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Letter to the Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, Concerning His Request for a Report Evaluating the Mutual Security Program in Viet-Nam.

November 12, 1959

[ Released November 12, 1959. Dated November 10, 1959 ]

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am advised that on October 8, 1959, there was delivered to the Office of the Director of the International Cooperation Administration your written request that you be furnished with that agency's evaluation report of the program in Viet-Nam.

As I have stated on other occasions, it is the established policy of the Executive Branch to provide the Congress and the public with the fullest possible information consistent with the national interest. This policy has guided, and will continue to guide, the Executive Branch in carrying out the Mutual Security Program so that there may be a full understanding of the program and its vital importance to the national security.

At the same time, however, under the historic doctrine of the separation of powers between the three great branches of our Government, the Executive has a recognized Constitutional duty and power with respect to the disclosure of information, documents and other materials relating to its operations. The President has throughout our history, in compliance with his duty in this regard, withheld information when he found that the disclosure of what was sought would be incompatible with the national interest.

It is essential to effective administration that employees of the Executive Branch be in a position to be fully candid in advising with each other on official matters, and that the broadest range of individual opinions and advice be available in the formulation of decisions and policy. It is similarly essential that those who have the responsibility for making decisions be able to act with the knowledge that a decision or action will be judged on its merits and not on whether it happened to conform to or differ from the opinions or advice of subordinates. The disclosure of conversations, communications or documents embodying or concerning such opinions and advice can accordingly tend to impair or inhibit essential reporting and decision-making processes, and such disclosure has therefore been forbidden in the past, as contrary to the national interest, where that was deemed necessary for the protection of orderly and effective operation of the Executive Branch.

The ICA evaluation report which you have requested, which I understand is the August 15, 1957 report entitled "Evaluation of Viet-Nam Program", is an internal Executive Branch communication comprising opinion and advice on official matters. It is one of a class of reports prepared by small teams of senior officers on the basis of extensive study in the field and in Washington. The purpose of each such report is to examine basic ICA program objectives and program content in a particular country from the standpoint of determining whether the ICA program in that country is effectively carrying out our foreign policy objectives. Such reports contain the candid personal opinions, suggestions and recommendations of the officers who prepare them, and are prepared for submission directly to the Director of the ICA for his information and use. Reports such as the one which you requested have been an important factor in the decision-making process within the agency, and requests for their release have consistently been denied.

Since the disclosure of the report requested by you would not be compatible with the national interest, I have forbidden that it be furnished pursuant to such request and hereby so certify in accordance with Section I i i (d) of the Mutual Security Appropriation Act, 1960.

Although I have forbidden the furnishing of the evaluation report requested by you, I wish to make it clear that this has not been done for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of any facts shown by the report. Such facts will be made available to you as promptly as possible.



Note: The President's letter was addressed to Michael J. Mansfield, Chairman, Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Public Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to the Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, Concerning His Request for a Report Evaluating the Mutual Security Program in Viet-Nam. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234557

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