About Frank Snepp


Peabody-Award winning investigative journalist and broadcaster; best-selling author; former interrogator, counter-intelligence operative and chief strategy analyst for the CIA in Vietnam; ex-CIA whistleblower; named defendant in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on free speech and national security; expert commentator on the Vietnam war, national security, and the First Amendment.

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Ed Snowden’s Act Two: The Slippery Morality of Whistleblowing

Though I too was once reviled by the U.S. intelligence community as a faithless leaker and turncoat, Edward Snowden and I don’t have much else in common.

In fact, I have written skeptically of the former NSA/CIA contractor who stole boatloads of U.S. secrets, many unrelated to his stated concern about the privacy of U.S. citizens—and then leaked them to the universe under the guise of defending our 4th Amendment rights against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

My gripes about Snowden have been fairly well publicized. And he and his supporters are likely aware of them.

So I was somewhat surprised when I discovered several weeks ago that Snowden has resurrected an old news clip from my whistleblowing days, annotated it with some positive if calculated messaging, and flung it across the Twitter sphere.

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In Praise of Biden’s Afghan End Game: The Critics Got It Wrong

Author’s Note: I was never an eyewitness to the Afghan war. But as the CIA’s last intelligence analyst in Saigon, with nearly six years of spy work in-country to answer for, I am cursed with a certain sensitivity to the issues, especially the intelligence ones, surrounding lost causes and worst-case scenarios. It is through this prism that I view the facts set out below.

Just before the midterms, GOP members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee circulated a preliminary “report” about President Biden’s handling of the Afghan evacuation that is likely to be part of the smear book for a Benghazi-style “investigation” in the new Republican-controlled House. 

The “charges” against the President boil down to two major barking points. His critics would have us believe that he made a grave mistake in not keeping a residual force in place to protect our friends and preserve our supposed gains. They are equally adamant that he did too little in the end to save all those who fit our definition of the good and worthy Afghan. 

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‘We played God’: Saigon’s chaotic fall still haunts CIA strategist

April 30, 2015 12:30PM ET by Todd Reed & Michael Okwu – Forty years after Saigon fell, the CIA’s former chief strategist in Vietnam is haunted that more lives weren’t saved

LOS ANGELES – On the morning of April 29, 1975, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” blared on the radio. The holiday classic was secret code for the start of the evacuation, dubbed “Operation Frequent Wind,” the largest airlift of its kind.

Those final moments before the fall of Saigon are seared into the memory of Frank Snepp, the CIA’s former chief strategist in Vietnam and one of the last Americans to get out. Snepp says Marine guards beat back the Vietnamese on the rooftop, so he could get a seat on the helicopter.

“It arched up and I could see on the edge of the city 140,000 North Vietnamese troops moving in with the lights on,” said Snepp. “We move out toward the coastline and we suddenly began taking ground fire … and the helicopter pilot wrenched the controls and we gained altitude and got out.”

More than 60 military and Air America choppers took part in the operation. Pilots flew more than 600 flights, airlifting 7,000 people out on that final day, including 900 from the U.S. Embassy alone.

Read the entire story at America Aljazeera

Brian Williams Goodbye

In reference to the LA Times Posting at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-brian-williams-iraq-war-20150206-story.html

Frank Snepp, February 6, 2015
Brian Williams Controversy

Brian Williams

Brian Williams misremembers — and the Internet won’t let him forget it

As a former investigative journalist for NBC and a one-time CIA agent who served five years in Vietnam and knew many journalists inured to genuine close calls, I wonder how Brian Williams can flog such self-hype about an alleged near miss in Iraq and still stand for integrity in reporting. If he had told this tall tale over drinks at a bar near 30 Rock, maybe we could we laugh it off. Maybe. But his repetition of the untruth means that he got giddy on self-promotion. I doubt any of this would go over well with Bob Woodruff of ABC News who not only braved enemy fire in Iraq but was very seriously wounded there (along with his cameraman) three years after William’s imaginary encounter with a rocket propelled grenade. And now that brave colleagues are being beheaded, or gunned down in their offices, for simply doing their jobs, the image of an anchor awash in manufactured heroics is beneath parody. Williams ought to spare himself and his profession further embarrassment by resigning and devoting himself to helping veterans and the survivors of journalists whose bravery isn’t invented.

Point-Counterpoint: Rory Kennedy’s Oscar Nominated Vietnam Doc

Point-Counterpoint: Rory Kennedy’s Oscar Nominated Vietnam Doc
by Frank Snepp, January 26, 2015

On January 26, David Mattingly who had served aboard the U.S. evacuation fleet operating off  in April 1975 wrote a much appreciated response to my cautionary posts about Rory Kennedy’s documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam” in which I appeared as a “talking head” and as an ex-CIA strategy analyst in Saigon. I quote from Mattingly’s message and offer some thoughts about it.

David Mattingly:

“… I enjoyed reading your unique perspective on the ground in Saigon. I think Rory Kennedy did tell a very small part of the story of what happened in 1975.

USS Midway

USS Midway

“My ship the USS Midway is having a reunion in April to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the fall. The Vietnamese community including many that were on the ship attended the 35th anniversary…

“If ever passing thru the DC area it would be great to meet you.”

My response:


Those of us who came out of Saigon on April 29, 1975 are forever indebted to those of you who served with such commitment aboard the evacuation fleet and in the extraordinarily perilous final airlift.

But Rory Kennedy didn’t title her documentary “The Saigon Evacuation as seen from Shipboard” or “The Defense Attaché’s Office To the Rescue,” and her errors and omissions are not harmless or, I believe, coincidental.

She fixed on a story line shaped by her fascination with her key interviewee Henry Kissinger, certain military sources and newly available footage from Pentagon archives, and eliminated what didn’t fit.

One of the reasons I wrote to you specifically is that I had read your account of the evacuation and was grateful that you had mentioned the involvement of the CIA’s Air America. Except for my own brief reference in the documentary to the Air America helicopter in that famous rooftop photo in downtown Saigon, Kennedy omitted everything I had told her and written about CIA pilots carrying the brunt of the final airlift up through the early afternoon of April 29.

Henry Kissinger Former National Security Advisor

Henry Kissinger
Former National Security Advisor

Similarly, while giving Kissinger an unchallenged opportunity to speak his mind, she ignored the fact that what he said on camera about trying to negotiate a two-Vietnam stalemate as part of the Paris accords was at odds with now declassified Nixon White House tapes. In these recordings Kissinger can be heard declaring cynically that he was hoping simply to preserve the Saigon regime through the next U.S. election cycle and then meant to blame South Vietnam’s collapse on its own incompetence.

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