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Le dictionnaire

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H122 AFFAIR

In March 1948, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s (DRV) Bureau of Intelligence in the Ministry of Defense obtained an enemy document entitled: “Report by the Agent Code-name H122”. Not only did the French report focus on the DRV’s own military plans for the upcoming autumn/winter offensive, but it was clear that the spy who provided this report had to be in the upper levels of the Inter-Zone Viet Bac (Lien Khu Viet Bac) military High Command. Arrests and interrogations multiplied as intelligence officers moved to flush out the agent. Within one month, “several hundred military cadres and officers at the regimental level were arrested and interrogated”. To make matters worse, the DRV used torture liberally to locate the spy and his/her network. Some 200 cadres, military personnel, and 103 civilians were interrogated. Under physical pressure, many admitted to being in the pay of the French Deuxième Bureau and/or members of anti-communist nationalist parties, such as the Vietnam Nationalist Party (Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang or VNQDD) and the Greater Vietnam Nationalist Party (Dai Viet Quoc Dan Dang). To prevent a meltdown, the Indochinese Communist Party’s (ICP) Central Committee brought in their top intelligence official, Tran Dang Ninh, who scrupulously investigated the affair, interviewing scores of prisoners and comparing and analyzing their confessions. He also put a brake on the use of torture. He concluded that this was a French-mounted deception operation designed to sow precisely the sort of paranoia and internal divisions afflicting the party and army over the spy codenamed “H122”, who, he concluded, did not exist. One Vietnamese official present at the time later told Georges Boudarel that this French operation provoked remarkable “panic” in the ICP and the army and the deception had been “easily believed by us”. That said, there is no French confirmation that they undertook this deception operation. See also INTELLIGENCE SERVICES, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM; PUBLIC SECURITY FORCES