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The Summit Conference of 1960: An Intelligence Officer's View

Sherman Kent's account of how Khrushchev torpedoed the 1960 Paris Summit Conference was originally classified Secret and published in a 1972 special edition of Studies in Intelligence. The essay describes the intelligence problems that this démarche created and concludes with a cautionary example of the potential hazards of reporting raw intelligence.

 

There was to be a gathering "at the Summit"--so the world learned late in 1959.(1) The Four, President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Macmillan, President de Gaulle, and Chairman Khrushchev were to come face to face and take up the major problems which troubled the relations between their states. General de Gaulle would be the host; the Elyse palace in Paris would be the place; and Monday, 16 May, would be the day when the principals would meet for their first discussion.

In the past, the Directors of Central Intelligence had offered as a matter of course the Agency's support to US delegations participating in high-level international conferences. On this occasion, Mr. Allen Dulles came forward again, and the President accepted. I received the honor of heading the Agency's liaison on the spot.

For the benefit of a few uninitiated, the words "intelligence support" meant that the Agency would gather itself to keep the President and his principal lieutenants up to the minute on significant world developments. It also meant that the Agency with the cooperation of the community would stand ready to service special requirements.

In actual practice this sort of enterprise involved a few simple administrative decisions such as the designation of an officer at Headquarters to round up all-source intelligence that was relevant and worthy of transmittal and to put it on the wire. He was to be Huntington Sheldon (the Director of OCI [Office of Current Intelligence]), with Thomas Patton assisting. In the larger sense it involved everyone in the Agency who was in a position to contribute anything to the success of the delegation. And finally in the narrower sense again, it involved the little group in Paris--in this case, three professionals and two secretaries.(2) One of them was to call at 7:30 a.m. at the President's place of business, meet with a presidential aide, deliver the material, comment on it orally if such seemed appropriate, and then ask if the Agency could help with any specific intelligence problems that he had in mind.

The "material" of the last sentence consisted in large part of what Mr. Sheldon and Mr. Patton sent from Headquarters. It was dispatched so as to start coming into the Paris commo shack early in the morning. In addition, there might be special messages from overseas stations which were alert to serve directly should need arise. There was also the highly important material from the FBIS [Foreign Broadcast Information Service], which its London office forwarded. This consisted of relevant worldwide coverage, including the texts of broadcasts from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe which the BBC had monitored, plus the FBIS's expert quantitative analysis of Moscow's foreign and domestic newscasts. Lastly, there was that morning's Paris press and radio news.

Some of this material needed no editing at all, some of it a good deal. But none of it could be relayed to the President and his advisers in the exact form in which we received it. Hence at a minimum it had to be retyped. Before we gave a copy to the ladies, however, we did the obvious rearranging, striving for what we felt to be a rational order. Thus, for example, if an FBIS item further illuminated something from more sensitive material, we would put the two together; we would put up front items which we knew would be of highest local interest; we would add captions and take other small editorial liberties.

The performance of exactly these duties in a foreign capital was new to all five of us. So as to learn the trade in advance of the President's arrival, we met in Paris on Thursday, 12 May. Next morning we undertook our first dress rehearsal. And a good thing, too, for had it been for keeps it would have been a disaster. We arrived at the Chancery at about 5:30 a.m.; the full decrypted text was not available for another thirty minutes. Moreover, it had arrived in a sequence which forbade the final typing of any part until we had it all. Ours was a firsthand and woeful realization of what I had heard from predecessors in this sort of mission (notably from Osborn Webb [ten words deleted] who was even then in mild shock from a recent experience in the role). What was clear was that Mr. Sheldon's people would have to start sending earlier, that they would have to alter the ordering of items within the message, and most importantly for us, at least, that we would have to be at the office by 3:30 a.m. if we were to make our 7:30 a.m. delivery time.

Next morning there we were. Everything worked, including a simulated delivery from the Chancery down in the Place de la Concorde to the Residence on the Avenue d'Iena not far from the old Trocadero, which would be Mr. Eisenhower's White House abroad. We were in business.

I should explain to the reader who does not know Paris that there is no good way to get from the Chancery to the Residence. All practicable ways are likely to necessitate the transit of the ten acres of traffic bedlam which staggeringly belie the name Concord. Once a driver had navigated it, he still had before him the fiercely competitive array of speedsters and trucks down the Quai of the Seine's right bank until he could fight free up the hill to his destination. One should allow twenty to thirty minutes for the trip taken in relatively peaceful hours and almost any amount of time during what the French call the "hours of affluence."

As to the delegation which President Eisenhower led, it was formidable. Counted as official members thereof were: Mr. Herter, the Secretary of State; Mr. Merchant, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Mr. Kohler, the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Brigadier General Goodpaster, the Staff Secretary to the President. Senior advisers were: Mr. Gates, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Bohlen, the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, Mr. Achilles, the Counsellor of the State Department, and Ambassadors Houghton (France), Thompson (USSR), and Whitney (UK). There was also Mr. Haggerty, the press secretary to the President. Parenthetically, Mr. Gates had not been among those of the first list, but was added when one heard that Khrushchev was fetching along his own Minister of Defense, Marshal Malinovski.(3) Back in Washington the principal officers of the executive branch were Vice President Nixon, acting Secretary of State Douglas Dillon, and acting Secretary of Defense James Douglas; with all due respect--the second team.

Mr. Eisenhower arrived at Orly at 9:30 Sunday morning on 15 May and went straight to Ambassador Houghton's residence. From that moment until well into Monday, that was where the principal business of the US delegation focused. To be sure, Mr. Herter had received rights to Ambassador Houghton's own office in the Chancery and other visitors got office or desk space there while the regular embassy staff doubled up. I mention this to make clear that the delegation which used the Chancery but seldom was not absent because of any inhospitability. Its members had to be close to the chief and no one in his right mind would have taken up his station in the Chancery unless he had a personal helicopter at standby.

Needless to say, Mr. Dulles's little group was not in the Residence. We had ample office space [four words deleted], access to an auto and driver, and supposedly, I, at least, had been identified with the Secret Service men who controlled the entrance to the Residence. My first delivery of the mail had been set for 11:30 Sunday morning. I arrived in good time, made it through the security barriers, met General Goodpaster, and delivered the package with some oral comments. Although he could scarcely have had time to be aware of the international pulse as it throbbed in Paris, I nevertheless inquired if he had any special problems which we of the Agency could help him with. Of course he had one; so had the President and every other knowledgeable and sensible human except Nikita Sergeivitch and a handful of his Russian colleagues. They did not have it for they alone had the answer. The question in essence was the central one about the probable Soviet stance at the morrow's meeting. More explicitly, General Goodpaster asked for our thoughts regarding Soviet objectives in their recent exploitation of the U-2 incident and what we thought Khrushchev thought he could likely get from the Summit conference.(4)

Just in case the answers to these questions seem, in hindsight, to have been obvious, they were not. Surely no student of international affairs would have put the chances of Khrushchev's permitting the conference to a productive exercise as better than say 10 to 20 percent, but by the same token no such student would have put the chances at zero. If Krushchev was not going to play at all, why had he talked the way he did between this announcement of the shootdown of the U-2 and 15 May, a matter of a week and a half ?(5) Why was he in Paris at all? In fact, why had he got there two days early, on Saturday, 14 May? There were plenty of things in Khrushchev's plans, and one could and did estimate that a precipitate breakup of the conference would by no means further them all. For example, such a course would not necessarily assure further friction among the western allies--in fact there were significant odds that it would have a unifying effect--nor could it be counted upon to further Soviet aims related to Berlin, the GDR, and the wide area of disarmament. These and other considerations had occupied the US intelligence community for days, and General Goodpaster, if not Mr. Eisenhower himself, had read two memos prepared by the Board of National Estimates which our Director had sent to the White House. What General Goodpaster meant that morning was a desire for any further lucubration on the matter.

We arranged that I would call again at 5:30 p.m. Sunday and in his absence leave the day's news with his colleague, Major John Eisenhower or with their secretary, Miss Alice Boyce. The delivery after that one would be Monday morning at 7:30.

I returned to the Chancery with the requirement, which Whitman took in hand. Matteson and I, with Whitman, went over it amending it here and there ("picking at it" would be the author's phrase). Then rather than pass it on our own cognizance, I cabled it to Headquarters, telling of its point of origin and soliciting speedy comment.

By that hour and largely unanticipated by the President and his close advisers--not to mention their CIA liaison man--Khrushchev had made something of a surprise move, which as it turned out, cast the Summit into oblivion. He had initiated a meeting with de Gaulle (the fact of the meeting was no secret) for 11:00 a.m. that very Sunday, and at just about the moment I was taking note of General Goodpaster's intelligence requirement, Khrushchev was formally apprising de Gaulle of the Soviet government's attitude towards the U-2 incident and the next day's meeting of the Four. He did more than this, he left with de Gaulle an aide mémoire in French(6) which ran to upwards of a dozen pages.

With this piece of business done, he went on later in the day (4:30 p.m.) to a meeting which he had arranged with Prime Minister Macmillan, whom he favored with a reading of the same text. He left no aide mémoire behind this time.

When later queried as to why he had omitted the President on this round of visits, he replied that the President had not indicated a desire to see him. This was, of course, a piece of diplomatic evasiveness, for the French and British official record will show that neither de Gaulle nor Macmillan had "indicated an interest" and that Khrushchev had himself initiated both visits. In short, the omission of Mr. Eisenhower from his calling list was a part of the Soviet Summit strategy.

There are probably some unimportant details about these meetings as yet undivulged by the French and British governments; there is nothing secret about Khrushchev's message. He delivered it for the third time at Monday's meeting of the Four at the Elyse(7) and gave it to the press.

You can read all of it on page 15 of the New York Times for 17 May 1960. What de Gaulle had seen and what Macmillan had heard on Sunday is one of those pieces of classical communist prose which leaves us children of the western tradition not only uncomprehending of the art form but unaware of any group in the world other than dutiful members of the CPSU to whom it would communicate clearly and forcefully. In its web of lusterless invective and tedious repetition the more important of its two central points is pretty well obscured. The first point comes through all right; it was that the Soviet government was outraged at the U-2 intrusion. The second and more notable matter lumbered into view in mid-course and was to the effect which Khrushchev would not discuss the substantive issues of the Summit's agenda until the President of the United States undertook three actions: condemn the provocative act which Khrushchev's aide mmoire ascribed to the US Air Force; guarantee that the US would refrain from such acts in the future; and punish the individuals responsible for the U-2 operation.

Sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. that Sunday the French foreign secretary reached a ranking member of the US delegation by phone, informing him that the French government had in hand a highly important document which it wished to pass to the President. One of our bilingual senior career officers hastened to the Quai D'orsay and received the document--which was, of course, the aide mémoire which Khrushchev had just left with the President of the French Republic. There was a delay while the Quai sought out a Xerox machine that would work and it was 2:00 p.m. before the officer reached Mr. Eisenhower in the Residence. What he had was a dozen or so pages of French which he speedily read aloud in English. In such a fashion did the President learn what the Soviet position was and that it was unlikely to change before the Monday meeting.

While these momentous events were going on, Mr. Dulles' liaison with the delegation, wholly unwitting, fell to preparing the intelligence materials which were to be delivered to General Goodpaster at 5:30 that afternoon.(8) At the Residence a great busyness engulfed the delegation. The President had a meeting at 2:30 p.m. with de Gaulle, Macmillan, and Chancellor Adenauer (who was there as a highly concerned chief of government, but of course not a formal participant) and then another at 6:00 p.m. at the Elyse with de Gaulle and Macmillan alone. Those of the President's advisers not attending the meetings were discussing the situation, what courses they would recommend to the President, and the text of the statement he should be prepared to make at the next day's meeting.

The fundamental question was exactly what Khrushchev intended and what he would settle for. Did he really intend to break up the meeting unless he got satisfaction on all three of his points or would he accept something less? Of one thing everyone was certain and that was that if Khrushchev himself were to call in the press or leak to it, or if any of those witting of the content of his statement let it leak then any glimmer of hope of salvaging anything would instantly disappear. The publication of the detail of the ultimatum would almost certainly make a Khrushchevian retreat from the letter of it impossible. Just as certain was Mr. Eisenhower's unwillingness to yield anything on Khrushchev's first and third points (the repudiation and punishment points) and his willingness merely to restate the US position with respect to the second: namely, that the U-2 flights had been suspended and would not be resumed.

In these circumstances all those privy to the matters at hand dropped into a deep and impenetrable silence. Within a few hours of Khrushchev's visit to de Gaulle that Sunday morning, small groups of confidential advisers to the French, British, and American chiefs had seen the document or knew its content; a bit later Chancellor Adenauer and his intimates learned about it. This would make at least twenty--maybe as many as fifty--non-Soviet men and women, and if you count the Russians in Paris and back in Moscow, the figure would be much higher. For almost twenty-four hours not so much as a syllable nor a hint of a syllable seems to have leaked from this inner group. The how and why of this remarkable achievement of security is worth a moment's consideration.

Look first at the Russians. It is highly likely that in their calculations they had pretty-well counted on the President's refusal to accept the three points of their ultimatum. In short, they were prepared for a breakup of the Summit but wanted it to take place in a way which, inter alia, would maximize the global impact of the position that they were taking. This was that of a peace-loving people outraged by the American provocative violation of their national sovereignty. Khrushchev's long statement, which in its full text ended with the personal affront to Mr. Eisenhower (the abrupt and public withdrawal of the invitation to visit the Soviet Union), would clearly have its maximum impact throughout the world if launched from the august forum of the Four. It would also permit Khrushchev to show his fellow countrymen how he personally was settling his private score with the President. (Khrushchev's important enemies at home, thoroughly upset by the meeting at Camp David, had been pointing to the U-2 incident as characteristic of the true attitude of President Eisenhower and cutting away at Khrushchev for having been the dupe of American perfidy.) Thus, having decided to come to Paris at all, the Soviets had compelling reasons to guard the statement themselves and hope that those to whom they communicated it would do the same.

Within the American delegation there was a full awareness that although the odds favoring any kind of substantive discussion at the Summit were short indeed, they would drop to zero with a premature revelation of the Soviet position. If the Khrushchev statement should hit the Monday morning press, the President would find it impossible to come to the meeting scheduled for 11:00 a.m. But so long as there was hope to salvage something, the Americans chose to cling to it. They were a very close-lipped group. Without intending to derogate their abilities to keep a secret, let me observe that they had going for them the fact that the day was Sunday and that, for the most part, they were closely secluded within the security of the Residence. Any need that one of them might have felt to enlarge the circle of the witting could not have been done casually. It would have taken some quite purposeful doing.

One cannot escape the suspicion that within the American delegation there was operative still another factor which made the secret the easier to keep. This was that the delegation could have subconsciously come to consider itself the self-contained exemplar of the executive branch, if not a representative slice of the US Government. There is at least one slug on an outgoing cable from Paris that tends to bear out the hypothesis: the original text was addressed to the "Under Secretary [of State]," the "Under" is crossed out and supplanted by the word "Acting." In these circumstances who was there back in Washington who had a compelling need to know?

I suspect, obviously without knowing, that some, at least, of these same forces were operable upon the French and British officials privy to the inside story. Mr. Macmillan's passionate concern to have the meeting and his faith in it as a touchstone to peace would surely have dampened any British urge to talk out of school. Chancellor Adenauer and his associates were as silent as those more intimately concerned.(9) And so a graveyard secrecy enveloped all these doings of great importance and enveloped them totally well into Monday.

At least one member of the American delegation worried over the decision to confine the news to the little circle in Paris. Mr. Gates began to be concerned about the possible military implications of a breakup of the Summit in the atmosphere of Khrushchev's belligerency. Some time later, he owned that the thought of the Pearl Harbor attack, coming as it had in the middle of negotiations, had crossed his mind.(10) Early in the evening, after hearing Mr. Macmillan brief the President on his session with Khrushchev and getting Mr. Macmillan's gloomy forecast for the morrow, he went back to his hotel, picked up his White House phone and talked directly to the Acting Secretary of Defense, James Douglas. He told Mr. Douglas that he felt that the prudent thing to do was to have the Armed Forces assume some alert basis which, in his judgment, would include notifying the Headquarters of the principal commands and communications and intelligence facilities. How much of the substantive background of his concern he communicated is not known, but, at a guess, it was probably de minimis. From other sources it is clear that he spoke in deepest confidence and urged that his message be rigorously held within the need-to-know category.

Having made the call, he returned to the Residence and immediately reported his action to the President who approved it. He also informed Mr. Herter. In Washington, meanwhile, Mr. Douglas conferred with General Twining, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and together they decided the technical meaning which they would apply to Mr. Gates's oral instruction. They checked out the technicalities of their decision with Mr. Gates(11) and at about nine p.m. local time sent forth the word.

Mr. Gates's requests for a passing of the message on a strict need-to-know basis may have been observed to the letter. But a good many people had to be involved willy nilly, and the need-to-know injunction got several interpretations.

On the one hand, within the Pentagon itself, it was so well observed that no formal notice was passed to the Watch Committee and its National Indications Center. This sort of omission is something to which we in intelligence are highly sensitive, and with justification. We know that an operational order of this sort when carried out, is bound to light up lights in, say, the Soviet watch mechanism and consequently find its resonances in the change of posture of Soviet strike and defense forces. Once this change in their posture begins to take place, our own Watch mechanism picks up the indicators, and not knowing the first cause, innocently passes the warning word to our own operations people. What happens from there on can be serious; usually it is not, but as far as our calling is concerned, the thing which had already taken place was a small nightmare of unprofessionalism.

In the case at issue, our own Watch did not have long to wait to get the news in unclassified form. For the exemplary security within the Pentagon did not hold throughout the land. The alert caused ripples at SAC and ADC bases which could not be concealed, if indeed the commanders tried. The base commander at Lowry AFB, for example, in his search for two missing pilots got in touch with the local police who in turn went to a Denver TV station asking that the following be put on the air as a "military order": "All fighter pilots F-101 and fighter pilots F-102-- attention Captain Singleton and Lieutenant Griffin. Code 3 alert. Hotcake one and Hotcake six scramble at Lowry immediately."(12) The TV station obliged and, if you can believe it, in these very words. The Captain and the Lieutenant were not alone in getting the message, nor for that matter were they lonesome in the scramble. A vast number of nervous fellow citizens got it that night on the radio and TV and scrambled, and next morning even more got it in the press.(13) It was still front-page news for the morning papers of Tuesday, 17 May. The Watch Committee had been well served--if a bit late.

Some twelve hours after Mr. Gates's message and almost coincidental with the gathering of the Four at the Elyse, Mr. Herter requested that a short and pessimistic prognosis be sent to the Acting Secretary, Mr. Dillon. This message was destined to a wider, but still closely circumscribed, audience.

Such were the guarded snippets of news communicated to Washington of possible thunder on the left. Perhaps I flatter myself, but who should be in a much better position to feel the effect of the miraculously tight security than Mr. Dulles's man in Paris? There he was well within a mile of the action and part of a group continuously tapped into the multiform resources of the world's best intelligence service, and he might just as well have been eyeless in Gaza.

For the balance of the day, while the American delegation went about its pressing business, while the President and Secretary Herter had meetings with the other western heads, Matteson, Whitman, the ladies, and I were back in the all but tenantless Chancery putting together the late Sunday afternoon package. We had not yet had Washington's comment on our memo of the morning, nor had we any other information which dealt with the heart of the President's problem. When I arrived at the Residence at 5:30 p.m., neither General Goodpaster nor Major Eisenhower was present. I left the material with Miss Boyce, who, if she knew what was going on, confined herself to an amiable "thank you." And so back to the Chancery to lock up and have a last confab with the stalwarts of commo.

Monday, 16 May--Summit Day--began as we had planned it, well before 4:00 a.m. There was the cable of general news from Mr. Sheldon and a few other items in the special category, a few cables [four words deleted], the FBIS material, and a full set of the morning's Parisian newspapers. There was also the answer to General Goodpaster's request. The Office of National Estimates with the aid of knowledgeable analysts from other Agency components had gone over our draft, and Mr. Dulles had come to the office to study, discuss, and amend it before dispatch. It added little to the substance of previous estimates, but its last paragraph, particularly its last sentence for which Mr. Dulles was personally responsible, saved a bit at least of intelligence's bacon. The paragraph was of the "much-will depend" breed. In this case much would depend upon what Khrushchev learned from his preliminary soundings in Paris. The last sentence noted that those on the spot would be in a better position to draw conclusions than those afar. As you have seen, indeed they were and indeed they had drawn some pretty sound conclusions.

With all the materials in hand I made for my 7:30 appointment, and once again found General Goodpaster and Major Eisenhower away from their office. Miss Boyce, of course, remained the soul of discretion and I left the premises as innocent as at the moment of arrival. When time permitted, General Goodpaster went through the package, and I am grateful that in our subsequent meetings he politely refrained from teasing about the scuttle of dubious coals I had delivered to Newcastle.

Thirty minutes later--I learned the big news--then some twenty hours old--in the Chancery's front yard from a foreign service officer who had spent most of Sunday with his chief and others of the delegation. Then inside the building, I received a much fuller account from a friend who had been even closer to the center of things. I hurried to our office, almost as embarrassed at the realization of my failure as I was unhinged by the news and sent off and "Op-Im, Eyes Only" to Mr. Dulles. Long after, I discovered that even so the Director of Central Intelligence was probably the first official in Washington to receive word on the events of Sunday and how the prospects for Monday's meeting were very decidedly on the glum side.

Our luck improved that Monday, as I had chance encounters which Sunday's manning pattern of the Chancery and the role of the Residence had denied me.

According to a prior agreement of the principals, the first meeting of the Four was to take place at the Elyse at 11:00 a.m. Monday. It was to be a session devoted to procedural matters. As is all too well known, this is as far as the conference got. Khrushchev took the floor and read his statement with its three conditions; he concluded with the final uncivil paragraphs in which he withdrew the invitation to Mr. Eisenhower to visit the USSR. The President followed with a much shorter statement in which he reiterated an American position which both he and Secretary Herter had already made with respect to U-2 flights: "In point of fact these flights were suspended after the recent incident and are not to be resumed . . . ," he said. On Khrushchev's other two points he had no words. These two statements opened a free discussion (three languages were used which required double translations) which finally ended with Khrushchev reminding all that the meeting just about to conclude was not the beginning of the Summit, but merely a preliminary on procedural matters. The adjournment was officially clocked at ten minutes before 2:00 p.m.

Shortly thereafter I had the good fortune to meet an officer who had been present at the debriefing of the President and a bit later Matteson and I encountered someone who had been at the Elyse. Our message to Mr. Dulles was short to be sure, but it hit almost all of the main points and I trust beat the press. (The Soviets released the full Khrushchev statement soon after the meeting.) Such were the minor grandeurs of Monday after the miseries of the Sabbath.

As I have gone along, I have tried to imply a lesson or two for intelligence in the experiences of this intelligence officer. There is left the matter of grasping the most important one firmly and giving it a bit of gratuitous pointing-up.

Here it is. Any international conference where our President heads the US delegation is highly likely to include all his top echelon experts and advisers in the relevant areas of foreign affairs. In such circumstances there will probably develop the subconscious feeling which I have ascribed to the Summit that the requirement to keep Washington informed is not all that urgent. After all, the normal information cables written from the site of lower level conferences are written in the hope that they will be read by the Secretary in Foggy Bottom or the President in the White House. When these two are in the next room, a lot of the motivation to inform home base will have evaporated. To follow on: if, as in the case in Paris, the price of a leak was the sure and sudden foundering of the whole enterprise, those on the inside would be scrupulous in their observance of the need-to-know principle. It is my confident estimate that if General Goodpaster had perceived a problem whose solution could be forwarded by an appeal to intelligence, he would have summoned his liaison and told all that was necessary to service the requirement. In this particular case the problem was one in which intelligence was far less well informed than the policy officers on the spot. Before intelligence could be expected to produce any useful wisdom on the matter, it would first have to be filled in by the very people it was supposed to enlighten. The built-in deterrent to such a procedure should be obvious to even the most incorrigible intelligence devotee, a fortiori when you pause to think that the President had right there in the Residence two of our country's reigning sovietologists (Bohlen and Thompson), and another half dozen wise and experienced general-purpose advisers. Why should he go beyond them for an estimate of Khrushchev's real rock bottom position?

No matter the delegation's esteem for intelligence; when it came to making this sort of intelligence estimate, its members were quite naturally their own intelligence officers. Furthermore, they knew full well that if perchance intelligence through some arcane source had achieved a full and confirmed view of Khrushchev's intentions, they could count on intelligence to give without prompting.

Some future intelligence officer at another Summit may not have the misfortune to have the big events played out on a Sunday, when his opportunities for informal talk are materially reduced. But suppose this future event is scheduled for the middle of the week and the intelligence officer does become privy to the inner secret. It may be that his informant in telling him will at the same time bind him not to communicate a word of it beyond the premises. I can only say that I am happy that I was spared this situation.

 

Epilog

Among the lessons of the Paris meeting was one which at first glance seems of a lesser order. In fact, however, it bears on a prickly--and ever-present--intelligence problem: the care and handling of raw intelligence.

Among the many security men of four nations deployed to guard the person of the Four, was a small group inside the Elyse palace itself. These men waited in an antechamber outside the conference room. Their duties involved the security of the room and, as well, escort service to the principals as the latter walked (still within the building) to their cars. When the meeting broke up, the Russian delegation, escorted by General de Gaulle and the Russian security men, left first. Soon after their departure, Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Macmillan came out of the conference room into the antechamber to await General de Gaulle's return. It was at this moment that one of the security men clearly heard Mr. Eisenhower make a remark not easily forgotten. It was "I don't care, my hands are clean, my soul is pure." General de Gaulle had returned from escorting the Russians to the door just in time to overhear it. It was speedily put into French and the General "nodded full agreement."

Our witness was a well-trained officer, and when his immediate duties were done he reported them in a memo to his superior and gave appropriate emphasis to the President's utterance.

The document not only does credit to the accuracy of his ear, but also that of the President. For what the latter said was not something of his own composition nor was it remotely related to the status of his own hands and soul. Rather was it a direct quote from none other than Khrushchev himself who had proclaimed it a few minutes back to the other three in an emotional passage. He was in the process of resisting de Gaulle's and Macmillan's effort to salvage the Conference and driving on to reexpress his and his government's sense of outrage at the U-2 reconnaissance. Part of the passage went: "If there had been no incident we would have come here in friendship and in the best possible atmosphere. . . . Our rocket shot the thing down. Is this good friendship? God is my witness that I come with clean hands and a pure soul."

What is the lesson? Clearly the witness was not at fault; he did his assigned job (the security detail) flawlessly: nothing ill befell Mr. Eisenhower, and furthermore he volunteered a very interesting and informative report about what he saw and heard in these few moments in the presence. There was no way that he could possibly have known that Mr. Eisenhower was quoting Khrushchev unless he had also heard what one fancies must have been Mr. Eisenhower's introductory words. These--if uttered--had been said before our witness had tuned in. The witness did no speculating about what such remarks might have been, and a good thing too, for there was only the slightest chance that he would have been on the right track. Anything of this sort that he might have added on his own cognizance would have deepened the fog. So one important lesson that our witness had already learned and one that needs no special mention here is the rule that says when you are reporting, report your observations as exactly as you can, and if you feel compelled to interpolate your own speculations, be sure to label them as such.

The larger lesson is of course the very familiar one about "raw intelligence" and its dissemination to the wrong people. Generally speaking the wrong people are consumers, and the more highly placed, the wronger. The right people, those dark figures who enjoy the jus primae noctis over intelligence reporting, are in the first instance the "reports officers." It is probably because one of them held this memo up or confined its distribution to narrow limits that its colorful, quotable, and grossly erroneous message did not go forward and on into the fan. Not that we do not know the rules about raw intelligence, but it is good for all of us to have their rationale spelled out in a case such as this.

Play "suppose" for a minute. Suppose that Khrushchev had used a paraphrase of one of his intemperate remarks like "we will bury you." Suppose our witness had caught this one as he had caught the original--out of context--and reported it as if Mr. Eisenhower were addressing it to his British colleagues. Then suppose there were a leak to an irresponsible newsman who worked for an irresponsible daily. Can you not see the headline: "Eisenhower swats British"? The lead sentence would have struck forth: "Today President Eisenhower told Prime Minister Macmillan `we will bury you.' The two were emerging from the Summit's conference room when Mr. Eisenhower, flushed and clearly in a somewhat emotional state, was heard to remark to his British opposite number. . . ."

A new legend would have been born--and a mighty disconcerting one for us and our cousins. No matter what the denials and explanations, the story would lurk on at the friction points of our special relationship, where it would do no good whatever.

Far out? Really not too far. Let us remember that dissemination of raw intelligence done in good faith has upon occasion brought us to grief. Our consumers who continuously ask for raw intelligence ought to understand that our reluctance is principally in everyone's interest--theirs included.

 

Footnotes

(1) New York Times, 31 December 1959.

(2) This was a larger force than normal, probably because four of the five were already in Europe. Robert Matteson, a member of the Board of National Estimates was on TDY to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Since that Conference suspended operations for the duration of the Summit, Matteson and the two ladies, Mrs. Ann Mann and Miss Susan Rowe, who were also on duty in Geneva, could be spared. The second professional, John Whitman of the ONE Staff, was on an overseas assignment [seven words deleted].

(In case anyone refers to this article for planning intelligence support for another conference, let him realize that there was no fat on this T/O. We all worked long hours and could indeed have kept still another sister fully occupied.)

(3) I mention the "why" of Mr. Gates' attendance because an important observer in Paris picked up from a French source who had gotten it from a Soviet source that Malinovski went to Paris when the Russians heard that Mr. Gates would be there. The report of the observer is a matter of official record. The evidence of its incorrectness is, however, impeccable.

(4) [On 1 May 1960, a U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot down by a Soviet SA-2 surface to air missile (SAM) while on a reconnaissance mission over the USSR.]

(5) On 5 May Khrushchev opened the first session of a meeting of the Supreme Soviet. In his remarks he let go at the U-2 intrusion, calling it a direct provocation, and threatening retaliation. However, at the end of his speech he tempered the blast referring to his commitment to the Leninist principle of peaceful coexistence and to his intention to spare no effort at the Paris meeting to reach agreement.

Again, on 7 May on two occasions, one in his remarks to the adjourning Supreme Soviet and the other at an impromptu press conference, he came down hard on the "espionage" aspects of the flight and the Soviet government's sense of outrage, but said nothing to indicate that the USSR was not going through with the meeting in Paris.

A few days later, 10 May, our government received the Soviet official protest which was couched without reference to the Summit. On 11 May at an exhibit of the wreckage of the U-2 aircraft in Moscow, Khrushchev again spoke with some violence, but noted only his government's intention to take the issue before the UN Security Council and, in the event of US obstruction, to the General Assembly. Nothing was said of Paris. The next day Tass glossed these remarks in such a way as to assure that the Soviet government felt that the Summit conference should take place as planned.

In retrospect it may be that Khrushchev himself had chosen to play the incident in relatively low key. Not so his more militant colleagues, among whom would have been the Soviet military led by the Defense Minister, Marshal Malinovski. The overflight--especially its predecessor flights, which the US government in its statement of 7 May said had been going on for four years--were a profound professional affront to them in the way they reflected the shortcomings of Soviet Air Defense. To this historian it seems probable that sometime in the week following 5 May, the hard liners triumphed over Khrushchev's personal preference. Witness to their victory (if such was really the case) may have been the decision to put Marshal Malinovski on the Paris-bound delegation and the drafting of the harsh statement which Khrushchev carried with him to use in Paris. More about this statement later on.

Some added substance is given to the above hypothesis in the memorandum of conversation (which took place in 1969) between Khrushchev and A. McGehee Harvey (Life, 18 Dec. 1970, p. 48B). According to Dr. Harvey, Khrushchev in speaking of the U-2 incident said, "Things (i.e., his ideas about having Ôour two countries live together peacefully and compete economically not militarily'), were going well until one event happened. From the time Gary Powers was shot down in a U-2 over the Soviet Union, I was no longer in full control." Maybe I am reading too much into this, but one cannot escape the striking difference between Khrushchev's posture of, say, 5 May and that of 14 May when he arrived in Paris with the famous document in his pocket. This much of a change of mind usually occurs with a deal of outside help.

(6) US Senate, Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Events Relating to the Summit Conference, 28 June 1960 (Report No. 1761, p. 14).

(7) What he read on Monday was the 2600 or so words which he had communicated to the French and British plus a last 400 words which he had husbanded as a sort of dessert. This is the passage in which he canceled his invitation to Mr. Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union. One may be fairly certain that it was prepared as an integral part of the long blast but withheld from de Gaulle and Macmillan, lest Mr. Eisenhower, learning of it from them would choose to stay away from the Monday meeting. If this had happened, then Khrushchev would have denied himself a forum which he eagerly sought. As it was, Mr. Macmillan, on Monday, made a determined but fruitless effort to get Khrushchev to delete it from his hand-out to the press.

(8) [DCI Allen Dulles' liaison with the delegation was, of course, Sherman Kent.]

(9) Shortly after the breakup of the Conference there was a rumor that someone in the German delegation had talked to the German press. If he did, there is no trace in the major German newspapers for Monday, 16 May. I am inclined to doubt the rumor, although I was enough concerned at the time to ask for (and get) a full canvass of press utterances for the critical day. Adenauer himself is reported to have said to someone "Khrushchev seems to be in a bad mood" and this piece of very mild news reached the press. See The Washington Post, 16 May 1960, p.1.

(10) See Report of the [Senate] Committee on Foreign Relations, already cited, p. 132. "Senator Wiley, ÔWhen it was decided to have the alert--[you] had in mind, did you not know what the condition of this country was at the time of Pearl Harbor . . . ?'
Secretary Gates. `I certainly did.'
Senator Wiley. `During negotiations?'
Secretary Gates, `I did, indeed!'"

(11) There is some confusion as to the chronology of Mr. Gates's activities and the written record will do little to abate it. What I have written above is based upon the testimony of Mr. Gates himself.

(12) The Washington Post, 16 May 1960, p. 1.

(13) See inter alia, The Washington Post, 16 May 1960, p. 1.

 


Historical Document
Posted: Mar 19, 2007 11:00 AM
Last Updated: Jul 07, 2008 02:15 PM