"Please permit me to take this opportunity to respond to a note you posted on your BLOG back in July 2003 (see copy below). I serendipitously ran across the item this evening while searching for information on a separate topic.
In your note, referring to a passage in an e-mail (see copy below) that I had authored and that was posted on teamhouse.tni.net, you correctly pointed out that Rach Gia is located "...on the WEST side of Vietnam (not the east),..." In my e-mail I inadvertently and mistakenly wrote "...Rach Gia (a coastal town on the SE coast)..."
Charitably you refrained from pointing out a second typographic error in my e-mail, where I had written, "...1) the amount was far short of the $1,000,000,000.00 fine (read ransom) local authorities reportedly were trying to get from Schooley's 'associates',..."
I had intended to write "$1,000,000.00", but inadvertently added three-too-many zeros. The correct sum was one million dollars.
In your note you wrote: "And if Schooley was captured with Thais, then for sure he's still going to be in the Thai Gulf." It seemed to me that you were responding to a question posed by one of your correspondents. If that is the case, I was not able to find the question. In any event, although I am not at liberty to divulge the source of my knowledge, I can assure you that I and my office had unimpeachable knowledge of the date, location, and circumstances that Vietnamese maritime forces took Mr. Schooley and his associates into custody.
Also in your note, you wrote: "Funny that Senator Kerry went in after a drug dealer, such as Schooley..." I and some of my colleagues had urged Senator Kerry to press the Vietnamese regarding Mr. Schooley. I believe that Senator Kerry simply was trying to assist us in making a point we were trying to make with Vietnamese central authorities. His assistance proved helpful.
I knew the correct location of Rach Gia and the correct amount of the ransom Vietnamese authorities tried to extract from Mr. Schooley's colleagues. Unfortunately, my spell-checker was not able to compensate for my careless proof-reading of the factual content of my e-mail."
This was in regards to an e-mail I had read at http://teamhouse.tni.net/:
From: "Destatte, Robert J., OSD/DPMO"
Thought you might be interested in the following. You might wish to pass the following comments. The comments represent my personal views, not necessarily the views of my office. In the article Jack wrote:
QUOTE: No US citizen has been released from Vietnam since Operation Homecoming in early 1973. The ambassador/JTF has found no evidence of any US citizen being held against his will in Vietnam since then. END QUOTE
That statement, as worded, is not accurate. In fact, several American citizens have been held against their will in Vietnam since 1973. The number includes the crews and passengers of several yachts that Vietnamese coastal security forces seized and detained for varying periods up to approximately one year. One of the most unusual cases was a young American photographer named Fred Graham who accompanied a British adventurer, whose name escaped me at this moment, who was arrested in the early 1980s when they landed on an island off the southeast coast of Vietnam to search for the legendary buried treasure of the pirate Captain Kidd (no kidding). The Vietnamese detained them in various locations for approximately one year. The Vietnamese did not inform us of any of these incidents. We learned about every instance through our efforts to collect information about Vietnamese prisons to determine whether Vietnamese authorities continued to detain any American wartime captives after Operation Homecoming.
In my judgment, a significant aspect of these incidents is the manner in which they illustrate our intelligence community's ability to learn about the existence of Americans in Vietnamese prisons after the war--when Americans were in their prisons after the war. For instance, in approximately September 1987 Vietnamese coastal security forces seized a boat and its crew of one American and five or six Thais in waters off the southeast coast of Vietnam. The American, a man named Thomas Schooley, had fled the United States a step ahead of the sheriff to avoid prosecution for alleged illegal narcotics trafficking. When the Vietnamese seized him and his Thai companions, they reportedly were transporting illegal narcotics. Not surprisingly, neither Schooley's family nor his friends ever reported this arrest to U.S. authorities, and Schooley himself did not try to seek assistance from U.S. authorities. Nevertheless, through our efforts to collect information about Vietnamese prisons we knew what specific cell Schooley was in within several weeks after he was arrested. U.S. authorities passed this information to Schooley's next of kin, who not surprisingly remained reluctant to cooperate. U.S. authorities pressed Vietnamese central authorities for information about Schooley; however, Vietnamese local authorities continued to thwart those efforts for several years.
Some of Schooley's 'business associates' reportedly paid a large sum of money, reportedly in the neighborhood of $100,000.00, to local Vietnamese authorities in Rach Gia (a coastal town on the SE coast) in an attempt to gain his release. Unfortunately for Schooley, (1) the amount was far short of the $1,000,000,000.00 fine (read ransom) local authorities reportedly were trying to get from Schooley's 'associates', (2) local authorities reportedly told Schooley's associates their courier was ripped off and lost the $100,000.00 en route to VN, (3) in my opinion, the initial willingness of Schooley's associates to pay a portion of Schooley's fine (read ransom) convinced local authorities that his associates would eventually pay the "fine" if they held Schooley long enough, and (4) we did not have normal diplomatic channels for resolving what was essentially a consular matter until we opened our embassy in 1995. Schooley's associates reportedly refused to pay any additional fine (ransom). Consequently, local authorities continued to detain Schooley until late 1992 or early 1993--until shortly after Senator John Kerry, acting on information we supplied, made a surprise visit to Rach Gia to find Schooley. Local authorities hid Schooley from Senator Kerry and his central government escorts; however, a short time later the local authorities released Schooley and allowed him to depart Vietnam. Senator Kerry's visit apparently made it too risky for the locals to continue to stonewall. I heard that American and Canadian drug enforcement officials greeted Schooley when he arrived in Canada--apparently intent on resolving the matter that was left pending when Schooley departed the States a few years earlier.
In my judgment, the fact that we were able to learn about the postwar detention of Americans such as the several yacht crews, Fred Graham, Thomas Schooley, etc., despite Vietnamese refusal to inform us about these detainees or grant us access to them prior to 1995, is strong evidence that we also would have learned about the continued detention of any Americans who were captured during the war--if the Vietnamese had withheld any captives at Operation Homecoming.
Regards, Bob Destatte"