Vietnam Negotiations, 1968: The Problem of Leaks

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

The fall of 1968 leading up to the Presidential election on November 5, saw active peace negotiations between the United States and North Vietnam.[1]

One (among many) aspect of the situation that threatened to throw a monkey-wrench into the process was the ongoing leak of information about the negotiations. (See these earlier posts on the issue of leaks: Leaks in the Department of State, 1963, and Leaks in the Department of State, 1963: Antecedents.) The leaks particularly annoyed President Lyndon Johnson.

On October 17, Walt Rostow, the President’s national security adviser, sent Secretary of State Dean Rusk drafts of two telegrams President Johnson had “personally designed, edited, and cleared” for dispatch to selected American embassies.[2]  That evening, the Department of State sent the following two telegrams, the first to the embassy in South Vietnam and the second to the embassies in South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, and the Philippines.[3]

1968STATE2570101968STATE257015.11968STATE257015.2


[1] For documentation see Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968: Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969 (Washington, USGPO, 2003. [https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1964-68v07]

[2]  W.W. Rostow to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Note with attachments, October 17, 1968, file October 1968 (attached to State telegram 257014), Vietnam Special Caption Messages, 1962-1972, NAID 2225592, Entry UD-UP-277, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. (Declassified and released pursuant to a Mandatory Declassification Review request.)

[3] Source: Department of State to U.S. Embassy Saigon, Telegram 257010, October 17, 1968; Department of State to U.S. Embassies in Seoul, Bangkok, Wellington, Canberra, and Manila, Telegram 257015, October 17, 1968, file October 1968, Vietnam Special Caption Messages, 1962-1972, Entry UD-UP-277, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. (Declassified and released pursuant to a Mandatory Declassification Review request.)


The exhibit Remembering Vietnam has been extended through February, and is available to be viewed at the National Archives Museum until February 28, 2019.

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