Ever since the Monica Lewinsky story broke last January, we have been saying that there are more serious offenses that President Clinton should be charged with than lying under oath about sex. Perjury and subornation of perjury are unquestionably serious felonies, but it is clear that it would be much easier to get public support for Clinton’s removal from office if the charges against him concerned lies about weightier matters.
One of Clinton’s many serious offenses in our view was breaking his pledge to the POW/ MIA families that he would do everything in his power to get an accounting for the men we left behind in Vietnam. Ron Brown, Clinton’s secretary of commerce, was offered a $700,000 bribe by Vietnam to push for normalization of relations. Attorney General Reno closed down the FBI investigation. Clinton had been in office less than six months when he broke his pledge to the families and took the first steps toward normalization of relations with Vietnam with no quid pro quo on POWs. He announced on Memorial Day 1993 that he would order all the documents relating to the POWs and MIAs declassified. He didn’t keep that promise either.
On November 9, a press briefing was held in Washington concerning a lawsuit filed by private POW investigator Roger Hall against the CIA over its refusal to release 500 documents relating to POWs and MIAs that they say are still classified. Hall said that an additional 10,000 documents remain classified because the Defense Department turned them over to the Senate Select Committee on POWs in 1993. Hall believes this was done to avoid having to make these documents public. This made it possible to argue that they are exempt from the President’s declassification directive.
Hall believes that American POWs are still alive today in both Vietnam and Korea. In the past two years three South Korean prisoners captured by the Communist forces during the Korean War have escaped. Two of them reported that many other South Korean prisoners are still alive in North Korea after living under very harsh conditions for over 45 years. Some 2,600 American POWs and 8,000 MIAs were not returned from North Korea in the 1953 prisoner exchange. Hall is confident that some of them have survived.
He believes the chances are even better that many of the 700 POWs that intelligence documents show were not returned from Vietnam and Laos have also survived. They would be 20 years younger than the Korean War POWs and would have had the benefit of living in a much warmer climate than the POWs in North Korea.
On November 9, The Washington Times reported that the Russians are withholding a document showing that many American POWs were transferred from Vietnam to the Soviet Union. Hall says our government has known about this all along, but it has failed to apply pressure on the Russians to account for these men. Recognition of Vietnam has brought virtually no cooperation in resolving the POW issue, and neither has the financial assistance that the Clinton administration has given North Korea and Russia.