America’s reporters in Vietnam became unwitting tools of Hanoi’s intelligence apparatus
Even worse, most of them were cool with that
This is a fascinating and important read:
The life and career of Pham Xuan An requires honest scholars to revisit the established narratives of the Vietnam War, the reporters who got famous there, and the internal CIA wars of the 1970s.
PHAM XUAN AN: VIETNAM’S TOP SPY
Why Did U.S. Journalists Love Him?
When An was revealed as a murderous communist spy, most of the reporters who had worked with him were ready to extol him as a fair and honest journalist.
I thought An deserved to be lauded by the communists as a hero of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He had done his job well. But I didn’t see him as an American hero. So when an excerpt from Bass’s book appeared in The New Yorker in 2005 quoting journalists I knew as singing his praises, I wrote a letter to the editor, saying:
“It was one thing to have been against the Vietnam Warmany of us werebut quite another to express unconditional admiration for a man who spent a large part of his life pretending to be a journalist while helping to kill Americans.”
Grant provides a concise, brilliant illustration of how An played 3-D chess with his American friends at the Battle of Ap Bac (January 1963).
The short version: the esteemed “journalist” used his American connections to discover the timing and location of an ARVN offensive. He alerts his superiors in the Viet Cong. VC uses that foreknowledge to ambush and defeat ARVN offensive. “Journalist” explains to his American friends that battle proves that SVN forces are unable to match VC in morale and training, hence they are doomed to lose. American reporters use the battle to undermine American officials in Saigon who are optimistic about prospects for ARVN in future.
Before William Colby became head of CIA, he clashed with the chief of counterintelligence, James Angleton, because the latter believed that Colby’s operations in Vietnam were insecure, riddled with spies, and susceptible to Communist disinformation. Turns out, he was right.
Fifty years later, J-schools and reporters still think those naïve American reporters should be role models.
After Colby became DCIA he fired Angleton and downplayed the importance of counterintelligence.
CIA proceeded to get conned by a long-series of double-agents and disinformation campaigns.