191. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting with Ambassador William Sullivan, 23 July 1965


  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Mr. George Barbis, The Director, Mr. FitzGerald, Mr. DeSilva, Mr. Colby
After a preliminary discussion, the Director outlined his plans to augment CIA’s effort in Southeast Asia as a whole and his assignment of Mr. DeSilva as a Special Assistant for Vietnam.
Ambassador Sullivan stated that Laos is handled as a part of the Southeast Asia total problem through the SEACOORD meetings and [Page 379] through exchanging intel. He then outlined his own thinking that Laos is a holding operation whose future depends upon South Vietnam. However, he pointed out that the two areas must be treated differently, both publicly and in the style of operations. He pointed out that most American operations in Laos are clandestine in nature and that no admission is made of American participation. Mr. FitzGerald mentioned the possibilities of more formal and overt U.S. military activity as a result of alleged “intelligence gaps” appearing in South Laos. Ambassador Sullivan said he was aware of this but that it is his intention to carry on along his basic line. He particularly pointed out the problem of defining what is meant by “interdiction”, which would call for large numbers of troops, and “harassment” which would probably end our intelligence coverage. He indicated that the same problem arises over the military’s ideas as to operations into the DRV. His line there was that it would be immoral to encourage “resistance” of any size in the DRV if we were not willing to follow it up and support it. Mr. Colby indicated that we had some problems in carrying out the intelligence operations authorized by Ambassador Sullivan if we were not able to develop at least a popular base of opinion and some armament to protect the teams. Ambassador Sullivan was not convinced of this and maintained his position that the intelligence effort should be handled as a small team effort only. Ambassador Sullivan indicated that he was prepared to encourage the use of overt U.S. or Vietnamese force Westwards along Route 9, gradually extending the SVN border, while publicly denying that the troops were in Laos, all the way to Tchepone if necessary. On the other hand, he said that the use of Thai rangers in this area as suggested by Ambassador Martin seemed to him impractical as they would inevitably be too overt and too well known.
On the political side Ambassador Sullivan indicated some satisfaction with the situation in that the “corrupt gang” around Phoumi is out and Souvanna had developed an heir apparent, Sisouk, with some younger and better quality leadership on the way up.
The Director indicated that CIA is intending to increase its effort in the Southeast Asian area but that he was convinced that the problem there must be approached from a total point of view rather than as specific and limited items. He told Ambassador Sullivan that he was recommending establishment of a national planning task group to carry out such an integrated planning effort.
The meeting closed on Ambassador Sullivan’s expression of his satisfaction with the excellent work of the Vientiane Station and CIA personnel and programs there.
WE Colby
Chief, Far East Division
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Raborn) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Memos for the Record, 22 July–3 Nov 1965. Secret. Drafted by Colby on July 27.