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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty

This is a collection of declassified documents pertaining to Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) – Radios which were overseen and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency until 1971, funded there after by open Congressional appropriation, and merged in 1976 as RFE/RL, Inc. The documents were used as primary sources for A. Ross Johnson's book ''Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond'' or published in the appendix of ''Cold War Broadcasting: Impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe'' edited by A. Ross Johnson and R. Eugene Parta. See also CWIHP e-Dossier No. 32 and e-Dossier No. 59 for introductions to the documents, and the related collections Intelligence Operations in the Cold War, and Mass Media and Censorship. (Image, RFE broadcaster Nowak-Jezioraski, 1952)

  • March 23, 1955

    Polish Interior Ministry Report on Intercepted Letters Sent to Radio Free Europe Cover Addresses

    This document is an early reflection of concern with RFE’s impact in Poland. Particular attention is given to the broadcasts of Jószef Światło, the senior Interior Ministry official who defected in December 1953.

  • May 25, 1955

    Equipment for Radio Free Europe Studio in London

    The Foreign Office writes to the Treasury to ask it to reverse its denial to RFE of customs duties exemption for import of technical equipment for a new London bureau. RFE “deserves the full support of her Majesty’s Government,” wrote the Foreign Office, adding that a London bureau will enable better cooperation between the U.K. and RFE and facilitate its interviewing of East European refugees. The Foreign Office notes that RFE is not a commercial organization and “is in fact supported by US Government money contributed covertly.. For political and other reasons the US Government are unable to admit this ….”

  • June 24, 1955

    Report by Sir Bruce Robert Lockhart on Radio Free Europe

    Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart reports to the Foreign Office on his second visit to RFE (again accompanied by BBC Central European chief Gregory Macdonald) between July 5 and July 8, 1955. Lockhart positively evaluated broadcasts as more responsible than in 1952 and gave high marks to the content of the leaflets dispatched to Czechoslovakia by balloon and mail. He found staff unsettled by RFE’s change of status following the restoration of German sovereignty, did not think RFE could long survive in Munich, and would advise it to relocate of its own volition before it was forced out of Germany

  • September 01, 1955

    Radio Liberty's Effectiveness Appraised

    Stanford University communications expert Wilbur Schramm reviews the effectiveness of Radio Liberty after two and a half years of broadcasting.

  • September 15, 1955

    Visit to Radio Free Europe by NATO Officers

    Record of an informational visit to RFE by NATO military officers in the midst of a conference on psychological warfare. Attached are detailed descriptions of its operations that RFE provided to the officers.

  • December 21, 1955

    Report by Overton on his visit to Radio Free Europe in Munich

    Report by Foreign Office (IRD) official H.T.A. Overton on his visit to RFE between November 24 and November 27, 1955. The report is focused on RFE’s news and information operation and the balloon-leaflet operation. Overton viewed as RFE liabilities the extent of autonomy granted to its exile broadcasters, its non-official status, and its location in Bavaria. He notes an effort by Political Advisor William Griffith to encourage the national broadcast services to include more coverage of the Western world and to eliminate “the highly argumentative … script with no real substance to it.” Attached is an RFE summary of its Evaluation and Research Section and an RFE organizational chart.

  • 1956

    Frederick Hier, 'A Hungarian Diary'

    Frederick ("Fritz") Hier was an American employee of Radio Free Europe. He led a team which entered Hungary on October 31 to report on the events of the Hungarian Revolution. Hier was joined by RFE journalists Gabor Tormay from the Hungarian Service, Jerzy Ponikiewicz from the Polish Service, and a journalist from South German Radio, who helped tape RFE interviews in return for transportation. They reported the Revolution from Győr and nearby cities and interviewed heads of local revolutionary councils.

  • February, 1956

    Report on Visit to Radio Free Europe, Munich

    Analysis of RFE news operations by BBC Central European Service director Gregory Macdonald, who visited Munich from January 8 to January 23, 1956, at RFE’s request. Accompanied by notes from the British Foreign Office and its Information Research Department. Macdonald had been asked by RFE officials to assess the objectivity and organization of the newscasts.

  • March 13, 1956

    German Concerns about Free Europe Committee Balloon Leaflet Operations

    West German Ambassador Heinz Krekeler shares his government’s concerns about Free Europe Committee (FEC) balloon operations with Deputy Undersecretary of State Robert Murphy and FEC President Whitney Shepardson.

  • March 28, 1956

    Budapest Legation Dispatch No. 372, Radio Free Europe Hungarian Broadcasts Appraised

    In Budapest Legation Dispatch No. 372, two Hungarian-speaking officers appraise the content and reception quality of Radio Free Europe (RFE) Hungarian broadcasts. They rate newscasts higher than commentaries and features

  • June 15, 1956

    Memorandum on Evaluation of Radio Free Europe by US Legation in Hungary

    CIA official Cord Meyer, chief of the International Organizations Division (IOD), notes that the Budapest Legation’s appraisal [Budapest Legation Dispatch No. 372 and Budapest Dispatch 427, May 23, 1956] is more positive than media commentary at the time [Cyrus Sulzberger’s May 14 commentary in The New York Times; letter to the editor response by FEC official Louis Galantier, June 2, 1956.]

  • July 03, 1956

    National Security Council, NSC 5608, Draft of “US Policy toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe”

    Staff draft of NSC 5608, concluding that ferment in the Communist world provides new opportunities to challenge Soviet control. A draft annex called for “encouraging evolutionary change” and defined as tasks of RFE and RL (and other USG-funded media) “avoiding any incitement to premature revolt” while “seeking to maintain faith in the eventual restoration of freedom.” Redacted document 76, FRUS, 1955-1957, XXV, unredacted document 12, Csaba Békés, Malcolm Byrne, and János M. Rainer, The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: A History in Documents (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2002.)

  • July 13, 1956

    National Security Council Discussion of Policy Toward Eastern Europe

    Senior officials discuss US policy at a National Security Council (NSC) principals' meeting on July 12. Notwithstanding less cautionary views expressed by Vice President Nixon at the NSC discussion, on July 18 President Eisenhower approved a minor modification of the draft (NSC 5608 and the annex) as NSC 5608/1 to serve as a basic statement of U.S. policy (published as redacted document 80, FRUS, 1955-57, XXV ; unredacted document 17, Békés, Byrne, and Rainer, The 1956 Hungarian Revolution).

  • August 07, 1956

    Agreed Policy Governing Radio Free Europe Operations

    CIA and Free Europe Committee (FEC) restate policy for Radio Free Europe in the context of the 1956 upheaval in the Communist world.

  • September 19, 1956

    Czechoslovak Politburo Resolution on Plan to 'Counter the Czechoslovak Reactionary Exiles'

    This Czechoslovak Politburo Resolution of 1956 approved an Interior Ministry plan to counter “reactionary exiles.” Radio Free Europe was an important target, and a series of disinformation actions were planned to disrupt its operations.

  • October 24, 1956

    International Operations Division, Guidance to Radio Liberation from New York on Satellite Situation

    The International Operations Division officer responsible for Radio Liberty notes to Cord Meyer his disagreement with RL’s policy of avoiding all commentary on the Hungarian Revolution. He cites Meyer’s intention to discuss the issue with AMCOMLIB president Sargeant.

  • October 25, 1956

    Guidance for Radio Free Europe Broadcasts

    CIA/International Operations Division guidance for Radio Free Europe at the outset of the Hungarian Revolution calls for extensive use of President Eisenhower’s September 23 statement on maintaining the spirit of freedom and for caution in pre-judging Imre Nagy.

  • October 25, 1956

    Policy Considerations for Radio Free Europe Broadcasts

    A CIA/International Operations Division official recommends policies to guide RFE broadcasting to Hungary during the revolution.

  • October 30, 1956

    Other Hungarian-Language Radios

    Radio Free Russia, the voice of the Russian émigré organization NTS, begins Hungarian-language broadcasts and reports the readiness of the “Association of Former Hungarian Servicemen” to assist the Hungarian insurgents. [Radio Madrid in Hungarian broadcasts similar messages.]

  • November 02, 1956

    Phone Conversation on Guidance for Radio Free Europe Broadcasts

    Radio Free Europe (RFE) Director Conerey Egan in New York telephones RFE Deputy Director Richard Condon in Munich to direct that RFE should report Hungarian developments and insurgent demands but not take a position for or against individual leaders or political parties.