Sunday, February 1, 2015

Walter Roberts: Relations With State, CIA -- "Most of the People in the Department...Were Happy to Get Rid of the Information Program"

Walter labeled USIA's relationship with the State Department during the fifties and sixties as "excellent" -- but made it clear that it was so partly because many State Department officers were relieved not to have to bother with USIA's media outreach and information programs.  The connections between USIA and the CIA were distant -- purposely so -- with the U.S. government international broadcasters -- VOA on the one hand, RFE/RL on the other -- eyeing each other warily.

Most of the people in the Department – and I stress the word “most” – were happy to get rid of the information program.   They certainly thought that the Voice of America did not belong in the State Department.  But even the old- line Foreign Service officers didn’t want to have very much to do with information work.  So I remember, for instance, sitting in meetings in the Department of State as the USIA representative, where on many occasions the chairman would say:  “Well, let’s not worry about this, let’s USIA handle it.”   Many, many old time Foreign Service officers in the State Department welcomed this, that this idea of trying to tell a correspondent how to write about a foreign policy action -- that was anathema to most of the Foreign Service officers.  They did not like that, and they were happy that there was another agency of the United States government that took on that responsibility.  So, in all the seven years, from ’53 to ‘60, when I went overseas, when I was in sometimes elevated positions in USIA, I can say nothing but the finest about my relations.  For instance, as deputy area director of USIA, I had a weekly meeting with the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs.  Now, I will say very frankly, depending upon the personality of the Deputy Assistant Secretary, how much he told me and how much he didn’t tell me.  When people, for instance like Foy Kohler, was Deputy Assistant Secretary, it was a wonderful relationship.

Allen W. Dulles
Well, let me speak for a minute in general about USIA-CIA relationships.  …I was designated in 1950 to organize a USIS program in Austria, taking over the information and cultural activities, carried out quite well, I might add, by the United States Army.  I found at that time that certain operatives of the CIA were assigned to the State Department.  Ted Streibert found out that there were people in the USIS payroll who were basically employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, and he called Allen Dulles on the phone and designated me to work out an arrangement whereby USIA would not, in the future, house CIA operatives.  Such an agreement was reached sometime in 1954 or 55. 

As far as Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty was concerned, I always had the feeling that the Voice of America was not happy with them, that they felt that they were encroaching on their territory and that they were saying things that might even be at cross purposes from what VOA said.   …Relations between the Voice of America and RFE/RL, I would designate them as cool, and maybe even cold.  As far as the USIA in general is concerned, we felt that despite the treaty that I negotiated, the CIA people were not always very open with us.  

Encounter Magazine
The relationships in the field usually worked better.   I’ll give you an example, for instance.  The CIA started several magazines, Encounter in Britain, Der Monat in Germany, and there was also one in Austria called FORVM.   It was the Public Affairs Officer who suggested to the local CIA representative a particular person who might be very good at editing FORVM.  And that man was hired; it was at the suggestion of the senior USIA officer.  But otherwise, I do not know how often Ted Streibert saw Allen Dulles, or even George Allen saw Allen Dulles.  Relations were either non-existent or cool. 

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