Bùi Tín was born near Hanoi in 1927, and was educated in Huế. During the August Revolution in 1945, he became an active supporter to politically pressure the government of France to cede Vietnam its independence. He later joined the Việt Minh along with Hồ Chí Minh and General Võ Nguyên Giáp. He would fight on two sides of the line, using both weapons and his skills as a journalist for the Vietnam People's Army newspaper. He enlisted in the Vietnamese People's Army at age 18. He was wounded during the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
He would serve on the general staff of the North Vietnamese army. During the Vietnam War, he had authority from Defense Minister Võ Nguyên Giáp to visit any of the camps where American POWs were held, meet with the camp officers, look at the POW files, and interview the POWs. During at least one such occasion, he was involved in an interrogation of John McCain.
During the 1975 fall of Saigon, he was with the first tank unit to smash through the gates of the Presidential Palace. He accepted the surrender from the last South Vietnamese leader, Dương Văn Minh, thus marking the end of the war. When Duong told him that he had been waiting to transfer power to the People's Revolutionary Government, Bui curtly replied, "There is no question of your transferring power. Your power has crumbled. You cannot give up what you do not have."
He went on to serve as the Vice Chief Editor of the People's Daily (Nhân Dân, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam), responsible for the Sunday People's (Nhân Dân Chủ Nhật). He became disillusioned in the mid-1980s with postwar corruption and the continuing isolation of Vietnam. In 1990, Bùi Tín decided to leave Vietnam and live in exile in Paris to express his growing dissatisfaction with Vietnam's Communist leadership and their political system. In November 1991, became involved in the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue when he appeared before hearings of the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. He stated that, "I can say that I know as well as any top leader in Vietnam and, in my opinion, I state categorically that there is not any American prisoner alive in Vietnam." After his testimony, he and John McCain embraced, which produced a flurry of "Former Enemies Embrace"-style headlines. Tin's testimony was the subject of anticipation: when he had arrived at Dulles International Airport three weeks earlier, former U.S. Congressman Bill Hendon and a staff assistant to committee vice-chair Bob Smith confronted Tin and tried to convince him that there were live prisoners in Vietnam; Tin felt it was an intimidation attempt.
Tin subsequently published two books, Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel (University of Hawaii Press, 1995) and From Enemy To Friend: A North Vietnamese Perspective on the War (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2002).
- "There is an alarming deterioration of traditional ethical, moral and spiritual values (and) confusion among the youth on whom the country's future depends."
- "The roots of the Vietnam War — its all-encompassing and underlying nature — lie in a confrontation between two ideological worlds: socialism versus capitalism for some, totalitarianism versus democracy for others. It was a conflict born of the Cold War…"
- "[The American anti-war movement] was essential to our strategy. Support for the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us."
- "The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor. America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win."
- Bùi Tín (20 October 1991). "Vietnam: The Betrayal of A Revolution; Victims of Discredited Doctrine, My People Now Look to America". The Washington Post.
- Hearings before the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, United States Senate, 7 November 1991. See transcript pages 461 ff. 
- McCain, John; Mark Salter (2002). Worth the Fighting For. Random House. ISBN 0-375-50542-3. pp. 245–247.
- Butterfield, Fox (8 August 2001). "Duong Van Minh, 85, Saigon Plotter, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Don Oberdorfer (20 October 1991). "Bui Tin: My `Detention' at Dulles". The Washington Post.
- Amazon.com: Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel: Tin Bui: Books
- Amazon.com: From Enemy To Friend: A North Vietnamese Perspective on the War: Tin Bui, Bui Tin, Nguyen Ngoc Bich: Books
- "American Experience: Return With Honor: Online Forum". PBS. 15 November 2000. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
- A copyright photo taken by John Spragens in 1989
- Bui Tin in 1982, discussing his involvement in the fall of Saigon. WGBH Open Vault. Accessed July 20, 2010.