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Harold Saunders, American Diplomat

Director of Intelligence and Research, 1975-1978

Following his time as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Saunders moved to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research within the State Department.  This appointment came about because the previous Director had transitioned into a new post as the Deputy National Security Advisor.  When asked by Henry Kissinger to take the open job, Saunders accepted.  In this role, he continued to accompany Kissinger on his multiple trips to the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and China. Middle Eastern negotiations became less urgent, simply because politicians were focused instead on the 1976 Presidential election.  However, in 1975, they were able to focus in on conflict in Palestine and Saunders established an informal working group to discern what questions needed to be answered regarding the disputes and research each answer. 

Harold Saunders position appointment certificate

A certificate announcing Saunders' appointment as the Director of Intelligence and Research.

A press release announcing Harold Saunders' appointment as the Director of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State

Saunders' swearing-in photograph

A photograph of Harold Saunders being sworn in as the Director of Intelligence and Research.  Saunders' children are holding the Bible and his parents are on the far right.  

During his time at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Saunders tackled additional issues in the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, including the Angola civil war and assessments of a Soviet missile program.  He also participated in the restructuring of the intelligence community which occurred under CIA Director George H.W. Bush, which came about after heavy Congressional scrutiny of the intelligence organizations. 

Saunders signing paperwork

A photograph of Harold Saunders signing appointment papers for his new position as Director of Intelligence and Research for the Department of State.  His children look on.

State department photograph

A photograph of several men gathered around a table in a conference room.  President George H.W. Bush is present, and Harold Saunders is seated second from the right. 

At this point in his career, Saunders was privy to high-level conversations, including those regarding covert operations requiring Presidential approval. Informally, he continued to advise the Secretary of State (first, Henry Kissinger, then Cyrus Vance) by providing detailed analysis of various global concerns, including the beginning of the civil war in Lebanon.  

Saunders in Zaire photograph

A photograph of Harold Saunders and Bernard Kalb shopping in an open market in Kinshasa, Zaire, while on a diplomatic trip with Henry Kissinger.

Saunders in Zambia photograph

A photograph of Harold Saunders being served coffee by Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia, during a visit accompanying Henry Kissinger. 

When President Jimmy Carter took office, Middle Eastern politics continued to be a major global priority for the new Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance.  While efforts were underway to convene a Middle East peace conference, Saunders and others went to the Egypt and Israel multiple times. 

Certificate of Appreciation

A certificate signed by Vice President Walter Mondale thanking Saunders' for accompanying him to Israel.

In 1977, then-Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Asian affairs Alfred Leroy “Roy” Atherton was appointed a full-time negotiator, with the title of Ambassador-at-Large.  When Alfred Leroy “Roy” Atherton, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Asian affairs, was named ambassador-at-large, Harold Saunders was appointed to be the new Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.