On September 25, 1972 President Nixon issued a memo to his Secretary of State William Rogers establishing a Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism. The creation of this committee was a direct response to the Black September terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, but its formation also arrived on the tail of a startling string of domestic terrorist attacks in the United States.

Skyjackings were on the rise, organizations like the Black Liberation Army were striking out at law enforcement, and Chicago had recently become more famous for its riots than for its weather. Terrorist organizations both at home and abroad had been growing increasingly bold and powerful in the first years of Nixon’s presidency, and the brazen murder of eleven Israeli Olympic athletes and officials in Munich provided President Nixon with more than adequate comprehension of the dangers of terrorism. In a message of condolence to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, President Nixon expressed his grief that anyone would want to undermine the spirit of peace and brotherhood represented by the Olympic Games and it was his determination to protect these values in his own country that prompted him to take action.  And so, less than a month after the tragedy in Munich, Nixon established the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism, which was to consist of several of the highest officials in government; the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Transportation, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, and the Directors of the CIA and the FBI were all assigned to the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism by President Nixon.

The committee’s mission was to gather intelligence on terrorist organizations and plots, as well as to propose preventative measures and responsive procedures for both the domestic and foreign terrorist concerns of the United States.  President Nixon viewed terrorism as inexcusable lawlessness that sought to erode the foundations of civilization and the principles of national sovereignty. The ultimate goal of the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism was, therefore, not only to protect the American people from terrorism, but also to insure global stability and the strength of legitimate governing institutions.

Harmony Barker is a Research Assistant at the Richard Nixon Foundation

Photo courtesy of Bettman/Corbis Images: Secretary of State William Rogers briefed President Nixon on July 13, 1970 after Middle East peace talks. Secretary Rogers would go on to lead the President’s task force against terrorism following the massacre of Israeli Olympians at Munich in 1972.