72. Message From Nancy Oullette to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig), Paris, December 10, 19711 2

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I saw Chinese at eleven oclock on 10 December and was handed following handwritten message:

“We are very grateful if the inventory of the detailed specifications will be provided as early as possible so that we can transmit to Peking within one week.”

I was read and given the following typewritten message: “Taking account of the fact that the convicts John Thomas Downey and Richard George Fecteau, two U.S. CIA spies, after being tried, have admitted their crimes. The department concerned of the Chinese Government has now decided to treat them with leniency: Downey’s original sentence of life imprisonment, will be replaced by one of five years imprisonment, beginning from December 13, 1971; Fecteau, who was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment, will be released before the expiration of his term, and he will be set free and cross the border at SUMCHUN on December 13, 1971.

The Chinese side hereby informs the U.S. side that Maryann Harbert (female) and Gerald Ross McLaughlin (male), two Americans, illegally trespassed in a yacht into China’s territorial waters near the TAMKON ISLANDS [Page 2] (ofstuary) of the Pearl River, Kwangtung province and were detained by Chinese Civil Police on April 21, 1968. The above fact of trespassing into Chinese territorial waters has been established through investigations by the Chinese authorities concerned. Harbert has admitted her mistake and will also be released and sent across the border on December 13, 1971. McLlaughlin resisted investigation during his detention and committed suicide on March 7, 1969. He died after emergency measures to save him failed and his body was cremated. The Red Cross Society of China will inform his family of this through the American National Red Cross.”


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 849, President’s File-China Trip, China Exchanges, Oct 20, 1971-Dec 31, 1971. Secret; Eyes Only. No time of transmission or receipt appears on the message. A handwritten notation reads: “Winston,” in reference to Lord. Oullette served as Walters’ secretary in Paris.
  2. Oullette indicated that Chinese officials had informed her that three Americans would be granted early release from their prison sentences and a fourth, convicted of espionage, would have his sentence reduced from life imprisonment to 5 years.