by Victor Marchetti & John D. Marks
I had come to the conclusion, as a member of the CIA, that many of our policies and practices were not in the best interests of the United States. but were in fact counterproductive, and that if the American people were aware of this they would not tolerate it.
I resigned from the CIA in 1969, at a time when we were deeply involved in Vietnam. And how did we get into Vietnam on a large scale? How did President Lyndon Johnson get a blank check from Congress? It was through the Gulf of Tonkin incident The American people were told by President Johnson that North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats had come after two American destroyers on the night of August 4, 1964. This was confirmed by the intelligence community.
The fact of the matter is that while torpedo boats came out and looked at the U.S. destroyers, which were well out in international waters, they never fired on them. They made threatening maneuvers, they snarled a bit, but they never fired. It was dark and getting darker. Our sailors thought they might have seen something, but there were no hits, no reports of anything whizzing by.
That was the way it was reported back: a bit of a scrape, but no weapons fire and no attempt to fire. Our ships had not been in danger. But with the help of the intelligence community President Johnson took that report and announced that we had been attacked. He went to Congress and asked for and received his blank check, and Congress went along. Everyone knows the rest of the story: we got into Vietnam up to our eyeballs.
Every president prizes secrecy and fights for it. And so did President Nixon, in my case. When I came to the conclusion that the American people needed to know more about the CIA and what it was up to, I decided to go to Capitol Hill and talk to the senators on the intelligence oversight subcommittee. I found out that Senator John Stennis, at that time head of the subcommittee, hadn’t conducted a meeting in over a year, so the other senators were completely ignorant as to what the CIA was doing. Senators William Fulbright and Stuart Symington would tell Stennis, “Let’s have a meeting,” but he was ignoring them. The other senators wrote Stennis a letter urging him to at least hear what I had to say in a secret executive session, but he continued to ignore them. —Victor Marchetti