The U.S. 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 is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the NSA, the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash.

President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.

Any of this sound familiar?

The NSA historian, Robert Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.

Hanyok concluded that they had done it not out of any political motive but to cover up earlier errors, and that top NSA and military officials and Johnson neither knew about nor condoned the deception.

The research by the NSA historian was detailed four years ago in an in-house article. It remains classified, in part because agency officials feared its release might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.

You wouldn’t want the Iraq War to make some of our politicians uncomfortable.

The supposed second North Vietnamese attack, on the U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy, played an outsize role in history. Johnson responded by ordering retaliatory airstrikes on North Vietnamese targets and used the event to persuade Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on Aug. 7, 1964.

It authorized the president to “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force” to defend South Vietnam and its neighbors and was used both by Johnson and President Richard Nixon to justify escalating the war, in which 58,226 Americans and more than one million Vietnamese died.

  1. 0x1d3 says:

    And this is suprising?

  2. SignOfZeta says:

    Minor details aside, hasn’t this been common knowledge for decades?

  3. Awake says:

    The American government falsifying documents to justify a war? What a novel concept.
    Somewhat similar story from 3 years ago instead of 30 years ago (believe it or not, to be published next week by “The American Conservative” magazine):

    Even the conservatives are starting to be disgusted by this adminstration.

  4. BOB G says:

    no surpise here anybody hear heard of the spanish- american war. I say the hell with it give it back to the natives

  5. Dr. Funbags says:

    The US is such a mess, I doubt the Natives would want it back, I wonder how many of them are shedding tears these days?

  6. Pat says:

    Most wars of aggression are justified with lies. As a previous post points out, the Spanish American War commenced with the sinking of the Maine. Later shown to have been an accidental boiler explosion. WWII started with the Nazis invading Poland on the pretext that Poland had invaded Germany first. Saddam invaded Iran telling the world Iran had confiscated Iraq territory. The US invaded Honduras, Panama, Grenada, Haiti, because American citizens were threatened by communists.

    Yup, I sense a pattern.

  7. Disillusioned says:

    Why does not make any comparison between this and the inexplicable lack of warning about the Pearl Harbor Attack? Although FDR had made a campaign promise not to get the US into any more foreign wars it was well known that he wanted to get the US involved. Until the attack on Pearl Harbor he lacked the political support to go to war. Intelligence reports from the time show that the US knew that Japan was planing an attack. What is not clear, and may never be, is how much FDR knew about where an when it was going to happen.

    These comments remind me of how Vietnam antiwar protests are often compared to current protests but no one seems to remember the W.W.II antiwar protests or the antiwar riots in New York over the civil war.

    The lessons from history are complicated and difficult to interpret.

  8. Eideard says:

    I guess the “lessons” are difficult to read, as well. Most of the NYC riots during the Civil War alternated between being racist and anti-Irish.

  9. AB CD says:

    FDR essentially sent out a ship to be sunk by the Japanese so he could get into war with Germany. Instead the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and he got his wish that way.

    Vietnam also had the ‘war for strategic value’ angle. Iraq may be providing a buffer against terrorists, and possibly spreading democracy in the Middle East. Vietnam gave the rest of Asia time to defend itself from Communism.

  10. Awake says:

    AB CD – It looks like you need to visit your doctor and adjust your medication doses, since you are losing touch with reality again. Either that or you are utterly brainwashed and ignorant.
    a) We lost in Vietnam, we stopped nothing, and we turned what was basically an internal civil war into a spreading communist movement. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, parts of Thailand, all fell to communism, and our intervention was a direct cause of it. So we actually spread communism.
    b) Radicalism is increasing in the Middle East, not decreasing as you declare. When we high-tail it out of Iraq, the whole region will fall, just like Vietnam did. Iran is much more powerful and threatening now than 3 years ago.
    c) Oh yeah.. the FDR mystery ship, for which there is NO historical record whatsoever. We would have gone to Japan without Pearl Harbor, since the invasion of the Philippines would have done it. Japan made a military preemptive strike at Pearl Harbor, but most everyone, including yourself apparently, forget that within the same days Japan also attacked much of southeast Asia, including US protectorates. It was Japan’s actions that lead to war, but we didn’t need to make up a provocation, since it was available from multiple sources at the right time.

  11. Thomas says:


    I suggest reading David Kahn’s book Codebreakers to get a better idea of what actually happened during the weeks leading up to WWII. Kahn’s book was written in 1967 and is still the quintessential book on cryptology and cryptanalysis.

    In short, sure we knew that the Japanese were planning on breaking diplomatic ties. While we thought they were planning an attack, we did not know it would be at Pearl Harbor. We thought it would be somewhere in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines. In addition, we had no specifics such as dates, times or forces involved. As of December 7th, we thought that the Japanese fleet was in Japanese waters doing training exercises. We had no idea that they had parked a few carriers 300 miles of the coast of Oahu. FDR didn’t know. None of the intelligence agencies knew. Only the Japanese knew. Let’s also not forget that it was the Japanese that wanted to go to war with us not the other way around.

    I absolutely do not accept that any President would knowingly allow the country to be attacked just to get into the war. Do I believe it was beyond Churchill to not feed us information to get us in the war? Yes I believe he would have but that ignores the fact that we had far better information on the Japanese than the British and would have known before him.

    Intelligence gathering is not a perfect science. That we were able to read the Japanese naval code (called PURPLE) at all is a triumph of ingenuity.

  12. AB CD says:

    This was detailed in New Dealers War.

    >I absolutely do not accept that any President would knowingly allow the country to be attacked just to get into the war.

    Maybe so, but Churchill did something similar, allowing the Germans to bomb Coventry even though he knew about it beforehand.

  13. John Wofford says:

    Not too pertinent, but close:
    1.There was a tape going around aboard various naval commands sometime between ’67-’69 ( my time in-country Vietnam) alleged to be a recording of the internal communications system in Turner Joy during the attack. It sounded pretty authentic to me, especially when the skipper came on the imc to report that the damage included his day-cabin.
    2. LBJ (Democrat) was at the nations helm for most of the Vietnam era; Friend George (Republican) has wheeled us into Irag. Neither party has clean hands when it comes to warmongering.
    3. Wars begin at the behest of powerful, evil men, and they are usually not serving politicians, although they always own a few. Wars are fought by airheaded cannon fodder types, usually kids with no idea of what’s going on. Did I mention my time in Vietnam?
    4. Wars can be avoided the same way they are started, by large amounts of emotion laden B.S. targeted towards the proper demographic. Could the American Revolution, the Civil (civil?) War, the two big WW’s, Korea and all the rest of the killing frenzies been avoided by just talking about them? Probably.

  14. supreme apologist says:

    i heard the other day that hannibal lied so he could acquire a few extra elephants to attack rome….and i just read that alexander spread rumours about the persians to get the macedonians to go along with his invasions. and…and….and….boo-hoo-hoo, people are just so mean…..and the US is at fault for it all! we should give it all back to the spanish, the british, the french, the indians, and everyone else and say we’re sorry for the current condition of the whole world

  15. Awake says:

    Oh, and one more thing, as of a few minutes ago:

    (The italicised text just highlights the hypocresy and utter disregard for searching for the truth of the Republican leadership. Not only they don’t want to discuss it, the immediately resort to irrelevant name-calling to try to get some credibility. Never mind that the Republicans control Congress, to the Democrats can’t hijack anything.)

    Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, questioning intelligence that President Bush used in the run-up to the war in Iraq and accusing Republicans of ignoring the issue.

    “They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why,” Democratic leader Harry Reid said.

    Taken by surprise, Republicans derided the move as a political stunt.

    “The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist. “They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas,” the Republican leader said.

    In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. The public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances.

    Reid’s move shone a spotlight on the continuing controversy over intelligence that President Bush cited in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Despite prewar claims, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and some Democrats have accused the administration of manipulating the information that was in their possession.

  16. Thomas says:

    >Maybe so, but Churchill did something similar,
    > allowing the Germans to bomb Coventry even
    > though he knew about it beforehand

    Yes, however that is an entirely different situation for a couple of reasons. First, Britain was already in the war. Churchill was protecting ULTRA (the cracking of the German codes) in order to win the war not get in a war. Even the US would occasionally send convoys into areas they knew contained Wolf Packs in order to convince the Germans that we had not broken their codes. We did the same in the Pacific. Protecting the knowledge that we cracked their codes was far more important to saving lives than the relatively few that were lost in order to convince the enemy we hadn’t. Coral Sea and Midway would not have happened without it. Interestingly, when Churchill encountered a situation where he knew he was going to be bombed but could not do anything about it without divulging that Britain had cracked the German codes, he would often conduct city wide “safety drills” which would increase the number of medical and fire-fighting personnel in the area to mop up after the attack.

    Secondly, Churchill was desperate and on the verge of losing his country. It is widely believed that Churchill would have used chemical weapons against the Germans had they invaded even though it was stringently frowned upon by all “civilized” countries. Did Churchill know about the Japanese attack? In my opinion, it is highly unlikely he knew any more than we did. His intelligence was coming from the same source as ours: our cracking of the Japanese naval and diplomatic codes. I bet that the British thought that Japans’ target was Southeast Asia just as we did. Remember that the Japanese had nothing close to Hawaii. It was only after the war started that they started taking islands closer to Hawaii. It took their carriers about a week to move into position for the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was thought at the time that Pearl’s harbor was too shallow for torpedoes and the base was too far for an attack without detection.

  17. Obviousman says:

    AB CD didn’t learn his ABCs. Where’d you get that info? Fox News?
    Do you also believe, AB CD, that Columbus discovered America?

  18. Obviousman says:

    The Patriotic thing to do would be to impeach this moron we have had installed as President & throw them all in the brig for treason, then get back to work fixing the country these fascists of both parties are working so hard to dismember. To remain silent is unpatriotic & to the disservice of all those that understand that we are “one nation.” Their divide & conquer tactics only work when half the nation supports each sell-out party.


Bad Behavior has blocked 5924 access attempts in the last 7 days.