Documents Criticize Efforts to Track Missing POWs in Southeast Asia.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Newly released Pentagon studies sharply criticize the U.S. government’s efforts to locate American POWs and MIAs in Southeast Asia, saying investigators too often doubted live-sighting reports.
One study concluded that the Defense Intelligence Agency’s POW-MIA Center personnel ″were burdened and frustrated with the flood of evidence and tended toward disposal rather than analysis.″
″There is information, even in our limited sample, which establishes the strong possibility of American prisoners of war being held in Laos and Vietnam,″ said a 1986 report by a task force headed by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Eugene Tighe, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Another 1986 report said Pentagon personnel often had ″a mindset to debunk″ evidence that surfaced about possible POWs or MIAs still in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, President Bush was roundly heckled today by POW-MIA families angry that the administration has not provided more information about those missing in combat. The president harshly rebuked the shouters, saying, ″Would you please shut up and sit down?″
Bush defended his record, saying claims that he had abandoned Americans anywhere was an insult to his patriotism.
″To suggest that the commander-in-chief that led this country into its most successful recent effort would condone for one single day the personal knowledge of a person held against his will, whether it’s here or anyplace else, is simply totally unfair,″ Bush said.
The Pentagon documents were among seven internal assessments of the DIA center’s operations released Thursday along with 1,800 reports of sightings of American prisoners of war and service personnel missing in action in Southeast Asia, and intelligence reports about MIA-POW cases.
The papers were the first installment of a planned release of more than 1.3 million pages of documents, including about 2,600 more live sighting reports, that will be made available in the coming months. There are 2,266 Americans still listed as missing in Southeast Asia.
In response to a Senate demand to release the documents, President Bush on Wednesday ordered executive departments and agencies to make available all POW-MIA documents and files, except those that would invade the personal privacy of people involved.
About 200 family members of missing servicemen packed a Thursday hearing of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs and heard Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., call the release of the documents ″an unprecedented, even historic process.″
Kerry said his panel would hold hearings Aug. 4 and 5 on the live sighting reports, and that Ross Perot, the erstwhile presidential candidate who had declined to testify in public last month, would appear before the committee Aug. 11.
The newly released material does not contain the names of individual POWs or MIAs for privacy reasons, so the documents at first glance will mean little to anyone who lacks detailed knowledge of each case.
Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said much of the material ″doesn’t plow any new ground″ because it has been made available to the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA issues on a classified basis.
Many of families of POWs and MIAs have already seen much of the material in the files pertaining to their loved ones, he said.
Meanwhile, The Morning News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., reported that a former intelligence officer says the Eisenhower administration covered up the abduction of at least 800 American prisoners of war by the Soviet Union during the Korean War.
Retired Army Col. Philip J. Corso said that at least 800 prisoners went to Siberia, and the number may have reached 1,200, the newspaper reported. He said the men were shipped to the Soviet Union aboard trains.
The newspaper said the claims have been verified by a Senate investigator and U.S. intelligence documents. Capt. Susan Strednansky, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Wednesday there was no evidence of such shipments.
One previously secret report, parts of which have been the subject of recent news stories, said the DIA’s investigative efforts were fraught with ″serious shortcomings in every important area: attitudes, procedure, organization and leadership.″
The 1986 study, headed by Air Force Col. Kimball Gaines, cited ″a mindset to debunk″ among Pentagon analysts reviewing POW-MIA reports.
″There also tends to be a strong moralistic bias at work which manifests as a preoccupation with everybody’s motives and unrealistic expectations with regard to source accuracy,″ the study said.
″Management, by and large, is preoccupied with minutia and preservation of the status quo and forward thinking is a rarity,″ the report added.