|"The Senate Select Committee, in my opinion, got to the edge of the abyss of this matter, and looked in, and it was pretty ugly, and then they just backed off."|
Foreign Relations SubCommittee for Asian and Pacific Affairs
Barry A. Toll - Transcript of Hearing 10-Feb-94
Sworn Transcript of Hearing (and certified with his corrections as submitted by Barry Toll) before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Chairman Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.) presiding, on February 8, 1994, in Washington.
Subject: Improvement of Relations with Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and POW/MIA Matters.
Witnesses having appeared for the government, Asst. Secretary of State, Winston Lord, Acting Asst. Secretary of Defense for DPMO, Edward Ross, Chief, Joint Task Force For Full Accounting (JTFFA) Major General Thomas Needham.
Other Witnesses having appeared for the Families of POWs and MIAs were Carol Hrdlicka, Mike Benge, Al Santoli, Ann Mills Griffith, Judy Rainey, Tom Burch and several more.
TESTIMONY OF BARRY TOLL, FORMER U.S. INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL
After being duly sworn, Mr. Barry Toll testified as follows:
Mr. Toll: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. I cannot say that it is a pleasure to be here to discuss this subject, but I am gratified that the Committee invited me to speak. I would begin with where Judy Rainey left off in her remarks, in terms of her opinion, that this issue is not going to go away, by stating that five United States Presidents have exhorted the American people at one time or another within their terms to "put Vietnam behind us". All to no avail.
The reason for that is quite simple. The American people know that virtually everything their government once told them about Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, or the conflict in those regions, has turned out to be a LIE, and subsequently discovered to be so.
I am a living participant to the lie, the fiction, the charade, that we did not leave men behind in Southeast Asia. And I have been fighting this issue from the ground in Laos. as a leader of top secret clandestine missions, to rescue American POWs in Laos in 1968, to the White House, just recently in arguments with Anthony Lake, as to why this president should grasp the nettle of the issue, and face the conundrum once and for all, and restore the national integrity in the matter at hand and end the trail of tears and grief that these Families have had to endure for over twenty years.
I will begin by telling you that my service in the United States Army began as a draftee, like most of my generation in 1967. And that in 1968, after heavy combat as an infantryman in Vietnam, I became a volunteer team leader of long range reconnaissance patrol missions, and then was detached and operated under the auspices of MACVSOG, the Studies and Observations Group, which of course, we now know contained and conducted America's most covert operations in Southeast Asia.
And for eight years thereafter, I virtually rode the spinal cord of the intelligence flow from out of the region, back to the White House, in intelligence assignments variously from out of our Embassy in Bangkok through CINCPAC, the Army Command Center in Hawaii, and finally, in my final position in the years 1973 through 1975 as the Operations and Intelligence Specialist to a Battle Staff Team, for what is known as a SIOP Execution Team. (NOTE: A "Doomsday Team" consisting of eight men, standing by to brief the President or his successor, and lead the President to a nuclear release decision. "SIOP" is the acronymic term for "Single Integrated Operation Plan", the U.S.'s highest, strategic, nuclear execution plan. The "teams" are among the nation's most highly guarded secrets.)
These teams are euphemistically referred to as "Doomsday Teams". And the purpose of the team was that we were holders of the President's nuclear execution codes. My function on that team was to stand ready to brief the President of the United States, or his designated successor,or the Alternate Command Authority, as to how to proceed in a potential nuclear environment.
As such, I was privy to the combined, integrated output of the entire United States Intelligence Community. Senate Select Committee Investigators have concluded and reported that typically, I would see materials that only eighty men in this government would see daily, flowing to the White House. And I have testified under oath, behind closed doors, about much of those to the Senate Select Committee. Although my testimony was held very closely, and placed under the caveat of the Senate Select Committee's Rules as being "under investigation", which thereby constrained any Senator, Staff, or parties privy to the information of my testimony from commenting publicly about their content, Senator Smith, in an outburst in June, 1992, challenged one of the men who testified here today, and a few others, on the basis of my sworn testimony.
Allow me please, just to get to the heart of the heart of the matter of an irrefutable paradigm, if you will, that I defy anyone to dispute in terms of the record of the history now established on this matter, as to events I witnessed, and occurring in 1973:
On the 21st of January, President Nixon stood before the nation in a national press conference, and again repeated a long deceit that is at the very heart of this matter. And that is he stated to the nation that we had no combat forces in Laos.
The secret war in Laos at that very moment, had over 580 Americans missing in it, comprised predominantly of flyers, and then those remaining individuals who had participated in covert operations such as myself, in that area according to our highest probability intelligence at that time -- and if you wish to question me about that---what Mr. Ross was talking about today, that they just reviewed...well, I helped to create some of that at the time...and I witnessed it all.
And that highest probability intelligence at that time was that in Laos alone, we had 350 men held captive there. And I want to bring to your attention the reality that in the spring of 1974, in this body, one of the chief Articles of Impeachment arising against President Richard Nixon, was the conduct of those illegal and unconstitutional wars in Laos, and Cambodia.
Now on the 27th of January (1973), the "peace with honor" accords were signed in Paris, and we received the list of how many men the North Vietnamese were going to immediately return to us the next day. And we found out that they were going to give us in the neighborhood of 590 men.
At that point in time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the various specialized and unified joint commands, especially CINCPAC, which had the greatest level of input on our projections, predicted that we should get approximately 1,050 men back from North Vietnam, if they were to be fully forthcoming.
And of course, I just make note of the Quang Document's implications at 1,205, and the questions that you asked Mr. Ross regarding that today.
On the first of February, 1973, President Nixon had delivered to the Vietnamese a promissory letter of sorts, if you will, promising the Vietnamese, or guaranteeing them that he would provide them a minimum of 3.2 billion in "reconstruction aid". And I would like to put "reconstruction aid" in quotes. Because if you go back and you ask to see the Rand Corporation studies commissioned by the Nixon White House in 1969 and 1971, you will find the exact same words in them warning Messrs. Kissinger and Nixon that indeed, the Vietnamese would hold men back for ransom.
They had done so historically, as had other communist regimes, for ransom. And in order to avoid the stigma of having to pay that ransom, it should best proceed as such a guarantee under the guise of "reconstruction aid". Other recommendations contained in those highly classified studies, you will generally find, that Dr. Kissinger followed almost to a T, throughout the negotiations.
However, in exchange and return for that letter, in a very secret, clandestine meeting in Paris, was the Laos POW list, handed over in return for the promissory letter, which only contained nine names on it. At that point in time, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other commanders of the unified and specified commands, literally went ballistic, and I was privy to their Back Channel messages.
This precipitated an atmosphere, where on the 21st of March 1973, Admiral Moorer signed and executed a Top Secret order to the command in Saigon, ordering them to halt the withdrawal from Vietnam -- an event that should it have reached the public ear at that time, would have caused an outcry and demonstrations throughout the United States of monumental proportion, as those of us old enough can well remember, what the climate existing was at the time in our haste to get out of Southeast Asia.
On the 22nd, Admiral Moorer reversed his order. His omitted testimony about this before the SSC-- and he was directly recalled and had to testify twice, because I contradicted his initial testimonies-- was that he reversed that order, and the withdrawal again began to proceed. Admiral Moorer, in his order to halt the withdrawal, noted the men held back in Laos as reason.
On the 28th of March, then Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Eagleburger, sent forth a memo stating that on the basis of the highest probability intelligence, 350 men remained behind in Laos, apparently not going to be returned, and he urged massive B-52 strikes, and the movement of a carrier task force group into the Indian Ocean,in order to pummel the Vietnamese and Laotians and force them to give up the men.
MR. TOLL: Secretary of Defense Richardson deleted the idea of a carrier task force, but passed the memo on to the White House. And then we know that on the 28th of March, that same day, the President stood before the nation, and told them that "all our POWs are on their way home", as our men began stepping off the planes.
That caused Roger Shields, who was head of the POW/MIA effort in the Department of Defense at the time, to seek out William Clements, who was then Acting Secretary of Defense, and tell him that could not really be said. They were concerned about an upcoming press conference. And, as Senate Select Committee testimony revealed, Clements urged Shields to say the "rest are dead".
Mr. Shields said "you cannot say that!", and he thought he was going to be fired for his articulation of such a strong retort. And Mr. Clements again reiterated, according to sworn testimony, "You didn't hear me, Roger...the rest are dead!".
But on May 26th, 1973, amid continuing secret talks with the Vietnamese, Dr. Kissinger beseeches Vietnam's Le Duc Tho to "not contradict any U.S. public statement that Article 8B, POWs/MIAs, of the Paris Accords, applies to ALL of Indochina". He then states "Now, we would like a sentence from you, which I cannot understand why you cannot give us, that all of the prisoners held in Laos have been released. It would be very important for us."
Nobody has asked Dr. Kissinger why he would say such a thing, reducing Lawrence Eagleburger's request to virtually restart a large portion of the war, to merely demanding "a sentence" from the Vietnamese, all within the course of a few dozen days.
The fact of the matter is that we believed with the highest probability intelligence, as former Director of Central Intelligence and Secretary of Defense Dr. James Schlesinger finally testified, and SECDEF Elliot Richardson finally testified, and SECDEF Melvin Laird testified, that indeed, men were left behind. The question now becomes what has happened to them?
Well, I have watched virtually an Orwellian charade ensue for the last twenty years over this issue. And our government has just now finally gotten around to where you notice that Winston Lord would NOT directly answer your question, put by the Chair today, of "did we leave men behind?". He said, what I recollect of his elliptical response, that he "did not want to air unfair accusations".
What I just testified to you, is irrefutable, on the record of the Senate's investigation. Let the chips fall where they may on that matter.
I would like to bring to your attention the reality that as the Senate investigation shows, that in 1975, having an exemplary career of eight years, and as then a holder of Presidential Nuclear Execution Codes, I walked into work one day and said "I will never wear the uniform again under a lying Executive", and I also said "I do not care if you put me in the stockade" and I went home over the abandonment of these men.
A series of Top Secret debriefings ensued, on four occasions, and that is attested to by the Judge Advocate General lawyers that represented me during that period of time, while the military decided what to do with me. Those files, those debriefings, were refused to the Senate Select Committee's investigation. Why?
I certainly know "why?".
Because they clearly state my contemporaneous recollection of those events at the time. I gave the Senate Select Committee a list of thirty-two persons who could corroborate exactly what I was saying, and my actions during those periods of time.
I see in this problem that we have now -- having been requested by the families to come forward on this matter, which I really did not wish to do in 1992, and address the questions and, and testify to the facts and events that I witnessed at the time---and that the Senate Select Committee, in my opinion, got to the edge of the abyss of this matter, and looked in, and it was pretty ugly, and then they just backed off.
The record of the Senate is that two Senators actually threatened to resign over the scripting of witnesses, and complained bitterly about the failure of the Select Committee itself.
MR. ACKERMAN: MR. TOLL, you say two Senators?
MR. TOLL: Yes. Senator Grassley and Senator Smith actually threatened to resign at various points during the investigation.
MR. ACKERMAN: To resign from what?
MR. TOLL: From the Committee itself, from the Senate Select Committee on POW and MIA Affairs.
MR. ACKERMAN: The Select Committee?
MR. TOLL: That is correct, from the Select Committee.
MR. ACKERMAN: And when was this?
MR. TOLL: I believe in August, Mr. Chairman. But I would have to recheck my notes.
MR. ACKERMAN: August of what year?
MR. TOLL: 1992.
MR. ACKERMAN: Thank you, Mister Toll.
MR. TOLL: During the course of the investigation. And I was embroiled in several controversies behind the scenes while my testimony "was under investigation".
It STILL remains "under investigation", along with only a few others whose testimony was so provocative, and to my mind, persons whose testimony they did not want to see the light of day.
The Investigator handling the files relating to the charges that I made in documents, -- and I am going to list them for you in a minute, so that this Committee knows what critical CAPSTONE intelligence materials I named --
MR. ACKERMAN: Could you do so briefly, because we are way, way into our time right now. We do have another panel.
MR. TOLL: They were handed over a foot and half of files to the National Archives. If you go there now, -- and there is a man sitting in the audience, Roger Hall, an independent researcher who will verify this--you will see that my file has been reduced to half an inch. Putting a lie to the fiction that all of the materials relating to this matter are being declassified.
I testified to critical CAPSTONE materials in CIA Executive Registry files, CIA Director Of Operations files, NSC files, and other files. Critical CAPSTONE intelligence that was never released to that Committee.
I argued to Anthony Lake in the White House in November, along with Dr. George Carver, former Special Assistant to three different Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, and with General Eugene Tighe, former head of DIA -- who could not accompany us because he was too ill--- in a team I put together to attempt to convince this President, that he was being misinformed. And that he should create an Independent Commission to review those critical CAPSTONE materials in accordance with his declassification orders.
The reality of the matter of what I am trying to say, Mr. Chairman, is that the real materials dealing with this matter have never been exposed to investigation. They just simply have not. And the truth is that if this President wanted to get to the heart of the matter and answer the question once and for all, all he has to do as I told Anthony Lake #NAME? them with lists of dates--- is they should review the Nixon Oval Office Tapes, which the Supreme Court of the United States say belong to the American People.
I have also provided Mr. Lake and Mr. Wiedemann in meetings with Carol Hrdlicka and George Carver at the White House and over a period of three months duration with correspondence, meetings and telephone calls, materials to convince them that the President would pursue this route and grasp the nettle of the issue, and thereby create an atmosphere under which true healing can finally begin..and get to the bottom of the POW/MIA issue. I gave them stacks of intelligence documents, which they promised to return the next day, many of them quite provocative, and never seen before by the public or Congress. They now refuse to return them even though they promised to do so and I hereby proffer some of them to this Committee.
MR. ACKERMAN: Do you have copies?
MR. TOLL: Well, they will not return certain critical ones going to the Director of Central Intelligence himself.
MR. ACKERMAN: Do you have a copy?
MR. TOLL: I do have some here, reproductions, that I proffer to the Committee.
MR. ACKERMAN: Are there documents that you turned over that there are no existing copies?
MR. TOLL: Yes, there are. Yes, there are. I just simply have not reassembled them all. I have perhaps fifty percent of the forty documents that I gave them in the White House, here for you.
MR. ACKERMAN: Why do you not take about one minute to sum up, if you can? And if you would provide us with a list of questions that you think we should be offering up.
MR. TOLL: Let me get to the heart of the matter, Mr. Chairman. There is provocative, compelling, explosive evidence existing in the United States government archives right now that either the President has not been made aware of, or has ignored. And I know that, and I have seen it. And I so told Mr. Lake and Mr. Wiedemann.
I told Mr. Lake in private that I had seen satellite photos brought to me by members of the intelligence community that were outraged at the conduct of the imagery investigation done by the SSC. That a great deal of material had not been provided to that committee. And that in a cursory review of only fifteen percent of the archival material existing on imagery, that they have discovered, showed and displayed to me, forty-eight different photos containing either the secret identifier codes, the names or assigned ground distress symbols for individual pilots...and I looked at these myself.
When Carol Hrdlicka and George Carver and I originally went to the White House...had we been given the meeting with the President like we thought we were going to get, I would have carried those in there at that time and laid them on the President's desk.
Those parties are deeply fearing political retribution, and what is being done here is to simply avoid the reality that these materials exist. What is eventually going to happen is that they arećä going to emerge, and there is going to be great retribution.
MR. ACKERMAN: Do those photographs exist?
MR. TOLL: Yes, I believe they exist. I have seen them!
MR. ACKERMAN: You are saying that they are in the archives now?
MR. TOLL: And I described them. And I know that Anthony Lake knows some of them exist, because he asked me whether or not I had seen a certain one or not.
MR. ACKERMAN: MR. TOLL, are you contending that they are presently in the archives?
MR. TOLL: Yes I am. I contend that they are presently in the archives. In fact, Mr. Lake and Mr. Wiedemann.
MR. ACKERMAN: Has Senator Smith seen them?
MR. TOLL: We are out of time. So if you would question me, Mr. Chairman, I would be glad to tell you about them.
MR. ACKERMAN: Has Senator Smith seen those, has he gone to the archives?
MR. TOLL: No. These materials as represented to me were materials discovered by persons in the intelligence community who were so angered over the fact of what Senator Smith DID NOT SEE, that they continued to work after the Senate Select Committee closed up shop. Because they knew that materials and been shunted around the investigation and only a cursory review had been done.
MR. ACKERMAN: If I may say Mister Toll.
MR. TOLL: No. Senator Smith has not seen the materials that I spoke to Anthony Lake about.
MR. ACKERMAN: Is there a reason that he has not gone to the archives to take a look that you know of?
MR. TOLL: I do not communicate with Senator Smith, so I would not know how to respond to the Chair. I did not tell Senator Smith. I was talking to the President's National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake.
MR. ACKERMAN: Let me ask this in the interest of time, because we do have another panel, and the weather is closing in yet again on our region. And there are some people who I think probably want to fly home before that happens rather than be trapped here for a day or so again. Would you be willing to share that information what those documents are with the staff of the Subcommittee, so that we might make a judgment as to how to proceed in discovering them?
MR. TOLL: If you convince me that the effort is going to be earnest, I certainly would. There are persons fearing political retribution, Mr. Chairman, on the matter. And I would have to take it at your word that the effort would be earnest. So I then would begin that process.
MR. ACKERMAN: If there is information that this committee should look into, and you are willing...I will subpoena the documents if necessary.
MR. TOLL: I will be glad to give you specific lists. I am not saying that I will show it to you...the photos...I am not in possession of the photos.
MR. ACKERMAN: I do understand that. But if they do exist, you say they are in the archives?
MR. TOLL: Yes, correct.
MR. ACKERMAN: If they exist, and they are in the archives, we will gain access to them, or we will make every valiant effort to do so, or find out why.
MR. TOLL: All right, Mr. Chairman. On your word, I shall proceed to cooperate with your staff.
MR. ACKERMAN: It is a pretty big archives. We have to talk one at a time, or otherwise it is not going to work out for the record. And I know you have a lot to say. And I know that I have a lot to hear and learn. but I have just got to ask the question so I can get this thing moving...I think you indicated is that correct, that you would assist us?
MR. TOLL: Upon those representations of the Chair, yes I will.
NOTE: At the end of April, 1994, Chairman Ackerman wrote Mr. Toll a letter beseeching him to assist in the location of documents, formulate questions the Committee should ask of government witnesses, and provide documents Mr. Toll gave to the White House. Mr. Toll is demanding the Committee put him back under oath, and record all subsequent transactions for public record, and that the Chair fulfill its promise and be prepared to issue subpoenas, starting with the documents the White House obtained from Mr. Toll on 4 November 93 in meetings with Anthony Lake, as they promised to do, then Wiedemann reneged. Chairman Ackerman is apparently taking the position that as he said on the record, the tape is garbled at that point, and he did not specifically use the word "subpoena". Two other witnesses have however signed sworn statements that the Chairman did use the word as Mr. Toll corrected this transcript. In any event, the Chair's promise as to the lengths he would go is quite clear, to get the documents.
Here is the text of the letter, sent by Chairman Ackerman on April 18 1994 to Mr. Toll, asking his further assistance to the Committee:
Congress of the United States
Committee on Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives
Washington D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Toll,
Thank you for testifying before the POW/MIA hearings conducted by the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. I appreciate your willingness to assist the subcommittee on this matter.
During your testimony you noted that there were documents and photographs, possibly in the National Archives, that the subcommittee should review as well as your judgment as to where they are located.
In addition, I ask that you provide the subcommittee with a list of questions that you believe we should be pursuing in order to get answers to the questions surrounding the the POW/MIA issue.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
Gary L. Ackerman
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Two articles regarding Mr. Toll's testimony were written by Robert J. Caldwell, Editorial Editor of the San Diego Union Tribune and appeared in national syndication. They raised the question of whether the White House was discreetly seeking to stifle Ackerman's inquiry; that claim was emphatically denied by "sources" on the Committee staff. The articles are dated respectively Feb. 5, 1994 SDUT, "Did Clinton Trigger A Vietnam Booby Trap?" and "Will Congress Be Limited on POW/MIAs The White House?", again, both by Robert Caldwell. Articles pertaining to the satellite photos Mr. Toll spoke to Mr. Lake in the White House about, have appeared in U.S. News in World Report, by Peter Cary, dated 22 Nov. 93, and o/a 6 Dec. 93, and by Sydney Schanberg, of Newsday, in December 1993 and January, 1994. Mr. Toll was a source for all of them.
Mr. Toll suggested to Chairman Ackerman, regarding his request of Mr. Toll to submit questions the Committee should be asking, that he begin with questioning Winston Lord, Asst. Sec. of State for Asian Affairs, why Lord testified under oath that day, Feb. 8, 1994, in response to a question from the Chairman to him of "When you were Dr. Kissinger's assistant at NSC in the Nixon White House, did you see POW/MIA information?" and Lord responded "No.".
MR. TOLL wrote the Chairman..."You might begin by asking Winston Lord why Henry Kissinger in his book THE WHITE HOUSE YEARS, at Page 455, states that Lord carried out an exhaustive study of the MACVSOG operations that was presented to President Nixon. Since the SOG materials dealt with the most integrated product of intelligence on POW/MIA, Mr. Lord's denial of any cognizance is contradicted by Kissinger's own book!".
As this is written, on August 19, 1994, yet another Congressional inquiry is seeking to have Mr. Toll testify about the satellite photos. Curiously, in the week of August of 10th, the President himself began criticizing and taletelling on the National Reconnaissance Office, the super-secret Executive entity responsible for satellite photo imagery.