Kissinger, Harvard And the FBI

Henry A. Kissinger '50 remembers all too well the New York Times' disclosures in 1967 of foundations that channelled Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) money into "patriotic causes" back in the 1950s. Starting in 1951, when he was still a graduate student at Harvard, Kissinger directed Harvard's Summer International Seminar--a program that brought to Harvard rising stars in foreign policy and political, cultural and literary life from Europe and Asia to school them in American foreign policy and, within certain bounds, to promote "freedom of exchange." Men on the order of Pierre Trudeau and Valerie Giscard D'Estaing--who were then on the verge of international prominence--attended the seminar, discussed world affairs with foreign ministers from India and Pakistan, and heard lectures from American intellectual heavyweights like David Riesman '31, Ford Professor of Social Sciences, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. '38 and McGeorge Bundy, then dean of the Faculty.

Kissinger financed the program completely through grants from private foundations, and in 1967 several of those foundations appeared on the Times' list of CIA conduits. One of them, the Friends of the Middle East, had funneled $243,000 to the Harvard International Seminar. Kissinger panicked. Abigail Collins Fichter, Kissinger's administrative assistant in the 1960s, recalls in Ralph Blumenfeld's Henry Kissinger: The Private and Public Story, that Kissinger "was running around saying, 'Oh, my God, this is terrible. People are going to say I'm working for the CIA.'"

Kissinger may not have fully comprehended his CIA connections because the agency often laundered its funds through a series of foundations to obscure their origins. But the disclosure last week of a 1953 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) document shows that Kissinger consciously sought and directly worked with the FBI while at Harvard.

His contacts with the FBI in 1953 imply a much earlier and more thorough understanding of FBI operations than Kissinger claimed in his defense against Morton Halperin's charges of illegal FBI wiretapping. Kissinger supported his case by arguing that he had taken then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's word that the taps were legal.

Kissinger's assistance to the FBI while at Harvard is also startling. Harvard faculty rarely volunteered information on their own to investigative officers; even at the height of the McCarthy era, contact with the bureau occurred only when FBI agents approached faculty members for routine security clearances.

But an internal memorandum from the Boston FBI division to Washington headquarters indicates such was not the case with Kissinger. Sigmund Diamond, a Columbia University professor found the document while researching the relationship between colleges and the FBI before and during the McCarthy era. The document states that Kissinger voluntarily provided information to the FBI, information he obtained by opening the mail of a seminar participant without his knowledge. (Technically, Kissinger could be charged with tampering with the U.S. mail, but he does not seem to be panicking about that.)

On Friday morning, July 10, 1953, a "HENRY ALFRED KISSINGER"--as the FBI recorded his name in its memo, identifying him simply as a "teacher at Harvard University"--called the FBI, reported he had information of interest to the bureau and asked that an agent call him back. That afternoon an "SAC"--the FBI code word for Special Agent in Charge--interviewed Kissinger, who explained that he directed the International Seminar, which included persons from foreign countries who "are highly placed economically and politically in their own nation." He added that through these people he hoped "to place American policy in a favorable light in these foreign nations." Kissinger told the agent that earlier in the day, 40 similar letters addressed to that summer's 40 seminar participants arrived at his office

Kissinger let only a few hours pass before breaking the seal on one of the unclaimed letters. According to the document, Kissinger told the FBI he "opened one such letter addressed to (name blacked out) who, as of July 10, 1953, had not appeared at the Seminar session."

Enclosed in an inner envelope was an eightpage flyer captioned, "A Few Grains of Truth." The FBI memo says that the flyer is "highly critical of the American atom bomb project" and that it purports "to represent the shame and anguish of the American population on American preparation for war." The flyer exhorted, "There is no other way but for each firmly to resolve that life must be dedicated to peaceful endeavor..."

Apparently Kissinger believed pleas for international peace might subvert the seminar's objectives, because he did not simply report the incident and leave it at that. According to the memo, he went on to suggest fourpossible sources who could have had information on the identities of the participants: newspapers that received news releases on the seminar; guest speakers who addressed the participants; former Massachusetts Governor Robert Bradford, who suggested the names of several guest speakers; and editors of The Harvard Crimson.

Kissinger not only cooperated voluntarily by implicating sources, he also told the FBI he "intends to show no alarm" if the flyer came up in discussion at the seminar meetings and would "play it down" if it did. In closing, he "promised to provide to the Boston Division any additional information at similar attempts to provide this type of literature to participants in the seminar," and then added he was "an individual who is strongly sympathetic to the FBI."

The author of the memo--who reveals himself only as R.U.C.--ominously ends the report with the words "steps will be taken...to make Kissinger a Confidential Source of this Division."

Diamond turned up no other records of the incident, and the rest of the story remains untold: Did Kissinger actually become a Confidential Source? How long did the relationship go on? Did Kissinger or the FBI ever discover who leaked the names of the seminar participants or who sent the flyers?

The FBI has released only some of the documents Diamond requested under the Freedom of Information Act. When Diamond asked the Harvard Archives for papers relating to the seminar, librarians thrust at him the Harvard "50-year-rule," a University regulation that prohibits public viewing of administrative records until 50 years after they were printed.

Not surprisingly, Kissinger has not been an exceptionally useful source for Diamond either. Before running an article on Diamond's findings in its November 10 issue. The Nation questioned Kissinger through his representative, William Hyland. Hyland reported that kissinger refused to confirm or deny the reports, saying. "The implication of these questions is ridiculous and contemptible."