Air Force histories reveal secret CIA role in Laos and plan to possibly use nukes in 1959 crisis
Previously secret U.S. Air Force official histories of the Vietnam war published today by the National Security Archive disclose for the first time that Central Intelligence Agency contract employees had a direct role in combat air attacks when they flew Laotian government aircraft on strike missions and that the Air Force actively considered nuclear weapons options during the 1959 Laos crisis.
The newly declassified histories, which were released through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the National Security Archive with the law firm James & Hoffman, include the Air Force's detailed official history of the war in northern Laos, written during the 1990s but hidden in classified form for years. Also declassified were Air Force historical studies on specific years of the Vietnam War, documenting in great detail the Air Force's role in planning and implementing the air war in North and South Vietnam. Among other significant disclosures in these histories are:
*Air Force interest in nuclear options during at least two flash points in the Southeast Asian conflict: Laos in 1959 and in 1968 during the battle of Khe Sanh.
*CIA operational commitments for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion hampered the Agency's ability to carry out Kennedy administration policy in Laos.
*CIA proprietary Air America directed search and rescue missions in Laos in addition to its role in combat operations.
*The U.S. ambassador in Laos served as the field commander of the so-called "secret war" there, a role that has been largely undocumented.
This briefing book was made possible through a lawsuit brought in March 2005 by the National Security Archive after it discovered through its Freedom of Information Act audits that the Air Force had a pattern and practice of mishandling FOIA requests, including failing to process requests, destroying records, discouraging requesters, and excessive delays. The Washington, D.C., law firm James & Hoffman successfully argued the case before federal Judge Rosemary Collyer, who in April 2006 granted partial summary judgment to the Archive. She found that "the Air Force has indeed failed miserably to handle Archive FOIA requests in a timely manner." The court ordered the Air Force to resolve the Archive's requests--some pending as long as 18 years--as expeditiously as possible. The requests for the Laos history and the Vietnam War studies were originally filed in 1988 and 1990; the Air Force finally processed them pursuant to the court's order and released more than 500 pages of previously-classified histories....
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