Council on Foreign Relations

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The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) states that it is "dedicated to increasing America's understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy. The Council accomplishes this mainly by promoting constructive debates and discussions, clarifying world issues, and publishing Foreign Affairs."

In a September 2005 makeover of its website, the Council proclaimed itself to be "A Nonpartisan Resource for Information and Analysis"(sic), "to be the first-stop, nonpartisan resource on U.S. foreign policy and America’s role in the world", according to the press release.

See Also:


The CFR dates back to 1921, and in 1996 published its history, available on its website.

The membership of the CFR includes past Presidents, Ambassadors, Secretaries of State, Wall Street investors, international bankers, foundation executives, think tank executives, lobbyist lawyers, NATO and Pentagon military leaders, wealthy industrialists, journalists, media owners and executives, university presidents and key professors, select Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, Federal Judges, wealthy entrepreneurs, and as many as ten 9-11 Commission Members. [1] [2]

Due perhaps more to its origins, associations, and history, than to its current composition and activities, the CFR does have a reputation as one of the "triumvirate of elite organizations" together with the Bilderberg and the Trilateral Commission. Elitism doesn't necessarily preclude the ability to provide unbiased and useful service however. [3]

Carroll Quigley, Professor of History at Georgetown University, stated, "The Council of Foreign Relations is the American Branch of a society which originated in England and believes national boundaries should be obliterated and one-world rule established." [4]

They hold regular private meetings including members, and very select guests. Occasionally they will hold a public meeting, and invite the open press (including C-SPAN). The image of the CFR as a closed-shop bi-partisan discussion forum for the foreign policy establishment has fuelled criticism that the organisation and its members are controlling world policy and events.

In 1938 the Council created numerous Committees on Foreign Relations throughout the county, in 1995 the Committees became a separate organization under the umbrella of the American Committees on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C..

Current Independent Task Force Projects (January 2008)

Conspiracy theorists' views

The CFR and its members commonly feature prominently in conspiracy-oriented writings, such as those of anti-establishment conservatives, such as Lyndon LaRouche and Pat Robertson, as central advocates of the 'new world order'.

By way of example, James W. Wardner [5][6], claims he "exposes the evil forces behind the 'New World Order' and reveals the unholy alliances that are bringing about The Planned Destruction of America." [7]

In these writings the CFR is linked to other groups - such as the Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati [8], the Skull and Bones Society, and the Bilderberg Group - and portrayed as between them seeking to impose the 'new world order'. [9] (See also "Illuminati and Council on Foreign Relations" by Myron Fagan [10] [11]).

CFR Reports & Publications

  • Nicholas Lehman, "How It Came To War" writes in The New Yorker, March 31, 2003, that in an interview with Richard Haass, Director of the Policy Planning staff at the State Department, he learned that Haass would be leaving the State Department to take the position of President of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The position is currently held by Leslie H. Gelb.
  • The central finding of which is stated as "Over the past two decades the United States has spent billions of dollars and significant manpower in the Andes region to stem the flow of illegal drugs; assist local security forces in the fight against drugs, terror and insurgency; and promote free markets, human rights, and democracy. Yet the democracies of the Andean region-Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia--are still at risk, and the prospect of regional collapse is real and poses a serious threat to U.S. lives and interests."
  • link to .PDF version of the report
  • The Commission attempts to redress what it considers to be a major weakness of current U.S. policy as embodied in Plan Colombia and the Andean Counter-drug Initiative: an overly narrow focus on counternarcotics and security issues, and the relative absence of complementary, comprehensive, regionally-oriented strategies.
  • The Commission puts forth three objectives to rectify current policy. Determined action on these three strategic objectives will, over time, accomplish sustainable progress toward political, economic, and security goals that a policy focused mainly on supply-side counterdrug efforts cannot achieve.
  • I. The need to more equitably distribute political and economic resources and power in each country, with a commitment to strategic rural land reform.
  • II. The importance of greater participation by the international community on a range of diplomatic, political, economic, social, security, and humanitarian issues.
  • III. The recognition that regional problems require regional approaches and that greater cooperation among the Andean countries is essential.
  • Scott Sherman, Kissinger's Shadow Over the Council on Foreign Relations, The Nation, December 27, 2004 (print edition), December 6, 2004 (electronic version). Article describes the attempts by Kissinger to censor articles in a CFR's publication, Foreign Affairs. It reveals some of the internal politics, and the relationship between the operators.
  • William Fisher, "Hope For Improving U.S. Communications With The Muslim World?," Scoop (New Zealand), May 26, 2005. A CFR report titled "A New Beginning: Strategies for a More Fruitful Dialogue with the Muslim World" suggests the U.S. try "listening more, a humbler tone, and focusing on bilateral aid and partnership, while tolerating disagreement on controversial policy issues" when trying to relate to Muslim nations. The report, based on focus groups in Morocco, Egypt and Indonesia, found that focus group members "do not take seriously U.S. government media, such as Radio Sawa, al-Hurra TV, and Hi magazine, as information sources." Specific recommendations include engaging "local and regional media via press releases, interviews, Op-Eds, press conferences, and site visits," and launching "an advertising campaign on U.S. aid and support for reform in local and regional media, and acknowledge the U.S. government as the source."


Executive Office

As of June 2007:[12]


Accessed March 2011: [1]

*Joan E. Spero - Visiting Fellow, Foundation Center

Officers and Directors Emeriti:

Current Directors

As of June 2007:[13]

Directors Emeriti

International Advisory Board

Accessed September 2008: [2]

Contact Information

New York office
The Harold Pratt House
58 East 68th Street
New York, NY 10021
Tel. (212) 434-9400
Fax: (212) 434-9800

Washington office
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Tel. (202) 518-3400
Fax (202) 986-2984
Web site:

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Board, Council on Foreign Relations, accessed March 20, 2011.
  2. International Advisory Board, Council on Foreign Relations, accessed September 21, 2008.

External resources

  • Council on Foreign Relations, "Membership Roster", Council on Foreign Relations 2008 Annual Report. (Pdf)

External articles