Whitney: Today I am joined by the legendary author and researcher Doug Valentine, whose books, including “The CIA as Organized Crime,” among several others, are essential reading for understanding how covert and illegal intelligence operations have shaped, and continue to shape, conflict and policy in the U.S. and beyond. In this interview, we will be focusing on what is probably Doug’s most well-known book, “The Phoenix Program,” which delves deeply into the CIA-backed covert terror and psyop campaign of the same name that took place during the war in Vietnam.
Many have since referred to the Phoenix program as a civilian assassination program that killed an estimated 40,000 Vietnamese civilians. Some people say it’s even higher. Today, we will not only be discussing the history of Phoenix and its influence on so-called “dirty wars” in Latin America in the following decades, but also its use as a model for U.S. Homeland Security institutions that were created in the wake of the September 11th attacks as well as a roadmap for agendas that are getting a very disturbing boost amid the current coronavirus crisis.
So thanks for joining me today Doug. First things first, how are you doing in these crazy times?
Doug: You know, I’ve been social distancing for a long time, so I haven’t noticed much of it anyway. It’s okay with me. You know, I’m a writer, so I spend most of my time alone anyway, you know? Thirty five years locked up alone. And just, you know, the world goes on around me.
Whitney: Well, I can definitely relate to that as someone who spends most of my time writing as well. So let’s get started then. So, Doug, for people that may never have heard about the Phoenix program, can you briefly summarize what the Phoenix program was and how it fit into the CIA’s overall operations in Vietnam during this period of time?
Doug: Yeah, it’s hard, but I’ll try to do it briefly. The United States started fighting in South Vietnam. It sent troops in 1965, but they noticed right away that they were not winning the hearts and minds of the civilians in South Vietnam, which had loyalty to the insurgents. The communist insurgents represented the interests of the South Vietnamese more than the Americans and their allies in the South Vietnamese government.
So around 1967, the Americans started what was called the other war. And it was a war for us to pacify the South Vietnamese. And the main instrument of doing this was the Phoenix program. And the Phoenix program, which was created by the CIA, brought together all the police, military and intelligence services that were operating in South Vietnam and focused them along with all the civic institutions and the media, and you know, whatever else, whatever other apparatuses they could bring into the system of identifying and eliminating the communist cadres who were running the insurgency in South Vietnam. Now, these people were civilians. These are not Viet Cong guerrillas. They are people who are working… they’re like form[ing] a shadow government. They’re people who proselytize in the villages. They’re people who recruit people for the Viet Cong. They deliver messages. They serve basically a political function and they’re civilians. And so the military, the United States military, is legally prohibited from going out and arresting them. It’s a police function, and so the CIA creates this apparatus, the Phoenix apparatus, and it focuses every police and paramilitary and intelligence unit on identifying these communist cadres and then going out and capturing them or killing them or putting them in indefinite detention. That’s the simple answer. There is a whole incredibly complex context to how this all happens, OK? But essentially, it is a way of rooting out the communists cadres who are running the insurgency itself, Vietnam.
Whitney: So one notable aspect of the Phoenix program was how it used ostensibly the diplomatic branches of the U.S. government, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. In what ways were these so-called diplomatic agencies involved? And how was their role in Phoenix at odds with public perception of these organizations?
Doug: Well, sure. You know, what Phoenix did is it brought together existing programs. It did not create a program itself. Phoenix was a coordination program. It did not create units. And all these various, you know, components of Phoenix had been put in place by the United States when it initially came to South Vietnam in 1954. The United States displaced the French, and North Vietnam was separated from South Vietnam. And about 700,000 Catholics fled North Vietnam, and they came to South Vietnam and they became the cadres for a lot of programs that the Agency for International Development was putting together in South Vietnam.
They created the Agency for International Development, which is a branch of the State Department in collaboration with the CIA–created civic institutions throughout South Vietnam. They created a junior chamber of commerce. They created TV stations. They created radio stations. They created businesses… just spread their influence throughout all of South Vietnam. They also created police services. The American military came in and reorganized the entire South Vietnamese military under the guidance of American advisors, and the CIA went around and it created what were called civic action programs under cover of the Agency for International Development. South Vietnam was a country of deep poverty.
There’s a very, very famous episode of this in the book by Graham Greene called “The Quiet American,” which was written about these kind of events that were happening in South Vietnam in 1953, 54. A British reporter goes out and he finds that this CIA officer has created a medical dispensary and he is giving injections, immunizations to two poor South Vietnamese people as a way of trying to win them over to the new South Vietnamese government that the United States has created. So, under cover of civic action of doing good deeds, the CIA, at the same time, is recruiting informants. It’s recruiting people into its police and intelligence organizations, what it’s creating, and it’s spreading under cover of the Agency for International Development, all these various civic action programs throughout the entire, all of South Vietnam, using American money. At the very basis of it is what’s called psychological warfare. All of the Phoenix program, just like everything that’s happening in the United States today, is based on psychological warfare, convincing people through various means that, you know, if you support the American line, that this is in your best interest.
For example, the Catholics who had come, who, you know, as refugees from North Vietnam who staffed out many of these civic action programs did not need to be indoctrinated in the idea that South Vietnam should fight godless communism. But that is essentially what was happening. It was an ideological war. It was America bringing free enterprise to South Vietnam and the communists bringing secular humanism, which would meet the material needs of the South Vietnamese people. And so it became ideological warfare. This is what underlies every aspect of it. And you can see the same sort of ideological warfare playing out in the United States today, where people are, where Fox News, on the one hand, is presenting one message, and MSNBC is presenting another message. And the outlets are competing to try and psychologically move American political social movements in a particular direction. That is exactly what was happening in South Vietnam from 1954 until 1967 when the Phoenix program was created.
Instead of just having, you know, finding out on this information more basis, they actually decide the CIA and the United States government to go out and kill these people. You know, they’re tired of trying to talk and convince anybody to join their side. So they set up an entire government apparatus that enables this to happen. And they create a judicial system in South Vietnam, which started in, I think it was 1966, allows for the indefinite detention of anybody who’s considered a threat to national security. There’s a secret government decree by the president of South Vietnam. And this indefinite detention becomes the legal nail on which the Phoenix program hangs. These people who are targeted in the Phoenix program, these communist cadres, are free individuals. They’re civilians in South Vietnam. They have a right to preach. They are believers that, you know, land for the landless, you know, low rent economic cooperatives. These are the sort of things that they were advocating for. Plus, which they were fighting in an actual war. But the Phoenix decides that the way to make all this go away is to the final solution of being able to arrest them without any criminal charges. They can be now, these communist cadres, can be arrested. They can be hunted down simply because they are designated as a threat to national security.
And I would remind your audience that under Barack Obama, indefinite detention laws were activated in the United States; created in the United States. And just as in, you know, all the things that we see happening are incrementally put in place, so all these things were incrementally put in place over a period of 10, 15 years in South Vietnam until the Phoenix program came along. Everything was in place. The legal, the justice of the system has been skewed so that military courts could be set up outside of the regular judicial system to try people arrested on these entree administrative detention laws. So, of course, right away, if you find your name on the Phoenix blacklist and you can be arrested without charge and brought to a court without any right to a lawyer or without the government having to present evidence. And I should remind your audience again that all these things are in place now in the United States, too. Just like if you’re an immigrant, Mexican immigrant and you’re put in one of detention centers, you have no right to a lawyer. You have no right to present evidence. I mean, you’re just there and you’re at the mercy of the state because you have this sort of criminal status, you know, that you haven’t done anything, you know? And it sounds criminal created a crime.
Anyway, so this whole judicial apparatus becomes what facilitates the Phoenix program and enables it to happen. So you can’t just view it as a, as you know, as a bottle on a shelf with a label on it that says the Phoenix program and we have these little intelligence and operations coordinating centers around the country. It’s put in place through all the systems, which the United States has put in place in South Vietnam over many years, which we see incrementally happening here in the United States the same way.
At the very heart of it are two CIA created programs. There’s two CIA created programs that are the foundation stones of the Phoenix program. One of them is a network of interrogation centers. They’re called province interrogation centers. The CIA, through a company, an American company called Pacific Architects and Engineers, built an interrogation center in every province in South Vietnam. There were 44 provinces; they’re like a state in the United States. And they turned these interrogation centers over to the special branch of the police, which is like our FBI. The CIA paid the salaries of every member of the special branch of police. They completely controlled this organization. They recruited whoever they wanted into it. They had psych op, you know, little Rorschach tests that they would give to people that they would recruit into the special branch of the police to make sure that they were obedient and would follow the American line, you know, and stuff like that.
Anyway, these interrogation centers are then soon packed with suspects of people who are thought to be members of the communist apparatus in South Vietnam. Now, all of a sudden the police are putting people who are political opponents. They’re not communists at all. They’re not communist cadres at all. There you find your name on a Phoenix blacklist, and now all of a sudden, the police can go out and arrest you and put you in one of these torture chambers. And if you want to get out, your family has to pay a bribe. And before you know it, Phoenix becomes the greatest blackmail scheme that was ever created.
As one CIA officer told me, a guy named Lucien Conein, who is very famous, he said, do what I say or you’ll be seen. You know, and there are no legal restrictions to who is put in these interrogation centers. It’s whoever the special branch in the CIA wants to put in them. And so sure enough, pretty soon, anybody who’s an opponent of the president of South Vietnam, you know, other nationalists, are finding themselves arrested and deemed to be suspects because you can be arrested on your suspicion. All throughout South Vietnam, as part of the Phoenix program, is a network of informants. Everybody who’s a police informant, everybody who the military intelligence have people, they have informant nets. The intelligence agency has informant nets. Pretty soon, all of South Vietnam is just overrun by informants. All these police intelligence.
Anyway, it becomes a police state. And not only is it a police state. Everybody is scared to death that their name is going to end up on the on the Phoenix blacklist. So Phoenix is much more. And again, that’s psychological warfare. It’s much more than a program to identify and arrest the communist cadres. It becomes a blanket way of oppression, of oppressing and scaring everybody in the South Vietnamese society into doing whatever the government tells them to do. Because even if you’re not a communist cadre, if you’re having an affair with some cop’s wife, well, you can be sure your name is gonna end up on the Phoenix blacklist. If you’re a business man in a province in South Vietnam, and you’re in competition with the province chief for like a concrete business or, you know, a fruit stand, well, you can be sure your name’s gonna end up on the Phoenix blacklist.
And the Americans who are stamping out this program, who do not speak Vietnamese, are given names by the South Vietnamese police, and the American forces go out and arrest them and bring them to these interrogation centers and work at them. You know, so all the sudden, it’s just a blanket way of pacifying the country and making sure that everybody does exactly what they’re told to do. Then, the other foundation stone, where the counter-terror teams that the CIA created… the counter-terror teams were formed from people who are in South Vietnamese prisons. They were guys who had deserted from the South Vietnamese army. They were created from minority groups in South Vietnam who’d been oppressed by the Vietnamese. And these people were put into little groups–seven, eight, ten men groups, which were the death squads that the CIA ran. They would go out and they would target individuals who belong to the communist cadres and when they would go out to either capture them and bring them into these interrogation centers or kill them, they would kill every member of their family. They would kill not just the individual that they were going after, but they would terrorize everybody in that area.
So, this added another layer of fear and terror in South Vietnamese society that not only if you end up on the Phoenix blacklist can you be brought into an interrogation center, can you be arrested and put into indefinite detention… can be sent to some God-awful prison that’s like, you know, the black hole of Calcutta. You know, where people were chained to stone walls and had acid poured on or, you know, just the most horrible conditions. But you could have one of these counter-terror teams, these crew teams come into your village and not just kill the communist cadre there, but kill anybody who could be in any way associated with him–his family, his friends, the neighbors. You know, it just became a way of organizing South Vietnamese society through terror, which is what we see happen in the new United States today.
For somebody like me, who is 70 years old, it’s nothing new because I remember McCarthy era. I remember as a kid at high school… I mean, in grade school in the 1950s, having to crawl under my desk, you know, because everybody was afraid the Russians were going to drop atomic bombs on us. I remember as a little kid, you know, five, six years old, worried that there was strontium-90 in my milk because the United States was conducting atomic, you know, blowing up atomic bombs in Nevada. You know, so this is the way America works periodically every ten, fifteen, twenty years. There’s another way of terrorizing Americans into toeing the line, and that line is inevitably anti-secular humanism. It’s anti-communism; anti-Godless communism. And you’re scared and you’re petrified and you’re terrorized into believing that there’s forces outside the world, whether they’re immigrants or communists or Muslims, who are going to steal all our freedoms and drop bombs on us or do whatever. And unless you absolutely toe the line and buy the government line, your life’s in danger. This is just how the United States organizes itself and how it has been organizing itself for, you know, like I said, at least as long as I’ve been alive.
Whitney: So, one often overlooked aspect of Phoenix that I think is really relevant to what’s going on today, too, like you were pointing out, was its use of technology, including the use of the so-called supercomputers of the era to analyze data. And that that would be used to choose which people to target with this program. And I find this interesting because Yasha Levine had a book called “Surveillance Valley,” and in there he discusses how the framework of today’s mass surveillance systems with the Internet and Silicon Valley and the NSA and all of that was also born during the Vietnam conflict. So can you elaborate on the role technology played in the Phoenix program and how the evolution of technology has allowed the U.S. government’s use of Phoenix-style tactics to evolve as well?
Doug: Absolutely, yes. It’s very important. So the Phoenix program sets up what are called Intelligence and Operations Coordinating Centers, IOCs in a district it’s called a DIOC; a District Intelligence Operations Coordinating Center. In a province, it’s a PIOC. OK? And it’s staffed by a combination of Americans and South Vietnamese policemen and soldiers and spooks. And they go out and they identify in their little area, just like the Department of Homeland Security nowadays, through its fusion centers, identify as anybody who’s a terrorist surrogate in their area. These Phoenix IOC people would go out and identify and make up a list of all the suspects who are part of this communist cadre command and control apparatus. And then they would fill out reports and they would send them back to a Phoenix directorate in Saigon. I talked to the first CIA officer who ran this Phoenix directorate in Saigon. I also talked with a guy named Nelson Brickham who created the Phoenix program. He based it on a Ford corporation model.
The organizers in Phoenix and all these reports that are coming in from districts and from provinces are put into a CIA computer. They’re digitized and that was called the Phụng Hoàng management information system. On the Vietnamese version of Phoenix, it was called Phung Hoàng. So, now everybody who’s a suspect throughout all of South Vietnam has their name and all their biographical information put into a computer program. I asked William Colby about it, the guy who was running Phoenix at the time. And he said, well, you know, we don’t necessarily believe that just because your name was in the system that you were a communist cadre, but it was fun to play around with. But, you know, that’s just the CIA officer blowing smoke. I mean, once your name is in that computer, your life is ruined. You know, you’re there, and it’s actually available online. They’ve actually put this system… you can actually go look at it online nowadays.
The Phoenix program management information system is the first computerized system for law enforcement and national security. And pretty soon, MIDA Corporation in the United States is developing a similar program for the Justice Department in the United States. And it becomes the national criminal information system in the United States. Supposedly, it’s just criminals who are going into this system. But you can be sure that the FBI and the CIA, which very early on had a program called Chaos, Operation Chaos, which began in the United States at the same time the Phoenix program did in June 1967, were also compiling their own computer systems of the data on anybody who could be considered anti-war during the Vietnam War. Anybody who was a member of the Black Panthers. Anybody who was in the civil rights movement and could be said to have communist sympathies. All these people at the same time are going into computer systems that were developed on the Phoenix program model in the CIA and in the FBI. And it’s for political purposes, not for criminal purposes.
It’s now all the information that can be gathered about you from CIA informants who are inside police departments, the red squads of police departments, the CIA goes throughout the United States and recruits assets in every police department that reports about anybody who could be said to be anti-America. All that information started in 1967, starts going into CIA and FBI computers, which again are based on this Phoenix program model and actually became a big scandal in 1974 when Seymour Hersh revealed the CIA’s domestic spying program. It was called the “family jewels,” you know, for those of us who were maligned at the time and had been protesting the war, you know, it was nothing new. Everybody knew they were doing it, you know, you could never be sure who was an informant for the FBI or the police or even the CIA back in those days.
For regular American society, it was kind of a shock, but just let your audience know these sorts of things have been going on forever. As soon as there were computers, the CIA and the FBI were using them to track anybody who that could be considered to be a subversive. And again, you’re considered a subversive for purely ideological reasons–you’re for godless communism. The one thing you can’t be is a secular humanist. You know, that’s rebuttal. And anybody in the country who is for black liberation, for equal whites, for blacks, the ending of Jim Crow laws–any of that–you become a political subversive. And that’s just the way it is in the United States. And I should add the drug war is a huge part of this.
This surveillance system that we’re talking about right now, and at the same time, that the CIA and the FBI in 1967 are developing computer programs, so was the DEA, which was at that time called the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. It was systematizing. It had gone from an organization, the Bureau of Narcotics, that consisted of 300 guys to an organization that consisted of thousands of agents and all of whom have to show or all of whom go through what’s called motivational indoctrination programs to make sure that they adhere to the ideology and that they follow the party line. You can’t get into the CIA, you can’t get into the FBI or the DEA or the Department of Homeland Security if you exhibit even the smallest subversive tendencies.
So, anybody who these become the people who staff the security organizations in the United States, whether it’s the DEA, the FBI, the CIA, you name it, you know, it’s even hard to get elected to a political position, not unless you adhere to the party line, which is basically the business party line. OK? So, again, it’s the psychological warfare and the construction of systems, including these surveillance systems. All right? But also the Justice Department systems, who can be tried for what? What kind of laws are created, including tax laws? You know? All these or the whole system is geared to terrorize and make people afraid of stepping out of line. And that is the reason why the United States, like people in the United States, are so incapable of breaking out of this all lock box that we’re in. You know, it’s incapable of effecting any real social or political change. It’s really the United States having been at the forefront of technology, of critical thought, has used all that technology and critical thought simply to consolidate power in fewer and fewer hands, which is why you see more billionaires all the time.
This is why you see the consolidation of information and fewer and fewer outlets. You know, it’s using all this power, all this technology, all this secret knowledge to just create a very closed society and at the same time say, well, you’re free. You’re free to worship whatever you want. You know? You can worship Dave Koresh. You can worship Jim Jones. You can shoot Lysol in your veins if you want. If someone tells you to, you know, you’re free, you can do whatever you want. And it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t matter that this stuff is self-destructive. It doesn’t matter that it results in our health care system… virtually non-existent, as it has become apparent in the last couple of months. There is no safety net for Americans. And a lot of it goes back to the systems that were put in place; the methodologies of the Phoenix program.
Whitney: So in your book on the Phoenix program, you talk about how this campaign of terror and this political warfare wasn’t just used on the Vietnamese people, but also was used on Americans in terms of its use as a psychological operation or psyop. So can you explain how Phoenix at the time employed psyops on the American public and touch briefly on how these tactics, these same psyop tactics had been used in the decade since?
Doug: Yeah, sure. It begins with the militarization of the police forces. There was a time I remember when I was a kid, again, when cops walked around the street. They didn’t even have patrol cars. You know, they had a billy club and they knew everybody. You know, you’re going to New York City. But during the Vietnam War, at the time of, you know, the Phoenix program, it’s developing, there are huge anti-war demonstrations. And just as the Phoenix forces in South Vietnam relied on paramilitary police forces in order to put down dissent, that became the methodology here in the United States.
You start seeing the development of SWAT teams. And people are told that these SWAT teams, which patrol the United States and military paramilitary formations with military gear are there for their benefit. That if you’re anti-war, you’re an enemy of the state and you have to have these militarized police forces in order to protect businesses from, you know, somebody throwing a brick through their window in the course of a demonstration. So that becomes accepted as truth. This is something that gets ingrained into the mind of the population–that militarized police forces are there for their benefit because they’re going to protect your businesses from rioters.
And of course, again, this bleeds over into the civil rights movement where black people were actually organizing and demonstrating and stuff like that. So nowadays you never see that anymore. You rarely ever see any kind of demonstration against the police state because the police state is incrementally, since Vietnam, more highly militarized. And it’s almost impossible for anybody, you know, anybody on the street to get together the kind of firepower, the kind of force that is necessary to overcome the militarized police that can be called out in a moment’s notice. You saw this in Boston with the Boston marathon bombing. There were military tanks patrolling the streets of Boston. You know, and people just stayed inside and said, thank God for the military and the police. They’re protecting us from terror.
So people by, you know, within the last ten, fifteen years have accepted this plus, which, since Vietnam, there’s been this psychological warfare of militarizing civil society. And this is largely done through the actions of rich businessmen. Who fear that their businesses would suffer if the American people were to rise up. And so the military is constantly glorified everywhere.
Again, we never saw this when I was young. Let me just try to put it in a little historical context. When we were kids, there was a Memorial Day parade and World War I veterans and a couple of World War ll veterans would walk down the street. And that was once a year. Most of, you know, for guys like me who grew up in the 50s and 60s, most of our fathers who’d been in the army, hated the army. They wanted nothing to do with it. But Vietnam, again, changes stuff. All of a sudden, if you’re not fighting communism, you’re anti-America. And that drives a wedge through civil society. It’s important to understand how if you don’t venerate, if you don’t make displays of worshiping and glorifying the military, you’re considered anti-America.
That has become evident, for example, with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee at a football game. All right? All of a sudden he’s deemed to be unpatriotic and he can’t get a job. He took a knee for social justice and he was said to be anti-military. He suffered economic harm. And this becomes an example. This is psychological warfare to everybody who is watching. No matter how you feel about things, your feelings don’t matter. If you’re a pacifist and you advocate pacifism, you’re considered anti-military and the military, of course, is like the cops that are protecting us. You’re considered anti-America. And this has infused all of American civil society.
The basic assumption of American society is that you have to be pro-military. And that’s why we have 800 military bases around the world and nobody thinks, well, why do we have 800 military bases around the world? You know, I mean, what are they doing? You know? And why do we have to… you know, why is this such a big employer? Why are we spending billions and billions and trillions of dollars on military hardware?
Well, it’s because everybody is scared shitless of saying I’m against it, because if you do, you could lose your job just like Colin Kaepernick lost his job, if you talk against the military. And this is the essence of what it means to be an American in the 21st century. And since 9/11, it’s just become exponentially greater. And the burden on people to support the military has become like second nature. It’s just something that they have to do. If you don’t do it, you’re shunned and you risk social, you know, distancing from good flag-waving Americans and stuff like that. So we’re very brainwashed.
At the root of it is the need to maintain the American military empire–these 800 bases around the world that assure the very rich that they will have cheap labor forces, that their goods will flow from foreign countries where products are being manufactured and brought back to the United States because these bases serve to control the shipping lanes and to keep American transportation open, you know, and flowing.
Also, 800 military bases around the world means that the United States has political influence in all those countries. Out of every one of these 800 bases, there are CIA officers creating informant networks outside those bases, OK, and infiltrated all the countries where they’re in. And again, doing the same sorts of things that were done in the Phoenix program, creating databases of people in all these different countries who can be counted on to support the American line. They know everything about everybody, all these surveillance systems that you’re talking about.
These are all based on all these military bases and all the CIA stations that are set up in every country around the world. They’re not just gathering this kind of Phoenix information on Americans here at home, they’re gathering on everybody in the world. And that’s what this military base archipelago assures to the rich political elite here in the United States that they know everything that’s going on around the world about everybody and every citizen, except for the few countries where they have a hard time, you know, establishing a military base.
Whitney: Right. So, you just brought this up, but to ask a question on this point specifically, you have said in articles and other writings that the September 11th attacks, quote, “lifted all the moral prohibitions on militaristic America,” end quote, and brought many aspects of the Phoenix program home to roost. And you specifically pointed to the Department of Homeland Security as being modeled on aspects of the Phoenix program.
So I just want to ask you to elaborate a little more on that point, specifically how Phoenix has influenced post-9/11 policies and institutions in the U.S.
Doug: Yeah, sure. So the department… George Bush created an Office of Homeland Security within weeks of 9/11. And then it was under a guy named Tom Ridge, I believe, originally… I started writing articles about it that day for Counterpunch. You know, I’m talking about how this was Phoenix had come home to roost. And in 2002, I can’t remember which month, Bush announced the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. For example, it totally reorganized law enforcement in the United States, and it included military forces that are here stationed in the United States. I think it’s called NORTHCOM. It’s the military units that are based here in the United States. These are not National Guard, but, you know, regular American… regular army forces. They become part of Homeland Security, as does the CIA.
Now, the restrictions are limited or eliminated so that now the CIA can start operating domestically in the United States as part of this Homeland Security apparatus that settle in every state. And its intention is to protect what’s called the critical infrastructure, which includes Microsoft, Google. It includes the transportation industry. It includes, you know, you just name it. You know, hospitals and all of these… anywhere that you have a member, an industry, apart again… now, going back to what I was telling you about how the CIA set up civil society inside Vietnam through the Agency for International Development and was able to manipulate all of civil society because the CIA had set it up and put its agents and its informants and its assets in place and, you know, in positions of power. Well, this is what the Department of Homeland Security starts doing. It starts forming relations with all these businesses, corporations that are involved in the critical infrastructure. And it recruits them into its Department of Homeland Security apparatus. And these people report back to the Department of Homeland Security on anybody who appears to be stepping out of line.
You know, there’s a guy named Ed Snowden over there, who seems to be smuggling CDs out of the, you know, out of corporate headquarters at night or something like that. You know, they’re just people. It’s the same sort of network of informants that I told you that flooded South Vietnam… well, through the Department of Homeland Security, they now have a network of informants that completely covers and blankets the United States through this critical infrastructure apparatus, which is tied into the Department of Homeland Security, and all these people who are recruited to work for Department of Homeland Security are selected, again through these kind of Rorschach tests, to make sure that they can be assimilated and that they will preach the party line, and now not only are they informing on people who make threats, OK? They’re informing on everybody who they think is anti-America, who’s, you know, anti-war, whatever. And this covers the whole country.
And then it begins to create this whole parallel secret society of people who are, you know, really can be counted on at a time of crisis to toe the line. You know, I suppose you must know that ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is part of the Department of Homeland Security. It’s not some, you know, independent agency. It falls under the rubric of Department of Homeland Security. It’s people in the Department of Homeland Security who have set up detention centers all around the country so that… and you know about this from your study, Continuity in Government, and the vast amount of detention centers that have been set up here, and especially on military bases here in the United States, that in a time of crisis, if people started acting out, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department can impose the indefinite detention of statutes, can activate them in a minute, and people can be put in indefinite detention throughout this entire Department of Homeland Security network that exists around the United States.
That has been incrementally expanded and perfected and computerized since 2002. And then, lo and behold, in 2020, there is a virus attack and a national emergency, which activates the whole Department of Homeland Security apparatus. It all goes into high alert. And you don’t know about it because behind the scenes there are secret decrees, there are executive orders which you don’t know about, which are out of the Homeland Security Fusion Centers, which operate exactly like these intelligence operations, coordination centers that Phoenix had. I mean, they’re modeled exactly on them. [These centers] can actually reach into civil society. And they can create militias of people who are ideologically attuned, and they can have them go. And when Donald Trump says liberate Michigan, liberate Maryland, liberate whatever state he wants, whatever blue state is his political opponent, they get it. It’s this whole Phoenix system that’s used for political purposes. Like it was in South Vietnam. Anybody who is opposing the president of South Vietnam found themselves on a Phoenix list. It’s political control of this whole apparatus out of the White House.
Donald Trump can say to this Homeland Security apparatus, liberate these people, and before you know it, militias–armed militias–guys with guns dressed in camo fatigues, waving pro-Trump flags, American flags, Confederate flags. It doesn’t matter what kind of flag it is, you know, just as long as it’s rah, rah, are out on the streets. And this is what a national emergency has in store. If it gets worse, this whole… very right-wing, pro-military apparatus that exists through the Department of Homeland Security, which involves these kind of, really, you know, right-wing militias, can be activated, and they can go on and start functioning just like armed propaganda teams. There are armed propaganda teams that the CIA is set up through the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. They can start acting like counterterror teams. They can, you know, clandestinely go to somebody’s home at night and knock ‘em off. And you think Trump is going to do anything about it? Do you think that the police forces and the FBI and the CIA, which are all ideologically attuned with this movement, are going to do anything about it? No, because it’s a national emergency and we have to consolidate forces, and we have to rally around the flag. So that is the absolute worst case scenario of what the Covid emergency could result in–is this consolidation of a fascist state in the United States through the Department of Homeland Security, which is based on the Phoenix program in South Vietnam and may be moving towards the same ends. I don’t want to scare everybody, but, you know, that’s what the potential is. It’s there.
Whitney: Well, things that have happened recently with this current crisis that really concern me is that since beginning in January, at least, what we’ve been told, it’s been the National Security Council, the intelligence community and the Pentagon, who have been drafting still classified plans for Coronavirus response in the events at a certain number of cases is triggered. We’ve also heard mentions of what we’ve mentioned a couple of times in our discussion, Continuity of Government has been referenced in recent reports in Newsweek and with NORTHCOM, which you alluded to earlier, having activated already a specific task force in Washington, D.C. Newsweek is even talking about the possibility of martial law and things of this nature. It’s all very disturbing.
But to give a little context of Continuity of Government programs for listeners that may not be familiar…, in the 1980s we had these Phoenix-style operations being implemented by the CIA in Latin America, in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua and other places… so while that was going on, Oliver North and these other Iran-Contra conspirators, they were developing the foundation for another Phoenix-style program for use in the U.S. domestically that included one of these high tech, you know, databases of subversives called Main Corp. And this was all under the guise of a Continuity of Government program whereby Americans were deemed unfriendly by the state. They could either be surveilled or detained if this plan were ever to be activated. And of course, these plans, they still exist today. They were briefly activated after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. And as I just said, they’ve been coming back up now in relation to the Coronavirus crisis. So could you talk about how the legacy of the Phoenix program has influenced these continuity of government plans from the 1980s and in the years since?
Doug: Sure. You know, I mean, I had the advantage of having interviewed some of the people that actually put these programs in place. OK? I started investigating and researching Phoenix in 1984, in the height of the Iran-Contra controversy. You know, I mean, it starts really exploding around 1986, I think that’s what this guy, Eugene Hasenfus, first was captured, and it led to revelations that the CIA was transporting cocaine to the United States. There was just a terrible, terrible scandal that, of course, Congress contained. You know, because Congress was behind all of this.
But I was interviewing CIA officers at that time, and one of the CIA officers I interviewed was a guy named Donald Gregg. Yes, Donald Gregg, in 1986 when I sent him a letter, was working as George Bush’s national security adviser. George Bush was vice president at the time. And I had heard that Donald Gregg had been involved in the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. So I sent him a letter at the White House. And one day I’m sitting around at home and my wife says, hey, Doug, there’s a guy on the phone, Donald Gregg. And he says, hey, Doug, how you doing? Oh, I’m OK. How are you? He said, I’ve got nothing to do at the White House today. If you want to do that interview about the Phoenix program, let’s do it. OK, at that time, I was in good with the CIA. All that changed later on. But at that point, they still liked me.
Anyway, so he explained how him and a guy named Rudy Enders and another guy named Felix Rodriguez, who was an anti-Castro Cuban, worked together in South Vietnam in 1970 with the Phoenix program to round up Communist cadres in in South Vietnam. OK? He described it in detail, and it’s in my book. It’s in my Phoenix program book. And he introduced me to this guy, Rudy Enders, who had been his paramilitary deputy. OK? Donald Gregg was what was called a region officer in charge. He was a very senior CIA officer in South Vietnam. And he was in charge of all region lll, OK, which was one-quarter of the country. And Rudy was his paramilitary adviser deputy, and Rudy Enders commanded all the CIA’s paramilitary forces and in region lll. OK? The ones that organized the attacks on communist cadres, the death squads, the armed propaganda teams, all that kind of stuff. And Rudy Enders’ deputy was this anti-Castro Cuban guy, Felix Rodriguez. Well, Donald sends me to Rudy Enders, and Rudy Enders had just finished being… after Vietnam, he had become head of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, which is all its paramilitary forces around the world. And it was Rudy Enders, Donald Gregg and this guy, Felix Rodriguez, who put together what was, you know, people now call the Salvador option, where they actually imported the Phoenix program model that they used from in South Vietnam into El Salvador and Nicaragua. And Rudy Enders and Donald Gregg explained to me in painful detail exactly how they did that and how they set up the Contras in Nicaragua and forces all throughout Central America at the time.
So it’s not just that the Phoenix program goes from South Vietnam to Central America in the 1980s. It’s the same CIA officers that control it. And now they’re higher up in the hierarchy. There, Donald Gregg is advisor to George Bush. Rudy Enders is running the entire Special Operations division. They have taken the lessons from South Vietnam and not only applied them in South America, Central America, but because they now have worldwide responsibilities, they’re using the model in Africa. They’re using it everywhere in the world. And that’s exactly what happens.
It’s at this point, and this is really crucial to understand, that American military forces no longer view these kind of operations against civilians as violating the laws of war. Very important to understand… when Phoenix was set up in South Vietnam, a lot of military officers rejected the idea of American soldiers being involved in the CIA program, going after civilians. But through the 1980s, thanks to Donald Gregg and Rudy Enders and guys like Felix Rodriguez, the military starts absorbing Phoenix methods and organizations working against civilians as they did, you know, in the wars in Central America at that time were wars against civilians, OK? And now, by the time Bill Clinton becomes president, you have guards from special forces who are running the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And after 9/11, military forces are completely infiltrated by the CIA and they have been politicized. It’s the politicization of the officer corps and the United States military. Phoenix is taught now at West Point as how you go into foreign countries and control them. And there is no longer… yeah… very important to understand… the CIA actually infiltrates the United States’ military and reorganizes the military. So now it’s more geared towards fighting civilian populations, as in the occupation of Iraq, as in Afghanistan. Now, this is what the American military does.
You don’t see tanks rolling across Europe. You don’t see battleships, you know, U.S. battleships battling about with German battleships or Japanese battleships. All that is a thing of the past. The United States and its military have been politicized, and this is how it polices the world through Phoenix-style operations of identifying insurgents, put it into a computer, terrorizing their families and the surrounding population so that they toe the American line, so that American colonies like in Iraq and Afghanistan can exist in peace without any dissent. It’s hard to explain it all in detail, but this is how it has evolved. And when I say Phoenix has come home to roost, what I’m saying to you is the whole ideology of the politicization of the military, making militarism, sort of, you know, like a sacred holy institution has no effect at all of American psychology. This is the environment, the intellectual or anti-intellectual environment that we live in.
And nothing represents this anti-intellectual, pro-military, pro-business ideology better than Donald Trump. He is the absolute perfect spokesman for it. And it seems beyond coincidental that he’s president at this point where anybody who… any president who had any kind of intellectual integrity at all would not be spouting the sorts of things that he spouts. And it almost seems like, you know, the way Barack Obama was seemed like to be a CIA plant to advance the interests of the United States in North Africa, Central Asia and then the Middle East, that Donald Trump is the CIA player in the presidency now to make sure that all this gets brought… all this Phoenix-style organization of society is brought back to the United States–closing off the borders, the glorification of the military. You know, nobody was harder on Colin Kaepernick than Trump. You know, it just all seems to be put in place. And while he runs his parallel reality TV show out of the White House, the military and the CIA and the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are doing their thing. They are reorganizing American society, American ethics, to make it more compatible with the interests of big business and the military. And that’s what’s happening. And this was like, you know, just the one hour version… it’s very complex. But it happens, you know, on a million different fronts.
Whitney: Well, I think one thing that’s interesting about Trump being president right now, why all of this is going on, is that a lot of people on the right that would normally protest or be very against authoritarian overreach of a government in this way… some of them, particularly through the Qanon movement and all of that, are cheering on a lot of these policies with some people even asking that Trump declare martial law, in some cases when these people, if it was Obama or any other president, probably would totally oppose that type of policy. So I think it’s kind of interesting in that regard, but I think it’s worth pointing out that whether it’s someone like Joe Biden who wrote the foundation for the Patriot Act or someone like Donald Trump, so many of the politicians that get to participate in the general election frequently will support these policies. Right? But, this brings me all to my last question, which is about sort of, you know, everything that’s going on right now with the current Coronavirus crisis, because in the past couple of months I mentioned earlier this some covert, classified planning done by intelligence agencies, the National Security Council and the military.
But in addition, we have seen a public government push for new, quote, unquote, “emergency powers,” including William Barr, the attorney general, requesting indefinite detention powers. We’re also seeing Jared Kushner promote an increased surveillance system under the guise of contact tracing and things like this. It’s worth pointing out that both Barr and Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, were promoting these same policies last fall, saying that they would help prevent mass shootings before they occur. And now they are going to help us ostensibly combat Coronavirus. So what do you think about these recent pushes for greatly increased government power and surveillance? And why do you think Americans should be concerned in light of the Phoenix program’s legacy that we’ve been discussing?
Doug: Sure, these things happen incrementally. One of the things I’m trying to do is give you a broader historical view. Every 10 or 15 years, another piece is put in place, another crisis occurs and civil liberties are restricted even further. And so you don’t have to be a genius to see the arc of how things are moving and in what direction they’re moving. I mean, if you look at it historically, you can just see how it’s drifting, where it’s going. And if you use your imagination, you can see what’s going to happen next. You know, because it has always been going in the same direction and it always goes that way after an emergency, whether it’s a concocted emergency or provocation or whether it’s an emergency that the through propaganda has been spun out of proportion, whatever, these things periodically happen. It’s almost like you can believe these are all coincidences, or you could think that maybe it’s part of some bigger plan. And the military and the CIA and the National Security Council all have plans, strategic plans– 20, 30, 40 years into the future. They know what’s gonna happen with the world economy better than we do. They know where resources are available that we don’t. They adjust their strategic plans to make sure that they have access to the resources that they’re going to need to maintain power, and they organize society to make sure that that happens. And these organizational systems are well-thought out. They are highly technical. They’re the people who are experts. They know things that we don’t. They have a lot of secret knowledge. We’re dominated as a society by this secrecy. We don’t know. But the people in control do know and they do know what’s going to happen next. And they have plans for what’s going to happen next. And it all just follows the same arc of where it’s going and what’s happening. I myself feel like it all has to do with diminishing resources or a population that’s worldwide that’s increasing. There’s, you know, Malthusian plans in the future to make sure that the rich political elite have access to these resources, you know, through psychological warfare. The great deal, the majority of people go along with the plans they have in store for us.
It still seems very bleak to me, you know, and especially with… if you throw climate change into the mix. I thought the next crisis was going to be a climate change crisis. I didn’t foresee the virus as the pretext for this next ratcheting up for reduction of civil liberties and an increase of police and surveillance powers. But that’s the way it’s going. And that’s the way it’s been going forever. And that’s just the way it’s going to continue to go until, you know, something happens. You know, people organize in some way for their own self-interests. It’s bleak, you know? And the last thing I would say is, you know, Bill Barr is a really scary guy.
Whitney: Yeah, I would agree with that.
Doug: I think your audience is probably a lot more aware of all these things.
Whitney: Well, that’s possible, but it’s always important in times like this, especially with so many people being in quarantine or lockdown to spend that time, you know, educating ourselves about what’s going on now, but also how we got here. And so there’s no one I would rather talk to you about how we got here than you. So thank you so much for your time in discussing all of these, you know, this arc, as you put it, from the Phoenix program to now. I think it adds a lot of really rich context that can help people understand not just what’s going on now, but what the plan is in the not-so-distant future. Right? So with that being said, I also wanted to ask you about the recent republication of your novel. If you would please talk about that for a little bit and tell people how they can follow your work and learn more about you.
Doug: A book I wrote a long time ago, 20 years ago, called TDY has been re-released, and it’s an allegory as to what’s happening now about how secret operations, how are we as naive, self-interested people get sucked into the government’s covert operations; the secrecy that you were just talking about. And when I said secrecy dominates our lives, it’s true that the great secret is how we’re dominated, you know, how do we get out of it? That’s what everybody wants to know. And this book TDY is about–it’s an allegory–it’s about a particular person who gets involved in an intelligence, a covert intelligence operation, and how it affects him for the rest of his life. It has the fact of all this secrecy, of all this repression, of all this surveillance, affects each and every one of us psychologically. And it’s damaging to our health. It as damaging to our health to be part of the society with all these covert operations, with all this police repression, with all this disinformation so that we don’t know whether it’s daytime or nighttime. All of this has an effect on an individual who’s involved in a covert operation. But it also has a psychological effect on society as a whole.
We all, all of us Americans are suffering from a kind of a PTSD. We’re constantly going through the shock of one trauma after another. And we don’t know what the purpose of these shocks is. We have no control over them. And it makes us less human and makes us not know who we are as individuals and makes us not know who we are as a society. Our bosses are denying us. They’re telling us we’re free and at the same time, through their blanket secrecy, are denying us any knowledge of who we really are. And this book, TDY, is an allegory of how that happens. And what it means to each one of us individually, and that if we understand that as individuals that we are damaged by the society that we live in, that we’re really not free, then, really, that’s the starting point for starting to do something about it, to make ourselves healthy and whole so that we can understand what’s going on. What is the starting point? So read that book. When you read it, understand that it’s an allegory and that you really have a responsibility, each and every one of us, as an individual, to first know who you are and how all this craziness is affecting you as an individual, and then start reaching out to other people to become self-actualized so that we can create a self-actualized society.
Whitney: Well, well put. Well, to wrap things up, can you tell people if they can follow you on social media, your website, where they can buy your books, anything like that?
Doug: Yeah, just go to douglasvalentine.com
Whitney: OK. And I believe Doug is also on Twitter as well for people that are on, you know, that particular social media network. All right. Well, thanks so much again, Doug, for giving us, well, an over an hour and a half of your time. Greatly appreciated. I greatly appreciate it. And I’m sure my audience does as well. So thanks, everyone, for tuning in and we’ll see you guys soon.