Report of the
Senate Select Committee
As part of its review of Executive branch policy-making on POW/MIA
issues, the Committee examined the origins and operations of a
group that is little known to many Americans, but a group that has
been the focus of POW/MIA policy-making for more than a decade: the
Inter-Agency Group on POW/MIA Affairs(IAG).
The IAG's members include representatives from the Department of
State (State), the Defense Department's International Security
Agency (DoD), the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Joint Chiefs), the
National Security Council (NSC), and the National League of
Families (League). The Select Committee sought to determine:
. the IAG's precise role in formulating and implementing POW/MIA
. the IAG's operating procedures;
. the effects on the IAG of the participation of a non-
governmental organization; and
. the extent to which IAG deliberations are accountable to
Congressional and public review -- or should be.
History of Inter-Agency Groups
Inter-agency groups are common in the Executive branch of the U.S.
Government. Since many problems involve overlapping jurisdictions
or responsibilities, inter-agency groups have emerged as a means to
coordinate policy and improve communication among agencies.
They often pass recommendations up the line to "Senior Agency
Groups" or "SIGs," to Deputy level meetings, and, if appropriate,
to the Cabinet/Presidential level.
Several witnesses at the Committee's Dec. 1, 1992 hearing on the
Inter-Agency Group testified that such bodies are useful in dealing
with issues. Richard T. Childress, former Director of Asian Affairs
in the Reagan Administration NSC, commented that
Every important issue of priority in any administration
has an inter-agency body that meets . . .to receive
briefings, develop or implement policy, review progress,
or complain to each other about how one participant or
another is wonderful or defective in the overall
Deputy Assistant Secretary Carl Ford agreed:
. . . if there hadn't been an IAG, I would have been
forcefully advocating that one be formed.
Creation of the IAG on POW/MIA Affairs
The Inter-Agency Group on POW/MIA policy is unusual, however,
because of its longevity. Most such groups have a much shorter
lifespan and "go from issue to issue," Ford said, citing IAGs which
coordinated policy during the Persian Gulf and Korean Wars.
The IAG was established in January 1980 "to review and assess
current events and policies [and] to consider future
direction/policy to resolve the POW/MIA problem." It offered
a means of dealing with most key players: DoD, State, the League,
and Congress. One early product was a revised statement of U.S.
policy toward the live-sighting reports pouring out of Vietnam and
Laos with the increased flow of refugees.
A year later, under the Reagan Administration, the DoD referred to
the IAG as an "ad hoc PW/MIA inter-agency group, in which the DoD
was actively participating." Sometime thereafter the
membership of the IAG changed to omit the Congressional
component. It was unclear why that change was made, and the
practice was not followed; the U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on
POW/MIA's has "exactly that arrangement," with "staffers from the
committee and staffers from the executive branch working together.
. . doing the investigations together. . . " and that "the . . .
Commission [in] which the Congress and Executive branch have worked
together, has worked very well."
The IAG has been the focal point of U.S. policy formulation on the
POW/MIA issue for 12 years. The IAG as it now operates "oversees
the overall U.S. Government effort." Further, it "cuts across all
the departments in the executive branch that have a role [in the
POW/MIA issue]." Its participants argue that the various
agencies, departments, constituencies, issues, and policy matters
involved make it necessary and all confirmed the centrality of the
IAG to the effective pursuit of U.S. policy on this issue.
Despite its central role, penetrating the IAG's working has been
difficult, and even such a basic question as how often it meets is
not readily or fully answered by its present members. Still-
classified documents suggest there were at least as many meetings
in 1992 as in 1991, but Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kenneth
Quinn, the IAG's current chairman, only could estimate that number
(to be about 17).
Other documentation of the IAG's working was elusive, a situation
that generates natural concern:
When you are dealing with an issue that is as volatile as
this, and you have got as many people crying conspiracy
as you have, and then you have . . . this sort of entity
. . . making decisions which has a special interest
group, a non-governmental entity represented on it which
has been the subject of criticism. . . do you not feel
that you are just contributing to the problems of this
issue by not having a record of openness?
The IAG members' response cited the importance of the coordinating
body, without addressing the central point about its secrecy.
During the first years of the IAG's existence, the chairmanship
rotated among the executive agencies represented, as intended at
its inception. In the early 1980's, however, because the issue is
primarily a foreign policy matter, the Reagan Administration
decided to maintain State Department representative as chair.
From 1981 to 1989 chairmen were successively Ambassadors Daniel
O'Donahue, John Monjo, and David Lambertson.
In October, the Committee wrote to IAG Chairman Quinn, requesting
all records of IAG meetings -- agendas, background papers, minutes,
etc. -- from 1981 to the present. He responded that records before
1991 were difficult to locate and later testified that "there was
no record from [before] 1991." The requested documents were
delivered in classified form in late November and State later
notified the Committee that it would not declassify five
memoranda. Rules about the treatment of classified materials
precludes the Committee from characterizing these memoranda, but
investigators with the appropriate clearance have reviewed them.
During the Committee's hearing, Senators questioned the IAG's
failure to keep regular minutes of its meetings. In the IAG's early
days, there were informal notes of its meetings, Childress
testified, but when the IAG "got rolling," its members considered
keeping minutes a waste of time. Common understanding of tasks and
frequent telephonic communication made formal minutes unnecessary,
In this connection Ford noted that because actions flowing from IAG
deliberations are taken by departments, the "records of the IAG are
really found" in departmental records. In his words,
. . . if we came back from an IAG and tried to write up
what had happened, it would have already changed before
it could have made any impact. . . .where you find the
paper is when the IAG would get to a point where it was
important that our superiors knew . . . what was going
on, had to make a decision, and at that point a decision
memorandum from Defense, and, I'm sure, State and the NSC
would go forward to the Secretary of Defense, Secretary
of State [and] the President on these issues.
In fact, Ford said it was not his organization's practice to take
notes at IAG meetings. In other words, a paper trail was left
by the agency taking action -- not the group recommending that it
Current IAG Practices
In its hearing, The Select Committee learned that the IAG on
POW/MIA matters still meets at least twice a month. The agenda for
the meetings is set by consultation among participants, and each
agency prepares in advance for meetings. Regular attendees are
representatives from the Joint Chiefs, DoD's OSD/ISA, NSC, State,
and the League. In addition, the head of the Special Office on
POW/MIA Affairs within DIA is normally present in an advisory
According to testimony before the Select Committee, the IAG works
by consensus. Participants provide in advance some idea of their
concerns for the meeting, and the meeting deals with those concerns
in a fairly informal manner. None of the witnesses specifically
answered whether the IAG normally conducts formal votes on issues;
it appears that general agreement is reached by informal
Ford explained that repeated telephone calls among the participants
made the IAG's deliberation an on-going process. The Committee
questions the practice of at once conducting closed-door meetings
while -- at the same time -- discussing the meetings' substance by
phone. The purpose of secret meetings should be either (1) to
discuss classified information inappropriate for discussion by
phone, or (2) to discuss policies which require the coordination of
Policies Affected by the IAG on POW/MIA Affairs
The IAG affects a broad range of issues, characterized by League
representative Ann Mills Griffiths as:
a wide variety of POW/MIA related actions, such as
intelligence collection and analysis, diplomatic
initiatives, communication with family members,
Congressional endeavors, and public awareness
A frequent subject appears to be the "Road Map," the still
classified declaration of U.S. policy of April 1991 that the U.S.
relies upon to measure Vietnam's cooperation on POW/MIA and other
matters as it moves toward normalization of relations. Other
POW/MIA-related topics have included the Orderly Departure Program,
by which the Vietnamese permit their citizens to emigrate through
normal channels rather than by fleeing in boats or overland, and
potential private assistance to the Vietnamese in humanitarian
areas such as prosthetics for the war-disabled. Because of the
significant Vietnamese influence in Southeast Asia, and its
implications for other nations of the region, the progress of
relations between the United States and Vietnam involves broad
diplomatic issues. Not least of these is a final, internationally
acceptable peace in Cambodia, which is reportedly an element in the
A survey of conversations between the U.S. and Vietnam from 1982 to
1992 suggests that IAG membership was a fair indicator of
involvement in the conduct of bilateral relations. Griffiths
participated in at least 20 of the 25 official and semi-official
meetings with the Vietnamese examined. In view of Griffiths'
membership on the Inter-Agency Group, it can be argued that she can
not conduct an unofficial conversation on the POW/MIA subject.
Griffiths identified intelligence management as an issue in which
the IAG has been active. Because of the close connection between
the policy and intelligence functions in the POW/MIA issue, two
related questions arise:
. How often has the Inter-Agency Group gotten involved in
examining live-sighting reports during or prior to the
analysis of intelligence information? The IAG apparently
reviewed live-sighting reports for a year in 1986-1987, as
appears in the "SI report. Childress told the Committee
that the IAG injected itself in the live-sighting review
process for two reasons. First, during the period in
question, DIA was being criticized for the way it handled
live-sighting reports and the IAG wanted to better measure
DIA's performance. Part of that effort involved conducting
final reviews of DIA's decisions. The IAG also sought to
provide protection, where appropriate, to the DIA's
. A related question is whether the IAG was involved in work
with casualty files. For example, the Committee found that
Ford was involved in a late November 1992 meeting that reached
a final determination about several casualty cases. One
explanation of this kind of interaction of policy-making and
intelligence analysis, put forth by Childress, is that the
whole (addressed by policy-makers) is the sum of its parts
(resolving individual cases or changing their category, such
as from MIA to KIA/BNR). Another is the link the IAG can
provide between DIA and service casualty officers, ensuring
family members learn quickly about new developments.
The League's Influence over Government Policy
An early example of League influence in POW/MIA matters is its
efforts to work with members of Lao resistance forces in the early
1980s. The timing of this episode was important to League
involvement on the IAG.
Throughout the 1970s, the POW/MIA issue received a low priority
despite public statements of concern; in 1979, the national
intelligence priority assigned the POW/MIA issue was at the lowest
U.S. national priority -- Priority 7.
In 1979, with the increase in refugees from Vietnam following
Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and the onset of open border
fighting between Vietnam and China, there came a not unexpected
increase in both refugees and reports. Many of these reports were
"first hand live sightings" and they energized the National League
of Families into pushing for greater emphasis on the PW/MIA
DIA faced the increased workload and political pressure with a
staff of only eight; a team of field interviewers was organized
as a short term measure to handle to increased reporting.
The reports came not only from Vietnam, they also came from Laos,
one asserting that U.S. POWs had been moved from North Vietnam to
northern Laos and then southward to the area in Khammouane
Province. This was one basis for a still classified covert
foray from Thailand into Laos in the spring of 1981. The operation
failed to locate any POWs. The source of that original report
stated to other American PW/MIA operatives later that summer that
he had no information on any live POWs, challenging the credibility
of the report and suggesting that it was fabricated in order to win
U.S. support for the Lao resistance.
Other reports about live POWs in Laos arrived but were often not
what they first appeared to be. One National League of Families
associate, Robert Schwab, was operating in Thailand at this time,
searching for POW/MIA information. Information Schwab forwarded to
the League (which in turn provided it to DIA) included new
assertions of live POWs in Khammouane Province who had been the
target of a rescue attempt by the Lao Resistance in 1979.
His source was the Lao Resistance.
Numerous documents detailed the League's position that these first-
hand live sighting reports demonstrated the likelihood that there
were still live POWs in Indochina and demanded immediate
When Robert Garwood returned from Vietnam in early 1979, the
POW/MIA issue regained national attention and a top-level inter-
agency group was formed. The National Security Council staff
member responsible for the area coordinated issuance of a White
House statement on the increased volume of reports from
By 1981, the number of reports of live POWs was increasing. The
principal office receiving such reports was the Joint Casualty
Resolution Center field element in Thailand, under the direction of
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Mather. The office had several field
interviewers but was soon swamped by the quantity of information it
received. Few reports could be given the detail they deserved.
While DIA and the JCRC were focusing on live-sighting and dog-tag
reports, reports of human POW remains received little attention.
A spate of activity began in the early summer of 1981 with the
arrival in Thailand of four skulls. Schwab advised DIA he would
get information from Ann Mills Griffiths on July 13, 1981, about
the possible recovery of four skulls by the Lao resistance in
southern Laos. DIA was already aware of the report, having
been advised by Griffiths on July 10th that a resistance group with
four skulls had been taken into custody by the Thai.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand viewed this sudden flurry of
reports about remains and the heavy involvement of Schwab and ABC
News as an orchestrated ." . . major media event. . . " The
Embassy added ." . . both Schwab and the ABC rep clearly implied
initially that they would make it known that we were being less
than cooperative on this issue if we didn't agree to their
condition." The remains came into U.S. custody within three hours
of the time the Embassy first learned of the skulls' existence.
On July 28, 1981, a meeting of State, DoD and NSC staff, chaired by
then-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific
Affairs, John Holdridge, discussed the issues of working with the
Lao resistance forces in order to get the remains of American
servicemen, and the U.S. policy not to pay for remains.
On-going negotiations were also discussed, with John Negroponte and
Richard Armitage mentioned as potential emissaries to the
Vietnamese Ambassador at the United Nations in New York. A high
level mission to Vietnam was also considered.
On July 30, 1981, Admiral Paulson requested the appropriate DIA
element research the Lao resistance forces to help answer the
question ." . . as to whether it may be more profitable (strictly
in terms of accounting for U.S. MIAs) for the U.S. to deal with the
Lao resistance forces or attempt to continue to secure a full
accounting from the LPDR." The assessment was also to
consider the possibility of penetration by Lao or Vietnamese
hostile intelligence services or even allied resistance groups such
as those under former South Vietnamese Army Colonel Vo Dai Ton.
League employees and JCRC were not the only persons searching for
POW/MIA information from Laos and Thailand. Early in August 1981,
staff members of Soldier of Fortune magazine contacted JCRC
coincidental with SOF's own effort to establish Camp Liberty, a
base for Chinese trained Hmong resistance forces in northern
Laos. During this period, SOF had contacts from time to time
with the various private Americans operating in Thailand and
collecting POW/MIA information. SOF also learned quickly
that a major POW/MIA information peddler, Phoumi Nosovan, operated
from the area of Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, and that he was
notoriously unreliable and someone to avoid.
DIA found itself under more pressure due to the escalating issue of
first hand live sightings and the DIA Director's new stance on the
issue. Congressman Charles E. Bennett had written to Lieutenant
General Tighe on July 24th to obtain General Tighe's clarification
of his statement that "American servicemen are alive and being held
against their will in Indochina." Rear Admiral Burkhalter,
DIA's Chief of Staff, reiterated General Tighe's official DIA
position that "of all of the live sighting reports of American
prisoners in Southeast Asia, which have been investigated by DIA,
none could be verified." Admiral Burkhalter clarified the
General's remark as his personal opinion but not DIA's official
In fact, DIA had received information about three purported
Americans seen in Hanoi (one of whom was Garwood) by a North
Vietnamese defector, the same source as the highly credible
information about Vietnam's warehousing of approximately 400 human
remains in Hanoi.
Also, just two months earlier, in May, 1981, Rear Admiral Jerry O.
Tuttle, DIA's Assistant Vice Director for Collection Management,
faced with a request from the U.S. Marine Corp's trial counsel at
the court martial of PFC Robert Garwood, decided to
stonewall. The trial counsel had requested that DIA
declassify information from the North Vietnamese mortician
concerning three Americans he had seen in Hanoi. Implicitly, such
information might have been helpful in Garwood's court
martial, but Admiral Tuttle followed General Tighe's standing
decision to classify all live sighting reports of Americans
received after August 1, 1979, and denied the request.
As the skeletal remains were being processed by JCRC for shipment
to the CIL, DIA completed its assessment of the Lao resistance
forces. Their conclusion was that the resistance effort was
fragmented and with little coordination between groups. It was not
seen as a threat to the Lao government and was ." . . a poor single
focus for the U.S. MIA efforts."
Nevertheless, the DIA analysts concluded the Lao resistance could
travel through Lao government control areas to search for grave
sites using small covert reconnaissance teams.
Such an effort would be feasible ." . . if the resistance element
was strongly motivated and the U.S. interests represented by
trusted indigenous personnel." Lao tribesmen could also assist in
searching for crash and grave sites.
As to hostile intelligence, there was ." . . a possibility that the
LPDR or SRV intelligence services have infiltrated the resistance
movement." The group least likely to be penetrated was non-Lao.
DIA concluded with a recommendation ." . . to pursue both overt
pressure on the LPDR and their Soviet and Vietnamese supporters and
covert efforts through Lao resistance forces. . . the potential for
success appears greater utilizing a covert action program.
However, the "risks" inherent with such a program are also
In its more formal assessment, DIA analysts clearly favored two
major resistance groups; the Hmong in northern Laos and the Lao
People's United National Liberation Front headed by Phoumi
The DIA assessment was completed just as a message arrived at DIA
from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. It provided the most
recent information on the Lao resistance and the operations by the
Thai Government's Special Group 917 which had coordinated a meeting
of Lao resistance groups on June 1, 1981, in Udorn, Thailand.
Splintered and with close links to the Khmer Rouge, Chinese and
Thai, one acknowledged resistance contact was former Lao General
On August 31, 1981, Paulson forwarded DIA's formal assessment to
the State ." . . for consideration and possible use in the
development of new approaches/initiates in support of U.S.
Government PW/MIA efforts. With the assessment, Paulson
forwarded what he described as "a summary of recovered American
remains reportedly obtained by resistance elements. . . " Two
Americans, Vincent Donahue and Robert Schwab, were private citizens
who, in addition to JCRC, had recovered remains since December 1979
which, on the surface, would support DIA's carefully worded
endorsement for the resistance option.
On September 16, 1981, Paulson submitted CIL-HI's analysis of human
remains obtained by U.S. citizens from the Lao resistance.
All turned out to be Mongoloid remains and not remains of the
Americans lost in the incidents to which they purportedly related.
Robert Schwab had turned over approximately two pounds of bone
fragments to JCRC on July 13th. He described receiving them from
Lao resistance associates who stated they came from a C-130 downed
in southern Laos on December 21, 1972. Brooks turned over three
skulls plus fragmented remains from four individuals to JCRC on
August 13. They, too, had reportedly come from a member of the Lao
resistance. Both turn overs and their linkage to the Lao
resistance were described as receiving considerable network
coverage, creating a favorable climate for the July 28 meeting
about whether to support the Lao resistance.
The CIL analysis was sufficiently noteworthy for DIA analyst S.
Ferro to submit a current intelligence item drawing attention to
the CIL's conclusion the remains were Southeast Asian Mongoloid
rather than American. Ferro attributed the incident to
another "example of the manner in which the communist government
and other groups in Southeast Asia have attempted to manipulate the
PW/MIA issue to their advantage." Nevertheless, there was no hint
that any members of the fragmented Lao resistance, or any private
Americans working with them, were part of the manipulation.
Discussion of League's Role
The IAG appears to be singular in its longevity and the close
connection between private interests and U.S. Government actions
that the League's membership on the IAG effectuates. This
unorthodox situation has only a tenuous parallel in the occasional
use of private consultants, whose involvement is almost always
peripheral. The League's central role -- often as the driver of
Government policies -- raises serious questions about whether it
has unduly influenced U.S. policy, and whether official Government
bodies have unduly interfered in the operations of a private
Certainly the presence of an unelected, unappointed citizen -- with
access to both classified material, including intelligence, and a
special exemption to privacy rights guaranteed to individual next-
of-kin and not to any group purporting to represent them -- to the
processes by which the intelligence is analyzed and evaluated,
during the time it is being analyzed, is unique.
This involvement is widely criticized by some activists, including
some families. It is a criticism publicly levelled by Col. Millard
Peck when he resigned as head of the Special Office for POW/MIA
affairs in March, 1991. And it was critically mentioned in a DIA
Inspector General's report of March, 1983.
. . . Ms. Griffiths was to have visual access to . . .
selected case files and reports, [but] her access to (and
retention) of PW/MIA data became so pervasive . . . that
the PW/MIA staff gave her and her assistant director
weekly briefings on various topics of their choosing. .
. [Later] Ms. Griffiths would exercise her contacts in J-
5 [Joint Chiefs] who would order up DIA information for
her. More recently, her entree to PW/MIA intelligence
has been principally through a staffer on the NSC, who .
. . apparently supplies her with whatever she desires.
She presently sits on the IAG on PW/MIAs, which deals
with policy matters at the national level. . . While her
direct access to DIA intelligence had been largely
suppressed . . . she still had access through the IAG
and her contact at NSC.
Griffiths' complete access to the DIA's PW/MIA office, including an
ability to assign tasks to intelligence analysts, the report added,
had a "chilling effect" on them.
There are acknowledged benefits to Griffiths' involvement as well.
Witnesses noted that her involvement had "been useful to the U.S.
Government in that much of the acrimony of the post-war years had
subsided." Rear Admiral Allan G. Paulson, then Director of the
PW/MIA office, found Griffiths' security clearance and involvement
to have been a "net advantage to DIA and the Government for the
reason addressed in the commentary [improved relations between the
Government and the families]."
At a public hearing on the IAG, Griffiths' IAG colleagues generally
defended the League's participation -- as represented specifically
by Griffiths -- as productive and helpful. Ford responded to
Committee questions concerning her involvement with high praise:
." . . the National League of Families, represented by
its Executive Director, Ann Mills Griffiths, has been the
heart and soul of the IAG since its inception. . . . much
of what the IAG has accomplished would not have been
possible without Ann's tireless efforts over many
Similarly, Childress said:
An inter-agency group without the League represented
would lead to a higher level of destructive "group
think." Being an NSC staff member I was able to
interface with all relevant departments and agencies at
all levels, both here and in Asia. To institutionalize
the effort, it was necessary. The League representative
on the IAG, Ann Mills Griffiths, due to her 20-plus years
of experience and continuity on the issue, now through
five administrations, was the only other participant in
the IAG who could reach out easily to all levels. . . .
without the National League of Families, POW/MIA would
not be a national priority today, there would be no IAG,
no DIA POW/MIA division, no Presidential Emissary. . .
It is difficult to say whether statements from interested parties
constitute a definitive answer to the questions raised by the
central involvement of an unelected, unappointed private citizen
with sensitive and significant negotiations, and in forming the
policies that undergird those negotiations. Throughout the
Committee's investigation, it has heard private comments of
officials at all levels of Government that refute the praise
accorded Griffiths in public comments. It has heard tales of
political terror from those who have crossed her, as well as
stories of productive works.
Griffiths' long involvement in the POW/MIA issue makes her an
unusually influential figure without formal membership in the IAG;
whether different policies would have been developed had she not
participated will never be known.
The Committee finds wisdom in the principle of Government's
maintaining an arm's-length relationship with private
organizations, no matter how noble the issue and efforts of the
organization. To be accountable to the American public, a proper
relationship should delineate Government from private-sector
efforts. Therefore, the committee recommends that the role of the
IAG, and its present composition, be re-evaluated by all involved
agencies and Congressional oversight committees, with a bias
against its continued joint operation with a private organization.
Investigation of Offers
"I would not have been surprised at all if they had,
three months later, [after the Paris Peace Accords], told
us that they had just discovered 50 prisoners and wanted
$2 billion for them. But that did not happen.
This opinion, voiced by Henry Kissinger during his deposition to
the Select Committee in 1992, reflects a suspicion maintained over
20 years by some POW/MIA families and others that POWs both
remained in captivity after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords
and would be the subject of Government to Government contact
leading to a "buy back" of American POWs. The Committee has found
no convincing evidence of any such offer being made. There were,
however, two incidents which require further explanation and prove
illustrative of the problems relating to this issue.
The 1981 Alleged Offer
The Committee received information that President Reagan had
received an "offer" in early 1981 transmitted through a third
country (Canada and/or China) of an offer by the government of
Vietnam to sell live POWs to the U.S. for $4.5 billion dollars.
The source of this information was a Secret Service agent who
allegedly was present and overheard part of a meeting in the White
House where this matter was discussed.
The agent reportedly overheard President Reagan discussing this
offer with Vice-President George Bush, Richard Allen (National
Security Adviser) and William Casey (CIA Director). The
conversation reportedly took place in the Roosevelt Room, as the
four were walking from the Oval Office to a meeting in an adjoining
conference room. The agent reported that James Baker (Chief of
Staff), Michael Deaver (Deputy Chief of Staff) and Edwin Meese
(Attorney General) were waiting in the area of the conference room
for the meeting to begin, but he was unsure whether these
individuals would have heard any of the conversation.
The Committee treated this report seriously and first attempted to
depose the Secret Service agent. Objections were raised by the
Department of the Treasury and the Secret Service claiming that
such a deposition would forever impair the ability of the Secret
Service to guard the President.
The attorney for the agent, J. Thomas Burch (Chairman of National
Vietnam Veterans Coalition), explained that the agent would not
testify without permission of his agency or a subpoena from the
Committee. As an interim alternative to taking the deposition of
the Secret Service agent, the Committee told the Administration
that it would attempt to substantiate the source's story through
the deposition of other potential witnesses.
The Committee deposed several of the individuals reported to be in
the general area where the conversation allegedly took place, but
none of these individuals said they could recall such a
conversation. Of those reported to have actually participated in
the conversation, only Mr. Richard Allen was deposed.
Mr. Allen testified as follows:
Q: Changing to another subject, soon after taking
office, did the Reagan Administration become
involved in an offer made by the Vietnamese
government for the return of live Prisoners of War,
if you can recall?
A: Very shortly after they came over?
Q: Well, at any time while you were National Security
Adviser. I don't want to limit it.
A: The figure of $4 billion seems to stick in my mind, and
I can't remember whether that was during my time in all
of this or not.
I do recall having once written in my life, either in
notes or in a memorandum that it was certainly worth
talking about, $4 billion for the return of POWs and
MIAs, and that under any. . . I might be able to find
those papers. . .
Q: Okay, do you recall whether the $4 billion was for
live American prisoners?
A: Yes, I do. If it was for $4 billion, it was indeed
live prisoners. . .
. . . First of all, my reaction (was that) $4 billion
for live hostages sounded somewhat preposterous to
me at first. I was obviously for getting into a
discussion, at least getting into a discussion
Mr. Allen sent a letter to the Committee on July 21, 1992,
clarifying his testimony. He said he had located a copy of his
notes (which he attached) of a meeting on September 24, 1986 at
which Capt. Red McDaniel, John M.G. Brown, John Malloy, Mike Milne,
J. Thomas Burch, and Bruce Rehmer told Allen of the alleged meeting
in 1981. Rep. Billy Hendon also appeared in Allen's notes as
someone he had discussed the alleged meeting with. In summary,
It appears that my uncertainty during the deposition was
justified, and that there never was a 1981 meeting about
the return of POWs/MIAs for $4 billion.
It becomes clear that my recollection of having written
these notes referred to events of 1986, not 1981. During
the meeting with Capt. "Red" McDaniel and others, I
recall having been surprised by their view that some sort
of "cover-up" or "conspiracy" had taken place, and I now
recall advising them there were no such meetings in the
Roosevelt Room. President Reagan rarely came to the
Roosevelt Room, and for very sensitive matters such as a
discussion of this quality, it would have taken place
only in the Oval Office.
Contact was also made with the Government of Canada as well as
several lower level employees of the Department of State and the
CIA who should have known about this incident if it occurred. None
of the deposed individuals (with the exception of Allen previously
noted) confirmed that such an offer was ever made. An
extensive review of all pertinent documents from the State
Department, CIA and NSC failed to disclose any evidence of this
The Committee regrets that the Secret Service agent was unwilling,
out of concern for his job, to testify concerning his report. Faced
with this unwillingness, the Committee was divided about whether to
compel the agent's testimony by issuing a subpoena. Some Members
agreed with the Administration that compelling the testimony of a
Secret Service agent concerning a conversation involving the
President would set a harmful precedent, and felt that the agent's
report was, at best, uncorroborated by the testimony of any other
witness. Other Members felt that the agent had waived his claim to
special consideration by talking to others about what he had
reportedly heard, and that his testimony might contribute
significantly to the Committee's investigation. After a lengthy
debate, the Committee voted 7-4, with one Senator absent, not to
subpoena the testimony of the Secret Service agent.
The Committee notes that, during its investigation, information was
uncovered indicating that Mr. Allen had a discussion with Vice-
President Bush in January, 1986 concerning his recollection of the
alleged offer. This conversation was allegedly the result of an
early January, 1986 meeting involving President Reagan, the Vice-
President, then Congressman Bob Smith and former Congressman Bill
Hendon. During the meeting, the Congressmen inquired about a
possible offer involving live POWs in 1981. Both President Reagan
and Vice-President Bush told Congressman Smith that no such offer
concerning live POWs had been made. Notes from then Vice-President
Bush and from former Congressman Hendon's office confirm that a
conversation was reported to have taken place between Mr. Bush and
Mr. Allen concerning the alleged offer.
The Third Country (ASEAN) Offer
I. Irving Davidson (a civilian with NSC contacts) reported in 1984
that, according to his contacts with highly placed officials of an
ASEAN nation, it appeared that individuals in the government of
North Vietnam had indicated that the Vietnamese would welcome an
approach by the U.S. to discuss the POW issue. The early reports
relating to this subject indicated that the discussions were to
cover the sale of both warehoused remains and live POWs
In late 1984, a high-ranking retired general, who was a member of
the National Security Council of the ASEAN nation, discussed this
matter with Richard Childress of the NSC who, with the concurrence
of Robert McFarlane (National Security Adviser to President
Reagan), traveled to Vietnam to investigate this report.
Declassified documents indicate that Assistant Secretary of State
Paul Wolfowitz informed Secretary of State George Shultz of a plan
to pay for remains and "possible live POWs" in a January, 1985
memorandum marked "super-sensitive." The memo stated that Mr.
Childress intended to fund the initiative with either CIA or
private funds. Mr. Childress later reported that he had followed up
the possible offer, but that it led to a discussion only of
remains. The Committee did not consider the matter satisfactorily
resolved by the reports filed and viewed that open questions
remained as to what had actually occurred.
In 1992, the Chief Counsel to the Select Committee and a Committee
Investigator travelled to the ASEAN nation to investigate the
alleged 1984 live American offer. Committee investigators met with
Government officials and with the General and his brother, the
individuals allegedly knowledgeable of the earlier offer. Their
stories proved inconsistent. The general's brother remembered
offers for live POWs having been made, while the general stated the
offers were for remains only. More specifically, the general said
that the Vietnamese wanted several hundred million dollars in
return for the remains of 50 Americans. The general also said that,
at some point, Mr. Davidson had called him to say that the "deal
was off because of leaks." Both men indicated that if the Committee
desired, the North Vietnamese channel could be reopened for the
continued discussion of purchasing remains. The Committee indicated
that the U.S. Government was always interested in recovering
remains of missing servicemen but that the U.S. Government position
remained that no payment would be made for the remains.
Subsequently, the U.S. Embassy in the ASEAN country contacted the
individual who had initially travelled to North Vietnam to discuss
the remains/live POW subject. According to the Embassy's report,
the individual says that although the Vietnamese official with whom
he dealt did not say specifically that there were live POWs, he did
say that his government did not control all lower level Vietnamese
officials, and that Vietnam needed financial assistance if it were
to find missing Americans or their remains.
In summary, the Committee could not conclusively determine whether
individuals in the government of North Vietnam discussed the
possibility of there being live POWs in 1984; the Select Committee
does find that the sale of remains was discussed.