A career intelligence officer testified Tuesday that a secret 1967 military report to President Lyndon B. Johnson on enemy strength in the Vietnam War was “corrupt” and “a well-packaged sellout.”
Army Col. Donald Blascak criticized the report before a federal court jury hearing retired Gen. William C. Westmoreland’s $120-million libel suit against CBS.
Blascak, who is now the chief intelligence officer of the 5th Army Corps in Germany, was the first active-duty military officer to testify in the network’s defense. He confessed that it was difficult for him to make his remarks, which seemed damaging to Westmoreland, who commanded U.S. troops in Vietnam for four years.
In its 1982 documentary, “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception,” CBS contended that Westmoreland had deceived his superiors in Washington on the size of communist forces in Vietnam prior to the 1968 Tet offensive. The broadcast led to Westmoreland’s suit.
Blascak said that in 1967 he had told CIA analyst Sam Adams, a paid consultant for the documentary and a co-defendant in the suit, that evidence suggested a ceiling had been placed on the enemy strength estimate before it was included in the report.
Asked by CBS lawyer David Boies what he had told Adams about the ceiling, Blascak replied, without looking at Westmoreland: “I find this very difficult.”
Then he added: “I believed, and I told Sam Adams, that Gen. Westmoreland had placed a ceiling on the figure” and would not allow his intelligence analysts to exceed it.
Clashed With CIA
Much of the testimony has revolved around preparation of the special intelligence estimate on enemy strength in 1967.
Westmoreland’s command clashed with the CIA on several matters, most importantly on the question of whether Viet Cong self-defense forces and secret-self-defense forces should be counted.
The report, completed a little more than two months before the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese launched the Tet offensive, did not include the disputed forces.
In his testimony Tuesday, Blascak, who was assigned to the CIA at the time the estimate was being prepared, said he believed that the report underestimated the enemy force by about 200,000 men.
Forwarded to President
The report, which was forwarded to the President and the nation’s top policy-makers, included a note saying that the size of the self-defense forces could not be estimated “with any measure of confidence.”
“This is extraordinarily hard for me,” the colonel told the jury. “But as a piece of paper that represented itself as intelligence, it (the report) was corrupt. . . .”
Asked moments later about the document’s assertion that self-defense forces could not be estimated with confidence, Blascak called the statement “a very carefully packaged lie.”
U.S. District Judge Pierre N. Leval ordered the jury to disregard both of the statements because, he said, the witness “was putting himself in someone else’s mind.”