257. Memorandum From the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency (Carver) to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1


  • The Attack on the Communist (Viet Cong) Organization and Its Supporters, Particularly at the Village and Hamlet Level
The mainspring of the Communist insurgency in South Vietnam is the Communist organization, built around an elaborate, interlocked hierarchical structure of controlling committees ranging from COSVN (the Central Committee of the “People’s Revolutionary Party,” the name the Communist Party uses in South Vietnam), through six regional committees, (Communist) province committees and their subordinate district committees to the Communist village committees. Collectively, this committee structure and the personnel who staff its various components are referred to as the Communist organization, apparatus or “infrastructure.” The term “infrastructure” is often misleading, however, since it is sometimes employed in a technical sense to denote members of this committee structure, which stops at the village level, and sometimes in a non-technical generic sense to denote all VC activists, adherents or sympathizers many of whom, of course, reside in hamlets or elsewhere throughout the countryside.
As I indicated in our conversation on the return trip from Vietnam, the formal attack on the Communist organization—as a structured bureaucratic entity—is perforce targeted at village level and above, and this is why the briefing we were given on CORDS/ICEX had this focus. The general attack on the Communist target, however, obviously has to go below the village to the hamlet and population-mass level.
To support this general attack, the CIA Station in Vietnam has developed five programs, two of which are specifically aimed at the hamlet and population-mass level target. These programs are:
The Hamlet Informant Program
The Census Grievance Program
The systematic interrogation of captured or defected Viet Cong
Agent penetrations of the VC organization
The Provincial Reconnaissance Units
The Hamlet Informant Program: Within a rural community, there is very little that goes on that does not become a matter of common knowledge to members of that community. In Vietnam, this means that hamlet residents and villagers recruited as secret informants are able to report on the identities of Viet Cong cadre and sympathizers (village and district committee members, propagandists, tax collectors, etc.), and on members of local guerrilla forces. In 1964, in conjunction with Police Special Branch elements at province and district headquarters, the CIA Station undertook a program for systematically recruiting such informants in hamlets programmed for “pacification.” Informant reports provide identification and biographic information on individual VC and frequently include sketches of their location within a hamlet. Informants are also able to produce low-level, low-grade tactical information (for example, early warning information). Reports are disseminated at sector level and district level. Over four thousand informants have been recruited (throughout South Vietnam) under this program and their activities produce around four thousand reports each month.
The Census Grievance Program: The Census Grievance Program, also begun in 1964, is a specialized program, the main overt purposes of which are to assist Province Chiefs in determining the political sympathies of the province population and to establish a mechanism for the articulation of aspirations and redress of grievances. A covert purpose and an important product of the program is to develop information from hamlet residents and villagers on the local VC organization and activities. The product is very similar to that obtained from the above described Hamlet Informant Program.
The Census Grievance Program is implemented through the use of one or two man units established in accessible hamlets. A person-by-person census is conducted in each such hamlet and the local Census Grievance unit uses the data collected in continuous regular interviews of each hamlet family. These units are directly responsible to the Province Chief and they provide him with an instrument through which popular grievances and aspirations can be ascertained. The Census Grievance cadre, in the course of these interviews, produce a large volume of infrastructure and tactical information on the Viet Cong which is disseminated immediately to local users. As of 1 June 1967, approximately 4,000 Census Grievance units with about 5,250 cadre, were providing information on VC personnel, installations, caches, etc. These units (one to a hamlet) produce about 1,800 reports per month. Their activity, despite the similarity in nomenclature is separate from that of the Census Grievance components of RD teams, which also produce intelligence of this nature.
Province Interrogation Centers (PICs): Inadequate exploitation of captured, arrested and defected Viet Cong led our Vietnam Station (in [Page 645] the summer of 1965) into undertaking the construction and operation of interrogation facilities in the provinces. This program, developed in conjunction with the Vietnamese Police Special Branch, now has 33 PICs in operation (seven more will be completed at an early date). The purpose of each PIC is to provide in-depth interrogation reports from VC prisoners and ralliers on biographic information of VC known to them in their villages and hamlets, to include a sketch of the location of the individual’s domicile. (In theory, local forces will then act upon this information by raids and capture of identified members of the Communist organization.) In addition to personality information, prisoners are immediately interrogated for any information that is of immediate tactical interest to local US or GVN military or paramilitary forces. They are later debriefed in depth on their knowledge of the VC political apparatus, its plans and its policies. The individual interrogation reports are distributed to Vietnamese US/Free World Forces at district, province and higher echelons, as appropriate.
Outside of its interrogation function, each of the PICs also has a collation section into which interrogation reports are deposited along with intelligence reports from other Vietnamese intelligence organs. Biographic cards are filed alphabetically by hamlet, village, district and province as are reports broken down by specific topics such as “VC Taxation,” “VC Security Apparatus,” etc. The biographic material is readily retrievable for the preparation of “black lists” of identified VC to support military and pacification operations. The cards are cross-indexed to individual biographic interrogation reports giving additional details.
Agent Penetration Operations: In conjunction with both the Police Special Branch (PSB) and the Field Operations element of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), our Station runs joint agent penetrations of the Viet Cong apparatus. These operations, directed against the People’s Revolutionary Party and the National Liberation Front, involve agents located, for the most part, in village and district Viet Cong committees. These operations produce a substantial amount of information useful tactically by military elements, and also produce a large volume of intelligence on Communist cadre, information on political and economic activities, etc. An average of 1,000–1,200 reports are produced and disseminated monthly as a result of these operations.
Province Reconnaissance Units (PRU): PRU teams, whose primary functions are to gather intelligence on and conduct special operations against the VC organization, are currently operating in 28 provinces under the direct cognizance of the Province Chiefs. The PRUs operate mainly in contested areas and in VC-controlled areas (usually at night) against identified Communist officials. In areas where heavy military action is underway, the teams are frequently used for military reconnaissance purposes. In the six months ending 30 April 1967, the PRUs conducted [Page 646] 1,658 operations, from which 2,340 reports were produced. A total of 814 VC captured in these operations provided substantial information on the VC organization, from hamlet to province level.
Inter-Agency and Combined Intelligence Activities: In addition to the above programs, we are engaged in a series of other activities against the Communist organization which are undertaken on a combined and/or joint basis with MACV and the GVN:
District Operations Intelligence Coordination Centers (DOICC): During the latter part of 1966, our Station undertook the creation of district coordination centers, and established several prototypes in I Corps. These centers, established with the cooperation and support of the US Marine units in the area, include participation of all Vietnamese intelligence collection agencies operating locally. The purpose of the centers is to break down the mutual jealousies and poor coordination practices of the Vietnamese agencies, to function as information clearing houses and collation centers, and to eliminate delays in dissemination of information. This concept has proven successful and is now being applied in many districts throughout Vietnam.
Combined MR IV Task Force: This organization was established in December 1966 to provide an intelligence collation and coordination center for the VC Military Region IV (Saigon, Cholon, Gia Dinh, and immediate environs). It is staffed by Vietnamese, MACV, and CIA personnel and data collected is incorporated in the MACV machine records repository for prompt retrieval. We understand that this concept is being expanded into II Corps.
Screening Operations: In conjunction with the Vietnamese Police Special Branch, our Station organizes support for combat units in screening detainees and refugees, mainly in the various cordon and search type operations. Mobile screening centers have been created to facilitate this support. Police Special Branch develops suspect lists from information from all of the foregoing programs, and provides interrogation and check-point support for military units. These techniques have succeeded in identifying numerous Viet Cong detained in the course of operations, and have the effect of denying the VC the ability to hide among the population.
Infrastructure Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation Structure (ICEX): This new staff structure is designed to bring all the foregoing programs, as well as a number of MACV programs, under the operational control of Deputy to COMUSMACV for CORDS (Ambassador Komer) and into an integrated and sharply-focused attack on the VC organization. ICEX coordinators (CIA Regional Officers) have been appointed to the staffs of Senior Corps Advisors, and to the staffs of Sector Advisors (CIA or MACV officers), in order to achieve unified line of command and a sharp stimulation of anti-infrastructure operations.
Conclusion: In short, though much remains to be done, there are programs already in operation directed against the hamlet and population-mass level Communist target in addition to existing or newly developed programs directed against the formal organizational structure whose lowest command unit is the village committee.
GW Allen 2
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Vietnam 380 Pacification (Jul-) 1967. Secret. A stamped notation, dated August 19, indicates that McNamara saw the memorandum.
  2. George Allen signed for George Carver above Carver’s typed signature.