Created by the CIA in Saigon in 1967, Phoenix was a program aimed at "neutralizing"—through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture—the civilian infrastructure that supported the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. It was a terrifying "final solution" that violated the Geneva Conventions and traditional American ideas of human morality. (For a full introduction to Phoenix, see below.)
While researching the Phoenix Program for my book on the subject, I conducted over a hundred interviews and collected boxes full of documents from individuals, as well as from the State Department and Department of Defense. The most important documents provided by any one individual came from retired CIA officer Nelson Brickham, the man most responsibile for the creation of the Phoenix Program.
Luckily for history, Brickham kept copies of the documents he wrote while with the CIA; otherwise, there would be no documentary evidence of how Phoenix was actually created. During the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975, the CIA destroyed most of the documents it had about its assassination program, and none of what it kept at Langley headquarters can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. This is no accident, for Phoenix is the model for the equally terrifying US homeland security aparatus.