Current investigations of the CIA and our foreign intelligence are being hampered by what senior Washington reporters are calling the “U-2 doctrine.” This is defined as the doctrine that acknowledg ing that we are spying on a foreign government is worse than doing it in the first place.
It may be disadvantageous, in a particular circumstance, to acknowledge that we have foreign intelligence operations, but that is certainly not the lesson of the U-2 incident of May 1960 on which this “doctrine” is allegedly based. Let’s give it some historical perspective.
In 1956 President Eisenhower instituted the program of overfly ing Russia with our U-2 planes in order to secure photograph intelli gence. The purpose was clearly stated later by Secretary of State Christian Herter in these words:
“The threat of a surprise attack … presents a constant danger. It is unacceptable that the Soviet political system should be given the opportunity to make secret preparations to face the Free World with the choice of abject surrender or nuclear destruction.”
Our U-2 planes flew for four years without a single protest out of the Russians. The Soviets knew our planes were flying and photo graphing, but they couldn’t do anything about it, and they didn’t then have anything to hide, so they kept quiet. Khrushchev knew that our U-2 planes were overflying Russia, and Eisenhower knew that Khrushchev knew it, and Khrushchev knew that Eisenhower knew that Khrushchev knew it.
In 1960, however, the Soviets desperately needed secrecy to prepare for their surprise violation of the nuclear test ban and for their production and transportation of nuclear missiles to Cuba. They had reached the point where their preparations could no longer be camouflaged. Although one U-2 plane was brought down under strange circumstances that have never been fully explained, the Soviets did not then have the technology to shoot down our properly-functioning U-2 planes.
So Khrushchev devised a psychological trick to intimidate the United States into cancelling future flights. He went before tele vision cameras and staged a public temper tantrum, uttering insults at our President. Unfortunately, his gambit worked, and the Admin istration cancelled future flights. The Soviets won by psychological warfare what they never could have achieved, at that time, by technological or military power.
Khrushchev thus achieved a three-year reconnaissance gap in which he could carry out his secret preparations which culminated in the giant nuclear weapons tests of September 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Both took U.S. intelligence by com plete surprise.
The lesson of the U-2 incident is that we need to gather foreign intelligence of every advanced technological type if we are to pro tect ourselves from secret enemy preparations. It is irrelevant whether we admit we are doing this or not. What is important is that we do it, and do it well.