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October 31, 2004
CQ Flashback: Kerry Obstructed POW/MIA Investigation -- Village Voice (5/22/04)

John Kerry released new advertisements this month designed to shore up his credentials on foreign policy and veterans' affairs. Among the statements made in the advertisements made in his support promoted Kerry's efforts in investigating the POW/MIA issue, along with John McCain, whose partnership Kerry's ads also promote. As Kerry says on his campaign blog:

John Kerry and Senator John McCain chaired the country's most thorough investigation into the fate of POW/MIAs in Southeast Asia. Kerry has personally pressed Vietnamese officials to cooperate in ongoing efforts to get answers for families. And he also sponsored POW/MIA Recognition Day. Kerry's Senate committee pressed for unparalleled declassification of documents, increased excavation work in Vietnam, and gathering of testimony from 144 witnesses. According to the Boston Globe, "the effort produced real answers for the some 120 families who had lived for decades without knowing whether a loved one was still alive in Southeast Asia."

However, the Village Voice reported back in February that Kerry did more to obstruct that investigation than to pursue evidence indicating that Vietnam deliberately withheld captured American servicement after our withdrawal. Sydney Schanberg wrote this devastating expos for the Village Voice -- neither of which could ever be confused as Republican shills -- just as Kerry wrapped up the Democratic nomination in late February:

Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisonersperhaps hundredswere never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.

The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final reportwhen he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs.

Schanberg details the malfeasance of this investigation with plenty of blame to spread around. However, Schanberg makes clear that he holds Kerry in particular contempt for his actions in tubing the investigation:

Here are details of a few of the specific steps Kerry took to hide evidence about these P.O.W.'s.

* He gave orders to his committee staff to shred crucial intelligence documents. The shredding stopped only when some intelligence staffers staged a protest. Some wrote internal memos calling for a criminal investigation. One such memofrom John F. McCreary, a lawyer and staff intelligence analystreported that the committee's chief counsel, J. William Codinha, a longtime Kerry friend, "ridiculed the staff members" and said, "Who's the injured party?" When staffers cited "the 2,494 families of the unaccounted-for U.S. servicemen, among others," the McCreary memo continued, Codinha said: "Who's going to tell them? It's classified."

Kerry defended the shredding by saying the documents weren't originals, only copiesbut the staff's fear was that with the destruction of the copies, the information would never get into the public domain, which it didn't. Kerry had promised the staff that all documents acquired and prepared by the committee would be turned over to the National Archives at the committee's expiration. This didn't happen. Both the staff and independent researchers reported that many critical documents were withheld.

* Another protest memo from the staff reported: "An internal Department of Defense Memorandum identifies Frances Zwenig [Kerry's staff director] as the conduit to the Department of Defense for the acquisition of sensitive and restricted information from this Committee . . . lines of investigation have been seriously compromised by leaks" to the Pentagon and "other agencies of the executive branch." It also said the Zwenig leaks were "endangering the lives and livelihood of two witnesses."

* A number of staffers became increasingly upset about Kerry's close relationship with the Department of Defense, which was supposed to be under examination. (Dick Cheney was then defense secretary.) It had become clear that Kerry, Zwenig, and others close to the chairman, such as Senator John McCain of Arizona, a dominant committee member, had gotten cozy with the officials and agencies supposedly being probed for obscuring P.O.W. information over the years. Committee hearings, for example, were being orchestrated to suit the examinees, who were receiving lists of potential questions in advance. Another internal memo from the period, by a staffer who requested anonymity, said: "Speaking for the other investigators, I can say we are sick and tired of this investigation being controlled by those we are supposedly investigating."

Be sure to read the entire article. Kerry may wish to rethink campaign allusions to his participation in this investigation. (Via Mitch Berg)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 31, 2004 7:55 PM

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