INT: Can you try and conjure up for us what the atmosphere was like. I mean there must have been some excitement and some fears as well and here you are holding information that might be very, very critical in the safety of your nation and here is your President asking you for your judgement. I mean, it's one of those moments I guess where the whole of your life might depend upon it and the whole of your career and it's what you've been gearing yourself up to when somebody, the most important man in the land says okay, okay young Mr. Graybeal, what do you think is going on here? I mean can you give our audience any idea of what that's like?
SG: There is no question in my mind that finding offensive missiles in Cuba was an extremely important, startling development here within the US government, because it put a whole new perspective on the threat to the continent of the United States when the ICBM program in the Soviet Union was small, but here you're putting in ballistic missiles with range sufficient to hit a good part of the United States, so you have essentially doubled your capabilities of the Soviet Union to threaten the US. So as soon as we saw these were ballistic missiles, I knew we had something that was critically important process, but you don't panic in these type of situations, because you have to deal with facts and as an intelligence officer you recognize sometimes you will be wrong. But now you've got hard facts, so now you have to deal with these. These were provided to the DDI, which at the time Deputy Director for Intelligence was Ray Cline and he knew it was extremely important. The word was being passed that night to various senior officials. The next day when I went to the White House with Art Lundahl to brief McGeorge Bundy, McGeorge Bundy knew exactly that this was extremely serious. There was no laugh, there was no joking about anything to do with this situation. McGeorge Bundy wanted to know the facts, are you sure these are missiles? Yes, we're absolutely sure these are missiles. Are you sure of the type of missile? Yes, we know the type of missile this is, what we don't know is the operational status of these missiles right now. Dillon came in, Dillon took it extremely seriously, no joking, left. Bobby Kennedy clearly knew that this was a major because Bobby Kennedy had been the person dealing with Dobrynin and others who were assuring the President there will be no offensive missiles in Cuba. So Bobby Kennedy's view immediately was they'd been lying to us. I mean, so immediately he understood the significance and he took off to go upstairs to speak to the President about the situation. The Ex-Comm committee meeting we had that morning was all business after the little... well there was all business in the sense that the President was extremely serious, he wanted to get the facts His first question clearly was how long before they can fire those missiles, 'cos he knew I've got an extremely serious situation here. These are offensive missiles threatening the United States. How much time do I have to act. And of course, as developed later, during those Ex-Comm meetings, do we go in and take them out? How do we get them out of there and there's a whole litany of debates within Ex-Comm which very, very well reported in various other publications. So the meeting was serious, the people were serious, the President wanted to know how much time he had, McNamara wanted to know where were the nuclear warheads. Rusk was worried about the political implications, what exactly had taken place here, what had they said to us, what did you say in your last speech Mr. President. So there was a whole variety of very good exchanges that took place. Now Lundahl and I were excused from that first meeting after we had presented the facts, after we had answered all the questions that they asked about the operational characteristics of the missiles. So I was not present during the time where they started debating what do we do and if you want to get a good record of that get the book The Kennedy Tapes which has got an excellent description of what transpired in all of those meetings.
INT: 10958, this is interview with Sidney Graybeal continued. Mr. Graybeal, could you take us a little bit beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis perhaps and talking to us about the big changes that occurred in the field of satellites and technical intelligence gathering. I'm thinking about... I know we've covered the matter of why a satellite's better than a U-2 plane, but there were improvements even in the satellites I think, I'm thinking in terms possibly this idea that you can go to real time, that we could actually see it while it's happening or...
SG: Well, at the beginning of the satellite program up to several years after that, there was major improvements in our satellite capabilities. The original satellite would take pictures on film, 'cos the films would be dropped from the satellite and they would be recovered by an airplane over the Pacific Ocean. Then we developed techniques where the satellite could take pictures and communicate those picture electronically there. So instead of waiting for the film to be taken, to recovered and processed which would be days if not weeks later, you now had satellite photography in real time. The pictures were taken, communicated electronically, transmitted so you had pictures, so now your satellites became a current intelligence resource, as well as a historical intelligence resource. And then satellites not only were used for photography. Satellites were improved so they could collect a lot more communications intelligence and we could focus on certain communications channels which you could not receive from outside the Soviet Union, which you could receive from satellite. So it enhanced our communications intelligence capabilities. Then we developed, improved the signals intelligence which would detect telemetry data would be transmitted down our sight, our back up to the satellite, back up to the Soviet missiles, so our satellites were improved in real time photography, improved in their ability to collect communications intelligence, improving their ability to collect electronics intelligence which essentially were telemetry signals. So significant improvements took place the sixties, seventies, eighties and they're still taking place today.
INT: Tell me are you saying that you were actually able to sit in the United States and watch a missile launch say on a test site?
SG: No, I said the term was near real time, in the sense that a satellite is taking a picture, the picture has to be translated into electronic signals which are then sent to the ground, the electronic signals then have to be reconverted back into a picture and then the picture is put on your desk. You are not using a satellite to actually watch a missile firing, taking off through the sky.
INT: Right..., how important do you think during the Cold War... what part do you think intelligence played in the Cold War, in your opinion? Was it decisive, was it a sideshow, was it what stopped us from having to go to war, was it, you know...?
SG: Well, as a career intelligence officer I may be slightly biased in my answer to your question, but in my view, intelligence was the critical aspect of the Cold War in the sense that good intelligence was what permitted us to maintain strategic stability during the Cold War period. Without intelligence, we would not have not have known Soviet intentions, capabilities, we'd been uncertainties, and when you have uncertainties, the risk of something happening goes way up. So my bottom line is intelligence was absolutely critical to maintaining strategic stability during the Cold War and it's not only militarily, but it was important politically and economically. So intelligence really was a key player throughout the Cold War and without it there's no telling what would have happened in terms of conflict between the Soviet Union and the US, which would have been disastrous for the whole world.
INT: And are you able to make the judgement as between technical sources of information and the human spy?
SG: It's hard to differentiate because each one is important in different situations. Penkovsky's information, human intelligence, was critical in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Penkovsky's information on the Soviet ICBM program was not as critical as the photographic information on the ICBM program, so you can't make a quantitative judgement that human intelligence was more important than communications intelligence, than photographic intelligence, than electronic intelligence. Each plays a role in the total intelligence picture and in some instances one will be much more important than the other, so you have to look at each independent scenario when you evaluate which source of information was the most critical. So you have not only the collection of the information, you have the analysis and the analyst must put these pieces together, so your analytical capabilities are as important as your collection capabilities because without good analysis you don't know whether that telemetry signal means one thing or means something else, so the analysis process goes with the collection and the both of 'em end up being the intelligence product, which is then what is used by the policy makers in the US.
INT: Did you ever experience problems getting the policy-makers to listen to you guys?
SG: There's always been a debate on this. If you can have the right answer and if the policy-maker doesn't do anything about it then the intelligence is no good. during my experience with intelligence in the ballistic missile program in the Soviet Union, I never had trouble convincing the policy-maker that this was real and this was a threat, and these capabilities. Now you also told the policy-maker your uncertainty. You never put an estimate out and say it will be exactly two hundred and fifty. The spread is important for the policy-maker and this gets back to the question of being sure the policy-maker knows what you know and what you don't know, how much of your intelligence is based on hard facts, how much is based on estimates and what is the error factor in those estimates.
INT: You spent a good chunk of time on arms control aspects to do with the missile program and I wonder if you could explain to us as succinctly as possible what role intelligence played in, if you like, diffusing, in helping to diffuse the dangers of the Cold War, in terms of arms control?
SG: Well, I was fortunate to be involved in arms control negotiations from surprise attack confronts in '58 all the way up to the present time. In the early days of arms control in the sixties we made proposals for freezing the strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, but these proposals required extensive on-site inspection and the Soviets would not accept any on-site inspection. They labeled on-site inspection as purely intelligence collection. So when we went into the SALT 1 negotiations in 1969, we tailored our arms control position to limiting those things which we knew we could verify by the term known as National Technical Means, which essentially is photographing satellites, communications intelligence and other things. So if you look at the SALT 1 agreements, they are strictly agreements as limited on things we could verify by national technical means. So intelligence was really the key factor in determining the scope and nature of those early arms control agreements.
INT: Now I want you to answer the question again, but supply the bit that the audience might not get, which is that what, a satellite allows you to do is to see how many they've got. I mean that's the sharp end of it, isn't it? I mean, can you give me a picture of the role of intelligence in assisting the arms control procedure?
SG: Well, let's take a specific example of the SALT 1 agreements. One was limiting anti-ballistic missile systems, those missiles that could shoot down ICBM's. The other was limiting strategic offensive missile systems. So what we limited actually were the number of launchers. We did not limit the number of ICBMs and this is an important distinction. The launchers we could count and we knew how many there were, we knew they'd been destroyed. Missiles can be produced and stored in factories, so you could not count those from satellite. So this is one example of how the arms control agreement was tailored to those things we could actually verify by our intelligence sources, which we'd labeled in the arms control agreement, national technical means, which was satellites, it was Elint, it was all these things that we could follow. So those early agreements were tailored to things that we could verify by our intelligence means. Subsequent agreements have been not only verified by national technical means, but also by on-site inspection, so when you get into the Start agreements and the current arms control, the Soviets have now allowed inspectors in, so you can broaden the nature of what you're limiting and you can now start limiting the number of warheads on the front end of a missile because you can verify that by going in and looking at it where you could not verify it by a satellite.
INT: I'm sorry to be pedantic about this, but let me be absolutely straight with you. To get you to explain that the satellite is literally going to fly over... I know this sounds like kindergarten to you, but it's important. The satellite is going to fly over the Soviet Union, it's going to tell you how many launchers there are down there. So if they say they're going to pull twenty out, or they've only got three, you can say no, no, no. Now just explain that to me and tell me also whether or not this ever happened? Did you ever actually have a debate in which they said oh we've only got two of these and you said actually, you know, you haven't?
SG: Well, the arms control agreements, the early ones, the SALT 1 in '69 to '72 time frame were based on those things that we could verify, monitor, by our intelligence sources which was primarily satellites and Elint and other things which were labeled national technical means. Then in a specific example, if you limited the number of ICBM launchers, that they'll be no more new launchers, our satellites had identified and counted the number of launchers at each of the deployment sites, so we knew the number and the number was there, we could talk about it. Now in another area, for example in the limitations on anti-ballistic missiles, we had certain restrictions on what you could put at a launch site and what had to be taken out of the launch site and on several occasions when I was job appointed by President Nixon, made me the first commissioner to a body known as the Standing Consulting Commission responsible for implementing the SALT 1 agreements and during this capacity I would bring up specific cases to my counterpart, a Soviet General, General Ustinov that we had data which suggests that you have not dismantled this site according to the precise procedures and I could tell him what they are not doing. I was not allowed to show him photographs, but I could explain and he would go back and check, so the photographs permitted us to point out areas where there were inconsistencies between the Soviet statements and what we saw in our intelligence and most of these compliance questions were resolved in the Standing Consulting Commission to the satisfaction of both sides.
INT: Good, cut there.
END OF INTERVIEW