211. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) and the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins)1

[document number not declassified] 1. Saigon 1896.2 [2 document numbers not declassified]3 and your recent Critics have been considered at highest levels. We wish to reaffirm instructions contained CAS 742284 and within their context we have the following comments for your consideration.

2. Certain aspects of the Don-Conein contacts give us considerable concern. Don’s reference (1) to a Presidential directive and to a scheduled meeting with Amb Lodge, for which there was no basis, (2) the lack of information regarding Don’s real backing, and (3) the lack of evidence that any real capabilities for action have been developed, all lead us to wonder whether there may be danger Nhu attempting entrapment through Don’s approaches to Conein.

3. We wonder whether it is wise to risk continued involvement of Conein in the dialogue with Don, since not only might it destroy his usefulness, but might also involve you and General Harkins in an operation which is difficult to deny. Is it possible to arrange a more secure system of contacts with General Don and others in the military, perhaps through cut-outs. We do feel quite strongly that you and Gen Harkins should stand back from any non-essential involvement in these matters. CAS septel makes other technical suggestions.5

4. We also need urgently your personal assessment of Don’s own status, the group he represents, and whatever plans they may have for the future. Considering all these factors, it seems wise to maintain close control over meetings between Don and Conein.

  1. Source: Department of State, Har-Van Files, Coup South Vietnam. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 207.
  3. Reference is to two CIA telegrams from Saigon described in Document 209.
  4. Document 192.
  5. CIA telegram [document number not declassified] to Saigon, dated October 24. (Department of State, Har-Van Files, Coup South Vietnam)