We have discussed with Mr. Gerard Smith, special consultant to the Secretary of State on Atomic Energy, the implementation of Section 144 b of the new Atomic Energy Act, which authorises the Department of Defence, with the assistance of the Atomic Energy Commission, to communicate certain restricted data of defence value to other nations or regional defence organisations associated with the United States.
- We explained to Mr. Smith that we had no instructions to raise any specific subjects on which we might be seeking information under Section 144 b, but that we thought it likely that the Australian authorities would wish in due course to take advantage of the new provision permitting some exchanges of defence information (e.g. in the field of civil defence) and for this purpose we should like to have when possible a clear picture of the manner in which the United States Government was proposing to put Section 144 b into effect.
- We said that it would first of all be useful to have specific confirmation that, as would appear from the wording of the Act, Australia was eligible, as a nation 'participating with the United States pursuant to an international arrangement by substantial and material contributions to the mutual defence and security', to enter into exchanges under Section 144 b. Mr. Smith, who is of an excessively cautious disposition, did not reply quite as categorically as we would have wished, being doubtless mindful of the fact that Administration legal advisers are still engaged on analysis of the new Act's provisions, but said that in view of the existence of the ANZUS Treaty4 he assumed there would be no difficulty on this score.
- In answer to an enquiry, Mr. Smith said he shared our understanding that, as appeared from the wording of Section 123 of the Act, a country wishing to receive from the United States restricted data in the two fields of peaceful uses (Section 144 a) and defence (Section 144 b) would have to conclude with the United States two separate 'agreements for cooperation'. The A.E.C. would have primary responsibility for agreements on peaceful uses, and the Department of Defence would have primary responsibility for agreements relating to defence information.
- Mr. Smith said that a primary purpose of Section 144 b was to make possible cooperation with NATO5 in the atomic defence field, and the first step the Administration was taking was to work out a draft agreement with NATO.
- Subsequently an official in Mr. Smith's office told us he had looked into the subject further at the latter's request and reached the conclusion that the United States would not for an appreciable time be in a position to consider cooperation under Section 144 b with countries such as Australia. The first step, as Mr. Smith has said, was to work out the NATO agreements, and even here Defence Department thinking was still 'extremely nebulous' on the matters that, under the terms of Section 123 have to be spelled out in the agreement (e.g. terms, conditions, nature and scope of cooperation and various guarantees by the cooperating countries). He hoped, however, that the NATO agreement now being considered would provide a 'pattern' that would, at a later stage, assist the expeditious conclusion of arrangements with other countries.
- It is apparent that the enactment of the new legislation will not lead to any overnight development of defence cooperation in this field, even with NATO. Whatever sense of urgency might otherwise be present in American officials' minds is perhaps somewhat diminished by the fact that under the terms of the Act 'agreements for cooperation' cannot take effect until they have been approved by the President and have been before the Joint Congressional Committee6 for thirty days while Congress is in session.
[NAA: A5462, 138/2/10]