Richard M. Nixon, 1969-74

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


Richard M. Nixon's forte was foreign policy. When he entered the White House in 1969, he initially distrusted CIA. He soon came to appreciate the Agency's work as he dealt with Vietnam, the thaw in relations with Communist China, and the start of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in 1970. President Nixon visited CIA's headquarters in March 1969.


    ". . . GOING BACK DURING THE eight years I was Vice President, I sat on the National Security Council and there I learned to respect the organ-ization, its Director and its reports that were made to the Council, and through the Council to the President of the United States. . . .

    "And in a sense, then, I look upon this organization as not one that is necessary for the conduct of conflict or war, or call it what you may, but in the final analysis as one of the great instruments of our govern-ment for the preservation of peace, for the avoidance of war, and for the development of a society in which this kind of activity would not be as necessary, if necessary at all.

    "It is that that I think the American people need to understand, that this is a necessary adjunct to the conduct of the Presidency. And I am keenly aware of that. I am keenly aware of the fact that many of you at times must have had doubts, perhaps you have not, but perhaps there may have been times that you have had doubts about your mission, the popularity of what you do in the country, and I want to reassure you on that score. . . .

    "I realize that in this organization the great majority of you are not in the kind of covert activities which involve great danger, but I also know that some of your colleagues have been involved in such activities and are involved in such activities.

    "I know, too, that there will be no Purple Hearts, there will be no medals, there will be no recognition of those who have served far beyond the call of duty because by definition where the CIA is concerned your successes must never be publicized and your failures will always be publicized.

    "So that makes your mission a particularly difficult one. It makes it difficult from the standpoint of those who must render service beyond the call of duty. And I recognize that and I am deeply grateful for those who are willing to make that kind of sacrifice. . . .




    "So, finally, I would simply say that I understand that when President Truman in 1964 sent a message to the CIA, he put an inscription on it which, as I recall, went something like this: To the CIA, an organization which is an absolute necessity to any President of the United States. From one who knows.

    "I know. And I appreciate what you do."

    President Richard M. Nixon CIA Headquarters 7 March 1969




    "THIS ORGANIZATION, THE CIA, has a distinguished record of being bipartisan in character. It is a highly professional group. It will remain that in this Administration . . . ."

    President Richard M. Nixon, Swearing-in ceremony of General Cushman as DDCI, 7 May 1969





    ". . . I HAVE ORDERED THE Central Intelligence Agency, early in this Administration, to mobilize its full resources to fight the international drug trade, a task, incidentally, in which it has performed superbly. "Let me interject here a word for that much maligned agency. As I have often said, in the field of intelligence we always find that the failures are those that are publicized. Its successes, by definition, must always be secret, and in this area there are many successes and particularly ones for which this agency can be very proud."

    President Richard M. Nixon Department of State, Washington, DC
    18 September 1972





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