Samuel A. Adams, a one-time Central Intelligence Agency analyst who became a co-defendant in Gen. William C. Westmoreland’s celebrated libel suit against CBS over the supposed manipulation of enemy troop strength in Vietnam, has been found dead.
Adams, whose accusations helped form the basis of the CBS documentary that resulted in the Westmoreland suit, was found at his home here on Monday. He was 55 and apparently suffered a heart attack.
Adams was a CIA expert on the Viet Cong, the guerrilla force that North Vietnam operated in South Vietnam. He contended that Westmoreland’s military intelligence officers were ordered to deliberately underestimate the strength of the guerrilla force to make it appear that the U.S.-backed war was being won.
The dispute over the Viet Cong strength was a major controversy at the CIA, where Adams worked for 10 years. It became the basis for the 1982 CBS documentary, “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception.”
Westmoreland settled his libel suit out of court after hearing testimony at the 1985 trial by his former chief of military intelligence that supported Adams’ charges.
Adams, who was a consultant for the documentary, testified at the trial, saying, “I do not believe Gen. Westmoreland communicated fully to Washington.”
Concerning the intelligence gathering and reporting of enemy strength, he said: “I believe there was a conspiracy. There was an attempt to do wrong with the numbers. . . . I have always felt that what went on in the 1967-1968 period was a conspiracy.”
The controversy began after Adams provided what he said was evidence that the Viet Cong had at least 30,000 more soldiers in Saigon than Westmoreland reported.
His objections were noted in a National Intelligence Estimate that was placed on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s desk in the same week as the 1968 Tet offensive began. Viet Cong forces, in numbers far larger than Westmoreland had reported, mounted surprise attacks that overwhelmed cities and villages throughout South Vietnam and almost breached defenses at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.