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Meeting with the President in Palm Beach, Florida--9:45 a.m.--Saturday--5 January 1963
The meeting was brief. General discussions consumed about an hour. Secretary Rusk was present during the latter half which involved Cuban program.
1. McCone generally reviewed the Killian report,(1) stated it was a good report, indicating that it "called the glass of water half full, not half empty," the report was well received but only a part of the total review being made by the Killian Board and that the DCI could not forecast a final Killian Board position. McCone stated that he personally felt the Intelligence Community had done a good job but looking back in retrospect he felt that they could have done better. DCI expressed the feeling that principal errors or intelligence deficiencies were:
a. Failure to press aggressively overflight program between August 29th and October 14th and this was due to timidity throughout the government, including the Intelligence Community for fear of a "U-2 incident" once SAM sites were detected in Cuba. This foreclosed earlier detection of the existence of offensive missiles.
b. A conviction on the part of government officials and intelligence estimators that the Soviets would not accept the responsibility of a confrontation which would result from placing of offensive missiles in Cuba and
c. Because of this conviction the estimators and others in Government failed to fully evaluate many indicators which, if carefully analyzed, would lead to the conclusion that something more than defensive armament was going into Cuba.
The President seemed inclined to believe estimators should not be criticized for their judgment as it was reasonable to assume the Soviets would not place themselves in an indefensible position militarily, they would assume we would find out and would respond and this would place them in a difficult position, which it did. Furthermore he felt the SAM sites placed the Soviets in an awkward position for if they used them against one of our airplanes we would be inclined to respond militarily and they could not defend the SAM sites. In general the President agreed with Sherman Kent's position that the Soviets made a bad guess as to our response.
2. The President questioned me concerning refugee reports and I responded substantially as summarized in the Killian report, indicating the only refugee or agent reports dealing significantly with offensive missiles came in on or after September 20th and at most there were only 8 or 10 out of a total of some 1200 reports.
3. The President asked if the 5412 Committee reviewed raw intelligence of this type and I responded that their doing was not within their province, that raw intelligence was circulated to the Intelligence Community and that matters of significance should be brought to the members of the 5412 Committee through their respective intelligence officers and, if necessary, such matters should be considered by the United States Intelligence Board. I maintained that handling of raw intelligence was not a problem for 5412 Committee.
Action: In view of the importance placed on the 5412 Committee by the President, we should insist that the Committee meet regularly and for a sufficient time for review of their responsibilities (and not be crowded off the calendar by the Special Group CI) and furthermore that action papers be sent to the members of the 5412 Committee not later than Tuesday morning for consideration the following Thursday.
4. With respect to Cuban policy, the President expressed concern over the welfare of the prisoners, urged that arrangements be made to barracks them at Opa Locka or elsewhere in order to avoid growing distress and criticism. DCI agreed to go into this with proper authorities.
There followed an extended discussion of policy with respect to Pan American flights. The President wished them resumed but did not feel doing so should be in response to a demand by Castro. It was therefore agreed that DCI would meet with Donovan and arrange for him to go to Havana and work out suitable considerations for the resumption of flights which would specifically avoid the appearance of responding to a Castro demand.
5. The President spoke favorably of the Cuban Task Force outlined in the recent Bundy memorandum(2) which would be chaired by State with departmental representation. The President also recognized the need for CIA to complete liaison arrangements with free countries, indicating that this should be pursued aggressively even if it required DCI to visit several countries personally to work out these arrangements.
6. DCI reported proposed meetings with the Chairmen of CIA Congressional Committees and later with the Committees themselves. The President agreed. Both McCone and the President felt that DCI line should not be defensive but rather should indicate that a substantial intelligence success occurred.
7. The President suggested that McCone prepare a briefing for the Leadership meeting on Tuesday afternoon.(3) He questioned DCI concerning Keating issue,(4) asked where Keating had gotten his information and why Keating had stated that 95% of it came from within the government. McCone answered that he had no verification of this and that he was convinced that Keating information had come from refugee sources. In answer to a question McCone stated that he had concluded that the first offensive missiles reached Cuba between the 2nd and 9th of September.
8. McCone advised the President that he expected an investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which would probably be initiated by a demand from Senator Lausche.
John A. McCone(5)
Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI Meetings with the President, 1 January-31 March 1963. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by McCone.
(4) Senator Kenneth B. Keating (R-N.Y.), one of the Kennedy administration's most persistent critics, charged that the administration was purposefully overestimating the extent of Soviet withdrawal from Cuba and downplaying the Soviet presence still in Cuba. Back