Thursday, January 25, 1973 - 6:18pm - Saturday, January 27, 1973 - 6:22pm
Richard Nixon, Richard Helms
White House Telephone

As part of a series of shake-ups at the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of the continuing fallout from the Watergate investigation, President Nixon had replaced Richard Helms as Director of Central Intelligence with James R. Schlesinger, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Nixon had nominated Helms to be Ambassador to Iran to replace Joe Farland. At the time of this call, Helms had not yet been confirmed by the Senate and was still acting in the capacity of Director of Central Intelligence.1

President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Mr. President, I have [CIA] Director [Richard] Helms.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Richard Helms: Good evening, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Dick, I'm sitting here talking to John Ehrlichman, and I was wondering when you could get out to Iran, how soon you could get out there.

Helms: Well, I had been planning to go about the middle of March.

President Nixon: Middle of March?

Helms: Yeah.

President Nixon: Oh.

Helms: Because I haven't briefed--

President Nixon: Oh, yeah.

Helms: I've got to get myself briefed, and I've got that letter from you, which--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Helms: I've got to do a lot of work on that energy problem.

President Nixon: Well, let me say this: I wonder . . . Have you been confirmed yet? I asked [William] Fulbright about it, because I told him and said that I wanted you confirmed especially, and he said he would. [chuckles]

Helms: Well, I think it'll be next week.

President Nixon: Yeah. See, the [Lyndon] Johnson death slowed it up. But what--

Helms: But [current Ambassador to Iran] Joe Farland is still out there, you know?

President Nixon: Oh, I know that. I know that. I see. I see. Well, he'll be--

Helms: I don't think he's leaving until the end of February.

President Nixon: Oh, yeah. 

Helms: Because the Shah gave him a mission to do before he left.2

President Nixon: Yeah.

Helms: He wanted him to travel around and see the Iranian industrial production and so forth--

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Helms: —so that he could be of some some help when he got back here.

President Nixon: Well, that may be what we're talking [unclear]. What I would like for you to do is this: have a talk with John [Ehrlichman] at your, next week some time, would you?

Helms: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: And the Iranian oil thing, as you [know], is in a, apparently, one hell of a situation at the moment. And did you talk to [John] Connally? Or you're going to?

Helms: I'm going to. I've wanted to get myself educated a little bit before I talked to him.

President Nixon: Fine.

Helms: [Unclear] more sense.

President Nixon: I would say the first man to talk to is John Ehrlichman.

Helms: Right.

President Nixon: And then [Peter] Flanigan, who's made his study. Read the whole thing.

Helms: Right.

President Nixon: And what I want to do is that, if you're not going till March, maybe we can find a way to expedite it so you could even take a--you could take a trip even now, couldn't you?

Helms: Oh, I could travel out there, certainly.

President Nixon: Well, what we have in--what I have in mind--I've talked to--and everybody here thinks it's a great idea--I--and I've just been talking to Henry [Kissinger] about--what I really have in mind is for you, basically, to be sort of the--without downgrading the other ambassadors--the ambassador-in-charge of that sort of area. You know what I mean?

Helms: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Particularly [unclear]. So you could go down to those sheikdoms and these other places and pull this thing to[gether] and then give us the recommendations, you know. And it--[you would be] in charge of the area not only in terms of oil and so forth, but in terms of the stability of the governments.

Approximately ten seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as classified material. 

President Nixon: You see what I mean?

Helms: I got it.

President Nixon: So I think a trip of that sort would be very worthwhile. Let me suggest this: you come into--you'd have a talk with John Ehrlichman at the earliest possible time.

Helms: Right.

President Nixon: Have a talk with--and with Connally--the Connally thing's a little sensitive because he represents some clients, but he'll--

Helms: Yes.

President Nixon: But, on the other hand, you should talk with him.

Helms: Right.

President Nixon: Then--and then some time next week--perhaps Wednesday or Thursday or so--maybe toward the end of the week, because I'm going to be tied up the first of the week, we can--we'll try to go over the thing.

Helms: All right, sir.

President Nixon: And . . . but my view is, that you probably ought to take a trip fairly soon. In other words, you know the Shah well, right?

Helms: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: If you could do it. I don't think it's any problem with [Joe] Farland. But you better think about that and talk to--if you think it's too sensitive to go out there [unclear], but you're still the Director of the CIA, right?

Helms: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: Well, that's--

Helms: Well, why don't I talk to these gentlemen and see what the score is here?

President Nixon: Yeah.

Helms: Maybe I can come up with a recommendation then.

President Nixon: All right. Fine. You talk and we'll work something out, because I don't want--I'd like to get a--since you're going to be in charge, I'd like to get you in the deal now before it--frankly, before it blows.

Helms: Right, sir.

President Nixon: Then when it blows we can blame you.

Helms: [Laughing] Great.

President Nixon: You've been through that before, haven't you?

Helms: Yes, sir.

President Nixon: OK. Fine.

Helms: Thank you, Mr. President.

  • 1. Schlesinger formally took over as DCI the following week, on 2 February.
  • 2. Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was the Emperor of Iran.

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.