A MURDER IN WARTIME: The Untold Spy Story that Changed the Course of the Vietnam War by Jeff Stein

A MURDER IN WARTIME: The Untold Spy Story that Changed the Course of the Vietnam War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A tale of intrigue between the CIA and the Green Berets during the Vietnam War, by the author of The Vietnam Fact Book (1987 paperback). In 1969, a captured photograph suggested that a Vietnamese employed by the Green Berets as an agent, one Thai Khac Chuyen, was actually a North Vietnamese soldier. Chuyen was involved in the gathering of intelligence to support the Nixon Administration's recently begun secret bombings of Cambodia. Green Beret operatives pulled him in, determined that he was compromised, and went to the CIA for instructions--which were, off the record, to kill Chuyen. The operatives asked for official confirmation, but it was late in coming, so, with the approval of the Green Beret commander, Col. Robert Rheault, the operatives shot Chuyen and dumped the body at sea. Then an official communication arrived from the CIA not to proceed, followed by an investigation by the Army and then a media blitz and a ""show trial"" of eight Green Berets in the US. The trial was quickly shut down because of its embarrassment to the Green Berets and to the Nixon Administration's secret conduct of the war. Stein, an Army intelligence officer at the time, is able to tell the full story because of the Official Secrets Act, which declassified relevant documents. He has interviewed the principals and here dramatizes their roles as a novelist might; he lays out clearly the convoluted chronology. What emerges is a high-minded Green Beret command sullied by covert operations, and an eternally sleazy CIA running death squads through its Phoenix program. Well done, and of historical interest because the trial prompted Daniel Ellsberg's leak of The Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, heralding both the end of the war and of the Nixon Administration.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1992
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: St. Martin's