The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:56 am

CHAPTER 13: Parallax Views

"Our PRU in Quang Tri were all victims of Communist terror," said Bob Brewer, who, like many CIA officers in Vietnam, believed he was singled out for assassination. A dedicated anti-Communist who felt personally threatened, Brewer was motivated, and so were his PRU. "They were so red hot you had to control them," he added with delight. [1]

The man with the job of controlling the PRU in Quang Tri Province was Warren Milberg. Elegant and sophisticated, Milberg today is the consummate corporate American male. His employer, the Titan Corporation, designs "Star Wars" lasers. And more than twenty years after the fact -- despite a lingering resentment against cynical war managers who send idealistic young soldiers on suicidal rites of passage -- Warren Milberg still embraces the cold war ideology and its corresponding Phoenix mythology.

At the core of Milberg's melancholy are two related experiences. Both happened in 1965 during his first tour in Vietnam, when he was deputy chief of security at the Da Nang air base. There Milberg's involvement with agent nets brought him into contact with local CIA operators, who liked his style and invited him to participate in the ongoing SOG operation called Prairie Fire. Milberg joined SOG without the knowledge of his Air Force superiors. He put on black pajamas and worked with a team of Nung mercenaries, leading them on long-range patrols into Laos to monitor and interdict NVA units. Sometimes they sat on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and shot field-grade NVA officers from a thousand yards away, "so they never even heard the report." [2]

"This is where things started to get exciting," recalled Milberg, who along with his other duties, began organizing counterterror teams. "I was doing training of Vietnamese and Americans -- Marines and some Army people." As for his indigenous personnel, "The Vietnamese were gangsters and thugs -- mercenaries who we trained and who were in our pay .... But my perception of the role of the CT teams was to strike terror into the enemy -- the NVA and VC -- not the population."

"It was during this period of time," Milberg continued, "when I started to think more about the war and my role in it. And I also began to see evidence of how the Vietcong were operating in the hamlets. I saw the messages for the tax collectors and the political officers. And what will always stand out in my mind was the terror and torture they used to strike fear and get compliance from the villagers ... an event where a particular village chief's wife, who was pregnant, was disemboweled and their unborn baby's head was smashed with a rifle butt. We stumbled on this incident quite by accident within hours of it happening. I'd never seen anything like it in my life."

Milberg would not talk about the other traumatic incident, other than to say he was asked by the CIA to parachute into North Vietnam. That he did, even though he had never jumped from an airplane before. And something terrible happened, something too painful to describe, something that made him question the motives of war managers who would ask him to do such a reckless thing. He wondered if the mission had any purpose other than testing the men involved -- to see how far they could be pushed and to prepare them for equally preposterous missions in the future. He wondered if he was a guinea pig.

"This event resulted in my being afraid, which was a new experience for me. I spent a lot of time between tours thinking about it and wondering how I would react the next time. So it was almost like I needed to test it again." In this way Warren Milberg's self-doubt compelled him to return to Vietnam in August 1967, at the request of the CIA as part of the Presidentially Directed Counter-Insurgency Program that fleshed out ICEX.

On the other hand, remorse drove Elton Manzione out of Vietnam, out of the military, and nearly out of his mind. Consider the cases of Manzione and Milberg: two men equally exposed to a blend of secrecy and terror. Enlisted man Manzione turned on his masters, renounced American imperialism, and spoke out against the misdeeds of the CIA. Officer Milberg submitted to authority and in return became one of the protected few, accepted into the cult of the phoenix, rewarded with the American dream.

Manzione and Milberg are remarkably alike. They have the same kind of build, are the same age, and come from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area. Both have dark complexions and complexes, dark curly hair, and experience in special operations. Both are thoughtful, aggressive, high-strung. Where they part company is where America, too, is divided: over the question of values.

As a SEAL in Quang Tri Province in 1964 Elton Manzione dressed like the enemy, worked with CTs who committed atrocities as standard procedure, and was told to ignore the rules of engagement. "But there was no sense of our role in the war," he said to me forlornly. He will not talk about his comrades who died while on illegal missions into North Vietnam and Laos. But, he noted, "what annoys me is they're not on the Washington monument simply because they ended up getting greased somewhere where they weren't supposed to be." [3]

Manzione's anger went beyond any lack of recognition. He resented the fact that he was trained to kill. "In psychology it's called cognitive dissonance -- the notion that once you make a commitment, it's impossible to go back. It's something about the human psyche that makes a person reluctant to admit a mistake. This is what training is all about. You've already killed the gook. So what if it isn't a dummy in the bed this time? So what if it's a living, breathing human being? This is what you're supposed to do. And once the first time comes and goes, it's not as hard the second time. You say to yourself, 'Well, hey, I've killed people before. Why should I have any compunctions about doing it now?'"

"Training is brainwashing. They destroy your identity and supply you with a new one -- a uniform identity that every soldier has. That's the reason for the uniform, for everyone having the same haircut and going to dinner together and eating the same thing .... They destroyed the street kid from Newark and created the sailor. They destroyed the sailor and created the SEAL. But people aren't robots, and despite their training, eventually they react; they turn on their trainers and confront the outside forces that have used them. That's what happened to me.

"I was a guinea pig," Manzione insisted. "There is no doubt in my mind today, and there was very little doubt then, even after five months in Vietnam. All the training and all the 'special' programs -- it eventually began to backfire on them. I thought, 'Oh, yeah, great program you got here; you're using me to see how I react. I'm expendable. I'm a pawn.' And that's kind of a heavy realization when you're an eighteen-year-old kid.

"It's a paradox. You know," Manzione continued, "they would send a guy over there to be a replacement for a specific person who was being pulled out. So what consciously came across to you was 'I'm functioning as a part of a machine. And if I fail as a part or break down as a part ... then another part will come along to replace me.' Then you find yourself thinking, 'The last time I looked at somebody as not a part of the machine, and I thought he was a really great guy, and he's a friend of mine, he stepped on a land mine and came down dust, hair, teeth, and eyeballs.'

"Then you realize, 'I can't afford to do that. Because I feel terrible for a month afterwards.' And you can't function when you feel terrible. The only thing we could deal with at any particular time was survival. 'What do I want to do today? I want to eat, sleep, and stay alive.' And you did it. And you related to those kinds of things. Suddenly you looked around and said, 'Wait a minute! That's what those little guys in black pajamas are doing, too!" You get to a point where you begin to see these people just want to be left alone to grow their rice.

"I'll give you one last example of what I'm talking about. I'm sure you've heard about the laser-guided smart bombs we had. Well, they would drop these laser-guided smart bombs, and what the VC would do was take a bunch of old rags and tires and stuff and start a bonfire with lots of smoke. And the laser beam would hit the smoke particles, and it would scatter, and the bombs would go crazy. They'd go up, down, sideways, all over the place. And people would smile and say, 'There goes another smart bomb!' So smart a gook with a match and an old tire can fuck it up!

"The whole perverse idea of putting this technological, semiantiseptic sort of warfare against these people -- who didn't have much more than a stick -- was absurd. The sticks won!"

Warren Milberg had a different point of view. He enjoyed being a member of the closed society, in which relating to the enemy in human terms was cause for expulsion. For him, the image of the disemboweled mother and her murdered fetus "formed opinions and justifications for what I was doing. It was the idea that you needed to hate the enemy. It was the beginning of my own personalization of my role in the conflict. It was what resulted in me going back to Vietnam when everybody -- my parents, my friends, my wife -- told me no one in his right mind would go back to Vietnam. I really believed that I was helping these people defend themselves from the bully. And sometimes that worked well, and sometimes it was horrible .... It was horrible if you made some small little village on the periphery of the universe believe they could in fact stand tall and defend themselves against this thing we understood as the enemy, then came back the next day and found them all slaughtered. It happened. And then you had to ask yourself, 'What did I do here? I made these people believe they could do something, and now they're all dead. Maybe it would have been better if I had just done nothing. Just left these people alone.'

"I'm still reconciling it. I still don't think I've worked it all the way through."

Warren Milberg stared into the distance, seeing sights that only combat veterans see. "Things that have happened since then have led me to believe that I don't want to be an instrument of policy anymore," he concluded. "I think the people who devise the policies and cause idealistic young men to go off to war probably need to experience some of the things I've experienced to temper their judgments."
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:56 am

CHAPTER 14: Phoenix in Flight

When his first tour in Vietnam ended in the spring of 1966, Warren Milberg returned to the United States and was assigned to an Air Force base in South Dakota. But his name and accomplishments remained on file at CIA headquarters in Washington, and one year later Milberg was one of fifty officers and enlisted men from the various military services (all Vietnam veterans) whom the Pentagon invited to join a Presidentially Directed Counter-insurgency Program through a participating agency/service agreement. Those who volunteered were tested and, if accepted by the CIA as junior officer trainees, given extensive training and returned to Vietnam to serve at the discretion of the senior CIA officers in Saigon and the regions. Most were assigned to the provinces as RDC/P or RDC/O advisers, and many became Phoenix coordinators.

Notably, the two other Air Force officers asked to join the program both withdrew, one ''as a matter of conscience." Jacques Kline, who is Jewish, was born and reared in France during World War II and withdrew, according to Milberg, because "he felt the means and methods that he thought were going to be used in it were similar to the means and methods used by the Nazis in World War Two." [1]

Milberg, who is also Jewish -- but obviously did not agree with Kline -- returned to Vietnam in July 1967 and was assigned to CIA region officer in charge Jack Horgan in Da Nang. "I wound up getting a make-work job on the staff there, as liaison to some military units in and around Da Nang, trying to coordinate an intelligence collection and analysis unit for things, like motor units, that the VC used to harass the air base and the city. It was pretty unexciting. I stayed there for maybe a month, bored out of my mind. Then the RDC/P officer in Quang Tri was relieved by Horgan, which left them with a gap. And when I heard about that, I went to him and said, 'I'd like to take the job in Quang Tri.' And he was surprised that I did that -- that anybody would want to go to the provinces .... But Quang Tri was the end of the line, and it was a way for Horgan to get rid of me.

"So I went up to Quang Tri and was delighted to find that when I got there, somebody actually met me. This was the guy who was leaving. He had three days left in Quang Tri, and in those three days he was going to orient me as to what was going on. After spending virtually the whole day and night talking, we loaded up two jeeps, one full of Nung bodyguards, then drove around to all the districts and met all the people in the Special Branch, the CIO, and anybody else we dealt with that were part of his bilateral operations. And I remember as we crossed the Quang Tri River bridge, heading up Highway One toward Dong Ha, thinking, 'I'm back. Now I'm really back,' and wondering what this was all going to be like.

"I guess we couldn't have been driving for more than half an hour when a bus, one of those Asian buses with pigs and chickens and people hanging off the roof and out the windows, blows up about fifty yards ahead of us. The highway was just a little two-lane road, running along the coastal plain. The bomb was a land mine, constructed out of an unexploded U.S. five-hundred-pound bomb, remotely detonated, and probably meant for us. But either a faulty detonator or vibrations set it off. Whatever, here were a lot of innocent civilians either dead or wounded, and it was like deja vu: 'Here I am again. What am I doing here? What is this whole thing about?' And I guess I went through a period of depression early on, thinking, 'There's no way to win this thing. This war is going to go on forever. All these programs and activities are just a waste of human and economic resources.'

"All I had left -- to justify why I was there -- was to do the same thing I had done before, which was to personalize it. What I did while I was there in the midst of all the turmoil and pain and agony -- a thing that made absolutely no sense to me -- was to apply my own value system to it, which was such that I was going to keep pregnant women from being disemboweled. And it got to be a very personal war for me."

After taking over Quang Tri from his predecessor, Milberg "learned right away that the people you inherited, the counterparts in Special Branch or CIO, had a lot to do with the kind of tour you were going to have. They were either good and competent people or bureaucratic, corrupt functionaries -- or variations in between. And I was really fortunate to wind up working with a man named Nguyen Van Khoi, the Special Branch chief in Quang Tri .... I was there to advise and assist him, only to find he had been fighting the war his whole life. He was a pro. An incredible man ... who survived my tour there, often times at great risk to himself." (Khoi was reportedly killed by ARVN deserters in Hue in April 1975.)

In view of Khoi's expertise, there was little for Milberg to do in terms of advising on Special Branch operations. Apart from fighting for his life during Tet, conducting unilateral operations, and monitoring the Province Interrogation Center, Milberg worked largely in financial administration. "I had to go to Da Nang once a month to account for funds I had expended and to bring the region officer and his staff up-to-date on what was going on. And I can remember thinking that I controlled more money as a single individual, that I was sprinkling around the province in one way or another, than what the entire [CORDS] province budget was. I had conversations with the fellow who was the deputy in Da Nang about the fact that we thought that we were providing some measure of economic stability and really weren't interested in the quality of the intelligence we were buying -- that by sprinkling this money as we did, to these low-level informant nets, we were creating economic stability as opposed to engaging in intelligence operations. Interesting concept and idea.

"Once a quarter I was called into Saigon," Milberg continued, "and when I went to Saigon, I stayed at the Duc Hotel. And I felt like if the Vietcong ever targeted the hotel or the city, it would be a piece of cake. I was in the business of planning these kinds of things, and I knew that if I had to do it, it would be a simple thing to do. I used to say to myself, 'My God. If this happens, what the hell am I going to do here in Saigon? They have no plans.' People were carrying around little pistols in shoulder holsters because it was fashionable .... It was a bureaucratic war in Saigon. All these people supposedly involved in intelligence collection and analysis, planning for the use of intelligence resources and the participation of paramilitary forces -- all these people were doing nothing! They lived in their villas in and around town in grand splendor. They'd come to work at eight A.M. and leave at five p.m. It was just like being in an office building, and they had no idea what was going on outside Saigon. None. And I just felt helpless and exposed when I was there. I couldn't wait to get back to the provinces.

"This probably sounds strange," Milberg confessed, "but I felt very much at home in Quang Tri, which was really nothing more than a sleepy province capital consisting of two cross streets and a population between fifteen to twenty thousand people. When I got to Saigon, with its teeming millions, I felt in more danger than I did up-country in my little rural compound in Quang Tri.

"Of course, I wasn't out on operations in the jungle all the time, like I was on my first tour. But whenever we did go out, we were required to send in little spot reports on what we did and why we did it and what the result was. Everybody was manic about body counts -- all that kind of crap. In any event, I kept getting warned by the guy [Jack Horgan's replacement, Harry Mustakos] who was in the region office not to go out on operations. That wasn't my job. And this was a guy who was totally paranoid about being in Vietnam. He was living in Da Nang in relative comfort next to the police station, and he could never understand why there was a need to go out on operations when your counterpart was going on those operations, that there was no way you were going to stay home and still maintain credibility with that counterpart. And I remember getting direct orders from him not to do that. Which I ignored.

"I had a compound that was relatively comfortable as things go," Milberg said "and a personal guard force of Nung mercenaries whose only job was to keep me alive. I had virtually unlimited resources to pay for a staff that translated and produced intelligence reports, which I disseminated to anybody in the province, U.S. military or otherwise, that I thought could take action on those reports. And I owned and operated a forty-man PRU force [see photo] which was my personal army. I wound up having a marine working for me who I think was a psychopath. I never saw or participated in what he did, but I was aware of it." (In "The Future Applicability of the Phoenix Program," Milberg called "those abuses that did occur ... the 'normal' aberrations which result in any form of warfare." [2])

"PRU belonged to the RDC/O side of the province organization until the consolidation," Milberg told me. "I started out as the plans officer, but toward the end of 1967 I was appointed the province officer in charge of both programs. This is where I actually control and direct the PRU myself. Prior to this, if I had need of the PRU, because of some intelligence I had developed, what I did was go and see the RDC/O people -- which was a relatively large program, five or six Americans involved -- whereas RDC/P was only me. I lived by myself away from them. But I'm not sure if that's the way it was in every province."

In regard to Phoenix, Milberg said, "I'm not sure how you bound Phoenix, but it certainly falls right in the middle. But at this point the agency was beginning to turn the reins of the program over to the U.S. Army, as advisers to the Vietnamese, and going through whatever Orwellian mind-set was necessary to make believe this was a Vietnamese program."

Phoenix operations in Quang Tri Province were different from Phoenix operations in other provinces, Milberg explained, in that "a lot of military activity was going on, as opposed to the Vietcong insurgency. Clearly, both things were going on, but it was a heavily militarily oriented province. So there was a lot of action there."

In "The Future Applicability of the Phoenix Program," Milberg describes a typical Phoenix operation. Capitalizing on their assets in the CIO, PRU, and Special Branch, Milberg and Quang Tri Province Senior Adviser Bob Brewer mounted a Phoenix operation in the village of Thuong Xa, fourteen miles south of the DMZ. As Elton Manzione noted earlier, in this area it was hard to determine anyone's political affiliations, and the tendency was to consider everyone a Vietcong sympathizer. Indeed, Thuong Xa had served as a staging area for the Vietminh in the First Indochina War, and in 1968 its inhabitants were supporting the Vietcong in the same manner against the Americans. Milberg writes this was because "the people were afraid to offer information since they feared VC reprisals." [3]

A decision to conduct a Phoenix operation of "massive proportions" against Thuong Xa was made by Quang Tri's Province Security Council at Brewer's urging. Once permission had been granted, "Only the barest essential information was given to the various Vietnamese agencies in Quang Tri," Milberg writes. In this way, it was thought, those Vietnamese officials who had been coerced by the VC could not interfere with the "planning process." To ensure security, "The actual name of the targeted village was not released to the Vietnamese until the day before the operation." [4]

In preparing the Thuong Xa operation, information from Special Branch informers and PIC reports was fed into DIOCCs in and around Thuong Xa -- a phenomenon rarely observed in provinces where the Phoenix coordinator was an MACV officer, not a CIA employee. As a blacklist of suspected VCI was compiled in Quang Tri's Province Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center, it was cross-checked with neighboring Quang Tin's PIOCC and "against master Phoenix lists" in Saigon (to ensure that penetration agents were crossed off the list), then fed to Quang Tri's DIOCCs.

Next, PRU teams were sent to locate and surveil targeted VCI. Escape routes were studied for ambush sites, and "the [province senior adviser] personally arranged" for local U.S. Army and Marine units to act as a "blocking force" to seal off the entire town. [5] At dawn on the day of the operation MACV psywar planes dropped leaflets on Thuong Xa urging identified VCI to surrender and offering rewards and Chieu Hoi status to informers.

No one took advantage of the deal. Instead, the residents of Thuong Xa braced for the shock. In the early morning hours twenty-five-man PRU teams -- accompanied by Special Branch interrogators and CIA advisers -- began searching hooches for booby traps, weapons, documents, food caches, and VCI suspects. They "compared the names and descriptions on the blacklists with every man, woman, and child in Thuong Xa." [6] Suspects were sent to screening zones, where innocent bystanders were fed and "entertained" by RD teams. The hard-core VCI, meanwhile, were systematically driven into the northeast corner of town, where they were cornered, then killed or captured as they tried to escape through Brewer's "ring of steel."

The result was two VCI captured. One was the district party chief; the other was the chief of the local NLF farmers' association. Both were sent to the interrogation center in Da Nang. Eight other targeted VCI were killed or escaped. Two fifty-nine-member Revolutionary Development teams stayed behind to assert the GVN's presence, but within a month they were driven out of town and Thuong Xa reverted to Vietcong control. As Milberg observes, "Even with this unusual amount of coordination, the fact that the village reverted to communist control and known members of the VCI escaped strongly suggests that the operation failed as a future model for counterinsurgency operations." [7]

Perhaps the inhabitants of Thuong Xa resisted the intrusion into their village because they feared Vietcong reprisals. Or maybe they really did support the Vietcong. In either case, the point is the same. Even under ideal conditions Phoenix operations failed where the Vietnamese were determined to resist. Where ideal conditions did not exist -- where Vietnamese officials were included in the planning of operations and where U.S. military officers replaced CIA officers as Phoenix coordinators -- the program failed to an even greater degree.


In early 1968 each of the CIA's region officers in charge was assigned a military intelligence officer, either a major or a lieutenant colonel, to serve as his Phoenix coordinator. In IV Corps the job was given to Lieutenant Colonel Doug Dillard, an easygoing Georgian who, at sixteen, lied about his age, enlisted in the Eighty-second Airborne Brigade, and fought in World War II. After the war Dillard became a commissioned officer, and in Korea he served in the Combined Command for Reconnaissance Activity, which, under CIA auspices, coordinated special operations behind enemy lines. Dillard gained further espionage experience in the late 1950's as a case officer in Germany running agent operations in conjunction with the Army's attache office and the CIA. After a stint teaching airborne and amphibious "offensive" counterintelligence operations at Fort Holabird, Dillard was made deputy chief of intelligence at the Continental Army Command, where he trained and deployed "practically every army intelligence unit that went to Vietnam." [8]

Speaking in a drawl, Dillard told me, "I went over to Vietnam in February 1968 as the Phoenix coordinator for Four Corps, reporting to the CIA's region officer in charge. Branch called me and said, 'We have what we consider a critical requirement. We can't discuss it over the phone -- it's classified -- but you'll find out what it is when you get there.'

"So," Dillard continued, "when I arrived in Saigon, I immediately contacted several of my friends. One, Colonel Russ Conger, the senior adviser in Phong Dinh Province, gave me some tips on getting different agencies to cooperate and on overcoming the terrorist psychology in the villages and hamlets. He also informed me that there were many people around who felt Phoenix was a threat to them -- to their power base. " In other words, military officers commanding units in the field "considered Phoenix, on occasion, as getting in their way and inhibiting resources they could otherwise use for their own operations."

Right away Dillard understood that his job would be to bridge the gap, so that conventional military forces could be made available for unconventional Phoenix operations planned by the CIA. But he also sensed another problem festering beneath the surface. "It's kind of in conflict to our culture and experience over the years," he explained, "to take a U.S. Army element -- whatever it may be -- and direct it not only toward the military and paramilitary enemy forces but also toward the civilians that cooperate with them."

General Bruce Palmer, commander of the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in 1968, put it more bluntly. "My objection to the program," he wrote in a letter to the author, "was the involuntary assignment of U.S. Army officers to the program. I don't believe that people in uniform, who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare." [9]

Most military officers, however, resented Phoenix on other than legal grounds. The notion of attacking an elusive and illusionary civilian infrastructure was anathema to conventional warriors looking for spectacular main force battles. For an ambitious officer assigned to Phoenix, "the headlines would not be very impressive in terms of body counts, weapons captured, or some other measure of success," as Warren Milberg notes. In addition, Phoenix coordinators were merely advisers to their counterparts, not commanders in the field.

After being informally briefed by his friends, Dillard reported to the Phoenix Directorate, which "represented the program at the national level, ensuring that we got the kind of personnel and logistical support we felt we needed." However, because of the staff's "very narrow administrative type of intelligence background," it did not "understand how the program was going to develop. As the ICEX program," Dillard explained, "it was run directly at the province level, principally by the agency. But Parker's staff didn't grasp that when MACV took over and fleshed out Phoenix with hundreds of military officers and money, it really was a joint operation -- that CIA was a supporter and partial sponsor, but really MACV had to account for it. This is how it evolved."

While the Saigon staff was content to view Phoenix as a CIA subsidiary, Dillard set about asserting MACV's presence in Phoenix operations in the Delta -- a task made easier by the relative absence of regular military units and by Dillard's engaging personality and wide experience in command, staff, and operational positions. Ultimately, though, Dillard's leverage was logistics.

"As a matter of protocol between itself and the CIA," Dillard explained, "MACV assumed half of the agency's operational expenses in support of Phoenix. For example, every time the agency's aircraft were used to support a Phoenix activity, technically it should have been charged against the fund allocation MACV had given to the Phoenix program. So when I found out about that, I contacted the Air America operations people in Four Corps and said, 'Just to keep everybody honest, I want a record of what you're charging for aircraft support against the Phoenix program.' And thereafter I tried to get air support from U.S. Army region headquarters at Can Tho, so I didn't have to squander MACV operational funds reimbursing the agency for use of its aircraft."

By protecting MACV's financial interests, Dillard won the support of IV Corps commander, General George Eckhardt. "Most of my work with the MACV staff was either with General Eckhardt directly, or with the intelligence chief, Colonel Ted Greyman," Dillard recalled. "Ted and I worked hand in hand coordinating the activity, and it paid off .... General Eckhardt and Colonel Greyman set aside for me a light gun platoon and six helicopter gunships to run Phoenix operations throughout the region." This contingent became "a regional reaction force to haul troops and provide fire support." With it, Dillard was able to provide the PRU with air mobility and thus get access to CIA intelligence in exchange.

Jim Ward spoke highly of Doug Dillard, saying, "He was assigned to me because they wanted the best man they could get down in the Delta." [10] The admiration was mutual. About Ward and his deputy, Andy Rogers, Dillard said, "They were great guys to work with. There was an immediate acceptance of my credentials." That was not always the case. But Dillard and Ward agreed on what constituted a legitimate Phoenix operation -- be it an ambush dreamed up at a DIOCC or a multiprovince operation concocted by the CIA -- and together they would push Phoenix beyond the narrow rifle shot parameters advocated by Robert Komer.

Dillard's liberal interpretation of Phoenix is partially the result of his perception of the "terrorist psychology" in Vietnam. "I arrived in Can Tho on a Friday afternoon," he recalled. "The two army sergeants that had come in to be my administrative assistants met me at the airport and took me over to the compound and settled me in the CIA's regional house, which was also being used by the local Phong Dinh Province CIA personnel. There was a vacant room, so I took it, and the next morning I reported in to Andy Rogers. I was given a little office with the two enlisted men [who] handled reports and requests from the field. I was also assigned a deputy, Major Keith Ogden.

"Anyway, I found out there was a helicopter going up to Chau Doc Province on the Cambodian border on Sunday morning, so I went up there. It was my first introduction to the real war .... It was right after Tet, and there was still a lot of activity. The young sergeant there, Drew Dix, had been in a little village early that morning .... The VC had come in and got a couple out that were accused of collaborating with the government, and they'd shot them in the ears. Their bodies were lying out on a cart. We drove out there, and I looked at that ... and I had my first awareness of what those natives were up against. Because during the night, the damn VC team would come in, gather all those villagers together, warn them about cooperating, and present an example of what happened to collaborators. They shot them in the ears on the spot.

"So I knew what my job was. I realized there was a tremendous psychological problem to overcome in getting that specific group of villagers to cooperate in the program. Because to me the Phoenix program was one requiring adequate, timely, and detailed information so we could intercept, make to defect, kill, maim, or capture the Vietcong guerrilla forces operating in our area. Or put a strike on them. If either through intercepting messages or capturing VCI, you could get information on some of the main force guerrilla battalion activity, you could put a B-fifty-two strike on them, which we did in Four Corps."

For Jim Ward, "intelligence was the most important part of Phoenix." Handling that task for Ward was "a regular staffer with the agency who worked full time on intelligence -- the real sensitive, important operations" -- meaning unilateral penetrations into the VCI and GVN. The staffer "had military people assigned to him," working as liaison officers in the provinces, as well as CIA, State Department, and USIS officers and policemen from the United States. His job was "making sure they were properly supervised." Of course, the station's special unit could abscond with any penetrations that had national significance.

At the other end of the spectrum, "the first and most important purpose of the DIOCC," according to Ward, "the one that got General Thanh behind Phoenix," was getting tactical military intelligence. When managed by a military officer, as they usually were, DIOCCs focused on this area, while the PIOCCs, where the CIA exerted greater influence, focused on the VCI.

According to Ward, when information generally obtained from interrogation centers or hamlet informants indicated that a person was a VCI, the CIA's liaison officer started a three-by-five card file on that person at the Province Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center, which was often located in the embassy house. When a second piece of information came in -- from the provincial reconnaissance units or the Regional and Popular Forces -- a folder was opened. After a third source had incriminated the suspect, he or she was targeted for penetration, defection, or capture and interrogation at the PIC, then turned over to the Province Security Committee with evidence for sentencing.

This was the rifle shot approach. But where large concentrations of people or security teams surrounded the targeted VCI, Jim Ward favored a variation on the cordon and search method employed by Brewer and Milberg in Quang Tri, "where you move in at three A.M., surround the entire area, and block everybody off." However, because Ward lacked the "troop density" enjoyed in I Corps, in his Phoenix operations he used light observation helicopters "to buzz the paddy fields to keep people from running off. You don't have enough men to cordon off an entire village when you have only a hundred PRU and two Americans," he said, the two Americans being the PRU adviser and the Phoenix coordinator.

Using this approach, which relied on surprise, Ward would conduct five operations in a day. "They would go in on one side of the village. The first outfit would jump off a helicopter with one adviser and set up a block. Then another helicopter would land a hundred yards further down. Then a third and a fourth, with the other U.S. adviser. These guys would branch out in a skirmish line and start moving into town. They would catch everybody with rifles stacked, unprepared. When a helicopter is coming in low," Ward explained, "you don't even hear it coming in your direction. All of a sudden there's a tremendous roar, and they see people landing in different places.

"The PRU knew exactly what to do," Ward continued. "They'd get all these people [VCI suspects] out in a larger helicopter and take them back to where the province chief could put them in a special stockade. Then they'd get Special Branch people going through identifying each one. Meanwhile, the PRU would reequip with more ammo and go to the next drop."

Ward's method closely resembled the hunter-killer technique developed in 1962 and detailed by Elton Manzione. Omitted from Ward's sanitized account, however, was what happened before the arrival of the killer team, when the hunter team "snatches and/or snuffs" the cadre. Ward also neglected to describe the conduct of the PRU.

"Sometimes we'd go out with a whole pack of mercenaries," recalled Mike Beamon. "They were very good going in, but once we got there and made our target, they would completely pillage the place .... It was a complete carnival ...." [11]


In balancing MACV's and the CIA's interests in Phoenix, Colonel Doug Dillard was destined to rain on somebody's parade. In IV Corps the man who got soaked was the regional Public Safety adviser, Del Spiers.

Dillard as the regional Phoenix coordinator had the job of bringing police resources to bear against the VCI. The idea was to prevent region officers in charge like Jim Ward and Bob Wall from using PRU as blocking forces during Phoenix operations, so the PRU would be available to conduct rifle shot operations. "Our concept," Dillard said, "was to put the Field Police in a location as a blocking force and let the PRUs do the dirty work."

In 1968, however, most province chiefs were still feeling the aftershocks of Tet and preferred to use the Field Police as bodyguards in the province capital. "Unless you had an effective Regional and Popular Forces organization at the district level," Dillard explained, "the only thing you had ... was the Field Police, and hell, he was guarding the province chief's house, not out trying to run operations in support of your activity."

Compounding the problem were the Public Safety advisers themselves, whom Dillard described as "principally responsible for getting new jeeps and radios and supplies and funds for the National Police. And that was about it. Their proclivity was to support the Field Police, as opposed to trying to see that force engaged in operations.

"As I began to get out in the provinces," Dillard continued, "it seemed the Public Safety adviser was never there. He was either en route to Saigon or coming back from Saigon. When I talked to the U.S. people in the province, they would say, 'Well, this guy is either drunk or shacked up with his girl friend.' ... Many of them were former policemen or policemen on leave," Dillard grumbled, "or they came from some law enforcement activity and were plunged into that environment ... [and] based on my experience, there was almost a total incompetence."

Nor was the problem alleviated when "after Tet, they brought in a group of enlisted men out of the Military Police. They were going to be advisers to the Field Police, but many of them were inept, too. I know from talking to them that they had never been in combat, and their experience was analogous to Shore Patrol," Dillard said. "They were principally experienced as physical security guards, and many of them had drinking problems.

"Anyway, we just wrote the Field Police off. When it came to trying to get their resources on the ground, to put them in helicopters and move them around, we began to find that the province chief had one problem after another: Either the Field Police weren't available, or the Public Safety advisers weren't aware of the nature of Phoenix operations, or [the operations weren't] cleared with the province chief. And the Public Safety adviser would be running against the grain if he took the province chief's resources or even tried to influence him to free up the Field Police to run our operations.

"So the senior CORDS advisor, 'Coal Bin' Willie Wilson, came down to Four Corps, and he called me over and asked, 'What can we do to improve the Phoenix program?' And I complained about the lack of use of Field Police. I said I wanted to use it as a light infantry strike force, which would give us, if you added in the PRU, about a four- thousand-man strike force in the Delta. 'We know the PRU are damn good,' I said, 'but we can't get them all killed trying to do everybody's job.'

"What I proposed is that there be some kind of central control set up that would give us the capability to use police in the Delta to support Phoenix I operations. I added that with the kind of people there were out advising in the provinces, 'that ain't ever gonna get done.'"

When confronted by Coal Bin Willie, Doug Dillard recalled, Del Spiers said, "I can't fire the province senior adviser. I have to put up with the people he assigns to me. It's not like the military," where an officer can transfer an unsatisfactory subordinate.

Said Dillard: "Well, I am a military man, and I have a job to get done." And from that day on the Field Police and their Public Safety advisers were the Phoenix program's scapegoats in the Delta. At their expense Dillard achieved peace between the CIA and MACV in the Delta. He convinced the CIA that by sharing its information, military resources could be used against the VCI. In exchange for supporting the CIA's attack on the VCI, the military benefited from CIA intelligence on the location of main force enemy units. That translated into higher body counts and brighter careers.

"I could do what I wanted within the guidelines of the Phoenix program," Doug Dillard said with satisfaction, "which to me was the overall coordination of the units that existed in the Delta to destroy the infrastructure." With his regional reaction force ready and raring to go, Dillard mounted regional Phoenix operations on the Ward mini-cordon and search technique.

"At the province level we had almost daily involvement with the CIA's province adviser and SEAL team PRU adviser," Dillard explained. "This was either trying to help them get resources or going over the potential for operations. A good example is the time we got good intelligence on the VC staff on sampans in the U Minh Forest. The idea was to work in coordination with the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in Chuong Thien Province. It was good timing because they had troops and could expand their artillery fire into An Xuyen, where the U Minh Forest was. We decided to use the PRU team from Kien Giang, with their SEAL adviser, and Major Leroy Suddath [the Phong Dinh paramilitary adviser, who as a major general in 1986 commanded the First Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg]."

As in the Milberg-Brewer operation in Quang Tri, the Vietnamese were cut out of the planning. "We decided we should lift out without a lot of notice," Dillard said. "So the SEAL adviser put his PRU on alert. But we didn't want to spook them, so they were told they were going on an operation in their province .... We took the PRU team out of Kien Giang with Leroy in the lead, and with the Ninth Division helicopters and artillery support to cover our infiltration and exfiltration. This way we could put the PRU on the canal, capture those people, and get in and out during daylight.

"We went over to Cbuong Thien and loaded out of there. I flew out of there in the command and control helicopter. We went up to Kien Giang, and Leroy had the PRU team ready .... We loaded up early that morning, flew down, and inserted the team on the canal. Then the chopper went back to Chuong Thien; I stayed over there with the radio and talked to Leroy to get a progress report. Leroy went in with the PRU-SEAL team. There were two Americans, and the rest were Vietnamese. They scarfed up twelve people almost immediately but couldn't find the sampan they were looking for. We think the damn operation got leaked, and they got spooked."

As in the Thuong Xa operation, despite elaborate planning and security precautions, a large-scale Phoenix operation failed to accomplish its mission. However, by showing that military assets could be used in support of Province Reconnaissance Units and that CIA intelligence could generate a sizable operation, the U Minh Forest operation did prove to MACV that Phoenix was a viable coordinating mechanism.


"In working with Ted Greyman in the Can Tho Advisory Group," Dillard said, "we were trying to piece together patterns of the main force guerrilla battalions, which constituted the single greatest danger to a district or even a province. Ted very closely coordinated with us in our Phoenix activities, plotting information where VC attacks had occurred, in what force, when, and so forth. When these facts came together, he would coordinate a B-fifty-two strike in that area."

In particular, Dillard was concerned with the movements of the Muoi Tu Battalion, which periodically emerged from its sanctuary in Cambodia and conducted operations in Chau Doc, Kien Phong, and Kien Tuong provinces. "Annually they'd come down and cut a wide swath through these three provinces, then go back into Cambodia," Dillard explained. "That's where Ted Greyman and I began to work very closely to try to plot every piece of information that we could get on the Muoi Tu Battalion."

The job of finding the Muoi Tu in Cambodia belonged to the Special Operations Group and its Vietnamese assets, which ran agent nets and reconnaissance missions into Cambodia. But, explained Dillard, "Quite often there was a lot of clumsy, heavy-handed type of activity, and I don't think [Special Forces] were appreciative of the nuances of being supercautious in collecting and evaluating intelligence before running operations. I think it was in Kien Phong on the border; the sun rose one morning, and they went into position there, and every man on the line had been shot through the back of the head. This was the Vietnamese Special Forces. They were infiltrated constantly by the VC."

Dispersed along South Vietnam's borders since 1962, the Fifth Special Forces A teams, augmented by the 403d Special Operations Detachment and an unnumbered intelligence group, routinely fed intelligence to MACV and the CIA. "The sophistication of the intelligence apparatus," General McChristian writes, "allowed for operations against the infrastructure." [12]

However, by September 1967 it was clear, as Doug Dillard noted, that the Vietnamese Special Forces were too heavily infiltrated to be trusted. So concurrent with the creation of ICEX and the reorganization of SOG, the CIA commissioned Project Gamma. Also known as Detachment B-57, Gamma was charged with the mission of organizing cross-border counter-intelligence operations to find out who within the Cambodian government was helping the NVA and VC infiltrate and attack Special Forces A camps, recon teams, and agent nets. While posing as medical and agricultural specialists in a "dummy" civil affairs unit, Gamma personnel coordinated intelligence from A teams, identifying the key VCI cadres that were mounting penetration operations against them. Detachment B-57 coordinated its activities with SOG and the various Special Forces projects, including Delta, Sigma, Omega, and Blackjack out of Tay Ninh. In defense of its A camps, Special Forces mounted its own attack on the VCI through a combination of agent nets, "specialized patrolling," mobile strike forces, and a "kill on sight" rewards program. In this way, SOG and Phoenix were united.

As for the "heavy-handedness" cited by Dillard, on November 27, 1967, Fifth Special Forces Captain John McCarthy was sitting beside his principal agent, Inchin Hai Lam (a Cambodian working for B-57 out of Quang Loi), in the front seat of a car parked on a street in Tay Ninh. A suspected double agent, Lam was a member of the Khmer Serai, a dissident Cambodian political party created by the CIA to overthrow Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk. Without warning, McCarthy turned and put a bullet between Lam's eyes.

McCarthy was tried for Lam's murder, and the ensuing scandal raised questions about the legality of "terminating with extreme prejudice" suspected double agents. The issue would surface again in regard to Phoenix.

Regardless of where the VCI were -- in South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or North Vietnam -- "the idea," said Dillard, "was that if we knew their pattern and if we could put the fear of God in them, then we could influence their movements so they could never assemble as a battalion. Our forces could resist any company-sized attacks, and that pretty much cut back their capabilities by preventing them from operating at a battalion-level force."

MACV "could do a fifty-two strike pretty easily," Dillard explained. And once MACV began using B-52 strikes as a way of harassing VC guerrilla units, "Thereafter we had pretty good evidence that the VC were doing just what we wanted them to do. They were not assembling in large battalion-sized forces, and we could route them around. We continued to try to do that from the summer of 1968 on, and we started getting in some pretty good defectors because of that pressure. The overall coordination was working."

Indeed, when B-52 strikes were mounted, coordination was essential. For example, the CIA could not run a PRU operation in enemy territory without first consulting MACV, because, as Dillard put it, "it's conceivable that the operations people have scheduled a strike in that area. " Yet everyone mounted unilateral operations anyway. "An element of the five-twenty-fifth" -- Dillard sighed -- "their collection and special security unit, was trying to get the VCI to defect -- this was in the summer of 1968. They had a lead to a VCI cadre meeting, and they ran the operation, and there was nothing there. We were all called into General Eckhardt's office to find out who the hell had approved this special operation without Ted Greyman knowing it.

"There's always that problem," Dillard contended, "when some outfit perceives that they're going to pull off a coup. Then it backfires. The damn thing was a total embarrassment. Just like the sale of arms to Iran."

As long as unilateral operations persisted, Phoenix could never fly. "It was kind of hard at times to determine just who was operating in that environment," Dillard remarked. "Quite often the main mission of the Special Branch guy may have been to keep tabs on the ARVN people. In the case of the Military Security Service, if I was able to get to the guy through [his counterpart, MSS Colonel] Phuoc or through the Army security unit in the Delta ... I would try to push an operation or try to find out what they knew that we were not being informed of. But in the whole time I was there, I was convinced that there was a lot of unilateral reporting that did not get into the U.S. system, whether it was Phoenix or something else. It had to do with the different axes people had to grind."
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:57 am

CHAPTER 15: Modus Vivendi

The inclusion of the Vietnamese in Phoenix in the summer of 1968 was not welcomed by meticulous CIA security officers. These professional paranoids, Doug Dillard said with a sigh, "did not realize you cannot become so secretive that you can't even run an operation. We were always aware of the need for secrecy, and where we suspected there was a leak we tried to hold everything as close as possible. But sometimes you just couldn't do it. You had to plan and coordinate with the Vietnamese to run operations." [1]

On the other hand, from the Presidential Palace to the most decrepit DIOCC, VC agents were everywhere. It was a fact that was factored into every equation, it was the reason why Phoenix began as a unilateral operation, and it was why the program failed, for Phoenix was not a counterintelligence program meant to uncover enemy agents but a positive intelligence program designed to neutralize the people managing the insurgency.

The job of counterintelligence was shared by the Special Branch and the Military Security Service, with the Special Branch protecting the government and the MSS protecting the South Vietnamese armed forces, at times at cross purposes. For example, like many of his MSS colleagues, Colonel Nguyen Van Phuoc was placed under house arrest and accused of being implicated when Diem and Nhu were assassinated. Afterward Phuoc was "tainted" but was resuscitated by the CIA, which valued him for his contacts, according to Dillard, in "the Catholic intelligence network that extended into Cambodia. As a matter of fact, he offered to bring them into the fold because of the sanctuary that main force guerrilla battalions enjoyed in Cambodia."

With CIA sponsorship, Phuoc was to enjoy a number of prominent positions, not least as deputy IV Corps commander and counterpart to Doug Dillard and Andy Rogers. But Phuoc lived on the edge and, like Generals Do Cao Tri and Tran Thanh Phong, eventually perished in a mysterious plane accident.

"Colonel Phuoc's problems on the Vietnamese side were greater than ours because the province chiefs were appointed by the president," Dillard explained. "There were all kinds of rumors about 'some bought their jobs,' and there were other kinds of arrangements, too. There were businesses that flourished and were never bothered by the VC in the provinces, so it was obvious that someone was being paid off."

In fairness to the Vietnamese, a point should be made about cultural values. For what Americans define as corruption, the Vietnamese consider perfectly proper behavior. Accepting gifts and returning favors -- taking bribes and making payoffs -- were how, after generations of colonial oppression, Vietnamese officials supplemented measly salaries and supported extended families. The system was a form of prebend, the same right ministers have to a portion of the Sunday offering as a stipend. And rather than fight the system, the CIA compensated for it by paying its Phung Hoang, secret police, and PRU assets exorbitant salaries. Conversely, for the average Vietnamese citizen caught in a war-torn economy, dealing with the Vietcong was a matter of survival. And while this modus vivendi provided American intelligence officers with a line of communication to the enemy, it also gave them migraine headaches.

"For example," Dillard said, "in Bac Lieu there was a great suspicion that the province chief was on the take from the VC tax collector. The PRU team leader in Bac Lieu, Doc Sells, had firsthand evidence of that. But the VC tax collector, who lived in Ba Xuyen Province, was a wealthy businessman, and the way he stayed wealthy was by paying extortion and ransom.... Now Doc knew, based on the way the province chief had acted in the past, that never in the world would they [the PRU] be allowed to coordinate an operation in Ba Xuyen without compromising it. So the Bac Lieu PRU ran an operation over into Ba Xuyen and kidnapped this guy. It caused all kinds of grief between the two provinces, and when it surfaced at our level, they had to release him. Then there were threats that 'Well, next time he won't survive.' They put a price on Doc's head. I remember a kid came into the restaurant where Doc was eating and put a cigarette lighter on the table. It was a booby trap that exploded but luckily didn't hurt him."

All this means that if the VCI was a criminal conspiracy, then its partners in crime were government officials -- particularly province chiefs, police, and security officials. Robert Slater writes: "During the period 1964-1967, it was fairly common to read of a hand grenade being thrown into a bar. This was normally attributed by the press to terrorism, but police investigations usually showed that the owner had refused to pay taxes to the VC. It is uncommon to read or even hear of this now [in 1970]; undoubtedly the bar owners have agreed to pay their taxes." Likewise, "From 1965 to 1969," Slater knew "of no American oil company trucks being ambushed. On one occasion a VC road block let an American oil company truck pass by, then fifteen minutes later stopped a South Vietnamese bus, disembarked all the passengers, collected 'tax' money, and then shot two ARVN soldiers who were in uniform." [2]

This modus vivendi between the VCI and GVN officials frustrated many Phoenix coordinators who were trying to distinguish one from the other. Some simply threw up their hands, held their breaths, and marked time. Others were spurred to indiscriminate acts of violence. Those who took the hard line, like III Corps DEPCORDS John Vann, believed that it was not enough for the Vietnamese simply to be pro-Phoenix. According to Vann's deputy for plans and programs, who shall hereafter be known as Jack, Vann insisted that in order for Phoenix to succeed, the Vietnamese had to fight actively against the VCI. But that was impossible, Jack explained, because "the Vietnamese were protected in the day by the GVN, but were left to the VC at night. So the little guy in the village survived day to day knowing when to say yes and when to say no. The wrong answer could cost him his life." [3]

Unfortunately for the Vietnamese who preferred to remain neutral, it was the most highly motivated Americans -- those who were most avidly anti-Communist -- who were listened to in Washington and who ipso facto determined policy.

As hard as it was to involve province chiefs in the attack on the VCI, the rural population was even harder to incite. Earnest Phoenix coordinators like Doug Dillard tried "to get the people in the villages to tell you when the VC were coming, so you could put the PRU on them or a B-fifty-two strike." However, why the Vietnamese would not cooperate is understandable, especially in the case of B-52 strikes, "one of which," Dillard recalled, "occurred right between Kien Hoa and Dinh Tuong. There was pretty good evidence that a VC battalion had assembled in that area," Dillard said, "and Ted put a strike on it. They went in later to assess the damage, and said it looked like a butcher shop."

For that reason, damage assessment was not a popular job in Vietnam and was a task often assigned to PRU units or unpopular American soldiers like Air Force Captain Brian Willson who, with the 823d Combat Security Police Squadron, commanded a mobile security unit at Binh Thuy Air Base four miles west of Can Tho. As punishment for fraternizing with enlisted men, Willson was given the job of damage assessment in areas bombed by B-52's.

"In the Delta," Willson told me, "the villages were very small, like a mound in a swamp. There were no names for some of them. The people in these villages had been told to go to relocation camps, because this was all a free fire zone, and technically anyone there could be killed. But they wouldn't leave their animals or burial grounds. At the same time, the U.S. Air Force had spotters looking for muzzle flashes, and if that flash came from that dot, they'd wipe out the village. It was that simple. [4]

"It was the epitome of immorality," Willson suggested. "One of the times I counted bodies after an air strike -- which always ended with two napalm bombs which would just fry everything that was left -- I counted sixty-two bodies. In my report I described them as so many women between fifteen and twenty-five and so many children -- usually in their mothers' arms or very close to them -- and so many old people. When I went to Tan Son Nhut a few days later, I happened to see an afteraction report from this village. A guy I knew showed me where to look. The report said one hundred-thirty VC dead.

"Another time I was driving up near Sa Dec. It was a coincidence. I didn't even know it was happening. There was an air strike, and I was very near this village where it was happening. I'd never seen a localized air strike on a village before. I was stunned. The ground shook like an earthquake, and that was scary. But there I was, watching as the last sweep came in and dropped some napalm, sending up balls of fire that finally wiped everything out. And I was standing in my jeep, kind of in shock, and this old man came running out of the village. I was about one hundred fifty feet from him, and our eyes met for like two seconds. Then he turned and ran away.

"I remember driving down this little lane ... thinking I'd wake up and not be there. I drove for three or four miles like that. Then I saw this old Vietnamese woman with a yoke on her back, holding a couple of pails of water. Then I saw this water buffalo just kind of meandering through a rice paddy. I remember stopping and thinking, 'Man, I am here. I'm still in Vietnam.' I'd been there three months. After that I wanted to desert."


Why would the inhabitants of a Vietnamese village voluntarily announce to U.S. or GVN authorities the presence of VC guerrillas or political cadres, if doing so meant a bath in five-hundred-pound bombs or a pack of plundering PRU? This question reaches to the heart of Phoenix and the "collateral damage" it caused.

One explanation was offered in a series of articles written in late 1970 and early 1971 for the liberal Catholic newspaper Tin Sang (Morning News). Published in Saigon by Ngo Cong Duc, a nationalist in the Vietnamese legislature, half of all its issues were confiscated by the police on orders from the minister of information, Truong Buu Diem, a long-standing CIA asset. Nearly all issues, however, are preserved in the Yen Ching Library at Harvard University. Translated by a Vietnamese woman at the University of Massachusetts, this series of articles, titled "The Truth About Phoenix," provides rare insights into the Vietnamese perspective on Phoenix.

The author of "The Truth About Phoenix" used the alias Dinh Tuong An, but his true identity is known to CIA officer Clyde Bauer, who claims An was a Communist sympathizer. Red-baiting, of course, requires no substantiation. But it is a fact, as corroborated by Phoenix adviser Richard Ide, that An was a translator for Major Oscar L. Jenkins, the CIA's Special Branch adviser in the Trung Giang inner-Mekong area, running Phoenix operations in Sa Dec, Vinh Long, and Vinh Binh provinces in 1968 and 1969.

"Phoenix," writes An, "is a series of big continuous operations which, because of the bombing, destroy the countryside and put innocent people to death .... In the sky are armed helicopters, but on the ground are the black uniforms, doing what they want where the helicopters and B-52's do not reach .... Americans in black uniforms," according to An, "are the most terrible." [5]

Also according to An, the CIA always sent PRU teams in the day before cordon and search operations, to capture people targeted for interrogation. The next day, An notes, the PRU would return in U.S. Navy helicopters with ARVN troops. "When they go back to their base at Dong Tam [the sprawling PRU facility near My Tho], they bring people's bleeding ears. But," asks An rhetorically, "are these the ears of the VC?" [6]

The purpose of Phoenix, An contends, was "to avenge what the VC did during Tet. Which is why Thieu did not hesitate to sign Phoenix into law. But," he adds, "local officials knew nothing about the program except the decree. The central government didn't explain anything. Furthermore, the CIA and their assistants had a hard time trying to explain to province chiefs about operations to pacify the countryside and destroy the VCI." [7]

Indeed, the Vietnamese were confused by contradictory American programs. For example, B-52 strikes and Agent Orange dustings served only to impoverish rural villagers, prompting them to deduce that these operations, were directed against them, not the VCI. Making matters worse, province chiefs reported the damage, ostensibly to get compensation for those hurt by the attacks, but kept the money for themselves. Then Revolutionary Development Cadre appeared, promising to offset the damage with economic development. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army was pursuing a scorched-earth policy and the Agency for International Development was withdrawing support for RD reconstruction projects -- a reversal in policy, An contends, that stemmed from the CIA's belief that reconstruction projects only helped the wives and families of VC who returned from their jungle hideouts when the projects were done. [8] All that led most Vietnamese to agree with An that "Revolutionary Development only teaches the American line."

The end result of the contradictory programs and double-talk was a lack of trust in the GVN, not in the VCI, which rarely failed to make good on promises. Likewise, the Vietnamese interpreted Phoenix, the program designed to provide security to the rural population, as an attempt by the Americans to prolong the war. Like B-52 strikes and Agent Orange, Phoenix only made people's lives more difficult. People wondered, An informs us, how Phoenix could turn things around. [9]

In responding to these concerns, An writes, the CIA argued that Phoenix was needed because B-52 strikes and defoliation operations did not destroy "the VC lower structure." But in attacking the VCI, the CIA never considered the human concerns of the Vietnamese, declares An. For example, many rice fields were owned by Vietcong, and as more and more fields were destroyed by Agent Orange, people had no choice but to buy rice from these VC. This included wealthy merchants who were subsequently accused by security forces of collaborating with the enemy and were forced to pay bribes to keep from being arrested. In this way GVN officials extorted from people caught in between them and the Vietcong.

Nor, An adds, did the CIA care that many Vietnamese during Tet -- including policemen and soldiers -- visited their families in areas controlled by the Vietcong, thus becoming VCI suspects themselves. Or that Vietnamese civil servants, especially schoolteachers with families living in VC areas, became informants simply as a way of getting advance notice of Phoenix operations, so they could warn their relatives of pending attacks. In return for protecting their families, these Vietnamese were surveilled and extorted by government security forces.

Nor did the CIA take steps to protect people from false accusations. An cites the case of five teachers working for a Catholic priest in Vinh Long Province. These women refused to attend a VC indoctrination session. When the VC were later captured by PRU, they named these teachers as VC cadres. The teachers were arrested and jailed without trial or evidence. "That's why people feared Phoenix," An explains. "The biggest fear is being falsely accused -- from which there is no protection. That's why Phoenix doesn't bring peace or security. That's why it destroys trust in the GVN, not the VCI." [10]

Adding to this mistrust was the fact that the CIA rewarded security officials who extorted the people. "The CIA," An writes, "spends money like water." As a result, MSS and Special Branch operators preferred to sell information to the CIA rather than "give" it to their Vietnamese employers. And even though the CIA had no way of corroborating the information, it was used to build cases against VCI suspects. The CIA also passed quantities of cash to the various religious sects. "Many priests in the inner-Mekong," An reports, "have relations with the CIA, so people in the provinces refuse to have contact with them. [11]

"Many agents from the different police in IV Corps receive money from the CIA," An reports, "in the form of merit pay." Money was spent beautifying Special Branch offices -- buying telephones, generators, air conditioners, Lambrettas, and Xerox machines for dutiful policemen and pretty secretaries. Big bucks were lavished on local officials, particularly those sitting on Phoenix committees. "Conveniences" given to committee members, writes An, made it easier for them "to explore information from agents," leading to the arrest of suspected VCI. [12]

Recall what Warren Milberg said: "I had virtually unlimited resources to develop agent operations, to pay for a staff that translated and produced intelligence reports ... more money ... than what the province budget was." [13] But while Milberg saw this as "creating economic stability," the incentive to sell information had the side effect of tearing apart Vietnamese society.

Perhaps the most disturbing charge made by An is that CIA operators encouraged the illegal activities of Phoenix personnel. He cites as an example the time Military Security Service agents in Sa Dec observed Special Branch agents taking payoffs from the local VC tax collector. Naturally, the MSS agents sold this information to the CIA, which took no action -- because payoffs were a vehicle for penetration operations. Writes An: "The CIA works to keep some Communist areas intact so they can get information." [14] This, of course, was in direct opposition to the Phoenix mission.

As an example of the intelligence potential of the modus vivendi, An notes that unilateral CIA penetration agents into the VCI often posed as pharmacists and were supplied with desperately needed antibiotics, which they would smuggle into Vietcong jungle hideouts in Cambodia in exchange for information. "Phoenix," explains An, "was watching and talking to the VC while at the same time working to prevent the NLF from reorganizing the VCI." [15]

All this leads An to conclude that America was never interested in ending the war. Instead, he thinks the goal was to show success, "even if many lives must be lost." For An, Phoenix was not a mechanism to end the war quickly, but a means to extend it indefinitely, with a minimum of American casualties. The nature of Phoenix, he suggests, was to pit the Vietnamese against each other, to undermine their efforts at rapprochement while fueling the conflict with money and lies and psychological operations designed to destabilize the culture. [16]

In conclusion, An contends that the Vietnamese neutralists wanted only for the United States to grant South Vietnam the same status it granted Taiwan and Israel. But this was not to be, for in South Vietnam advocating peace with the Communists was punishable by death or imprisonment without trial for two years under the An Tri (administrative detention) Laws. And like Phoenix, An Tri was a boondoggle for corrupt GVN officials. Persons arrested as VCI suspects or sympathizers could be held indefinitely and were released only when their families scraped together enough money to bribe the local Security Committee chairman. That is why, An suggests, the roundup was the worst of all the hardships Phoenix imposed on the Vietnamese people.

The practice of extorting ransoms from VCI suspects served CIA interests however, by elevating security personnel into a privileged class that was utterly dependent on the CIA, in the process, thoroughly destabilizing the society. Through the ICEX screening, interrogation, and detention program, the CIA expanded this psywar tactic into the districts, enabling every minor official to get a piece of the action.

As Colonel Dillard remarked, "I became a major construction tycoon in the Delta as a sideline to my Phoenix business." As well as giving fifteen thousand dollars to every district chief to build a DIOCC, he worked with the CIA in building "those little jails, as I call them, which really were interrogation centers." Dillard recalled: "The agency sent down an elderly gentleman from Maryland who was a contractor. His job in the Delta, one of many, was to get these interrogation centers constructed .... Pacific Architects and Engineers did the work, but this guy was an agency employee. [17]

"What you needed in a lot of these little derelict-type districts in the Delta where they really didn't have any facilities," said Dillard, "was a place to secure and interrogate prisoners .... They were for anyone .... I remember going into one we'd built in Chau Duc that had several monks inside. They had a steel chain chained to their legs so they wouldn't run off.

"We pretty much constructed them throughout the Delta. Those that went up quickest were in the districts that were most accessible. But as fast as they went up, the VC knocked them down with satchel charges." That did not disturb the district chiefs, for whom each new construction project meant another lucrative rake-off. Indeed, the Phoenix program offered a wide range of financial opportunities.

"Phoenix in Sa Dec," An writes, "was an occasion for many nationalists to get rich illegally. Many innocent people were chased away from their homes to the district hall where they were extorted or confined in the interrogation center behind the town hall. Even water buffalo guardians were taken to the district hall, and their parents had to pay for their release or else they would be sent to Vinh Long Prison." [18]

Writes An: "One visiting U.S. congressman said our province was lucky because we had no prison. But actually this is unfortunate, because innocent people -- and the Police Special Branch know who is innocent -- are confined in the town hall. There is no room to lie down there. The people suffocate. They are put in an empty pool without water." [19]

As a result of Phoenix placing interrogation centers in the districts, the GVN soon gained the reputation as a prison regime. The catchphrase of its jailers was khong, dank cko co (if they're innocent, beat them until they're guilty), bringing to mind the Salem witch trials. But whereas in Salem the motive for torture was an ingrown libido, the motive for torture in Vietnam was an ingrown ideology. Tran Van Truong, mentioned in Chapter 10, explains: "It was part of the regime's ideology that anyone who opposed them must be a Communist. They could not accept the fact that there might be people who hated them for the travesty they had made of the country's life, for their intolerance and corruption and cold indifference to the lot of their countrymen." [20]

Truong writes from experience. By bribing "a high National Police official for the information," Truong's wife discovered that her husband was being held in a secret prison. Fearing her husband would be killed there, "and nobody would ever know," she persuaded Truong to sign a full confession. "About ten days later," Truong writes "I was bundled into a car and driven to National Police headquarters. My wife had indeed found someone else to bribe. I found out later it was the butcher himself. His price had been $6,000." [21]

Truong's wife paid two bribes -- one to locate him, and one to have him transferred from the secret jail to the NPIC.

Truong adds ruefully, "Had she known about conditions at the [NPIC], it isn't likely that my wife would have paid anything to anyone." He describes six months of solitary confinement and "sensory deprivation" in a pitch-dark cement cell with a steel door and no windows. "I was like an animal in a cave .... I thought of my cell as my coffin." [22]

The CIA treated its prisoners at the National Interrogation Center no better. In Decent Interval, former CIA officer Frank Snepp cites the case of Nguyen Van Tai, the Cuc Nghien Cuu agent who organized the attack on the U.S. Embassy during Tet. Tai was captured in 1970 and, "With American help the South Vietnamese built him his own prison cell and interrogation room, both totally white, totally bare except for a table, chair, an open hole for a toilet -- and ubiquitous hidden television cameras and microphones to record his every waking and sleeping moment. His jailers soon discovered one essential psychic-physical flaw in him. Like many Vietnamese, he believed his blood vessels contracted when he was exposed to frigid air. His quarters and interrogation room were thus outfitted with heavy-duty air conditioners and kept thoroughly chilled." [23]

In April 1975, Snepp notes, "Tai was loaded onto an airplane and thrown out at ten thousand feet over the South China Sea. At that point he had spent over four years in solitary confinement, in a snow-white cell, without ever having fully admitted who he was." [24] As perverse as anything done in Salem, Tai was disposed of like a bag of garbage simply because he would not confess.

But unlike Truong and Tai, most Vietnamese jailed under Phoenix were anonymous pawns whose only value was the small bribe their families offered for their release. Anyone confined in a PIC or province or district prison was in the belly of the beast. The range and extent of torture are beyond the comprehension of the average middle-class American but are well documented, as is the fact that American advisers rarely intervened to reduce the level of abuse.

So the question then becomes, Who were these American advisers?
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:57 am

CHAPTER 16: Advisers

By 1968, half a million American soldiers were in South Vietnam, supported by sailors on aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, airmen maintaining B-52's on Guam, and free world forces from Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Many thousand more civilians were advising the GVN on every conceivable facet of its operations, from police and public administration to engineering and agriculture. All were joined with the government and the Armed Forces of South Vietnam in a war against a well-organized, well-disciplined insurgency supported by North Vietnam and other nonaligned third world, socialist, and Communist nations.

With nearly one thousand NVA and VC soldiers dying each week, and no one keeping count of civilian deaths, the undeclared war in Vietnam had reached epic proportions, but its meaning was shrouded in ambiguities and contradictions. The insurgency was said to be managed along a single chain of command emanating from Hanoi, but the insurgent leadership was elusive, its numbers impossible to gauge. And while the enemy was unified but illusory, the allied effort was clearly defined but hopelessly discombobulated. Something had to be done, and that something fell to several hundred Phoenix advisers, each serving a one-year tour.

"This was moving so fast in early 1968," Doug Dillard recalled, "that young lieutenants and captains coming through the MACV advisory assignment system began arriving in-country, receiving orders, and going right out to the district or province. People didn't even know they were getting a Phoenix assignment at this stage of the game. But the program had one of the highest priorities in MACV for personnel, and as fast as they arrived in-country, they were assigned out directly to the province and district. In Four Corps we tried to intercept them, if I could find out about it in time and coordinate earlier with Saigon. Others we had to pull back from the field. We' d arrange to have them stay in Can Tho from two to three days so we could give them an orientation and tell them what we expected of them as Phoenix coordinators." [1]

At this orientation, according to Dillard, "We outlined their mission, which was to be aware of the entities operating in their area of responsibility, to establish contact with the personalities, to develop a rapport ... and to try to convince them that the only thing we were trying to do in Phoenix was to focus all our resources on the VCI. And to report directly to me any obstacles they were encountering, to see if there was anything we could do about it. I made an effort to establish direct one-to-one relationships with them so they knew ... that I was their friend and truly meant what I said in trying to help them. And time and time again it paid off. They would come in demoralized, and I'd find out about it and work it out with the district adviser to let the guy come in to Can Tho. We'd put him up in our own facility and take him over to the club so he could have a decent meal."

Nor did Doug Dillard sit in Can Tho and wait for problems to come to him. "Phuoc and I tried very hard to breathe some life into the coordination process," he said. "We tried to hit one or two districts every day. I would get the U.S. people together and really give them the hard sell on making Phoenix work. 'What are the problems? Do they have resources? How can I help?' And while I was doing that, Phuoc would get the Vietnamese district people together out in the district compound and give them a patriotic lecture. We did that day after day.

"I remember going to Phong Hiep District." Dillard cited as an example. "That was a bad district for VC activity, and Colonel Phuoc and I went down there, and we were walking from the helicopter pad toward the district compound when this kid came out shouting, 'He's just no good!' and 'I almost killed him myself!'

"I said, 'Calm down, Captain. Let's go have a drink and you tell me what happened.'

"Well, they'd been out on an operation that morning to zap some VCI, and as I recall, one of the VCI was the leader of the communications cadre, and they ran into him on the canal and had a fire fight and captured this guy. They were trying to subdue him, but he kept on resisting, violently, so the Vietnamese S-two pulled out his pistol and shot him. My captain almost went out of his mind. He said, 'For Christ's sake, you just killed the best source of information for VC activity in the district. Why'd you do that?' And the S-two said, 'Well, he obviously wanted to die, the way he was resisting.'

"So, you see" -- Dillard sighed -- "you had a mentality problem."

But there was another side of the "mentality problem." "Down in Bac Lieu," Dillard said, "one of the district chiefs had a group, and they went out and ran an ambush. The district chief stepped on a land mine and had a leg blown off and bled to death before the medevac chopper got there. So I got a report on this and told Jim Ward, and we got it into the system so the corps commander could address the problem, the problem being if these guys see they're not going to be medevaced when they're seriously wounded, they're not going to go out."

To show success to his evaluators in the Saigon Directorate, a Phoenix adviser needed a competent Vietnamese counterpart. But it is wrong to blame the failure of the program solely on the Vietnamese "mentality." To do so is to assume that Phoenix advisers understood the purpose of the program and the intelligence process and that all were mature enough to work with interpreters in a foreign culture. Many were not. As Jim Ward noted, "Very few had the proper training or experience for their work ...." [2]

Ward did not blame any one individual. "The effectiveness of a Province or District Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center," he said, "generally depended on three people: the American adviser and the senior South Vietnamese army and police official assigned to the center. When all three were good and had a harmonious working relationship, the DIOCC functioned effectively." But harmony was the exception, and as in most groups, the strongest personality dominated the others. If it was the Vietnamese army intelligence officer, then DIOCC operations focused on gathering tactical military intelligence. If the Vietnamese policeman was dominant, then the DIOCC concentrated on the VCI. But because the ARVN S2 generally prevailed, the overall impact of Phoenix in the Delta, according to Ward, "was spotty. Really effective in some districts, partially successful in half, and ineffective in the rest."

Contributing to the misdirection of Phoenix operations away from the VCI toward military targets was the widening gap between Province and District Intelligence and Operations Coordination Centers. Explained Ward: "Because most Phoenix-Phung Hoang planning took place at province [where the CIA Special Branch adviser was based], and because the DIOCC was run by the ARVN S2 advised by U.S. Army officers as part of the MACV district advisory team, the CIA Special Branch adviser was not going to share his intelligence or dossiers with these people." This lack of cooperation reinforced the tendency on the part of military intelligence officers to do what they could: to gather information on impending guerrilla attacks, not the VCI.

For this reason, said Colonel George Dexter, who organized Special Forces A teams in Vietnam in the early 1960's and served as the CORDS assistant chief of staff in IV Corps in 1972, "It would seem that Army Intelligence Corps officers were not a good choice for this role since they were basically oriented toward combat intelligence rather than police intelligence. However, U.S. civilians [meaning CIA officers] were almost never assigned at district level because the risk of combat was too high." [3]

Warren Milberg suggests that "the biggest deficiency in the advisory program was the lack of an 'institutional memory.' Phoenix advisers did not know the history of their provinces [or] how the insurgents operated there." Moreover, "Nothing was done to improve the situation .... Not being able to speak the language of their counterparts, and knowing they were only going to stay in Vietnam for a relatively short period of time, most advisers tended to neglect the political and social aspects of the situation in which they found themselves. Unable to cope with, or accept, the people of the RVN, many advisers became ineffective, and the overall result was the degradation of the Phoenix-Phung Hoang program." [4]

Colonel Dexter was more forgiving: "The lieutenant spent his whole tour in Vietnam as a member of a five or six-man district advisory team in a small town in the middle of nowhere, 'advising' a Vietnamese counterpart (who was probably several years older and surely many more years experienced in the war) and holding down any number of additional duties within the advisory team." Said Dexter: "His success depended primarily on the competence of his counterpart and, to a lesser degree, on his own energy and imagination. His major handicap was the inability to speak Vietnamese with any degree of fluency."

A difficult language and an inscrutable culture; lack of training and experience; institutional rivalries and personal vendettas; isolation and alienation: all were obstacles the typical Phoenix district adviser had to face. All in all, it was not an enviable job.


Colonel Dillard's fatherly concern for his young district advisers, "fresh out of college and through the basic course at Fort Holabird," was as exceptional as the harmony he had achieved with the CIA in the Delta. More often than not, Phoenix advisers received little guidance or support from cynical region and province officers. Nor were the first Phoenix advisers even minimally prepared for the intrigues they encountered. The first batch of junior officers sent to Vietnam in February 1968 -- specifically as Phoenix advisers -- consisted of forty second lieutenants trained in the art of air defense artillery -- of which there was no need in South Vietnam insofar as the Viet cong had no aircraft. In addition, most were Reserve Officer Training Corps graduates who had been called upon to meet the unanticipated personnel requirements imposed on the Army Intelligence Corps after the deeply resented troop limit had been imposed on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Such was the case with Henry McWade. A 1965 graduate of East Tennessee State, McWade was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1966 and called to active duty in 1967. In December 1967 he attended Fort Holabird, where, in his words, "we were trained in European methods for the cold war." [5] In May 1968 McWade and twenty-one other second lieutenants, a group he referred to as "the last idealists," were sent to South Vietnam as Phoenix district advisers. Now a realist, McWade told me wearily, "They needed seven-year captains."

Following a week's orientation at the Combined Intelligence Center, McWade was assigned to Go Vap District in Gia Dinh Province as part of CORDS Advisory Team 44. He resided in a prefab facility with other members of the district team, while the province Phoenix coordinator, Major James K. Damron, lived in opulent splendor in the CIA's lavish embassy house, "a cathedral" complete with a helicopter landing pad on the roof and a contingent of PRU bodyguards -- a "goon squad" whom "the Vietnamese feared and considered criminals."

"He gave us no direction at all," McWade said of Damron. "The people at the PIOCC ... located five miles away in the old Special Branch headquarters ... kept us at arm's length. The few times we drove up there, they gave us no guidance or advice at all. Only money." For McWade, this was a big disappointment. "As a green second lieutenant I needed that operational guidance. But I didn't get it .... And the Company man, the Special Branch adviser, just didn't deal with us at all. They had their own advisory system compartmented away from Phoenix.

"The program had been more autonomous, flexible, and experimental under the agency," McWade continued. "But as Army advisers -- whom CIA officers consider amateurs -- filtered in at every level, the program shifted under the CORDS province senior advisers or their deputies. And if the CIA can't control it," McWade explained, "they get rid of it."

From his DIOCC in Go Vap, McWade observed that Major Damron was "an empire builder. The life-styles were incredible. Damron contracted with an American construction company to build safe houses, where he entertained and kept women. He had civilian identification that allowed him to go anywhere. He carried a CAR-15 until the Uzi became fashionable. Then he carried that. And Damron was shrewd. When the province senior adviser or his deputy was around, he talked intelligence jargon. He had files and computers. But when they were gone" -- McWade winked -- "the conversation was all construction. Damron was the best at building buildings. He built great DIOCCs and safe houses. But he couldn't catch any VCI."

The Phoenix program had begun in 1967 under the management of CIA province officers, but as junior grade army officers like Henry McWade mounted the Phoenix ramparts in 1968, the CIA instructed its officers to retreat to the safety and seclusion of the embassy houses." And once they found out I was against physical torture," McWade added, "they preferred that I stay away from the province interrogation center altogether." Thereafter, whenever the Go Vap DIOCC produced a VCI suspect, "they removed the prisoner from our sight. They solved the problem by taking it out of sight."

Complicating matters, McWade said, was the fact that "the Special Branch was playing us against the CIA." In other words, in order to meet Phoenix quotas, the Vietnamese Special Branch would arrest common criminals and present them as VCI, while behind the scenes they were extorting money from genuine VCI in exchange for not arresting them." And the CIA," McWade sighed, "was stretched too thin to know."

As for oversight from the Phoenix Directorate, McWade said it was negligible. "They'd send down a computer printout [containing biographical information on known VCI]. We got them sporadically. Fifty names per page, six inches thick. But we couldn't use them because they lacked the diacritical marks which were necessary for proper identification." And that pretty much left McWade on his own to manage Phoenix operations in Go Vap.

Vietnamese assigned to the Go Vap DIOCC included PRU, a Regional and Popular Forces company, Census Grievance cadre, National Police, and Field Policemen. McWade's counterpart was the ARVN S2, "a weak person I put too many demands on. The only time he moved was the time a ranger brigade came to Go Vap to conduct cordon and search operations with the police. When Saigon units, which were there to prevent coups, came out to our area, things happened. Then it was a genuine Phoenix operation."

Otherwise, said McWade, "We ran every conceivable type of operation, from night ambushes in the rural areas north of Go Vap, to Rambo-style counterintelligence operations in the city -- the kind where you personally had to react." McWade went on village sweeps with the local Regional and Popular Forces company, checking .hundreds of IDs with the police. Based on tips gotten from informers, he would also surveil and target houses in Go Vap where VCI suspects lived, contact points where VCI met, and places where commo-liaison cadres crossed the river. He took photographs, submitted reports, and "fed the computer in Saigon."

"We were going out every other day, sometimes every day," he recalled. "I worked eighteen hours a day, six or seven days a week." And yet, he was never really in control. "I had no operational control over any units, and I had to rely one hundred percent on my counterpart," he said. "So every operation had to be simple," primarily because of language. "I was at the mercy of an interpreter with a five-hundred-word vocabulary," McWade sighed. "It was like being deaf and dumb. And I just assumed every operation was compromised, at a minimum because my interpreter was an undercover Military Security Service agent." And even though he monitored agent nets, "No one reported directly to me; it would have been impossible to try, if you can't speak the language. There was no such thing as a secure agent, and we didn't have walk-ins because the people couldn't trust the police." Making matters worse, there were at least a dozen intelligence agencies operating in the area, each with what it assumed were its own unilateral agents in the field. But because the various intelligence agencies refused to share their files with one another, they never realized that each agent, as McWade put it, "was selling information to everybody."

The picture is one of total chaos. Indeed, most of McWade's initial operations were conducted -- without his realizing it -- by his police counterparts against common criminals or dissidents. He recalled his first day on the job, which coincided with the beginning of the second Tet offensive. "The first one in February came through Cholon," McWade said. "This one came through Go Vap. We were out with the Regional and Popular Forces company, picking up anyone who looked like an ARVN draft dodger. Meanwhile the Vietnamese police were shaking them down, although I didn't learn about it till much later."

There were other surprises. In an area outside Go Vap, for example, over thirty thousand refugees lived in a sprawling ghetto. McWade told me, "They were mostly prostitutes working for organized crime -- meaning the police. I thought we were investigating the VCI, but actually I was used by my police counterpart to raid the madams who hadn't paid him off." When he figured out what was really going on, McWade said, "I developed what I called 'McWade's Rule'; fifteen percent for graft, eighty-five percent for the program. And this was a complete reversal of what was happening when I arrived!"

But Henry McWade did not become bitter, nor was he unable to cope with Vietnamese culture. Unlike many of his colleagues, he did not interpret Vietnamese customs as insidious schemes designed to deceive him. "The Vietnamese had a different vocabulary and different goals. They were not interested in acquiring bodies," he said. "They were interested in acquiring money and items on the black market." In other words, their motives were practical, geared toward surviving in the present, while it was generally only their American advisers who were obsessed with eliminating Communists from the face of the earth.


As a means of bringing Vietnamese and American procedures into closer sync, the Phoenix Directorate in July 1968 issued its first standard operating procedures (SOP 1) manual. SOP 1 stressed the leadership role of the police and the need for paramilitary forces to support the police in the attack on the VCI. It subdivided Intelligence and Operations Coordination Centers (IOCCs) into three areas. The Plans and Operations Center devised plans and organized available forces in operations against guerrilla units and individual VCI. The Situation Center maintained files, handled agent security and operations, produced reports, and set requirements. It had a military order of battle section under the Vietnamese army intelligence officer, the S2, gathering intelligence on and targeting guerrilla units, and a political order of battle section under the Special Branch, targeting VCI. The Message Section communicated with the district or province chief, who exercised overall responsibility for any particular IOCC.

In practice, SOP 1 had little effect. "It didn't do any harm," Henry McWade observed; but it was issued only to Americans, and the Vietnamese continued to organize the IOCCs according to their own "separate goals and missions. The double standard persisted, even after a translation (minus diacritical marks) was circulated."

Ralph Johnson acknowledges this, noting that the GVN's instructions to its own people -- by making no reference to the role of U.S. Phoenix advisers in the IOCCs -- widened the gap between Americans and Vietnamese. At first only the CIA, which "controlled the salaries, training and support of critical elements in Phung Hoang," was able to exert influence, by parceling out resources and funds. Otherwise, when Phoenix advisers received adequate funds through CORDS, they, too, "were able and willing to use monetary leverage to drive home needed advice and guidance. And a CORDS agreement with President Thieu gave CORDS the right to call attention to officials who should be replaced." [6]

In any event, Phoenix advisers found themselves caught in the middle of intrigues beyond their comprehension. Woefully unprepared, they stood between their Vietnamese army and police counterparts; their CIA and U.S. Army superiors; and the GVN and the sect or opposition political party in their area of operation. Everything was expected of them, but in reality, very little was possible.

Shedding light on the problems of Phoenix advisers is Ed Brady, a slender Army officer who served his first tour in Vietnam in 1965 as an adviser to the Twenty-second Ranger Battalion in Pleiku. After that, Brady volunteered for another tour and was assigned as a Regional and Popular Forces adviser in Da Lat, where he learned about the connection between politics and the black market in Vietnam. "Both the VC and the ARVN tried to avoid military operations in Da Lat," Brady told me, adding that as part of the modus vivendi, it was "a neutral city where you could have meetings and where financial transactions could take place, legal and illegal. It was a place where the VC could raise and wash and change money. It was sort of what Geneva was like in World War Two. There were many businesses in the province, like woodcutting, rubber and tea plantations, and the ngoc mom [fish sauce] industry. All were sources of money for the VC and the GVN." [7]

In Da Lat Brady worked with CIA Province Officer Peter Scove, who introduced him to Ted Serong, who at the time was handing over control of the Field Police to Pappy Grieves. "I was learning a lot," Brady said. "I learned Vietnamese from the officer I was working with ... the words that dealt with money and corruption. Then Serong asked me if I would be willing to go on loan to his team. They had a new kind of platoon ... that they wanted to train in small-unit tactics. More like guerrilla warfare than what the police did. And would I be willing to train this platoon because he didn't think that the Australian warrant officers he had there were the right people?"

Brady agreed and spent the next few months at the Field Police center, training what turned out to be "the first experimental PRU team in Tuyen Duc Province ... recruited by the CIA to be the action arm of the province officer." The platoon had four squads, two composed of Nungs and two of Montagnards. "They couldn't speak to each other." There were also squad leaders and a platoon commander, all of whom were South Vietnamese Special Forces officers, none of whom could speak Montagnard or Nung or English either.

"It was really the strangest thing you ever saw," Brady said. "And I taught them small-unit tactics."

As was generally the case, Brady's association with the CIA spelled trouble for his military career. "I had a lot of problems with my sector boss over these activities," he told me. "He thought I should eat in the sector house with the rest of the team, not with the Aussies and CIA people. I also spent most of my off time with Vietnamese officers in their homes, in bars, doing the things they did. I rented a house on my own, lived off the economy, learned how you buy your jobs, and met a lot of general officers' mistresses who liked to come to Da Lat for the weather. The American colonel I worked for thought this was atrocious, and I got a zero on my performance report."

Having been suborned by the CIA, enticed by the Vietnamese, and excommunicated by the Army, Brady -- whose family was connected to a powerful U.S. senator and the III Corps commander -- was reassigned to the Vietnamese Joint General Staff (JGS), "in their command center. We were a division of the MACV Combat Operations Center. The main purpose of this group was to collect data on Vietnamese operations and feed it to the MACV so it could be reported to Washington."

"General Cao Van Vien was commander of the Joint Staff," Brady continued, "and these guys were his operations staff. They traveled to every major Vietnamese battle to find out what happened -- they placed no reliance on any official message -- and I went on every one of those trips. I met all the key commanders. Plus which I was moving in Vietnamese social circles."

Brady became friends with General Vien's executive officer and with the JGS operations chief, Major General Tran Tran Phong. "And for some reason," he added, "a number of the ranger officers and people I knew in Da Lat had moved into key positions in Thieu's administration. They had sort of been in exile when I met them -- you didn't get assigned to a ranger outfit because you were in good graces with the administration ... -- but later they showed up in Saigon. And I had a great bond with them. I'd been in combat and brothels with them. But they were now full colonels. And I met many of their bosses, who were generals in powerful positions."

When Brady's tour at the JGS ended, the CIA station asked him to capitalize on his well-placed connections and report on what he learned about GVN plans and strategies. Brady agreed, and was assigned to the Phoenix Directorate as a cover for his espionage activities. "Somebody called me up one day and said, 'We're starting a new organization, and we'd like you to consider joining it.' This was ICEX. So I went over there ... and spent a couple hours talking to Evan Parker. He said, 'We're interested in targeted operations against the civilian part of the Communist party. The main force war doesn't address the real problem ... the shadow government.' And I was ready for that -- psychologically and emotionally. Everything I knew said, 'That's exactly right.'

"ICEX was to work with the Special Branch," Brady continued, "which set up a separate building in the National Police compound to be the Phung Hoang Central Office. They detailed mostly Special Branch policemen to work there, but there were a few military officers and a few National Police officers to round out the staff. Their office was only two months old when I arrived. There were a couple of CIA advisers down there to be the people who worked with them. Joe Sartiano was the senior CIA guy down in the Phung Hoang Central Office. And me and Bob Inman were down there from the Phoenix operations section."

The Phoenix assignment put Brady in close contact with Dang Van Minh, Duong Than Huu, and Lieutenant Colonel Loi Nguyen Tan. About his relationship with Tan, Brady said, "Since Colonel Tan was a military officer, we knew people in common, so there was an immediate rapport. Tan was very friendly, very easy to talk to. But he was not, from an American point of view, demanding. We would go out on inspection teams together, to operations centers, and he'd have a discussion with the chief. Meanwhile, his Vietnamese subordinate and I pored through the dossiers, looked at their procedures and what operations they had run recently. And a lot of it was a sham -- a facade that they were meeting the letter of the law. So they had a hundred dossiers. Big deal! Seventy-five had nothing in them. Fifteen of the other twenty-five had a couple of newspaper clippings from the local newspaper about the VC district chief. But they had no real intelligence, no real targeted operations that they were setting up or running. And Tan would never crack down on them or lean on them in some way that was acceptable to us from the West.

"Now in Vietnamese he would make a few remarks to them: 'You really ought to try to do better.' And when he got back, he'd file a report that this place was not in very good shape. But he didn't say, 'Damn it, I'm going to be back here in three weeks and you'd better have something going by then!' That's why it's difficult to say if he was effective."

Brady, who has deep affection for the Vietnamese, explained why their approach to Phoenix was at odds with the one pressed by Evan Parker: "If you really want to get down to cases, no Vietnamese of any significance in the military or in the police didn't know who the truly high-level people were -- the district chiefs and the province chiefs. Let me give you an example. Colonel Tan and Mr. Huu and I were eating in a market stall up near the border in Three Corps. The place was a hotbed of VCI support for NVA units. There was lots of money flowing there, donated by French rubber plantation owners without much coercion. They didn't like the GVN. Anyway, this woman comes in. She's got three or four kids, the youngest is maybe two, the oldest about seven. And Tan says to me, 'You see this woman?' We're there eating soup and drinking Vietnamese coffee. She's there feeding her kids at a nearby table in the market stall.

"I say, 'Yeah.'

"He says, 'You know who she is? She's the province chief's wife.'

"I looked around and said, 'I don't see the province chief. You're telling me there's an honest province chief, and his wife doesn't own a jeep and go around collecting money all day?'

"No, no," he says. "The VC province chief."

"So, being young and naive, I say, 'Well, look at how many young kids she has. She either goes to see him, or he comes to see her. Or she's got a lover.'

"He says, 'Right.' But they are his kids. They even look like him.

"So I say, 'Well, he must come in to see her, then, or she goes to see him.' I'm really excited. I say, 'This is something we can really work with.'

"He says, 'You don't understand. You don't live the way we live. You don't have any family here. You're going to go home when this operation is over with. You don't think like you're going to live here forever. But I have a home and a family and kids that go to school. I have a wife that has to go to market .... And you want me to go kill his wife? You want me to set a trap for him and kill him when he comes in to see his wife? If we do that, what are they going to do to our wives?'

"How many wives were ever killed?" Brady asked rhetorically. "Zero -- unless they happened to drive over a land mine, and then it was a random death. The VC didn't run targeted operations against them either. There were set rules that you played by. If you went out and conducted a military operation and you chased them down fair and square in the jungle and you had a fight, that was okay. If they ambushed you on the way back from a military operation, that was fair. But to conduct these clandestine police operations and really get at the heart of things, that was kind of immoral to them. That was not cricket. And the Vietnamese were very, very leery of upsetting that."

Likewise, as Tran Van Truong notes in A Vietcong Memoir: "Thieu's chief of psywar hid in his own house a sister-in-law who was the Vietcong cadre in charge of the Hue People's Uprising Committee. Neither had any particular love for their enemies, but family loyalty they considered sacrosanct." [8]

"Atrocities happened," Brady said. "Those things happened by individual province officers or people who worked for them and the PRUs .... It happened in the U.S. units. My Lai happened. No matter what anybody says about 'it didn't happen,' it did happen. I've watched people torch Montagnard villages for no real reason except they were frustrated by not being able to catch the VC. And the Montagnards must have known about the VC, which I believe they did. But we didn't have to burn their houses."

When asked if Phoenix encouraged atrocities, Brady answered that it depended on whether or not the PRU and the PICs were defined as part of Phoenix. "If you want to say that all the intelligence activities that were supposed to be coordinated by Phoenix are a part of Phoenix, then yes," Brady said. "But if you want to say, 'Did Phoenix go do these things?,' then my answer is no. Because Phoenix was too inactive, too incompetent, and too passive. Now, Phoenix should have been doing many more things directly, and if it had, then my belief is that Phoenix would have perpetrated some atrocities, because they would have been in the position these other people were in, where they were frustrated, they were angry, and they would have done some things.

"Furthermore," Brady added, "you can make the case that Phoenix was helping to repress the loyal opposition political parties and prevented a neutral Vietnam from occurring. The Vietnamese said that, because the Special Branch guy who planned the operation to nullify their political operations was also running Phoenix operations .... So it depends on how you want to interpret the data and how you want to say things were connected together .... I'd say either of those interpretations are valid.

"I think the director of Phoenix never planned such things," Brady concluded in defense of Evan Parker and American policy in general. But he also said, "Yes, people assigned to Phoenix did such things."
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:58 am

CHAPTER 17: Accelerated Pacification

The election of Richard Nixon in November 1968 signaled a shift in U.S. policy in Vietnam. Reflecting the desire of most Americans, in the wake of Tet, for an honorable withdrawal, the policy balanced negotiations with the bombing of North Vietnam. Called the Nixon Doctrine, the policy had as its premise that the United States has a moral obligation to support foreign governments fighting Communist insurgents, on the condition that those governments supply their own cannon fodder.

Shortly after taking office, Nixon instructed his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, to start negotiating with the North Vietnamese in Paris. On the assumptions that Tet had dealt the VCI a deathblow and that the Thieu regime was firmly in control of the country, Nixon began planning for troop reductions. Following in the footsteps of the French, U.S. forces began a gradual retreat to coastal enclaves. And MACV, under General William Westmoreland's replacement, General Creighton Abrams, prepared to fight a sanctuary war based on CIA estimates that forty thousand NVA soldiers hunkered down in Cambodia constituted the major outside threat to the Thieu regime. The bombing of these potential invaders began in February 1969, with the consent of Cambodia's Prince Norodom Sihanouk, whose agents provided the Special Operations Group (SOG) with information on the location of enemy forces, many of which were located in densely populated areas. Conducted in secret, the illegal raids into Cambodia were revealed in May 1969 and resulted in increased opposition to U.S. government conduct in Southeast Asia.

The Nixon Doctrine as applied in Vietnam was called Vietnamization, and the man upon whom the mantle of Vietnamization fell was William Colby, godfather of the Covert Action program that had set the stage for American intervention ten years earlier. In November 1968 Colby was appointed DEPCORDS, replacing Democratic party loyalist Robert Komer, whom President Johnson had named U.S. ambassador to Turkey. Colby reported to Henry Kissinger, who supported Colby's ambitious pacification program, geared to facilitate Vietnamization.

Colby subdivided his pacification plan into three main categories, beginning with military security, which he called "the first step in the pacification and development process" -- in other words, borrowed from Nelson Brickham, "shielding the population from the Communist main forces," a job which "is the task of the Vietnamese regular forces." [1]

Often generated by Phoenix intelligence, the resulting air raids, artillery barrages, and search and destroy operations were an integral part of pacification, insofar as they created defectors, prevented guerrillas from assembling in large concentrations, and, by creating refugees, separated the fish from the water.

Part II of Colby's strategy was territorial security, the 1969 manifestation of Revolutionary Development, in which the Regional and Popular Forces -- thereafter called Territorial Security Forces -- were advised by U.S. Army mobile advisory teams (MATs) under the auspices of CORDS. In combating C guerrilla units and the VCI, Territorial Security Forces were assisted by the People's Self-Defense Forces.

In a Defense Department report titled A Systems Analysis of the Vietnam War 1965-1972, Thomas Thayer says that as of 1968, "The Revolutionary Development program had significant problems in recruiting and retaining high quality personnel." The RD Cadre desertion rate was over 20 percent, "higher than for any GVN military force, perhaps because they have a 30% better chance of being killed than the military forces." Thayer notes that in response, the RD ministry had directed its cadre "to concentrate on building hamlet security and to defer, at least temporarily, the hamlet development projects which formerly constituted six of the teams' eleven RD tasks." [2]

Under these revised guidelines, providing intelligence to Phoenix replaced "nation building" as the RD program's top priority. Reflecting this change, the RD Cadre program was incorporated within the CORDS Pacification Security Coordination Division in November 1968, at which point MACV officers and USAID employees moved in to manage the program, bringing about, according to Robert Peartt and Jim Ward, a decline in performance and morale. In line with Lou Lapham's redirection of the station away from paramilitary operations back toward classic intelligence functions, the CIA's role in RD diminished, although it continued to skim off whatever strategic intelligence was produced. As Peartt noted, the station was "interested in going after region people, and would get involved at that point in RDC/O operations." [3] To a lesser degree, the CIA's PRU program was also affected.

"The agency made a decision," John Wilbur said, "to get their ass out of Vietnam as fast as they could, for all the reasons Kinloch Bull foretold. It was losing control ... diluting its cadre ... being misdirected. It had become the sponsoring agency for a hodgepodge thing, and Phoenix was going to be the mechanism by which it was going to withdraw its control and sponsorship ... and transition it over to the military. And that ... meant that the PRU were no longer going to be the CIA's exclusive boys, which foretold a real human crisis in the units." [4] Their "elan and morale had been carefully nurtured," Wilbur explained. "We protected them from the dilution of control ... from the province chiefs and battalion commanders. We insulated them from being used for whatever multiple good and bad reasons other people wanted to use them for. We would pay them a little better, we would take care of their dependents, and we would provide them with the best military support there was." That, according to Wilbur, motivated them to "go out and do the things they did."

But, he added, "they had incurred a lot of resentment by the Vietnamese to whom they had previously been untouchable .... The leadership levels were marked men among many Vietnamese political forces." And as soon as the Vietnamese got control in the summer of 1968, "everybody started messing with them." The PRU began to be used as bagmen.

"I was hurt in the last attack on Can Tho," Wilbur continued, "and when I got back [from the hospital], my replacement had already arrived ... and I spent most of the next six weeks introducing Chuck [Lieutenant Commander Charles Lemoyne] to the provinces, to all the hundreds of people he would have to deal with." At that point Wilbur went home, where he remained until May 1968, when the CIA asked him to return to Vietnam to help Bill Redel "develop a national PRU unit which was targeted to recover American POWs in South Vietnam. It was the only thing that seemed worth fighting for," Wilbur said, so he accepted the job. He was transferred to a naval security group, assigned to MACV, given an office (formerly occupied by Joe Vacarro) on the second floor of USAID II, and went to work for Redel.

"We were going to set up a unit that would go around the provinces and try to collate whatever extant information there was, and in the event there was something that indicated [a POW camp] was there, we would try to put an in-place person, or try to develop ... somebody to deal with an agent in place, and then gather the intelligence sufficiently to mount some sort of rescue operation."

But the rescue program was scuttled, and Wilbur instead got the job of transferring management of the PRU to the Vietnamese. He was introduced to Special Forces Mayor Nguyen Van Lang, [i] the first PRU national commander, and they began traveling around the country together. " And it became very apparent when I showed up with a Vietnamese colonel ... what was going to happen. It meant the military, and that meant that the leadership elements of the PRU were in jeopardy of maintaining allegiance -- they weren't colonels and majors and captains."

Wilbur sighed and said forlornly, "The fact that there was no national overlay allowed the CIA to maintain autonomy over the PRU program longer than they would have otherwise." But by the summer of 1968 "The official word had to go out that the PRU was becoming part of the Phoenix program: 'We're going to lose control. Get ready for the transition.'

"It was the dissolution of American protection of the units that was mandated in our withdrawal," Wilbur explained, "that corrupted the quality of control, which in turn allowed the PRU to be turned into a department store. And I became an agent of that. I was going to try to convince people to give up control of the PRU, after I had spent all this time arguing for its insulation and control and independence."


To effect territorial security, Colby intended "to get weapons into the hands of the Vietnamese villagers, so they could participate in their own defense" and to provide "funds to the elected village leaders to carry out local development programs." [5] The mechanism for this was Ralph Johnson's village chief program at Vung Tau, about which Professor Huy writes: "[A]fter 1968, when Thieu succeeded to restore security in the countryside, several province and district chiefs used fraud and threats to put their men in the village and hamlet councils. These men were often the children of rich people living in cities. They needed the title of 'elected representatives of the population' to enjoy a temporary exemption from military service, and their parents were ready to pay a high price for their selection as village councilors. Thus, even the fiercely anti-Communist groups became bitter and resentful against Thieu." [6]

That brings us to Part III of Colby's plan, internal security, otherwise known as Phoenix, the two-track CIA program to destroy the VCI and ensure the political stability of the Thieu regime by insulating him from the backlash of his repressive policies. As it was in the beginning, the pacification purpose of Phoenix was to weaken the link between the "people" and the VCI, while the political-level Phoenix was designed to exploit that link.

To implement his plan, Colby forged ahead with a three-month stand-up program dubbed the accelerated pacification campaign (APC). Begun in November 1968, APC was designed to bolster Kissinger's negotiating position in Paris by boosting the GVN presence in the hamlets, and was expected to show its effect by Tet [of 1969]. The goal was to add twelve hundred hamlets to the five thousand already classified under the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) as "relatively secure." Afterward APC was to be followed by an annual "full year pacification and development program." To facilitate this process, Colby created the Central Pacification and Development Council as his personal staff and private conduit to Tran Thien Khiem, who replaced Tran Van Huong as prime minister in August 1969.

Said Evan Parker about his patron William Colby: "The interesting thing was his relationship with Khiem ... they would travel around the countryside in the same plane, each sitting there with his briefcase and a stack of working papers, writing like mad, answering memoranda, writing memoranda, passing memorandum back and forth .... There's your coordination on this stuff -- one of them or both would use his authority to support what I was asking the Vietnamese to do."

To assist him on the council, Colby hired Clayton McManaway as program manager; Tony Allito for HES reports; Harry "Buzz" Johnson for territorial security; and Ev Bumgartner and Frank Scotton for political liaison. With his personal staff in tow, Colby spent two days each week canvassing the provinces, bringing pressure to bear on people in the field, and promoting the accelerated pacification campaign.

Phoenix adviser John Cook describes the accelerated pacification campaign as "an all out nationwide effort to put as many hamlets under government control as soon as possible. The Viet Cong violently opposed this action, since its primary purpose was to eliminate them and their control. It involved large military operations coupled with psychological operations, resulting in increased emphasis on the pacification program." Insofar as the attack on the VCI strengthened Henry Kissinger's bargaining position, Cook writes, "Pressure was placed on the Intelligence and Operations Coordinating Centers to provide more valid information about the enemy's location. This required more of an effort from all of us, which meant an increase in the number of raids, ambushes and operations." [7]

The hour of Phoenix was at hand. With American troops withdrawing and emphasis being shifted from military to political operations, the pressure began to mount on Phoenix advisers, who were expected to eliminate any vestiges of revolutionary activity in South Vietnam. Reasons why they failed to accomplish this goal are offered by Jeffrey Race in his book War Comes to Long An.

Blaming "overcentralization," Race observes that the district, where the DIOCCs were located, "was the lowest operational level" of Phoenix, "one having no significance in terms of social or living patterns, and staffed by outsiders whose interests bore no necessary connection to the districts. By contrast, the revolutionary organization was the essence of simplicity ... and intimately familiar with the local population and terrain." Race traces the lack of "security" at the village level to the GVN's disdain for the common people and its "failure to develop a highly motivated and trained local apparatus." [8]

Operational as well as organizational errors also factored into the equation. Forces under the Phoenix program, Race explains, "operated in the manner of a conventional war combat organization -- independently of their environment -- and so they did not have the enormous advantage enjoyed by the party apparatus of operating continuously in their home area through a personally responsive network of friends and relatives. This in turn severely handicapped their ability to locate intended targets and to recognize fortuitous ones. The program was also handicapped in developing a sympathetic environment by the use by the Saigon authorities of foreign troops and by the program's intended purpose of maintaining a distributive system perceived as unfavorable to their interests by much of the rural population." [9]

Responding to the grievances of the rural population and taking steps to correct social injustices might have enabled the GVN to collect intelligence and contest the VCI in the villages. But acknowledging the nature of the conflict would have undermined the reason for fighting the war in the first place. And rather than do that, Race says, "attention was turned to the use of such new devices as starlight scopes, ground surveillance radar, and remote listening devices, as well as the previously employed infrared and radio transmission detection devices." [10]


In August 1968, concurrent with Robert Komer imposing, as "a management tool," a nationwide quota of eighteen hundred VCI neutralizations per month, the science fiction aspect of Phoenix was enhanced with the advent of the Viet Cong Infrastructure Information System. VCIIS climaxed a process begun in February 1966, when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara established the Defense Department's Southeast Asia Programs Division. The process was carried forward in Saigon in January 1967, when the Combined Intelligence Staff fed the names of three thousand VCI (assembled by hand at area coverage desks) into the IBM 1401 computer at the Combined Intelligence Center's political order of battle section. At that point the era of the computerized blacklist began.

As the attack against the VCI exploded across South Vietnam in 1968, reports on the results poured into the Phoenix Directorate, inundating its analysts with reams of unreliable information on individual VCI and anti-VCI operations. In DIOCCs the data could be processed manually, but in Saigon it required machines. Hence, with input from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI and the CIA -- all of which had an interest in analyzing the finished product -- VCIIS became the first of a series of computer programs designed to absolve the war effort of human error and war managers of individual responsibility.

The cerebellum of Phoenix, VCIIS compiled information gathered from all U.S. and free world field units on VCI boundaries, locations, structures, strengths, personalities, and activities. The end product, a monthly summary report, was a statistical summary of Phoenix operational results by province, region, and the country as a whole and showed the levels and methods of neutralizations at each echelon within the VC infrastructure. A monthly activity listing listed each "neutralized" VCI by name. In July 1970 the Vietnamese were invited to contribute to the program and started key punching at the National Police Interrogation Center. Until then the computerized blacklist was a unilateral American operation.

In January 1969 VCIIS was renamed the Phung Hoang Management Information System. The PHMIS file included summary data on each recorded VCI in the following categories: name and aliases; whether or not he or she was "at large"; sex, birth date, and place of birth; area of operations; party position; source of information; arrest date; how neutralized; term of sentence; where detained; release date; and other biographical and statistical information, including photographs and fingerprints, if available. All confirmed and suspected VCI members were recorded in this manner, enabling Phoenix analysts instantly to access and cross-reference data, then decide who was to be erased. All of this added up to hard times for NLF sympathizers, Thieu opponents, and those unfortunate enough to be creditors or rivals of Phoenix agents.

As a management tool PHMIS was used by Komer and Colby to measure and compare the performance of Phoenix officers -- unless one believes those like Tom McCoy, who claims that Komer was a fraud who went to Vietnam "not to do pacification but to prove that it was being done." [11] In that case the numbers game was computerized prestidigitation -- an Orwellian manipulation of statistics to shape public opinion.

According to McCoy's scenario, PHMIS was part of a larger hoax begun in January 1967, when Robert Komer introduced the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) -- eighteen factors subject to computer analysis for each of South Vietnam's fifteen thousand hamlets. These factors included data on VC military activity, GVN security capabilities, the strength of the VCI, Revolutionary Development activities, etc. The data were assembled by MACV district advisers, with the computer then putting the hamlets into one of three classes: A, secure; B, contested; or C, controlled by the VC.

On the verge of Tet in December 1967, nearly half of South Vietnam's hamlets were rated A. One year later more than half were rated A. As Public Safety chief Frank Walton told me, "We would get reports of provinces being eighty-five percent pacified and ninety percent pacified, and then, when it got to the point that they were near a hundred percent, figures had to be revised downward. It was done with computers, and that's where I first heard the term 'GIGO' for 'garbage in; garbage out.'" [12]

The Hamlet Evaluation System also included input on "the known strengths of the 319 currently identified, upper-level VCI organizations at COSVN region, province and district levels." The HES guesstimate of VCI strength in January 1969 was 75,500.

Statistics on the VCI; definitions of the VCI; attitudes toward the VCI -- all were subjective. Yet despite his own admission that "we knew there was a VCI, but we could not be said to know very much about it," William Colby set about attacking it. Armed with technology that rendered due process obsolete, he "set up standards and procedures by which to weed out the false from the correct information." To ensure that Phoenix operations were mounted on factual information, "The general rule was established that three separate sources must have reported a suspect before he could be put on the rolls." Thus, the VCI was put into three classes of offenders: A, for leaders and party members; B, for holders of other responsible jobs; and C, for rank. and-file members and followers. "And the decision was taken that those in the 'C' category should be ignored, since Phoenix was directed against the VCI command and control structure and not the occasional adherent or supporter." [13]

To complement these safety procedures, Phoenix advisers and their Vietnamese counterparts were issued, in July 1968, the Yellow Book, published by the CIA under cover of the RAND Corporation. Officially titled The Modus Operandi of Selected Political Cadre, the Yellow Book described the operational patterns and procedures of VCI cadre and suggested "possible actions" to exploit them.

In November 1968 came SOP 2, telling how to manage a DIOCC, and in December 1968 appeared the Green Book, Current Breakdown of Executive and Significant VCI Cadre. The bible of Phoenix advisers, the Green Book listed all VCI job titles, assigned each an A, B, or C rating, and prescribed the duration of detention suitable for each functionary. It told how the VCI routed messages, how they constructed and hid in tunnels, who was likely to know whom in the party organization, and other tips that would allow earnest Phoenix advisers to prioritize their targets, so they could go after the big fish recorded in the Black Book kept in the situation section of each DIOCC and PIOCC.

Other publications made available to Phoenix advisers included a bi-weekly newsletter that enabled advisers to share their favorite interrogation, operational, and briefing techniques; MACV's monthly "Summary of VCI Activities"; Combined Document Exploitation Center and Combined Intelligence Center readouts; the PHMIS monthly report; and an eagerly awaited Phoenix End of Year Report.

Perhaps the most far-reaching innovation of 1968 was the Phoenix Coordinators Orientation Course (PCOC), which held its first classes at Vung Tau's Seminary Camp in November 1968. The PCOC represented a final recognition that, as Doug Dillard remarked, "MACV really had to account for it." [14] To state it simply, military careers were now hitched to the Phoenix star.

The advent of the PCOC dovetailed neatly with the folderol of the accelerated pacification campaign and the infusion into the Phoenix Directorate of a new generation of staff officers, who brought with them new ideas and were confronted with new concerns, most concerning public relations. On the CIA side, Robert E. Haynes replaced Joe Sartiano as executive director, and Sartiano and two State Department officers began writing a plan to put Phung Hoang under the control of the National Police. On the military side, Colonel Robert E. Jones replaced William Greenwalt as deputy director.

In September, Army Security Agency officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bradish stepped in as the military liaison to Special Branch. Bradish "provided direct assistance" to the Phung Hoang staff in Special Branch headquarters at the NPIC. He and the sergeant assisting him were the only military personnel who had desks there. "We were very busy," Bradish told me, "primarily advising the Special Branch in anti-infrastructure operations." [15] Bradish also advised Vietnamese inspectors visiting Phung Hoang committees on "how to bolster morale and improve record keeping on VCI neutralizations."

Bradish noted that Parker's military deputy, Colonel Jones, did not provide "close supervision," a condition that was "characteristic of the whole thing .... I was compartmented," Bradish said about himself and the other military personnel on the staff. "We were outsiders. When I was there, Special Branch was Phung Hoang" -- meaning that the CIA still controlled Phoenix, with the military there as window dressing. Likewise, Bradish observed, the Vietnamese at the Phung Hoang Office "were putting on a show. They were not acting like they were at war, but like it was a normal job." In his judgment, "The North Vietnamese were more committed."

The Central Phung Hoang Permanent Committee as of November 1968 looked like this:

Chairman: General Tran Thien Khiem
Assistant Chairman: Colonel Ly Trong Song
Phung Hoang Plan: Lieutenant Colonel Loi Nguyen Tan
Planning Bureau: Mr. Duong Than Huu
Intelligence Operations: Mr. Ha Van Tien
Action Programs: Mr. Mai Viet Dich
Inspections Bureau: Mr. Nguyen Van Hong
Chieu Hoi Representative: Mr. Le Doan Hung
Statistics Bureau: Military Security Service Captain Dinh Xuan Mai

Also arriving at the Phoenix directorate in September 1968, concurrent with its reorganization into separate branches for plans and training, was Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kolon. Put in charge of training, Kolon's job was "to prepare incoming personnel at Seminary Camp at Vung Tau," [16] which in 1969 was still the private property of the CIA; only Air America was authorized to fly in and out. Having worked with the agency at various stages in his career, including his first tour in Vietnam in 1965 with the Special Military Intelligence Advisory Team (SMIAT), Phoenix was a program that Walter Kolon was well suited for. Assembled by CIA officer William Tidwell within MACV's Technical Intelligence Branch, SMIAT was a deep cover for sophisticated "black" operations against the VCI before Phoenix. "The premise and charter of SMIAT," said Kolon, "laid the groundwork conceptually for Phoenix."

When Kolon arrived on the scene, CIA contract officers like Bob Slater and veteran Phoenix coordinators like Doug Dillard and Henry McWade were teaching classes at Vung Tau. Recalled Dillard: "There was a compound and classrooms and different kinds of training facilities out on the grounds. Colonel Be was there with his RD Cadre training school, although they kept them separate. And of course, I was involved only with American personnel. They had agency people who had been with ICEX as instructors. The U.S. cadre down there were all agency people; later they began to get some Army personnel in."

Phoenix personnel assigned to Seminary Camp shared their mess hall with PRU advisers. "We had two elements," Walter Kolon recalled. "One was the Phoenix school; the other was PRU. Those were the only two there. The RDC training area was separate. But the people being assigned were neither fish nor fowl; counterintelligence and intelligence people had no understanding of police or judicial procedures, and former policemen were not the solution either," he added, noting that they and people from other agencies sometimes had no intelligence training at all. "What was needed was a new breed of cat, a person who understood collection, analysis, and response units like the National Police Field Force, and how all that jibed with gathering evidence and building a case."

So, Kolon continued, "We made recommendations to Colby to get a new program under way in the States. Then I went back to brief the people at SACSA, CIA, Fort Holabird, and the Continental Army Command at Fort Lee as to what our needs were, not just immediately, but into the foreseeable future as well -- always remembering that Phoenix was a coordinative function. As a result, the military intelligence branch of the Army, on instructions from the acting chief of staff for intelligence, actively began identifying in the United States people to volunteer as Phoenix advisers, on the understanding that they would be able to choose their next assignment after Vietnam. This would eventually develop into what was called the Phoenix Career Program."

Phoenix curriculum was soon introduced to the Foreign Service Institute; the Defense Intelligence School; the Army Intelligence School; the Institute for Military Assistance at Fort Bragg; the Civil Affairs School at Fort Gordon (home of the Military Police); the Army Intelligence School in Okinawa; and Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in Thailand. Walter Kolon then returned to Vung Tau, where he supervised the creation of the ten-day bimonthly Phoenix Coordinators' Orientation Course. The staff was "originally about a dozen people. Some were former DIOCC advisers, and the CIA also supplied a number of guest lecturers."

About his experience as a Phoenix facilitator, Henry McWade said, "I gave two classes. The first class was how the DIOCC should be, as set forth in SOP One and SOP Two. In the second class I said, 'Forget the first class; this is how it really is.' Then I explained how they had to adjust to the Vietnamese, how they would get money for expenditures but no money for bodies, and how sometimes they would get money for agents."

Kolon and his deputy, Major Kelly Stewart, also provided advice and support to Special Branch training courses begun in Bien Hoa in December 1968, then expanded to the other corps. In this capacity Kolon traveled with Ed Brady and Loi Nguyen Tan. By the end of 1969 corps centers had trained eighteen hundred students, primarily in how to be case officers. Beginning in February 1969, American advisers to ARVN ranger battalions, along with police advisers and Free World Military Assistance Forces, were also given Phoenix instruction.

In addition to classes at Vung Tau, the CIA gave instruction to Phoenix advisers at the Vietnamese Central Intelligence School. John Cook attended one of the sessions. He writes:

There were forty of us in the class, half American, half Vietnamese. The first day at the school was devoted to lectures by American experts in the insurgency business. Using a smooth, slick delivery, they reviewed all the popular theories concerning communist-oriented revolutions .... Like so many machines programmed to perform at a higher level than necessary, they dealt with platitudes and theories far above our dirty little war. They spoke in impersonal tones about what had to be done and how we should do it, as if we were in the business of selling life insurance, with a bonus going to the man who sold the most policies. Those districts that were performing well with the quota system were praised; the poor performers were admonished. And it all fitted together nicely with all the charts and figures they offered as support of their ideas. [17]

Like many of his colleagues, Cook resented "the pretentious men in high position" who gave him unattainable goals, then complained when he did not reach them. In particular, as a result of mounting criticism in the American press, Phoenix advisers were called to task for their failure to capture rather than kill VCI. The problem stemmed from the press's equating Phoenix with the PRU teams it employed. For example, in December 1967 the Minneapolis Tribune described the PRU as "specially trained Vietnamese assassins" who "slip silently by night into sleeping hamlets to carry out their deadly function." The Tribune noted: "This aspect of ICEX has a tradition that goes back far beyond the Vietnam conflict, and its methods are those of hired killers everywhere."

The "hired killer" label was to stick to Phoenix, with hapless DIOCC advisers taking the heat for PRU advisers conducting their business with impunity. Writing for the Wall Street Journal on September 5, 1968, reporter Peter Kann described the VCI as "the invisible foe," adding that "the target is assassinated, sometimes brutally as an object lesson to others."

In this way Phoenix developed a reputation as an assassination program. That is why it became imperative that the CIA disassociate itself from the program through public statements building a case for plausible denial. Such was the tack William Colby took at a press conference held for thirty news correspondents on December 28, 1968, in response to mounting public queries about Phoenix. In his opening statement Colby called Phoenix "a Vietnamese program" in which Americans were involved "only as part of military operations." The MACV information officer assisting Colby added that no American units were allocated to Phoenix. Colby stressed that the goal was to capture, not to kill, VCI. Nothing was said about wanted dead or alive posters, the PRU, or the Army's combined reconnaissance and intelligence platoons (CRIPS), which Jeffrey Race calls "Far more effective than even the PRU at eliminating members of the VCI." [18]

When asked how advisers prevented people from using Phoenix as a cover for political assassination, Colby cited systematic record keeping as the fail-safe mechanism, producing charts and graphs to show statistics backing his claims. He did not mention the massacre of Ky's people on June 2, 1968, or Tran Van Don's claim that Phoenix helped Truong Dinh Dzu in the 1967 election, or the station's special unit, whose victims' names never appeared on Phoenix rolls.

Colby made no reference to the CIA's having built the province interrogation centers and said that advisers were "seldom" present at interrogations. He then outlined American-conceived legal procedures for detaining suspects.

The essence of Colby's dissembling was his definition of Phoenix as an organization rather than a concept. As stated in the previous chapter, when Ed Brady was asked if Phoenix generated atrocities, his answer was that it depended on whether or not the PRU and the PICs were defined as part of Phoenix. The reason for Colby's ignoring these two foundation stones of Phoenix was to conceal CIA involvement in the program, as well as to protect unilateral CIA penetrations, what Nelson Brickham called "the most important program in terms of gathering intelligence on the enemy. "What Jim Ward called "the real sensitive, important operations." [19] And, according to Colby, it worked: "We were getting more and more accurate reports from inside VCI provincial committees and regional Party headquarters from brave Vietnamese holding high ranks in such groups. " [20]

"CORDS provided an umbrella," said John Vann's deputy, Jack. "But people, especially the CIA, were always back-channeling through their own agencies to undermine it .... Komer insisted that CIA people would run Phoenix through regular channels. But on highly sensitive matters, like tracking high penetrations, it wasn't reported in CORDS."

In a conversation with the author, Jack noted that the informal lines of command are more important than formal lines, that, as he put it, "real power gravitates off the organizational charts. The way it gets organized isn't critical; it had to be done some way, and it can adapt. For example, in Hau Nghia it was military, while in Gia Dinh it was Special Branch. It has to be flexible to account for HES A and B hamlets as opposed to C and D hamlets. Military or police, depending on the environment. In any event the CIA advised Special Branch had cognizance over Phoenix." [21] And Phoenix was a concept, not an organization.



i. Lang's sister had married Tucker Gougleman when Gougleman was managing SOG operations in Da Nang in 1964.
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:59 am

CHAPTER 18: Transitions

Saigon has been called a wicked city. It is said that the pungent smell of opium permeated its back alleys, that its casinos never closed, that its brothels occupied entire city blocks, and that a man could sell his soul for a hundred dollars, then use the money to hire an assassin to kill his lover, his boss, his enemy.

Anything was possible in Saigon. And given the massive infusion of American soldiers, dollars, and materiel that began in 1965, criminally minded individuals had the chance to make fortunes. This could be done in all the usual ways: by selling military supplies and equipment on the black market, by taking kickbacks for arranging service and construction contracts, and through extortion, gambling, prostitution, narcotics, and money changing. The dimensions of the black market were limitless and included corrupt officials, spies seeking untraceable funds and contact with the enemy, and mafiosi in league with military officers and businessmen out to make a fast buck. By late 1968, with the psychological defeat brought about by Tet, the crime wave was cresting, and the transition from a quest for military victory to making a profit had begun in earnest.

As one CIA officer recalled, "When the so-called Vietnamization of the war began, everyone knew that even though the Company would still be running CORDS, it was the beginning of the end. The contract employees began getting laid off, especially those running operations in Laos. The others, mostly ex-Army types, knew their turn was coming, so they began trying to make as much money as they could. Air America pilots doubled the amount of opium they carried. The Americans in CORDS, with the help of the PRU, began shaking down the Vietnamese, arresting them if they didn't pay protection money, even taking bribes to free suspects they'd already arrested. Everyone went crazy for a buck."

"Here you have a very corrupt environment, a culture that tolerates corruption," Ed Brady observed, "and now you're going to run covert operations." [1]

Considering that the Special Branch -- which had cognizance over Phoenix -- was responsible for investigating corruption, it was inevitable that some Phoenix coordinators would abuse the system. Much of that abuse occurred in Saigon under the nose of John O'Keefe, the CIA officer in charge of the Capital Military District. Described by Nelson Brickham as a "very capable officer" [2] and a "raconteur" who spoke excellent Parisian French, O'Keefe was a veteran case officer with years of experience in Europe. In Vietnam he had served as the officer in charge of Chau Doc Province and Hue before being transferred to Saigon in September 1968.

Headquartered on the second floor of the three-story building behind City Hall on Nguyen Hue Boulevard, O'Keefe on paper reported to Hatcher James, the senior USAID adviser to Saigon Mayor Do Kin Nhieu, whose deputy "really ran things" (foremost among those things being the loan and default payments the GVN owed the "five communes," the principal Chinese families in Cholon who served as South Vietnam's major moneylenders). Tall, with sandy hair and a fondness for drinking scotch with the CIA's notorious finance officer, alias General Monopoly, at the Cosmos, O'Keefe supervised Special Branch and Phoenix operations in Saigon beginning in September 1968.

Also arriving in Saigon in September 1968 was Captain Shelby Roberts. In 1965 Roberts had been a warrant officer flying photoreconnaissance missions for MACV's Target Research and Analysis Division, locating targets for B-52 strikes. Another creation of Bill Tidwell's, TRAC was used by General McChristian as the nucleus for the Combined Intelligence Center . In 1966 Roberts was commissioned an officer and, after completing the military adviser training program at Fort Bragg, returned to Vietnam and was assigned as Phoenix coordinator to Saigon's high-rent neighborhood, Precinct 1. Snuggled on the east side of Saigon, far from the squalor of Cholon and Tan Son Nhut's sprawling shantytowns, Precinct 1 had been the private domain of the French colonialists. By 1969 many of those rambling villas were occupied by Americans, including John O'Keefe, Hatcher James, and William Colby, who lived on tree-lined Hong Tap Thu Street.

Abutting Precinct 1 on the east was Gia Dinh Province, fiefdom of Major James K. Damron, whom Roberts described in an interview with the author as "the agency's man in Gia Dinh" and "a warlord who went overboard and built a tremendous building. But he played from a position of power," Roberts said. "He demanded total loyalty from his people, and the Vietnamese respected that and were terribly loyal to him." Majors James Damron and Danny Pierce -- who served as deputy coordinator of the Capital Phung Hoang Committee -- were "business partners." [3]

Roberts described Danny Pierce as "an operator" who "abused the system." An officer in the Mormon Church, Pierce was linked to the black-market supply and service industry through a secret "ring-knock" identification system. Pierce was allegedly fired for possession of a stolen jeep traced to the SOG motor pool located at 10 Hoang Hoa Tam Street, where the Army Counterintelligence Corps had originally set up shop in Vietnam in 1962.

In early 1969 Captain Roberts replaced Major Danny Pierce as the Capital Phung Hoang Committee deputy coordinator. Thereafter once a month Roberts visited the Gia Dinh Province embassy house to exchange information with warlord Damron, until Damron himself was reassigned by William Colby in early 1969 to an administrative post in the IV Corps Phoenix program.

Unlike his freewheeling predecessor, who had fallen under the influence of the CIA, Shelby Roberts was not a member of the Phoenix Directorate. In an effort to achieve greater control over the program, MACV had Roberts report to John O'Keefe on operational matters, while reporting administratively to the chief of MACV's Saigon Capital Advisory Group (SCAG). As a result, Roberts was not as closely involved in CIA operations in Saigon as Pierce had been. But he was collocated with O'Keefe, and he did have insights into the CIA side of Phoenix operations in Saigon.

"My office was behind City Hall, on the floor below O'Keefe's office," Roberts recalled. "We had about twenty Vietnamese employees, eight in the translation section, the rest doing clerical work." The officer representing the Phoenix Directorate in Saigon was Lieutenant Colonel William Singleton, whom Roberts described as "working on the operations side, in covert activities. He had safe houses and a plantation house with a small staff." A tall man from Tennessee, Singleton was "particularly interested in Cholon." The Special Branch officer running Phoenix operations in Saigon was Captain Pham Quat Tan, a former ARVN intelligence and psywar officer featured in a January 12, 1968, Life magazine article.

According to Roberts, Phoenix in the Capital Military District was entirely a CIA operation run out of Special Branch headquarters. "We fed nothing to the Phoenix Directorate," Roberts said. "The reports all went back to the Combined Intelligence Center, or I would give a briefing to O'Keefe, and he'd go to the embassy, to the sixth floor" -- here analysts in the station's special unit sifted through names and chose candidates for penetration.

Anti-infrastructure operations in Saigon were difficult at best. The city had ten precincts, with those outside downtown Saigon resembling the suburbs in Go Vap District, as described by Henry McWade. Security in outlying precincts was maintained not by the Metropolitan Police but by the paramilitary Order Police patrolling in armored cars, American infantry brigades, and ranger battalions. There was a strict curfew, and in the aftermath of Tet new interrogation centers were built in all of Saigon's precincts. In Precinct 1 a large interrogation center was built by Pacific Architects and Engineers directly behind the U.S. Embassy. In other precincts interrogation centers were constructed "under existing roofs." In either case Roberts tended to avoid them. "I was reluctant to get involved because the Special Branch tried to use me during interrogations. They'd say, 'If you think we're bad, he'll cook you and eat you!' So I didn't care to participate."

Each precinct had wards called phung, which were further subdivided into khung, a group of families, usually ten, which the Special Branch monitored through "family books" maintained by the Metropolitan Police. The finished product of the Family Census program, family books contained biographical information and a photograph of every family member. One of the khung families was responsible for keeping track of visitors to the other families, and on the basis of these family books, the Special Branch compiled blacklists of suspected VCI members."

In discussing the tactics of the Special Branch, Shelby Roberts said, "They ran all their operations at night. They'd turn the floodlights on, tear down entire neighborhoods ... and arrest entire families. They were mainly interested in shakedowns. The 'Send your daughter to my office'-type harassment. And making money on the side. Everyone," Roberts added, "was in the black market."

There were other intrigues. "We chased commo-liaison people," Roberts explained, "and if we caught them, the police would get reward money and money for their captured weapons. This led to the same weapons being turned in over and over again. Over half a million were paid for, but there were less than a quarter million at the armory." Meanwhile, "The Special Branch hid information from us so it wouldn't go up to O'Keefe and the CIA. It was common knowledge that if you gave good information to Phoenix, you wouldn't get the reward money." And that, according to Roberts, "was the death of the program."

Despite its heavy-handed methods, "The Special Branch was considered a white-collar job," Roberts explained, "whereas the Saigon Metropolitan Police ... were looked down upon." So out of spite the Metropolitan Police turned from law enforcement to graft. Precinct chiefs sold licenses for every conceivable enterprise, from market stalls to restaurants and hotels, and managed prostitution, gambling, and narcotics rackets. The police were paid off by the crooks and the Vietcong alike. As a result, according to Roberts, "They "got no respect. They were so corrupt they tried to corrupt the Phoenix coordinators."

Making matters worse, Roberts said, was the fact that when information on suspected VCI members was forthcoming, Phoenix coordinators -- reflecting the CIA's desire to have total control over sources that might generate strategic intelligence -- were told to ignore it. This prohibition and the frustration it caused, plus the fact that the police tried to bribe the precinct coordinators, resulted in more than twenty Phoenix advisers passing through Saigon's ten precincts in 1969. Most lasted only a few weeks, although those who were suborned by the CIA held their jobs for years. For example, Captain Keith Lange, who replaced Roberts in Precinct 1, was "pulling off national-level operations" for two and a half years. On the other hand, Roberts put Captain Daniel Moynihan in Precinct 2, "so I could watch him, because he had trouble with finance."

Indeed, money was the answer to, and cause of, all problems in Saigon. Insofar as AID withdrew its Public Safety advisers from Saigon after Tet, Roberts said, "We, the Phoenix coordinators, were the only Americans in the precincts. Some guys were so busy they slept in their offices." And because the CIA was no longer disbursing funds through AID, Phoenix coordinators by default became the conduit of monetary aid to the National Police and the Special Branch. "So the police chiefs really liked us a lot," Roberts added.

Phoenix coordinators also became the conduit for AID funds ostensibly destined for community development, refugee, and health programs. In reality, the money bought information and influence. Roberts recalled one housing project in an area of Cholon that had been leveled during Tet. The cost was $150,000. Roberts got the money from CIA finance officer General Monopoly at the embassy annex. "Short, potbellied, and in his sixties," General Monopoly "sat in the same seat every night at the Cosmos. He was there at three o'clock every day drinking scotches with Damron, Singleton, and O'Keefe."

As the pursuit of money began to rival the pursuit of intelligence, a new twist was added to The Game, as the competition for intelligence sources was called. "Especially in Precinct Five [which encompassed Cholon]," Roberts said, "we'd get U.S. deserters working with the VCI through the black market. They were dealing arms and supplies from the PX. We knew of five deserters in Cholon. Each one was operating with several IDs. The MPs and CID ran a number of operations to get one guy in particular. He would sneak past guards, masquerading as an enlisted man. And he was actually detained several times. But because he had phony ID, he was always released."

There may be another reason why this traitor was never caught. It has to do with the CIA's practice of nurturing deviant communities as a source of assassins. John Berry quotes one such "contractor" in his book Those Gallant Men on Trial in Vietnam: "Well, I walk behind this screen and I don't see this guy's face, but he give me 5,000 piasters and a picture and an address, and I go kill the dude and then go get my other 5,000." [4]


With Vietnamization, Phoenix came under closer scrutiny. The repercussions were evident everywhere. Toward the end of 1968, Henry McWade recalled, "Major Damron got into a power play for intelligence resources" [5] and Damron's bosses reached the conclusion that he was all smoke and mirrors.

"Damron was losing control," McWade explained. "So he put the blame on us, the DIOCC advisers, to gain time and space for himself. We were sacrificed." A few days later McWade and a group of scapegoats (not including John Cook) were transferred out of Gia Dinh to other provinces. McWade landed in Hau Nghia in III Corps as deputy to the province Phoenix coordinator, Captain Daniel L. Smith.

Back in Gia Dinh, Damron and his loyalists were hunkering down, But Colby was intent on cleaning house, and Damron was transferred out of Gia Dinh. Doug Dillard recalled the scandal precipitated by Damron's infamous excesses: "I'll never forget Colby's admonition to us on one of his visits down in the Delta. Up in Three Corps there was an agency guy who had built a magnificent building with a helicopter landing pad on the roof. And Colby said, 'There ain't gonna be any more monuments built in Vietnam. I'm glad to see you guys have a conservative program for just getting the job done.'" [6]

Ironically, the new Gia Dinh province officer in charge proved more troublesome for Colby than Damron. For whereas Damron was guilty of mere greed, the new province officer was prey to a far more dangerous master: his conscience. A veteran CIA paramilitary officer, Ralph McGehee had already spent fifteen years fighting the Holy War in a number of Asian countries when he arrived in Vietnam in October 1968. His biggest success had been in Thailand, where he had developed survey teams for rooting out the Communist infrastructure. McGehee's survey teams consisted of police, military, and security officials who entered Thai border towns to "interrogate anyone over ten years old" [7] about Communist efforts to organize secret political cells. However, in a cruel twist of fate which engendered his crisis of faith and his fall from grace, McGehee naively relayed information uncovered by his survey teams indicating that the Communist insurgency had overwhelming popular support. Although accurate in their assessment of the situation, his reports defied policy and were summarily dismissed by his bosses in Washington. Feeling rejected, McGehee arrived in Saigon teetering on the brink of heresy. What he saw of Phoenix pushed him over the edge.

As the CIA's Gia Dinh province officer in charge, McGehee reported to the CIA's III Corps ROIC; as the Gia Dinh Province Phoenix coordinator, he reported to the CORDS province senior adviser. In his book Deadly Deceits, he writes that "the primary CORDS program was the Phoenix operation" and that "CIA money was the catalyst." [8] But McGehee's problem with Phoenix had nothing to do with the attack on the infrastructure; in an interview for this book, he said the PRU program "was admirable." McGehee's gripe was that "the agency was not allowed to report the truth."

Writes McGehee: "The assignment to Gia Dinh gave me the opportunity to see how the agency's intelligence program worked, or more accurately how it did not work at that level. One or two sentence intelligence reports poured in, were translated, and were filed or thrown away. A typical report, one of hundreds like it received each week, said: 'Two armed VC were seen moving south of the village of ... this morning.' A massive agency/CORDS/Phoenix file system processed this daily flow of nonsense. Collation and analysis never applied. I wondered how this intelligence effort could possibly give our leaders and generals anything even approaching an accurate picture of what was going on. [9]

"Our policy," McGehee deduced, "was based on 'intelligence' reports of the numbers of communists in Vietnam that had nothing to do with reality. Either they were the result of unbelievable incompetence or they were deliberate lies created to dupe the American people." [10]

McGehee settled on the second explanation, a belief he shares with Sam Adams, the controversial CIA analyst who quit the agency in 1973 in protest over what he claimed was "the sloppy and often dishonest way U.S. intelligence conducted research on the struggle in Indochina." [11] A member of George Carver's SAVA staff, Adams wrote the CIA's handbook on the VCI and for five years taught a class on the VCI to CIA case officers bound for Vietnam. After quitting the agency, Adams claimed that the CIA had falsified statistics, and in 1982 in a CBS documentary called The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, he accused General William Westmoreland of a deliberate cover-up. Humiliated, Westmoreland filed his famous $120 million libel suit against CBS.

The origins of the "Vietnam deception" date back to January 11, 1967, when SAVA director Carver wrote a memo, introduced as evidence at the Westmoreland trial, indicating that the number of confirmed Vietcong, put at over a quarter of a million by MACV, was "far too low and should be raised, perhaps doubled." Despite indications presented by General McChristian substantiating the CIA estimate, MACV rejected it and instead, by excluding Vietcong Self-Defense Forces from its order of battle, contrived a lower number. CIA analysts persisted in arguing for an estimate approaching half a million, and a stalemate ensued until August 30, 1967, when Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, describing the issue as "charged with political and public relations overtones," [12] arranged for Carver to lead a delegation of senior intelligence officers to Saigon to negotiate an agreement on the exact size of NVA and VC forces.

Two days after arriving in Saigon and meeting with McChristian's replacement, General Davidson, Carver notified Helms that MACV was "stonewalling" and that "circumstantial indicators ... point to inescapable conclusion that Westmoreland ... has given instructions tantamount to direct order that strength total will not exceed 300,000 ceiling. Rationale seems to be that higher figure would not be sufficiently optimistic and would generate unacceptable level of criticism from the press." [13]

Although the CIA knew that the estimated 120,000 VC Self-Defense Forces (which Westmoreland described as "old men, old women and children") were the integral element of the insurgency, Carver, after being shown "evidence that I hadn't heard before," cut a deal on September 13. He sent a cable to Helms saying: "Circle now squared .... We have agreed set of figures Westmoreland endorsed." [14] In November National Security Adviser Walt Rostow showed President Johnson a chart indicating that enemy strength had dropped from 285,000 in late 1966 to 242,000 in late 1967. President Johnson got the success he wanted to show, and Vietnam got Tet.

The Square within the Circle [is one of] the most potent of all the magical figures. --The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky


To find the Philosophic Stone is to have discovered the Absolute," [9] that is, the true raison d’être of all existences. Thus the initiate aspired to that infallible knowledge and wisdom which is afforded by divine illumination, his search for which is sometimes spoken of as the search for the quadrature of the circle, that is, for the extent or area of all sciences human and divine. --
The Real History of the Rosicrucians: Founded on Their Own Manifestoes, and On Facts and Documents Collected From the Writings of Initiated Brethren, by Arthur Edward Waite


"As the sky with its stars and constellations is nothing separate from the All but includes the All, so is the 'firmament' of Man not separate from Man; and as the Universal Mind is not ruled by any external being, likewise the firmament in Man (his individual sphere of mind) is not subject to the rule of any creature, but is an independent and powerful whole." -- This fundamental truth of occultism is allegorically represented in the interlaced double triangles. He who has succeeded in bringing his individual mind in exact harmony with the Universal Mind has succeeded in reuniting the inner sphere with the outer one, from which he has only become separated by mistaking illusions for truths. He who has succeeded in carrying out practically the meaning of this symbol has become one with the father; he is virtually an adept, because he has succeeded in squaring the circle and circling the square. All of this proves that Paracelsus has brought the root of his occult ideas from the East. -- The Life of Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim Known by the Name of Paracelsus and the Substance of his Teachings, by Franz Hartmann, M.D.


Our scientific procedure is obviously the negation of the Absolute. That was an acute and happy remark of Goethe's: "He who devotes himself to nature attempts to find the squaring of the circle."-- The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewart Chamberlain


The geometrician does not know the square of the circle. -- De Monarchia of Dante Alighieri


It is impossible to square the circle perfectly because of its arc. -- The Convivio, by Dante Alighieri


Arnesen proclaimed in a firm voice that all of the challenges in aquaculture would be mastered, including the biggest one of all: how to convert salmon to vegetarianism? The carnivorous predator fish need large amounts of animal protein. The feed concentrate dumped into the cages by the ton is made mainly of fishmeal and fish oil. It's a negative cycle: 4-6 kilograms of wild fish are killed and made into meal to produce one kilo of salmon flesh. More than half of the world's fish catch now goes to making feed concentrate for salmon and other animals. Farm-bred salmon consume more animal protein than they produce. How can that be sustainable? "We see the problem the same way the WWF does," conceded Petter Arnesen. "We're experimenting with increasing the share of vegetable protein in the feed, using soy, for example." The company was determined to achieve this, he said, as the fish reserves of the world's oceans were already "exhausted". The trouble is, when there is too little fish product in the feed the salmon raised on it no longer contain as much healthy omega 3 fatty acids. That's not the kind of salmon the retailers want. The poor Technical Director has the daunting task of circling the square -- luckily the WWF can lend him a hand: by simply designating the whole thing "sustainable". -- Panda Leaks: The Dark Side of the WWF, by Wilfried Huismann


[i]Squaring the Circle in the Creation of Sacred Space

This was how Bridges explained the geometries of the Great Tree to interested students back in 1991. As far as we know, he did not intend it as an explanation of the Hieroglyphic Monad. But if one visualizes this drawing of the Tree in three dimensions, one should see two spheres sharing the same axis, that axis ending at the center of a third sphere, at the center of a cross of four directions. One should see at least two cones.

If one locates where different Sephiroth are located and at the intersection of which curved or planar geometric boundaries, or puzzles over the “location” of different planets, you will indeed have a “Helping Hand” to go back through the geometries of the Hieroglyphic Monad, and proceed on the Theorem XVIII.

-- The Hieroglyphic Monad of John Dee. Theorems I-XVII: A Guide to the Outer Mysteriesm by Teresa Burns and J. Alan Moore

Sam Adams's claim that the agency had "misinformed policymakers of the strength of the enemy" was backed at the CBS libel trial by Carver's deputy, George W. Allen, who claimed that Westmoreland "was ultimately responsible" for "this prostitution" and that the CIA, "by going along with it," had "sacrificed its integrity on the altar of public relations and political expediency." Allen added that the end result of the deception was that Washington was left "essentially with an inadequate understanding of what we were up against" in Vietnam. According to Allen, the Self-Defense Forces were not old women and children but hardened guerrillas who were responsible for 40 percent of all U.S. combat casualties in Vietnam.

As a result of Adams's claims, a congressional inquiry was conducted in 1975. The investigating committee, chaired by Otis Pike, concluded that juggling of numbers "created false perceptions of the enemy U.S. forces faced, and prevented measurement of changes over time. Second, pressure from policymaking officials to produce positive intelligence indicators reinforced erroneous assessments of allied progress and enemy capabilities." [15]


Sam Adams has said that "the reason [Phoenix] did not work was that its needs, although recognized in theory, were never fulfilled in practice. The divorce between hope and reality became so wide that the program degenerated into a game of statistics, in which numbers were paramount, and the object of the exercise -- the crippling of the Communist Party -- was never even approached." [16]

Likewise, Ralph McGehee found the CIA squaring statistical facts with ideological preconceptions in Vietnam, just as it had in Thailand. "The station's intelligence briefings on the situation in South Vietnam confirmed all my fears," he writes. The briefers "talked only about the numbers of armed Viet Cong, the slowly increasing North Vietnamese regular army, and the occasional member of the Communist infrastructure. They made no mention of the mass-based Farmer's Liberation Association, or the Communist youth organization, all of which in some areas certainly included entire populations." [17]

The reason for this deception, McGehee contends, was that "U.S. policymakers had to sell the idea that the war in the South was being fought by a small minority of Communists opposed to the majority-supported democratic government of Nguyen Van Thieu. The situation, however, was the opposite .... The U.S. was supporting Thieu's tiny oligarchy against a population largely organized, committed, and dedicated to a communist victory." [18]

McGehee blames the American defeat in Vietnam on "policy being decided from the top in advance, then intelligence being selected or created to support it afterwards." In particular, he singles out William Colby as the principal apostle of the Big Lie. A veteran of the Far East Division, McGehee at one point served as Colby's acolyte at Langley headquarters and bases his accusations on firsthand observations of Colby in action -- of watching Colby deliver briefings which were "a complete hoax contrived to deceive Congress." [19] Writes McGehee of Colby: "I have watched him when I knew he was lying, and not the least flicker of emotion ever crosses his face." But what made Colby even more dangerous, in McGehee's opinion, was his manipulation of language. "Colby emphasized the importance of selecting just the right words and charts to convey the desired impression to Congress. He regarded word usage as an art form, and he was a master at it." [20]

Years later they met again in Gia Dinh Province, at which point McGehee describes Colby as "a harried, self-important, distracted bureaucrat" who "began calling for statistics. 'How many VC killed this month? How many captured? How many firefights?' Each unit chief answered. Colby checked the replies against the figures in his books, and questioned each chief about discrepancies or outstanding figures." All this was a waste of time, McGehee contends. "Here the U.S. was trying to fight an enemy it only slightly acknowledged. Why? What had happened to all the idealism, all the rules of getting and reporting intelligence? Why did the agency blind itself while pretending to look for intelligence? Why did we insist on killing people instead of talking to them? How long would this insanity go on?" [21]

In his defense Colby said to me, "We were getting all the statistics, and if you could get them on the computer, you could play them back and forth a little better, and see things you couldn't see otherwise. It was really quite interesting. I never really believed the numbers as absolute, but they helped you think about the problems. We would use it for control of how local people were doing," he explained, "how if one province reported they had captured a lot of category Cs, but no As, and another province said it captured 15 category As, first you'd check if there were any truth to the second story, and if it is true, you know the second province is doing better then the first one. You don't believe the numbers off-hand, you use them as a basis for questions." [22]

Numbers as a basis for questions were a management tool, but they were also a way of manipulating facts. And William Colby is a scion of the gray area in between. In his autobiography, Honorable Men, Colby explains how his father converted to Catholicism, and how Colby himself, when he entered Princeton, was excluded from the in crowd as a result. An articulate man trained as a lawyer and spy, but with only one foot in the door, Colby embraced "the art of the possible" and cultivated his "grey man" mentality to achieve success in the CIA bureaucracy, as well as to dissolve the lines between right and wrong, enabling him to give Phoenix a clean bill of health. "I have no qualms about accepting responsibility for it," he writes. [23]

So it was in Vietnam, that just as criticism of Phoenix was building, within the program, the press began turning its attention toward the subject. The calamity called Tet had subsided, the elections were over, and the Paris-Peace Talks were about to start. The Communist shadow government was emerging into the light of day, and U.S. efforts to deal with it became the pressing concern.

Glimpses of Phoenix began appearing in print. On June 29, 1968, in his "Letter from Saigon" column in The New Yorker, Robert Shaplen identified the program by its Vietnamese name, Phung Hoang, calling it the "all-seeing bird." Shaplen rehashes the thrust of the program, citing statistics and quoting Robert Komer as saying "some 5,000 arrests have been made of alleged members of the [VC] command structure." According to Shaplen, the program's major weakness was "a tendency on the part of the Vietnamese to build up a massive dossier on a suspect until he gets wind of what is happening and disappears." Shaplen notes that "district and village chiefs are sometimes loath to furnish or act on intelligence on the grounds that the war may soon be over."

Indeed, the possibility of a negotiated settlement raised the specter of those in the VCI -- the people Phoenix was arresting and killing -- gaining legal status. And that scenario sent chills running up and down every war manager's spine. But the transition from supporter to critic of American conduct of the war did not come easily to reporters used to acting as cheerleaders. Reasons for withdrawing support had yet to be uncovered. However, sensing momentum in that direction, the information managers began to search for scapegoats. And who better to blame than the Vietnamese themselves? GVN shortcomings, which were previously swept under the carpet, were suddenly being aired. Suddenly the Vietnamese were corrupt and incompetent, and that, not any fault on the part of the Americans, explained why the insurgency was growing.

Moreover, war crimes in 1968 still went unreported. The VC were "faceless," an abstract statistic whose scope was negotiated by the CIA and MACV. Wall Street Journal reporter Peter Kann, in a September 1968 article on Phoenix, called the VCI "the invisible foe." For Kann, they were an insidious "underground" enemy who could only be eliminated "at night" in their homes.

Kann employed similar imagery in March 1969 in an article titled "The Hidden War: Elite Phoenix Forces Hunt Vietcong Chiefs in Isolated Villages." Here Phoenix is characterized as a "systematic, sophisticated application of force." The PRU and their U.S. advisers are "elite," while far from having any popular support, the VCI members are outcasts in "isolated villages," far removed from cities and civilization.

On January 6, 1969, The New York Times reporter Drummond Ayres gave Phoenix a favorable review, saying that "more than 15,000 of the 80,000 VC political agents thought to be in South Vietnam are said to have been captured or killed." He also expresses the belief that "the general course of the war ... now appears to favor the Government" and predicts that Phoenix would "achieve much greater success as the center's files grow."

Despite the good reviews, the surfacing of Phoenix in the press sent the publicity-shy CIA running for cover. Under National Security Council Directive 10/2, the CIA is authorized to undertake secret political and paramilitary operations. As Ralph Johnson writes, "CIA was empowered to develop and test programs through its covert assets. If these programs were successful, and if approved, and if they supported U.S. policy objectives, then they would be turned over to appropriate overt U.S. agencies." And so, in December 1968, the newly arrived CIA station chief informed DEPCORDS William Colby "that the Agency had fulfilled its function. [Phoenix] was now functional and CIA proposed to withdraw all its management and overall responsibility." [24]

Making this pivotal decision was Ted Shackley. A veteran CIA officer with experience in Germany and in Miami running operations against Cuba, Shackley had just completed a two-year tour as station chief in Vientiane, Laos, where he had acquired a detailed understanding of the situation in South Vietnam, primarily through meetings in third countries with John Hart and Lou Lapham, at which regional issues were discussed, strategy was coordinated, and briefings of deep-cover agents were held. "The big item," according to Lapham, "was the NVA coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail." [25]

Tall, thin, and pale, Shackley, in an interview conducted in his Arlington office, concurred. "It was the same war in the Laotian panhandle," he said, "although Laos, in addition, had the basic political problem of coalition." [26]

No stranger to the types of programs the CIA was running in South Vietnam, Shackley reviewed them all upon arriving in Saigon in November. "It became clear to me then," he told me, "that the pacification programs had come of age ... that the agency contribution was no longer required. So my original proposal was to see about getting others to manage these ... programs, to free up CIA resources to improve the quality of the intelligence product, to penetrate the Vietcong, and the NVA supporting them, and to concentrate more against the North and the VC and the NVA in Cambodia.

"So negotiations were undertaken," Shackley continued, "and an agreement was reached to phase out the CIA. Pacification programs were to go to the GVN, and CORDS was to provide the transition. We took a mission approach. Each program was approached specifically, including Phoenix, and a certain level of top management was provided for coordination. Static Census Grievance was taken apart; some functions went to Revolutionary Development, some to the Hamlet Evaluation System, and some were dropped. By 1969, static Census Grievance was out of business. RD and Territorial Security were merged and Phil Potter and Rod Landreth saw that the GVN took over the PRU program." And Phoenix, too, was discarded.

On December 14, 1968, MACV notified DEPCORDS William Colby of its intention to assume "responsibility for intelligence matters as they pertain to the VC infrastructure." [27] By June 1969 the transfer of Phoenix from CIA to MACV-J2 was complete.

In early December, Evan Parker recalled, "I became the author of memos back and forth from Colby to Shackley putting myself out of business." Parker, however, was not pleased with the reorganization, his main objection being that "the military staff officers were not ready to take over." [28]

"This was a difficult assignment for the military," Shackley concurred, because there "had to be liaison with the Special Branch. You had to have a manager to coordinate intelligence problems. For instance, leads came out of the PICs and had to be coordinated with the highest levels of CIA."

To facilitate the process, Colby incorporated the Phoenix program as a division within CORDS, but with a senior CIA staff officer as director, functioning as the American counterpart to the secretary general of the Central Phung Hoang Permanent Office. In this way the CIA could, when necessary, direct Phoenix advisers and exercise jurisdiction over prisoners and penetration agents spun out of the program. Chairmanship of Phoenix committees at region and province became the responsibility, respectively, of the corps DEPCORDS and the province senior adviser. CIA region and province officers became deputy chairmen and ostensibly supported their new military managers with CIA intelligence. [29]

"The idea," according to Shackley, "was that Evan Parker, and three or four others, would slowly peel back people as the military marched in." Thereafter the role of the Phoenix director was to meet "once or twice a week with the [Vietnamese] to iron out problems. Was there a province chief not willing to cooperate with the PIC? Was he funneling people to the Military Security Service, rather than to the Special Branch? Maybe there was overcrowding in a PIC that province or region couldn't resolve. What to do? Well, the Phoenix director would go to the secretary-general and cite specific cases. There might be a knowledgeable source in a PIC who needed to be brought to Saigon. Were the line managers looking at the dossiers? Yes or no?"

Despite the fact that the Phoenix director, a senior CIA staff officer, had cognizance over the PIC program, "Phoenix," insisted Shackley, "had nothing to do with intelligence operations. It was completely separate from Special Branch trying to penetrate the Vietcong. Any guy who could be used as a penetration agent was spun out of Phoenix." That was the job in 1969 of special unit analysts under the management of CIA officer George Weisz. In this way, Phoenix evolved into a massive screening operation, with its parent organization, the Special Branch, having, in the words of Ralph Johnson, the "intelligence coordination mission" of "keying important VCI political leaders and activists so as not to clog up the system with volumes of low level VCI cadre or front members." [30]

And so, in June 1969, the CIA receded into the dark corners of CORDS. Evan Parker, having brought the Phoenix program to fruition, was appointed deputy chief of the CIA's Special Operations Division and was replaced as Phoenix director by veteran CIA officer John Mason. Described by Shackley as "a highly decorated World War Two Army colonel who served with the agency mostly in Europe (and with George French in Turkey)," Mason was a personal friend of General Creighton Abrams. "He followed Abrams's tanks through Europe with an infantry battalion," said Jim Ward, who, as the CIA's Vietnam desk officer in 1969, asked Mason to take the job. At first he refused, but eventually Mason succumbed to Ward's supplications -- to his eternal regret.

"Mason caught all the Phoenix flak." Ward sighed. "The last time I spoke with him, the only thing he said to me was 'You bastard.'"



i. Drugs were also smuggled on CIA/SOG black flights, which were exempt from customs checks. Likewise, SOG personnel carried military assistance adviser "Get out of Jail Free" cards, exempting them from search and seizure by their adversaries in the Military Police and Criminal Investigation Division.
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:00 am

CHAPTER 19: Psyops

The fabric of South Vietnamese society, always loosely knit, began to unravel in 1969. As prospects for a clear-cut military victory for either side slipped away, psychological operations became the weapon of choice in what was an increasingly political war. Both sides played the psywar game. Its only rule: Post your own score.

The insurgents scored the first points in June 1969, when they formed the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) to represent them in South Vietnam and at the negotiating table in Paris. The PRG was immediately recognized by thirteen Communist bloc and ten nonaligned nations -- mostly Arab. Support was expressed as well by Scandinavian, African, and Latin American countries. One month later COSVN issued Resolution 9 directing its officers "to prepare political cadre to insure a capability to govern in anticipation of a coalition government in South Vietnam." [1] Liberation Committees were made subordinate to the PRG and were renamed Revolutionary Committees. At the village and hamlet level the insurgency was reinvigorated.

Back at CIA headquarters in Washington, it was recognized that: "There were sufficient communist forces to keep the war going, and progress depended on the morale and determination of the communists." [2] Morale, however, is intangible, so CIA propagandists cited irrefutable statistical evidence as proof that the VCI was losing, not gaining -- as was the reality [3] -- support in the villages. In April 1969 HES reports indicated that more than three quarters of all Vietnamese were living in "secure" villages.

The purported success was attributed to VCI manpower shortages caused by aerial and artillery bombardment, defoliation campaigns, forced relocations, and mass arrests. The VCI was said to be collecting less tax money as a result of Phoenix and, out of desperation, to be using as cadre children who were too young to be issued IDs. But "the bulk of manpower shortages," the Phoenix 1969 End of Year Report claimed, "were caused by deserters who rallied to the GVN." In Vinh Long and Sa Dec provinces, it said, "manpower shortages at district, village and hamlet levels ranged from 45 to 100 percent during 1969. Unable to cope with the GVN accelerated pacification campaign, VCI members by late November 1969 had fled to areas of sparse population and even Cambodia where they could exert little influence over the population." [4]

From the language of the Phoenix report, one could easily think that the few VCI members who had not defected were hiding in Cambodia. But the author of "The Truth About Phoenix," whose area of operations included Sa Dec and Vinh Long provinces, claims that most Chieu Hois simply regurgitated the American line in order to win amnesty, make a quick visit to their families, enjoy a few home-cooked meals, then return to the fray, fat and rested. Legitimate Chieu Hois, An writes, were pariahs who were not accepted back in their villages, while other Chieu Hois were trained by the VC to infiltrate the program and become spies. [5]

In any event, from 1967 onwards, all "rallied" VCI members were included in Phoenix neutralization statistics, and by 1969 more than a hundred thousand defectors had been processed through fifty-one Chieu Hoi centers. The Chieu Hoi program was managed from 1966 until March 1969 by Ogden Williams, then turned over to Eugene P. Bable, a career CIA officer who had served with Ralph Johnson in the Flying Tigers.

Evan Parker stated that Chieu Hoi offered more satisfaction than Phoenix, and "Chieu Hoi," said Jim Ward, "was a great program. Well done." Ward explained that most Chieu Hoi advisers were from the U.S. Information Service, although some were State Department or military officers. "But they wouldn't have more than one American adviser in a province and," Ward added, "it was usually the Vietnamese operating at district level." [6]

Upon arriving at the Chieu Hoi center, the defector was "interviewed" and, if he had information on the VCI, was sent to the PIC; if he had tactical information, he was sent to military interrogators. Next came political indoctrination, lasting from forty to sixty days, depending on the individual. "They had a formal course," said Ward. "They were shown movies and given lectures on democracy." Upon graduation each was given an ID card, a meal, some money, and a chance to repent. Political indoctrination was handled by defectors who said they had been well treated by the Americans and had decided it was better to live for a free Vietnam than to die for the totalitarian North Vietnamese. "Chieu Hoi had lots of guys who had been with the enemy before," Ward continued, "who knew how to talk to these people and would persuade them to join the Territorial Forces or the PRU." Others joined armed propaganda teams, which went back into VC territory to contact Vietcong families and recruit more Vietcong defectors.

"The great thing about the Chieu Hoi program," Ward noted, "is that we didn't have to put people in jails or process them through the judicial system, which was already overcrowded. You could talk to the Chieu Hois when you brought them in -- talk to them about what the government was doing for the people.

"They'd say, 'But it's a crooked government.'

"You'd say, 'Wait a minute. The government's providing seeds for rice. This enables us to grow three to four times as much rice in the Delta as in the past. Now that's good.'

"The guy'd say, 'I didn't know that.' All they'd hear from the communists were the contradictions they'd devise, if they didn't already exist. But now he was getting the picture from our side. And a lot of them would flip-flop because of it. Now some guys would come in, Chieu Hoi, spend time with their families, then go back out in the field again. That happened, but not to the extent that you might think. I'd say less than ten percent."

Despite his praise for the Chieu Hoi program, Jim Ward said that "Americans should have been targeted only against the North Vietnamese and left the South Vietnamese forces to handle the insurgency," even though such a strategy would have precluded Phoenix. However, having made the mistake of military intervention, Americans looked for psychological ploys, other than an appeal to nationalism, to win people over to the GVN. High on the list were bounty programs. The Phoenix 1969 End of Year Report cites as an example Kien Phong Province, where the Phung Hoang Committee printed and had distributed a wanted poster featuring photographs of eight members of the Cao Lanh City sapper unit. "While a RD Cadreman was tacking up a poster he saw one of the members passing by," the report says. "He called the police who arrested the suspect. Two other members were later arrested. Three were induced to rally claiming they were rendered ineffective having their names and faces known." [7]

In Phong Dinh Province the Vietnam Information Service (VIS) broadcast the names of VCI through loudspeakers mounted on sampans while traveling through the canals of Phung Hiep District. "While the team was conducting the operation, a village level VCI cadre walked into the Phung Thuan DIOCC," saying he had to rally, "because Phung Hoang must know about him if the members of the District Revolutionary Committee were known to Phung Hoang, as broadcast by VIS." [8]

No one wanted to find his name on a Phoenix blacklist; it meant the PRU would creep into his hooch some night, or black helicopters would swoop down on his village. And because fear of Phoenix was an effective means of creating informers and defectors, an intensive publicity campaign called the Popular Information Program began in October 1969. Under the banner of "Protecting the People from Terrorism," U.S. and GVN psywar teams crisscrossed the countryside, using Phoenix-supplied radios, leaflets, posters, TV shows, movies, banners, and loudspeakers mounted on trucks and sampans to spread the word. Using the eye of God technique, taped broadcasts were pitched at specific VCI members. A typical broadcast would say, "We know you, Nguyen Van Nguyen; we know where you live! We know you are a communist traitor, a lackey of Hanoi, who illegally collects taxes in Vinh Thanh Hamlet. Soon the soldiers and police are coming for you. Rally now, Nguyen Van Nguyen; rally now while there is still time!" [9]

So important were psyops that the Phoenix Directorate produced a thirty-minute movie explaining how Phoenix "Helps Protect the People from Terrorism." A copy of the film was sent to each province for use on local TV stations and in movie theaters. Writes Phoenix Coordinator John Cook: "[T]he concept was simple; in practice it was suicidal." [10] Suicidal, he explains, because the VC found the lightly armed psyops teams easy targets. Cook therefore used the psyops team as bait to flush out the VC, whom he then ambushed with his Phoenix task force. In this way psyops were transposed into combat operations, turning psychological defeat into military victory, with a body count to boot.

In addition to the Phoenix movie, hundreds of thousands of copies of "an illustrated booklet describing the Phung Hoang Program in cartoon [i] format" were also distributed throughout Vietnam (in Montagnard and Cambodian dialects as well), "with the goal of placing ten to fifteen in each hamlet. Culture-drama teams used the booklet as a scenario for skits." [11]

On January 22, 1970, thirty-eight thousand of these leaflets were dropped over three villages in Go Vap District. Addressed to specific VCI members, they read: "Since you have joined the NLF, what have you done for your 'family or your village and hamlet? Or have you just broken up the happiness of many families and destroyed houses and land? Some people among you have been awakened recently, they have deserted the Communist ranks and were received by the GVN and the people with open arms and family affection. You should be ready for the end if you remain in the Communist ranks. You will be dealing with difficulties bigger from day to day and will suffer serious failure when the ARVN expand strongly. You had better return to your family where you will be guaranteed safety and helped to establish a new life." [12]

Psyops leaflets stressed traditional Confucian values of obedience to authority and family and portrayed the Communists as a socially disruptive force that could be stopped only by Phoenix. But the fact that the GVN could reach the "people" only through "media" like leaflets and loudspeakers indicates how far removed it was from the reality of life in rural villages. As An notes in "Truth About Phoenix" while the GVN relied upon cartoon books to sell itself to a largely illiterate people, "The VC goes from person to person talking to ears," proving that technology was no substitute for human contact. [13]

Consequently, in 1969, the Phoenix Directorate directed Phung Hoang Province committees to expand the Hamlet Informant program (HIP) drastically. District chiefs were instructed to conduct classes "on GVN programs, progress, potential and ideology for residents who had VC/VCI relatives or leanings." There was a one-week course "with extensions for problem individuals." Day care and lunch were made available in "vacated" homes. Chieu Hoi was emphasized, "counseling" was provided, and insofar as the goal was the neutralization of VCI, "the populace was encouraged to report the activities of the VCI by dropping a note addressed to the police in local mailboxes." This method "was credited with approximately 40% of the information used in Phung Hoang operations" in Dinh Tuong Province. [14]

Psyops in support of Phoenix became such a potent weapon in the attack on the VCI that in August 1970 SACSA described Phoenix as "the number one MACV PSYOPS priority." [15] Four months later John Mason reported: "There have been more than twelve million leaflets, posters, banners and booklets printed and distributed throughout Vietnam in support of the program." [16]

Despite the emphasis on psyops, combat operations were still preferred by the military officers managing the Phoenix program in the field. Such operations most often began at the hamlet level when paid informers reported to Vung Tau-trained village chiefs, who then mobilized Territorial Forces under their command, and advised by American military officers, against VCI suspects. Likewise, unilateral American Phoenix operations usually began with informants' feeding names to a DIOCC, whose adviser then informed the counterintelligence section of the nearest American outfit. An operation was then mounted. In the wee hours of the morning a unit of infantrymen would be deployed around the village to provide security, and a team of commandos would snatch the VCI suspect and bring him or her to the military intelligence interrogation center. Such was the standard procedure which involved the average American soldier in Phoenix operations.

CIA paramilitary officers also continued to mount unilateral Phoenix operations via their PRU advisers. As reported in the December 1986 issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine, Long An PRU adviser Captain Frank Thornton circumvented orders not to accompany his PRU into the field by putting his name on the SEAL Detachment Alpha roster "for administrative purposes," and "Saigon never knew the difference." A combat enthusiast, Thornton obtained intelligence on the location of VCI members from a PRU agent net comprised of "old women, kids and former ARVN soldiers who'd lost arms and legs fighting the VC. To ensure security, he rarely passed along his intel products other than to SEALs."

On October 11, 1969, Thornton's agents reported a district-level VCI meeting in Can Giuoc district. Putting two SEALs and four PRU in a Cobra "killer" helicopter for backup, Thornton climbed into a light observation "hunter" chopper, flew to a point near the target area, got out, and alone (just as Elton Manzione had done five years earlier) slipped into the VCI's hooch, grabbed him, and radioed for extraction. The man he snatched, Pham Van Kinh, was the commanding officer of four VC battalions. The mission garnered Thornton a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, awarded by Rung Sat Special Zone PRU commander Major Nguyen Hiop.

Thornton's heroic deed was the exception, however, not the rule. In "The Phoenix Murders" Joseph Treaster quotes an Army captain who spent three years advising PRU teams: "Unless somebody made a mistake, you're not going to find a guy alone. And if you go in and try to tangle with a whole village, you're in deep .... If the guy is important, it's very hard to extract him." [11]

This captain recalled only one case when the PRU targeted a specific individual, a VC district official in a province on the Cambodia border. It was the man's wedding day -- he was marrying the daughter of a GVN village official -- and the PRU burst into the room, yelling for everyone to freeze. "But," the captain told Treaster, "some VC in the wedding party goes for his gun and our guy opens up. The next two or three guys through the door open up, too, and the first thing you know, there's a lot of blood on the sand. So that didn't work too well. We didn't lose anybody, but there were 22 people in the wedding party and 20 were killed."


A typical district-level Phoenix operation, cited in the 1969 year-end report, began when Deputy Party Secretary Dang was caught in a tunnel. During interrogation, Dang informed on his comrades, who were captured along with incriminating documents. One of them revealed during his interrogation that the district party chairman, Nguyen Van Kia, was a horse cart driver. PRU teams were stationed at the main traffic intersection in Kia's area of operations. He was caught the same day without a fight. Four other cadre members were snatched in their homes. "The next target was Nguyen Thi Bah, the message section chief; a description of her route of travel was furnished by the DIOCC. The PRU posed as VC and setup an ambush along her usual route. On the second evening of the trail watch, Bah was captured." [18]

Province-level Phoenix operations, like the following one in Long Khanh, tended to be more elaborate. In this case the operation developed when the province chief assigned the job of resources control to the Phoenix coordinator and his Phoenix task force. In response, the Phoenix coordinator mounted three concurrent long-term operations lasting two months. [19]

Part I was the establishment of "mobile resource control checkpoints." Three six-man teams -- two national and two field policemen and two PRU -- were assigned to checkpoints. The National Police provided trucks; blacklists came from the Special Branch. Roadblocks were set up, and while the National Police checked IDs and the Field Police stood guard, the PRU searched and detained suspects, who were carted off to the PIC for interrogation.

Part II occurred in three phases. First, a special airmobile resource control (SARC) team was formed to interdict VCI commerce. Next, under the command of the Phoenix coordinator and his interpreter, a search element consisting of two PRU, three Special Branch and one national policeman, was formed. A security element was formed of two squads from the U.S. First Cavalry. Thirdly, the cavalry provided a command and control chopper, a light observation helicopter (LOCH), and a Cobra gunship -- the traditional hunter-killer team with an added "eye in the sky." SARC operations were mounted on the basis of intelligence reports providing "targets of opportunity." When a target of opportunity presented itself, the SARC force would galvanize into action, swoop down from the sky, cordon off areas, send in search teams, stop vehicles, and capture and kill VCI members.

Part III, Operation Cutoff, was designed to capture suspects who could produce leads to the VCI. To this end, DIOCCs sent lists to the PIOCC, where priority targets were selected. After two months of preparation, thirty-eight hamlets were targeted. Special Branch provided lists of relatives of the suspects. Territorial Forces and the U.S. 199th Infantry Brigade provided security forces to cordon off each hamlet. Operations began at 4:00 A.M. with National and Field Police and PRU searching hooches while a psywar team broadcast names and instructions over loudspeakers. People were gathered together at a Special Branch "processing station," where IDs were checked against blacklists. RD Cadre drama teams entertained the innocent while various agencies interrogated suspects, who were then sent to the Province Interrogation Center.

By the end of the Long Khanh Phoenix campaign, 168 VCI "sympathizers" had been caught and confined. Although suppliers and supporters were category C, not genuine VCI, they did inform on their authentic A- and B-grade comrades. Over the next three months VCI neutralizations in Long Khanh soared to their highest levels ever. There was a corresponding rise in Hoi Chanhs. [20]


A typical Saigon operation began in March 1969, when a People's Intelligence Organization agent submitted a report on Nguyen Nuoi to the First Precinct Special Police. Suspecting Nuoi of being VCI, the Phoenix coordinator assigned a six-man surveillance team to watch him. The six special policemen worked in two-man teams, one on foot, one on a bike. In this way they learned where Nuoi lived and worked and where his "contact points" were. The Special Branch set up agents in business in a soup shop one block away from Nuoi's house and established a bicycle repair shop near his favorite cafe. Two agents continued to follow him. Three houses Nuoi frequented were also placed under surveillance.

Three weeks later Nuoi was arrested along with several comrades in the safe houses who had leaflets produced by the Saigon Women's Revolutionary Association. During interrogation Nuoi informed on his bosses in the party. His testimony led to more arrests, including several cadres in the district party committee. One member was "enticed to work for the police" and went back to the party committee as a penetration agent. He stayed there three months in his former position, secretly channeling information to the Special Branch which led to more arrests.

As the 1969 Phoenix End of Year Report notes, "Before allowing their penetration agent to be freed, Special Police personnel took photos of the agent enjoying himself in the company of other Special Police agents and required him to sign a sworn statement that he was in fact working for the GVN. These documents would find their way back to the VC if the agent did not cooperate with the police in the future. A surveillance team was assigned to watch the agent's activities as an added precautionary measure." [21]


So successful was Phoenix in 1969 that the directorate boasted in its End of Year Report that "the first generation" of COSVN military proselytizers has been reduced to seven personnel." In supporting its claims of success at every level, the report quotes a high-ranking VCI who described COSVN Resolution 9 as "a desperate VC plan, written in an attempt to save an otherwise hopeless political and military situation. He said that the Phung Hoang (Phoenix) program has been given top priority for destruction by the VC." [22]

One could deduce from this that the GVN stood on the verge of a great victory. But the view from the field was not so rosy. As Phoenix adviser Wayne Cooper said to Joseph Treaster,

A typical DIOCC would have an impossible clutter, with wheat and chaff filed together. The alphabetical files we insisted they keep would not be cross-referenced by alias, family location, or any other useful designation. The dossiers so vital to province security committee prosecution would contain poor sketchy information; perhaps enough for an operation but not enough for prosecution. Other files -- Most Wanted lists, potential guide files, mug shots, and so on -- were maintained so poorly as to be useless, or never kept at all. There would be no intelligence collection plan, and agents received little direction. [23]

Ralph Johnson agrees with Cooper's dismal assessment of Special Branch capabilities. "DIOCC files on VCI personalities did not reflect much progress toward Phung Hoang intelligence objectives," he writes. He also contradicts Colby's statement that "We were getting more and more accurate reports from inside VCI provincial committees and Regional Party headquarters from brave Vietnamese holding high ranks in such groups." [24] Says Johnson: "The Special Branch rarely if ever managed to recruit agents who had access to high-level VCI planning." He adds that "the GVN arrested suspected agents and attempted to destroy VCI organizations instead of surveilling or recruiting agents in place for long term exploitation." The result was that "most VCI captured were low-level in the province or below," and "most intelligence was generated and exploited from counter-guerrilla operations, casual walk- in informants, captured VCI, VCI caught in Resource Control operations, captured documents, cordon and search operations, and especially Chieu Hoi defectors from VCI." [25]

With the transition of Phoenix to CORDS, a new and improved means of judging, evaluating, and proving success was needed. Hence, Big Mack, "An instructive type document that directs the territorial intelligence system to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate the VCI and lower level military units." [26] Big Mack reported on the number of identified and unidentified VCI members, their influence in the area, and their identity by position for inclusion in the Green Book. Compiled monthly by U.S. military advisers without Vietnamese input, Big Mack reflected the military's emphasis on operations against enemy military units, the type that resulted in big body counts.

"It was a reporting requirement that could choke a mule," recalled Colonel Doug Dillard, "to the point of designing data entry sheets to feed the computer in Saigon .... I met with Ted Greyman, and we coordinated with other staff members, and we came to the conclusion that if we implemented Big Mack, we would stop pursuing the war and start reporting on it." But the Saigon bureaucracy prevailed, and -- Dillard sighed -- "we began implementing portions of Big Mack." [27] By the end of 1969 Big Mack reports were pouring into Saigon from South Vietnam's 250 districts. A comparison with the statistics from 1968 shows the number of captured VCI decreased, while the number of VCI killed more than doubled. [28]

1968 1969
Captured 11,288 8,515
Killed 2,229 4,832
Rallied 2,259 6,187
Total 15,776 19,534

Within this total, 4,007 VCI security agents were cited as having been neutralized: 3 COSVN level VCI; 64 regional VCI; 226 from provinces, 881 from districts, 235 from cities, 2,081 from villages, and 511 from hamlets. An estimated 74,000 VCI were still "at large"; but overall, neutralizations were up, and the directorate boasted that 60 percent were A and B priority targets. Meanwhile, the VCI in 1969 had "murdered" 6,000 GVN officials and "ordinary citizens," had "kidnapped" 6,000 people, and had wounded 15,000 more. [29]

Statistical evidence of success so pleased the Washington brain trust that additional computer systems were quickly introduced. In March 1969 the National Police Evaluation System went on-line, recording "police assignment data" for analysis and "counter-measures." In 1970 Big Mack's bilingual replacement, the Big Mack Special Collection Program, shifted the burden of reporting and accountability to the RVN Territorial Intelligence System. In January 1970 the VCI Neutralization Information System was inaugurated to record all anti VCI operations. The National Police Criminal Information System (NPCIS) was implemented in April 1970 to track VCI who were held beyond "statutory limitations." Designed to "interface" with a Chieu Hoi "tracking system," which aided province security committees in the "post-apprehension monitoring of released VCI," NPCIS was also compatible with the VCI Neutralization and Identification Information System, which stored in its classified files "a history of the VCI member from the time of his identification to his neutralization." [30]

Complementing these "tracking systems" was the National ID Registration Program System. Within twenty-four hours of arrest, detainees were booked. A report was then sent to the proper Province Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center, and a fingerprint card sent to the National Identity Records Center in Saigon, where a data sheet was plugged into the computer. In the field, nearly two thousand policemen worked in two shifts, seven days a week, sending twenty thousand documents from the provinces to Saigon every day. By November 1970 more than seven million laminated fingerprint cards had been classified, searched, and placed in the fingerprint bank for instant access.

Climaxing the computer process in January 1971 was the National Police Infrastructure Analysis Sub-System-II (NPIASS-II), which was used to plan "countermeasures" against the 73,731 confirmed and suspected VCI still "at large" (and called "logical records" in its files). NPIASS-II functioned until March 1973, when, with the assistance of technicians from the Computer Science Corporation, it was transferred to the Vietnamese along with PHMIS and the National Police Identification Follow-up Sub-System (NPIFUSS). Yet another "tracking system," NPIFUSS "provided a means of determining the action taken on wanted person notices and statistics on the disposition of wanted person cases." There was even a National Police Directory Table Sub-System on National Police units and correction centers. However, the reliance on computer systems was a poor substitute for a judicial system based on due process. As Public Safety officer L. M. Rosen wrote on November 27, 1970, "The NPCIS will not of itself improve the administration of justice or the processing of detainees." [31] Further reforms remained to be made.



i. See Addendum 1 in Appendix.
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:00 am

CHAPTER 20: Reforms

Caught between its stated goal of building democratic institutions and its operational goal of ensuring internal security, the South Vietnamese government, in order to improve its public image vis-a-vis the Provisional Revolutionary Government, began instituting in 1969 a series of cosmetic "reforms" designed to square its security needs with the civil rights of its citizens. In essence it was an attempt to resolve the problem posed by Nelson Brickham back in 1967, when he asked, "What do you do with identified VCI?"

The "reform" process got off to a feeble start on March 24, 1969, with Ministry of Interior Circular 757, "Classification and Rehabilitation Guidelines for Proper Processing of VCI." Signed by Interior Minister Tran Thien Khiem, it was created by William Colby specifically to enable province security committees to ensure faster prosecution and sentencing of VCI suspects. However, as Ralph Johnson notes, "there was a general recognition that the circular was neither understood nor properly applied throughout the country." [1]

Circular 757 reiterated who was a class A, B, or C Communist offender, how long each could be detained, and who decided. It directed the coordination of "All local National Police Services ... with the Phung Hoang Committee and the Correction Center involved." As for the status of VCI held in detention centers, 757 reasoned circularly that "The method of classification and the detention period for these Communist Offenders shall be carried out like that for those who are captured under the Phung Hoang Plan." [2]

In addition, Circular 757 directed the National Police to establish "PsyWar Groups" to "carry out the rehabilitation of offenders." PsyWar Groups were to teach Communist offenders how to recognize and abide by constitutional government. Circular 757 also ordered GVN's Directorate of Corrections to form five Mobile Corrections Groups and to include in them "Corrections Cadre qualified in culture and propaganda indoctrination." Cadres came from the ministries of Information and Chieu Hoi and the CIA-advised Directorate of Political Warfare, which had cognizance over the Military Security Service. One mobile group was assigned to each corps, and the fifth handled Con Son, Chi Hoa, Thu Duc, and Tan Hiep prisons. Mobile Correction Groups supported PsyWar Groups in the "rehabilitation" of Communist offenders and provided cover for CIA "talent scouts" who recruited convicts into the PRU and armed propaganda teams, and as prison informers.

To oversee psywar and intelligence operations inside correctional facilities, in September 1969 the CIA created the GVN's Central Security Committee, chaired by General Khiem and including Director of Corrections Colonel Nguyen Psu Sanh (advised by Donald Bordenkircher), the director general of the National Police, and the prison wardens. More important, the Central Security Committee reviewed cases of Communist offenders considered for conditional or early release from the five national correction centers, recommending further detention if the offender was deemed dangerous, as was universally the case. The Vietnamese National Assembly tried unsuccessfully to abolish the Central Security Committee in December 1970.

Province Security Committees were reorganized to include a province prosecutor as legal adviser, although the deputy chief for security -- the CIA asset on the province chief's staff -- secretly managed the affairs of the Committee. Pressure for more meaningful reforms was brought, however, when the lower house of the National Assembly interpellated the ministers of justice, defense, and the interior on June 20, 1969, concerning alleged abuses by officials in the Vinh Binh Province Phoenix program. This action came after a delegation composed of the Interior, RD, and Anticorruption committee chairmen returned from Vinh Binh Province with reports of illegal arrests, torture, corruption, and abuses of authority. The interpellation resulted from a petition signed by eighty-six deputies asking for an explanation of the no longer secret Phoenix program.

Justice Minister Le Van Thu outlined the stated goals of the program, noting that the Province Security Committees had the power to sentence VCI members for up to two years without accusing or convicting them of any specific crime. His explanation that the practical difficulties of amassing solid evidence made it necessary to arrest everyone suspected of complicity for further interrogation and investigation was not well received. A cross section of legislators bitterly cited examples of abuses in their own provinces.

Tin Sang publisher and Anticorruption Committee Chairman Ngo Cong Duc charged the Vinh Binh police chief with "knowingly" arresting innocent people for the purpose of extortion. A Buddhist legislator from Thua Thien Province alleged that suspects were often detained for six to eight months (instead of the one-month maximum cited by Justice Minister Thu) before their cases were heard and that suspects were frequently tortured to extract confessions. She said the people "hated" the government for starting the Phoenix program. Other deputies were incensed that American troops forcefully and illegally detained suspects during military operations. Deputy Ho Ngoc Nhuan, a Saigon Catholic, charged that village chiefs were not consulted before VCI suspects were arrested during military operations, contrary to what Thu and Khiem claimed.

Khiem responded by promising further reforms. He said the Joint General Staff had already moved to prevent further detentions by American forces, with the exception of the VCI caught flagrante delicto. His conciliatory tone assuaged the deputies, and an improved circular was issued.

As a remedy for what Ralph Johnson calls "various deficiencies" in the judicial system, Colby and Khiem, in August 1969, issued Circular 2212, "Improvements of the Methods of Resolving the Status of Offenders." [3] As a result of Circular 2212, a Political Security Office was formed to provide policy guidance for the three GVN agencies -- the Central Phung Hoang Committee, the National Police, and the Directorate of Corrections -- that were involved in processing Communist offenders. Plans were made to send more prosecutors to the provinces to assist "in the proper legal handling of such cases" and "to ensure the proper functioning of Province Security Committees." [4] However, in a nation with fewer lawyers than warlords, establishing due process was like tilting at windmills.

As a way of reducing prison overcrowding and ending the revolving-door syndrome, Circular 2212 provided for the "mandatory" sentencing and transfer of class A and B VCI from the mainland to Con Son Prison. Province Security Committees were given thirty days to open an offender dossier on each VCI detainee, scrutinize the evidence therein, and pass judgment. To speed the process, a short-form offender dossier (on which the detainee signed a confession) highlighted the incriminating evidence which the Security Committee needed for a quick conviction. To reduce backlog, Circular 2212 required security committees to meet at least once a month and to submit transcripts to the Political Security Office for review before passing judgment. Such was the judicial system in South Vietnam.


In response to the charges leveled by the lower house deputies in June, Annex II of Colby's 1970 pacification and development plan, "Protection of the People from Terrorism," called for "notification to village chiefs of planned Phoenix operations in their villages." However, notifying village chiefs was tantamount to notifying the VCI, and again, the operational goal of security was at odds with the stated goal of notification, which in practice rarely occurred. So a few more Phoenix reforms were crafted, including an improved quota system stipulating that VCI be identified before they were neutralized, rather than "revealed" after being captured or killed. Under this proposal, suspected VCI were to be counted as "captured" only after being convicted and sentenced, rather than upon apprehension.

The other significant and related "reform" of 1969 was Decree 044, dated March 12, 1969, placing the PRU under the jurisdiction of the director general of the National Police. Canceling out this decree was a long-standing law, never rescinded, that prohibited PRU from serving in the Vietnamese Army or government in any capacity. Operational control in each province remained with the province chief in conjunction with a PRU province commander, and even though, as of September 1969, Americans were prohibited from venturing out on PRU operations, they did (see Frank Thornton in the previous chapter). Americans continued to advise and assist in the planning of operations.

Prior to June 1968, when President Thieu embraced Phoenix, the PRU operated only at province level under the direction of the CIA. After June 1968 the national PRU commander, Major Nguyen Van Lang occupied himself primarily by selling "PRU-ships" to the highest bidders at the province and region levels.

The CIA staff officers who managed the PRU program at the national level along with Lang's brother-in-law Tucker Gougleman were Phil Potter and Rod Landreth. Harvard graduate Phil "Potts" Potter was an old Vietnam hand who in the early 1950's had been case officer to Emperor Bao Dai and had hired some of the CIA's first assets in the Surete. During the battle for Saigon Potter had served as acting chief of station, as liaison to Ngo Dinh Nhu and Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen, and as control of the station's ten or twelve intelligence officers running agents in the field. During his stint as acting chief of station, while Saigon was in turmoil and the piaster was nearly worthless, Potter had purchased property -- safe houses and such -- for the CIA at 10 to 15 percent of its real value. His efforts in this respect laid the groundwork for a generation of spooks to come.

Potter also served as station chief in Tanzania and Greece and as consul general in Norway and Hong Kong. But his heart was in Vietnam, where he formed close friendships with Ralph Johnson and Tucker Gougleman. "During his years in Saigon Potter developed personal and professional relationships with the most influential Vietnamese, including the CIO chief, General Nguyen Khac Binh, and President Thieu. First and foremost, though, Potter was an intelligence officer actively engaged in recruiting and running agents in the field. [5]

The other PRU manager, Rodney Landreth, described by a colleague, Harry "Buzz" Johnson, as "the kind of guy you'd like to have as an uncle," arrived in Saigon in 1967 and served as a deputy to Ted Shackley. Station Chief Shackley, described by Buzz Johnson as "a cold pale fish," [6] relied on likable Rod Landreth to represent him at diplomatic functions and on the interagency committees formed to investigate GVN corruption and drug dealing. While Potter was case officer to CIO Chief Binh, Landreth was case officer to General Dang Van Quang, Thieu's national security chief. Potter and Gougleman are credited with having organized the Special Branch, while Ralph Johnson and Landreth worked more closely with the CIO. All four were intimately involved in formulating CIA policy regarding Phoenix, the Special Police, and the PRU.

Opinions vary on the impact Potter, Johnson, Gougleman, and Landreth had on the course of events in South Vietnam. To some people they were the consummate insiders; to others they were tired old men who were totally out of touch with the war in the villages and who, like clones of the colonialists they had displaced, gathered every evening at the Circle Sportif to drink by the pool and bask in the adoration of beautiful Vietnamese women.

Likewise, the inner circle of Landreth, Johnson, Gougleman, and Potter had little patience with the ambitious technocrats Langley sent out to Saigon to play at being station chief, or with their corrupt GVN lackeys. In private they ridiculed Ted Shackley, calling him Tran Van Shackley for his reliance on Senator Tran Van Don. Tom Polgar, who replaced Shackley in 1972, fared even worse and was described as "rigid" and "a bureaucrat" who "was not well versed in intelligence field work." [7]

For his part, Tom Polgar called Landreth and Potter "fine officers" who were "past their prime." [8] Ed Brady concurred: "These people had their jobs .... But they weren't trying to achieve anything. They had no objectives." [9]

Brady gave an example of how the Washington bureaucrats shamed "old Vietnam hand" Potter into submission. "Potter lived with a Vietnamese woman whom he wanted to marry," Brady recalled. "He was near retirement, but the agency, citing operational security, said, 'No. If you marry her, you're through. But it's okay if you live with her.' It was the height of hypocrisy."

Perhaps the "old Vietnam hands" do symbolize the proprietary, but essentially moribund, American policy in Vietnam after 1969; those who had understanding were subordinated to the ideologues and functionaries. Living in splendid sand castles, they alternately cursed and ignored the rising tide of corruption and deception that was engulfing South Vietnam. For example, Landreth's main job was chairing the interagency committee charged with investigating the black market, an inquiry he deflected away from the CIA. Likewise, the interagency narcotics committee chaired by Landreth focused entirely on the North Vietnamese, studiously avoiding General Dang Van Quang, who Stanley Karnow notes was "accorded the rice and opium franchise in his region" while commander in the Delta. Writes Karnow: "Among those allegedly involved in the trade were Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky and his successor, General Tran Thien Khiem, said to have funneled the proceeds from the business into their political machines." [10]

Although Rod Landreth was the agency's liaison to General Quang, who on behalf of President Thieu set PRU policy, the day-to-day business of the PRU was handled by CIA officers Ben Mandich and William Buckley, both of whom are deceased, as are Potter, Landreth, Gougleman, and Johnson. Of those who were involved in PRU matters, only Ralph Johnson has left behind statements for the record. "The impact of the GVN on the PRU was negative," Johnson writes, because of "the failure of PRU commanders to work closely with the PIOCCs. The PRU commanders, supported by the Province chiefs, excused this failure by citing poor security in the PIOCCs, as a result of which the PRU were failing to report intelligence to the Coordinating Centers." Furthermore, says Johnson, "when the ARVN and the RF/PF absorbed the tactics of the PRU during 1968-1969, then the PRU probably should have been disbanded and their members integrated into one of the nation-building programs which constituted the major portion of the Pacification Program. Or, the PRU should have been returned to their native villages as part of the Refugee Program, to bolster the People's Self-Defense Forces." [11]

Veteran CIA paramilitary officer Rudy Enders disagreed when we met and insisted that the PRU operated effectively at least until the cease-fire, when they were put under control of the Special Branch. [12] In any case, the March 1969 decree putting the PRU under the National Police facilitated plausible denial. It enabled William Colby to swear on a stack of Bibles that the CIA was not operationally involved. The GVN became accountable as the CIA maneuvered to scapegoat its oblivious client. But the GVN could not afford (even with CIA-sanctioned corruption and drug trafficking) to support the PRU on its own, nor was the CIA willing to abandon the rifle shot approach at the moment it said it had the VCI on the ropes. But resources channeled through the Phoenix program could not compensate for the reduction in CIA support and supervision, so the PRU turned to shakedowns of lucrative targets in the private sector to keep their organization intact. Phoenix and the PRU became captive to criminal enterprises and the subject of increasing controversy.

Always inextricably linked, the Phoenix and PRU programs were simultaneously brought under military review in 1969. On October 20, 1969, in a secret memo to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, Army Secretary Stanley Resor referred to "the social and moral costs and the desirability of a selective attack" and expressed "concern over these programs." [13] Later that day Laird conveyed his concern over "lack of progress in the Phoenix/Phung Hoang Program" to General Earle Weaver, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [14] One month later Laird, referring to the My Lai massacre and the Green Beret murder case, informed Wheeler of his "growing anxiety over the PRU [sic] program in view of recent events concerning U.S. military conduct in South Vietnam." [15]

In response to Defense Secretary Laird's concerns about the Phoenix program, MACV Commander Abrams assured Washington that "Statistically [sic] the program has made significant progress in recent months." Abrams recounted the "reforms" cited on the preceding pages but then offered a candid and somewhat ominous appraisal, saying, "[I]t is clear to me and to the commanders in the field that the program does not yet have the degree of sophistication and depth necessary to combat the highly developed and long experienced VC infrastructure (VCI) in South Vietnam." Abrams noted that Ambassador Bunker had agreed to talk to President Thieu about Phoenix, "especially with respect to improving GVN local official attitudes." Abrams closed by promising "a separate report ... on the PRU." [16]

At this point the Pentagon had three elements interested in Phoenix: The Joint Chiefs were involved through SACSA, the Defense Department was involved through its office of International Security Assistance (ISA), and MACV was involved through CORDS.

For its part, SACSA was not in any chain of command but served the Joint Chiefs by bringing together representatives from the State Department, CIA, U.S. Information Agency, Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense. Broad policies came down to SACSA from the White House through the National Security Council, while specific ideas regarding psywar and counterinsurgency came up from MACV or the individual services. SACSA assigned staff members to present recommendations for consideration by the Joint Chiefs. When the chiefs reached a decision on how a policy was to be implemented, the service responsible for implementing that policy was directed to provide manpower, materiel, and money. The Army Intelligence Corps had responsibility over Phoenix.

SACSA itself was divided into three parts: for special operations in South Vietnam; for special operations elsewhere; and for Revolutionary Development programs in Vietnam, including Phoenix. MACV reported data on Phoenix to SACSA only when solicited. SACSA's Revolutionary Development component did studies and drafted papers on Phoenix for the Joint Chiefs' signature.

From the inception of Phoenix until January 1969, Major General William DuPuy served as SACSA. A former CIA deputy division chief, DuPuy met regularly with State Department officer Phil Habib and CIA Far East Division chief William Colby to coordinate unconventional warfare policy in South Vietnam. DuPuy was replaced by Major General John Freund, commander of the 199th Infantry Brigade while it supported Cong Tac IV. Freund had little clout with the Joint Chiefs and was fired after six months. Replacing him was the former SOG commander Brigadier General Donald Blackburn, under whose management SACSA had little involvement in Phoenix.

The Defense Department's office of International Security Affairs (ISA) was, by comparison, more deeply involved with setting Phoenix policy. According to its charter, ISA "provides supervision in areas of security assistance, Military Assistance Advisory Groups and Missions, and the negotiating and monitoring of agreements with foreign governments." Insofar as Phoenix was a security assistance program funded by the military through CORDS -- which ISA authorized in May 1967 -- ISA had overall supervision of the program.

Called the Pentagon's State Department by Robert Komer, ISA coordinated State and Defense department policy on Vietnam. ISA representatives sat on the State Department's Ad Hoc Psyops Committee, and ISA representatives, along with CIA officers Jack Horgan and Tom Donohue, sat on the State Department's Vietnamization Task Force, which, through the National Security Council, determined how to turn the war, including Phoenix, over to the Vietnamese.

Within ISA, policy regarding Vietnamization was coordinated by the Vietnam Task Force (VNTF). Created in mid-1969, the VNTF was headed by Major General George Blanchard until October 1970, by Major General Fred Karhohs till May 1972, and by Brigadier General David Ott till the cease-fire. Each VNTF chief in turn reported to ISA chief Warren Nutter's deputy for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Dennis Doolin, and Doolin's assistant, Tom Constant. It was at the VNTF that Phoenix policies were coordinated between Saigon and the concerned parties in Washington.

So it came to pass that in November 1969 the VNTF was saddled with the task of bringing into line with "USAID budgets and the law," as one VNTF coordinator put it, a program that had been conceived by the CIA without any regard for legalities, and to do it without treading on the CIA's ability to conduct covert operations. It was a ticklish job that required squaring the hard reality of political warfare in Vietnam with the fluctuating political situation in Washington. The major effects were to bring the military into an adulterous relationship with the Special Branch and to set the State Department on a collision course with international law.

The Vietnam Task Force's assistant for concepts and strategies became the staff officer responsible for Phoenix. A Marine lieutenant colonel standing over six feet tall and weighing over two hundred pounds, he was a tough Korean War veteran with a resume that included employment with the CIA and the State Department as well as with the military. From 1964 to 1967 he prepared military officers for civil operations service in Vietnam, and from late 1967 to early 1969 he was a member of CORDS, serving as John Vann's deputy for plans and programs in III Corps. Jack, as he has been dubbed, preferred to remain anonymous when we met at his home in 1987.

Jack was at the center of the Phoenix drama as it was acted out in Saigon and Washington, and according to him, the VNTF was "Laird's baby; it was his locus." [17] Jack often briefed the defense secretary and prepared "hundreds" of memos for his signature; he wrote papers for and briefed the ISA director Warren Nutter; he coordinated on a daily basis with members of the National Security Council, the Vietnam Working Group, the Special Studies Group, the Vietnamization Task Group (over which the VNTF "had cognizance"), and Tom Donohue at SAVA. On matters affecting the Joint Chiefs, Jack coordinated with its representative, Colonel Paul Kelly -- later commandant of the Marine Corps. Jack's contact at SACSA was Colonel Ray Singer, and he worked with members of Congress investigating various facets of the Vietnam War. All in all, Jack was the man in the middle. He is an experienced. military theorist, and his recollections and assessment of the Phoenix program are especially incisive and well worth noting.

Jack adhered to Robert Thompson's theory that in order to succeed, a counterinsurgency requires a coordinated military-police-intelligence attack against the insurgent's political leadership. But, Jack contended, although the theory is valid, Thompson's extrapolation from Malaya to Vietnam was doomed to fail, for whereas the ethnic Chinese leading the insurgency in Malaya were visibly different from the Malayan people, those in the VCI were indistinguishable from other Vietnamese and impossible to track by foreigner advisers. What's more, said Jack, "the Brits were shrewd enough to offer large rewards ... to informers. But no Vietnamese was going to turn in Uncle Ho for fifty bucks." [i] Jack cited this misuse of resources as a major flaw in America's counterinsurgency policy in Vietnam. "Komer was trying to solve problems through Aid-in-Kind," he explained. "Komer would evaluate people on how many piasters they gave away. He did what corporate managers do; he set goals ... which were higher than people could achieve. But these were managerial-type solutions, a repeat of World War Two, and this was a political war. And the way to win hearts and minds was through security."

In order to establish security, Jack said, "You don't need to get each individual VCI; you just need to neutralize their organization. For example, the presence of a terrorist unit confers influence, so the idea is to prevent any accommodation. As John Vann explained, it's not enough to agree not to fight. That means you can still sell guns and medicine to enemy, like the Filipino group did in Tay Ninh. That is an active accommodation. The people had to have a dual commitment. They had to reject the VC and support the GVN. Many would support GVN, but not betray VC, and that was the problem."

Even if the Vietnamese had not identified with the VCI, and even if American resources had been properly used, Thompson's three-pronged attack on the VCI was doomed to fail, explained Jack, because the CIA did not report to CORDS on highly sensitive matters, like tracking high-level penetrations. Phoenix could have been effective only if the CIA had brought its CIO, PRU, and Special Branch assets to bear. But when the CIA relinquished control of the program in 1969, it took those assets -- which were the only effective tools against the VCI -- with it. In order to protect its political intelligence operations, the CIA never shared its sources with the military officers or Public Safety advisers assigned to Phoenix -- unless, of course, those people had been suborned. [ii] In this way the CIA kicked out from under Phoenix one of the three legs it stood upon. After June 1969 the agency conducted its own unilateral operations against the VCI, apart from Phoenix, through the PRU in rural areas and through the Special Branch in the cities. MACV and the Office of Public Safety in Saigon complained to their headquarters in Washington, making reform of the Special Branch and the PRU the central Phoenix-related issues, but these were areas over which the Defense and State departments had no influence.

After mid-1969 MACV tried desperately to obtain access to Special Branch intelligence in the DIOCCs. But, as Jack explained, Special Branch worked at the province level and above, primarily in urban areas, and avoided the rural areas where most DIOCCs were located. Nor did the Special Branch desire to share sources with its rival, the MSS, forcing the CIA into greater dependency on the PRU for its rural operations. Having been excluded by the CIA, military advisers to Phoenix relied totally on their ARVN counterparts, with a corresponding emphasis on tactical military rather than political operations.

There were rare instances when a CIA province officer would send the PRU down to a DIOCC to assist the Phoenix adviser. Other times the PRU fed "washed-out" bodies into the PICs. On the other side of the coin, the Special Branch was usually chasing dissidents, not the VCI. A study by Robert Thompson on behalf of the National Security Council revealed the Special Branch to be undertrained, understaffed, suffering from bad morale, and racked by corruption. Jack put it this way: "Whereas the average cop on the street would take fifty piasters as a bribe, when the Special Branch got involved, the price went up." He added, "There was good reason to believe that the VC had penetrated the inner circle of the Special Branch. This is why Colby requested that two FBI agents be sent to Saigon to set up a counterintelligence operation."

Knowing that the PRU and Special Branch were fractured beyond repair but that problems within them would remain hidden under layers of CIA security and that CIA officers would continue to mount their own operations apart from Phoenix, the State and Defense departments were compelled to seek other solutions. The question became whether -- in the absence of intelligence officers -- soldiers or policemen were better suited to mount anti-infrastructure operations.

"What you needed," Jack suggested, "was to be flexible in order to conform to Hamlet Evaluation System ratings; you needed police forces in secure areas, and the military in areas controlled by the enemy. But generally, in guerrilla warfare it's more military than police, and so that's where the emphasis should fall." Nevertheless, Jack explained, this flexible approach, applied to Phoenix after 1969, was slow to develop and basically ineffective. "In the beginning of the Phoenix program," he said, "the Army and Marines had a surplus of armor and artillery officers, who were assigned to the program but had no knowledge of running intelligence operations. We were sending out the third team against the first team. Then, when they began staffing the DIOCCs and PIOCCs with military intelligence officers, it became clear that their training was inadequate for the job. Six weeks is not enough time to train a Special Branch officer.

"So it became clear that what they needed was experienced police officers, and in 1970 the police through USAID began playing a larger role. But there were defects on this side, too. They should have had seasoned civilians coming into AID, but instead they got all the losers in that one. The civilians coming to AID were running away from bad marriages and bad careers. Many were alcoholics; they'd get a Vietnamese girl and enjoy the cheap living. These people had a good war." But they had little success against the infrastructure.

Jack said he believed that military policemen were the answer, and on his advice, on a trial basis, Colonel Albert Escola was appointed the Phoenix region coordinator in IV Corps. Now corporate secretary of Bechtel, Escola had received a degree in police administration from Michigan State in 1957 and was known as a protege of General Abrams's. For "improving procedures against the VCI;" Escola was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1970 and a few years later was promoted to major general -- rewards never bestowed upon Doug Dillard.

In any event, Phoenix as an organization proved far less than the sum of its parts. Moreover, by 1969 concerns about its concept had moved from the boardroom into the courtroom, where Phoenix was coming under attack as an assassination program. Suddenly its problems were legal and moral, not organizational and procedural.

Jack said, "Colby pushed Khiem to get Phoenix legitimized so it would have a constitutional basis in Vietnamese law, similar to the FBI or the CIA. Colby tried to make Phoenix legitimate internal security -- that to be a member of the Communist party is illegal. This is the nail upon which Phoenix is hung: If you're a Communist, you're breaking the law. Then Phoenix goes out and gets these guys."

Of course, Phoenix had been going out and getting those guys for fifteen years by the time 1970 rolled around. The effect of those fifteen years of illicit covert action, on both Vietnamese and Americans, is the next subject.



i. Jack suggested that a point system -- ten points for a COSVN cadre down to one point for a messenger boy -- with a monetary equivalent would have resulted in a truly qualitative attack.

ii. According to Michael McCann, Saigon Public Safety director from July 1969 until April 1972, his biggest Phoenix problem was that the CIA used the Public Safety program as a cover for its case officers, bringing all Public Safety advisers under suspicions. [18] Likewise, said Fred Dick, chief of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in Vietnam, "Everyone had his rock to hide under, but CIA kept using our rocks, listing its officers as narcotics advisors to the embassy." [19]
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:01 am

CHAPTER 21: Decay

After August 1969, writes Professor Huy, "Power in Saigon belonged to three generals: Nguyen Van Thieu as President; Tran Thien Khiem as Prime Minister; and Cao Van Vien as Chief of the Joint Staff. They kept their positions until the eve of South Vietnam's collapse." [1]

As was customary in Vietnam, according to Huy, power was administered by each man's wife. "Mrs. Thieu dealt with the businessmen, especially those of Chinese origin, and had her shares in profits obtained from import, export and international trade." Mrs. Khiem "fixed a price for new appointments for the posts of chief of province, chief of district, and chief of police services at the provincial and district levels. Mrs. Vien's domain was the army: contractors working with the army could pass through her intermediary, and she had her tariff for a quick promotion in the army." [2]

With the consolidation of power by these three men came a resurgence of what CIA Summary 0387/69, dated September 12, 1969, called "influence by the widely hated Can Lao group of the Diem era." The CIA memo named as members of the neo-Can Lao cabal "Foreign Minister Lam, as well as the ministers of information, economy, finance and legislative liaison." The memo noted that Duong Van "Big" Minh had predicted "that renewed Can Lao influence could lead to a tragic clash between Catholics and Buddhists." And, the memo noted, "apprehension is likely to increase over reports that the new information minister [Thieu's cousin, Hoang Duc Nha] has appointed some 20 cadre from the Nhan Xa Party -- a neo-Can Lao group -- to key subordinate positions."

Indeed, political developments in 1969 mirrored those of 1955, when Ed Lansdale was told that Diem "needed to have his own political party." [3] Likewise, to strengthen Thieu's position, the CIA in 1969 financed the creation of the National Social Democratic Front, described by former CIA officer Frank Snepp as "a pro-government coalition of political parties." And, just as in Diem's day, Snepp writes, "the CIA lavished large sums of money on the Thieu government to be used in cowing and 'neutralizing' its opposition," [4] the opposition being those nationalist parties, like the Dai Viets, that had relations with the Buddhists. With the Americans chasing the VCI, these domestic groups became primary targets of the Special Branch and its stepchild, Phung Hoang.

In particular, Thieu felt threatened by Tran Ngoc Chau, the popular nationalist whose persecution was said to symbolize the "fratricidal" nature of the Vietnam War. But in fact, Chau's persecution had less to do with regional differences than with rampant corruption, itself fueled by the CIA's bottomless black bag and irrational obsession with internal security at any cost.

Chau's problems began in 1969, when he launched an anti-corruption campaign against Thieu, his old classmate from Fort Bragg. The gist of Chau's claim was that Nguyen Cao Thang -- a wealthy pharmacist and former Can Lao from Hue -- was using CIA funds to undermine the National Assembly. Chau's crusade was seen as a threat to GVN stability, and as a result, the CIA sent two case officers to offer him enough money to start his own political party in exchange for backing off. When Chau declined, Rod Landreth informed General Dang Van Quang that Chau was secretly in contact with his brother, Tran Ngoc Hien, a senior Cuc Nghien Cuu officer in North Vietnam. Quang issued an arrest warrant for Chau, charging him with the capital crime of espionage.

Hien was arrested, Chau went into hiding, and on orders from Washington, Ambassador Bunker ordered Chau's case officer, John Vann, to break off contact. At that point Vann, in June 1969, summoned Frank Scotton from Taiwan and arranged for him and Chau to meet in a safe house in Gia Dinh. The conversation, according to Scotton, went like this: "I said to Chau, 'Sergeant Johnson is standing by near the Cambodian border with some of his Special Forces friends. They're dependable, and they'll help you get out. But it's now or never.' [5]

"Chau was very emotional that night in Gia Dinh," Scotton continued. "He said, 'To run now would be the same as admitting I'm a Communist. And I'm not. So I will not run.'" And so Chau remained in hiding until captured in late 1969.


Ironically, while Thieu was using Phoenix to repress his domestic opponents, his own cabinet was crawling with Communist agents. But in order to perpetuate the myth of GVN stability, the CIA was reluctant to publicize this fact. Consequently, says renegade CIA officer Sam Adams, in May 1969 station chief Ted Shackley "indicated on a visit to Washington his belief that the Vietcong had only 200 agents in the South Vietnamese Government. He spoke from ignorance. An in-depth research study going on at that time suggested the real number of such agents was more like 30,000." [6]

Although thirty thousand sounds improbably high, the extent to which the GVN was infiltrated was revealed in a counterintelligence operation mounted by CIA officer Ralph McGehee in 1969. Begun in 1962, Operation Projectile relied on a penetration agent inside what the 1969 Phoenix End of Year Report called "a COSVN level intelligence net directed against the office of the President of South Vietnam and other ministries of the GVN." The leader of the spy ring was Vu Nhoc Nha, President Thieu's friend and chief adviser on Catholic affairs. Nha, a Catholic, had resettled in South Vietnam during the 1954 Lansdale-inspired exodus from North Vietnam. The spy ring's highest-ranking member was Huynh Van Trong, Thieu's special assistant for political affairs and director of the Central Intelligence School, a position that placed him at the top of the CIO.

McGehee inherited Projectile in 1969, when, after six weeks as Gia Dinh province officer in charge, he became the CIA's liaison to the Special Branch in Region V. "In this capacity," he explained, "I supervised [six] other agency case officers working with specific elements of the Special Police in and around Saigon." [7]

The principal Vietnamese player in the drive against the Cuc Nghien Cuu's strategic intelligence networks was Special Branch chief Nguyen Mau. Born in Ninh Thuan Province (where Thieu was born and reared), Mau was graduated from the Da Lat Military Academy in 1954. In 1963 Diem appointed him sector commander and province chief of Thua Thien Province and mayor of Hue, in which capacity he put down the Buddhist crisis leading up to the coup. In the reorganization after the coup, Mau was made a Montagnard task force commander with the ARVN Twenty-second Division, a job he held until 1967, when he was put in charge of Cong Tac IV. The following year he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and made director of the Special Branch of the National Police.

Soft-spoken and smart, Mau wanted nothing to do with Phoenix. In a letter to the author, he says his "great concern in taking command of the Special Branch was the unjustified arrest, false accusation and arbitrary detention. Those bad manipulations couldn't be stopped since the province chiefs, police chiefs and other officials would do anything to make Phoenix score, which assured them job security and higher regard. They knew that Phoenix was under the supervision of an American Ambassador, and that President Nguyen Van Thieu always listened to this powerful personage. They kept the Special Branch in the provinces too busy with arrest in village, confession worksheet and charge procedure at the Provincial Security Committee, while I wanted to direct the Special Branch into professional activities: organizational penetration gathering information relating to policies and campaign plans, spotting the key leaders for neutralization. But I did not argue with them. I felt so alone I kept my mouth shut."

Mouth shut, Mau concentrated on smashing the Cuc Nghien Cuu's strategic intelligence networks within the GVN. When McGehee gathered enough evidence to convince Shackley to let him roll up Nha's net, Mau galvanized his forces, and the Special Branch sprang into action. Mau's "small secret police cadre prepared individual files on each person to be arrested," McGehee writes. "Late one afternoon he called a task force in to his office, then cut them off from outside contact: He briefed each three-man arrest team separately then passed them copies of the file on their target individual. At midnight the police fanned out through Saigon and pulled in the net." [8]

The operation was a smashing success. House searches turned up "microfilm of secret documents, document copying cameras, one-time radiop encoding and decoding pads, radios, secret ink" [9] and other tools of the trade. The Special Branch also had the good fortune of arresting a visitor of one of the targets, who "turned out to be the head of a military intelligence net" [10] in the MSS. All in all, fifty people were arrested and forty-one spies were tried and convicted. The group included businessmen, military officers, teachers, students, and two top-ranking Chieu Hoi officials.

However, showing that the GVN was "so riddled by enemy spies that they were able to operate under the nose of the President," McGehee laments, was "not the kind of success that the CIA's top officials wanted to see." That reinforced his suspicion that the CIA was unwilling to admit either the strength of the enemy or the weakness of its ally. To McGehee "it was obvious that we were bolstering a hopelessly corrupt government that had neither the support nor respect of the Vietnamese people." [11]

Meanwhile, other CIA officers were reaching the same conclusion. When Frank Snepp arrived in Saigon in 1969, he was assigned the task of putting together background profiles on targets for assassination by "plowing through documents" and conducting interrogations at the National Interrogation Center. "I would put together a list and I would turn it over to Mr. Colby's people," Snepp says in The Ten Thousand Day War. "He would feed this list out to the strike teams, and they would go to work .... And that is how you become a collaborator in the worst of the terrorist programs, in the most atrocious excesses of the US government." [12]

Others became involved in other ways. Consider the case of Bart Osborn, a Phoenix critic who enlisted in the Army in October 1966, was trained at Fort Bragg and Fort Holabird, and was classified an intelligence area specialist. "My training was designed to prepare me as an agent handler and consisted of classes designed to teach recruitment and training of agents and management of agent networks," Osborn testified before Congress in 1973. Be added that his training included a session concerning the termination of agents through various methods, including assassination. [13]

A corporal with no knowledge of Vietnamese language, history, or culture, Osborn arrived in Da Nang in September 1967 and was assigned to the 525th Military Intelligence Group. His area of operations was south of Da Nang, outside a Marine air base in Quang Nam Province. Having been assigned to the unilateral branch of the military intelligence team, whose activities were "extra-legal," Osborn used an alias and, for plausible denial, was provided with false identification indicating he was a civilian employee with the CORDS refugee program. Osborn slipped into his military uniform when it was necessary for him to see military maps or documents.

Osborn's team leader put him in touch with a principal agent who was running six subagents in a single cell. The subagents were political specialists, gathering positive intelligence on VC cadres. Eager to expand his network, Osborn hired as additional agents people whose names he got from the employment files of a local American construction company. He sent his intelligence reports to the 1st Marine Division, the 3d Marine Amphibious Force, the 525th MIG, the American Division, and, unknown to him, the Da Nang Phoenix coordinator.

Osborn's association with Phoenix was cemented when, to his surprise, he was told that the 525th's Intelligence Contingency Fund was empty and that he would henceforth be unable to pay his agents. At this point Osborn had two principal agents, forty subagents in five cells, and operating expenses averaging half a million piasters per month -- lack of which prompted him to check his list of users for new sources of revenue. Recalled Osborn: "I was able to ascertain that the Phoenix program was receiving and utilizing my information .... I visited the Phoenix Coordinator, a US Army major, and talked to him about the information that was laterally disseminated to him. He ... told me that any information I gathered would be used in the context of the Phoenix program. In return I was guaranteed financial remuneration for my agents, use of various 'safe houses' for clandestine meetings, and access to Air America transportation." [14]

Osborn also obtained drugs, draft deferments for his agents through phony enrollment in the Civilian Irregular Defense Group program, and fifteen thousand dollars quarterly for bribing the local police. The Phoenix coordinator also offered a bonus of a hundred thousand piasters for high-ranking VCI members. In this way, regular military personnel across South Vietnam became involved in Phoenix abuses.

When asked to explain why Phoenix abuses occurred, Snepp says the program was "jerry-built" because of "the CIA's concern that the VC had penetrated the Special Branch and Military Security Service. The more fragmentation, the better the security. They didn't want it central so it could be exploited." [15]

Unfortunately, writes Snepp, "For lack of finite guidance the Phoenix strike teams opted for a scattershot approach, picking up anyone who might be a suspect, and eventually, when the jails were packed to overflowing, they began simply taking the law, such as it was, into their own hands." [16]

Explanations for why Phoenix was open to abuse depend on a person's politics. Snepp, who harbors a grudge against the CIA, says his former employer "jerry-rigged" Phoenix for its own security. Others say Phoenix was handed to the military as a cover for CIA negotiations with the VCI in Tay Ninh and Saigon. From Phoenix director John Mason's perspective, accommodation was the root cause of all Phoenix woes. In an August 19, 1969, New York Times article, Terrence Smith quotes Mason as saying, "Favoritism is a part of it. Sometimes family relationships are involved. We know very well that if one of our units picks up the district chief's brother-in-law, he's going to be released."

For Nguyen Mau, Phoenix was subject to "bad manipulations" by officials seeking job security and high regard. Likewise, South Vietnamese nationalists pointed to corrupt officials as the evil inherent in Phoenix, as was made clear in June 1969, when legislators complained that the police used Phoenix to extort money from wealthy citizens and that VCI agents supplied names of loyal citizens to the police, getting around the Colby fail-safe cross-check system by reporting through several different agencies. In this way, innocent people found their names on the dreaded Phoenix blacklist.

Mismanagement by design, ineptitude, accommodation, corruption, and double agents were reasons why Phoenix abuses occurred. However, the actual reporting of abuses fell to Third Force Vietnamese and non-career American military personnel. It is to this aspect of the Phoenix story that we now turn.


One of the first people to criticize Phoenix publicly was Ed Murphy, a native of Staten Island, New York, who spent nine months in a Catholic seminary before enlisting in the U.S. Army. Following his tour in Vietnam, Murphy, from June 1969 through January 1970, was stationed in Washington, D.C., doing background investigations and security checks for the 116th Military Intelligence Group. At the time he was one of a growing number of Vietnam veterans, almost exclusively enlisted men, who were publicly demonstrating against the war. In October 1969 Ed Murphy was also one of the few Americans acquainted with Phoenix.

Murphy's determination to make Phoenix a political issue in the United States began on October 15, while he was participating in the March Against Death outside the Pentagon. There he encountered colleagues from the 116th MIG. "I was being surveilled," he told me. "I know, because the people doing it told me so. 'I've been reading about you,' one of the officers said." [17]

Having fought for his country in defense of its liberties, Murphy was angry to find that military intelligence was being used against American citizens who were exercising their constitutional rights. To him, this represented "the Phoenix mentality in the United States." Just how serious Murphy considered this threat is made clear by his definition of the program. "Phoenix," he said, "was a bounty-hunting program -- an attempt to eliminate the opposition. By which I mean the opposition to us, the Americans, getting what we wanted. Which was to control the Vietnamese through our clients -- the Diems, the Kys, the Thieus." For Murphy, all other definitions of Phoenix are merely "intellectual jargon."

Murphy is a man of conscience, a former novitiate at a seminary in Baltimore whose deep-seated patriotism prompted him to enlist, despite his compunctions about the morality of the Vietnam War. After basic training, Murphy was sent to Fort Holabird, where he was trained as a counterintelligence specialist, then to the Defense Language Institute in Texas for Vietnamese-language training. From there he was assigned to Fort Lewis. "On the plane from Fort Lewis to Cam Ranh Bay," he recalled, "I was given an article to read. It was a study by the American Medical Association on ... interrogation methods used in the Soviet Union. It showed how to do things without laying a hand on a person -- how you could torture a person just by having them stand there." That manual was his introduction to the doctrine of Contre Coup.

Upon his arrival in Vietnam on May 12, 1968, Murphy was assigned to Fourth Division headquarters outside Pleiku City, where his understanding of counterinsurgency warfare rapidly evolved from theory to reality. There were five enlisted men in his counterintelligence team, each with a sector, each sector having ten agents. Murphy's job was to conduct sabotage investigations and to run undercover agents, furnished by the MSS, who acted as day workers on the military base. Murphy also inherited agents eleven miles away in Pleiku City and acted as the Fourth Division's liaison to the local Phoenix coordinator, a CIA contract officer named Ron who was posing as a Public Safety adviser conducting currency investigations.

Once a week Murphy went to the local CIA compound, along with various civilian and military intelligence people in the vicinity, to submit to the Phoenix Committee the names of VCI suspects their agents had fingered. Surrounded by a concrete wall, its gate manned by a Montagnard Provincial Reconnaissance Unit, the embassy house was located in a remote corner of Pleiku. Inside the compound was a barbed-wire "cow cage" for prisoners. The cage, according to Murphy, was too small for prisoners to stand up in. Murphy was not permitted in the PIC, which "sat on a hill and looked like a U-shaped school."

As for the identity of the people his agents surveilled and targeted, Murphy said, "I would never see a North Vietnamese or Vietcong soldier. This is post Tet, and those people are all dead. What we're talking about are civilian infrastructure people supporting the NVA and VC. It could be anybody. It could be somebody who works in a movie theater ... somebody sweeping up."

When asked what kind of information he needed before he could have a suspect arrested, Murphy answered, "None. Whatever you wanted." When asked what sort of criteria he used to classify VCI suspects, Murphy replied, "Nothing. One of my agents says somebody's a spy. If I had reason to believe ... that he was telling the truth, and if I wanted to bring somebody in for interrogation, I could do it. It was that easy. I had an agreement with the team leader that I could do anything I wanted. I even wore civilian clothes. My cover identity was as a construction worker with Pacific Architects and Engineers."

Murphy called his agents "hustlers -- entrepreneurs making money off intelligence." After noting the difficulty of verifying information submitted by agents at Phoenix Committee meetings, "the lack of files and things like that," Murphy told how one suspect was raped and tortured simply because she refused to sleep with an agent.

"Phoenix," said Ed Murphy, "was far worse than the things attributed to it. It was heinous, but no worse than the bombing. And I don't apologize. But it was a watershed for me. It focused things. I realized it wasn't just a war, but that based on the assumption that nothing is worse than communism, the government of Vietnam, backed by the U.S., felt justified in suppressing all opposition while extending its control throughout the country." That control, Murphy explained, served an economic, not an idealistic, purpose. "Phil Lapitosa [an employee at Pacific Architects and Engineers] told me about two million dollars in materiel and cash being unaccounted for at PA and E ... that goods being sold on the black market didn't come from the Vietnamese, but from the Americans.

"In order to get into military intelligence school," Murphy continued, "I and the other candidates had to write an essay on the debate about the Vietnam War. And the thrust of my paper was 'What we do in Vietnam will come back to us.' It was a one world thesis. Well, I go to Vietnam and I see the bullshit going down. Then I come back to the United States and see the exact same thing going on here. I'm at the Hundred Sixteenth MI unit, and as you leave the room, they have nine slots for pictures, eight of them filled: Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Ben Spock, Jerry Rubin. And I'm being sent out to spot and identify these people. This is Phoenix. This is Phoenix," he repeated, then added for emphasis, "This is Phoenix!"

"In Nam I had composite descriptions," Murphy acknowledged. "But then I wasn't in a place where we had technology. It doesn't make any difference. The point is that it was used in Vietnam, it was used in the U.S., and it still is used in the United States."

Thus, Murphy felt justified in taking tactics the military had taught him and using them against his former masters. "To me," he explained, "Phoenix was a lever to use to stop the war. You use what you got. I got Phoenix. I'm a former intelligence agent, fluent in Vietnamese, involved in Phoenix in the Central Highlands. That means I'm credible. I'm using it."

Intent on making Phoenix a domestic political issue to be used to stop the war, Murphy joined two other Vietnam veterans -- Bob Stemme and Mike Uhl -- in an effort to inform the public. At news conferences held simultaneously in New York, San Francisco, and Rome on April 14, 1970, the three veterans issued a joint press release -- without naming names -- laying out the facts about Phoenix. And even though the release was not widely reported, it did perpetuate the controversy that had begun in February, when Phoenix was first examined by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. By then Phoenix was nearly three years old.

How the Senate hearings came to address Phoenix is unusual. It concerns Francis Reitemeyer, a Seton Hall Divinity School dropout who was drafted and attended officer candidate school in late 1968. Along with forty other air defense artillery officers, Reitemeyer was trained at Fort Holabird for duty as a Phoenix coordinator in Vietnam. He was appalled by the instruction he received from veteran Phoenix advisers. Loath to participate in what he considered a program that targeted civilians for assassination, Reitemeyer approached American Civil Liberties Union lawyer William Zinman in November 1968. On behalf of Reitemeyer, Zinman filed a petition for conscientious objector status in U.S. District Court on February 14, 1969, while the rest of Reitemeyer's class was departing for Vietnam.

In the petition Reitemeyer said that he was told that he would supervise and fund eighteen mercenaries "who would be explicitly directed by him" to "find, capture and/or kill" as many VCI as possible within a given area. The VCI were defined as "any male or female of any age in a position of authority or influence in the village who were politically loyal or simply in agreement with the VC or their objectives." Reitemeyer was told that he would be required to maintain a "kill quota" of fifty bodies per month and that for him to locate VCI, "resort to the most extreme forms of torture was necessary." As an example of what was expected of him, Reitemeyer was told of one VCI suspect being killed by "said mercenaries and thereafter decapitated and dismembered so that the eyes, head, ears and other parts of the decedent's body were displayed on his front lawn as a warning and an inducement to other VC sympathizers, to disclose their identity and turn themselves in to the Advisor and the mercenaries."

Reitemeyer was told that Phoenix "sought to accomplish through capture, intimidation, elimination and assassination what the U.S., up to this time, was unable to accomplish through the ... use of military power." The Vietnamese were characterized in racist terms, so that the cruelties perpetrated upon them might be more easily rationalized. Reitemeyer was told that if captured, he could be tried for war crimes under "precedents established by the Nuremberg Trials as well as ... the Geneva Convention."

On the basis of this account of his Phoenix instruction, Reitemeyer was granted conscientious objector status on July 14, 1969. The Army filed an appeal but, for public relations purposes, withdrew it in October, just as the March Against Death was getting under way. Meanwhile, the ramifications of the case set in motion the series of events that brought Phoenix under congressional scrutiny. Reitemeyer was satisfied with having escaped service in Phoenix and faded into obscurity. Zinman, however, like Murphy, saw Phoenix as a lever to be used to stop the war. He pressed a copy of the petition into the palm of a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee. While the committee prepared to hold hearings on CORDS in February 1970, a staff aide to Senator William Fulbright leaked a copy of the petition to reporters Judy Coburn and Geoffrey Cowan. Their investigation resulted in an article titled "Training for Terror: A Deliberate Policy?" Printed in the Village Voice in December 1969, the article brought the subject of Phoenix into open debate.

The military responded to Coburn and Cowan's article and Reitemeyer's "wild allegations" on the day they appeared in print. Colonel Marshall Fallwell, commandant of Fort Holabird, suggested that some instructors might have told "war stories," but he insisted that torture and assassination were not part of the school's curriculum. He did acknowledge that Fort Howard contained a mock Vietnamese village where Phoenix advisers "Plan[ned] and mount[ed] an operation for seizure of the village," then rehearsed interrogating VCI suspects whom they identified from blacklists. Because the object of such "proactive" operations was uncovering the enemy's secret agents, this was called an offensive counterintelligence operation.

Fallwell's answers fell short of allaying congressional concerns, however, and one week later gasoline was poured on the smoldering controversy when George Gregory -- an attorney representing one of seven soldiers charged with murdering a Vietnamese agent -- discussed his investigation at the Atlanta Press Club. According to Gregory, Phoenix advisers were flocking to military lawyers in Saigon in the wake of the famous Green Beret murder case, in which seven American Army officers in the B-57 detachment were nearly put on trial for murdering one of their agents. Apparently, the Phoenix advisers were concerned that they were susceptible to similar charges.

Here it is important to note that the killing of enemy spies was a counterintelligence function, while the attack against the VCI was a "positive" intelligence function aimed at bureaucrats managing the insurgency's terror campaign. However, the termination with extreme prejudice of agents and the assassination of civilian members of the enemy's underground organization did overlap in cases in which penetration agents inside the VCI were found to be doubles, playing both sides of the fence. Dealing with such people was the prerogative of the CIA and its special unit.

In any event, the results of the Green Beret murder case were the termination of B-57 and a blow to the morale of Phoenix advisers in the field -- although their anxieties were relieved in September 1969, when, at the request of President Richard Nixon and DCI Richard Helms, charges against the soldiers were dropped by Army Secretary Resor. The agent's wife, who worked for the CIA, was awarded death benefits, and the case was closed. A Gallup poll showed 58 percent of all Americans disapproved of the war.


On January 12, 1970, Newsweek ran a story called "The Rise of Phoenix," in which the program was described as "a highly secret and unconventional operation that counters VC terror with terror of its own."

In response, ISA's director of East Asian and Pacific affairs, Dennis Doolin, professed that a counterterror program of the kind Phoenix was alleged to be "would subvert and be counter-productive to the basic purpose of pacification in reorienting the allegiance of all the South Vietnamese people toward support of the government of Vietnam." [18] And rather than acknowledge Contre Coup as official policy -- as legitimate conflict management -- the war managers mounted a congressional "information" campaign. Leading the charge up Capitol Bill was Henry Kissinger, "who," writes Erwin Knoll, "is known to believe the program can play a crucial role in destroying the Vietcong opposition during the period of American military withdrawal from South Vietnam. Emissaries from Kissinger's White House National Security staff," Knoll says, "have carried encouraging reports on Phoenix to Capital Hill." [19]

As the Senate hearings approached, the battle lines were drawn. On one side were senators who on faith accepted Kissinger's explanation that Phoenix was part of an overall strategy to protect the retreating American army -- hardly something a patriot could fault. [i] These senators used the hearings to praise Phoenix as it was defined by William Colby and his entourage, which included John Vann, then IV Corps DEPCORDS; Clayton McManaway; Hawthorne Mills, the Tuyen Duc Province senior adviser; a district senior adviser; a mobile advisory team adviser; and a member of the Quang Nam Marine combined action platoon.

No Phoenix advisers were invited to testify, so presenting the other side of the argument were several senators armed with newspaper and magazine articles written by established reporters sent to Vietnam specifically to investigate Phoenix. Among the journalists were Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post and Peter Kann from the Wall Street Journal. Portions of their articles portrayed Phoenix as a program employing "assassination" and "counterterror."

One article in particular, "The CIA's Hired Killers," by Georgie Anne Geyer, raised congressional eyebrows. Calling the PRU "the best killers in Vietnam," she compared them to terrorists, with the qualification that "our terror" was different from "their terror" in that "there was no real political organization -- no political ideology -- behind our terror. Their boys did it for faith; our boys did it for money." [20]

Apart from Geyer's failure to recognize the worship of Mammon as religion, her allegation that the CIA hired killers to commit terror cast a dark cloud over the hearings, one that William Colby, despite his initial opposition to the program, was called on to dispel. Colby's testimony earned him the reputation as Phoenix's staunchest defender.



i. Kissinger meanwhile was plotting the Cambodian invasion for the same purpose.
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Re: The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine

Postby admin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:01 am

CHAPTER 22: Hearings

On February 17, 1970, the same day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began hearing testimony on U.S. government pacification policy in South Vietnam, Robert Kaiser reported that some people were calling Phoenix "an instrument of mass political murder ... sort of Vietnamese Murder Inc." [1] Coming on top of the Green Beret murder case and reports about the My Lai massacre, sensational reports like Kaiser's formed a disturbing pattern, one suggesting that terror and political repression were official policies of the U.S. government. The senators wanted to know if that was true. William Colby was willing to put their minds at ease.

Colby's strategy was outlined in State Department Telegram 024391, dated February 17, 1970, which says in part: "We believe the line of questioning attempting to establish the Phoenix program as an assassination program [can be] successfully blunted by repeated assertions regarding US/GVN policies, coupled with admissions of incidents of abuses." Using this approach, Colby alternately confounded and assuaged his congressional challengers. By saying, "I will not pretend to say that no one has been wrongfully killed there," [2] Colby came across as a decent, honest, fallible human being. He did not admit premeditated murder, but the master of the "art of the possible" did lay a credible foundation for the plausible fictions that followed.

Making his job easier were the absence of witnesses who might contradict his claims, the fact that lurid reports of Phoenix abuses were often derived from secondhand sources and were replete with melodramatic language which detracted from their reliability, and the lack of background information available to the senators -- a blank slate Colby used to his advantage early in the proceedings by introducing a carefully prepared "Statement for the Record on the Phung Hoang Program," which defined Phoenix not as a broad symbol of Contre Coup, but in the context of the CORDS bureaucracy. Phoenix in this manifestation was merely a block in an organizational chart, a box on a shelf with a warning label listing all its dangerous ingredients, not a concept of counterterror.

Colby defined Phoenix as an internal security program designed to protect "the people" from "Communist terrorism." And by defining "the people" apart from the VCI, as the object of VCI terror and as voluntarily participating in the program, he established a moral imperative for Phoenix.

Next, he established a legal basis for the program. Phoenix, Colby said, was designed "to single out key personnel for primary attention." The "key people" were guilty of "crimes against national security" and were subject to judicial proceedings in military courts and to "administrative detention under emergency powers" similar to those used in Malaya, Kenya, and the Philippines. He cited the preamble to Ministry of Interior Circular 757, which said, "Government policy is to completely eliminate the VCI by capturing as many as possible, while the lenient rehabilitation policy aims at releasing as many as possible." He did not mention that the circular was not understood or properly applied. Nor did he mention the existence of Province Interrogation Centers, or that the CIA asset -- the deputy chief for security -- managed the affairs of the Province Security Committee, or that "mandatory sentencing" was an official policy that meant two years in Tan Hiep, Chi Hoa, Thu Duc, or Con Son Prison. The laws were on the books; did it matter that they were not enforced?

Colby then proceeded to abstract fact from form. Citing Directive 044 of March 1969, he described the PRU as part of the National Police. However, in order to protect an ongoing covert action, he neglected to mention, as Colonel Pappy Grieves explained, that "The PRU were supposed to voluntarily enter the police, province by province, man by man. But none of them ever did." [3]

Meanwhile, in early 1970, National Police Chief Tran Van Hai gave Field Police Chief Nguyen Van Dai oversight of the PRU. "To be a 'Force,'" writes Colonel Dai, "I must accept PRU in the Support Division, which originally consisted of the Field and Marine police forces." But, Dai adds, he only monitored the PRU, while Major Lang actually commanded them under the supervision of Tucker Gougleman. "I did not have any major problems between NPFF and PRU," Dai continues. "Only myself and the American PRU advisers had a misunderstanding, and the PRU advisers accused me of having 'anti-American' spirit." [4]

According to Pappy Grieves, the trouble between Dai and Gougleman developed when Dai inspected a company of PRU in I Corps, "and found they were short 400 tons of plastique .... They couldn't account for a number of M-sixteens and pistols either," Grieves revealed. "I said, 'Dai, where did they go?' He said, 'Colonel, there's only one place they could go.'

"This again is the problem of the Company." Grieves sighed. "No accountability out of Saigon."

Or in Washington. As reported at the hearings, the CIA funded the PRU in 1969 at a cost of more than five million dollars, and, Colby said, "plans are in progress for the transition of the PRU to full GVN funding and support." In 1970 the CIA funded the PRU at an increased cost of more than six million dollars.

Having defined Phoenix as moral, "popular," and legal, Colby took questions from the senators, some of whom used the opportunity to promote themselves. Others tried to get at the truth. For example, Tennessee Senator Albert Gore asked Colby to explain "the difference between the Vietcong terror efforts against the political infrastructure of the Saigon government, on the one hand, and the counter-terror program of the [GVN] against the political infrastructure of their opposition, the NLF." [5]

Dodging the question, Colby said, "There is no longer a counter-terror effort." One had existed a few years earlier, for about "six months to a year," but, he said, he had stopped it because they did "some unfortunate things." After some verbal jousting, Gore asked Colby, "What were the goals of the Phoenix program when it was, by your terms, a counter-terror program?" [6]

COLBY: "... to capture, rally or kill members of the enemy apparatus."

GORE: "As I understand your answer, the goals are the same. You used identically the same words -- capture, rally or kill. I do not quite get either a distinction or a difference...." [8]

COLBY: "The difference ... was that at the time there were these special groups which were not included in the normal government structure .... Since that time, this has been more and more integrated into the normal government structure, and correspondingly conducted under the government's rules of behavior." [9]

Was it really? In her article "The CIA's Hired Killers," Georgie Anne Geyer tells how "[i]n the absence of an American or South Vietnamese ideology, it was said in the early days, why not borrow the most workable tenets of the enemy's. After all," she quotes Frank Scotton as saying, "they stole the atomic bomb secrets and all from us." And so, Geyer writes, "Scotton and a few other Americans ... started a counter-guerrilla movement in northern Quang Ngai Province .... Terror and assassination were included in their bag of tricks. At one point, USIS printed 50,000 leaflets showing sinister black eyes. These were left on bodies after assassination or even -- 'our terrorists' are playful -- nailed to doors to make people think they were marked for future efforts.

"But," Geyer goes on, "whereas Scotton's original counter-guerrillas were both assassins in the night and goodwill organizers of the people, the PRUs are almost exclusively assassins in the night." Their emphasis "of late," she writes, "has been ... to murder, kidnap, terrorize or otherwise forceably eliminate the civilian leadership of the other side." In one village "a VC tax collector will be assassinated in his bed in the night. In another, wanted posters will be put up for a VC leader, offering a reward to try to persuade his friends to turn him in. The PRU may also drop down from helicopters and terrorize whole villages, in the hope that they will be frightened to deal with the VC in the future." Furthermore, "the PRUs are excellent torturers. ... Torture has now come to be so indiscriminately used that the VC warn their men to beware of any released prisoner if he has not been tortured."

"Sometimes we have to kill one suspect to get another to talk," Geyer quotes a PRU adviser as saying. Another PRU adviser told her that "he ate supper with his PRUs on the hearts and livers of their slain enemies." Another one said, "I've been doing this for 22 years all over the world." He cited Egypt when Nasser was coming to power and the Congo "when we were trying to get rid of Tshombe." Writes Geyer about the PRU adviser: "His job, like that of many Americans in South Vietnam, was terror." And she calls American PRU advisers "really the leaders," [10] a view that contrasted with Colby's claim that Americans were limited to "advice and assistance."

As for the instructors who taught Francis Reitemeyer how to manage PRU, Colby said, "[W]e have some rather direct instructions to our people as to their behavior in Vietnam." [11] Colby was referring to an October 15, 1969, memo sent to the Phoenix staff "and forwarded for inclusion in the training of Phung Hoang advisers in Vietnam and at Fort Holabird." The memo stated that "U.S. personnel are under the same legal and moral constraints with respect to operations under the Phung Hoang program as with respect to military operations against enemy units in the field."

The final word on Phoenix policy was contained in MACV Directive 525-36, issued on May 18, 1970. Noting the "unlawful status of members of the VCI," MACV Directive 525-36 cites "the desirability of obtaining these targetted individuals alive and of using intelligent and lawful methods of interrogation to obtain the truth." It says that Phoenix advisers were "specifically unauthorized to engage in assassination" and that if they were to "come in contact with activities conducted by Vietnamese (never Americans) which do not meet the standards of land warfare," they were "[n]ot to participate further" but were "expected to make their objections of this kind of behavior known to the Vietnamese conducting them" and "expected to report the circumstances to the next higher U.S. authority." The directive closes by saying that "if an individual finds the police type activities of the Phoenix program repugnant to him, on his application, he can be reassigned from the program without prejudice."

In response to the article by Geyer, which focused attention on the PRU and the issue of terror, and in defense of William Colby, his patron, John Vann [i] said, "[T]here is always a tendency to report extremes .... But when those exceptions ... are used by people who are in basic disagreement with the policy in Vietnam as a means of criticizing the effort, they are taken out of context. They in no way reflect anything that is normal." [13]

Kentucky Senator Sherman Cooper asked Vann, "Is the Phoenix organization a counter-terror organization?" [14]

Vann replied, "The counter-terrorist organization bore and bears no resemblance at all to ... Phoenix." [15]

COOPER: "Is the U.S. involved in any way in carrying out what can be called a "terrorist" activity?" [16]

VANN: "Well, the answer very shortly, sir, is no, we do not." [17]

Compare Vann's statement with that made by Charlie Yothers, the CIA's chief of operations in I Corps in 1970: "Sure we got involved in assassinations. That's what PRU were set up for -- assassination. I'm sure the word never appeared in any outlines or policy directives, but what else do you call a targeted kill?" [18]


According to Tully Acampora, Phoenix was a two-tiered program, with the PRU working against terrorists on the tactical level and the CIO operating above that on strategic affairs. This aspect of Phoenix was addressed by New Jersey Senator Clifford Case when he asked William Colby if Phoenix might be used "by ambitious politicians against their political opponents, not the Viet Cong at all." [19]

COLBY: "... it is our impression that this is not being used substantially for internal political purposes .... I have heard the President and Prime Minister on many occasions give strong directions that the focus is on the Vietcong ... and that it is not to be used for other purposes." [20]

Picking up on this line of questioning, Committee Chairman William Fulbright asked Colby: "... where is Mr. Dzu, the man who ran second in the last election?"

When Colby said, "Mr. Dzu is in Chi Hoa jail in Saigon," Fulbright asked him to "reconcile that with your statement of the very objective view of the Prime Minister." Colby replied that Truong Dinh Dzu "was not arrested under the Phoenix program." Dzu was arrested under Article 4, which made it a crime to propose the formation of a coalition government with the Communists. [21]

FULBRIGHT: "But you say they are giving instructions to be so careful not to use the program for political purposes, when Thieu himself has put a man in prison for no other crime that we know of than that he ran second to him in the elections." [22]

At that point Senator Case came to Colby's rescue, saying, "I think that just, perhaps, suggests this is a privilege reserved for higher officials." [23]

But the point had been made: If Phoenix were to be judged by the behavior, not the stated policies, of Thieu's administration, then it was an instrument of political repression. Moreover, as indicated in a letter from Tran Ngoc Chau to Senator Fulbright, political repression in South Vietnam was carried out with the tacit approval of the U.S. government. In his letter to Fulbright (which was inserted into the record of the hearings), Chau claimed that his contacts with his brother had been authorized by, among others, William Colby, Ev Bumgartner, Tom Donohue, Stu Methven, John O'Reilly, Gordon Jorgenson, and John Vann, who instructed Chau not to inform Thieu of his contacts with Hien.

Chau wrote, "Present political persecution of me is consequence of combined action taken by U.S. officials and CIA and Vietnamese officials in an attempt to sabotage Vietnamese and Communist direct talks for Peace Settlement." [24]

In February 1970 Chau was sentenced to twenty years in jail. In May 1970, writes Professor Huy, "the Supreme Court rendered a judgment stating that Chau's arrest and condemnation were unconstitutional. Despite this judgment, Thieu refused to free Chau." [25]

What happened to Chau and Dzu proved that stated policy in South Vietnam was ignored in reality. Likewise, attempts to portray Phoenix as legal and moral were transparent public relations gimmicks meant to buy time while Thieu consolidated power before the cease-fire. To ensure Thieu's internal security, CIA officers were willing to betray their assets, and this capacity for treachery and deceit is what really defined American policy in regard to Phoenix, the PRU, and the war in general. What the Senate concluded, however, was only that diametrically opposed views on Phoenix existed. The official line advanced by William Colby portrayed Phoenix as imperfectly executed -- but legal, moral, and popular. The other view, articulated by Senator Fulbright, was that Phoenix was "a program for the assassination of civilian leaders." But that was not proven.

"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee may have been confused by last week's testimony on Operation Phoenix," observed Tom Buckley. "The problem," he explained, "is one of definition." [26]

Unable to decide which definition was correct, the press tended to characterize Phoenix as an absurdity. In a February 18, 1970, article in The New York Times, James Sterba said that "the program appears more notorious for inefficiency, corruption and bungling than for terror .... If someone decided to make a movie about Phoenix ... the lead would be more a Gomer Pyle than a John Wayne."

Playing on the notion that the Vietnamese, too, were too corrupt and too stupid to be evil, Tom Buckley wrote that the PRU "were quicker to take the money, get drunk, and go off on their own extortion and robbery operations than they were to sweep out into the dangerous boondocks" -- hardly a description of what Jim Ward called "the finest fighting force in Vietnam." But for Buckley and Sterba there was no motive behind the madness. Phoenix was a comedy of errors, dopey disguises, and mistaken identities. There was nothing tragic in their depictions; even the people directing the show were caricatures subject to ridicule.

So it was that Phoenix began sinking in a morass of contradictions which seemed to reflect the intensely human, moral ambiguity of the Vietnam War itself. Even the dead-end debate between Colby and Fulbright mocked America's babbling, hilarious schizophrenia. Whom to believe?

Twenty years later the facts speak for themselves. When Fulbright asked Colby if cash incentives were offered to Vietnamese for neutralizations, Colby said no. Six months later the deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Frank Clay, sent a memo (JCSM-394-70) to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, noting that General Abrams had recommended "an incentive program to foster greater neutralization achievement."

One of the more significant Phoenix documents, Clay's memo enumerated the Defense Department's major concerns regarding Phoenix: the national identity and registration program, information support of Phoenix, inadequacy of prison space, surveillance of released VCI, Phung Hoang leadership, and exchange of intelligence. These six concerns, notably, derived from a survey conducted by Robert Komer in June 1970.

Upon arriving in Turkey as U.S. ambassador, Komer had been dogged by demonstrators charging him with war crimes. Consequently, he resigned his post even before his nomination was confirmed by the Senate. Seeking vindication, he hired on with RAND, returned to Saigon, and wrote a scathing report called "The Phung Hoang Fiasco." In it Komer says, "[A]s the military war winds down and the conflict assumes a more politico-subversive character, a much more sophisticated and intensive effort to destroy the VCI becomes well nigh indispensable to a satisfactory outcome."

The former champion of quotas rails against "fakery," charging that "half the kills are falsely listed as VCI just to meet Phung Hoang goals." He cites instances where "we may have as many as 10 or 12 dossiers on the same man," and he complains that "each agency still keeps its own files." Special Branch is "grossly overstaffed with poor quality results," the Field Police are "a flop as the action arm of Phung Hoang," and as for the PRU, Komer writes that "everywhere their effectiveness is apparently declining greatly."

Komer is especially critical of the Vietnamese. In III Corps "fully half the province chiefs don't really support Phung Hoang," he writes, and in II Corps Lu Lan "gives only lip service." Komer names Lieutenant Colonel Thiep (who replaced Loi Nguyen Tan, who took command of Chi Hoa Prison) as "the senior full-time Phung Hoang officer," then adds contemptuously that Thiep's "incompetent boss Colonel Song is apparently being kicked upstairs. As I put it bluntly to Thieu and Khiem," Komer says, "there are 65 generals in RVNAF: how come only a LTC to run Phung Hoang?"

Basically, Komer's anger stemmed from Thieu's decision to transfer the Central Phung Hoang Permanent Office from the prime minister's office to the National Police Directorate as a separate bloc. Noting that "the Phung Hoang bloc is completely separate from the key Special Branch bloc," Komer argues that the Central Phuong Hoang Permanent Committee had been "downgraded. " He calls the transfer "a case where one of the most crucial of all current GVN priority missions is given to one of the weakest and least effective GVN agencies, the National Police."

In a May 3, 1970, telegram to the secretary of state, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker explained that Phung Hoang was being transferred from Prime Minister Khiem's office to the National Police to "move it toward Vietnamization" and improve its overall operations. Noting that the "US advisory position on this question had been established through coordination between MACV/CORDS, OSA and Embassy," Bunker concludes by stating his belief that the "most important contribution National Police can make to future Vietnam lies in vigorous and proper execution of Phung Hoang Program against Viet Cong Infrastructure." Case closed.

As compensation for the transfer, Komer proposed getting "the best young, hard driving major general to be found -- Phong or Minh of CMD and make him Minister or Vice-Minister of Interior to give him status." Other reforms Komer suggests: to "increase reward money," to "go after the five best dossiers," and to concentrate efforts "in eight provinces [where] well over half the estimated VCI are concentrated." The provinces were Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai in I Corps; Binh Dinh in II Corps; and Kien Hoa, Vinh Long, Vinh Binh, and Dinh Tuong (where Komer found the "only ... Phung Hoang program worthy of the name") in IV Corps.

Summarizing, Komer writes, "For better or worse, CIA produced ... the only experienced hands who were really good at the game. ... If I couldn't think of a better solution, I'd transfer operational control over the whole business to OSA [office of special assistant, cover designation for the CIA]."

But Bunker, in his May 3, 1970 telegram, had already nixed that idea. "Integration into Special Police would complicate important public information aspects of program," he said, "and produce complications to US advisory element. When VCI reduced to manageable level," he said, turning Phoenix over to the Special Branch "could be reviewed." In any event, the "VC turn to protracted war reemphasizes necessity of Phung Hoang effort against infrastructure during coming year ... and is of higher priority in Vietnam today than civil law enforcement as contribution to Vietnamization."

Three years into the program the Phoenix brain trust was back on square one, wondering, as Evan Parker had recommended, if it should focus its efforts not on legions of low-level VCI, but on the big fish and, as Parker had also observed, if CIA Special Branch advisers were not already doing the job. Having come full circle, Komer finally realized that the "Special Branch and its U.S. advisers seem to run an almost completely separate operation ... usually when I asked why no fingerprints in dossiers, I was told they were over in the Special Branch office in the PIC."

Komer was right. Phoenix was a fiasco, but not just because the CIA had decided to hide behind it for "public information" purposes. The notion that reporting formats and quotas as "management tools" could supplant a thousand years of culture and forty years of Communist political development at the village level was simply a false premise. Yes, Phoenix was a fiasco -- it had become unmanageable, and it encouraged the most outrageous abuses -- but because it had become "of higher priority ... than civil law enforcement," it was a fiasco with tragic, not comic, consequences.

By 1970 an armistice was inevitable, and Phoenix had become the vehicle by which America was going to transfer responsibility for internal security to the Vietnamese. As a result, General Abrams asked, "That it be made clear to all US and RVN agencies contributing to the Phung Hoang/Phoenix program that the objective of neutralizing the infrastructure is equal in priority to the objectives of tactical operations." As a way of going after strategic VCI targets -- the big fish running COSVN -- and as a way of protecting Phoenix from penetration by enemy agents, Abrams also asked that "consultation be initiated with the Attorney General ... to secure a team of two or three FBI counter-espionage experts to be sent to the RVN for the specific purpose of providing recommendations for the neutralization of important national level members of the [VCI]." [27]

Meanwhile, in Washington General Clay advocated increased attention on the DIOCCs, "the cutting edge of Phoenix," because "the district and village level infrastructure remains the key element in the enemy plan to subvert the Government ... and continues to produce the major threat against GVN efforts to consolidate pacification gains made in the past 18 months." Clay also noted that "Phung Hoang leadership is being improved by recognizing and expanding the prominence of the role of the Special Police in the functioning of the DIOCC." [28]

But in order to mount an attack against the VCI, the U.S. Army needed to gain access to Special Branch files in the DIOCCs. So in February 1970 a third Standard Operating Procedure manual was issued with instructions on how to use the ultimate Phoenix "management tool," the VCI "target folder." As stated in the Phung Hoang Adviser Handbook, "preparation of target folders is the foundation from which successful operations can be run and sentencing be assured by Province Security Committees." [29]

Target folders also served a public information function, by allowing William Colby to say that "our first step was to make sure that the intelligence we gathered on the VCI was accurate, and for this we set up standards and procedures by which to weed out the false from the correct information." [30]

Target folders were specifically designed to help Phoenix advisers focus on high-level VCI. Divided in two, a target folder contained a biographical data on the left side and operational information on the right, in which the suspect's habits, contacts, schedule, and modus operandi were recorded, along with captured documents and other evidence. The folder was the responsibility of the Special Branch case handler in the DIOCC, although a source on the suspect might be handled by another agency. Each Special Branch case handler was required to maintain ten People's Intelligence Organization (PIO) cells -- each consisting of three agents -- in each hamlet in his area of operations. As stated in the third Standard Operating Procedure manual, the tracking of a VCI suspect began when an informant reported someone making "suspicious utterances" or "spreading false rumors." As more and more sources informed on a suspect, he or she graduated from blacklist D to C to B, then finally to blacklist A -- most wanted -- at which point the VCI suspect was targeted for neutralization and an operation mounted. The folder was sent to the PIC while the suspect was being interrogated and to the Province Security Committee to assure proper sentencing.

In order to help Special Branch case handlers gather the precise evidence a security committee needed for quick convictions, training programs were started in each corps, where the case handlers were taught how to maintain target folders, a hundred thousand copies of which the Phoenix Directorate prepared and distributed in August 1970. To assure proper target folder maintenance, the Army also assigned a counterintelligence-trained enlisted man to each DIOCC. In 1970, 185 of these counterintelligence specialists graduated from the Phoenix Coordinators Orientation Course. They acted as liaison among the PIC, DIOCC, and PIOCC. In addition, a third officer was added to each PIOCC staff to coordinate with Chieu Hoi and Field Police, and in an effort to upgrade the status of Phoenix coordinators vis-a-vis the CIA's Special Branch advisers, region slots were filled by full colonels, with majors in PIOCCs and captains in DIOCCs. However, cooperation between province Phoenix coordinators and CIA province officers rarely occurred.

A survey of each corps in November 1970 produced these results: I Corps reported "that certain member agencies in the DlOCCs have a wealth of knowledge and information which had hithertofore never been tapped." II Corps reported that "professional jealousies and even distrust among agencies continue to impair progress." III Corps reported that "support comes from only one or two of the agencies represented, while others tend to ignore results." IV Corps reported that "each GVN intelligence agency closely guards its information, thus making dossier construction difficult." [31]

The problem, not explicitly stated, was that CIA officers, extracted from Phoenix by Ted Shackley and hidden away in embassy houses, saw only liabilities in sharing their sources with "amateurish" Phoenix coordinators.

Said Ed Brady: "They had their relationship with the PIC. Many of them either participated in or observed or were close at hand during the interrogations. So they had firsthand output from it. Very few of them, however, ever went and put that in the PIOCC or in the DIOCC ... which they were required to do by the procedures .... What they really did," he complained, "was go out and get their own organization, the PRU, and run their own separate operations. It wasn't a Special Branch operation. It belonged to the province officer. So if he thought he had some intelligence that could be acted upon, the U.S. tendency was to act on it unilaterally. They might invite a few Special Branch people to go along, but the Special Branch might not accept the invitation. Then if they caught somebody, they brought him back and turned him over to the Special Branch. They were so caught up in the mythology themselves, they'd say, "Hey! I'm running a Phoenix operation.'" [32]

Here Ed Brady chose to define Phoenix in its narrow organizational sense, as a division of CORDS with its own SOP, offices, and employees. But insofar as Phoenix is a symbol for the attack against the VCI and insofar as the PICs and PRU were the foundation stones upon which Nelson Brickham built ICEX, the province officers were in fact running Phoenix operations.

What is important to remember is that in order to achieve internal security in South Vietnam, America's war managers had to create and prolong an "emergency" which justified rule by secret decree and the imposition of a military dictatorship. And in order to gain the support of the American public in this venture, it was necessary for America's information managers to disguise the military dictatorship -- which supported itself through corruption and political repression -- as a bastion of Christian and democratic values besieged by demonic Communists.

In this context, Phoenix is the mask for the terror of the PICs and the PRU, and for the CIA's attempts at the political level "to eliminate the opposition to us and to control the Vietnamese through our clients." [33] Phoenix in the conceptual sense is all the programs it coordinated, as well as the "public information aspects" that concealed its purpose. All other definitions are merely "intellectual jargon."

"The point," Ed Murphy reminded us, "is that it was used in Vietnam, it was used in the United States, and it still is used in the United States."



i. "I made the biggest impact of the war when I pulled John out of III Corps and sent him to IV Corps because," Colby said to me, "that was going to be the major area of the pacification battle. He did a spectacular job." A compulsive liar and adulterer, Vann committed statutory rape in 1959. However, his wife lied on his behalf, and after rehearsing for days and going forty-eight hours without sleep, Vann passed a lie detector test and was exonerated. Like many senior American officers in Vietnam, Vann had several mistresses in Vietnam. [12]
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