Furthermore, there is evidence of insensitivity on the part of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government in providing complete and accurate information to the next-of-kin of missing American servicemen.
The classified evidence in DIA files suggests a pattern by a few U.S. Government officials of misleading Congressional inquiries by concealing information, and misinterpreting or manipulating data in government files. Interested Senators and staff with proper clearances no doubt will want to review the classified files themselves and draw their own conclusions.
THE 1973 POLICY DECISION
Those who have not dealt with the POW /MIA issue may find it difficult to understand how DOD's analysis of the information could be in error. Unfortunately, staff believes that DOD has allowed its precedures to be dictated by a pre-conceived policy finding.
The New York Times reported on April 12, 1973, as follows:
`Washington, April 12 (AP)--The Pentagon, two months after the first American prisoners of war began coming home, said today that it had no evidence that there were any more prisoners still alive in all of Indochina.
`Despite the fact that interviews with all returning prisoners are nearly complete, a Pentagon official, Dr. Roger Shields, said that none of the 1,389 Americans listed as missing were now technically considered prisoners. `We have no indication at this time that there are any Americans missing alive in Indochina,' Dr. Shields said at a news conference.'
Dr. Shields was at that time Assistant Secretary of Defense, but he was following guidance issued on that date by the Department of State in a memorandum to DOD which stated that `There are no more prisoners in Southeast Asia. They are all dead.' This directive was issued immediately after the return of the last POWs in Operation Homecoming. This finding was made despite that the fact that none of the hundreds of POW /MIAs that the Pathet Lao publicly acknowledged holding were ever returned from Laos. There were hundreds of live-sighting reports on file in 1973. Thousands of such reports have continued to be received since then.
PROCESS FOR `PRESUMPTION OF DEATH'
Since it was official policy, then, that all MIAs were dead, it became a bureaucratic necessity for all `unresolved' cases to be resolved in favor of a presumed finding of death.
Each respective military service from time to time convenes its own special commissions to pronounce on individual cases. Such a commission had before it at least three categories of information: The first is intellegence-related information concerning the individual. The second is eyewitness accounts of the loss event. The third is the so-called `incident report'--the official report of the loss incident.
If a year passes without new information, the respective military service can convene a commission to determine whether a presumptive finding of death should be delared.
The April, 1973, statement of policy was a political statement, rather than a finding according to statutory authority. As a result, the military services subsequently reviewed each individual case of those who previously had been declared dead en masse. And in every case except one, the commissions made a determination of a presumptive finding of death.
Because of this procedure, the bureaucratic necessity arose for discrediting any evidence that might cast doubt on the mass presumptive finding of death of April, 1973. From the standpoint of law and military regulations, the procedure followed in each case gave a legal affirmation to the original political statement.
Therefore, in order to discredit any information which might undermine the political thesis, the analysis of intelligence files fell into a systematic pattern of debunking information contrary to the thesis.
This systematic debunking included discrediting of reports, possible intimidation of witnesses, dismissal of credible evidence through technicalities, and--if all else failed--the arbitrary disregard of evidence contrary to the thesis.
DOD'S WORKING HYPOTHESIS
An analysis of DOD's working hypothesis for fully accounting for American MIAs is the key to understanding the discrepancies between DOD's position on the POW issue and the evidence uncovered by the staff.
DOD's premise, beginning in April, 1973, has been that all MIAs are dead; the corollary, therefore, is that DOD must never find any evidence that any MIA is alive. The best evidence, in DOD's opinion, is a set of physical remains that can be identified as a specific individual on the POW /MIA list. Once such an identification has been made, the case of that individual can be removed forever from the list. This is an easier task than to accept live-sighting reports that might point to a living POW , thereby necessitating appropriate follow-up action.
It is a reasonable assumption to remove POW /MIAs from the list when remains are identified, if the identification is correct. But the fact is that in a significant number of cases, such identifications have been made on the basis of inadequate physical evidence, using presumptive deductions that may or may not be true. The pressure to identify sets of remains even has resulted in specific cases where caskets have been buried with full military honors as the `remains' of the individual when, in fact, the casket is empty.
Therefore, DOD acts on its premise by vigorously investigating for the remains of dead MIAs . The list of MIAs presumed dead following the conclusion of the war totalled 2,383. DOD has received and claimed to have identified a total of 280 sets of remains since 1973.
Any full accounting of MIAs , according to DOD's working hypothesis, would necessarily involve only those cases in which either a presumptive finding of death could be made, or else full or partial remains could be discovered. As each presumptive finding of death is declared or set of remains is identified, DIA would remove, as accounted for, the names that matched those on the original MIA list. In this respect, DOD claims that DIA has vigorously investigated and resolved hundreds of such cases.
The policy of DOD is to focus attention on the cases where some evidence, no matter how small, of physical remains can be recovered. But even while DOD enthusiastically and vigorously investigates remains case--no matter how fragmentary--it just as vigorously discredits live-sighting and other witness accounts. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of thousands of Asians fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. These refugees provided many first-hand reports, or knew by second- or third-hand reports, of American prisoners being held in their respective countries.
To date, over 11,700 accounts have been received by DOD; 1,400 of these are first-hand, live-sighting reports. DIA claims to have analyzed fully each of these live-sighting reports, and to have left `no stone unturned' in searching for living prisoners. After analyzing the live-sighting reprts, DIA has concluded that the majority are not related to living American POWs , with the possible exception of a small percentage of reports that DIA describes as `unresolved.'
However, no `resolved' case has ever concluded that an American POW remains captive in Southeast Asia. In this way DIA concludes that there is no evidence of Americans currently being held captive in Southeast
Asia. This contention is consistent with both the working hypothesis described above and with DIA's apparent success at removing from the MIA list names that involve only those cases in which remains are identified, or a finding of death declared.
Insofar as these discrepancies relate to the 1,400 first-hand reports of living prisoners, DOD's original premise comes into question. Numerous live-sighting reports have been erroneously discredited by DIA analysts. Moreover, staff has reason to believe that DOD has misidentified the remains of scores of MIA's , and has incorrectly presumed dead many others.
This analytical bias is typical of a bureaucracy defending an established policy at all costs, even if it means denying the obvious. It is also a typical characteristic of an out-moded paradigm that can no longer explain the real world or real facts. If the original premise of DOD had been that at least some of the 2,383 MIAs were alive, then DOD would have been forced by circumstance to view the evidence collected, including the hundreds of live-sighting reports, from an objective standpoint. The relevance and validity of each report could have been judged on its own merits rather than whether it supported a pre-determined hypothesis that no living POW /MIAs remained.
Unfortunately, DOD choose to make its own analysis, without proper legislative oversight. Claiming extreme sensitivity and possible threats to sources and methods of intelligence gathering, DOD evaded the proper oversight that would have assured the objectivity of their process. The result has been a disservice to the POW /MIAs , their families and the American people.
IMPORTANCE OF THE PROBLEM
The resolution of these questions is important not only to any MIA /POWs who may be still alive, but also to the families involved. It is also important to the fate of any possible POWs in a future military action. With 200,000 U.S. troops now deployed to the Persian Gulf, the question of possible prisoners of war once again becomes an urgent matter.
Moreover, the resolution of issues relating to Southeast Asia is a key priority of our nation's foreign policy. Secretary of State James A. Baker III stated recently that the POW /MIA issue is the last remaining obstacle to resumption of relations with the government of Vietnam. But if it turns out that Vietnam has been concealing the existence of POWs , then it would be a complicating factor in initiating relations with the present regime.
EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING AMERICANS STILL MISSING OR OTHERWISE UNACCOUNTED FOR IN SOUTHEAST ASIA (House of Representatives - July 12, 1990)
Mr. SOLARZ. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on Foreign Affairs be discharged from further consideration of the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 291) expressing the sense of the Congress regarding the need to account as fully as possible for Americans still missing or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia and to secure the return of Americans who may still be held captive in Southeast Asia, and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the title of the concurrent resolution.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York?
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object, I yield to the gentleman from New York [Mr. Solarz], chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, to explain the resolution.
Mr. SOLARZ. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my very good friend from California [Mr. Lagomarsino] for giving me the opportunity to explain this resolution, as well as for his very strong and significant support for the bipartisan effort to bring about a full and final accounting of the fate of our POW's and MIA's in Southeast Asia. In his capacity as chairman of the Task Force on POW /MIA's , the only Republican in the House, I believe, who chairs an official task force of the Congress, he has played a very helpful role focusing attention on this continuing problem.
The resolution which would be before Members was introduced by the gentleman from Colorado [Mr. Brown], who I think deserves some credit for having initiated this effort. It is supported by the administration. It has broad bipartisan support in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and I believe in the House as a whole.
I have asked unanimous consent to bring it up now primarily because tomorrow the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Action will be meeting for its 21st annual convention. This is a national organization which more so than any other has promoted the cause of the families of our men who are still missing in action, in the hope that a full and final accounting of their fate can one day be achieved. We thought it appropriate to consider the adoption of this resolution before that conference actually convenes, as we have every year in the past. The resolution itself expressed the sense of the Congress that we should continue to give the highest national priority to the effort to account as fully as possible for our POW /MIA's . That priority was established by the Reagan administration. It has been continued by the Bush administration, and it has been warmly endorsed by every Congress in the last several years. It also expressed the view that there is a viable and sustained process of joint cooperation with the Vietnamese and Laos Government, to get answers for families of American POW's , because we believe it is very important to have their cooperation if this is going to succeed.
Indeed, in the final analysis, as my friend from California [Mr. Lagomarsino] knows better than most, the real answers to this problem lie not in Washington but in Hanoi and in Pnonpenh and Vientiane.
The resolution also says we should place renewed emphasis on seeking an accounting of the 892 American POW /MIA's who disappeared in Cambodia, without placing this humanitarian objective into conference with United States efforts to obtain an acceptable political settlement of the Cambodian situation. It calls for heightened public awareness on the POW /MIA issue in the United States.
Mr. Speaker, this resolution is further proof, not that any is really needed, of the bipartisan nature of congressional action on this issue. Fifteen years after the end of the war in Indochina, 2,302 of our missing men still have families who are haunted by the knowledge that they do not know what has happened to them. I believe that we can always be most effective abroad when we are united at home. This resolution will enable Members to send a strong and continuing signal to Vietnam, to Laos, and Cambodia, that this remains a matter of the greatest and gravest concern to the Congress, and therefore to the American people.
I want to thank the gentleman from Colorado [Mr. Brown] for initiating the resolution, and I want to thank the gentleman from California [Mr. Lagomarsino] for his strong and effective efforts as chairman of the task force in keeping hope alive and the issue current. I urge Members on both sides of the aisle to join in supporting this resolution.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Mr. Speaker, further reserving the right to object, I yield to the sponsor of the resolution, the gentleman from Colorado [Mr. Brown].
Mr. BROWN of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my profound thanks to the gentleman from New York, the distinguished chairman, and the gentleman from California, who have been so instrumental in bringing this measure to the floor.
Mr. Speaker, it was 25 years, slightly more than 25 years ago when Lyndon Johnson sent out a call to those who served their country in the Armed Forces, asking for volunteers to go to Vietnam. He offered that challenge and the opportunity to those who loved freedom, who were willing to defend it far away from the American shores. American men and women volunteered in record numbers. The fact is, in the early years of the Vietnam war, there was a higher percentage of volunteers who served to defend our country in that far land than any of our modern conflicts. The fact is that those who served our country, who gave a full measure of devotion, some still remain unaccounted for, over 2,300.