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For nearly twenty years, two-term North Carolina Congressman Billy Hendon has focused his energies on the story and the fate of the American POWs left in Vietnam. Last year, St. Martin’s Press published An Enormous Crime, the culmination of his investigations.

The book, written with Elizabeth Stewart, is a compelling read. Hendon posits that the fate of American POWs was sealed at the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961, before the first serviceman was seized in Vietnam. When Kennedy took the political expedient of paying ransom for those held in the aftermath of the aborted invasion of Cuba, the Vietnamese paid close attention.

As hostilities escalated in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong issued strict orders on the capturing of Americans: Take them alive; they will be valuable assets later.

When the Watergate investigations gathered like thunderheads over Washington in 1972, Kissinger and Nixon became desperate to end the war. The Vietnamese proved to be much harder negotiators than Kissinger anticipated. And they insisted upon reparations. Their bargaining chips were American POWs.

Ultimately, Kissinger signed an agreement that guaranteed the return of the POWs, but he never asked how many there were. Nixon, for his part, signed a secret letter promising vast sums of money to help Vietnam overcome the ravages of war.

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the negotiators of the Paris Accords, Le Duc Tho, unlike Kissinger, refused the prize because the Accords had not been fully implemented: The Americans, he said, hadn’t provided the assistance that Nixon had promised.

Hendon claims that when pushed by congressional investigators, Kissinger denied both a quid pro quo and the existence of a secret Nixon letter. Persistent reports of live American prisoners underscored the fact that the Vietnamese still believed the POWs were their most effective bargaining chip, even though Congress moved to end speculation by declaring them dead.

Carter pushed to normalize relations with Vietnam—a move welcomed by the Vietnamese. But when Carter, too, was unwilling to pay reparations, those negotiations foundered, then ended.

In this article, Hendon picks up the POW story with the Reagan administration.


BY BILL HENDON

Thanks to the boat people and their accounts of hundreds of American POWs being held by the communists long after Operation Homecoming, and thanks to information about some of these POWs gleaned from intercepted postwar communist radio communications, and thanks to other information about U.S. POWs gleaned from postwar satellite images taken over Vietnam and Laos, by early 1981 there was little doubt in official Washington that: (1) the communists were still holding substantial numbers of American servicemen captive; and (2) the new president, Ronald Reagan, wasn’t going to put up with it.

In the first days of his presidency, Reagan authorized the launch of a secret mission to rescue American POWs that intelligence reports indicated were being held at a prison camp in central Laos. The mission was still under way when, tragically, news about it appeared prominently in the American press, and the mission had to be cancelled. Disappointed but undeterred, the President convened a ceremony in the Rose Garden two weeks later and almost defiantly pledged to the nation that, the cancelled rescue mission notwithstanding, his administration would do everything in its power to locate living American prisoners and gain their release. At a House hearing held just days after the Rose Garden ceremony, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Eugene F. Tighe, Jr., testified that he was “absolutely certain” that living American POWs were being held captive by the Indochinese communists and echoed his Commander-in-Chief’s call for a renewed American effort to get the men home.

Throughout the last half of 1981, fresh intelligence about live POWs poured into the Pentagon. In response to this floodtide of intelligence, Reagan in early 1982 authorized a secret diplomatic effort be undertaken to provide the communist government of Laos with medical supplies, ambulances, buses, and other humanitarian equipment, along with assistance in rebuilding damaged medical facilities, in return for Lao help in repatriating live POWs.

This effort, the first meaningful diplomatic contact between the two countries since war’s end, was unprecedented in the truest sense of the word. It was a clear quid pro quo initiative between a communist government that continued to exhibit unconcealed, almost xenophobic, hostility toward the United States and a tough, hard-line American president not known for his concern for the needs of communist governments. But for the American president, this was different: These were living American prisoners of war.

Credible intelligence on living POWs continued arriving at the Pentagon throughout the first half of 1982. Army Times reported that on July 9, 1982, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger told POW/MIA family members gathered in the Washington area for the 13th annual meeting of the National League of Families that the administration had changed almost ten years of official government policy on the POW/MIA issue and that “[w]e [now] proceed under the assumption that at least some Americans are still held captive by the Indochinese communists.” Army Times said Weinberger cited “over 400 first-hand sightings” as the reason for the change and told the families that determining the fate of their loved ones was “a matter of the highest national priority.”

With Weinberger’s stunning announcement, word began to spread throughout the Pentagon and the State Department that, given all the intelligence about live POWs Weinberger had publicly cited and the President’s rumored willingness to cut a deal with the Lao communists, there might be a solution to the live POW problem after all. Even hardened skeptics up at Langley and those deep down inside the bureaucracy recognized a distinct possibility. For those who knew about the president’s secret effort to get the POWs home, it was a very exciting time.

Early 1983: A Changing World

By early 1983, just six months after his electrifying speech about live prisoners to the POW/MIA families, Weinberger and other top administration officials charged with finding and freeing the POWs faced an awful dilemma. A media firestorm had erupted in early February when former Green Berets had been arrested in Thailand after returning from an unsuccessful POW rescue mission into Laos. Administration officials were first embarrassed when press reports suggested that President Reagan himself had authorized the mission—and then horrified when The Washington Post quoted one of the Green Berets as saying that the President had promised prior to the mission that if the team brought out one live POW he would “start World War III to get the rest.”

Adding to the dilemma was the rapidly deteriorating military situation in Central America, where Russian- and Cuban-trained leftist rebels had pro-democracy, pro-U.S. forces on the run in El Salvador and Honduras, and the Russians reportedly were making preparations to install nuclear-tipped IRBMs in Nicaragua. By late winter, the situation was so desperate that many believed U.S. troops would have to enter the war if the region were to be saved.

Therein lay the awful dilemma: How could Weinberger send American servicemen to fight in the jungles of Central America while publicly acknowledging that other American servicemen were still being held against their will in the jungles of Southeast Asia ten years after Operation Homecoming?

Genuinely fearing that the POW/MIA issue might develop into a full-blown hostage crisis like the one in Iran that had crippled Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and acutely aware of the negative impact such a crisis would have on the administration’s ability to project American power and influence into the rapidly deteriorating situation in Central America, top administration officials decided to shut down one “matter of the highest national priority”—the fledgling effort to free the Indochina POWs—and focus their efforts on another—saving Central America. By early spring 1983, the plan had been finalized. To avoid the possibility of another hostage crisis, administration officials would secretly end the effort to free live POWs and substitute in its place a highly publicized—and politically safer—effort to recover remains. From here on out, progress in the effort to account for Americans missing in Southeast Asia would be measured in terms of crash sites excavated and remains recovered; not, as Ronald Reagan had originally intended, POWs rescued or otherwise repatriated.

The task of abandoning the live POWs only months after declaring their release a “matter of the highest national priority” would prove challenging for three important reasons. First, the hopes and expectations of the POW/MIA families, members of Congress, and many veterans had been at stratospheric levels since Weinberger had made his POW announcement the previous July. Administration officials knew there would be hell to pay if any of them ever figured out what the administration was up to.

Second, credible intelligence about living POWs continued pouring into the Pentagon. Because this mirrored the intelligence that had led Weinberger and company to state that POWs were still being held captive, dismissing it would be no easy task. And third was the problem officials had with their boss, the “soft-hearted hardliner” from California who was determined—recklessly so, some believed—to do whatever was necessary to get the live POWs home.

The most important of the three tasks—keeping the President from doing what he had set out to do in the very first hours of his presidency—was carried out by the administration’s most powerful officials: the Vice President, the president’s Chief-of-Staff, the National Security Adviser and his deputies, and the Secretaries of Defense and State and their deputies.

The job of keeping the families, members of Congress, and Vietnam veterans in the dark was given to the Politico-Military Affairs staff at the National Security Council, to the administration’s POW/MIA Interagency Group (IAG), and to key senior members of the U.S. House and Senate. The crucial task of dismissing, manipulating, assailing, and ultimately destroying the value of the intelligence about living POWs fell to DIA.

Since 1983: The Cover-Up

The managers and analysts at DIA’s Special Office for POWs and MIAs and those who oversaw their work were in no mood in the spring of 1983—and hadn’t been since war’s end, for that matter—to do or say anything that might give U.S. officials reason to commit what most in the Office believed would be the ultimate act of national humiliation: paying the communists the billions of dollars in reconstruction aid Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon had promised them in Paris. So when the word came down the chain of command in the spring of 1983 that the matter of live POWs had become politically radioactive and the policy people now wanted the entire matter just to go away, declassified DIA records show that the managers and analysts and those who oversaw their work were more than ready, willing, and able to do the job.

When Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs intelligence investigators first gained access to the Special Office analysts’ super-secret working files in 1992, they discovered that, unlike the intelligence reports Secretary Weinberger had cited in July 1982, the analysts and managers had officially ruled that none of the scores of eyewitness sightings of live POWs received after mid-1983 were actually sightings of live POWs—not one. Senate investigators found that the analysts and managers had accomplished this remarkable feat by determining after mid-1983 that every eyewitness who had reported seeing American prisoners in captivity after the war was either lying or confused and had not actually seen American prisoners after the war—but instead had seen either American prisoners who had been released at Operation Homecoming, American missionaries, European tourists, Russian soldiers, Amerasians, or other individuals “who might be confused with Americans.”

“How could that be?” the Senate investigators wondered—and then quickly found that the answers lay deep in the analysts’ working files; in their meeting notes, phone conversations and desk memoranda, as well as in hurriedly scribbled memoranda and in carefully typed, formal ones; on a Post-it note here, in a letter to a CIA official there; in handwritten briefing notes in one file; and in the Vu-Graphs used in classified briefings in another.

The Senate intelligence investigators examined hundreds of these analysts’ working files. Most are now declassified and available at the Library of Congress or the National Archives. Some three hundred of these intelligence reports are discussed or referenced in the text of An Enormous Crime. Some fifteen that were received by DIA from mid-1983 (when the cover-up began in earnest) until December 1984 are analyzed in detail at www.enormouscrime.com

What follows is a snapshot of how U.S. government officials “analyzed” just a fraction of the intelligence they received about living American POWs after mid-1983.

Case 1792: American POWs Seen Carrying Logs At Dong Tien

On May 6, 1983, officials at the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) in Bangkok, the lead U.S. government agency involved in the hunt for missing American servicemen at the time, informed the Special Office that a Vietnamese living in a refugee camp in Malaysia had recently told JCRC interviewers that in November 1978 she had seen more than ten Caucasian prisoners carrying logs at the Dong Tien lumber market in Dong Thap Province and that she had been told that these prisoners were Americans. Dong Thap Province, known as Kien Phong Province before the communist takeover, is located in the Plain of Reeds region west of Saigon.

The refugee, a 29-year-old woman who had worked as a seamstress before fleeing Vietnam, told JCRC interviewers that she and some relatives had gone to the market to buy lumber for a new house after her house had been confiscated by the communists. She said that when she and her relatives arrived at the market she was surprised to see the Caucasian men. She said she asked one of the Vietnamese who worked at the facility who the men were, and the person replied that she should not ask because they were American prisoners. She said that at that point she dropped the subject altogether and paid no more attention to the Americans.

The seamstress’s sighting of the ten or so American prisoners doing forced labor at the Dong Tien lumber market was assigned case #1792 and turned over to Vietnam Desk Analyst Sedgwick D. Tourison for investigation

. Senate investigators examining the analyst’s classified case files in early 1992 found that Tourison had begun his investigation of the seamstress’s sighting in a reasonable and professional manner. The investigators found, however, that case #1792—and every other report of living American POWs conducted by the Special Office over the next decade—had quickly taken an ominous turn away from things reasonable and professional to things so preposterous and surreal that the investigators could scarcely believe what they were reading.

The investigators found that Tourison had first requested that JCRC attempt to locate and interview other refugees who had been in the area of the sighting during late 1978, apparently to determine if any of them had seen or heard of American POWs being detained there. The file showed that JCRC officials had responded by dispatching their veteran interviewer, Garnett E. (Bill) Bell, to various refugee camps in the region with instructions to seek out and interview refugees who fit the criteria Tourison had established.

Senate investigators found that this stage of the investigation consumed 679 days, from June 1, 1984, the day Tourison dispatched his first request for assistance to the JCRC office in Bangkok, until April 10, 1986, the day Bell dispatched the report of his interviews back to the Special Office.

Among the information cited in Bell’s report was the following:

  • A Vietnamese refugee stated that he went to visit relatives near the Dong Tien Market during late 1979. He remained for two days and visited the market several times but did not observe any Caucasians.
  • A Vietnamese refugee stated that he went by the Dong Tien Market periodically from 1976-80, but he never observed any Caucasians.
  • A Vietnamese refugee stated that he had travelled to the Dong Tien Market periodically from 1978-85, but had not seen any Caucasians. Occasionally, he saw two Amerasian boys.

Senate investigators found that, incredibly, Bell’s report had provided Tourison sufficient information to enable him to resolve the seamstress’s sighting. Tourison’s conclusion, handed down on May 14, 1987, was included in his final, official evaluation of the case entitled, “DIA Evaluation of PW/MIA Information Provided By Vietnamese Refugee Source 1792.” The salient points of the document are as follows:

Details: Source 1792 was imprisoned during 1977-78 on charges of harboring former South Vietnamese military who had not registered with the new communist authorities. After her release from prison in mid-1978, she found her house had been confiscated, and she went to the Dong Tien Market to buy lumber for a new one. While at the Dong Tien Market she stated that she saw over ten Caucasian males carrying logs. A worker in the vicinity told the source the Caucasians were American prisoners. The source paid no further interest to the purported prisoners.

Analysis: The Joint Casualty Resolution Center located and interviewed four former residents of Dong Thap Province. These sources visited the Dong Tien Market at the time of the sighting, and they neither saw nor heard of any individuals there such as Source 1792 described. One of the sources noted that there were two young Amerasian children, the sons of two U.S. soldiers (the fathers of these two boys, a Caucasian and a black, had returned to the United States), who frequented the market area. He speculated that someone from outside the area could possibly confuse them with U.S. POWs.

Evaluation: DIA does not accept the report offered by Source 1792 as a factual representation of an actual event. The source may have seen several Amerasian children, but there is nothing to support her claim she saw American prisoners.” The date of the evaluation was May 14, 1987.

And there it was. The seamstress had told U.S. officials she had seen more than ten Caucasian men carrying logs on their shoulders and had been told they were American prisoners. Tourison, after conducting a four-year “investigation,” had officially ruled that she had seen two Amerasian buffalo boys, both about four-and-one-half feet tall, both about 15 years old, one half-Caucasian, the other half-black.

Tourison’s findings were approved by senior management and with that the case was declared “Resolved.” The case file was then locked away with the files of the other resolved cases. There, barring an Act of Congress or a direct order by the President of the United States, it would remain, forever off limits to everyone, even members of the U.S. House and Senate with jurisdiction over the POW issue.

Case 3055: American POWs On A Chain Gang

In late November 1984, a resident of North Carolina advised the Special Office that a group of American POWs had reportedly been seen during the summer of 1983 working on a chain gang in Hoa Binh Province (postwar Ha Son Binh Province) southwest of Hanoi. The sighting was said to have occurred when a Greek merchant seaman happened upon the prisoners and their guard while sightseeing. Reportedly, one of the American prisoners had been able to shout his name and military rank to the merchant seaman before guards intervened, struck the prisoner, and ordered the seaman out of the area.

The North Carolina source said he had learned the details of the reported sighting from a friend in Greece who, the source said, was a good acquaintance of the merchant seaman and had heard the story directly from him. The source stated that he himself was not directly acquainted with the merchant seaman and therefore was “not in [a] position to pass final judgment on his integrity.”

According to the source, the merchant seaman had told his friend the following:

He was a crewman aboard the Greek vessel San Dimitris, which arrived in Haiphong during August 1983. After unloading the ship’s cargo of grain for eight days, he took a day’s shore leave and went sightseeing in Hoa Binh Province, southwest of Hanoi. As he was riding a rented motorbike through a hamlet no more than two kilometers south of Hoa Binh province town, he came upon a group of bearded Caucasian prisoners working under guard alongside the road.

When the prisoners saw him, one wearing army fatigue trousers yelled out, “I am Major Kane from the camp in Borikhan.” A guard immediately intervened, striking the prisoner in the face with a rifle butt and screaming at the seaman to leave the area at once.

Frightened, the seaman threw down his motorbike and ran back toward Hoa Binh province town. As he was running away, he heard shots being fired behind him and the shouts of the prisoners yelling in English, “Go! Go!” The guard did not pursue him, and he was able to reach Hoa Binh province town unharmed. From there, he took a bus to Hanoi and then back to Haiphong. The following day, he and the crew of the San Dimitris sailed for Greece. The Greek merchant seaman’s sighting was assigned case #3055. Deputy Chief Charles Trowbridge, Senior Analyst Robert Destatte, and Analysts Tourison and Salvatore Ferro participated in the investigation.

The significance of the report quickly became apparent when the analysts discovered that Major Richard Kane, a Marine aviator shot down over South Vietnam in 1967, was, indeed, missing.

Though the analysts were puzzled by Kane’s reported statement that he was “from the camp at Borikhan” in Laos, they knew well that a prison believed to have held American POWs during the war but from which none returned at Operation Homecoming was located just a stone’s throw down the highway at Xom Tang hamlet. This prison, known to U.S. intelligence analysts as “Xom Tang Possible PW Detention Installation N-65,” had been a prime target of U.S. intelligence collectors and had been photographed extensively throughout the war.

Soon after the investigation of the merchant seaman’s account got under way, the credibility of the story received another boost when personnel at the Office of Naval Intelligence determined that the Greek freighter San Demitris did in fact exist, and that the ship had transited the Suez Canal on June 13, 1983, bound for India. A further search of records determined that after spending the period June 27-July 4 in port in India, the San Demitrisalso spent the period July 10-August 28 in port in India. According to the Naval Intelligence personnel, this was “an unusually long time for the ship to be in port” and a possible explanation was “that the ship left and then returned to India.” According to Source 3055, the merchant seaman reportedly encountered Major Kane and the other Americans on the chain gang sometime during August 1983.

In late January 1985, the Special Office analysts cabled the U.S. Embassy in Athens to request that embassy personnel locate the ship’s owners and interview them about the reported sighting. When asked about the incident, the owners declared that although the San Demitris had been in the region at the time, it had not docked at Haiphong because, they said, they did not want to violate the U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam. At the time of the San Demitris’s 1983 voyage, U.S. law prohibited any loans, credits, or grants to any country that allowed its ships to transport goods to Vietnam.

When advised of the owners’ statements, Trowbridge and his analysts at the Special Office, rather than press on with the investigation and interview the merchant seaman himself and the other members of the crew, quickly seized upon the owners’ transparent, self-serving denial and declared that it constituted proof that the reported sighting of Major Kane and the other American POWs was a fabrication.

The San Demitris had not docked at Haiphong during August 1983, the DIA group said, and because the merchant seaman was not in Vietnam at the time, he could not possibly have seen Major Kane and the other American POWs. The official evaluation was “Fabrication.” With that, the investigation into the “non-voyage of the San Demitris to Vietnam” ended.

Major Richard Kane’s name appears on Panel 26E, Line 61 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Case 0558, 1228, And 1723: American POWs Reported At Dong Vai Prison

In August 1983, the CIA reported to DIA that three to four dozen Caucasian prisoners who were believed to be American POWs had been transferred in early March 1982—some 18 months before—from the Cam Thuy maximum security prison in Thanh Hoa Province in northern Vietnam to the Dong Vai (aka Dong Mang) maximum security prison located in Quang Ninh Province just north of the northern coastal city of Hon Gai. According to the CIA, the source of the report was the driver of the truck that transported the prisoners.

The Cam Thuy maximum security prison in Thanh Hoa Province, also called Cam Chu prison, and the Dong Vai maximum security prison just north of Hong Gai were both well known to U.S. intelligence analysts.

Cam Thuy, located on the west bank of the Song Ma (Horse River) some 65 kilometers upstream from the Dragon’s Jaw Bridge, had become a prime target of wartime U.S. intelligence collectors after they received a report that six handcuffed Caucasian prisoners had been observed inside the prison in 1968. Following the receipt of that report, U.S. officials had photographed the facility and designated it the “Cam Chu Possible PW Camp N-85.” None of the American POWs who returned at Operation Homecoming reported that they had been held there.

The Dong Vai maximum security prison just north of Hon Gai was known to the Special Office analysts as a place where American POWs were reportedly held after the war. In 1976, CIA officials examining 1975 satellite imagery of Dong Vai had discovered possible pilot distress signals on the roof of one of the highly secure interior lockups.

Later, U.S. officials had received eyewitness testimony from a source who said he had seen a few skinny American pilots dressed in baggy striped prison uniforms being detained at Dong Vai in early 1976 and had been told that 50-60 were being held there. Another source said that he had seen approximately 30 Caucasian prisoners dressed in striped uniforms inside the Dong Vai prison in 1979 and had been told the prisoners were American pilots.

Despite the fact that prior intelligence had indicated the presence of unreturned American POWs at both prisons, the analysts at the Special Office read the CIA report and, without conducting any investigation whatsoever, declared it a “tentative fabrication” and did nothing more. Ever.

Almost nine years passed. Then, on June 5, 1992, during the deliberations of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, a U.S. spy satellite passing over Dong Vai photographed in a field some 400 feet from the prison the name of a missing USAF flight officer and below it a secret, valid escape and evasion code. In a nearby section of the same field was the secret four-digit authenticator assigned to another missing USAF flight officer preceded by a different secret, valid escape and evasion code.

Upon being advised that a missing USAF flight officer’s name, Serex, and a valid E&E code below it, “TA,” had been seen in the field at Dong Vai, DIA imagery experts conducted their own examination of the imagery and declared both the name and the E&E code had disappeared from the imagery. Regarding the four-digit authenticator and valid E&E code in a nearby portion of the field—a specially-modified “GX” E&E code known as a “G walking X” followed by the four digit authenticator “2527,” which had been assigned to missing USAF flight officer Capt. Peter Matthes—a DIA imagery expert officially declared the “G walking X 2527” to be “natural shadings in the field and not man-made intentional symbols.” The fact that the four-digit authenticator matched that assigned to Matthes, the DIA expert added, was simply a “coincidence.”

Lt. Col. Henry M. “Mick” Serex’s name appears on Panel 2W, Line 128 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Capt. Peter Matthes’s name appears on Panel 16 W, Line 118.

The Final Nail

Tragically, the rough treatment given the American POWs at the Dong Tien lumber yard, Maj. Kane and the others south of Hoa Binh province town, and Mick Serex and Pete Matthes and the others at Dong Vai would be found acceptable by a majority of members of the Senate Select Committee. Given that, it should come as no surprise that these same Senators also accepted and defended similar treatment meted out by DIA to hundreds of other POWs reported alive in the postwar intelligence. Nineteen four-digit authenticators matching those of missing airmen photographed in rice paddies along Route 4 in northern Laos disappeared when we re-examined the imagery, DIA said, and the majority on the committee agreed that that had occurred.

The letters “WRYE” and a four-digit number laid out beside a jungle road in northern Laos were “naturally occurring shadows on the ground,” DIA said. Though Maj. Blair C. Wrye had been lost without a trace over North Vietnam on August 12, 1966, a majority on the committee agreed with that finding.

An escape and evasion code laid out in a garden plot inside a prison compound in central Laos that indicated 52 American POWs were being held at the camp was a combination of shadows and “the irregular furrows” in the garden plot, DIA said, and a majority on the committee agreed.

The letters “USA,” each twelve feet tall and together stretching over 37 feet across, and below them a huge 24-foot-tall by 19-feet-across valid secret E&E code known as a “walking K,” imaged in a rice paddy in northern Laos, was “a young Laotian boy’s handiwork that he had copied off an envelope,” DIA explained. Again, a majority on the committee agreed.

A half-dozen or so postwar intercepts of secret Pathet Lao radio transmissions describing how, when, where, and why they were holding or moving American POWs collectively described the confinement or movement of well over one hundred American POWs inside Laos. DIA’s and the majority’s ruling? Not one of the postwar radio intercepts relating to living American POWs was to be believed.

And last but not least, some 925 postwar intelligence reports the committee investigators had deemed plausible or credible, many reporting U.S. POWs being held at the same prison or in the same area at the same time or over a period of time: all 925 sources were either lying or confused, DIA officials said. A majority on the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs agreed.

Buffalo boys. Non-voyages. Fabrications. Tentative fabrications. Falsified names, codes, and authenticators. Natural shadings. Shadows. Irregular furrows. A young Laotian boy’s handiwork copied off an envelope.

They never had a chance.

“No sign of MIAs alive, Senate panel reports,” the Boston Globe declared on January 14, 1993, the day after the committee’s final report was filed. “Senate Panel Finds ‘No Compelling Evidence’ of POWs in Indochina,” The Washington Post reported that same day. “Senate Study on Vietnam-War Captives Concludes No U.S. POWs Remain Alive,” The Wall Street Journal said. “Senate report: Government didn’t ‘abandon’ prisoners,” USA Today added. “ ‘Most exhaustive’ study says no POWs were left in Asia,” The Washington Times declared.

Though credible intelligence about living POWs continues arriving at DIA even today, the cover-up that began in 1983 and was perpetuated so effectively by the Senate Select Committee and the press in 1993 remains firmly in place.

It is an enormous crime, indeed, and surely the most important cold case of our time.

 

 

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