31. Cambodia Declassified

The release of historic American Intelligence  files provides a snapshot of the American intelligence estimates for Cambodia. These files are less descriptions of what is happening and more analysis of what impact and possibilities the situation has for American state interests. They contribute to framing policy responses.

As Wikileaks exposure illustrates, these “Intelligence estimates” are often of a standard reflected in more public journalistic and academic output. The nexus of exchange of information between these overlapping worlds of journalism, scholarship and espionage, playing off each other in the search for foreign news and information, and the many individuals whose employment has travelled between them, would underline the symbiotic relationships that quietly exists between. They constantly talk together. The exchange of information occurs at all levels from a charity workers’ briefing in the Foreign Office to discreet enquires made during breaks at conferences and seminars. Governments have sought to foster extremely close connections with the press. This contact ranges from manipulation, often in the guise of “exclusive” access to “insider” anonymous sources; to deeper connections and infiltrations.

For instance, the French journalist Roger Auque, and France’s Ambassador to Eritrea, posthumously came out as a Mossad agent http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4627312,00.html  .

And in 1987 the South African truth panel exposes how apartheid twisted white media Journalists acted as spies, informants, PR men for racist regime in the on-going battle for “hearts and minds”.

A decade earlier, after leaving The Washington Post, where he uncovered the Watergate scandal working with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein researched the relationship between the CIA and the media during the Cold War for Rolling Stone magazine [“The CIA and the Media” October 20, 1977 http://carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php ]. More than 400 American journalists, including reporters for The New York Times, Associated Press and Reuters, doubled as CIA operatives providing a full range of clandestine services — from simple intelligence-gathering to serving as go-betweens with spies in Communist countries.

We know that Kim Philby, the Soviet double agent, was placed in Beirut by MI6 British intelligence as correspondent for three respectable London media outlets: The Times, The Economist, and The Observer.

And the reporting duties of the Soviet TASS agency and China’s Xinhua may extend beyond the newsworthy. Following the Revolution of April 25, 1974, several Portuguese journalists had reportedly collaborated as Soviet spies, with some KGB agents disguised as journalists from Izvestia or from the Tass and Novosti news agencies.

As a US Congressional committee reported in the early 1970’s, “Full-time correspondents for major U.S. publications have worked concurrently for the CIA, passing along information received in the normal course of their regular jobs and even, on occasion, traveling to otherwise non-newsworthy areas to acquire data.”

The agency also had stringers and other freelancers who collected information and rumors and planted stories in foreign media that were fed into the international news traffic and sometimes appeared in U.S. print and electronic outlets.

Among the Wikileaks files is an American embassy report on Swedish Ambassador KAJ BJORK, visit in early 1976 to PHNOM-PENH at the invitation of the Cambodian government, supplemented by the journalistic comments of Toronto Globe and Mail’s reporter ROSS MUNRO. The “secret cable” notes: WE HAVE OBTAINED ON CONFIDENTIAL BASIS FROM TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL’S ROSS MUNRO COPY OF HIS SEVERAL REPORTS BASED ON TAPE RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH SWEDISH AMBASSADOR TO PEKING KAJ BJORK, ONE OF SEVERAL PEKING-BASED DIPLOMATS JUST RETURNED FROM VISIT TO CAMBODIA. BJORK HAS REPUTATION AS SOLID OBSERVER AND MUNRO IS UNUSUALLY ABLE AND CAREFUL JOURNALIST.  [https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1976PEKING00398_b.html ]

Is it any different today?

So any release of historic files should bring few surprises as the broad strokes are known; the devil is in the nuances and the use the analysis is put too. A declassified intelligence briefing on the simmering border war between Cambodia and Vietnam in July 1978 contained little that could not have been found in a close reading of the mainstream media e.g.

CAMBODIA IN THE SINO-VIETNAMESE DISPUTE
Date: July 25 1978

ORIGIN INR – Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State

1.FOLLOWING IS INR ANALYSIS OF JULY 21 FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

2.CONCLUSIONS

CAMBODIA’S XENOPHOBIC LEADERS ARE CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE IN A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL WITH THEIR POWERFUL VIETNAMESE NEIGHBOR, AND THUS THEY LOOK TO CHINA, THEIR ONLY REAL FRIEND, FOR SUPPORT. VIETNAM NOW SEEMS COMMITTED TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE POL POT REGIME, AND IT IS QUESTIONABLE HOW FAR THE CHINESE WILL GO TO SAVE IT.

  1. REASONS FOR THE CONFLICT

THE PRESENT CAMBODIAN-VIETNAMESE BORDER WAR HAS LONG ANTECEDENTS. THE CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS SHARE THE TRADITIONAL CAMBODIAN HOSTILITY TOWARD VIETNAM AND FEAR OF VIETNAMESE DOMINATION. –IN 1951 THE INDOCHINA COMMUNIST PARTY, ESTABLISHED BY HO CHI MINH, SPLIT INTO SEPARATE VIETNAMESE, CAMBODIAN, AND LAO COMPONENTS. A SECRET VIETNAMESE PARTY DIRECTIVE OF THAT TIME STATED THAT HANOI “RETAINS THE RIGHT OF SUPERVISION OVER THE ACTIONS OF THE FRATERNAL PARTIES OF LAOS AND CAMBODIA.” –SINCE THE MID-FIFTIES, HANOI HAS BEEN TRAINING SYMPATHETIC CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS TO BECOME HANOI’S HENCHMEN IN CAMBODIA.

–AFTER THE FALL OF SIHANOUK IN 1970, HANOI’S ARMED FORCES BOTH FOUGHT IN CAMBODIA AND ORGANIZED A REVITALIZED CAMBODIAN COMMUNIST PARTY APPARATUS. BY 1972, HOWEVER, POL POT, CAMBODIA’S PRESENT PRIME MINISTER AND PARTY SECRETARY, WAS WARY OF HANOI’S OBJECTIVES AND BEGAN THE FIRST OF MANY PURGES TO REMOVE ALL PRO-VIETNAMESE CAMBODIAN CADRE. LIMITED FIREFIGHTS EVEN BROKE OUT BETWEEN VIETNAMESE AND CAMBODIAN COMMUNIST FORCES.

  1. IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE 1975 VICTORY, THE CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS TOOK THE INITIATIVE TO ASSERT SOVEREIGNTY OVER DISPUTED TERRITORY AND RAPIDLY MOVED ARMED FORCES INTO BORDER AREAS AND OFFSHORE ISLANDS. THE VIETNAMESE RESPONDED WITH AIR AND GROUND ATTACKS AND TOOK POSSESSION OF SEVERAL CONTESTED ISLANDS. FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS BOTH COUNTRIES SETTLED INTO AN UNEASY RELATIONSHIP, SUPERFICIALLY FRATERNAL, BUT FREQUENTLY PUNCTUATED BY ARMED CLASHES ALONG THE BORDER.
  2. THE MILITARY SITUATION

FIGHTING ESCALATED SHARPLY IN THE LATE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1977, HOWEVER, AND IN DECEMBER OF LAST YEAR VIETNAMESE FORCES ADVANCED INTO EASTERN CAMBODIA ON A LARGE FRONT TO DESTROY KHMER UNITS MENACING VIETNAM’S BORDERS. VIETNAMESE FORCES WITHDREW IN JANUARY 1978 AND REMAINED LARGELY DEFENSIVE THROUGH JUNE WHILE CAMBODIAN UNITS MADE FREQUENT PENETRATIONS INSIDE VIETNAM, SOMETIMES UP TO 30 KILOMETERS.

  1. IN JUNE, VIETNAM, FRUSTRATED BY CONTINUING CAMBODIAN ATTACKS, LAUNCHED AIR AND GROUND FORCES ON ANOTHER OFFENSIVE IN EASTERN AND NORTHEASTERN CAMBODIA. VIETNAMESE UNITS NOW OCCUPY SECTIONS OF KOMPONG CHAM, SVAY RIENG, AND RATANAKIRI PROVINCES JUST INSIDE CAMBODIA, BUT CAMBODIAN FORCES HAVE CONTINUED TO COUNTERATTACK VIGOROUSLY AND ARE STILL ABLE TO PENETRATE VIETNAM.
  2. THE MOST RECENT VIETNAMESE OPERATION APPEARS TO HAVE LIMITED OBJECTIVES SIMILAR TO THAT IN DECEMBER. IT DIFFERS FROM PAST RETALIATORY ATTACKS, HOWEVER, IN THAT VIETNAM IS CALLING FOR THE OVERTHROW OF THE POL POT REGIME AND IS TRAINING AND ASSISTING “PATRIOTIC” CAMBODIAN INSURGENTS APPARENTLY OPERATING THROUGHOUT CAMBODIA’S EASTERN REGION.
  3. VIETNAM HAS 80,000-100,000 TROOPS DEPLOYED ALONG THE BORDER, WHILE CAMBODIA’S ENTIRE ARMED FORCES MAY NUMBER ONLY 100,000. ALTHOUGH CAMBODIA ACQUIRED LONGRANGE FIELD GUNS FROM CHINA IN EARLY 1978, THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN CHINESE ASSISTANCE IN RECENT MONTHS. ACCORDING TO THE ROMANIAN MILITARY ATTACHE IN PEKING, CHINESE MILITARY PERSONNEL IN CAMBODIA NOW NUMBER 6,300 MILITARY INSTRUCTORS AND ADVISORS (AND AROUND 10,000 MILITARY WORKERS AND ENGINEERS), AND MANY CAMBODIANS ARE UNDERGOING MILITARY TRAINING IN CHINA.
  4. VIETNAM’S EFFORTS TO NEGOTIATE VIETNAM HAS TRIED TO PERSUADE CAMBODIA TO NEGOTIATE THE BORDER DISPUTE AND OTHER COUNTRIES TO BRING PRESSURE ON PHNOM PENH TO ENTER TALKS WITH VIETNAM. ON DECEMBER 31, 1977, WHEN VIETNAMESE TROOPS ENTERED CAMBODIA IN FORCE, CAMBODIA BROKE OFF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AND PUBLICLY ACCUSED HANOI OF ATTEMPTING A COUP AGAINST THE POL POT GOVERNMENT AND OF WANTING TO INCLUDE CAMBODIA WITHIN A VIETNAMESE-DOMINATED INDOCHINA FEDERATION.
  5. ON FEBRUARY 5, 1978, VIETNAM PUBLISHED PROPOSALS FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT:

–AN IMMEDIATE END TO HOSTILITIES;

–WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS TO FIVE KILOMETERS ON EACH SIDE OF THE BORDER;

–A MEETING TO CONCLUDE A TREATY TO SOLVE THE BORDER PROBLEM; AND

–AGREEMENT ON AN INTERNATIONAL GUARANTEE AND SUPERVISION OF THE BORDER.

  1. CAMBODIA REJECTED THIS OFFER AND A SIMILAR ONE IN APRIL. IT COUNTERED THAT VIETNAM MUST WITHDRAW ALL ITS FORCES FROM CAMBODIAN SOIL AND SHOW “GOOD DEEDS” DURING A SEVEN-MONTH COOLING-OFF PERIOD, DURING WHICH TIME PHNOM PENH WOULD EVALUATE HANOI’S SINCERITY. HANOI BRUSHED THIS DEMARCHE ASIDE AS “RIDICULOUS.”
  2. THE REAL STICKING POINT IS NOT THE BORDER ISSUE BUT PHNOM PENH’S DEMAND THAT HANOI ABANDON ITS AMBITION OF “EXPANSION AND ANNEXATION” DESIGNED TO COERCE CAMBODIA INTO A “SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP” DOMINATED BY HANOI. SINCE HANOI DENIES SUCH A GOAL, THERE IS NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT.
  3. PROSPECTS

THE PHNOM PENH GOVERNMENT APPEARS DETERMINED TO CONTINUE FIGHTING DESPITE VIETNAM’S ARMED SUPERIORITY. FOR ITS PART, VIETNAM, HAVING BEEN FORCED INTO AN INCREASINGLY COSTLY WAR, NOW INTENDS TO USE SUFFICIENT MILITARY AND POLITICAL PRESSURE TO BRING DOWN THE POL POT REGIME. HANOI PROBABLY PLANS TO USE PRO-VIETNAM CAMBODIAN INSURGENTS TO ADMINISTER LIBERATED BASES IN EASTERN CAMBODIA AND CHALLENGE PHNOM PENH’S AUTHORITY IN OTHER PROVINCES.

  1. CHINA MAY WELL INCREASE ITS ASSISTANCE TO CAMBODIA BUT WILL PROBABLY NOT SEND MAIN-FORCE UNITS INTO EITHER CAMBODIA OR VIETNAM, IN PART BECAUSE OF CONCERN OVER SOVIET AND WORLD REACTION. CONSEQUENTLY, CHINA WILL BE UNABLE TO GUARANTEE THE SECURITY OF THE PRESENT REGIME.
  2. AS VIETNAMESE PRESSURE MOUNTS, IT WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY LIKELY THAT ELEMENTS WITHIN THE PRESENT KHMER LEADERSHIP WILL OVERTHROW POL POT AND MIGHT SEEK AN ACCOMMODATION WITH THE VIETNAMESE, OR THAT HANOI WILL ENGINEER A SUCCESSFUL COUP AGAINST HIM.
  3. AS THE VIETNAMESE-CAMBODIAN CONFLICT ESCALATES, A PROBLEM FOR BOTH THE ASEAN STATES AND THE US WILL BE:

–MORE CAMBODIANS FLEEING INTO THAILAND (AND VIETNAM), PARTICULARLY IF THE AUTHORITY OF THE POL POT GOVERNMENT BREAKS DOWN; AND

–MORE VIETNAMESE FLEEING THEIR COUNTRY TO AVOID THE DRAFT, THE CONFLICT, AND HARSH INTERNAL CONDITIONS.

  1. THE ASEAN STATES ARE THEN LIKELY TO ADOPT LESS MAGNANIMOUS REFUGEE POLICIES AND TO BECOME MORE INSISTENT THAT THE US RELIEVE THEM OF THE BURDEN.

 

VANCE.

The release of declassified archive material often discloses insight into thinking about rather than details of an event, providing confirmation for what is publically known, such as the “secret bombing” of Cambodia publicised through media reports in the early 1970s [see SNIE 57-73]. With that in mind here are some declassified US Special National Intelligence Estimates [SNIE files] and CIA research reports [ESAU series] on Cambodia from that period.

 

Prince Sihanouk and the New Order in South East Asia (ESAU 25)esau-25Sihnouk

Communism and Cambodia (ESAU 54)esau-54Cambodia

1970 The Outlook for Cambodia (SNIE 57-70)Cambodia outlook 1970

1973 The Short Term prospects for Cambodia [SNIE 57-73]Cambodia 1973

The Short Term prospects for Cambodia Through the Current Dry Season May 1974 [SNIE 57-1-73]Cambodia 1973 (2)

Memorandum To Holders of SNIE 57-1-73Cambodia 1973 (3)

The Short Term prospects for Cambodia Through August 1974 [SNIE 57-1-74]Cambodia 1974

Prospects for Cambodia Through August 1975 [SNIE 57-1-75]Cambodia 1975

***

An earlier exploration of this theme https://woodsmokeblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/declassified-organized-political-warfare/

 

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