Opinion: Iraq is like South Vietnam in 1963 – the US should walk away

Diem and LodgeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
As I watch the dramatic collapse of the Federal government of Iraq, I keep telling myself that I cannot possibly be the only person noticing the remarkable political resemblance between the Iraq of 2014 and the South Vietnam of 1963. Just like government of Iraq today, the Republic of South Vietnam, which had been set up with direct American support flowing France’s exit from Indochina in 1954, faced increasing domestic opposition that was both political and religious. In Iraq today it is the Sunni Muslims who have taken up arms against the Shiite-controlled government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, a westernized Vietnamese Catholic, whose family had been proselytized to Christianity in the 17th century, was shunned by South Vietnam’s Buddhist majority. The latter became increasingly agitated in opposition to the American supported government in Saigon, which they saw as alien and fundamentally anti-Vietnamese. Diem’s response was to intensify internal repression in South Vietnam. He unleashed the country’s secret police, controlled by his shadowy brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, against the Buddhist community. In the summer of 1963, Buddhist monks began resorting to self-immolation in a desperate attempt to draw public attention to their repression by Diem’s paramilitaries. Nhu’s wife, the fashionable Madame Nhu, shocked public opinion by dismissing the incidents as just some “drugged monks barbecuing themselves”. Washington immediately distanced itself from her comments, and increasingly from Diem.

In the summer of 1963, President John F. Kennedy, a personal friend of Diem, publicly accused the government in Saigon of having “lost touch” with the Vietnamese people and condemned the harsh repression of the Buddhist community. In private, Kennedy had gone a step further, instructing the Central Intelligence Agency and his Ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, to begin consulting with the South Vietnamese military about the possibility of deposing Diem. By that time, the Diem regime had become immensely unpopular in South Vietnam. Read more of this post

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Files reveal names of Americans targeted by NSA during Vietnam War

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The names of several prominent Americans, who were targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, have been revealed in declassified documents. The controversial communications interception operation, known as Project MINARET, was publicly acknowledged in the mind-1970s, during Congressional inquiries into the Watergate affair. We know that MINARET was conducted by the NSA between 1967 and 1973, and that it targeted over a thousand American citizens. Many believe that MINARET was in violation of the Agency’s charter, which expressly prevents it from spying on Americans. But despite the media attention MINARET received during the Watergate investigations, the names of those targeted under the program were kept secret until Wednesday, when the project’s target list was declassified by the US government. The declassification decision was sparked by a Freedom of Information Request filed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The two Archive researchers who filed the declassification request, William Burr and Matthew Aid, said MINARET appears to have targeted many prominent Americans who openly criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The reason for the surveillance was that US President Lyndon Johnson, who authorized the operation, was convinced that antiwar protests were promoted and/or supported by elements outside the US. The newly declassified documents show that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a major surveillance target of the government. Read more of this post

CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

Noam Chomsky in 1970By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 1970 communiqué between two United States government agencies appears to show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kept a file on the iconic American linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Widely seen as a pioneer of modern linguistics, Chomsky adopted an uncompromisingly critical stance against the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. The US Intelligence Community’s systematic surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists at the time prompted legal scholars and historians to deduce that Chomsky’s activities must have been routinely spied on by the American government. But a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in recent years turned up blank, with the CIA stating that it could “not locate any records” responsive to the requests. Scholars insisted, however, and a recent FOIA request unearthed what appears to be proof that the CIA did in fact compile a file on the dissident academic. The request was submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by attorney Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a group specializing in “lawfully acquiring from the government material related to national security matters and distributing it to the public”. According to Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, McClanahan’s FOIA request revealed a memorandum sent from the CIA to the FBI on June 8, 1970. In it, the Agency seeks information about an upcoming trip by American antiwar activists to North Vietnam, which, according to the CIA, had received the “endorsement of Noam Chomsky”. The memo also asks the FBI for information on the trip’s participants, including Professor Chomsky. The Cable spoke to Marquette University Professor Athan Theoharis, domestic surveillance expert and author of Spying on Americans, who opined that the CIA request for information on Chomsky amounts to an outright confirmation that the Agency kept a file on the dissident academic. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #726

Barbara Annette RobbinsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Portrait of first female CIA officer to die in line of duty. In 1965, a 21-year-old American woman, Barbara Annette Robbins (photo), was among the victims of a car bombing at the US Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. Washington said she was a diplomat. But, at a ceremony last year, the CIA admitted she was an employee of the Agency. This makes her the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is also the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And she appears to be the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War. The Washington Post has an interesting article about her short life and career.
►►US Jewish leader says release of Israeli spy Pollard ‘inevitable’. The release of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a US prison for spying on the US for Israel, is “inevitable” and could take place shortly on “technical grounds”, according to Jack Rosen, a prominent Jewish leader and supporter of US President Barack Obama. A New York City real estate executive who hosted Obama at his Upper East Side home for a Democratic Party fundraiser last November, Rosen said that “there are some technical reasons, I’m told, why [Pollard] will be released. I think there’s an inevitability to that happening”.
►►Senior reshuffle at South Korean spy agency. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reshuffled two top posts at South Korea’s main intelligence agency Monday in a shake-up that also affected five other vice-ministerial posts. Nam Joo-hong, a former well-known security scholar who has so far served as ambassador to Canada, was named the first deputy chief of the National Intelligence Service, while Cha Moon-hee, a veteran intelligence official, was tapped as the agency’s second deputy chief. The spy agency’s first and second deputy chiefs are in charge of its overseas and domestic operations, respectively.

News you may have missed #592

Nguyen Van Tau

Nguyen Van Tau

►►Tripoli Internet spy room packed with Western technology. Excellent technical analysis of how several Western –and some Chinese– Internet software and hardware suppliers provided the Gaddafi regime with the tools to exercise mass online surveillance against the country’s citizens. Where have we seen this before?
►►Interview with Vietnamese ex-master spy. Interesting interview with Nguyen Van Tau, who led the Vietnamese H63 clandestine intelligence group during the war with the United States. H63 maintained extensive spy cells in South Vietnam, playing a major role in the 1968 Tet Offensive.
►►MI5 seeks ‘telephone spies’ for London 2012 security. MI5 is recruiting ‘telephone spies’ to listen in on plots against the 2012 Olympics. The Security Service hopes to find candidates able to eavesdrop on potential terrorists by getting foreign language speakers to play an interactive “game” online. By logging on to the official MI5 website, wannabe spooks can tune into an audio tape of a conversation in a foreign language and are later quizzed about it.

News you may have missed #440 (USA edition)

News you may have missed #0219

  • Kennedy considered supporting 1963 coup in S. Vietnam, documents show. New audio recordings and documentation unearthed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, show that US President John F. Kennedy supported a military coup against the US-backed South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem, even though he recognized the planned coup had no chance of a political success. See previous intelNews coverage for more Vietnam War-related declassified items.
  • Speak Farsi? Israel’s Shin Bet is interested. Israel’s Shin Bet internal intelligence agency is advertising jobs for speakers of the Iranian language Farsi. Israeli intelligence agencies appear to have similar problems with those faced by their US counterparts.

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News you may have missed #0166

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Swedish journalist, author, admits KGB ties

Jan Guillou

Jan Guillou

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
One of Sweden’s most famous journalists has admitted having had ties with the KGB in the 1960s and 1970s. Jan Guillou, a veteran newspaper correspondent known in Sweden for his hugely popular spy novels, admitted meeting with a KGB handler after allegations surfaced in a Swedish newspaper. Stockholm-based daily Expressen said it had in its possession several declassified files belonging to Sweden’s security service (SAPO), which revealed that Guillou was recruited by the KGB in 1967. The files are reportedly based on the testimony of the late Arne Lemberg, Guillou’s friend and fellow-reporter, who told SAPO that Guillou held regular meetings with KGB rezident in Stockholm Yevgeny Ivanovich Gergel. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0120

  • Film on America’s most famous whistleblower. A new documentary film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, examines the life of Daniel Ellsberg, a US Pentagon employee who leaked documents to the American public in order to stop the Vietnam War. Ellsberg, 78, is still a pariah in the US defense community. He told the Associated Press that at a RAND (research arm of the Pentagon, where he used to work) reunion several years back, no one would shake his hand.
  • Retired US Air Force officer convicted in China spying case. Retired US Air Force officer James W. Fondren Jr. faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars, after being convicted of selling classified information on US-China military relations to a Chinese agent and lying to the FBI about it. The US Department of Justice accused Fondren, 62, of being part of a spy ring that operated on US soil under the supervision of Chinese government officials, whom Fondren supplied with classified documents for over three years, beginning in 2004.
  • Request to halt CIA probe “nonsense” says former agent. A controversial request by seven former heads of the CIA to end the inquiry into abuse of terrorism suspects held by the Agency is “nonsense”, says Bob Baer, a 20-year CIA caseworker in the Mid-East and former CIA station chief in Iraq. “To say let’s not look further into this because it could upset the agency is like saying let’s not look into Bernie Madoff because it could upset the financial sector”, said Baer.

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CIA documents reveal secret aspects of Vietnam War

CIA report cover

CIA report cover

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The CIA has released a six-volume internal history of its involvement in Vietnam prior to and during the Second Indochina War (usually referred to in the US as the Vietnam War). The release of the documents’ is the long-awaited result of a Freedom of Information Act request by intelligence historian and National Security Archive research fellow John Prados. The documents, which are available online in the National Security Archive’s Electronic Briefing Book No. 283, detail the CIA’s activities in Vietnam from the early 1950s, and provide what appears to be the most complete account to-date of the Agency’s operations during the US war in South and North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0019

  • More interesting podcasts on Afghanistan at Electric Politics. George Kenney, of Electric News, has posted a full transcript of last month’s interesting interview with Graham E. Fuller, CIA’s former station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan. Also, a new highly interesting interview on Afghanistan has been posted on the Electric News website, this time with George Wilson. A veteran reporter who covered the Vietnam and Iraq wars, Wilson makes some noteworthy comparisons between Vietnam and Afghanistan.
  • Panetta, not Blair, should name CIA station chiefs, says ex-CIA agent. Haviland Smith, former CIA agent in Europe and the Middle East, has penned an editorial for The Baltimore Sun, in which he denounces as “simple insanity” efforts by Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, to have a say at who gets appointed as CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  This is the second ex-CIA agent to issue the same warning in recent days.
  • Two more people arrested in Lebanon for spying for Israel. This raises the number of those arrested for belonging to an alleged Israeli spy ring in southern Lebanon to nearly 40. The latest arrestees include Ziad al Homsi, who in 1969 was photographed with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat.

Kissinger forced to reveal transcripts of phone conversations

During his long career as US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger kept many secrets. One of these was that he clandestinely recorded all telephone conversations he had with US government officials, which he subsequently had transcribed by his private secretary. Upon leaving office, in early 1977, Kissinger had the audio recordings destroyed but held on to the transcripts which he described as “private papers” not suitable for public release. George Washington University’s National Security Archive had a different view on the matter, however, and in 2004 managed to force the US government to hand over the transcripts. The Archive has now released a generous portion of 15,000 pages of transcripts, fully catalogued and indexed. William Burr, a senior analyst with the National Security Archive, who edited the released documents, described them as “ranking up there with the Nixon tapes as the most candid, revealing and valuable trove of records on the exercise of executive power in Washington”. Among other things, the transcripts reveal that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger “shared a belief in 1972 that the [Vietnam] war could still be won”. [IA]

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