Why Did You Wake Us Up in the Middle of the Night?: Use of NIACT, 1978

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

An earlier post described a minor contretemps involving use of the Department of State communications precedence indicator “NIACT” [Night Action].  That problem persisted over the years as demonstrated by a 1978 exchange of telegrams between the Department and the U.S. embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The story began in May 1978, when the German terrorist Till Meyer was sprung from a prison in West Berlin by an armed group.[1]  This precipitated a crisis in the Berlin government.[2]  Meyer escaped the city but was arrested in Bulgaria on June 22.[3]  Bulgarian authorities returned Meyer and three other terrorists to German custody in what was characterized as an example of “outstanding” cooperation by the Bulgarians.[4]

The Department of State sent the following telegram requesting that the embassy in Sofia convey to Bulgarian authorities U.S. approbation of Bulgarian actions to return the four terrorists to German control.

1978STATE160655
Department of State to Embassy Sofia, Telegram 160655, June 23, 1978, 1978STATE160655, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59

In response, the embassy in Sofia sent the following telegram questioning use of the precedence indicator “NIACT”:

1978SOFIA01222
Embassy Sofia to Department of State, Telegram 01222, June 26, 1978, 1978SOFIA01222, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59

The Department responded with the following mea culpa:


[1] U.S. Mission Berlin to Department of State, Telegram 01232, May 27, 1978, 1978USBERL01232, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[2] U.S. Mission Berlin to Department of State, Telegram 01253, May 31, 1978, 1978USBERL01253, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[3] U.S. Mission Berlin to Department of State, Telegram 01480, June 22, 1978, 1978USBERL01480, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[4] U.S. Mission Berlin to Department of State, Telegram 01483, June 22, 1978, 1978USBERL01483, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

 

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