282. Telegram From the Station in Saigon to the Central Intelligence Agency1

CAS 0685. Please pass the following message to the Secretary of State from Ambassador Bunker.

“In view of recent developments described below, I would like to recommend a proposal for your earliest attention and decision.

“On 12 August, an emissary who is a close associate of Presidential candidate Tran Van Huong contacted an Embassy officer and pleaded a strong case for financial support for Huong whom he described as being in severe financial straits. He asked whether there might be an American businessman whom Embassy officer could recommend and to whom appeal for funds could be directed. This development coupled with the increasing pressures upon Prime Minister Ky from our side as well as from the press and internal political events over past two weeks,2 leads me to propose that a covert political subsidy in the form of limited funds simultaneously be given to both the Thieu/Ky and Tran Van Huong tickets, the two main contenders in the race for the Presidency. In the case of Thieu/Ky, the funds would be passed securely [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] with whom CAS is in contact. In the case of Huong, funds could possibly be passed by an unofficial American citizen [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to Huong’s close associate who contacted the Embassy officer to describe Huong’s financial problems.

“My rationale for this proposal is that limited financial support provided now would give us both some degree of leverage on the winner as well as a degree of influence with the loser through which we would hope to obtain his cooperation with the winning candidate’s new administration. While the problem would probably be more critical should Huong win and be faced with a hostile military establishment, a Thieu/Ky victory would on the other hand be more palatable nationally if the civilian contenders play an important role in running the country’s affairs through the new government. An injection of financial aid to Huong’s group now may help to induce Huong to continue [Page 697]to campaign as vigorously as possible between now and the election, perhaps thus helping to dispel the atmosphere that now surrounds the entire effort and projecting a more favorable image of the overall campaign. It would also be particularly useful for us to be able to ’do something’ now for Ky, who appears to be smarting under the diverse pressures, some of which are described above. He is of course a crucial element in the present and future political mix in Vietnam, and his ego demands a certain amount of attention and reassurance from time to time to keep him aligned on a course of action acceptable to both the Americans and the Vietnamese. Finally, of course, our providing funds to these two groups, particularly the Thieu/Ky organization, will hopefully minimize their attempts to raise funds through unsavory techniques which might hit the press and cause scandal tainting what otherwise may be a reasonably honest election.

“The foregoing should be considered in light of Ky’s also having recently approached us through the special CAS channel contact with a specific and detailed request for campaign fund assistance, a request which was politely but firmly turned aside by the CAS officer acting under our policy instructions.”

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Most Sensitive. Carver forwarded the message to Read in an attached memorandum of the same day.
  2. After the Dong Ha affair, opposition candidates ceased campaigning. At the request of U.S. officials, who feared an anti-American backlash if political activity remained moribund, Huong persuaded the other major candidates to resume their active campaigns on August 12. (Telegrams 2945 and 2970 from Saigon, August 12; ibid.)