Original Title in English: Decent Interval (1977)
by Author Frank Snepp, ex-CIA Officer posted in Saigon (1975)
French Translation by Renée & Pierre Van de Putte
Publisher: Balland, 1979
Backcover: De l'automne 1972 au 30 avril 1975, date de l'entrée des nord-vietnamiens dans Saigon, Frank Snepp a dirigé le bureau des analyses stratégiques de la C.I.A au Sud Vietnam. Le récit qu'il nous donne des deux ans qui ont suivi la signature des accords de Paris, et des derniers jours qui ont précédé la chute de Saigon, est proprement halucinant.
Un gouvernement sud-vietnamien entièrement corrompu, l'armée sud-vietnamienne dirigée par des généraux incompétents; un ambassadeur américain, Graham Martin, jouant au potentat et n'écoutant que ce qu'il voulait entendre; Tom Polgar, le supérieur hiérarchique de Snepp, plus ou moins manipulé par les services français, soviétiques et hongrois. Sans oublier les millions de dollars versés à Thieu et à son armée. Tout cela pour aboutir à l'évacuation en catastrophe des dernières forces américaines et de certains de leurs alliés sud-vietnamiens.
Sauve qui peut est un livre écrit au vitriol, qui ne ménage personne, et qui, au-delà du récit ponctuel, pose la question fondamentale de l'évolution de la politique étrangère américaine. L'attitude des dirigeants américains, qui ont soutenu Thieu jusqu'au bout pour finalement le "lâcher" au dernier moment, ne préfigurait-elle pas leur actuel comportement au Moyen-Orient?
About the Author:
Doubling as an analyst and counter-intelligence officer, he interrogated the highest-ranking North Vietnamese spy ever captured, helped coordinate and debrief informant networks, served as the Embassy's principal press briefer, and rose during his last year at the Saigon Station to become the CIA's chief analyst of North Vietnamese strategy there, a position that afforded him access to the most sensitive intelligence and the ability to predict with uncanny accuracy what the Communists were planning. Among the last CIA officers to be helicoptered off the Embassy roof in April 1975, he was awarded the CIA's coveted Medal of Merit for his performance.
...Snepp quickly became disillusioned at the CIA's unwillingness to rescue Vietnamese left behind or even to acknowledge that the evacuation had been a disaster. Unable to prompt any sort of internal after-action report, he resigned in 1976 to write a public one of his own in hopes of generating support for the abandoned Vietnamese.
His book, Decent Interval, was published by Random House in total secrecy without CIA approval. But the firestorm of publicity it ignited tuned it into an instant bestseller and sparked a government lawsuit against Snepp that culminated in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court First Amendment decision with far-reaching implications.
Though he was never accused of publishing any secrets, the Supreme Court held that his failure to seek official clearance for his memoirs had created the "appearance" of a breakdown of discipline within the CIA that had frightened U.S. intelligence sources and thus "irreparably harmed" the nation's security. Despite the lack of any evidence to support this allegation, Snepp was placed under a lifetime gag order preventing him from ever writing again without CIA permission, and was forced to surrender to the government all his "ill- gotten gains," every cent he'd made from Decent Interval.
The Court further ruled that any responsible official could be forced to submit to censorship simply as a matter of trust and in the interest of preserving the "appearance" of airtight government security. This diktat has led to the application of clearance and censorship rules throughout the Federal bureaucracy and the attendant trust theory has been used by private industry to justify a crackdown on whistleblowers within its own ranks. Legal scholars view U.S. v Snepp as the most important censorship ruling since the Pentagon Papers case of 1971.