1207Re: Vietnam War history
- Oct 31, 2005A Google search gives:
"Published on Monday, October 31, 2005 by the New York Times
Vietnam Study, Casting Doubts, Remains Secret
by Scott Shane"
The Vietnam War never seemed so noble before (comparatively speaking).
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@y...>
> I got this article from a friend at
> Central_Asia_Now@yahoogroups.com and thought you all
> might be interested. Sorry there's no link to the
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2005 14:52:20 -0000
> From: "awjfire" <williamfeuer@h...>
> Subject: Vietnam Study, Casting Doubts, Remains Secret
> A little off-topic maybe, but may be of interest...
> October 31, 2005 By SCOTT SHANE in the NYTimes
> WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 - The National Security Agency has
> kept secret
> since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that
> during the Tonkin
> Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam
> War, N.S.A.
> officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence
> to cover up
> their mistakes, two people familiar with the
> historian's work say.
> The historian's conclusion is the first serious
> accusation that
> communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the
> eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified
> so that they
> made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American
> destroyers on
> Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash.
> President Lyndon B.
> Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress
> to authorize
> broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians
> have concluded
> in recent years that there was no second attack.
> The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a
> pattern of
> translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered
> intercept times
> and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded
> him that
> midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the
> Mr. Hanyok concluded that they had done it not out of
> any political
> motive but to cover up earlier errors, and that top
> N.S.A. and
> defense officials and Johnson neither knew about nor
> condoned the
> Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years
> ago in a
> classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he
> and other
> government historians argued that it should be made
> public. But
> their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency
> policymakers, who
> by the next year were fearful that it might prompt
> comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to
> justify the war in
> Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar
> with some
> internal discussions of the matter.
> Matthew M. Aid, an independent historian who has
> discussed Mr.
> Hanyok's Tonkin Gulf research with current and former
> N.S.A. and
> C.I.A. officials who have read it, said he had decided
> to speak
> publicly about the findings because he believed they
> should have
> been released long ago.
> "This material is relevant to debates we as Americans
> are having
> about the war in Iraq and intelligence reform," said
> Mr. Aid, who is
> writing a history of the N.S.A. "To keep it classified
> because it might embarrass the agency is wrong."
> Mr. Aid's description of Mr. Hanyok's findings was
> confirmed by the
> intelligence official, who spoke on condition of
> anonymity because
> the research has not been made public.
> Both men said Mr. Hanyok believed the initial
> misinterpretation of
> North Vietnamese intercepts was probably an honest
> mistake. But
> after months of detective work in N.S.A.'s archives,
> he concluded
> that midlevel agency officials discovered the error
> immediately but covered it up and doctored documents
> so that they
> appeared to provide evidence of an attack.
> "Rather than come clean about their mistake, they
> helped launch the
> United States into a bloody war that would last for 10
> years," Mr.
> Aid said.
> Asked about Mr. Hanyok's research, an N.S.A. spokesman
> said the
> agency intended to release his 2001 article in late
> November. The
> spokesman, Don Weber, said the release had been
> "delayed in an
> effort to be consistent with our preferred practice of
> providing the
> public a more contextual perspective."
> Mr. Weber said the agency was working to declassify
> not only Mr.
> Hanyok's article, but also the original intercepts and
> other raw
> material for his work, so the public could better
> assess his
> The intelligence official gave a different account. He
> said N.S.A.
> historians began pushing for public release in 2002,
> after Mr.
> Hanyok included his Tonkin Gulf findings in a
> 400-page, in-house
> history of the agency and Vietnam called "Spartans in
> Though superiors initially expressed support for
> releasing it, the
> idea lost momentum as Iraq intelligence was being
> called into
> question, the official said.
> Mr. Aid said he had heard from other intelligence
> officials the same
> explanation for the delay in releasing the report,
> though neither he
> nor the intelligence official knew how high up in the
> agency the
> issue was discussed. A spokesman for Gen. Michael V.
> Hayden, who was
> the agency's. director until last summer and is now
> the principal
> deputy director of national intelligence, referred
> questions to Mr.
> Weber, the N.S.A. spokesman, who said he had no
> further information.
> Many historians believe that even without the Tonkin
> Gulf episode,
> Johnson might have found a reason to escalate military
> against North Vietnam. They note that Johnson
> apparently had his own
> doubts about the Aug. 4 attack and that a few days
> later told George
> W. Ball, the under secretary of state, "Hell, those
> dumb, stupid
> sailors were just shooting at flying fish!"
> But Robert S. McNamara, who as defense secretary
> played a central
> role in the Tonkin Gulf affair, said in an interview
> last week that
> he believed the intelligence reports had played a
> decisive role in
> the war's expansion.
> "I think it's wrong to believe that Johnson wanted
> war," Mr.
> McNamara said. "But we thought we had evidence that
> North Vietnam
> was escalating."
> Mr. McNamara, 89, said he had never been told that the
> might have been altered to shore up the scant evidence
> of a North
> Vietnamese attack.
> "That really is surprising to me," said Mr. McNamara,
> who Mr. Hanyok
> found had unknowingly used the altered intercepts in
> 1964 and 1968
> in testimony before Congress. "I think they ought to
> make all the
> material public, period."
> The supposed second North Vietnamese attack, on the
> destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy, played an outsize
> role in
> history. Johnson responded by ordering retaliatory air
> strikes on
> North Vietnamese targets and used the event to
> persuade Congress to
> pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on Aug. 7, 1964.
> It authorized the president "to take all necessary
> steps, including
> the use of armed force," to defend South Vietnam and
> its neighbors
> and was used both by Johnson and President Richard M.
> Nixon to
> justify escalating the war, in which 58,226 Americans
> and more than
> 1 million Vietnamese died.
> Not all the details of Mr. Hanyok's analysis,
> published in N.S.A.'s
> Cryptologic Quarterly in early 2001, could be learned.
> But they
> involved discrepancies between the official N.S.A.
> version of the
> events of Aug. 4, 1964, and intercepts from N.S.A.
> listening posts
> at Phu Bai in South Vietnam and San Miguel in the
> Philippines that
> are in the agency archives.
> One issue, for example, was the translation of a
> phrase in an Aug. 4
> North Vietnamese transmission. In some documents the
> phrase, "we
> sacrificed two comrades" - an apparent reference to
> during the clash with American ships on Aug. 2 - was
> translated as "we sacrificed two ships." That phrase
> was used to
> suggest that the North Vietnamese were reporting the
> loss of ships
> in a new battle Aug. 4, the intelligence official
> The original Vietnamese version of that intercept,
> unlike many other
> intercepts from the same period, is missing from the
> archives, the official said.
> The intelligence official said the evidence for
> falsification is "about as certain as it can be
> without a smoking
> gun - you can come to no other conclusion."
> Despite its well-deserved reputation for secrecy, the
> N.S.A. in
> recent years has made public dozens of studies by its
> Center for
> Cryptologic History. A study by Mr. Hanyok on signals
> and the Holocaust, titled "Eavesdropping on Hell," was
> last year.
> Two historians who have written extensively on the
> Tonkin Gulf
> episode, Edwin E. Moise of Clemson University and John
> Prados of the
> National Security Archive in Washington, said they
> were unaware of
> Mr. Hanyok's work but found his reported findings
> "I'm surprised at the notion of deliberate deception
> at N.S.A.," Dr.
> Moise said. "But I get surprised a lot."
> Dr. Prados said, "If Mr. Hanyok's conclusion is
> correct, it adds to
> the tragic aspect of the Vietnam War." In addition, he
> said, "it's
> new evidence that intelligence, so often treated as
> the Holy Grail,
> turns out to be not that at all, just as in Iraq."
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