Report reveals deeper CIA role in 1963 Vietnam coup and Diem’s assassination

Ngo Dinh DiemA newly declassified report by the Inspector General of the United States Central Intelligence Agency reveals that the South Vietnamese generals who overthrew President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 used CIA money “to reward opposition military who joined the coup”. Acknowledging that “the passing of these funds is obviously a very sensitive matter”, the CIA Inspector General’s report contradicts the sworn testimony of Lucien E. Conein, the CIA liaison with the South Vietnamese generals. In 1975, Conein told a United States Senate committee that the agency funds, approximately $70,000 or 3 million piasters, were used for food, medical supplies, and “death benefits” for the families of South Vietnamese soldiers killed in the coup.

The report (.pdf), one of the 19,000 JFK assassination documents released by the US National Archives on Thursday, also contains new details about the South Vietnamese generals’ decision to assassinate Diem that contradict a conclusion of the coup’s history written by the CIA station in Saigon. The majority of the generals, said the CIA at the time, “desired President Diem to have honorable retirement from the political scene in South Vietnam and exile”. According to a newly declassified portion of the 49-page document written by the CIA’s Inspector General, an unidentified field-grade South Vietnamese officer who provided the CIA station with pictures of the bloodied bodies of Diem and his brother and advisor, Ngo Dinh Nhu, said that “most of the generals” favored their immediate execution: “The ultimate decision was to kill them. A Captain Nhung was designated as executioner”.

A redacted version of the Inspector General’s report, dated May 31, 1967, was released by the National Archives in November 2017. In that version of the report, the paragraphs related to the use of CIA funds and the generals’ decision to murder Diem were excised.

* William J. Rust is the author of four books about US relations with Southeast Asia countries during the cold war, including Kennedy in Vietnam. He is currently completing a book about US relations with Indonesia.

 

Advertisements

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

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 #0166

Bookmark and Share

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