Newly-Declassified CIA Histories Show Its Involvement in Every Aspect of the Indochina War





The Central Intelligence Agency participated in every aspect of the wars in Indochina, political and military, according to newly declassified CIA histories. The six volumes of formerly secret histories (the Agency's belated response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by National Security Archive senior fellow John Prados) document CIA activities in South and North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in unprecedented detail. The histories contain a great deal of new material and shed light on aspects of the CIA's work that were not well known or were poorly understood. The new revelations include:

* The CIA and U.S. Embassy engaged in secret diplomatic exchanges with enemy insurgents of the National Liberation Front, at first with the approval of the South Vietnamese government, a channel which collapsed in the face of deliberate obstruction by South Vietnamese officials [Document 2 pp. 58-63].

* As early as 1954 that Saigon leader Ngo Dinh Diem would ultimately fail to gain the support of the South Vietnamese people. Meanwhile the CIA crafted a case officer-source relationship with Diem's brother Ngo Dinh Nhu as early as 1952, a time when the French were still fighting for Indochina [Document 1, pp. 21-2, 31].

* CIA raids into North Vietnam took place as late as 1970, and the program authorizing them was not terminated until April 1972, despite obtaining no measurable results [Document 5, pp. 349-372].

* In 1965, a time when the South Vietnamese regime was again in conflict with the Buddhist majority, the CIA secretly funded Buddhist training programs [Document 2, p. 38].

* CIA involvement in South Vietnamese elections goes beyond what has been previously disclosed, and matches the scope of the agency's controversial 1960s political action program in Chile [Document 2, pp. 51-58].

* In the later period of the war, according to the CIA's own historian, Saigon leader Nguyen Van Thieu's mistrust of the United States increasingly focused on the CIA [Document 2, p. 87].

* The CIA historian, contrary to neo-orthodox arguments regarding progress in the Vietnam war, concedes that U.S. pacification efforts failed in Vietnam—including the so-called "Phoenix" program—and traces this failure to several causes, including South Vietnamese lack of interest and investment in this key facet of the conflict [Document 3, p. xv-xvi].

* The CIA was aware from the very early 1960s of the problems posed by Laotian drug trafficking to its Laos campaign, but not only took no action, it did not even make drug trafficking a reporting requirement until the Nixon administration declared war on drugs [Document 5, p. 535].

Related articles

  • John Prados: The CIA's Vietnam Story

  • John Prados: 'A Tale of Obsessive Secrecy,' On the Newly-Declassified CIA Histories on Vietnam


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