Developing the Counterintelligence Effort

In mid-1965, the Military Assistance Command counterintelligence resources were quite limited. Under the staff supervision of the Counterintelligence and Security Division of J-2, Military Assistance Command, the 704th Intelligence Corps Detachment provided counterintelligence support to the command and served in an advisory role with the South Vietnamese Military Security Service. Essentially, this was the extent of our counterintelligence capability. Colonel George McCutchen undertook the development of an adequate counterintelligence organization.

With the reorganization of the J-2 staff in August 1965, the Counterintelligence and Security Division was redesignated the Counterintelligence Division with three branches: Personnel Security, Counterintelligence, and Security of Military Information. Counterintelligence operations continued under the 704th Intelligence Corps Detachment. In December 1965 Company B of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion arrived in Vietnam and absorbed the mission, personnel, and equipment of the 704th.

In September 1966 the 135th Military Intelligence Group arrived under the command of Colonel Paul Goodman. The 135th assimilated Company B of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion and assumed responsibility for executing the Military Assistance Command counterintelligence mission.

Continuing the example set by his predecessors, Colonel Goodman worked closely with the Military Security Service, and excellent counterpart relations existed. The increased counterintelligence capability permitted the deployment of counterintelligence teams to each province of South Vietnam. Often collocated with local Military Security Service elements, these teams participated regularly in combined operations. Close co-operation was essential to the success of our counterintelligence effort. The lack of linguists and the inability of occidentals to blend inconspicuously with the Vietnamese made combined operations not only


desirable but necessary. Since we required interpreters and translators as quickly as possible, we had to rely on Vietnamese who knew English.

In order to conduct effective counterintelligence operations without infringing upon the sovereignty of the government of Vietnam, official agreements between Military Assistance Command and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces outlining the parameters of our authority to engage in counterintelligence operations were negotiated.

Throughout 1966 the counterintelligence program gradually improved. The mission grew considerably in November of that year when the Combined Intelligence Staff became functional. Combined operations expanded. By mid-1967 a sophisticated counterintelligence apparatus extended to all parts of South Vietnam. Counterintelligence services were available to every Military Assistance Command element and we were continuing to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our programs.

Counterintelligence Operations

Counterintelligence Instructions Number 1, published in March 1966, was the initial effort to implement a Military Assistance Command counterintelligence standing operating procedure. As operations expanded, problems arose concerning command and staff relationships within the counterintelligence apparatus, area responsibilities, release and exchange of counterintelligence information, funds, and source control procedures. The instructions were revised and reissued, and in November 1966 work was begun on preparing Counterintelligence Instructions Number 2. However, the problems presented by the different geographic areas of Vietnam hindered the development of procedures that would apply without exception throughout the country. Consequently, the concept was changed and the Counterintelligence Division started preparing a command guide that would become effective in mid 1967.

Within the Vietnamese armed forces, the counterintelligence mission was assigned to the Military Security Service which did not fall under the control or staff supervision of the J-2, Joint General Staff, Colonel Ho Van Loi. In a Ministry of Defense directive issued in August 1965, the Military Security Service was given full responsibility for counterintelligence, while organic intelligence elements of other agencies were restricted to "pure" intelligence activities. Counterintelligence information collected other than by the Military Security Service was to be funneled into


its channels. All intelligence agencies that became aware of information pertaining to sabotage, subversion, or proselyting were obligated immediately to notify the Security Service so that appropriate investigative or punitive action could be initiated. This policy probably was intended to achieve more effective utilization of collection and exploitation resources, a goal which proved elusive well into 1967. Because of its over-all orientation on domestic affairs, however, the Military Security Service retained a great interest in political reporting. Yet despite its interest in activity against the regime, we received cooperation from the Military Security Service to the extent of stationing U.S. personnel in its offices. I enjoyed fine working relations with Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, who headed the service as well as the National Police. I respected him as a dedicated and professional officer.

To facilitate co-ordination of counterintelligence activities among the U.S. component commands and to promote interservice cooperation, the Counterintelligence Division established an orientation course for counterintelligence personnel. Navy and Air Force representatives taught the organization and mission of their respective units, and the curriculum included classes on the operations of friendly law enforcement and counterintelligence agencies in Vietnam, hostile intelligence agencies, the infrastructure, operational principles of counterespionage, counterintelligence targets, conduct of special operations, source control, and the missing U.S. Personnel and prisoner program in Southeast Asia.

Education, as an effective measure for harmonizing joint counterintelligence efforts, was equally applicable to combined programs. Thus, in August 1966, the Combined Intelligence School stressed counterintelligence operations directed against the infrastructure.

The effect of enemy propaganda on U.S., Vietnamese, and allied personnel was of particular concern. Considerable propaganda had been directed by the Communists against U.S. servicemen. In 1966, combined operations in the III Corps area had been deluged by Viet Cong leaflets which, while purporting to provoke disaffection and defection from within the U.S. ranks, subtlely reminded the Vietnamese that their American counterparts might be vulnerable, since these leaflets included a Vietnamese translation. To help counter this activity all enemy propaganda material was collected and analyzed in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, which retained authority for developing counterthemes to be used for counterpropaganda psychological exploitation of enemy weaknesses.

Upon entry into the Republic of Vietnam, all arrivals received


comprehensive security orientations, including descriptions of hostile intelligence methods and military security. Since U.S. armed forces in Vietnam were a prime target for enemy intelligence efforts, everyone was reminded, through the initial and subsequent orientations, of his responsibility for reporting any observed suspicious activity and was told how and to whom to report.

Security inspections, liaison visits, and counterintelligence physical security evaluations were conducted throughout the command in order to remind our personnel continually to practice security.

The Military Assistance Command installation security program was directed at preventing sabotage. We defined sabotage and forwarded the definition to Pacific Command. We developed a specific directive to cover countersabotage operations. Contingency countersabotage plans were prepared for strategically important areas such as Saigon. We assessed potential vulnerabilities and advanced countermeasures to eliminate them. For example, we prepared a detailed plan for the physical security of the fifteen power facilities in the Saigon electric loop system. This planning involved conducting vulnerability assessments for all Saigon power facilities during the period 20 March-4 April 1967. The assessment evaluated guard forces, alarm systems, perimeter lighting, physical barriers, and other essential elements ordinarily part of a regular physical security survey. The over-all physical security of the facilities was judged "fairly good," though vulnerabilities such as poor lighting and families living within compounds were apparent. Both the MACV commander and the Mission Council were briefed on the project. The study concluded that the Viet Cong did present a constant threat to the facilities, with an even more likely target being the power lines in Saigon's periphery. Since power loop security was deemed in essence a civil matter under the aegis of the Vietnamese authorities, it was suggested that the U.S. Agency for International Development, which had both police and public works advisers counseling the Vietnamese, be designated the logical agency to have primary responsibility for insuring adequate maintenance for the physical security of the power facilities.

As an outgrowth of these early efforts to protect the Saigon power system, the Combined Security Committee was established under the directorship of the Chief of the Saigon Municipal Police to safeguard U.S. and allied personnel and installations against Viet Cong terrorism. Measures such as the ones taken on behalf of installation security began to manifest a co-operative spirit evi-


denced not only on the governmental level but among the people as well. Thus, the Citizens Incentive Rewards Program was used successfully in support of security functions by enlisting the cooperation of the Vietnamese public to report Communist terrorists, sappers, and the like.

In April 1967 another directive established criteria for designating critical and key installations in Military Assistance Command. A critical installation by definition was one of "such vital importance that its loss or severe damage" would entail "unacceptable delay or reduction in U.S. ability to wage war" or "cause major revision in the overall tactical planning of the war." Loss of a key installation would, in general, hamper U.S. Ability to continue the conflict. Appropriate commanders were assigned responsibility for these installations. Commanders without an organic counterintelligence capability were enjoined to request assistance from their next higher headquarters.

Security of Military Information

The disclosure program in Vietnam for releasing classified information to our allies was a significant development that had great bearing on U.S. policy for security of military information. Our policy was based on the concept that the combined intelligence program demanded a free exchange of classified information among all participants-that intelligence personnel sitting side by side, working on the same project, and fighting the same enemy should have equal access to all available data. A lesser policy could only hinder our efforts to seek out the enemy, foster mistrust, and inhibit the maintenance of mutual respect and confidence. As a first step, maintaining classified information that could not be released in any of the combined centers was forbidden. This step drew criticism from many of the Americans involved in the combined program because they insisted that such data were essential to their jobs. Consequently, a list was prepared of all documents vital to the combined intelligence mission bearing the NOFORN (no foreign dissemination) caveat. We sent the list to the Defense Intelligence Agency with the request that it be reviewed with a goal of deleting the caveats. This procedure was time consuming, but eventually almost every document on the list was approved for release. For other than NOFORN information, my efforts secured an exception to national policy that gave General Westmoreland broad authority to disclose intelligence information classified through top secret, both Department of Defense and non-


Department of Defense originated, that pertained to hostile activities in Southeast Asia. Release would be based on the need to know as determined by the U.S. element concerned. This represented a breakthrough in the combined intelligence program and greatly facilitated operations.

In implementing the disclosure authority, the Counterintelligence Division published memoranda to serve as guides for the J-2 staff in providing information to our allies. One officer within each division was designated the point of contact for releasing information to allies. Anyone within a division might bring to him the documents to be released. If uncertainties about releasing the materials arose, the point of contact had recourse in the Counterintelligence Division where the disclosure officer, appointed by the division chief, would resolve the problem. No mandatory requirements dictated that dissemination automatically be approved; in fact, a prerequisite was that some benefits would accrue to the United States as a result of the disclosure. Upon receiving a request for permission to release classified information, the disclosure officer determined if current criteria were met. If not authorized, he informed the requester of the rationale for denial. The Disclosure Office maintained files of all disclosures, and the point of contact in each division kept records of any disclosures he had allowed.

Security of military information was the focal point for a significant intelligence effort in the Republic of Vietnam. The employment of local laborers on all military bases complicated the security program. Further, the tremendous increase in U.S. units and the expansion of the U.S. role brought forth an avalanche of classified documents and material. The need for an accurate accounting system was obvious. After a command-wide inventory of classified documents was initiated, the Counterintelligence Division instituted a program to reduce the number of secret and top secret items held by U.S. Units in Vietnam: Command emphasis was applied to encourage the reduction in classified inventories. A monthly report was required to show the number of classified documents on hand at the beginning and end of the reporting period, the number of new documents generated, the number destroyed, the number dispatched, and the number downgraded. Within the Military Assistance Command staff, security control officers were required to attend a special training course before assuming their security duties. This training, besides making them knowledgeable of Military Assistance Command security policies and procedures, stressed supervision of security measures and practices within the staff offices and continuous security education.


Execution of the document security program was the responsibility of a field grade officer obtained specifically for that task from the Military Assistance Command Adjutant General. With a counterintelligence team of seven agents, he conducted inspections, and security checks to ascertain and evaluate compliance with Military Assistance Command security regulations, provided technical assistance, and supervised the training of the security control officers.

If the classified documents required intensive protection, so too did the information which they contained. In October 1965, a counterintelligence directive focused attention on security of classified operational plans. All major Military Assistance Command activities involved in operational planning were made responsible both for compartmentalization of various elements of the planning staff (minimizing complete familiarity with any given plan) and for insuring that individual elements of the over-all plan were not disclosed to persons not having a verified need to know. Procedures were thus commanded for the activities to effect situations to afford each element only that information necessary to prepare its component part of a plan.

Interest in security permeated all levels of the tactical and advisory chains of command. The rather simple, unsophisticated character of the enemy disguised his complex, highly efficient intelligence system. The insurgents' use of informers and agents could have limited the allied effort. Further, it is doubtful that the average U.S. officer or enlisted man ever appreciated the extent of the Communist collection effort even though the Counterintelligence Division placed maximum emphasis on educating them to the security hazards confronting the command daily.

The extensive use of local Vietnamese in administrative, logistical, and custodial services made U.S. facilities vulnerable to penetration and presented a serious challenge to the counterintelligence program. We alleviated the problem somewhat by requiring that Vietnamese full-time employees receive a favorable personnel security investigation from the Military Security Service, but hiring hordes of unscreened day laborers for construction and similar tasks constituted a continuing danger. Command attention was focused on the threats to security, and detailed, extremely restrictive directives served to remind all personnel of their security responsibilities. Widespread use of counterintelligence services, particularly inspections and technical surveys, improved the security posture of the command. Announced and unannounced inspections revealed inattention to basic security in the early days, but improvements noted in subsequent inspections indicated that our security


education programs and increased command interest were achieving some success.

Even though Military Assistance Command was a joint headquarters, Army Regulation 380-5, Safeguarding Defense Information, was used as the basis for the command information security program, and a directive was prepared to adapt the statutory requirements to the situation in Vietnam. We had to insure that the information was available to those who needed it; therefore, the protective measures had to be realistic, yet achievable. For example, storage requirements were modified to fit the capabilities of tactical units and advisory teams. Another aspect concerned security classifications and marking. Because of combined operations with the Vietnamese, it was to be expected that a common need existed for access to sensitive data. A compatible security system was essential in furtherance of the combined concept. We agreed to honor each other's regulations and to afford the required protection to each other's classified information. To avoid confusion and preclude the mistaken impression that all information was freely exchangeable, security classifications were marked only in the language of the originator or proponent of a document. In a similar vein, all the allied forces in Vietnam accepted each other's personnel security policies. The multinational complexion of the military establishment demanded unquestioning cooperation among the members.

The Counterintelligence Division also was charged with developing the original files on Americans who were reported as missing in action or captured. The value of such records is evident. Precise biographic and identification data facilitated the evaluation of reports of prisoner sightings and assisted in refuting or confirming North Vietnamese and Viet Cong announcements about Americans who were being detained. The escalation of the U.S. effort, particularly the increase in missing and captured men as a result of the air war, eventually made the task unmanageable and the Counterintelligence Division was relieved of this responsibility.

I believed that censorship such as General Dwight D. Eisenhower exercised in World War II should be instituted. I requested that experts be placed on temporary duty with me in Saigon for planning. Three outstanding Reserve officers, Colonel James J. McHale, U.S. Air Force Reserve; Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Goldberg, U.S. Army Reserve; and Commander Charles Heinbockel, U.S. Naval Reserve, were made available to me. They prepared draft plans for armed forces, civil, and prisoner of war censorship. These plans were completed in March 1966. They were furnished to all sections of the Military Assistance Command


staff and component commanders for detailed planning and through the Commander in Chief, Pacific, to the Defense Intelligence Agency for information. The decision was never made to impose censorship; however, we were ready.

Communications Security

The day I became J-2, I requested and received general staff responsibility for the formulation of policy governing communications security. The signal officer was to establish such security within J-2 policy. All other staffs were made responsible for reviewing their activities for security considerations. Security of communications, as a result, proved mainly an administrative matter for the J-2 staff: It provided guidance and tasking to the communications security support elements of the Service cryptologic agencies in devising plans for supporting Military Assistance Command and the component commands; it validated third country requirements for communications security material; -and it promoted a staff visit program to check adherence to communications security policies and procedures at all echelons. In the meantime, the signal officer's staff had many practical concerns such as insuring that communications systems installed and operated by U.S. forces met the published security standards; advising Vietnamese and other commanders on the design, installation, and operation of communications systems to achieve communications security objectives; and formulating plans for introduction of new security equipment or material in Vietnam.

Within the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, the J-7 had responsibility for communications security and the J-2 had only an intelligence liaison mission.

With the increased U.S. activity, security malpractices were bound to multiply. The Counterintelligence Division wasted little time in developing standing operating procedures designed to enhance security. The first directive was published in October 1965 and covered conventional telephone and voice communications. The telephone, a convenient transmission medium whose extensive and common usage was required by the urgency and number of daily actions, represented a potentially prolific and reliable source of intelligence for an enemy. In addition, telephone conversations within Vietnam to terminals outside the Saigon area were transmitted by radio besides being routed through switchboards operated by or accessible to local nationals. We directed staff officers to become "aware of the vulnerability of the


telephone and, within their respective sections, insure through supervision that personnel remained security conscious when using the telephone." In December another directive-incorporating the "out front" philosophy-enhanced communications security, compelling that communications security requirements be considered during the planning phase of all types of operations, to include methods and procedures to protect communications from enemy exploitation. Component commanders were enjoined to develop and institute communications security programs and provide the Counterintelligence Division copies of implementing instructions.

Cryptographic security was singled out for special attention, since it was "one of the most sensitive and closely held categories of classified information." Unless specifically authorized, U.S. advisers employing operations codes were implored not to store such material lower than battalion level and then only under augmented provisions. Unauthorized access to cryptographic information constituted a serious hazard bordering on compromise, which had to be reported as a physical security violation. Indeed, both allies and civilian employees were considered in a different light when seen through the eyes of communications security specialists: providing communications security aid to foreign governments was allowed only after approval and guidance had been extended by national communications security authorities. Prerequisite consultation through channels to the Counterintelligence Division proved necessary before such assistance became available to allied forces.

A different appreciation for communication security raised some problems. For example, the same sensitive operational information passed by secure means in U.S. communications might be transmitted concurrently over the telephone by an allied element. Even within our own forces there were instances of partial disregard for security when commanders sometimes failed to observe all the communications standards. Still, considerable progress was made in the field of communications security and the Counterintelligence Division achieved commendable success in improving the over-all communications security posture of the command.


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