MIA Facts Site

Barry Toll:
Mythmaker

 

Summary.  Another of the heroes of the MIA cult is former US Army sergeant Barry Toll.  Toll appeared on the scene during the Senate Select Committee hearings, 1991 - 1993.  Toll had served as an intelligence sergeant in the detachment that supported the national airborne command post at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.   He claimed that while in this assignment -- 1973-1975 -- he saw briefing material for the Nixon and Ford White Houses and for senior military commanders.  Toll claimed that these briefings told of US knowledge that 290 to 340 US POWs were being held in Laos or North Vietnam.  He further claimed that US intell had tracked Soviet flights carrying US POWs from SEAsia to the USSR or to Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe.

Toll's claims are lies.

Author Malcolm McConnell investigated Toll's claims for his book Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives.  The following is a direct quote of pages 287 through 291 from Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives.  Footnotes indicated in the text follow the quoted text.

Quoted from pages 287 - 291, Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives.

Another former American noncommissioned officer with a background in intelligence, Barry Toll, also made dramatic allegations about POW transfers to the Soviet Union. Had he been able to substantiate his assertions, Barry toll would have become famous, and in the process unearthed a truly monstrous conspiracy meant to cover up the abandonment of hundreds of American POWs in Indochina and the transfer of many of them to the Soviet Bloc.

Barry Toll arrived on the POW/MIA scene in the summer of 1992, when he contacted Senator Kerry, chairman of the Senate Select committee on POW/MIA Affairs. Toll sent Kerry a long statement detailing sensational charges that the highest level of the American government had been aware of up to 340 American POWs held in Laos after Operation Homecoming in 1973. He also accused the Pentagon's highest intelligence offices and the Nixon and Ford White Houses of suppressing concrete information on flights from Indochina in which American POWs were transferred to the USSR and the Soviet Bloc between 1973 and 1975. (51)

What made Toll's dramatic accusations significant was the fact that he had served as an intelligence staff sergeant in an elite unit assigned to the World Wide Military Command and Control Systems Airborne command Post, under the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic, at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, from June 1973 until July 1975. The team on which Toll was a junior member was one of several charged with around-the-clock duty to administer the "doomsday" orders under the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) in the event of nuclear war. In this capacity, Toll's team allegedly received sensitive, high-level intelligence from U. S. government sources worldwide. These intelligence bulletins were part of daily updates to be used in strategic decision-making in the event of sudden nuclear war. (52)

Barry Toll claimed that he "personally saw, distributed and briefed high-ranking officers of the Joint Staff, on intelligence reports, analyses and operations regarding the transfer of U.S. POWs and/or MIAs from the custody of North Vietnamese or Laotian authorities through Soviet Bloc nations, or directly into the USSR." (53)

Toll further stated that it was "the considered opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the entire U.S. intelligence community" that there were an estimated 290 to 340 U.S. POWs alive in Laos after Operation Homecoming. He stated that he specifically recalled this information , as well as reports on the transfers of U.S. POWs to the Soviet Bloc, was included in the President's Daily Intelligence Briefing agenda on more than one occasion between 1973 and 1975. Toll said he personally recalled u to five occasions when American intelligence agencies tracked the "real-time movements" of Soviet and Eastern Bloc aircraft carrying American POWs out of Indochina. (54)

He provided detailed descriptions of these flights, which he said included diplomatic courier trips and on two occasions used the presence of an East European ambassador to North Vietnam as cover for the transfer of American POWs . And on one occasion, he said, the U.S. military made an attempt to intercept and force down one of these aircraft believed to be carrying American POWs out of Indochina. But the plane "fled into Soviet air space at the approach of U.S. intercept aircraft, and the attempt was abandoned." (55)

Toll stated that it was his knowledge of the cover-up of these events by the American intelligence community and two presidential administrations that drove him to request immediate relief from duties that resulted in his discharge from the Army in August 1975.

In view of these sensational charges, the Senate select committee assigned one of its most capable and experienced investigators, Army warrant officer Steve Gekoski. He was a Criminal Investigation Division special agent at Fort Meade, Maryland, who had handled many sensitive cases involving the National Security Agency, espionage, and counterintelligence. (56)

Gekoski patiently tracked down most of Toll's former enlisted and officer colleagues. None of these officers or NCOs recalled seeing any of the message traffic that Toll claimed described surviving POWs or transfers of prisoners from Indochina to the Eastern Bloc or Soviet Union. (57)

Gekoski's investigation also revealed that Toll never mentioned the alleged conspiracy as the reason for his request for discharge from the Army. Rather, Toll had gone Absent Without Leave (AWOL) from his duty station during the period July 3 to 9, 1975. This was a serious infraction for someone in his position, which was covered by the military's Personnel Responsibility Program (PRP). Personnel serving under the restrictions of the PRP, who include those responsible for strategic nuclear weapons and extremely sensitive intelligence, are automatically suspended from duty and subject to criminal investigation for infractions such as going AWOL. It was clear that Toll's period of AWOL would have disqualified him from further service on the SIOP Battle Staff. (58)

Gekoski further discovered that Toll was under active investigation by the Defense Intelligence Agency before having gone AWOL. Although the DIA did not reveal the exact nature of this investigation, Gekoski surmised that it was connected to Toll's increasingly unstable behavior. Toll's emotional problems, Gekoski discovered, had come to a head in the summer of 1975. As a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Toll had been treated for "a traumatic war neurosis" before July 1975, and had manifested symptoms of that disorder when interviewed by an Army psychiatrist after requesting release from military service. (59)

Attorney J. Lawrence Wright, who represented Barry Toll on the AWOL charges that led to his discharge from the Army in 1975, clearly recalled the incident in correspondence to the Senate select committee, which included a sworn affidavit describing the events. Wright, a former combat infantry officer in Vietnam, wrote committee investigator Robert Taylor that Toll's reasons for wanting to leave the Army were complex, "and might have included national security "and maybe even POW/MIA issues." However, Wright found these points irrelevant to his client's case, which concerned a smooth and unencumbered discharge. Wright confirmed that Toll was under investigation by the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time. (60)

In his affidavit, Wright also stated that Toll was particularly affected by the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists and the Khmer Rouge victory in Cambodia, which precipitated the notorious genocide. Wright cited Toll's "overwhelming belief that the Administration was lying to the American people," and noted that Toll "said he could no longer serve in the military. More precisely, he could not continue as part of the direct Chain of Command." (61) Wright also noted that another reason for Toll's request for discharge "had to do with secret document and transmissions that Staff Sergeant Toll had seen but cold not disclose to me." (62)

It is unlikely that Wright would have forgotten detailed accusations about multiple transfer flights of American POWs from Indochina to the Soviet Union, if in fact Toll had discussed this with military counsel as he later claimed while defending his position. (63) Toll also claimed to have discussed this issue with a number of relatives and prison psychologists. (In 1976, Barry Toll was arrested for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine and served two years in state and federal prisons in Michigan. (64)) Committee investigators Steve Gekoski and Robert Taylor were unable to corroborate Toll's assertions with any of the sources he cited. (65)

During Steve Gekoski's and the select committee counsels' exhaustive investigation of Barry Toll, they encountered some other unusual aspects of Toll's background. Among these was Toll's statement that convicted Soviet spy John Walker, then a retired Navy warrant officer, might have tried to recruit Toll for his espionage ring. Toll later pursued the Walker spy ring allegation by contact the FBI in September 1986, offering to provide information about Walker. In a phone conversation on September 11, 1986, Tampa , Florida FBI Special Agent E. S. O'Keefe, Jr., spoke with Toll about the matter. Toll stated that he left the U. S. Army after "flipping out" and receiving psychiatric treatment Toll also told O'Keefe he actually had no information that John Walker had ever tried to recruit him, "or otherwise engage him in his [Walker's] espionage ring." (66)

(Toll also later began telling journalists and claiming on computer bulleting boards that he had been on secret reconnaissance missions as a member of the elite covert operations branch of the American military in Vietnam, MACV-SOG, and had served as an intelligence officer at the American embassy in Bangkok. (67) )

Gekoski eventually reached the conclusion that Barry Toll was s deluded self-promoter, possible motivated by a desire to create a smokescreen of sensational charges to disguise the true circumstances of his discharge from the Army and his later drug conviction. This inference was bolstered during one interview when Toll gave Gekoski a disjointed and rambling account of his service on the Battle Staff of the Airborne Command Post. Toll said that he had received calls directly from Richard Nixon while the President was "dead drunk," ordering Toll to prepare for an immediate nuclear attack on the Soviet Union." (68)

During his deposition to the select committee, Toll did not reiterate this particular bizarre charge. But he did discuss equally strange events. Toll stated that during the 1973 October War in the Middle East, the Airborne Command Post staff received repeated messages from members of President Nixon's cabinet "telling us not to obey a nuclear execution order from the president." This, Toll testified, was "virtually treasonous and unconstitutional, but this was the pervasive atmosphere of circus and theatrics going on in the Nixon administration." (69)

Even though Barry Toll continues to be one of the most consistently cited "intelligence experts" among radical POW/MIA activists, select committee Vice Chairman Senator Bob Smith, not a man to shy away from controversial figures, has distanced himself from Toll. Commenting on Toll's revelations, Senator Smith said: "it was a single source thing. I don't rule it out." But Smith concluded, "Without documents, it's very hard." (70)

Select committee investigator Robert Taylor, however, feels that Toll's allegations have not been fully investigated. The CIA denied committee investigators access to its Executive Registry Files, which would have contained message traffic that Toll claimed describe the POW transfer flights. And the agency's President's Morning Briefs were made available only in executive summary form for Senators Kerry and Smith. (71) Nevertheless, retired intelligence officers familiar with these matters state that the summaries of White House morning intelligence briefs that the two senators were shown would definitely have contained references to POW transfer flights, had they been tracked.

Toll became on of the new stars in the activists' constellation of martyrs, men who had tried but failed to expose the vast government conspiracy to hide the shameful truth that America had knowingly abandoned hundreds of prisoners in Indochina. (By the summer of 1993, Barry Toll and Colonel Mike Peck were appearing together as members of a new activist splinter group called Valor, whose objective was to present the revelations of this conspiracy to the American public.) (72)

End quote from Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives, pages 287 - 291

Footnotes

  1.   Letter, Barry A. Toll to Senator John Kerry, with enclosed seven-page statement, June 14, 1992; also, deposition of Barry A. Toll before Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, June 26, 1992, pp. 23, 38-39, 82, 87, Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  2.   Statement, p. 4., enclosure to Toll letter; also, Toll deposition, pp. 18 - 23.
  3.   Statement, Toll letter, p. 3.
  4.   Ibid., pp. 3, 5; also, Toll deposition, pp. 38 - 39, 81 - 86.
  5.   Statement, Toll letter, p. 6.
  6.   Interview, Steve Gekoski, July 1, 1993, transcript, p. 1.
  7.   Ibid., p. 2.
  8.   Agent Report, DA Form 341, United States Army Intelligence Agency, Subject:   Toll, Barry Allen, 902d Military Intelligence Group, Fort Monroe, Virginia, August 5, 1975, and and enclosure: DA Form 2823, sworn statement executed by SUBJECT, July 25, 1975, RG46/Taylor/Box no. 7, Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  9.   DA Form 3822-R, Report of mental Status Evaluation, Toll, Barry A., August 6, 1975, prepared by Jacob R. Aslanian, M. D., Major MC, Records of the  Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  10.   Letter, J. Lawrence Wright to Robert Taylor, August 19, 1992, RG46/Taylor/No. 7. Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  11.   Ibid., enclosure:  Affidavit of J. Lawrence Wright, August 19, 1992, p. 2.
  12.   Ibid., p. 3.
  13.   Letter, Barry A. Toll to Bob Taylor, subject:  "List of parties I related POW/MIA abandonment issue to as factor in determining discharge from the Army," July 1, 1992, p. 1, RG46/Taylor/No. 7, Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  14.   Toll freely discussed this crime and his incarceration with Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs attorneys; see, Toll deposition, p. 18.
  15.   Interviews, Steve Gekoski and Robert Taylor.
  16.   FBI Priority telegram (65A-554) declassified from secret, from Tampa Field Office to Counter-Intelligence Office, FBI Headquarters, Washington, D. C., September 12, 1986, p. 2, Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
  17.   Sydney H. Schanberg, "PO Searchers Risk a Deal With Clinton," Newsday, November 5, 1993, p. 73.  Harve Skaal, a MACV-SOG veteran as well as the unit's historian, refutes Toll's claim.  Toll, Skaal states, was a "grunt" with the 4th Infantry Division who served as a security guard at a MACV-SOG radio relay base known as Sledgehammer inside Cambodia for three months in 1969, Interview, Harve Skaal, May 17, 1994.
  18.   Interview, Steve Gekoski, transcript p. 3.
  19.   Toll deposition, p. 81.
  20.   David Dahl, "He Insists POWs Are Alive in Vietnam," St. Petersburg Times, July 26, 1993, p. A-1.
  21.   Taylor interview.
  22.   Agenda of the national Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen, 4th Annual POW/MIA Forum, July 16, 1993, and July 17, 1993.  In the list of speakers, Toll is referred to as a "Former Intelligence Operations Specialist who monitored POW intelligence for Nixon."

 

 
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