On November 2, 1968, the Government of South Vietnam pulled out of the proposed talks in Paris to try to find an end to the Vietnam War.

It is alleged that Richard Nixon, through an intermediary, was the reason this happened, urging the South Vietnamese President to stay away from the talks, promising Saigon that, if elected, he would drive a harder bargain with Hanoi.

It is a fact that this “manipulation” was secretly bugged by the CIA in Saigon (in the President’s office) as well as by the FBI who had the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam also bugged!

Lyndon Johnson also knew of this but chose not to reveal the truth due the way the information was obtained. He knew Nixon was lying.

Nixon’s interference

I understand that speaking to a foreign power whilst at war with that country is treason.

Why was Nixon never trialled for treason? Or LBJ, as a matter of fact?

  • 6
    "speaking to a foreign power whilst at war with that country is treason" - I'm not sure that's necessarily true and how would it apply in this case? The US was not at war with South Vietnam.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 15:35
  • 1
    Was at war with Vietnam, interfering, delaying the peace process which eventually happened.
    – user33232
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 15:41
  • 2
    Even during wartime, authorized diplomats speak with the enemy. Treason consists of "giving aid and comfort," not "speaking." It's possible that Nixon could have been prosecuted under the Logan Act (for private person performing unauthorized international functions). But for political reasons (his own dirty track record), LBJ chose not to do this.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 15:49
  • 1
    That’s the point: Nixon was NOT an assigned diplomat at the time nor a part of the government. He was merely a candidate to represent his party at the election which he eventually won and continued his illegal manoeuvring even against congress.
    – user33232
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 15:55
  • 1
    The source you linked to contains the answer to your question "they decided [not to go public] because they lacked proof that Nixon was personally involved" Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


Nixon was never tried for treason because of the restrictive legal definition of treason in the US.

Nixon never got in trouble for the Chennault affair because (a) he was elected president and (b) he kept it secret. (Part of the motivation for the Watergate break-ins was that Nixon was worried that, in addition to the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg might have information about the Chennault affair.)

Morally it was treason. Nixon's actions helped to kill about 20,000 US soldiers from 1969 to 1975. The motivation was personal political gain.


Johnson only accused him of Treason on internal White House tapes, not publicly. Johnson made a lot of "colorful exaggerations" on those tapes. That doesn't mean we should go checking to see if all those opposing politicians (including Nixon) so accused were really birthed by dogs as well.

Treason in the USA is narrowly defined in Article Three of the Constitution. The person in question has to be actively helping a wartime enemy, and there have to be two witnesses to the acts in question. Neither is really the case here.

This incident is really something that falls more under the 1798 Logan Act which makes it illegal to negotiate with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States to try to undermine the US Government position.

The problem with the Logan Act is it historically has never actually been used. The closest it came was a couple of times in the 1800's when a couple people in different incidents got indicted but were never prosecuted. There have been numerous incidents since then equally worthy. In recent times it was threatened with use during the Nixon, Ford, Regan, Bush II, and Obama administrations.*

There's also an argument that the Logan act is unconstitutional, so if it were to be used, it would likely have to go through a Supreme Court challenge.

* - There are persistent claims that the Reagan campaign interfered with the negotiations to end the Iran Hostage Crisis, which would theoretically put Carter's administration on this list too.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.