By Tom Motko (September 27, 2019)
Perhaps an allegory: In 1971-72, I was part of a mission gathering tactical intelligence in what would become the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. This was pretty important stuff because the right intercept at the right time could save the lives of other poor suckers like me trying to survive their obligatory year in the shit.
We were getting nice clean tapes of our intercepts and, in one intercept, I’d recognized a code that might have some fairly immediate importance. I highlighted the tape and sent it back most riki-tiki by courier chopper to Bien Hoa.
I had to hop a slick in from the bush about a week later and stopped by the main shop, curious about what the intercept had actually contained. The guys thought it odd I’d highlighted the tape and, when I pulled the transcription, I saw why. The transcribers, Vietnamese soldiers, had indicated the tape was quite garbled and unintelligible. I was outraged. I pulled the tape and went out to the transcription trailer after midnight. The tape was clear and easily transcribed. I was relieved to find it didn’t contain any critical intelligence after all but…what if it had?
I brought the matter to the attention of the NCOIC of the main shop, showing him the two transcriptions side by side. I made a formal complaint. Before I headed back out to the river patrol base, the sergeant let me know my complaint wasn’t going anywhere. He was apologetic, but, “We can’t embarrass our allies.”
Well, this is all to say, I WANT TO HEAR THE TAPES.