80. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Operations in North Vietnam

The attached memorandum from Dick Helms (Tab A)2 notes that since March 1970, when you directed that CIA undertake shallow penetration raids against North Vietnamese targets within 30 kilometers of the border, fourteen such operations have been mounted, nine of which were successful.

In his memorandum Mr. Helms cites three considerations which he believes now warrant a review of, and change in, planning for the immediate future.

There are relatively few targets within the 30 kilometer border area and since the North Vietnamese have come to realize that such operations are being conducted and to understand their general pattern, surprise is no longer really possible. Therefore, the whole border area is now “hot” and extremely hostile.
In a sense, the North Vietnam raids are competitive with CIA’s interdiction forays in South Laos since the same case officers, trained indigenous personnel and helilift support facilities are utilized. With the dry season beginning and evidences appearing of a major North Vietnamese logistics and personnel infiltration effort down the Ho chi Minh Trail, a concentration of CIA’s limited personnel and resources on South Laos interdiction targets would now produce considerably greater return than a continued diversion of a significant portion of these assets to small raids in North Vietnam border areas.
Based on its experience in shallow penetration operations, CIA is studying possibilities for much deeper North Vietnam penetrations [Page 203] using helicopters for transportation of raiding teams which now must cross the border on foot. If the problems are soluble this would bring within reach considerably more lucrative targets than those in the immediate border areas.

In light of the foregoing considerations, Mr. Helms recommends, and I concur, that the CIA shallow penetration program be suspended for ninety days. In addition, I recommend that the ninety-day suspension of this program be coupled with a firm requirement that during this period CIA develop specific plans for deeper penetration operations into North Vietnam.

Approval of these recommendations will enable the Agency to concentrate its limited assets in South Laos with greater benefits to the overall U.S. effort, as well as work on the development of potentially more rewarding penetration operations deep within North Vietnam.


That you approve a ninety-day suspension of CIA’s current program of conducting shallow penetration raids in the North Vietnam border areas on the condition that CIA will utilize this period to develop specific plans for deeper penetration operations against more lucrative targets in North Vietnam.3

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, Vietnam, Apr 1970–24 Dec 1970. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for action. Attached but not printed is a memorandum from Haig to Chapin, November 27, asking him to revise an earlier draft to include a requirement that CIA develop plans for deeper operations, even though the Defense Department was responsible for operations beyond 30 kilometers. On November 30, Chapin wrote on the memorandum that CIA “accepts this as an entirely reasonable request.”
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is a memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, November 19.
  3. The President initialed his approval.