The Cuban Missile Crisis
Summary Record of the 14th Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, October 31, 1962, 10 a.m.

Director McCone stated that aerial photographs taken on October 29 did not conclusively prove that the missile buildup and construction at missile sites in Cuba had halted.(1) The Russians in Cuba had received their orders to withdraw the missiles only on Sunday. There had been some movement but nothing conclusive.

Referring to the task which the intelligence community had carried out in connection with the Soviet strategic missiles in Cuba, Director McCone acknowledged that from September 15 on we had failed to evaluate properly the refugee reports and reports from third country representatives in Cuba. He explained this failure in part by referring to a September 19, 1962 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 85-3-62)(2) which stated all the reasons why we did not think the Russians would deploy nuclear weapons to countries outside their borders. This estimate, in effect, prompted evaluators to downgrade the fragmentary reports which we received during the latter part of September and early October.

Secretary Rusk reported that the Russians apparently are prepared to go along with the general inspection procedures which we think are necessary. However, Castro, during the conversation yesterday with Acting Secretary General U Thant, flatly refused to accept on-site UN inspection. Secretary Rusk said this meant that we must continue to obtain aerial pictures of Cuba. He asked the President to call off his press conference in view of Castro's position.

The President agreed to call off his press conference and inform the press, on a background basis; that Castro's opposition to acceptable inspection procedures created a situation about which he did not wish to speak publicly at this time. The President felt the cancellation of the press conference would have a healthy effect on both the Cubans and on U Thant.

Under Secretary Ball presented draft instructions to Ambassador Stevenson covering negotiations with the Russians and with U Thant on inspection procedures we would accept.(3) These instructions, which the President approved, did not cover inspection procedures acceptable to us during the period after the offensive missiles had been removed from Cuba.

Secretary Rusk said that on Thursday(4) we must fly U-2 and low-level reconnaissance missions over Cuba if Castro remains adamant in his opposition to on-site inspection. He suggested that Mr. McCloy tell Kuznetsov in New York that we intended to overfly Cuba and ask Kuznetsov whether the Russians in Cuba could be instructed not to fire on our planes. He also suggested that Mr. McCloy tell Kuznetsov that we have encountered real difficulties as a result of Castro's refusal to accept on-site inspection procedures. He might even propose a bilateral arrangement with the Russians for air reconnaissance in view of the fact that UN arrangements did not appear to be possible. He noted that if U Thant extends his stay in Havana, we will be in difficulty because of the UN request not to fly reconnaissance missions during the time U Thant is there.

The President agreed that reconnaissance missions should be flown tomorrow unless significant progress was made by U Thant in his negotiations with Castro. If agreement appeared likely, we might postpone further flights until Friday.

Mr. Gilpatric commented that UN reconnaissance flights were very unlikely, but that the New York group would continue efforts to establish a UN surveillance capability.

Secretary Rusk pointed out that the International Red Cross will participate in inspection measures only if Castro approves. If Castro will not approve, then we must reestablish our U.S. quarantine.

Ambassador Thompson mentioned the possibility that the Soviets might go along with our air reconnaissance if we did not reimpose the quarantine.

The President said that if the Castro/U Thant negotiations break down, as we assume they will, we would fly reconnaissance missions, but what would we do about the quarantine?

Secretary Rusk said we might ask the Red Cross to inspect at sea ships bound for Cuba, but he predicted that the Red Cross would not agree to do so in view of Castro's opposition.

The Attorney General said that we must keep our ability to put pressure on the Cubans by means of a blockade. He said the Russians could tell the Cubans that unless they accepted adequate inspection procedures, the U.S. would resume the blockade and expand it to include POL cargoes.

Secretary McNamara reported that all Soviet ships near the quarantine line were now lying dead in the water, but that non-Bloc ships were proceeding toward Cuban ports.

Secretary Rusk suggested that one way of putting pressure on Castro would be to ask free world states to tell the Cubans that Cuba must comply with UN inspection procedures or else they would break diplomatic relations with the Cuban government.

The President said we should consider broadening the blockade because otherwise we would be in the position of stopping only non-Soviet ships. If U Thant stays in Cuba longer than planned, we must decide what we will do then. One proposal would call for hailing all Russian ships but allowing them to proceed. Non-Bloc ships carrying cargoes consisting of goods included on an enlarged prohibited list would be stopped. The President called attention to the importance of keeping the Organization of American States geared up so that if firmer action were required, the Latin Americans would support us. We must keep information about Castro's attitude flowing to OAS members.

Bromley Smith(5)

1 The CIA intelligence memorandum, SC No. 11195/62, based on information received as of 6 a.m., October 31, which McCone used to brief the Executive Committee is in the Supplement. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. II, Meetings 11-16) Back

2 For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. X, Document 433. Back

3 The draft has not been identified further, but see Document 125 for the final text of Stevenson's instructions. Back

4 November 1. Back

5 Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature. Back

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. II, Meetings 11-16. Top Secret; Sensitive. McCone's 1-page summary of this meeting and the Record of Action (both ibid.) are in the Supplement.

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