MIA Facts Site

Report of the
Senate Select Committee
POW-MIA Affairs:
Section 3


Senate Select Committee - III

The Committee's Methods and Approach

The POW/MIA issue has proven almost as emotional and controversial as the Vietnam War itself. As mentioned above, vigorous disagreements have caused some to be accused of conspiracy and betrayal; and others to be accused of allowing their hopes to obscure their reason. The Committee has sought to transform this troubled atmosphere by encouraging all participants in the debate to join forces in an objective search for the truth.

Because the overriding hope and objective of the Committee was to identify information that would lead to the rescue or release of one or more live U.S. POWS, the Committee gave first priority to investigation of issues related to our most recent war, the conflict in Vietnam. Nevertheless, substantial resources were devoted to seeking and reviewing information concerning Americans missing from World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War.

To ensure credibility, the Committee has operated on a nonpartisan basis, with a nonpartisan staff, directed by Members equally divided between the two parties.

To ensure perspective, the Committee sought the guidance of family members, activists, veterans' organizations and many others about how to conduct the investigation, where to focus, whom to consult and what issues to address. Every single individual or group that has claimed to have information on the issue has been invited--and in a few cases repeatedly invited--to provide it. Former U.S. POWs from the Indochina War were contacted and asked to share their knowledge and all previous inquiries and investigations on the subject were reviewed.

To ensure thoroughness, the Committee requested, and received, access to the records of a wide range of U.S. Government agencies, including intelligence agencies and the White House. Unlike previous investigators, we refused to accept "national security" as grounds for denying information and obtained assurances from the highest levels of government that no relevant information would be withheld. We traveled overseas to Moscow, Pyongyang, and several times to Southeast Asia for face to face talks with foreign officials and gained access to long-secret archives and facilities in Russia, Vietnam and North Korea. And we solicited the sworn testimonies of virtually every living U.S. military and civilian official or former official who has played a major role in POW/MIA affairs over the past 20 years.

To ensure openness, the Committee's hearings were held almost entirely in public session. Among these were first-ever public hearings on POW-related signal and photographic intelligence and thorough discussions of live-sighting reports. Also, the Committee has worked with the Executive branch to declassify and make public more than one million pages of Committee, Defense Department, State Department, intelligence community and White House documents, including Committee depositions, related to POW/MIA matters. The Committee believes that this process must--and will--continue until all relevant documents are declassified.

We believe that the Select Committee's hearing and investigatory process provide grounds for pride on the part of every American. The Committee's very existence was a testament to the effectiveness of public action. And although offensive to a few and painful to some, the rigorous examination of current and former high government officials and some private citizens on a matter of public interest is what democratic accountability is all about. Members of the Committee asked difficult and probing questions in order to ensure the fullest possible exploration of the issue. And, indeed, the Committee's own work has been subject to rigorous public questioning and that, too, has been healthy and appropriate.

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