Phoenix and its precursor ICEX aligned the CIA-supported Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) with police and paramilitary programs to create a system for capturing or killing suspects in targeted ways. Once captured and brought in for interrogation, the suspect was as good as dead. The growing fear of this program led to further abuses including false accusations and payoffs. The contractor Pacific Architects and Engineers built interrogation centers in every province and doubled as an employment front for other CIA operatives.
The U.S. Army’s participation in Phoenix led to the military purposefully targeting civilians. In 1968, Defense Secretary Clark Clifford called for Phoenix to be “pursued more vigorously.” In March of that year 504 men, women and children were killed in My Lai. Although it was covered up, Valentine argues that My Lai was a product of Phoenix, under CIA control.
Many of the characters in Valentine’s book went on to play infamous roles in other scandals. Clark Clifford, for example, went on to lead the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), discovered to be a CIA-controlled terrorist network. Clayton McManaway, hired by William Colby as a Phoenix program manager, later became a principal advisor in the ransacking of Iraq under L. Paul Bremer in 2003. Most remarkably, control of Phoenix was transferred to Ted Shackley in 1969. Shackley would become the leader of the “CIA within the CIA,” and was implicated in events like the Iran-Contra crimes. These facts demonstrate that once something like Phoenix is created and allowed to flourish, the philosophy and machinery behind it does not go away.