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Letter to Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in Response to Congressional Requests for the Killian and Gaither Panel Reports.

January 22, 1958

[ Released January 22, 1958. Dated January 21, 1958 ]

Dear Lyndon:

After careful consideration of the requests from your and several other committees for the so-called Killian and Gaither Panel reports, I have concluded that I cannot properly furnish these reports to the Congress or release them for publication.

In reaching this decision I am mindful of the need for the branches of our government to cooperate with each other for the common good within the Constitutional framework, and accordingly Executive Branch witnesses have not sought to withhold any information pertinent to your inquiry. However, throughout our history the President has withheld information whenever he found that what was sought was confidential or that its disclosure would jeopardize the nation's safety or the proper functioning of our Government.

I mention this consideration because of my conviction, which I am sure you share, that in such a matter as this we must be careful to maintain the proper separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Government. This separation is vital to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power by any one branch of government. This thought I believe we should keep in mind in relation to my decision not to release the Killian and Gaither Panel reports.

As for these reports specifically, you realize, of course, that from time to time the President invites groups of specially qualified citizens to advise him on complex problems. These groups give this advice after intensive study, with the understanding that their advice will be kept confidential. Only by preserving the confidential nature of such advice is it possible to assemble such groups or for the President to avail himself of such advice.

The Killian and Gaither Panels were set up under these conditions to advise me on certain aspects of our defense. The Panels were furnished all relevant facts, many of them highly classified, but the information given to them is essentially the same information which has been and is available to Congressional committees currently studying the same problems. On the basis of these facts, the Panels drew their own conclusions and made recommendations which I have been weighing along with the recommendations of other advisors within and without the Government.

I consider it improper and unwise for me to violate the confidence of the advisory relationship that has existed between me and these Panels or to make public the highly secret facts contained in their reports. I believe we must all be sensitive to the added consideration that these reports are documents of the National Security Council. Never have the documents of this Council been furnished to the Congress.

Studies such as these have been most helpful to me in reaching important decisions and in making recommendations to the Congress. A number of the Panels' advisory recommendations have been reflected in my recent proposals to the Congress and others will be reflected in future proposals.
With warm regards,


Note: Senator Johnson had requested release of the reports as Chairman of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in Response to Congressional Requests for the Killian and Gaither Panel Reports. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233799

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