129. Letter From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Chargé d’Affaires in Thailand (Newman)1
I am sure you are aware of Len Unger’s letter to me of May 282 concerning Pote Sarasin’s approach to him for a repeat performance of the 1968–69 “Project Lotus.” We will have a chance to talk to Len directly about this when he is in Washington for consultation next month, but I thought you should be acquainted with the Washington view at this stage.
The matter was discussed at a 40 Committee meeting recently and Len’s position, as described in his letter, was unanimously supported. All of us share his distaste for this kind of an operation. However, a suggestion was made at the meeting that we have a look at the possibility [Page 282]of using this type of funding in some manner in connection with our efforts to generate more effective RTG actions in the narcotics field. We do not have any clear or specific ideas as to how this could be done. We would, of course, not contemplate using such funds in lieu of assistance that might more appropriately be provided for mutually agreed narcotics measures using overt funds such as AID. More important, we would want to avoid creating an impression on the Thai side that they could expect or demand a “payoff” for actions they ought to be taking anyway or for which we could influence them by more conventional and regular approaches. Finally, we must avoid setting a precedent for periodic under-the-table contributions to Thai political leaders for any purpose.
Notwithstanding these reservations and with full acceptance of Len’s persuasive reasoning, we feel that the urgency and importance of the narcotics problem in Thailand makes it incumbent upon us to keep our minds open to any possible course of action, however un-orthodox, that might advance our objectives. Please give the matter some thought and let me know if you can see any possibilities.