371. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the Station in Saigon1

CAS 47716. Pls deliver following message strictly eyes only, repeat strictly eyes only to Bunker from Secretary.

  • “1. All of us here are of course deeply interested in the report through this channel of message from Tong. We are awaiting Station interpretation and your comments as you see fit, before going further on nature of response.
  • “2. However, it strikes us all at once that it is vitally important, unless there is some factor of which we are not aware, for you to inform Thieu at once of this development. We assume he already knows about the outgoing message from our side, and it is obvious that if anything should develop in the field of prisoner exchange we would have to consult very closely with them on all aspects. Moreover, the broader second half of the message may conceivably be known and more likely become known to them, and it looks to us virtually impossible to separate this broader second half from the questions of prisoner exchange in which the GVN would be inextricably involved. Furthermore, time looks to us to be of the essence in terms of GVN confidence in our actions.
  • “3. Thus, we believe you should see Thieu in private just as soon as possible to inform him of at least the general nature of the response. If he should then designate someone to work with us on the details, we could thereafter give the whole story to that man. However, our inclination would be in the direction of a total and verbatim disclosure to Thieu right at the outset.
  • “4. Please act accordingly unless you have some overriding contrary reason, in which case advise us at once. Please give us a full report of what you have told Thieu if you do go ahead.
  • “5. We are meeting further on this Sunday2 morning our time, to review information and thoughts available here. It would naturally be most helpful to have Station and your interpretation and comments at that time if you are in position to handle it.
  • “6. If you see Thieu at once, question may naturally arise whether this development should in any way affect contents of his inaugural [Page 938]speech. While we continue to hope that he can say something along line of reconciliation, we believe any dramatic new message at this moment, going beyond what has been foreshadowed, might be read by the senders of Tong’s message as a specific reply from the GVN, whom they may believe would not be fully informed at this stage. Hence, our net conclusion is not to urge Thieu to take any special account whatever of this development in his inaugural speech plans.”3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Top Secret; Nodis; Buttercup. Released by Colby and cleared by Bundy following a telephone consultation with Marvin Watson of the White House staff.
  2. October 29.
  3. For a summary of President Thieu’s inaugural speech of October 31, see Document 379.