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CAB140 / United States / ADMINISTRATION MAKES PUBLIC DOCUMENTS DETAILING VIETNAM WAR ‘SPECTER PROGRAM’

ADMINISTRATION MAKES PUBLIC DOCUMENTS DETAILING VIETNAM WAR ‘SPECTER PROGRAM’

¶1. (U) SUMMARY: Among a recent release of over 400 government documents to the public, one gives details regarding the CIA’s ‘Specter Program’ during the Vietnam War. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (U) On Wednesday, the White House released more than 400 government documents to the public in a new effort towards transparency as part of the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). The documents, all before 1979, range from topics such as the ’1976 rural engineering report for Missouri’ to a transcript from a 1972 meeting between President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. While nothing contained in the documents was particularly surprising or damaging (as they were most likely chosen by the administration for this reason), one document drew the attention of this office because it’s the only one of CIA origin. The document (reftel 1871A) contains information on the ‘Specter Project’ – a counterinsurgency program orchestrated in the Vietnam War.

BIRTH OF SPECTER
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¶3. (U) The Specter Program was created in April 1967 by Colonel Scott Lawrence. Following significant losses in the Battle of Xa Cam My, Operation Paul Revere IV, and the Battle of Cu Nghi, Lawrence received approval to create a covert unit that would focus on infiltration, sabotage, intelligence-gathering, and disinformation. Working in conjunction with the CIA’s Special Activities Division, Lawrence chose soldiers with expertise in clandestine operations and psychological warfare. The identities of all members were kept secret, even from other military and CIA divisions. While no official name was ever given to the group, many soldiers nicknamed them ‘ghosts’ due to their stealth activities and attire that included the use of scarves to conceal their faces.

EFFECTIVENESS
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¶4. (U) Rather than focusing on typical high-value targets, Specter instead sought to disrupt the VC infrastructure from within. Methods for doing so included the infiltration of VC financial and supply offices as well as the capture or assassination of tax collectors, supply officers, and political cadre. In addition, Spectre disseminated a significant amount of false propoganda and disinformation in an effort to attack the morale of the opposition.

¶5. (SBU) Specter was not restricted to only attacking VC infrastructure. While no official records exist, sources suggest that between 1967 and 1972 Specter units had neutralized more than 60,000 NLF supporters. Some rumors suggest the killings were often not soldiers but targets intended to terrorize and disrupt enemy forces.

DISSOLUTION
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¶6. (U) The Specter Program was officially dissolved in June 1972. A combination of declining political support and media exposes led to allegations of torture and abuse. While there was no public knowledge of the project, rumors of a US “murder squad” were abound. In an effort to maintain plausible deniability, most key members of the program were forced into early retirement. Actual details about the program and debates regarding its effectiveness wouldn’t surface for another twenty-five years.

COMMENT
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¶7. (C) While certain details might suggest similarities between the Specter Program and our current REDACTED REDACTED, no such connection exists. At most, lore of the Specters has influenced the approach of the latter. END COMMENT.

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