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Letter From John Glennon to Gale W. Allen, September 1979

A scan of the original document is available for download (PDF, 132 KB, 4pp.)

Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 59, Entry UD-WW-9: Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian, Arthur Kogan Files, 1945-1980 (83 D 230), Box 2, Declassification Denials & Challenges. Confidential. Posted from a copy that bears Glennon’s initials in place of a signature. Drafted by Neal Petersen (PA/HO) on September 28 and cleared by David Mabon (PA/HO).

Cited in Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, Chapter 9, Footnote 15

Letter From John Glennon (Associate Historian for Asia, Africa, and the Pacific) to Gale W. Allen (Chief of the Classification Review Group at the Central Intelligence Agency)

Dear Mr. Allen:

I am writing in response to your letter of July 9, 1979, to Mr. Fredrick Aandahl concerning the review by the Central Intelligence Agency of documents of intelligence interest slated for publication in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Volume XIII; “Indochina”. As a result of that review CIA recommended that deletions be made in seventeen documents and that two papers be removed entirely. Your letter of August 27 to Mr. Aandahl conveyed the request that a deletion be made in an additional document.

As indicated in the attached list this office concurs in some of the proposed deletions. However, we recommend that a number of items be reconsidered.

In general, our areas of disagreement are confined to a limited number of points; we feel that mere indication of the CIA presence in Indochina, sometimes connoted by the abbreviation CAS, should not be grounds for the deletion of a passage, since no question of the compromising of intelligence sources and methods is involved. Secondly, we are concerned by deletions related to CIA interest in the development of anti-Viet Minh guerrilla units. The passages proposed for elimination serve to indicate that the agency had not been engaged significantly in such activities prior to the armistice, July 1954, due to French recalcitrance. This is an important point which should appear in the official historical record, and a point which is difficult to consider sensitive.

With regard to CIA activities in Indochina in the post-Geneva Conference period, actual or contemplated, nothing in the recommended excisions reveals information beyond that imparted in, Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars (New York: Harper & Row, 1972); United States Department of Defense, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, 12 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1971) (“The Pentagon Papers”); and The New York Times version of the Pentagon Papers (New York: · Quadrangle Books, 1971) -- see for example excerpts from the Lansdale Team’s report, pp. 54-67.

Finally, our charter does not permit us to substitute our own language for that of the original document, as is proposed in several instances in your letter of July 9.

Here follows a list of comments on specific documents.

1. The galley citations listed below refer to documentation involving CIA recommendations for deletions in which the Office of the Historian is prepared to concur:

  • 217 JAN
  • 427 JAN
  • 419 BER
  • 175 NED
  • 126-127 CHI

2. The galley citations listed below refer to deletions which seem to be based exclusively on mere mention of CIA presence or the appearance of the letters “CAS”, and are therefore contested:

  • 149 JAN
  • 210-211 JAN
  • 216 JAN
  • 320 CHI
  • 392 CHI

[Text not declassified.]

4. The statement of 458 JAN which, according to your letter of July 9, cannot be declassified, is a perceptive analysis by the unnamed senior CIA representative [text not declassified.] It was circulated at the highest levels of government and deserves to be part of the official record. We are unable to see how intelligence sources and methods would be compromised by declassification of this document.

5. We urge reconsideration of the proposed deletion on 292 BER. Since the text as a whole makes it clear that the President approved in principle the operation under consideration, hypothetical participation by the CIA hardly seems sensitive. In any event, the principles of compilation of the Foreign Relations series preclude the possibility of substituting our own language for a portion of the original text, as suggested.

6. With regard to the deletion proposed on 300 BER, a portion of the same document, including the objectionable passage, was selected for publication in Volume XII. In your letter of April 13, 1979, CIA objected to the release of only the portion of the sentence beginning with the word “indeed,” whereas in this instance, the entire sentence is recommended for deletion. Regardless, the points raised in my letter of August 29 (in response to your letter of April 13), continue to pertain. That CIA contemplated special operations in Indochina in the event of French defeat is public knowledge as a result of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Lansdale memoirs, and numerous unofficial works.

7. The proposed deletions on 321 BER, 326 BER, 343 BER, 344 BER, 354 BER, and 355 BER should also be reconsidered. The passages in question appear sensitive only in that they mention the well-known CIA presence in Indochina and confirm that the CIA had not been involved in anti-Viet Minh guerrilla training prior to mid-1954.

8. The proposed deletion on 360 BER also deserves another look. No more than the mention of the CIA studying the possibility of developing more dynamic Vietnamese leadership seems to be involved. Again, the suggested modification of language in the original text is not feasible.

9. The memorandum of conversation on 62-63 CHI, a State Department document, illuminates an important foreign policy matter, the status of the Hanoi consulate after the armistice. We urge reconsideration.

10. The telegram on 441-444 CHI is printed in its entirety in the Defense Department version of the Pentagon Papers, Book 10, pp. 811-813. The passages recommended for deletion on 442 CHI are therefore already declassified.

11. In your letter of August 27, 1979, you recommend deletion of a passage on galley [text not declassified] the area of planning for Guerrilla warfare. We urge reconsideration of this item on grounds delineated above.

Sincerely yours,
John Glennon