Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-69

"Our First Line of Defense" Presidential Reflections on US Intelligence (U)


Lyndon Johnson succeeded the assassinated President Kennedy in November 1963. LBJ, as he was known to millions of Americans, wanted to focus on domestic policy. World events did not allow him to devote the time and attention to building the "Great Society" that he wanted. Throughout the US intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, the war in Vietnam, the Seven-Day Arab/Israeli war of June 1967, and the efforts to reduce tension with the Soviet Union, the White House demanded and got CIA's full attention and support.


    " . . . WE HAVE COMMITTED OUR lives, our property, our resources, and our sacred honor to the freedom and peace of other men, indeed to the freedom and peace of all mankind. We would dishonor that commitment, we would disgrace all the sacrifices that Americans have made if we were not every hour of every day vigilant against every threat to peace and freedom. That is why we have the Central Intelligence Agency in this country.

    "The propose of this effort, like the purpose of all that we do, is to strive for an orderly, just, and peaceful world. In this effort more than in many others a high order of selflessness, of dedication, of devotion, is asked of men and women. The compensation of them comes not in fame, certainly not in rewards of salary, but the reward of the sure knowledge that they have made a contribution to freedom's cause.

    "For the leadership of this vital agency this nation has been very fortunate to have the services of outstanding Americans: Allen Dulles, John McCone, now today Admiral William F. Raborn."

    President Lyndon B. Johnson, Swearing-in ceremony of VAdm. William F. Raborn as DCI and Mr. Richard M. Helms as DDCI, 28 April 1965


    "YOU KNOW IT IS MY HOPE THAT we can continue to build and strengthen the effectiveness of the Agency, making full utilization of the imaginative talent assembled in the organization. I hope . . . to assure and encourage all your employees to realize that their personal abilities and superior performance do not go unnoticed or unrecognized.

    "Our intelligence must be unquestionably the best in the world. You have my full support in our effort to make it so."


    President Lyndon B. Johnson Letter to VAdm. William F. Raborn, DCI, 29 July 1965




    "THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL defense and security require sustained effort on the part of the Intelligence Community to support me and other officials having policy and command responsibilities. . . . Efficient management and direction of the complex activities which make up the total foreign intelligence effort are essential to meet day-to-day national requirements and to ensure the development and application of advanced means for the collection, processing, analysis, estimating and reporting of intelligence information."

    President Lyndon B. Johnson, Memo to VAdm. William F. Raborn, DCI, 19 October 1965


    "IN 2-1/2 YEARS OF WORKING with these men I have yet to meet a `007.' I have met dozens of men who are moved and motivated by the highest and most patriotic and dedicated purposesmen who are specialists in economics, and political science, and history, and geography, and physics, and many other fields where logic and analysis are crucial to the decisions that the President of their country is called upon to make. Through my experience with these men I have learned that their most significant triumphs come not in the secrets passed in the dark but in patient reading, hour after hour, of highly technical periodicals.




    "In a real sense they are America's professional students; they are unsung, just as they are invaluable."

    President Lyndon B. Johnson, Swearing-in ceremony of Mr. Richard M. Helms as DCI, 30 June 1966



    "YOUR COUNTRYMEN . . . cannot know of your accomplish-ments in the equally crucial business of the Central Intelligence Agency. For it is the lot of those in our intelligence agencies that they should work in silence--sometimes fail in silence, but more often succeed in silence.

    "Unhappily, also, it is sometimes their lot that they must suffer in silence. For, like all in high public position, they are occasionally subject to criticism which they must not answer.

    "Secrecy in this work is essential. Achievements and triumphs can seldom be advertised. Shortcomings and failures often are advertised. The rewards can never come in public acclaim, only in the quiet satisfaction of getting on with the job and trying to do well the work that needs to be done in the interests of your Nation.

    "The best intelligence is essential to the best policy. So I am delighted that you have undertaken, as far as security permits, to tell the public that it is well served by the Central Intelligence Agency.

    "I am glad that there are occasions from time to time when I, like my predecessors in this office, can also express my deep confidence in the expert and the dedicated service of the personnel of the Central Intelligence Agency."

    President Lyndon B. Johnson, Presentation of the National Security Medal to VAdm. William F. Raborn, 17 August 1966


    "THIS IS A DAY WHEN YOU should all be proud--especially those among you who have been a part of the Agency since its founding.

    "Twenty years ago, this country had no broad-scale professional intelligence service worthy of the name. Today, it has a strong and vital one--the best in the world.

    "Twenty years ago, you began with a vague assortment of functions and a varied assortment of people. Your purposes were not well understood inside the Government, and barely understood at all outside. Since that time, you have become a dedicated and disciplined core of professionals, with clearly defined responsibilities.

    "Those responsibilities are vast and demanding. You give us information on which decisions affecting the course of history are made. Your product must be as perfect as is humanly possible--though the material you must work with is far from perfect.

    "You must keep pace with developments in a tremendously complex society, a society which, as Mr. Helms has said, `gropes for answers to challenges its founding fathers could never have conceived.

    "You have built a solid foundation in these past twenty years. America relies on your constant dedication to the truth--on your commitment to our democratic ideal. I believe our trust is well placed."



Historical Document
Posted: Mar 19, 2007 01:33 PM
Last Updated: Jul 07, 2008 01:59 PM