New Documentary Release on Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty | Wilson Center

New Documentary Release on Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty

New documents released to A. Ross Johnson by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel provide additional information on the relationship of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1950s and 1960s. 

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Document No. 1

In a letter dated August 1, 1949, Office of Policy Coordination director Frank Wisner counsels FEC executive secretary DeWitte Poole that the newly-formed Free Europe Committee, private but largely government funded, should consult closely with OPC and the State Department on issues of  policy, budget, and personnel vetting. OPC and FEC subsequently signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the authorities and responsibilities of the two organizations.

Document No. 2

In a memorandum dated June 10, 1954, CIA International Organizations Division chief Thomas Braden assures the State Department that RFE broadcasts which indirectly took sides in Czechoslovak factory council elections had ended. (FEC Czechoslovak Guidance No. 13, “The 1954 Czechoslovak Electoral Campaigns” stated that if a candidate is loyal to his fellow workers …he must be elected …. [if] a sycophant of Party and regime …honest workers will cast blank ballots.”) RFE’s brief tactical advice to listeners was part of OPERATION VETO, intended to encourage passive resistance to Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. (The Guidance and the cited FEC telex are available in the RFE/RL Corporate Records Collection at the  Hoover Archives and Library.)

Document No. 3

In the wake of 1956 unrest in Eastern Europe and controversy about RFE’s Hungarian broadcasts, the State Department called on CIA, in a memorandum dated January 10, 1957, to implement a fundamental reorientation and curtailment of RFE and RL broadcasts. The memorandum asked CIA director Alan Dulles to meet with Deputy Undersecretary of State Robert Murphy on the issue.  CIA staff, in a memorandum for Dulles dated January 24, 1957, took issue with the State Department analysis and recommendations. A subsequent memorandum from CIA staff to Dulles dated February 11, 1957,  recommended approval of a working group of State Department, USIA, and CIA representatives, as suggested and chaired by the State Department, to reappraise all RFE, RL, and VOA broadcasting. (The working group was later named the Committee on Radio Broadcasting Policy, CRBP).

Document No. 4

In a memorandum for Dulles dated January 27, 1959, Cord Meyer summarizes RFE and RL responses to program changes directed by the CRBP. The Committee had conducted periodic review of broadcast scripts to ensure “responsiveness to U.S. foreign policy objectives” and “maximum possible impact and effectiveness.” Meyer noted that CRBP policy guidance was incorporated in RFE Special Country Guidances in fall 1957 and a new RL guidance in May 1958.

Document No. 5

In a memorandum for the record dated August 23, 1968, CIA official Fred Valtin records guidance from the State Department on RFE Czechoslovak broadcasts following the Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion. FEC President William Durkee had proactively requested guidance on treatment by RFE of possible appeals for active resistance issued by high-level Czechoslovak officials. “It was the [State] Department’s position that calls for active resistance must not be broadcast by RFE, no matter from what level of Czech officialdom.” (See also the CIA and State consultations on August 22, 1968, and the cable from Prague on the same day.)

A. Ross Johnson is a Wilson Center History and Public Policy Fellow and Senior Advisor for Archives at RFE/RL. He is a former director of Radio Free Europe. 
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