185. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

643. For Bundy.

Your message contained in Deptel 533.2
I will of course comply in every particular in not opening our work to the press—a policy in which I deeply believe. I will personally control knowledge of future cables, limiting them to DCM, to personal assistant, myself, and the rather large number of clerks and communications people who under our system must be in the know. I will not even bring in the Chief of the Political Section unless absolutely necessary. Of course Harkins, Brent and Smith will have to control their own offices and I am cautioning them. It is indeed most desirable to confront the Government of Viet-Nam with deeds rather than words, which are of little use, and I will certainly accept whatever dissatisfaction all this causes to reporters.
I would like to explain certain features of the press situation here concerning which helpful action might be taken in Washington, as follows:
Some agencies here have much better press relations than others. For example, CAS, which should have no press relations at all, has the worst, and this raises questions as to whether it is properly organized. I say this without prejudice to anyone, least of all anyone in CAS here. But a situation has arisen, doubtless brought about by the course of events, which requires attention.
Reporters here have unlimited ways of getting material in this city, which contains thousands of loquacious Americans. For example, last night Sheehan of UPI called several Embassy officers regarding departure of CAS Station Chief and was told nothing. At this writing (Sunday noon, Saigon) I know nothing of what is in U.S. press. Yet I would bet that Sheehan found someone who informed him and that word of CAS Station Chief’s departure is in print in U.S.3
One thing is certain: reporters here will write something every day. If U.S. Government gives nothing, they will work something up somehow. I wish I thought that it was possible for General Harkins and USOM to organize an extensive program to familiarize the press [Page 385] with interesting military and social economic programs in the countryside. But I believe that this would at most create one story and that they would all be back trying to ferret out the big story.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET Top Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only. Received at 9:15 a.m. and passed to the White House at 9:45 a.m.
  2. Document 180.
  3. According to telegram 651 from Saigon, October 7, United Press International reported on October 7 that John Richardson was being recalled and that “informed sources” indicated he would not return to Saigon. (Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET-US)