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Letter to the Secretary of State and to the Heads of Other Agencies Concerning the Publication of U.S. Diplomatic Papers.

September 07, 1961

[Released September 7, 1961. Dated September 6, 1961]


The effectiveness of democracy as a form of government depends on an informed and intelligent citizenry, Nowhere is the making of choices more important than in foreign affairs; nowhere does government have a more imperative duty to make available as swiftly as possible all the facts required for intelligent decision.

As many of these facts as possible should be made public on a current basis. But, because of the inherent need for security in the current conduct of foreign affairs, it is obviously not possible to make full immediate disclosure of diplomatic papers. However, delay in such disclosure must be kept to a minimum.

It has long been a pride of our government that we have made the historical record of our diplomacy available more promptly than any other nation in the world. The Department of State has the responsibility within the Executive Branch for putting out this permanent record in the series "Foreign Relations of the United States." The discharge of this responsibility requires the active collaboration of all departments and agencies of our Government in the submission and clearance of papers necessary for the completeness of this record.

In recent years the publication of the "Foreign Relations" series has fallen farther and farther behind currency. The lag has now reached approximately twenty years. I regard this as unfortunate and undesirable. It is the policy of this Administration to unfold the historical record as fast and as fully as is consistent with national security and with friendly relations with foreign nations.

Accordingly I herewith request all departments, agencies and libraries of the Government to collaborate actively and fully with the Department of State in its efforts to prepare and publish the record of our diplomacy. In my view, any official should have a clear and precise case involving the national interest before seeking to withhold from publication documents or papers fifteen or more years old.'

Sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, C. Douglas Dillon, Secretary of the Treasury, and John L. Moore, Administrator of General Services.

John F. Kennedy, Letter to the Secretary of State and to the Heads of Other Agencies Concerning the Publication of U.S. Diplomatic Papers. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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