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had given birth to the U-2, nurtured it, and pressed the reluctant
president to let it fly deep and often. Now was no time for weakness.
Besides, he had long ago given the White House "absolutely categorical"
assurances that a U-2 pilot would never survive a crash.



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This certainty was curious, for a number of safety devices were built
into the aircraft, including a specially designed ejection seat. Dulles's
"absolutely categorical" guarantee lends weight to the suspicion that the
U-2 was rigged to prevent any possibility of a pilot surviving. Adding
weight to this theory was a later comment by top Eisenhower aide
Andrew Goodpaster that "we had an understanding . . . that the plane
would be destroyed and that it was impossible for the pilot to survive."
Once set in motion, however, the lie would soon gain a life of its own
and no one would be able to control it. At NASA, long respected around
the world for the open and honest way it managed America's space
program, spokesman Walter Bonney was forced to stand before television
cameras and tell lie after lie for the better part of an hour. Two days
later, on Saturday, May 7, Khrushchev let his other boot drop.
"Comrades," he said with a smile, looking down on the delegates
attending the meeting of the Supreme Soviet. "I must let you in on a
secret. When I made my report two days ago, I deliberately refrained from
mentioning that we have the remains of the plane”and we also have the
pilot, who is quite alive and kicking!" The gathering howled with laughter
and shook the walls with applause. Then, in an action that certainly sent
shivers down the spines of senior officials at NSA, he told the crowd that
the USSR had also recovered "a tape recording of the signals of a number
of our ground radar stations”incontestable evidence of spying."


Notified of the news while at Gettysburg, Eisenhower replied with one
word: "Unbelievable." In Washington, it was chaos. Senior aides, like
masons, began to quickly build a wall of lies around the president, and
the cover story seemed to change by the hour. Like a character from Alice
in Wonderland, State Department spokesman Lincoln White was left to
scurry down the rabbit hole again and again. Everything said previously
was untrue, he told a dumbfounded press. One reporter later wrote,
"Almost instantly you could feel the anger harden. Newsmen discovered,
to their horror, that they had participated in a lie."
At one point Secretary of Defense Gates called Secretary of State
Herter and demanded that someone give a straight story. "Somebody has
to take responsibility for the policy," Gates insisted. "While the President
can say he didn't know about this one flight, he did approve the policy."
Herter gripped the black receiver tight and shot back, "The president
didn't argue with this but for the moment [he] doesn't want to say
anything and we have been trying to keep the president clear on this."
When the president walked into the Oval Office on the morning of May
9, his normal good humor had given way to depression. "I would like to
resign," he said to his secretary, Ann Whitman. Talk was beginning to
spread that Congress might call for a vigorous probe into the U-2 affair,



47
something Eisenhower wanted to avoid at all costs. Later in the day
Herter and Dulles were scheduled to go behind closed doors and brief a
handful of senior senators and congressmen on the scandal. Dulles,
Eisenhower said, should tell the delegation from the Hill only that the
project had operated for four years under a general, blank presidential
authorization. No more. Then, to discourage any thoughts of an
investigation, the spy chief should "point out that any informal
investigation would be very bad."
For Eisenhower, the whole process was quickly turning into Chinese
water torture. Every day he was being forced to dribble out more and
more of the story. But he had decided that one secret must never be
revealed, even if members of his Cabinet had to lie to Congress to keep it:
his own personal involvement in the U-2 and bomber overflights. Before
the congressional meeting, Goodpaster called Herter to emphasize the
point. The "president wants no specific tie to him of this particular
event," he warned.
As Dulles and Herter were on Capitol Hill, Eisenhower was meeting
with members of his National Security Council, warning them to avoid
the press. "Our reconnaissance was discovered," he said ruefully, "and
we would just have to endure the storm and say as little as possible." A
short time later, in what had become by now an almost laughable daily
routine, Lincoln White read still another statement, which contradicted
the three previous announcements. Now the administration was
admitting to "extensive aerial surveillance by unarmed civilian aircraft,
normally of a peripheral character but on occasion by penetration.
Specific missions . . . have not been subject to presidential
authorization." With that, Eisenhower had drawn a line in the sand. No
matter what the cost, a blanket of lies must forever hide his personal
involvement in the ill-fated project.
From the very beginning, he had had a sense that the overflight
programs would end in disaster. But his advisers, especially Allen Dulles
and General Nathan Twining, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
had pushed and pushed and pushed. No more. "Call off any provocative
actions," the president ordered Gates following a June 1960 Cabinet
meeting, barely able to hide his anger. NSA's peripheral ferret flights,
however, could continue”as long as they remained in international
airspace. Then Eisenhower motioned for Herter and Goodpaster to follow
him into his office and told them in no uncertain terms that all further
U-2 overflights of the USSR would cease. "Inform Allen Dulles," he said
abruptly. The next day Eisenhower was to depart for Paris and a long-
awaited summit conference with Khrushchev. He wanted no more
surprises.




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Aboard his four-engine Il-18, as it passed over the dark forests of
Byelorussia on its way to Paris, Khrushchev once again began
smoldering over the timing of the U-2 mission. "It was as though the
Americans had deliberately tried to place a time bomb under the
meeting," he thought, "set to go off just as we were about to sit down with
them at the negotiating table." He was particularly concerned over his
nation's loss of prestige within the Soviet bloc. "How could they count on
us to give them a helping hand if we allowed ourselves to be spat upon
without so much as a murmur of protest?" The only solution was to
demand a formal public apology from Eisenhower and a guarantee that
no more overflights would take place. One more surprise for the
American president.
But the apology Khrushchev was looking for would not come. Despite
having trespassed on the Soviet Union for the past four years with scores
of flights by both U-2s and heavy bombers, the old general still could not
say the words; it was just not in him. He did, however, declare an end to
overflights through the end of his term. But it was not enough. A time
bomb had exploded, prematurely ending the summit conference. Both
heads of state returned to Orly Airport for their flights home. Also
canceled was Khrushchev's invitation to Eisenhower for a Moscow visit
before leaving office. "We couldn't possibly offer our hospitality,"
Khrushchev later said, "to someone who had already, so to speak, made
a mess at his host's table."
Back in Washington, the mood was glum. The Senate Foreign
Relations Committee was leaning toward holding a closed-door
investigation into the U-2 incident and the debacle in Paris. In public,
Eisenhower maintained a brave face. He "heartily approved" of the
congressional probe and would "of course, fully cooperate," he quickly
told anyone who asked. But in private he was very troubled. For weeks
he had tried to head off the investigation. His major concern was that his
own personal involvement in the overflights would surface, especially the
May Day disaster. Equally, he was very worried that details of the
dangerous bomber overflights would leak out. The massed overflight
may, in fact, have been one of the most dangerous actions ever approved
by a president.


At 8:40 A.M. on May 24, shortly before a National Security Council
meeting, Gordon Gray pulled open the curved, five-inch-thick wooden
door of the Oval Office and walked briskly across the pale green carpet
bearing the presidential seal. The president's national security adviser
knew Eisenhower did not like visitors to wait to be told to come in. Gary
had bad news. "It appeared," he told his boss, "that there was no longer
any hope that congressional committees could be restrained from
conducting investigations of the U-2”Summit matter." With the start of


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the hearings only three days away, Gray suggested that during the NSC
meeting, Eisenhower "would wish to indicate to the Council how far he
wished his principal advisers to go in their testimony."
A short while later, two dozen officials crowded into the Cabinet
Room, just off the Oval Office. Eisenhower's National Security Council
meetings had the timing and grace of Kabuki theater. At about thirty
seconds before 10:00, Gray made his announcement in the Cabinet
Room. "The President," he said in a deep voice, as if issuing a command,
which in a sense he was.
As Eisenhower entered, the Council participants awkwardly rose to
their feet and mumbled a good morning. Eisenhower then took his
position at the center of the table. Sitting on a leather-bound ink blotter
was a large three-ring binder, his "Black Book," opened to the first item
on the agenda. Nearby was a matching holder containing White House
notepaper. A black dial phone with seven buttons was to his left. Directly
across from him sat Vice President Richard M. Nixon, and behind the
vice president was a bookcase containing a gold-colored Republican
elephant, a colonial soldier standing at attention, and a shiny set of
engraved leather volumes, which appeared never to have been opened.
"Mr. President," Gray began. "The first item is a briefing by Mr. Allen
Dulles." The CIA director was in his usual seat, at the head of the table
and to Eisenhower's right, framed by a large white fireplace. Pipe in
hand, the professor began. Moscow's decision "to play up the U-2
incident and to call off the visit of the President to the USSR," he told the
somber officials, was made well before the summit took place. But the
decision "to wreck the Summit meeting," Dulles said, was made only
after the U.S. admitted presidential approval of the overflight program.
This was not what Eisenhower wanted to hear. The blame for the
disaster now reached right to the Oval Office door. He could not allow the
Senate Committee to get any closer. He could not let them discover that,
contrary to what he had told the American public and the senior
congressional leadership, he had personally approved and overseen the
bungled May Day flight and every other mission. And he certainly could
not let them discover the risky bomber overflights which, thankfully, had
not yet come to light.
Sitting with his back to the blue drapes and the broad windows
looking out onto the North Lawn, Eisenhower bemoaned the committee's
investigation. "It was clear," he later wrote irritatedly, "that Congress
would insist on some kind of investigation of the U-2 incident and the
break-up of the Summit Conference." "Administration officials should be
calm and clear, but should not be expansive and should not permit the
investigators to delve into our intelligence system .. . ," he warned. "Some
investigators were masters at beguiling witnesses and trying to find out



50
all about our intelligence systems." "No information," he said sternly,
"should be divulged" concerning those operations.
Privately, Eisenhower had no use for congressional investigations.
Over a Scotch in the family quarters of the White House, Defense
Secretary Tom Gates once brought up his apprehension concerning his
scheduled testimony before Lyndon Johnson's Preparedness Committee.
The questioning was going to focus on accusations that the
administration was deliberately underestimating Soviet missiles in order
to reduce Pentagon spending and balance the budget. "What's more,"
Gates said, "that's under oath. That's an investigation." But Eisenhower
quickly brushed aside the defense secretary's concern. "Just stand up
there and tell 'em you won't take their oath."
Another official fearful of the probe and seeking to scuttle it was
General Nathan Twining. It was he who had been most responsible for
the bomber overflights, and now, at the May 24 meeting, he was
concerned that the investigators might soon turn away from the CIA and
toward his own organization. "The investigation, once started, would seek
to explore our whole intelligence operation," he protested. "If the
investigators probed CIA, they would then want to investigate JCS
operations." He then questioned "whether there was anything we could
do to stop the investigation."
After a few moments, Eisenhower brought up the concept of executive
privilege but quickly rejected it as unworkable. The investigators could be
stopped from probing into advice given him by his personal staff, he said,
but not into the activities of other administration officials.
"Accordingly," he complained, "the investigation could not be
stopped." But to limit the possibility of a leak, he said, "administration
officials should testify themselves and not allow their subordinates to
speak."
One other possibility brought up by Eisenhower was to have Allen
Dulles simply stonewall all questions. "Mr. Dulles," he said, "might have
to say that CIA [is] a secret organization of the U.S. Government."
Still another possibility was to try to turn the public against the
Committee. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Anderson suggested to
Eisenhower that he go on television and appeal to the American public to
reject the investigation. "The speech," he said, "should express the hope
that no one in this country will engage in activities which will imperil the
capability of the country to protect itself in the future. The speech should
contain the implication that there is a limit beyond which investigation
cannot go without imperiling our security." To further make the point
about the dangers to security such an investigation might cause,
Anderson told Eisenhower he should evoke the terrible image of Pearl
Harbor.


51
But Eisenhower was resigned to the inevitability of the investigation.
He turned to the most difficult topic: covering up his own involvement in
the scandal. "Congress could be told that overflights have been going on
with the approval of the secretary of State," he said, "and our scientific
advisers, who have indicated that this method of gathering intelligence is
necessary. It should be made clear that basic decisions respecting
reconnaissance overflights of denied territory have been made by the
president."
That, Eisenhower decided, was all the investigators would get. Full
stop. The fact that he had actually micromanaged the program from the
Oval Office would have to be denied. According to formerly top secret
documents obtained for Body of Secrets, Eisenhower was so fearful of the
probe that he went so far as to order his Cabinet officers to hide his
involvement in the scandal even while under oath. At least one Cabinet
member directly lied to the committee, a fact known to Eisenhower.
Subornation of perjury is a serious crime, one that had it been
discovered might have led to calls for his impeachment and to the
prosecution of senior Cabinet members.
"The impression," Eisenhower ordered his senior Cabinet members
and National Security Council team, "should not be given that the
president has approved specific flights, precise missions, or the timing of
specific flights." Yet that was precisely what the president had approved:
the specific flights, the precise missions, and the timing of the specific
flights.
The issue was never the protection of "our intelligence systems," as
Eisenhower told the NSC officials. It was covering up his role in the

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