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Cryptonym: PHOENIX

Definition:
Operation Phoenix was the coordination of all military, police and intelligence agencies in South Vietnam, in pursuit of civilian members of the VCI [Vietcong]. To this end the CIA created the Phoenix program’s Intelligence and Operations Coordinating Centers (IOCCs) at region, province and district levels.
Status:
Documented
Sources:

Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program: Introduction

“As conceived by the CIA in 1967, the Phoenix program coordinated all military, police and intelligence agencies in South Vietnam, in pursuit of civilian members of the VCI [Vietcong]. To this end the CIA created the Phoenix program’s Intelligence and Operations Coordinating Centers (IOCCs) at region, province and district levels. A particular IOCC would amass data on suspects in its area of operations, often through the CIA’s brutal interrogation centers, and mount targeted operations against them in enemy controlled areas through the CIA’s counter-terror teams, or other US Special Operations forces.”

Declaration of Plaintiffs' Counsel, Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey v. John Hull, Rene Corbo, et al. Current Section: Assassination Programs

Re 1969-1971: Declaration by attorney Daniel Sheehan: "Assassination programs: In addition to his opium trafficking operation, Vang Pao carried out an assassination program, on information and belief under the auspices of Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines. Partially funded by Vang Pao's opium income, the program eliminated civilian functionaries and supporters of the Pathet Lao, as well as Vang Pao's rival opium overlords...Shackley brought (in) Rafael Quintero/AMJAVA-4 and Rafael Villaverde, along with Felix Rodriguez/AMJOKE-1, to Laos, to train members of Vang Pao's Hmong tribe to perform assassinations against Pathet Lao leaders and sympathizers. Quintero was a trained sniper and explosives expert for assassinations, who had operated (in Cuba) and continued in Southeast Asia...Rodriguez, who had also been (involved with Shackley and Clines in Cubs, was in close contact with Richard Secord and Donald Gregg, national security adviser to VP George Bush) in Laos during this period...Shackley was transferred to Saigon in 1969, where he served in his official capacity as the CIA's chief of station in South Vietnam until 1972. Clines joined Shackley in Saigon at this time. Shackley and Clines directed 'Operation Phoenix' in Vietnam. The operation was designed to 'neutralize' - to assassinate or imprison - non-combatant Vietnamese civilians known or suspected to be collaborating with the National Liberation Front (NLF), the leftist insurgency in South Vietnam. Civilian targets included South Vietnamese town mayors, clerks, teachers, business professionals and educated persons who contributed to the actual or potential civilian infrastructure of the NLF. Under the Phoenix program, such civilians were assassinated without judicial procedure or even provision of public evidence. In 1971, CIA Director William Colby told a Senate gathering that Operation Phoenix killed 20,587 Vietnamese suspects and imprisoned another 29,978 between August 1968 and May 1971..."

Declaration of Plaintiffs' Counsel, Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey v. John Hull, Rene Corbo, et al. Current Section: Assassination Programs

"(continued)...The South Vietnamese government itself claimed responsibility for murdering some 41,000 Vietnamese during the same period of the program. One former US Phoenix agent testified to Congress that Operation Phoenix became a "sterile depersonalized murder program...it was completely indiscriminate." Operation Phoenix was declared to be a totally unlawful operation following the 1971 Congressional hearings that exposed the program. However, political assassinations in Southeast Asia under the direction of Shackley and Clines continued until 1973." Sheehan's sources included Fred Branfman, "South Vietnam's Police and Prison System: The U.S. Connection", Uncloaking the CIA, Howard Frazier, ed., (The Free Press, 1978), p. 112.

CIA "Family Jewels," June 25, 2007 Release Current Section: Foreign Resources Division

1/10/72 CIA Director William Colby to Lloyd Shearer, editor of Parade magazine, stating that he had testified in Congress that "a. CIA does not and has not used political assassination as a weapon. b. Operation Phoenix was run not by the CIA but by the Government of Vietnam with the support of the CORDS element of the US Military Assistance Command. c. Operation Phoenix is not a program of assassination. Members of the Viet Cong apparatus were killed in the course of military operations or resisting police arrest. There is a vast difference of kind, not merely degree, between these (even including occasional -- and few -- abuses, and the Viet Cong's conscious campaign of terrorism referred to by Mr. (Walter) Scott."

104-10105-10133: COMMENTS ON CHAPTER XI OF MANUSCRIPT SUBMITTED DAVID A. PHILLIPS.

1976: Notes from Acting Chief, SOG to Chief, EAB/OS, on his internal CIA review of David Phillips' manuscript: "...The Phoenix Program originated before William Colby became DEPCORDS, COMUSMACV. Ambassador Komer started the program and asked that Colby replace him as DEPCORDS so that there would be some continuity in the effort to deal with criminal elements of the Viet Cong infrastructure. It is unfair to subjectively state that 'Operation Phoenix' was Colby's own albatross. Certainly Colby doesn't believe this although he is receiving considerable flack from those who would like others to believe that the whole program was one of assassination of which Colby, as head of the CIA, was in charge...(note:) we're still putting audio devices in coke bottles -- all these techniques and methods should not be discussed since we may very well want to use them again in the future."

Contributors:
Bill Simpich

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