| Dear Colleague:
"any evidence that suggested an MIA might be alive was uniformly and arbitrarily rejected, and all efforts were directed towards finding and identifying remains of dead personnel, even though the U.S.government's techniques of identification were inadequate and deeply flawed."
On October 29, I released an interim report prepared by the Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations based upon an on-going investigation of the POW/MIA issue. That investigation has continued. It was not, and was never intended to be, a search for specific POW/MIAs.
Such an effort would be beyond the scope of the resources available to the Minority. Rather it was an attempt to ascertain whether the agencies of the U.S. government responsible for POW/MIAs were doing the job they were supposed to do--that is, to find any POW/MIAs who might still be alive.
The interim conclusions are very disturbing. After examining hundreds of documents relating to the raw intelligence, and interviewing many families and friends of POW/MIAs, the Minority Staff concluded that, despite public pronouncements to the contrary, the real, internal policy of the U.S. government was to act upon the presumption that all MIAs were dead.
As a result, the Minority Staff found, any evidence that suggested an MIA might be alive was uniformly and arbitrarily rejected, and all efforts were directed towards finding and identifying remains of dead personnel, even though the U.S.government's techniques of identification were inadequate and deeply flawed.
These conclusions, although welcomed by the families and friends of POW/MIAs who had direct experience with the U.S.government's POW establishment were hotly rejected by that establishment.
However, on February 12 the Chief of the Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA) resigned. Colonel Millard A. Peck, a man who had accepted the position with high motives and a sense of deep dedication, felt that he could no longer fulfill the demands of duty, honor, and integrity under the policies which he was asked to implement.
In a detailed and forthright letter, which did not become public until May, Colonel Peck confirmed that a "cover-up" has been in progress. He spoke of a "mindset to debunk." He said that there was no effort to pursue "live sightings." He stated that "any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was, in fact, abandoned years ago." Lastly, he criticized the U.S. government's treatment of the families and friends of POW/MIAs.
The entire text of Colonel Peck's letter appears in the current report.
The fact that Colonel Peck's conclusions were so similar to the conclusions of the Minority Staff is a matter of regret, rather than a vindication. I had hoped that the Minority Staff investigators would be able to alter their preliminary findings, because the implications of a deliberate effort by the U.S. government to deceive the American people is a matter that all of us would prefer to believe unthinkable.
However, as the Minority Staff pursued its investigations, it became clear that the U.S> experience with the Vietnam POW/MIAs in not unique in history. Echoes of similar experiences in dealing with other, and earlier Communist regimes on the subject of POW/MIAs came up with increasing frequency. Although substantial portions of the current report had already been prepared, I directed the staff to track down the historical precedents. I felt that these precedents were absolutely necessary to an understanding of the present problems, even though it necessarily delayed the release of the report.
Of course, this fundamental historical research required a massive undertaking to find the original documents, most of them formerly classified, in the National Archives and in the issuing agencies. Accordingly, readers will find in this report something which has never before been attempted: An historical analysis of the fate of U.S. POW/MIAs in the hands of the Bolshevik regime after World War I, the Soviet regime after World War II, the North Korean regime after the Korean War, and the Vietnamese regime after the Vietnam War.
In each case, the same dismaying scenario appears: On the Communist side, the regimes denied holding U.S. prisoners, contrary to many credible reports, while in fact they were holding the U.S. POW/MIA as slave laborers and as reserve bargaining chips to get diplomatic recognition and financial assistance. On the U.S. side, our government downplayed or denied the reports of POW/MIAs, and failed to take adequate steps to prove or disprove the reports, while elements in our government pursued policies intended to make diplomatic recognition and financial support of the revolutionary regimes possible.
I find this evidence convincing; doubters should examine the cables and classified memoranda cited in Part I which tell the full story. Part II examines anecdotal evidence which the Minority Staff has chosen to illustrate the massive problems with the U.S. government's handling of the POW/MIA issue--problems which were only suggested in the Interim Report.
While investigation into the present problems continues, it is evident from the work already done by the Minority Staff that more time and more resources need to be devoted to the work. Senator Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire), a long-time stalwart in the ranks of those dedicated to the POW/MIA cause, has introduced S.Res. 82, to establish a Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. S.Res. 82 has already attracted wide bipartisan support, and deserves the support of every Senator.
This report has required many hundreds of hours of work, not only from the Minority Staff, but from many dedicated persons who shared their experiences and research with the Minority Staff. I would be especially remiss were I not to mention Dr. Harvey Andrews, Thomas Ashworth, John M.G. Brown, and Mark Sauter of CBS affiliate, KIRO-TV, Seattle, Washington. Needless to say, the conclusions are those of the Minority Staff, and not necessarily of those of Messrs. Andrews, Ashworth, Brown, and Sauter.
UNITED STATES SENATE
May 23, 1991
Throughout this century, the United States, as a nation, has anguished over the plight of American prisoners of war, both known and missing. The emotional ordeal of the families, the debt which the nation owes to those who have put their lives on the line for their countries, and the human dignity of each and every single soldier, or sailor, or airman ought to have an incalculable bearing on our national policies and our honor.
On the record, the U.S. government has professed to give these concerns "the highest national priority." Off the record, this priority vanishes. Instead, other considerations emerge: Grand visions of a foreign policy of peace and reconciliation; desire for a new economic order of trade and investment'; idological imperatives to downplay the hostility of antagonistic systems; and the natural tendency of the bureaucracy to eliminate its workload by filing cases marked "closed" instead of finding the people.
Last October, the Minority Staff published an Interim Report based on hundreds of interviews and reviews of raw intelligence data in DOD files. The Interim Report suggested that DOD was more interested in manipulation and managing the issue that in finding living POWs listed as missing. But as the investigation proceeded, the weight of evidence of failure--a failure of the U.S. Government to meet its sacred trust--became overpowering.
Was it really possible that officials in the Executive Branch charged with the solution of POW/MIA issues could have failed so miserably to respond to the needs of the American people? Was it simply that the emotions of the POW/MIA- concerned community were making an objective appraisal of DOD's work impossible?
The resignation of the director of DOD Special Office for POW/MIA Matters, Col. Millard A. Peck, submitted on February 12, but made public only last month, offered unexpected and extraordinary support for the findings of the Interim Report. (Col.Peck's resignation will be treated in detail later in this report.) But the question remained: Was it credible that such a failure could occur? To answer that question, it was necessary to turn to history.