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186. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Covert Operations in North Vietnam

Attached is a report from Dick Helms of the results of preliminary research on potential targets for covert operations in North Vietnam.2 You had previously authorized CIA to conduct covert operations against two targets within 30 miles of the Laotian border. Helms reports, inter alia, that:

  • —the most vital targets are located in the urban areas of Hanoi and Haiphong but significant action against these targets is not within current covert capability.
  • —because the North Vietnamese have been slow to repair damaged facilities it is difficult to locate significant targets below the 20th parallel.
  • —thus far only two additional appropriate targets have been identified, both petroleum storage facilities, which are near enough for overland infiltration from Laos or South Vietnam.
  • CIA has the capability for operations from Laos into North Vietnam up to a depth of 30 kilometers. Because DOD controls the principal assets for operations from South Vietnam into North Vietnam, Defense should be charged with responsibility for targetting and development of operations for the rest of North Vietnam.
  • CIA has identified four potential targets which would be accessible from the coast.

You may recall that in your meeting with Secretary Laird and General Wheeler prior to their departure for Vietnam,3 you asked them to look into the possibility of covert raids against targets along the east coast of North Vietnam. I will include a talking point for your Tuesday meeting with them in case you want to:

  • —ask for an analysis, based on their trip, of the feasibility of initiating covert operations along the east coast of North Vietnam.
  • —ask them if they agree with CIA's recommended division of labor for covert operations in North Vietnam.
  • —inform them that CIA has identified four potential coastal targets.

Recommendation4

If Secretary Laird raises no objection, that you authorize the following division of labor for covert operations:

  • CIA charged with targetting and development of operations from Laos into North Vietnam up to a depth of 30 kilometers from the border.
  • —the Department of Defense charged with responsibility for targetting and development of operations for the rest of North Vietnam.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 143, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, February 1–18, 1970. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed is a memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, February 6.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 187.
  4. Nixon initialed the approve option.