Soon after Weinberger’s speech, his statement on POWs was formally adopted as official U.S. policy and disseminated in written form throughout the government.
Genuinely fearing that the POW/MIA issue might develop into a full-blown hostage crisis, 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"their fledgling effort to free the Indochina POWsand focus their efforts on anothersaving Central America.
By early spring 1983 the plan had been finalized: to avoid the possibility of another hostage crisis, the administration would secretly end the hunt for live POWs and substitute in its place a highly publicizedand politically, much 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, and for two important reasons. First, the hopes and expectations of the POW/MIA families had been at stratospheric levels since Weinberger had made his announcement about living POWs the previous July, and administration officials knew it would be hell to pay if the families ever figured out what the administration was up to. Second, credible intelligence about living POWs continued pouring into the Pentagon, and because this intelligence mirrored that which had led Weinberger and company to assume that POWs were still being held captive, dismissing it would be no easy task.
The critically important job of keeping the families both in the dark and on the reservation was tasked to the Politico-Military Affairs staff at the NSC. What that effort involved and how it was implemented and the incredibly damaging impact it had on the live prisoner issue from mid-1983 on is discussed in detail in An Enormous Crime, beginning in Chapter 22. The equally-important job of dismissing, manipulating, assailing and ultimately destroying the value of the intelligence fell to DIA. How the DIA analysts and managers and those who oversaw their work went about doing this is discussed in detail in the following pages.
When Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs intelligence investigators gained first-ever access to the Special Office analysts’ working files in 1992, they discovered that 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 POWsnot one. Senate investigators found that the analysts and managers had accomplished this remarkable feat by determining that each eyewitness who had reported seeing American prisoners in captivity after the war was either (1) lying or (2) confused, and had not actually seen American prisoners held captive after the warbut instead had seen either American prisoners who had been released at Operation Homecoming, American missionaries, European tourists, Russian soldiers, Amerasians and/or other individuals “who might be confused with Americans.” How could that be, the Senate investigators wonderedand then quickly found that the answers lay deep in the analysts' super-secret working filesin their meeting notes, their memcons and phonecons and desk memoranda; in hurriedly-scribbled MFRs 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 - in the actual Vu-Graphs used in classified briefings in another.
Enormous Crime co-author Bill Hendon, a fulltime intelligence investigator assigned to the Select Committee in 1992, found that the actions taken by the DIA analysts and managers during their investigations of just 14 intelligence reports DIA had received during the period from mid-1983 until the end of 1984 and one earlier CIA intelligence report that re-surfaced during the period - offered stark testimony to just how far DIA went after mid-1983 to discredit the intelligence on live POWs and/or the sources who provided it. These now-declassified intelligence reports and documents from the DIA analysts’ working files are presented in detail below. Numbered 1-15 in order of their receipt by DIA and shown on the accompanying map entitled "The 1983-84 Cover-up, 15 Selected Cases," these reports involved (1) American POWs seen carrying logs at the Dong Tien lumber market on the Plain of Reeds in southern Vietnam in 1978; (2) English-speaking Caucasian prisoners reportedly seen in 1982 inside a jungle prison near Cua Rao in Nghe Tinh Province in northern Vietnam; (3) American POWs seen in the Ban Nok jail just east of the Plain of Jars in northern Laos in 1978; (4) American POWs reportedly transferred from the Cam Thuy maximum security prison in Thanh Hoa Province in northern Vietnam to the Dong Vai maximum security prison north of Hon Gai in 1982; (5) American POWs seen inside the Lam Son prison in Thanh Hoa Province in northern Vietnam in 1980-81; (6) American POWs reportedly being moved around Nghe Tinh Province in northern Vietnam during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; (7) American POWs reportedly held at a newly constructed prison facility at Lien Mac in the northwest Hanoi suburbs during 1983; (8) American POWs seen getting off of a Prisons Management Department bus inside the K-4 prison at Xuan Loc in Long Khanh Province in southern Vietnam in 1979; (9) western Caucasian prisoners rumored to be American POWs seen being escorted under guard into the U-Minh Forest (Palm Forest of Darkness) in southern Vietnam in 1978; (10) American POWs seen under guard near the Ham Tan reeducation camp complex in southern Vietnam in 1983; (11) American POWs seen returning from field labor in Long Khanh Province in southern Vietnam in 1983; (12) Major Kane and other American POWs reportedly seen on a chain gang just south of Hoa Binh province town in northern Vietnam in 1983; (13) American POWs confined with Australian and Lao POWs at a work camp SSW of Yen Bai in northern Vietnam in 1977; (14) the American POWs seen by Robert Garwood at five separate locations in Northern Vietnam from 1973-1978 and (15) an explosive CIA report that had quoted a senior Vietnamese diplomat as saying just prior to his March 1977 talks in Hanoi with Carter envoy Leonard Woodcock that the SRV was still holding American POWs (See An Enormous Crime, Chapter 16).
[click to enlarge] (©2007 Hendon/Anderer)
Each declassified document cited in the following 15 cases is available to the reader in its entirety in the endnote hyperlinks. To reach and read each footnoted intelligence document, simply click on the colored endnote number in the text and then click [view].
Here is how the cover-up of the intelligence that began in mid-1983 and continues to this day was structured and sustained: