Association of Former Intelligence Officers

HAROLD FORD BOOK. The CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI) has just published a new book by AFIO member and former senior CIA officer, Harold Ford. The book, CIA and the Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes 1962-1968. Dr Ford, one of the most respected of CIA analysts, knows his subject. He was a Naval officer in WW2, earned a PhD from the University of Chicago and joined the Agency in 1950. Later, was a postdoctoral scholar at St Antony's College, Oxford. At the Agency he served on various Vietnam working groups, was staff chief of the Office of National Estimates and also served abroad as a Chief of Station. After leaving the CIA, Ford served five years with the Church Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In 1980, he rejoined the CIA and helped form the new National Intelligence Council, serving as Acting Chairman before his retirement in 1986. The study shows how the pessimistic (and most times accurate) assessments of mid-level CIA analysts were softened at best and completely obscured at worst in deference to the preconceived views of the situation as seen by key Administration officials.

This looks to be an important book -- covering such intelligence controversies as the Sam Adams OB dispute, the 1968 Tet offensive, long range estimates about Vietnam, and so on. Rueters says "CIA study blasts own Vietnam-era performance" by slanting views to suit policymakers (see below).

The book is available for purchase from the National Technical Information Service (1-800-553-6847) and has been posted on CSI's web site:
https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/cia-and-the-vietnam-policymakers-three-episodes-1962-1968/

Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #22-98, 15 June 1998


CIA AND THE VIETNAM POLICYMAKERS: Three Episodes 1962-1968, by Harold P. Ford (National Technical Information Service, $44). Mr. Ford joined CIA in 1951 and held numerous high positions before retiring in 1986. His book describes policy debates with consummate skill, but does not spare CIA in his criticism, "noting particularly how some ranking agency officers skewed estimates to tell President Johnson what he wished to hear." On the other hand, DCI John McCone was not afraid to provide candid advice. When Mr. Johnson agonized over committing more combat troops, McCone argued that for them to be effective, harsh airstrikes must be carried out against far more targets in North Vietnam than LBJ approved." LBJ disagreed, and McCone was held at arms length until he resigned.(Ed Note: But for all of us who fought in that war, how right he was!)

Another most painful episode concerns the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem, advocated by a cabal in the State Department led by undersecretary Averell Harriman. William Colby, then heading the clandestine services' Far East division, advocated caution. He said, the action " appears to be throwing away bird in hand before we have adequately identified birds in the bush, or songs they may sing." But the caution was disregarded, the coup proceeded, Diem was murdered, and the South Vietnamese government became a de-stabilized and de-legitimized revolving door of nobodies. (Ed. Note -- I remember how, as a mid-level analyst, I was dumbfounded by the stupidity of this proposed action when I saw the traffic authorizing it) (from book review by AFIO member Joseph Goulden, WTimes 6 June 99, p. B6) (RoyJ)

Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #26-99, July 1, 1999

AFIO Central Office
Email: afio@afio.com
© 2006 AFIO
Copyright and Privacy Notice