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CIA and the Vietnam Policy Makers: Three Episodes 1962-1968


This site contains a recently-declassified study on the CIA's intelligence assessments concerning Vietnam, written by Harold P. Ford, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, and sponsored by the Center for the Study of Intelligence of the CIA, in 1997. The report assesses CIA intelligence involvement in three episodes between 1962 and 1968, and the effects of this intelligence on U.S. officials' policymaking. The first episode, from 1962 to 1963, is entitled "Distortions of Intelligence," and involves what Dr. Ford calls a "policy wish" that colored the formulation of intelligence about the positions of U.S. supported governments in former French-Indochina. The second episode, from 1963 to 1965, outlines the CIA's judgments on President Lyndon Johnson's decision to increase involvement in Vietnam. The third episode, from 1967 to 1968, examines the CIA's intelligence gathering involvement in the Order-of-Battle controversy and the Tet Offensive. Ford concludes that the CIA's input to policymaking in these three episodes constituted a "mixed picture," in which there were times when the CIA's judgment was correct but not heeded and other times when the Agency's intelligence was used but turned out to be wrong. But he asserts that CIA intelligence was generally better than that of other official contributors. The author used formerly classified CIA documents, personal interviews with participants, documents and other materials in the public domain, and the author's own experience as senior analyst of Indochina questions for the CIA. While this site is a good source for information on strategy, foreign policy, and intelligence during the Vietnam War, it is a technical report that uses the jargon of political science and foreign policy. It may be a bit difficult for high-school age students to understand or properly use this site.