Tuesday, November 01, 2005

SSDW: Same Shit, Different War

The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that NSA officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence during the Tonkin Gulf episode that helped precipitate the Vietnam War, according to two people familiar with the historian's work.

The historian's conclusion represents the first serious accusation that the agency's communications intercepts were falsified to support the belief that North Vietnamese ships attacked U.S. destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash.

Most historians have concluded that there was no second attack, but they have assumed the NSA intercepts were unintentionally misread, not purposely altered.

The research by Robert Hanyok, an NSA historian, was detailed four years ago in an in-house article that remains classified, in part because agency officials feared its release might prompt comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq.

Matthew Aid, an independent historian who has discussed Hanyok's Tonkin Gulf research with current and former NSA and CIA officials who have read it, said, "This material is relevant to debates we as Americans are having about the war in Iraq and intelligence reform."
"Rather than come clean about their mistake, they helped launch the United States into a bloody war that would last for 10 years," Aid said.

President Johnson cited the Aug. 4 episode to persuade Congress in 1964 to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, despite the fact that doubts about the attack arose almost immediately.

Asked about Hanyok's research, NSA spokesman Don Weber said that the agency intends to release the material late next month.

The release has been "delayed," Weber said, "in an effort to be consistent with our preferred practice of providing the public a more contextual perspective."

I'm really of two minds on this one. Drawing more parallels between Quagmire I and Quagmire II was certainly not a high priority for the White House spin machine for the last couple of years, so the release of this story does not really help them build support for the continued slog and draped-coffin accompaniment.


The timing of this story seems too convenient by far. The utterly predictable progression of spin about the lies that launched this war is the curent shift from "we never lied" to "ok, we lied, but everybody does it." And so the fact that what is really a 2001 story is surfacing now, just when the Fitzgerald investigation is kicking attention to the WMD lies into high gear, strikes me as likely to be related.

I guess the good news would be if in their desperate attempts to weasel out of culpability for Quagmire II, the right finally lays to rest their pathetic rear guard action to justify Quagmire I. Small comfort, but better thirty years late than never.


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