cover page of the CIA’s earliest internal history of the 1953 coup, authored by operation planner Donald Wilber in 1954. This secret account was presumably the one Roosevelt requested special access to as he prepared to write Countercoup. The CIA Inspector General advised him to file a FOIA for it. (Read the document here)


Document 1: CIA, "Secrecy Agreement," signed by Kermit Roosevelt, April 6, 1949, Restricted

By signing this secrecy agreement, Kermit Roosevelt agreed to abide by the provisions of the Espionage Act of 1917 pertaining to disclosure of defense-related information, and acknowledged the penalties for violating the act. He agreed never to "divulge, publish nor reveal" classified information "except in the performance of my official duties" unless specifically authorized, and recognized the obligation was binding even after leaving government duty.

Document 2: Memorandum for General Counsel, from John H. Waller, "Agency Review of Proposed Unofficial Publications by Former Employees," January 11, 1977, Confidential

In this memorandum, CIA Inspector General John Waller recounts for the agency’s General Counsel his awareness of and involvement with Roosevelt’s plans for a book on the coup. (Since leaving the intelligence world in the late 1950s, Roosevelt had become a consultant specializing in the Middle East, and maintained lucrative ties to the Shah, lobbying for him and encouraging him to buy U.S. military equipment from other Roosevelt clients.[4]) Waller says he told Roosevelt early on that in addition to inspecting his manuscript, the CIA "would probably also be interested in whether or not the Shah of Iran would take umbrage at such a book." Roosevelt responded that, "to the contrary," he had discussed it with the Shah personally and was certain he "would in fact welcome" it.

Waller reveals that CIA Director George H. W. Bush spoke to Roosevelt directly about the project the previous June, then contacted Waller "to see what I could do to be of assistance."

The timing of this memo, more than half a year later, follows promulgation of a new proposed agency regulation on clearances for former officials’ publications. Waller goes through his prior interactions with Roosevelt on the subject, invoking the Marchetti decision. He seems intent on making clear that even though he and Roosevelt see each other "socially on occasion" and Waller himself was a key player in the 1953 operation (not detailed in the memo), he has not extended his former colleague any special favors. For instance, when Roosevelt asked for access to the agency’s internal history of TPAJAX (the code word for the coup), Waller told him "he was at liberty to apply for it under the Freedom of Information Act."

Document 3: Memorandum for the Record from the Office of General Counsel, "[Excised] Agency Review of Proposed Unofficial Publications by Former Employees," January 13, 1977, Non-classified

Here, an attorney from the Office of General Counsel memorializes developments relating to the CIA’s evolving policies for dealing with pre-reviews of "unofficial publications," i.e. including those prepared by former officials. He notes some of the impact of the Marchetti decision on how the agency may or may not restrict such publications.

Document 4: Memorandum for General Counsel from John H. Waller, "Publication by Former CIA Official," January 19, 1977, Non-classified

Waller reports that Reader’s Digest Press plans to publish Roosevelt’s book. He says that in talking to Roosevelt he "stressed" the "important role" of the OGC in clearing manuscripts, to which Roosevelt replied that "he felt he had done what was proper to have informed Mr. Bush of his intentions early on." But Roosevelt added he would be willing to speak to an OGC representative. Waller "again reminded him that among other things he would have to be careful about" a particular topic, but the details are excised in the memorandum.

Document 5: Memorandum for Director of Security (Attn: Chief, EAB/OS), from [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Kermit Roosevelt Book on Iran," February 2, 1977, Non-classified

A CIA associate general counsel (AGC) reports on a meeting with Roosevelt, held at Waller’s suggestion to drive home the "ramifications of the secrecy agreement" for books by former agency officials. The AGC provided Roosevelt a copy of his 1949 agreement (Document 1). Roosevelt in turn handed over four chapters of the manuscript that corresponded to his tenure at CIA. By this time Roosevelt has signed a contract with Reader’s Digest Press. He asks that a review be completed before he is due to travel to Iran later in the month to see the Shah.

Document 6: Memorandum for Chairman, Publications Review Board, from [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Meeting with Mr. Kermit Roosevelt," February 24, 1977, Non-classified

At Roosevelt’s request (Document 5), the Publications Review Board (PRB) performed a speedy review of his partial manuscript. The PRB’s members had a number of reactions, which the OGC conveyed to Roosevelt, who was said to be "most willing to cooperate." Roosevelt reported that Reader’s Digest Press had since gone out of business and his trip to Iran had been delayed. Most of the rest of the memo, presumably detailing the PRB’s comments, is excised.

Document 7: CIA Routing and Record Sheet for Members of the PRB, from Executive Secretary , Publications Review Board, "Kermit Roosevelt – 28 Morad [sic]: The Countercoup," June 30, 1978, Secret

This routing sheet indicates that the PRB has received 11 chapters of Roosevelt’s manuscript, which the Board is given three weeks to review so that Roosevelt can submit them to his new publisher on August 1. (McGraw-Hill eventually picked up the contract from the defunct Reader’s Digest Press.) The book’s tentative title, 28 Mordad: The Countercoup, refers to the date on the Persian calendar (August 19 on the Gregorian calendar) when Mosaddeq was finally toppled.

Document 8: CIA Routing and Record Sheet for Chairman, Publications Review Board, from Chief, DO/IMS, (no subject), July 10, 1978, Confidential; with attached Speed Letter to C/IMS, from [Name Excised], "Second Draft of ’28 Mordad: The Countercoup’ by Kermit Roosevelt," July 7, 1978, Internal Use Only

The chief of the CIA’s Information Management Staff (C/IMS) (William F. Donnelly — see Document 9) notifies the PRB chairman that his staff is having "considerable difficulty" with the manuscript. A "speed letter" from an internal reviewer suggests offering a "counter-proposal" to Roosevelt — to publish the book in a special, classified edition of the in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, and to give Roosevelt access to internal (Top Secret) records for the purpose. The reviewer hopes the former operative will see the value of helping the "upcoming generation of Agency personnel" by giving his personal account of the "first U.S.-sponsored subversion of a government outside the Soviet orbit." The reviewer mentions the still-classified record is about to be turned over to State Department historians – that is, for possible use in its FRUS series. (When the relevant volume eventually appeared in 1989, it came under intense public criticism for omitting all references to U.S. or British participation in the 1953 coup.)

Document 9: Memorandum for Executive Secretary, Publications Review Board, from William F. Donnelly, "Mr. Kermit Roosevelt’s Draft: 28 Mordad: The Countercoup," July 17, 1978, Confidential

As promised in his July 10 note (Document 8), the chief of the CIA’s Information Management Staff forwards his office’s objections to Roosevelt’s text. It labels a number of specific items as "Unacceptable." Unfortunately, all of them have been excised (four numbered paragraphs totaling over one-and-a-half pages) in this version of the document. Donnelly disparages the OGC’s previous "cordial discussion" with Roosevelt as obviously ineffectual. While "that method of conveying Agency views to potential authors is satisfactory in most instances," he advises an "operationally oriented review of this Directorate’s objections with Mr. Roosevelt" and offers to "discuss alternatives with the Board." Clearly, differences existed within the agency over what was permissible to publish and how a high-ranking former official ought to be treated.

Document 10: CIA Routing and Record Sheet, Author and Addressee Excised, "Directorate Candidate to Discuss Kermit Roosevelt Manuscript," July 26, 1978, Non-classified; with attached Speed Letter to John McMahon, Deputy Director for Operations, from [Name Excised] DO Alternate, Publications Review Board, July 26, 1978, Internal Use Only

With internal objections to the manuscript mounting, CIA officials geared up reluctantly for the next round of negotiations with Roosevelt. The speed letter author reminds John McMahon, the agency’s senior operations officer, that the Information Management Staff has unearthed "major problems" with the book. "Out of consideration for Roosevelt’s role in the events that he describes," the letter’s author offers a concession of sorts by proposing to include a DO (Directorate of Operations) representative to help with the briefing of Roosevelt. Agency officials clearly believe they have right on their side, not least from a legal standpoint, but the collective distaste for what is to come is palpable. For one thing, the prospect of litigation looms. For another, Roosevelt is subtly making it difficult for the agency, i.e. by agreeing to meet but only at his summer home on Nantucket. There is obvious internal reluctance to take on the assignment, as the letter notes at least two officials have turned it down. McMahon does not show much sympathy in the face of this test of agency flexibility. Handwritten on the routing sheet is his bottom line: "I will not approve any publication which in any way refers to CIA activities abroad."

Document 11: CIA Routing and Record Sheet for Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Director of Central Intelligence, et al, from Director of Public Affairs [Name Excised], "Expected Problem on Book by Former Agency Employee," circa August 14, 1978, Confidential; with attached Memorandum for Director of Central Intelligence, from Herbert E. Hetu, Director of Public Affairs, "Expected Problem on Book by Former Agency Employee," August 14, 1978, Secret; and Memorandum for Chairman of Publications Review Board, from [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Kermit Roosevelt’s Book on Iran," August 4, 1978, Secret

Two weeks later, the "problem" of Roosevelt’s book reaches the top ranks of the CIA. This group of documents warns Director Stansfield Turner and Deputy Director Frank Carlucci that Roosevelt is balking at agency demands and might try to approach them directly or through high-level friends. The second attached memo records an August 2 meeting — on Nantucket — involving Roosevelt, his son Jonathan, a DO official (Campbell James, who is named in the chronology attached to Document 18), and a lawyer from the Office of General Counsel.

After "pleasantries," according to the second memo, the CIA officials deliver DDO John McMahon’s stern message that no mention of CIA operations overseas will be tolerated. "This explanation of the DDO’s position shocked the Roosevelt gentlemen," the memo relates. "The book has cost me two years of my life," Kermit responded, "Why wasn’t I told earlier?" He reminds the officials he has already discussed the book with former DCI Bush and had the Shah’s consent, too. The AGC insists no-one is challenging these points (although the routing sheet does), but adds "the Agency had different management today and different ground rules concerning publication of manuscripts."

The AGC goes on to cite Turner’s recent testimony in a legal case involving controversial former agent Frank Snepp who he says did not submit a book to prior review and as a result, "diminished the world-wide confidence in our ability to protect secrets." He also cites Federal Judge John J. Sirica to the effect that the proper test of classification is not the age of the information but its "present impact." (Both points remain standard intelligence community arguments today.)

Unlike previous conversations with the Roosevelts, this one ends on a less friendly note. "I received the distinct impression from Jonathan Roosevelt’s reaction that he might very well advise his father to proceed with publication of the book without securing Agency approval." He sees it as "very likely" the family will use their access to "senior officials in the legislative branch or executive branch" to intercede with DCI Turner. He adds his suspicion that the Roosevelt family is "counting on" a "substantial amount of money" coming from both book and movie rights.

At the top of the first memo, Turner writes in longhand: "I’m still interested in all other books published by former employees w/o clearance."

Document 12: Memorandum for Chairman, Publications Review Board, from [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Kermit Roosevelt’s Draft: 28 Mordad: The Countercoup," September 28, 1978, Non-classified

In this update for the PRB, the AGC advises that the Roosevelt family wants to meet again. (The meeting is planned for October 2, but the agency decides to cancel it, according to a subsequent document, "until CIA gets its act together" — see Document 18.) Continuing to anticipate a court fight, the Office of General Counsel has been discussing what it will need to prevail, and the author relays this information to the chairman of the PRB. The agency "will not be able to defend" DDO McMahon’s "blanket prohibition" (see Document 10), he writes. Instead, the PRB will have to provide detailed justifications for each segment they want kept out of the book. "[T]he only information which the Agency can request to be deleted from a manuscript is information which is classified, information which was learned during the course of Agency employment by the author and information which has not [been] placed in the public domain by the United States Government." McMahon’s ban would likely be considered "an impermissible standard," which along with the fact that Roosevelt had submitted his work for review would probably mean, in the General Counsel’s view, "that we would have no legal recourse" against Roosevelt. The author hopes the PRB will put together the required material "quickly" so that it can be used in the upcoming meeting with the Roosevelt family.

Document 13: Memorandum for Chairman, Publications Review Board, from William F. Donnelly, "Mr. Kermit Roosevelt’s Draft: 28 Mordad: The Countercoup," October 12, 1978, Secret

In response to the above request (Document 12), the chief of the Information Management Staff dispatches this 12-page memo to the chairman of the PRB. It insists the grounds for objecting to Roosevelt’s manuscript never centered around DDO McMahon’s "blanket prohibition" but on other "principles." The memo proceeds to lay out 156 specific objections, indicating the number could be higher if those items were to be "linked with … material that precedes or follows." It concludes that "the manuscript is, in sum, a substantial collection of still classified material, presumably gathered essentially during the author’s period of service with the Agency." Among the broad categories singled out are the identities of sources, the locations of CIA stations, cryptonyms, and "relations of an intelligence nature with specific countries." (All are frequently invoked to the present day by the intelligence community.) An attachment to the memo features a 7-page chart listing the various objections.

Document 14: Memorandum for Publications Review Board, from [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Kermit Roosevelt Manuscript," October 20, 1978, Secret

The AGC reports on his latest meeting with Kermit Roosevelt and another son, Kermit Jr. The attorney and an accompanying Information Management Staff officer (Robert Owen, according to the cc: line in this document and Document 15) explained what the Agency considered classified, adding the interesting suggestion that "it was possible that Mr. Roosevelt could write a different version of the same events and that the new version would not be considered classified." (Even so, a fresh review would be required.) When Roosevelt indicated he wanted to talk things over with his editor, he was told he could not because of the terms of his secrecy agreement. Roosevelt shows a willingness to take account of the current upheaval in Iran when considering the timing of publication, and the meeting closes with the AGC feeling more confident about a positive conclusion to the entire matter.

Document 15: Letter to [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, from Kermit Roosevelt, December 18, 1978, Non-classified

Almost a year after first submitting parts of his manuscript to the CIA, an exasperated Roosevelt tells the agency he believes he has fulfilled his obligations and intends to go ahead with publication. Even though many of the CIA’s objections are "unreasonable," he says he has adopted a number of changes "in an effort to preserve the cooperative mode we established." Having met the "spirit of your objectives," he declares, "In the present situation I think it would be inappropriate to go back yet again to the Government of Iran" for approval. (He reminds the AGC that the original idea for the book came from the Shah’s late Court Minister, Assadollah Alam, almost three years earlier.) Pleading an overdue commitment to McGraw-Hill, he says he "must proceed" with the publication, although he does offer to show it to the agency one more time if necessary, and again requests a rush review.

Document 16: Memorandum for Publications Review Board, from [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Kermit Roosevelt Manuscript," December 21, 1978, Secret

The AGC reports on the latest news, including his receipt of Roosevelt’s December 18 letter (Document 15). Despite Roosevelt’s hope that the matter has been settled, the attorney urges the DDO to re-review the manuscript and verify that the author has complied with agency requests. In the attached brief memo written the same day, PRB Chairman Herbert Hetu forwards the request to the DDO, asking for a turnaround of just six days, per Roosevelt’s request.

Document 17: Memorandum for [Name Excised], Office of General Counsel, from William F. Donnelly, "Manuscript ‘Countercoup’," May 1, 1979, Secret, with attached Speed Letter for C/IMS from [Name Excised], "Galley Proofs of ‘Countercoup’," April 30, 1979, Non-classified

Despite Roosevelt’s fondest wishes, the review process did not end with his final draft manuscript. Here, Information Management Staff Chief Donnelly attaches a speed letter from a colleague with the IMS office’s comments on the galley proofs. There seem to be only a handful of remaining items. Interestingly, two of them have not been excised, unlike the details of most of the other documents in this compilation. [Both requested changes appear in the published volume – Editor.] With some satisfaction, the speed letter writer comments: "Basically, Roosevelt has reflected quite faithfully the changes that we suggested to him. This has become, therefore, essentially a work of fiction."

Document 18: Memorandum for the Record, [Name Excised], Associate General Counsel, "Kermit Roosevelt’s Book," May 9, 1979, Non-classified, with attached "Chronology of Kermit Roosevelt Case," Non-classified

The AGC records his final meeting with Roosevelt on May 7, at which the two go over the last objections raised by the agency (Document 17), and Roosevelt agrees to make the changes. Roosevelt notes he is now contemplating another book — which he promises to submit for prior review. The chronology of the case attached this memo offers some useful details not included in the other documents.

Document 19: Memorandum for The Honorable Cyrus R. Vance, from Stansfield Turner, "Impact of the Publication of Kermit Roosevelt’s Book ‘Counter Coup’," December 13, 1979, Secret

Before the book can be published, another hurdle arises when crowds overrun the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, and take its American occupants hostage. In this memo to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance six weeks into the crisis, DCI Stansfield Turner reports that Roosevelt has agreed to hold off publication until six weeks after the hostages’ release. In fact, McGraw-Hill eventually goes forward with publication of the revised version — complete with reinstated references to British intelligence — in September 1980, four months before the end of the crisis.[5]


[1] David Ignatius, "The Coup Against ‘Countercoup’: How A Book Disappeared," The Wall Street Journal, November 6, 1979, p. 1.

[2] For contemporaneous background, see: Ibid.; Herbert Mitgang, "Publisher ‘Correcting’ Book on C.I.A. Involvement in Iran," The New York Times, November 10, 1979; Thomas Powers, "A Book Held Hostage," The Nation, April 12, 1980, p. 437; Nancy E. Gallagher and Dunning S. Wilson, "Suppression of Information or Publisher’s Error?: Kermit Roosevelt’s Memoir of the 1953 Countercoup, with Addendum, "Countercoup II," by Nikki K. Keddie, Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Vol. 15, No. 1 (July 1981), pp. 14-17; Richard W. Cottam, "Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran by Kermit Roosevelt," (book review), Iranian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3/4 (Summer-Autumn 1981), pp. 269-272.

[3] See John Prados, The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013), pp. 236-240.

[4] Irvin Molotsky, "Kermit Roosevelt, leader of C.I.A. Coup in Iran, Dies at 84," The New York Times, June 11, 2000; Geoff Simons, "Iran," The Link, Vol. 38, Issue 1, January-March 2005, p. 6.

[5] Gallagher and Wilson, op. cit., p. 15; Thomas Powers, op. cit.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT /// MK ULTRA PROJECTS /// Mind Control in the 21st Century

Mind Control in the 21st Century – Science Fiction & Beyond (PART II)


Part I of this series suggests that a hidden science and technology of “mind control,” far surpassing that available in the public domain, may well exist.

Part II begins an exploration of some of the most advanced public research in mind control, and also looks at statements of scientists who have spent time working and conducting research within the military-industrial-intelligence-media complex.

Electromagnetic Mind Control

Because mind control technology is in large part classified, statements and official documents from “higher authority” as to the state of the art are lacking.

However, despite this limitation, one can perhaps arrive at a reasonable understanding of approximate covert capabilities by examining the most sophisticated public research, such as that of Michael Persinger, cognitive neuroscience researcher and professor at Laurentian University in Ontario.1

Significant aspects of Persinger’s work relate directly to the feasibility of “electromagnetic” mind control directed at targeted individuals or populations, and are thus a continuation of research that went dark in the 1970s — research suggesting that remote electromagnetic energy fields could be used to “influence” the brain.2

Electric “High”

According to Persinger, the brain can be influenced with very weak magnetic fields, “… the electromagnetic fields associated with consciousness, which are very, very weak.”3 These electromagnetic fields can even “mimic” the effects associated with taking various drugs.

This is possible because the brain works by electromagnetic patterns — brainwaves — not just chemistry, and for every drug there is “an appropriate temporal pattern” of electromagnetic radiation “equivalent to the molecular structure” of the drug.

Thus, by introducing the electromagnetic equivalent of a drug into the brain, the individual should experience “the drug,” as if it had actually been ingested – In other words, “…you don’t have to have a chemical.5 This is especially significant when one considers that many compounds, both legal and “illicit,” alter consciousness, modifying, sometimes significantly, one’s experience of the world.

Imagine, for example, “electromagnetic LSD,” or “electromagnetic valium” delivered via satellite to a targeted individual or population.

Hacking the human brain is not difficult

Hallucination Creation

Electromagnetic patterns may also be capable of creating artificial “sensory” experiences.6 This is because sense experience is not a perception of a thing “in itself,” but an interpretation by the brain of electrical patterns produced by a given stimulus.

For example, the perception of a rose is the brain experiencing a particular electromagnetic resonance pattern produced by the interaction of the rose with the senses, not an experience of the rose “itself.”

By introducing the electromagnetic resonance pattern normally produced by a given stimulus directly into the brain, the need for the actual stimulus (for example, a real rose), “…can be circumvented….”7 The idea, in other words, is that vivid hallucinations can be created via the introduction of precisely patterned electromagnetic radiation into the brain.

Synthetic Reality

Such possibilities do not appear to be merely “theoretical.” In a 2000 article in US News & World Report, John Norseen, neural weapons designer for Lockheed Martin, is quoted as saying that electromagnetic pulses could be used to create what he termed “synthetic reality.”8 Norseen elaborated in a series of emails with artist Duncan Laurie, posted at Laurie’s web-site (Norseen died in 2007).9

In one such discussion Norseen referenced a technology for creating hallucinations. The topic arose when Laurie mentioned a news story reporting a Mexican police officer’s encounter with a “flying witch.”10 According to the officer’s account, the witch fell from a tree and floated above the ground before flying at the officer and “trying to grab him with her hands right through the car’s windshield.”11

While the officer perceived the witch as an actual being, Norseen suggested that the witch was not a living entity, but was instead a technologically induced hallucination that “ripped into (the officer’s) perceptual apparatus from inside his thought structures….”12

In other words, Norseen’s suspicion was that the officer did not have a real sensory experience, but instead experienced a virtual reality sequence, a vividly realistic, complex “sensory” experience produced entirely in his brain. Accordingly, for Norseen the “real story” was “whether this type of … hallucination is now available in the psyop inventory…eh eh.”13 Norseen explains that the witch could have been the product of an “orbiting satellite that mistakenly beamed … (the) Mexican village with a powerful entraining downlink….”14

Information Injection

The “witch” is an example of what Norseen calls a “semiotic.” For current purposes, suffice it to say that “neural information” encoded in “carrier waves,” and then decoded by an individual’s brain, is a semiotic. Norseen was particularly interested in semiotics, like the “witch,” that could “reflexively control” an individual.15

Norseen discusses an experiment with rats in which a rat would press a button and an electromagnetic field would stimulate a part of the rat’s brain, inducing (apparent) feelings of ecstasy in the rat. The rat would continue to press the button, discharging the “pleasure semiotic” (Laurie’s term) until it died.16

According to Laurie, “Norseen’s point was that if you could trigger that part of the brain remotely, via a transmission of some kind, the receiver would be all but powerless” to stop his brain from responding in a determined, stimulus-response manner to the semiotic.17

Norseen later describes semiotics

Norseen suggested to Laurie that one way to transmit a semiotic would be to encrypt commands, which could be “…buried within unrelated visual and auditory information, to be broadcast to the general public.”18

In other words, a semiotic message encoded within, for example, a television or internet broadcast, could be transmitted directly to the unconscious mind of a person, in essence programming the person for some future action – “Norseen strongly suggested these techniques were connected to the Columbine murders….”19

Moreover, as Norseen suggests in his discussion of a satellite downlink producing the witch hallucination, semiotics do not even need to be encoded within a sensory medium, such as a television program or internet broadcast, but can instead be transmitted directly into the brain via electromagnetic radiation or ultrasound.

As Norseen put it, the human brain has an “extremely keen sensitivity to both internal and external signals, from sight, sound, smell, touch, memory, ultrasound, EMF (electromagnetic frequency), etc.” (emphasis added), which can make “…the human brain … in essence, a sex, violence, religious pump”20:

My database of Semiotics, Signs and Symbols, when presented by various media to the human brain cause tremendously strong circuits to fire in the Nucleus Accumbens (Sex), Amygdala (Violence), and Anterior Cingulate/right temporal axis (Religion.)

So even if a person wouldn’t do something based on his personality, the key is to reset or disengage the person’s personality (free will), and then repeatedly train either consciously or non-cognitively the person’s brain to fire relentlessly … to the point where you insert a new personality that acts upon the impulses emanating from the sex/ violence/ religious circuits (emphasis added).

You end up with a sex offender, a serial killer, a religious zealot wherein suicide is an option…or any combination (of) the three.” … [S]omewhere, somehow, the result of culture at large, or highly refined and focused cultural inputs, is turning out just such PERSONALITIES…

The Question is, is this just the natural results of five billion people on earth interacting with modern information and EM (electromagnetic) signals…or maybe, just maybe…somewhere, SOME PEOPLE ARE USING TECHNICAL MEANS FOR PSYOP????”21

“Semiotics” can be transmitted from an external source directly into a human brain, “training” the brain through constant repetition, into new beliefs, new motivations, even, perhaps, a new personality. Further, this conditioning process can occur below the level of conscious awareness, presumably further enhancing its value as a tool for plausibly deniable covert action.

Thought Control

Norseen describes a technology that can literally control one’s thoughts. As he explains in the US News & World Report article, one could possibly even “…begin to manipulate what someone is thinking … before they know it.”22

Robert Duncan, a scientist who worked on projects for the Department of Defense and the CIA, likens this “thought filtering and suppression” capacity to the automated spell check in Microsoft Word, which corrects spelling errors as one types.23 According to Duncan, “…even new thoughts can be suppressed”; moreover, memories can be faded or erased.24

Brain Prints

The most invasive form of mind control may require analysis of the unique characteristics of an individual’s electromagnetic output, what Norseen called “brain prints.” “Think of your hand touching a mirror,” explains Norseen. “It leaves a fingerprint.” … “Just like you can find one person in a million through fingerprints,” he says, “you can find one thought in a million.”25

A person’s “brain prints” leak into the environment in unique “energy dispersion pattern(s),” which if “monitored by mixed electromagnetic sensors…,”26 could potentially be used to identify and track the person. Moreover, brain prints could even be transmitted “…back into the brain…”27 (“intact or rearranged—to the individual or someone else….”28) with the brain acting upon the information “as if it were a real signal from the environment.”29

[ An aside: Much of what Norseen told Duncan Laurie may have actually already been “old hat.” Norseen had security clearances and had signed “70+” year non-disclosure agreements.30 He explained that while he could not discuss more recent developments, “at least” he could “edify” regarding the years 1995-2002.31]

EEG Cloning

Copying one person’s brainwaves onto the brain of another person is a technology sometimes referred to as “EEG cloning.”32 Researcher Tim Rifat explains that emotions and states such as anger and aggressiveness, apathy, lust, psychopathy, suicidal depression, mania, paranoia and psychosis have distinctive frequencies which can be entrained into the brain “remotely by use of extremely low frequency broadcast carried by pulse modulated microwave beams (ELF pulse modulated microwave remote mind control technology).”33

As physicist Richard Alan Miller put it: By using … computer-enhanced EEGs, scientists can identify and isolate the brain’s …”emotion signature clusters,” synthesize them and store them on another computer. In other words, by studying the subtle characteristic brainwave patterns that occur when a subject experiences a particular emotion, scientists have been able to identify the concomitant brainwave pattern and can now duplicate it.34 These stored “emotion signature clusters” can then be entrained into human beings to trigger the emotion.35

More than mere emotions, even another “personality” can be “cloned” onto an individual. This “cerebral cortex cloning” has been likened to “having an enemy within one’s own mind.”36

Of note, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, alleged Boston bomber (most likely a patsy), was subject to what he called “majestic mind control,” and told his mother that it felt as though another person was inside him, telling him things to do.37

Making “Connections”

John Norseen suggested that the brain, which has been described as a “biological computer,”38 could be connected wirelessly (without a brain-computer interface) to a technological computer, explaining that a person could possibly be “ping[ed]” with a “light sequence or with an [extremely low frequency] … radiation sequence” causing “…something to be fired off in the brain….”39 Of course, one computer “pings” another to test connectivity between the two “devices.”

If multiple brains were connected to the same “system,” the same brain signals could be routed to (“cloned” onto) multiple brains. “Broadcast messages” could even be sent, inducing similar thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and even beliefs in all people on the network.40

One could thus imagine hive mind cells or even a large hive in which “participants” would share neural information (brainwaves). In such a scenario, complex group behaviors could perhaps be coordinated from an external “control center,” a situation reminiscent of some accounts of individuals claiming to have been “gang stalked.”41

Robert Duncan

Mind Hacking

“Mind hacking” is Robert Duncan’s term for the process by which a brain is remotely mapped, and through which some degree of operational control over the brain becomes possible.

A mind hack establishes the full capability of wireless interaction between a brain and a computer. To “hack” a brain, the brain prints or overall “brain signature” of the person must be deciphered, a mechanical, deterministic process requiring only “time” and the target’s “coordinates” to be effectual.42

Given “time and coordinates” anyone’s brain can be hacked: “Precise timing of pulses is how the trick is done … The timing of the pulses must exactly coincide with the end of a neuron’s depolarization,” which is “specific to each individual and their microcircuits … This bit stream acts like an encrypted message that only a single unique human brain with the exact physical patterns can interpret …

In order to create any significant amplification, thousands of neurons if not more need to be exactly pulsed without a single one off alignment before the electromagnetic signal can gain enough influence in the brain for entrainment.

In other circuits or brains, it merely adds noise that is filtered out …Radar pulses using the bit stream key (are) sent to the target brain, and if it hits just right along with the others, a few microseconds later an evoked potential should be detected. This indicates that the brain key is being accepted … These bit stream keys are categorized and sub-categorized.

Each one represents a “brain-resonance” or a state that was achieved. They are templates that can be replayed into the target mind. As the brain mapping [process proceeds] other bit streams fall into place into the whole cognitive model faster and faster [as when one gets] closer to completing a jigsaw puzzle.”43

A signal “tailored” to a person’s unique brain signature will not affect other brains exposed to the signal. Thus, people standing even in close proximity to a targeted person would not notice anything unusual, other than perhaps the target’s behavior.

According to Duncan, that someone could be remotely besieged by “invisible waves,” while others, even in close proximity, remain unaffected and unaware of the intrusion, tends to “baffle the common citizen who has yet to experience the electromagnetic virtual reality.”44 However, the concept becomes more intuitive when one considers that the targeted individual’s nervous system has been “tuned into like a cellular phone.”45

And, of course, only a “phone” whose number has been dialed is going to “ring.”46 Mind hacking enables feats of grotesque invasiveness, making it possible to actually “listen through the subject’s ears, and see through the subject’s eyes.”47 An unanswered question is how much time is required to hack into a brain – Minutes? Days? Weeks? In any case, however long the process does take, one might suppose that mind hacking has become more efficient with time.

Scanning For Brains – MASINT

According to John Norseen, the brains of individuals in a given population can be surveyed and unusual brain signatures (“brain prints”) identified from afar. This would appear to be an aspect of MASINT—measurement and signature intelligence—the “newest, most encompassing, and technically complex” of the intelligence gathering methods.48

Norseen writes that “multiple sensors can detect and measure what you think…” and that “hyper spectral analysis across the electromagnetic spectrum, within which brain function occurs” can be used “to correlate and pinpoint with more accurate detail the specific … regions of the brain engaged in mental processing of the target activity.”49

Further, these mind reading capabilities are “much more robust” than traditional diagnostic technologies such as EEG or FMRI, and “involve … more remote sensor analysis using interferometer techniques…,” such that “information about underlying neural activity can be collected … (and) displays … (can be) generated of ongoing and anticipated future mental behavioral patterns, normal, pathologic, or trained”: Neural circuits that reflect normal, pathological or trained brain patterns can be discerned.

Therefore, a complex system of internetted, hyperspectral brain analysis sensors, exchanging database information packages of representative mathematical equations and biophysical state spaces, would be able to survey a particular area and determine the brain activities of the constituent elements of the surveillance area.

A person with normal brain patterns would have characteristic brain prints that would be different than another person suffering from some pathological or trained pattern of behavior.50 It might also be added that non-conforming brains, for example, brains with non-deferential attitudes towards authority or unsanctioned beliefs, could also presumably be identified and singled out for additional “investigation” or “targeting.”

Michael Persinger


We are faced with a world in which dystopian science fiction is fast becoming reality. Indeed, for some, the dystopia may have already arrived. World-wide, thousands of “targeted individuals” claim to have had experiences consistent with what Robert Duncan calls “mind hacking.”

As these are only self-identified targets, the actual number of targeted individuals could be significantly greater. Meanwhile “whistleblower” Edward Snowden goes about “revealing” NSA surveillance abuses, abuses largely disclosed by others in prior years, but without the consternation and media fanfare.

While Snowden’s “revelations” are certainly not trivial, it is apparent that the American and world populations now exist in a bubble of “unreality,” entirely unaware of the “science fiction” technologies arrayed against them. Consider then the possibility that the true extent of “surveillance operations” remains very much “undisclosed.”


Mind Control in the 21st Century—Science Fiction & Beyond

[ Editors Note: Dear Readers, we have a special treat for you today, a mjajor piece of work. I won’t lead any of the enjoyment so I will let you jump right in. Steven is a writer, attorney, and sometime musician. He lives in the Midwest. And more will be on the way… Jim W. Dean ]

Is it coming to a home near you?

Conspiracy Theory?

“Mind control” is a topic commonly perceived as “conspiracy theory” or “X-Files” fare. That is, it is seen as possibly not “real,” and certainly not something about which one should be “overly” concerned.

This attitude at least partially arises from the widespread belief or assumption that the human brain is so complicated—(“the most complex entity in the universe” is a common formulation)—that it has not, and perhaps cannot, be comprehended in any depth.

One writer, for example, describes the brain as of “perhaps infinite” complexity,[1] while another, David Brooks of the New York Times, writes that it is “probably impossible” that “a map of brain activity” could reveal mental states such as emotions and desires.[2]

Similarly, Andrew Sullivan, blogger and former editor of The New Republic, opines that neuroscience is still in its “infancy,” and that we have only begun “scratching the surface” of the human brain, and links to a New Yorker piece in support of that position.[3]

And the cover story for the October 2004 issue of Discovery Magazine entitled “The Myth Of Mind Control” advises the reader that while mind control is a “familiar science-fiction” staple, there is little reason for real concern, because actually deciphering the “neural code” would be akin to figuring out other “great scientific mysteries” such as the “origin of the universe and of life on Earth,” and is therefore hardly likely.[4]

According to the article, as the brain is “the most significant mystery in science” and quite possibly “the hardest to solve,”[5] mind control remains at worst a distant concern.

The underlying idea seems to be that sophisticated mind control is unlikely without understanding the brain; and we do not understand the brain.

Understanding the “Neural Code”

Of course, one might question the notion that a full understanding of the “neural code” is a prerequisite for mind control since it is not always necessary to know how something works for it to be effective. Nonetheless, the assumption that the brain is so complex that little progress has been made in “solving” it is itself incorrect.

As neuroscientist Michael Persinger has said, the “great mythology” of the brain is that it is “beyond our understanding; no it’s not.”[6] In fact, according to inventor and “futurist” Ray Kurzweil, “very detailed mathematical models of several dozen regions of the human brain and how they work….”[7] had already been developed over a decade ago.

Kurzweil also said at that time that science is “further along in understanding the principles of operation of the human brain than most people realize….”[8] While the brain may be complicated, “it’s not that complicated (emphasis added).”[9]

Similarly, an Air Force report from 1995, in a section entitled “Biological Process Control,” predicts that before 2050 “… [w]e will have achieved a clear understanding of how the human brain works, how it really controls the various functions of the body, and how it can be manipulated…:”[10]

One can envision the development of electromagnetic energy sources … that can couple with the human body in a fashion that will allow one to prevent voluntary muscular movements, control emotions (and thus actions), produce sleep, transmit suggestions, interfere with … memory, produce an experience set, and delete an experience set. [11]

As disturbing as such “predictions” may be, is it possible that technologies to prevent (or perhaps even impel) muscular movement, control emotions, transmit suggestions, delete memories, create false memories, and so on, have already been developed?

Certainly, even a cursory review of the “open literature” reveals that various sophisticated mind control technologies already exist.[12] Indeed, it is rather shocking to realize how advanced mind control technology was, even several decades ago.

“Altering brain waves”

For example, there is the 1974 invention of Robert G. Malech for which a patent was granted in 1976 and assigned to defense contractor Dorne & Margolin, Inc.—for a method of “remotely monitoring and altering brain waves.”[13]

Moreover, experiments conducted over thirty years ago at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) showed that basic mind reading from EEG readouts was possible, revealing the existence of “a non-symbolic language” of “brain-wave patterns” which could be deciphered and translated.[14]

Indeed, “…[b]y the late 1960s … ‘remote control’ of the human brain—accomplished without the implantation of electrodes—was well on its way to being realized.”[15] A means of stimulating a brain “by creating an electrical field completely outside the head” was developed,[16] and it was discovered that electric pulses could stimulate the brain using far less energy than previously “thought … effectual in the old implanting technique.”[17]

Not surprisingly, with such developments arose legitimate fears of a future world where “human robots” would perform the bidding of the “military.”[18]

And one source quotes a 1970s Pentagon agency report as saying that it will likely be possible in “several years” to induce sounds and words directly into the brain (bypassing the ears), as well as to use “combinations of frequencies and other signal characteristics to produce other neurological effects….,”[19]

The report notes that the Soviets had observed “various changes in body chemistry” and “functioning” of the brain from the exposure of the brain to various frequencies.[20] Also mentioned are studies at MIT showing that “magnetic brain waves can be picked up … and amplified as if the brain were a radio transmitter,” no implants or electrodes required.[21]

Finally, an article from 1981 describes how “microwave generators” placed in appropriate locations and transmitting at low energy would create “interference patterns” out of the interaction with brainwaves (brain electricity).

These interference patterns “could then be built up by computer into a three-dimensional moving picture of mental processes”—in other words, a remote “thought scanner” (and tracking device) could be developed.[22]

Recent “Advances”

Subjected to outside influences

In light of these past developments, it is perhaps rather surprising to read modern articles describing supposedly recent innovations in “mind reading” and mind control technology – in which it is sometimes claimed, for example, that scanners, electrodes and proximity to the subject is required to read and “control” minds.

Such claims reflect an apparent failure of the science of “mind control” to progress as one might have expected considering the presumed interest, as well as the spectacular rate of advancement of science and technology in general in recent decades.

Of course, it would not be all that surprising if mind control technology has advanced considerably, but that research has been carried out in secret for reasons of “national security.”

CIA affiliated scientists have certainly conducted much research which they have been prohibited from sharing with their peers,[23] and inventions that implicate “national security” are routinely suppressed under Pentagon secrecy orders.[24] Also, it might seem desirable to hide research programs which sometimes “require” relaxation of ethical standards, such as that of informed consent.

That said, even ignoring the likely existence of a “secret science” of mind control, recent public advancements are quite troubling in their own right.

Some examples:

“New connections” are being made all the time.

1) In 2004, 25,000 rat neurons on a glass dish learned to fly an F-22 jet fighter simulator.[25] After scientists placed the neurons on the dish, the neurons quickly began “to reconnect themselves, forming a living neural network—a brain.”[26]

The lead scientist added that “one day,” though of course a “long way off,” disembodied brains might actually be used to fly drones,[27] though the current experiment was merely to enhance knowledge of how the brain works, and possibly provide “clues to brain dysfunction.”[28]

2) In August 2013, researchers revealed that “miniature” human brains had been grown in the laboratory.[29] As is typical, any negative implications or reasons for worry were minimized, while possible “therapeutic” uses were highlighted. Thus, the breakthrough was hailed as a great opportunity to understand “developmental defects.” Though the writer does mention “the spectre of what the future might hold,” the reader is reassured that the research is “primitive territory”[30]—though one researcher did comment on the “undesirability” of growing larger laboratory brains.[31]

3) On July 1, 2013, a magazine reported a claim by neuroscientist Sergio Canavero that it was now feasible to transplant the head of one human to the body of another and reattach the spinal cord.[32]

4) Scientists have reconstructed random images viewed by subjects, from fMRI brain scans, in research that “hints” that “one day” scientists might be able to “access dreams, memories and imagery….”[33]

5) The brains of two rats have been linked, such that one, located in North Carolina, responded “telepathically” to the thoughts of the other, located in Brazil.[34] The second rat’s brain processed signals from the first rat’s brain, delivered over the internet, as if they were its own. The scientist speculated about the “future possibility” of a “biological computer, in which numerous brains are connected….”[35]

6) A brain-to-brain interface has been created, allowing humans to move a rat’s tail just by thinking about it.[36] Readers are told that while it is not yet possible to “communicate brain to brain with our fellow humans … we may be on our way to … controlling” other species.[37] But, since it is “still very early days” the writer “hope(s)” that any ethical concerns can be “iron(ed) out.”[38] Of note, the study used focused ultrasound to deliver impulses to the rat’s brain.[39]

7) Continuing the ultrasound “theme”: Focused pulses of low intensity low frequency ultrasound, transmitted noninvasively through the skull to the human brain, have been shown capable of producing, not only pain, but also sound, as well as evoking “sensory stimuli.”[40] Accordingly, a lab with a “close working relationship” with DARPA, the Department of Defense, and U.S. Intelligence communities, has been looking into using pulsed ultrasound to encode “sensory data onto the cortex”; in other words, producing hallucinations through the remote and direct stimulation of brain circuits.[41] Possibilities are the ability to “remotely control brain activity” and the “creation of artificial memories.”[42] Even Sony has gotten in on the act, patenting a device for using ultrasound to produce hallucinations—again described as “transmitting sensory data directly into the human brain.”[43] Most troublingly, one source recently alleged that the NSA is using this ultrasound technology to target individuals through their smartphones.[44]

8) A researcher was able to make a fellow researcher in a different office move his finger just by thinking about it, in the “first” demonstration of a human brain-to-brain interface.[45]

9) A low cost means of tracking people, even through walls, has been developed. While in the past individuals could be tracked anywhere by the “military” using radar technology, this technology might enable entities with fewer resources to track people as well.[46]

How much live nano testing has gone on?

10) Scientists have remote controlled a worm by implanting magnetic nanoparticles into it, and then exposing the animal to a “radiofrequency magnetic field” which stimulated its neurons. The scientists suggest that their research could lead to “innovative cancer treatments” and “improved diabetes therapies,” as well as

11) Americans can now be spied on in their homes through their internet-connected appliances, according to (former) CIA Director David Petraeus.

Petraeus made his statements at about the same time a huge microchip company, ARM, unveiled new processors which will connect home appliances such as refrigerators, washers and driers to the internet.[48]

12) LED lights have been ostensibly pushed for their efficiency over traditional bulbs. However, LED lights are also semiconductors capable of inducing “biological and behavior effects.”[49]

“Breakaway” Science?

Nural Codes

While the aforementioned public developments are quite concerning, the reality is they may not actually represent the true state of the art in “mind control” technology.

It would not be that surprising, after all, for a domain with national security implications to at some point in its development branch off onto separate “tracks,” one public and the other “hidden.”

If such a bifurcation were to occur, advancements made in secret would not necessarily be incorporated into the public sphere. Eventually perhaps, innovations and breakthroughs would result in the development of an essentially new, covert science.

An example of a domain in which this bifurcation process seems to have occurred is aviation. In the public sphere, the most advanced aircraft might well be the F-22 fighter jet, or perhaps the F-35. However, if insider testimony is credited, these aircraft seem almost primitive in comparison with flying machines developed in secret.

Perhaps the most compelling statements in this regard come from Ben Rich, former Director of Lockheed-Martin’s Advanced Development Projects, or “Skunk Works,” a Lockheed division notable for its super high-tech, top secret projects, among them the U2 spy plane and the SR-71 Blackbird.

As Joseph P. Farrell’s reports in his book Saucers, Swastikas, and Psyops, Rich made a number of peculiar and provocative comments at the end of his career, and following his retirement on December 31, 1990 (prior to his death five years later), comments strongly hinting at “the development of … an off-the-books physics and technology….”[50]

For example, on September 7, 1988, in a presentation to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Atlanta, Georgia, Rich lamented that he was prohibited from discussing Skunkwork’s current projects, but he did say that they “call for technologies once only dreamed of by science fiction writers.”[51]

In ensuing years, Rich elaborated slightly. For instance, while speaking to the UCLA School of Engineering Alumni Association in 1993, Rich said that “an error in the equations” had been discovered and corrected, making it possible “to travel to the stars.”[52] He added, however, that “these technologies are so locked up in black programs, that it would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity.”[53]

Ben Rich – Who saw it it…lived it all.

Farrell goes on to relay a statement from an unnamed Lockheed retired engineer who was quoted in a magazine article in 1988 as saying that “we have things flying in the Nevada desert that would make George Lucas drool.”[54] In the same article an Air Force officer involved in the development of the SR-71 said “[w]e are testing vehicles that defy description.

To compare them conceptually to the SR-71 would be like comparing Leonardo da Vinci’s parachute design to the space shuttle.” And a retired Colonel chimed in: “We have things that are so far beyond the comprehension of the average aviation authority as to be really alien to our way of thinking.” [55]

Consider then for a moment the possibility that within the classified world, in 1993, a technology, to quote Ben Rich, “to take ET back home” had already been developed.[56] The implications are enormous, not to mention rather frightening. One wonders where the technology must be in 2014, more than twenty years later.

And if the aforementioned statements are true, and this seems plausible (why would these individuals lie, or even exaggerate, especially to Engineering Associations and Aeronautics institutes), what might this imply about the current state of the art in domains other than aviation, such as neuroscience, which has itself been the subject of intense “weaponization” efforts.

Indeed, what does such a vast discrepancy between what people believe and what is actually true suggest about the nature of our perceived reality in general?

Steven DiBasio is a writer, attorney, and sometime musician. He lives in the Midwest. And more will be on the way. He can be reached at: steven.dibasio

Editing: Jim W. Dean

[1] Nicholas West, Literal Smart Dust Opens Brain-Computer Pathway to “Spy on Your Brain”, Activist Post, July 19, 2013,

[2] David Brooks, Op-Ed, Beyond The Brain, N.Y. Times, June 18, 2013, at A25, available at

[3] Andrew Sullivan, Scratching The Brain’s Surface, The Dish, Dec. 5, 2012,

[4] John Horgan, The Myth of Mind Control, Discovery Magazine, Oct. 29, 2004,

[5] Id.

(Last visited 1/06/14).

[7] Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity, Science At The Edge—Conversations with the Leading Scientific Thinkers of Today 299-300 (John Brockman ed., Sterling Publ. Co. Inc. 2008) (Originally published by Barnes and Noble in 2003 under the title The New Humanists: Science at the Edge).

[8] Id. at 299.

[9] Id. at 310.

[10] Scientific Advisory Board (Air Force) Washington DC, New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century. Ancillary Volume 89 (1995), available at

[11] Id.

[12] Nick Begich, Mind Control—The Ultimate Brave New World 15 (Earthpulse Press 2006), available at


[14] Walter Bowart, Operation Mind Control 258 (Dell Publishing Co. Inc., USA 1978). A statement by Dr. Adam Reed of Rockefeller University provides another indication of how sophisticated mind control technology was, even several decades ago. Walter Bowart quotes Dr. Reed as saying, in 1976, that it was “‘conceivable that thoughts could be injected’ into a person’s mind by the government,” though “he indicated that he did not believe it had already been done,” suggesting the possibility that as far back as 1976, it possibly could have been done— “If the political system changes and massive abuses appear likely,” he added, “that would be the time to disappear from the society.” Id. at 259.

[15] Id. at 257.

[16] Id. at 257.

[17] Id. at 257.

[18] Id. at 259.

(Last visited 1/6/14). For another example, see “Talking Window Sends Messages Through Your Skull!” (Last visited 1/6/14).

[20] Hamilton, supra note 19.

[21] Id. Hamilton further speculates that “[b]y the 21st century it may be possible to detect and amplify brain waves over several miles. It is not beyond the imagination to picture globe-encircling satellites that carry on-board mind-reading machines that scan the earth.” Hamilton states that he wrote this article in 1979 “from source articles published in the L.A. Times and Computerworld…” Id.

[22] Gary Selden, Machines that Read Minds, Science Digest, October 1981, available at (Last accessed 1/6/14). The author mentions how “easy” it is “to imagine … brain-picking … and ‘internal surveillance’ of dissidents.” Id. The article is cited in a July 1, 1974 Time Magazine article entitled “Mind-Reading Computer,” available at (Last accessed 1/7/14).

[23] Peter Levenda, Sinister Forces, A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft, Book Three: The Manson Secret, Kindle Location 9185 (TrineDay 2006) (“Scientists were not allowed to publish the most exciting results of their research, as they came under security classification. Men like Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ, Ewen Cameron and Frank Olson and William Sargant were prohibited from sharing their work with their peers”).

[24] Steven Aftergood, Invention Secrecy Still Going Strong, Secrecy News, Oct. 21, 2010, (“There were 5,135 inventions that were under secrecy orders at the end of Fiscal Year 2010 … a 1% rise over the year before, and the highest total in more than a decade”).

[25] ‘Brain’ in a dish flies flight simulator,, November 4, 2004,

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] James Gallagher, Miniature ‘human brain’ grown in lab, BBC News, Aug. 28, 2013,

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

. To view footage of the Rhesus monkey head transplant and an interview with Dr. White, see

[33] James Urquhart, Mind-reading machine knows what the eye can see, New Scientist, Mar. 5, 2008,

[34] James Gorman, In a First, Experiment Links Brains of Two Rats, N.Y. Times, Mar. 1, 2013, at A15, available at

[35] Id.

[36] Michelle Starr, Control a rat with your brain, CNET,

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Tyler WJ, Tufail Y, Finsterwald M, Tauchmann ML, Olson EJ, et al., Remote Excitation of Neuronal Circuits Using Low-Intensity, Low-Frequency Ultrasound, Oct. 29, 2008, available at

[41] William J. Tyler, Remote Control of Brain Activity Using Ultrasound, Sept. 1, 2010,

[42] Peggy Coulombe, Ultrasound shown to exert remote control of brain circuits, ASU News [now], Nov. 20, 2008


[44] Tom Heneghan, “What is the Endgame Now?” Oct. 13, 2013, (“The highest levels of the U.S. Military have now discovered that the NSA has been stonering iPhones and smart phones of targeted U.S. citizens. This program utilizes ultra sound with a direct attack on brain cells.” (emphasis added); see also, Gordon Duff, America’s “Dark Program” Militarism, Veterans Today, Sept. 22, 2013, (“The real systems, first developed for use through mobile communications by Ericsson Corporation are capable of inducing severe psychosis, paranoia and triggering violence”); see also, Gordon Duff, Denial of Truth, Mind Control and Satanism in America, Veterans Today, Jan. 14, 2013, (Technologies “capable of inducing, not just voices, but emotions and even beliefs, (have) been integrated into mobile communications platforms. We have absolute evidence of this, can technically describe its use and, if asked, demonstrate how it was discovered and how it works. The only questions are those who are targeted, how many thousands or millions are subjected to quite genuine “thought control” and what is being induced, what fears, what beliefs, what ideas”) The capability was discovered in smartphones, devices hundreds of millions of people carry around with them every day. Id.; see also, Gordon Duff, Ventura’s “Brain Invaders”, Veterans Today, Dec. 24, 2012, (“Current technology can actually implant false memory, memories of crimes, acts of terror, treason, can be done with total reliability and is and has been done and discovered being done”).

[45] Doreen Armstrong, Michelle Ma, Researcher Controls Colleagues Motions in 1st Human Brain-to-brain Interface, UW Today, Aug, 27, 2013,

[46] Helen Knight, New system uses low power Wi-Fi signal to track moving humans—even behind walls, MIT News, June 27, 2013, (“Researchers have long attempted to build a device capable of seeing people through walls. However, previous efforts to develop such a system have involved the use of expensive and bulky radar technology that uses a part of the electromagnetic spectrum only available to the military”).

[47] Science News, With Magnetic Nanoparticles, Scientists Remotely Control Neurons And Animal Behavior, Science Daily, July 6, 2010,

[48] Steve Watson, CIA Head: We Will Spy On Americans Through Electrical Appliances,, Mar. 16, 2012,


[50] Joseph P. Farrell, Saucers, Swastikas, and Psyops, Kindle Location 4539 (Adventures Unlimited Press 2011).

[51] Id. at Location 4578.

[52] Id. at Location 4584.

[53] Id. at Location 4569.

[54] Id. at Location 4589.

[55] Id. at Location 4593, 4594.

[56] Id. at Location 4562.

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : The Rwandan Refugee Crisis : Before the Genocide

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 464

Posted March 31, 2014

Edited by Kristin Scalzo

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, March 31, 2014 – During the months leading up to the genocide in Rwanda, United Nations officials and western diplomats became increasingly concerned by the threat to political stability posed by millions of refugees and internally displaced persons in the Great Lakes region. Attempts by the international community to address the refugee crisis became enmeshed in political in-fighting inside the country.

Documents posted today by the National Security Archive and the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum show that the refugee crisis was compounded by a lack of reliable intelligence and a shortage of military personnel and international monitors. An ambitious refugee resettlement program negotiated as part of the Arusha accords by the Hutu-led government of President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front was never actually implemented.

Today’s posting is the 5th in a series of a joint "#Rwanda20yrs" project co-sponsored by the Archive and the Museum to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. The documents are drawn from the records of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda, known as UNAMIR, and State Department records released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the Archive. The Archive still has 33 pending requests with the State Department for key records about the Rwandan genocide, in addition to the many other requests pending with the Clinton Library, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Department of Defense, along with records from the French and Belgian national archives that we still do not have access to.

A State Department "refugee fact sheet" issued in March 1994 (above) on the eve of the genocide summarizes three overlapping refugee crises in Rwanda and neighboring Burundi:

Burundi refugees in Butare prefecture, southern Rwanda, December 1993. Credit: M. El Khoury/UNHCR.

  • Hutu refugees from Burundi. An October 1993 coup attempt in Burundi, and assassination of the country’s democratically elected Hutu president by Tutsi army officers, resulted in an exodus of predominantly Hutu refugees from Burundi. According to the State Department, about 287,000 Burundi refugees remained in southern Rwanda in March 1994.
  • Tutsi refugees from Rwanda. The State Department estimated that there were 550,000 predominantly Tutsi refugees in Central Africa, most of whom fled Rwanda in the pogroms that followed the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy in 1959. The largest exile communities were located in Uganda (200,000) and Burundi (245,000).
  • Internally displaced persons fleeing RPF incursions into northern Rwanda from Uganda in 1990 and 1993. The State Department estimated that 350,000 Rwandans (predominantly Hutu, but also some Tutsi) remained displaced as a result of fighting between the RPF and the Rwandan government.

Each of these three groups had their own distinct grievances and aspirations, dating back many decades. The Tutsi diaspora served as a natural recruiting ground for the Rwandan Patriotic Front. According to a former U.S. diplomat in Kigali, Joyce Leader, Hutu refugees from Burundi were "radicalized" by their experiences and were "potential recruits" for the Interahamwe militia groups who were responsible for some of the worst episodes of the genocide.


The documents published today show that international officials devoted considerable diplomatic attention to the Rwandan refugee problem. A protocol settling refugee issues was signed in June 1993, as part of the Arusha negotiations. Instead of implementing the agreement, U.N. peacekeepers were overwhelmed by a fresh wave of refugees from Burundi following the October 1993 assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye.

The documents suggest that U.N. officials were wary of providing assistance to Tutsi refugees and internally displaced persons in northern Rwanda for fear of creating a "pull factor" that would result in even larger numbers of refugees. (See Document 10)

Burundi refugees in southern Rwanda, October 1993. Credit: B. Press/UNHCR.


Document 1
DATE: 9 June 1993

"Protocol of Agreement between the Government of Rwanda and the Rwandese Patriotic Front on the Repatriation of Rwandese Refugees and the Resettlement of Displaced Persons"

Initialed in a blaze of optimism, the refugee protocol recognized the "indisputable right" of Rwandan refugees to return to their country of origin "without any precondition whatsoever." It also established a timetable for resettlement efforts linked to the establishment of a new, broad-based transitional government, or BBTG. Since the transitional government was never established, the protocol was never implemented.

Document 2
DATE: 14 October 1993
TO: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
FROM: SecState WashDC
SUBJECT: [President] Habyarimana Working Visit to Washington and Meeting with [Assistant Secretary of State George] Moose
CABLE #: State 313592

In early October 1993, the President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, reviewed the status of the repatriation program with US diplomats during an official visit to Washington. He said the Rwandan government was issuing passports to Rwandan exiles, and urged the United Nations to step up its assistance and resettlement efforts.

Document 3
DATE: 25 October 1993
TO: [Head of Military Division at UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Maurice] Baril for [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, UNations, New York
FROM: [Roméo] Dallaire, Force Commander, UNAMIR, Kigali, Rwanda
SUBJECT: UNAMIR Situation Report 1

Just three days after taking up his new post in Kigali, UNAMIR commander Romeo Dallaire cited the influx of some 200,000 refugees from Burundi as an additional headache in his first situation report to New York. He mentioned signs of "ethnic frictions" in the refugee camps, and expressed concern about a lack of resources to deal with the overall refugee crisis, which could "destabilize peace implementation plans."

Document 4
DATE: 4 November 1993
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Burundi Refugees: Numbers Up, Coordination Coming Together
CABLE #: Kigali 03970

In a dispatch from Kigali, U.S. ambassador Robert Flaten reports that the arrival of predominantly Hutu refugees from Burundi (now estimated at 375,000) could create political problems inside Rwanda. He states that embassy officials are "gaining an understanding of the intimate link between what happens in Burundi and the security situation in Rwanda."

Document 5
DATE: 16 November 1993
TO: SecState WashDC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Burundi Crisis: Potential Regional Tensions
CABLE #: Kigali 04084

Ambassador Flaten reports on rumors of "military recruitment activity" by Hutu nationalists from Burundi (known as Palipehutu) following the attempted coup in Burundi. He acknowledges that the United States lacks concrete information about the situation in the camps.

Document 6
DATE: 23 November 1993
TO: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, UNations, New York
FROM: [Force Commander of UNAMIR Roméo] Dallaire, UNAMIR, Kigali, Rwanda
SUBJECT: Weekly Sitrep No. 6

Reporting on the situation inside the RGF (Rwandan government forces) sector, Dallaire cites further reports of political factions "arming and training young men in and around the Burundi refugee camps." (See Point G, Page 6.) He adds that UNAMIR is attempting to get a "reasonable recce party" into the area "to show the UN flag," but needs more military monitors. In a 2003 book, Shake Hands with the Devil, Dallaire recalled that his superiors had rejected a request for a further 48 unarmed observers to help monitor the situation in the refugee camps. (Page 181.)

Document 7
DATE: 1 December 1993
TO: SecState WashDC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Potential Regional Tensions
CABLE #: Kigali 04247

According to the U.S. embassy in Kigali, the UN High Commission for Refugees has become deeply concerned about security in the Hutu refugee camps in southern Rwanda. Meanwhile, an American aid worker reports sighting a group of young men in military uniforms at a refugee camp, including one with "a rocket launcher on his shoulders."

Document 8
DATE: 19 January 1994
TO: SecState WashDC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Refugee Update
CABLE #: Kigali 00252

The US embassy in Kampala provides an update on the Rwandan refugee situation. An international "plan of action" for Rwandan refugees is reported to be "on hold" pending the formation of a transitional government, which has been blocked by internal political disputes. –

Document 9
DATE: 28 January 1994
TO: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, [Under Secretary General for Political Affairs James] Jonah, [State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Jan] Eliasson, UNations, New York
FROM: [UN Special Representative Jacques-Roger] Booh-Booh, UNAMIR, Kigali
SUBJECT: Visit to Camp for Internally Displaced Persons at Nyacyonga on 26 January 1994
CABLE #: MIR-211

After visiting a camp for Burundian refugees in southern Rwanda, UN Special Representative Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh reports that the "humanitarian emergency" in the country is reaching "catastrophic proportions." He reports that the refugees are becoming "increasingly restive" and concerned that nobody is paying attention to their plight.

Document 10
DATE: 2 February 1994
TO: SecState WashDC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Burundi Refugees: Too Many Problems; Rwandan Returnees: How to Help?
CABLE #: Kigali 00454

The newly-arrived U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, David Rawson, reports that the Rwandan government is "totally unprepared" to begin receiving predominantly Tutsi returnees from Uganda. He adds that planning for the refugee returns "has been stalled for nearly two years," with the exception of the Arusha refugee protocol, which exists only "on paper. " He reports that the UNHCR is reluctant to help Tutsi returnees in northern Rwanda for fear of being swamped by more refugees.

Document 11
DATE: 10 February 1994
TO: AmEmbassy Kampala [Uganda]
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: GOR, RPF, UNHCR, ICRC Plan for Rwandan Returnees from Uganda
CABLE #: Kigali 00606

The U.S. embassy in Kigali reports that the failure to form a new transitional government is delaying a resolution to the refugee problem. (See Paragraph 16.) Some exiles are returning spontaneously. International agencies are wary of providing assistance to long-term exiles to Uganda for fear of creating a "pull factor" that will overwhelm their technical abilities.

Document 12
DATE: 14 March 1994
SUBJECT: Burundi Refugees and Displaced Persons Fact Sheet

According to a fact sheet prepared by the Department of State, an estimated 580,000 Burundians fled to neighboring countries after the October 1993 coup attempt, of whom approximately 200,000 returned home. The UNHCR reported high death rates (six per 10,000 every day) among Burundian refugees in Rwanda.

Document 13
DATE: 15 March 1994
SUBJECT: Rwanda – Refugee Fact Sheet

A State Department fact sheet traces the history of the refugee problem in Rwanda back to the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy in Rwanda in 1959, and the forced exodus of the former Tutsi elite.

Document 14
DATE: 22 March 1994
TO: All African Diplomatic Posts
FROM: SecState WashDC
SUBJECT: INR [Bureau of Intelligence and Research] Analyses
CABLE #: State 073815

An analysis by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) for the U.S. State Department notes that nearly three million Rwandans and Burundians — out of a total population of 14 million — have fled their homes since 1990. (See paragraph 19.) It predicted that the "centuries-old" friction between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups was "unlikely to fan violence" beyond the immediate region, but would "impede development and fuel demands for international humanitarian assistance."

Document 15
DATE: 29 March 1994
TO: SecState WashDC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: AF/DAS [Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa] and AF/C [Office of Central African Affairs] Director Discuss Rwanda’s Humanitarian Issues
CABLE #: Kigali 01373

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Prudence Bushnell visited Rwanda in March 1994, two weeks before the onset of the genocide. She was briefed by UNHCR special envoy Michel Moussalli who stressed the need to form a new Rwandan government to address refugee issues.

Additional Documentation of the Refugee Crisis in Rwandan before the Geoncide in April 1994

Document 16
DATE: 23 March 1991
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: 1991 World Refugee Report: Rwanda

Document 17
DATE: 3 June 1992
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Durable Solutions for Rwandan Refugees: Time to Push the Process
CABLE #: Kigali 00225

Document 18
DATE: 25 November 1992
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Arusha V: Refugee Discussions
CABLE #: Kigali 04871

Document 19
DATE: 14 January 1993
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kampala [Uganda]
SUBJECT: RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] Stops by in Kampala
CABLE #: Kampal 00343

Document 20
DATE: 11 May 1993
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Dar es Salaam [Tanzania]
SUBJECT: Arusha Talks: End of Military Talks Near?
CABLE #: Dar es 02474

Document 21
DATE: 28 October 1993
TO: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, UNHQ, New York
FROM: [Force Commander of UNAMIR Roméo] Dallaire, UNAMIR, Kigali
SUBJECT: UNAMIR Situation Report No. 2, 28 Oct. 1993

Document 22
DATE: 8 November 1993
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Burundi Refugees: Dramatic Proportions
CABLE #: Kigali 03993

Document 23
DATE: 10 November 1993
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Burundi Refugees: Population Stabilizes
CABLE #: Kigali 04007

Document 24
DATE: 23 November 1994
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kampala [Uganda]
SUBJECT: RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] Rep Complains about Developments in Rwanda
CABLE #: Kampal 09074

Document 25
DATE: 22 December 1993
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Burundi Refugees: Influx at 400,000
CABLE #: Kigali 04522

Document 26
DATE: 21 January 1994
TO: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, New York
FROM: [Special Representative to the Secretary General] J.R. Booh-Booh, SRSG, UNAMIR, Kigali, Rwanda
SUBJECT: Daily Sitrep 200600B Jan to 210600B Jan 94

Document 27
DATE: 22 January 1994
TO: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, New York
FROM: [Special Representative to the Secretary General] J.R. Booh-Booh, SRSG, UNAMIR, Kigali, Rwanda
SUBJECT: Daily Sitrep 210600B Jan to 220600B Jan 94

Document 28
DATE: 25 January 1994
TO: [Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi] Annan, UNations, New York
FROM: Special Representative to the Secretary General Jacques Roger] Booh-Booh, UNAMIR, Kigali, Rwanda
SUBJECT: Weekly Sitrep No 15, 18 Jan 94 – 24 Jan 94

Document 29
DATE: 14 February 1994
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali [Rwanda]
SUBJECT: Official – Informal
CABLE #: Kigali 00660

Document 30
DATE: 30 March 1994
TO: SecState Wash DC
FROM: AmEmbassy Kigali
SUBJECT: Rwandan Request for Demining Assistance
CABLE #: Kigali 01377

RESEARCH DOCUMENT : U.S. National Archives Web Site Uploads Hundreds of Thousands of Diplomatic Cables from 1977

A Step Forward for On-Line Research in International History

Newly Declassified Documents Include an Internal State Department Debate over Brezhnev’s Health and Its Possible Impact on U.S.-Soviet Relations

Other Cables Include Warnings that Khmer Rouge Rule Would Cause the “Extinction of the Cambodian Race” and South Korean Dictator’s Justification for Not Showing Leniency toward Protestors

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 463

Posted March 27, 2014

Edited by William Burr

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, March 27, 2014 – In February 2014, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) posted 300,000 State Department telegrams from 1977 — the first year of the Jimmy Carter administration — on its Access to Archival Databases system. This posting is another step in carrying out the commitment that NARA and the State Department have made to putting on-line major State Department document databases and indexes as they are declassified. The 1977 telegrams cover the gamut of issues of the day: human rights on both sides of the Cold War line, U.S.-Soviet relations, China, NATO issues, nuclear proliferation, the Middle East Crisis, African affairs, a variety of diplomatic and security relationships around the world from Latin American to Southeast Asia, and issues of growing concern, such as women in development. The last release of on-line State Department material — telegrams and other records for 1976 — was in January 2010. Meeting the requirements of the Privacy Act, budgetary problems, and a complex declassification process prolonged the review and release of the 1977 material.

NARA’s mass posting of State Department telegrams began in 2006 when it uploaded nearly 320,000 declassified telegrams from 1973 and 1974. During the following years, NARA posted hundreds of thousands of telegrams from 1975 and 1976, bringing the total to nearly a million. The Access to Archival Databases (AAD) search engine permits searches for documents on a year-to-year basis, but in 2012 Wikileaks usefully repackaged the telegram databases by aggregating them, making it possible to search through all of telegrams at once.

The National Archives has not publicized this or previous diplomatic telegram releases so the National Security Archive is stepping in to the breach to alert researchers and to offer some interesting examples of the new material. Some key documents are already available in the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States historical series, but there is more material than the FRUS editors can use on many topics. A stroll through the AAD search engine produces absorbing results. Among the highlights from the search conducted by the editor:

  • During Jimmy Carter’s first year, U.S. officials in Moscow and Washington wondered about Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev’s state of health and its implications for Moscow-Washington relations, which were already complicated by disagreements over strategic arms control and human rights policy. In an exchange of telegrams State Department intelligence and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow argued over the former’s view that Brezhnev’s health problems meant that he was "no longer in command of all aspects of Soviet policy." For the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), even if Brezhnev was losing control, he could still be a channel of communication, not unlike Mao Zedong’s declining years where "we had more success with Mao’s slobbering and shambling through critical meetings with U.S. representatives …than we have had since Mao’s passing." Disagreeing with that assessment, U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon acknowledged that Brezhnev "suffers from a variety of physical ailments" but he "is still in control."
  • When two senior U.S. officials met with South Korean dictator General Park Chung Hee in 1977 to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. forces, they brought up human rights problems. The detention of dissidents arrested at Myeongdong Cathedral in 1976 was one issue that concerned the White House but Park was reluctant to take a lenient approach because it would "encourage defendants to violate Korean law again."
  • According to a report from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand on the situation in Cambodia and the status of organized resistance against the Khmer Rouge, two informants declared that "the fruit of Khmer Rouge rule might well be the extinction of the Cambodian race." While the Khmer Rouge had continued "to eliminate anyone associated with the former regime," the "greatest threat to life in Cambodia" was disease and famine. The recent rice harvest had been good but the regime was stockpiling and exporting the grain.
  • A telegram on a conversation between U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young and an influential figure in the South African National Party, Cornelius ("Connie") Petrus Mulder, who was "more liberal" but did not want to get "out in front of agreed policy on apartheid." Young conveyed the message that the administration sought "progressive transformation of South Africa toward majority rule" and the discussion covered the range of regional issues as well as the Young’s argument about the possibility of reconciliation based on the "sharing of economic benefits."
  • In mid-1977, the Temple University biologist Niu Man-Chiang was visiting Beijing and met with Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-Ping in the Wade-Giles transliteration), who, after very difficult years during the Cultural Revolution, was again holding top-level positions. Deng claimed that he "was in charge of two things: science and the military," but kept bringing the discussion back to economic policy, especially solving the problem of "feeding a growing population," for which he proposed restricting births and growing more food.

The release includes telegrams at many levels of classification, from "Unclassified" and "Official Use Only" to "Confidential" and "Secret." Moreover, telegrams with a variety of handling restrictions are available, including "Limdis" [limited distribution], "Exdis" [exclusive distribution], and "Nodis" [no distribution except with permission], as well as "Noforn" [no foreign nationals] and "STADIS" [State Department distribution]. Unlike the previous telegram releases, the one for 1977 includes the "nodis" items and also the closely-held cables with the "Cherokee" distribution control, usually reserved for messages involving the secretary of state and senior White House officials.

The downside of the 1977 release is that nearly 60,000 telegrams have been exempted altogether, about 19.5 percent of the total for the year. This means that thousands of documents will remain classified for years; even if persistent researchers deluge NARA with requests they will take years to process under present budgetary limitations. Yet, 19.5 percent is close to the same exemption rate for the previous two years: 23 percent for 1976 and 19 percent for 1975. The specific reasons for the withdrawal of a given document are not given; according to information on the Web site, they are withdrawn variously for national security reasons, statutory exemptions, or privacy. No doubt specific statutory exemptions such as the CIA Act and the Atomic Energy Act play a role, which makes one wonder how many exempted documents concern such things as obsolete nuclear stockpile locations that are among the U.S. government’s dubious secrets. Moreover, given the endemic problem of over-classification at the Pentagon, it is possible that the Defense Department erroneously classified some information, for example, telegrams relating to NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group.

The collection of telegrams is only a segment of the State Department record for that year; still to be declassified and processed for 1977 is the index to the P-reels, the microfilmed record of the non-telegram paper documentation. Moreover, top secret telegrams are not yet available for any year since 1973 and collections of "Nodis" telegrams from the mid-1970s remain unavailable. No doubt, NARA’s inadequate funding is an important cause of delay. OMB and Congress have kept NARA on an austerity budget for years; this is a serious problem, which directly damages the cause of greater openness for government records. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), the NARA budget has been declining since FY 2009, despite the agency’s ever-growing responsibility for billions of pages of paper and electronic records. Consistent with the policy of forced austerity, OMB has cut NARA’s budget for the next fiscal year by $10 million.

At the current rate it will be years before all the telegrams before all telegrams and other material for the 1970s, much less the 1980s, are on-line at AAD. While the State Department has moved forward in reviewing telegrams from the 1980s, its reviewers need to catch up with the "Nodis" and top secret central files from the mid-1970s and 1977 before they get too far ahead of themselves. As for the telegrams for 1978 and 1979, according to recent reports, they have been fully reviewed for declassification and physically transferred to NARA. When they will become available is not clear. They may have to go through a review for privacy information by NARA, for example, of material concerning visa applications. That was a major element contributing to the delay in the release of the 1977 telegrams. Such a review is justifiable, such as when social security numbers are at issue; certainly protecting private information deserves special care. Nevertheless, there is concern, even among NARA staffers, that the privacy review process may be becoming too extensive (e.g., excluding old mailing addresses). More needs to be learned about criteria used for the privacy review.

Note: As in the previous openings, some telegrams are missing for technological reasons. Over the years, when IT specialists migrated the telegram collections from one electronic medium to another some records were lost. Such missing records, of which there are over 3,800 for 1977 are indicated by this wording: "telegram text for this mrn [message reference number] is unavailable." That does not mean that all are gone for good; some copies will show up in embassy files or presidential libraries. Moreover, copies can often be found in P-reel microfilm collections at the State Department and the National Archives, depending on the years. The "message attribution" information appended to such documents [an example] includes the microfilm numbers that can be used for requesting copies.


Documents 1A-C: Former Soviet Union

A. Moscow Embassy telegram 2124, "Human Rights in the Soviet Union: Where Do We Go From Here?", 14 February 1977, Secret Nodis Cherokee

B. State Department telegram 154538, "Brezhnev’s Health and Its Implications for the U.S.," Secret, 2 July 1977, Secret, STADIS

C. Moscow Embassy telegram 9991, "Brezhnev’s Health and Its Implications for the U.S.," Secret, 12 July 1977, Secret, STADIS

These cables cover some key issues during Carter’s first year. As noted above, Brezhnev’s health was a concern and INR and the Embassy exchanged views on this topic. When the new administration raised human rights concerns early on, it met Brezhnev’s negative reaction. According to a February 1977 telegram, Ambassador Toon worried that the prestige of both Carter and Brezhnev "is so heavily committed that our area of maneuver may be dangerously circumscribed." He suggested "defusing measures" that could accompany a démarche to Brezhnev on human rights matters.

Documents 2A-C: The Middle East and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A: Consulate Jerusalem telegram 0206, "Is Peace Achievable? A View from Jerusalem," 10 February 1977, Secret

B: State Department telegram 289817, "INTSUM," 5 December 1977, Secret

C: State Department telegram 296726, "INTSUM 461 – December 12, 1977," 13 December 1977, Secret

The Arab-Israeli conflict was a political and foreign policy challenge for the Carter administration, as it had been for its predecessors. Before U.S. policy had crystallized around the goal of an Egyptian-Israel settlement, a telegram from U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Michael H. Newlin from early 1977 on "Is Peace Achievable," argued that an Israel-Palestinian "peace deal" was conceivable if Israel was "willing to run some risks in the pursuit of peace" and if the creation of an "entity" encompassing the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem sufficiently "meets ‘Palestinian interests." Noting that Israel rejected the creation of an independent Palestine, Newlin suggested that demilitarization and "crackdowns" against "rejectionists and terrorists" would meet Israeli security interests. It would be interesting to know what reaction this cable met.

In 1976, when Washington deployed monitors to the Sinai to verify Israeli and Egyptian compliance with understandings on force withdrawals, INR began sending an Intelligence Summary [INTSUM] to the U.S. mission to provide staffers with the latest intelligence concerning developments in the region. Soon the Department was sending the INTSUM to other embassies in the region. Document B explains how the INTSUM was established while document C is a typical of the many INTSUMs that can be found in the 1977 telegrams in that it covers a wide range of issues, such as Israeli governing coalition developments, factionalism in the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s recent peace initiatives.

Documents 3A-C: Western Europe (to Pakistan)

A: State Department telegram 70403 (repeating telegram from Embassy Bonn), "Your Meeting with Chancellor Schmidt," 30 March 1977, Secret, Nodis

B: Islamabad Embassy telegram 7404, "French Ambassador on Reprocessing," 20 July 1977, Secret, Exdis

C: Rome Embassy telegram 13015, "Allied Attitudes on Neutron Bombs," 10 August 1977, Secret, Exdis, STADIS

With Western Europe a pivot in the Cold War, U.S-European relations remained very much at the center of Carter administration policies, despite preoccupations with Afghanistan, China, and elsewhere. Despite the close bonds, relations were sometimes difficult as in the instance of the Jimmy Carter-Helmut Schmidt connection. Just before Secretary of State Cyrus Vance was to travel to Bonn for a meeting with the chancellor, a telegram from U.S. Ambassador Walter Stoessel observed that Schmidt’s "mood is deeply troubled." He appeared to be "alternately frustrated, perplexed, and irritated" by the administration’s stance on nonproliferation, human rights, and economic policy. Moreover, Schmidt could not understand why Washington had suspended its "electronic surveillance operations in Berlin" which he believed were necessary for anti-terrorism purposes.

As in most years of the Cold War, nuclear policies and politics overlapped with major diplomatic relations in 1977. Nuclear nonproliferation was especially important and France was a significant concern in White House policy. A few years earlier, the French had signed a deal with Pakistan to provide a nuclear reprocessing plant, but the U.S. had pressed Paris to suspend it because of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ambitions. By mid-1977, the French were beginning to see the project as "ill-advised," but as U.S. Ambassador Arthur W. Hummel, Jr. observed, they were "hung-up on principle of carrying out contract." Another nuclear issue troubled NATO — the U.S. plans to deploy enhanced radiation weapons (ERW), or "neutron bombs," in Western Europe. A Washington Post story on the ERW roused anti-nuclear sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic and created a policy dilemma for President Carter — whether to produce or not, and then whether to deploy. In Italy, Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti had told Carter he had no objection to deployment but with a debate emerging, "there was significant potential for trouble." To avoid fanning the flames, the Embassy had avoided the term "neutron bomb" except in quotation marks and saw "reduced blast weapon" as more appropriate.

Documents 4A-C: South Africa

A: State Department telegram 192827, "Soviet Demarche on Nuclear Weapons Development by SAG," 15 August 1977, Secret Nodis

B: State Department telegram 199071, "Evening Reading," 20 August 1977, Secret, Nodis

C: Embassy Pretoria Telegram 4549, "Conversation between Andy Young and Connie Mulder," 1 September 1977, Secret. Nodis

The record of the Young-Mulder conversation is of a fairly candid encounter between a U.S. critic of apartheid and a leading South African government official (although Mulder soon became embroiled in a major government bribery and disinformation scandal that would cost him his political career.) Other interesting items concern the August 1977 discovery of a probable nuclear weapons test site in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert. In early August, Brezhnev had sent Carter a message about the South African program, which the State Department and the intelligence community were trying to check out, in this instance by consulting with the International Atomic Energy Agency. A 20 August 1977 "Evening Reading" item [sent to the Secretary of State when traveling] included South Africa’s far-fetched denial of a weapons program.

Documents 5A-D: East Asia

A: Rangoon Embassy telegram 0447, "… And … Oh Yes, Burma in the Post-Vietnam Era," 14 February 1977, Secret

B: U.S. Embassy Seoul telegram 4457, "Human Rights: Meeting with President Park," 27 May 1977, Secret, Nodis

C: U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing telegram 1767, "Teng Hsiao-Ping’s Conversation with Dr. Niu Man-Chiang," 17 August 1977, Secret, Noforn

D: Bangkok Embassy telegram 21997, "Cambodia — Conversations with the Resistance," 29 September 1977, Secret, Exdis

Telegrams from embassies in the Northeast and Southeast regions of East Asia indicate a range of concerns including the post-Vietnam situation, the narcotics trade, the resistance to the Khmer Rouge, human rights, and the goals of China’s leaders. Pointing to the neglect of Burma in U.S. policy, the Embassy in Rangoon noted that policymakers should not forget about a "paramount" U.S. interest, the "golden triangle, a major factor in the international narcotics traffic." The Burmese Government remained "relatively efficient" at combating the trade, although Rangoon needed to be reminded that "our main interest is in narcotics control and not in killing insurgents [tied to the trade] per se." The embassy saw human rights abuses as a problem although apparently not the worst case in the region because it found no "no systematic governmental use of torture."

A major Carter administration initiative in Northeast Asia was a proposal for withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea. Confident in South Korea’s growing economic and military strength, the administration believed that the withdrawals were possible and consistent with U.S. security guarantees; nevertheless, significant air force units would be retained to support South Korea’s security. Several meetings in late May with a skeptical South Korea President Park Chung Hee reviewed the U.S. proposal. Also on the agenda, although not directly linked to force withdrawals, were human rights abuses by the military dictatorship, with Park arguing against the release of jailed protestors because they would "violate Korean law again."

Note : Thanks to Robert Wampler for suggesting the telegrams on South Korea.

Document 6: State Department telegram 163813, "Use of Nodis," 14 July 1977, Unclassified

The State Department found that too many embassies were using the "Nodis" control when they sent telegrams and advised them to use it more carefully — only for "messages of the highest sensitivity." Somewhat less sensitive messages could be sent using "Exdis" or "Limdis."

RESEARCH DOCUMENT /// Iran-Contra : Lawrence Walsh’s Contribution to History

Independent Counsel Uncovered Presidential Abuses, Left Invaluable Historical Record

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 462

Posted March 26, 2014

For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne – 202/994-7000
Tom Blanton – 202/994-7000
Peter Kornbluh – 202/374-7281
or nsarchiv

Washington, DC, March 26, 2014 – The passing away of Iran-Contra Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh on March 19, at age 102, is an appropriate occasion to recall some of the extraordinary outcomes of his investigation into the most significant political scandal of the 1980s.

The Iran-Contra affair stirred up profound political passions. Walsh found himself at the center of seemingly perpetual controversy from the time of his appointment in late 1986 until his last major case against a former cabinet official — Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger — jolted to a halt in December 1992. By then the former judge had become the villain to supporters of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, as well as those he targeted for prosecution. For his part, Walsh denounced in the sharpest terms the presidential pardon (by Bush) that abruptly ended the investigation: "The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed."[1]

Ronald Reagan with Caspar Weinberger, George Shultz, Edwin Meese, and Donald Regan in the Oval Office prior to the President’s press conference on the Iran-Contra affair, 11/25/86. (Photo courtesy Ronald Reagan Library)

Although many considered his success record spotty, Walsh managed to produce at least two major accomplishments. One was to expose the extent of President Reagan’s (and Vice President Bush’s) role in the scandal. The other was to create a public record of high-level malfeasance and government dysfunction that has since largely been forgotten but will have lasting historical value.

The independent counsel’s task was monumental — enormously difficult to carry out yet fundamentally important for the causes of legal accountability, restoring public faith in government, and historical accuracy. His memoir of the prosecution (Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up, W.W. Norton, 1997) portrays his surprise, frustration and anger at the many ways his investigation was impeded at every level.

Caspar Weinberger’s handwritten note of a candid discussion with Reagan and aides on the illegality of the Iran arms deals, 12/7/85. (See Document 5)

First, Congress, which was planning its own grand inquiry in 1987, granted immunity to several key targets, knowing it would put major barriers in the way of the prosecution. Second, the White House, according to lawyers for the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC), initially delayed production of records then tried to drown the process in useless paper. Third, the intelligence community, still bruised by the pummeling it had taken at the hands of congressional and media investigations a decade before, threw a thick blanket of secrecy over its involvement, leaving at least one judge in a state of "bafflement."[2] Fourth, the Justice Department, first under Edwin Meese III and then Richard Thornburgh took unprecedented steps to side not with the prosecution (as might be expected of the nation’s chief law enforcement officers) but effectively with the defense, arguing against the use of classified information in court and even against the OIC’s right to pursue its task. Fifth, members of Reagan’s cabinet, including Vice President Bush, failed to turn over to investigators for both Congress and the independent counsel relevant notes and diaries that had specifically been sought. It took more than five years before Walsh’s staff was able to force Bush, Weinberger, Chief of Staff Donald Regan and aides to Secretary of State George Shultz to acknowledge the existence of much of this crucial evidence.

The courts themselves were another stumbling block for the OIC. At the trial level, judges forced the prosecution to drop its case-in-chief — a broad charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States — against several defendants. At issue were the immunity grants and the inaccessibility of classified evidence (or even substitute information designed to protect intelligence sources and methods). At the appeals level, after winning convictions against two of his main targets, ex-National Security Council staff member Lieutenant Colonel Oliver L. North and former National Security Advisor Vice Admiral John M. Poindexter, two different panels of judges vacated the verdicts on grounds relating to Congress’s immunity grants. Although Walsh and some of his colleagues acknowledged their own strategies and decisions contributed to these outcomes, the high sensitivity of the issues and politicized nature of the cases doomed their efforts from the start.

Walsh’s final defeat came at the hands of Reagan’s successor in the White House, George H. W. Bush, who granted surprise pardons to six prior and would-be Iran-Contra defendants on Christmas eve 1992. Walsh was enraged. In an interim report to Congress, he called the act a "grave disservice to the citizens of this country."[3] To Newsweek magazine, he said: "It’s hard to find an adjective strong enough to characterize a president who has such contempt for honesty."[4]

Walsh was pilloried by defendants and administration supporters who compared him to Torquemada and accused his office of engaging in "legal terrorism." Observers dismissed the eleven guilty pleas and convictions his staff secured as trivial. Worse, they saw the process as a gross waste of taxpayer dollars (coming at a cost of up to $47 million). But lost amid the storm of partisan outrage and, eventually, public scandal-weariness was a remarkable picture of official misconduct and political self-protection at top levels of the U.S. government, which Walsh’s office turned up.

On the Iran arms-for-hostages deals, the prosecution uncovered proof of Reagan’s expressed willingness to break the law in order to show the American people he was determined to bring home hostages held by terrorists in the Middle East. "[T]hey can impeach me if they want," Shultz quoted Reagan as saying in December 1985, before adding with gallows humor that jail time might be involved: "visiting days are Wednesday." Weinberger’s gloomy reply was: "[Y]ou will not be alone."[5]

Charles Hill’s notes of his meeting with George Shultz preparing for a difficult discussion with the president on the Iran arms-for-hostages deals, 11/9/1986. (See Document 7)

On the Contra operations, Walsh and the OIC investigation proved a pattern of ignoring clear matters of legality in the efforts by administration officials to raise third-country funding for the Nicaraguan insurgents at a time when Congress had banned U.S. aid for their cause. Even after the attorney general ruled any such approaches to foreign governments could not involve the slightest "quid pro quo" from the U.S. and had to be reported to the oversight committees, senior officials continued to solicit foreign government help without any effort to honor those requirements. This was essentially the same thing North had done when he came up with the "neat idea" of siphoning Iran arms deal profits to the Contras — the infamous "diversion" that (Walsh showed) senior administration officials latched onto as a way to "divert" public attention from the crimes and misdemeanors of the president and his advisers.

Finally, recalling the dark days of Watergate, Walsh managed to unearth stark evidence of attempts by several top officials and their underlings to paper the record in order to protect the president and themselves from the political and legal repercussions of their actions. The discoveries — ranging from Bush’s dictated daily diary, to Weinberger’s small mountain of scrawled notes, to the meticulous handwritten accounts of Shultz’s deliberations with his inner circle — had eluded every previous investigation. (The New York Times later called it "The Cover-Up That Worked."[6])

By the time these materials were revealed in 1991 and 1992, the public had turned its attention elsewhere. Bush had been elected president, the Soviet Union had collapsed and the issues that had driven the affair — hostages in Lebanon and communism in Central America — had receded into the mists of history. But years later, now that the political heat has died away, it is far easier to see the true significance of these historical materials for advancing public understanding of both the scandal itself and the general patterns of U.S. official behavior it represented.

The handful of selections provided below are a few examples of the kind of evidence the public likely never would have seen without the efforts of Lawrence Walsh and his staff.

* * * *

Malcolm Byrne is author most recently of the forthcoming study, Iran-Contra: Reagan’s Scandal and the Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power (University Press of Kansas, September 2014).

Tom Blanton is co-author of The Chronology: The Documented Day-by-Day Account of the Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Contras (Warner Books, 1987), and author of White House E-Mail: The Top Secret Computer Messages the Reagan/Bush White House Tried to Destroy (The New Press, 1995).

Peter Kornbluh is co-author of The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History (The New Press, 1993), among other books.


Document 1: "Office of Independent Counsel for Iran/contra Matters Summary of Prosecutions," Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/contra Matters, Volume I: Investigations and Prosecutions, August 4, 1993, pp. xxii-xxv

This excerpt from Walsh’s final report lists the cases the OIC brought against fourteen Iran-Contra defendants as well as their outcomes — eleven guilty verdicts or pleas, two vacated convictions, one dismissal on classification grounds and two pardons.

Document 2: "Iran/contra: The Underlying Facts," OIC Final Report, Volume I, pp. 1-24

In this excerpt, the OIC provides a succinct summary of the events that constituted the two strands of the scandal — the arms-for-hostages deals with Iran and the illicit U.S. government support for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

Document 3: "Part XI: Concluding Observations," OIC Final Report, Volume I, pp. 561-566

Walsh offers his views on the content and significance of the scandal for the American public. He assigns significant responsibility to Reagan, Shultz, Weinberger and Casey, as well as their subordinates. Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III is singled out for "abandon[ing]" his "law enforcement role" in favor of becoming "the President’s defense lawyer." Walsh goes on to discuss the roles and relationship between the executive and legislative branches, and the difficulties each raised for his investigation. "Ordinary venality or greed" were not the principal causes of the affair, the report states, but even when a president has "good motive and intent" the OIC concludes it is up to the commander-in-chief’s subordinates and the Congress to step in.

Document 4: United States of America v. Caspar W. Weinberger, Indictment, June 16, 1992

This five-count indictment against a former senior cabinet member represented a high-water mark for the independent counsel’s investigation. Walsh later went to some lengths to argue that this and other high-level indictments (e.g. against CIA operations chief Clair George) proved that even powerful officials are subject to the law. President Bush’s pardon of Weinberger before the case could go to trial, therefore, sparked a visceral reaction from Walsh who charged that Bush had issued the pardon simply in order to avoid closer scrutiny of his own role in the affair.

Document 5: Caspar Weinberger notes (excerpt, with transcribed copy), December 7, 1985

After several months of trying to ransom the hostages’ freedom by providing TOW (and later HAWK) missiles to Iran, Reagan met with his top aides (except Bush and CIA Director William Casey, who were out of town) to discuss where things stood. Gathering in the privacy of the upstairs family quarters of the White House, the president had the chance to hear from Weinberger, Shultz, Chief of Staff Regan, Deputy CIA Director John McMahon, and his former and current national security advisors, Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter. After Reagan reviewed the particulars, Weinberger laid out his objections. But, Weinberger notes, the president resisted, saying "he could answer charges of illegality but he couldn’t answer charge that ‘big strong President Reagan passed up a chance to free hostages’."

Document 6: "Extract from Vice President Bush Diary Transcripts," November 4-5, 1986

Vice President Bush dictated notes to himself on almost a daily basis from November 5, 1986, through January 2, 1987. The ostensible purpose was to record his experiences leading up to the 1988 presidential elections. A secretary transcribed the notes. Despite submitting two formal document requests to his office, in 1987 and 1992, prosecutors did not learn about the existence of the diary until December 1992. Members of Bush’s staff discovered the transcripts in September but a decision was made to hold off informing the OIC until after the presidential elections. Among many entries that deal directly with Iran-Contra was this excerpt from November 5, just two days after the Iran arms-for-hostages deals were exposed. Although he later repeatedly denied being "in the loop," here the vice president admits he was "one of the few people that know fully the details."

Document 7: Charles Hill notes (excerpt), November 9, 1986

In the frantic days following the revelation of the arms-for-hostages deals on November 3, 1986, members of the administration rushed to cover their ties to the deeply controversial and politically damaging operation. Secretary of State Shultz — along with Weinberger, one of the only senior advisers to oppose the president’s wishes on the deals — seemed particularly concerned in the aftermath not to have his name associated with them. His colleagues picked up on this and pressured him intensely to join the team effort to protect Reagan — to "build[] a wall around him," as Poindexter put it later. In these scrupulous notes by Shultz’s aide, Charles Hill (which total several thousand pages, the great bulk of which has never been declassified), the two State Department officials gather to discuss the secretary’s talking points for an upcoming meeting with the president. They are filled with grim assessments: "We have assaulted our own MidEast policy …. We appear to have violated our own laws …. There is a Watergate-like atmosphere around here …. "

Document 8: "In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia," (North Trial Stipulation of Facts), Undated

This extraordinary 42-page document from the 1989 trial of Oliver North details dozens of administration "quid pro quo" arrangements the U.S. government made with foreign governments to induce them to provide aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. During parts of 1984 -1985, Congress had expressly prohibited the administration from supporting the rebels, so Reagan and his aides decided to do so through third parties. The problem (as stated in the main text above) was that they also chose not to follow the attorney general’s restrictions in the process. The independent counsel was proscribed from introducing numerous documents during the North trial by the administration and specifically the intelligence community on secrecy grounds. The OIC therefore worked out an arrangement whereby the essential facts could be used in order to allow North to mount a reasonable defense — i.e., that his own schemes to divert money to the Contras were essentially no different than what his superiors were doing, and that they knew generally what he was up to.


[1] Lawrence Walsh, Firewall, p. 495.

[2] See Washington Post, March 1, 1989.

[3] Lawrence E. Walsh, Fourth Interim Report to Congress by Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, February 8, 1993, pp. 3, 76.

[4] Newsweek , January 4, 1993.

[5] Excerpted from Charles Hill’s notes, as given to the FBI (OIC Final Report, vol. I, p. 329, fn. 35).

[6] New York Times , January 23, 1994.