MIA Facts Site

Substantial Misrepresentations
of Fact

Summary.  The MIA issue is cursed with a number of bullshit artists.  I thought that I had seen them all but then appeared  USN Reserve Commander  William "Chip" Beck.  This article provides some background on Beck's sojourn in the Defense POW-MIA Office and reproduces a letter from Beck to a Miami newspaper that monstrously misrepresents facts.  Fortunately, the facts are available and CDR Beck's misrepresentations can be checked against fact.  This article should be read in conjunction with the articles titled A Sad Story and The Official Record.

Background

  In 1993, the Defense POW-MIA Office was formed by consolidating several smaller organizations.  To cope with the workload brought on by bringing these organizations together, the Department of Defense tasked each of the military services to supply a number of active and reserve personnel, both military and civilian, to the DPMO on a temporary duty basis.  As normally happens when one agency is tasked to send some of its people to another, the agency that gives up people is careful not to give up any of their superstars.  Instead, they normally supply those whose presence will not exactly be missed.

Enter "Chip" Beck

One of the individuals dispatched to the DPMO was US Navy Reserve Commander William "Chip" Beck.  Beck's reputation of being self-centered and self-serving is well-earned.  From the minute he walked into DPMO, Beck determined -- without one bit of analysis on his part -- that (1) US POWs were abandoned, worldwide, from WW II, Korea, and Vietnam; and, (2) he was the man to rescue them. 

Beck craves to be part of some grand adventure.  However, he does not have the discipline to study a matter, learn the details of that matter, and develop a coherent approach to the matter at hand.  Beck has neither the patience nor the talent to learn and observe the nuts and bolts details of the intelligence profession.  Instead, he absorbs himself in what intelligence professionals refer to as FLABS  -- Folk Lore And Bull Shit. 

Beck At DPMO

Beck never made any effort to learn the details of the POW/MIA issue.  From the minute he arrived in DPMO, he decided on a conclusion he wished were true:  that we left POWs behind in Southeast Asia.  On this premise, he constructed a theory about an international Communist conspiracy to exploit our POWs.  He then constructed an elaborate -- and amateurish -- scheme of clandestine activities to expose this alleged conspiracy.  Essentially, he proposed a very expensive scheme by which Beck would employ (with taxpayer money) and control old cronies and persons who have made a profession or hobby of exploiting the MIA issue; persons who could be expected to give their first allegiance to Beck rather than any assigned
mission or any idea of public service.  The scheme would allow Beck to travel to exotic places and posture as a James Bond-like super spy.

Top Cover

Very shortly after Beck came to DPMO his immediate supervisor recognized he was nonproductive and  recommended that the Director, DPMO, inform the USN that he was no longer needed.  Beck, however, managed to ingratiate himself with Representative Bob Dornan, Senator Bob Smith, and members of their staffs, and they pressured the Director of DPMO to keep Beck on for nearly two years.

Finally, a series of events in the fall of 1997 forced the then Director to face up to Beck and Dornan (who was Beck's principal protector at that time).  The Director refused to renew the annual contract with the USN Reserve for Beck's services, and Beck became history in DPMO.

The Cuban Program

Background

When the US POWs returned from captivity in Vietnam in 1973, they were debriefed about their experiences.  One chilling story emerged.  I read the files on this incident during my tenure in the Defense Intelligence Agency but that was a decade ago and my memory of the details is not really clear, but, here goes.

The Defense Intelligence Agency identified a group of Caucasian interrogators who we believe were Cubans that beat and tortured a group of 19 of our POWs -- leading to the death of one of the 19 men -- between August 1967 and August 1968. That
episode has come to be known as the "Cuban Program." The DoD first learned about the program when the first reports of post-homecoming debriefings began to trickle in. On 19 March 1973, before the last POW was released, DIA's
Special Office for POW/MIA Affairs brought the matter to the attention of DoD decision makers. By 23 March 1973, also before the last POW was released, the USAF 7602nd Air Intelligence Group had in progress an investigation aimed at confirming the identity of the interrogators. Also by 23 March 1973 the DIA, CIA, FBI, NSA,and FBIS had committed full support from all their
resources to the 7602nd's investigation.  The CIA may have identified "Fidel" and his principal accomplice by 1976. Unfortunately, the one available photograph of the man they believed was "Fidel" was taken in 1959 when he was wearing a full beard and an Army field hat. He was clean-shaven when he worked our guys over in Hanoi. Although at least one of the victims who viewed the photograph believed it was a close likeness to "Fidel", neither he nor any of the other victims could positively identify the man in the photograph as "Fidel".

In 1987, with support from the DIA's POW/MIA office, the FBI conducted an intense investigation of a report that suggested a member of the Cuban delegation to the UN might be "Fidel". This suggestions started a wild goose chase. As I recall, the lead was a hearsay account that one of former Congressman Dornan's staffers picked up from a group of veterans attending a Special Operations Association reunion.  Nevertheless, two FBI agents devoted a great deal of time and resources pursuing the lead. In the end, the guy at the UN proved not to be "Fidel".

No one in the Department of Defense has ever been "assigned" to investigate the "Cuban Program" issue. In fact, the DIA POW/MIA office and its successor, the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Affairs Office (DPMO), do not have investigative or law enforcement authority to investigate this issue. DIA -- and later DPMO -- provide intelligence support to appropriate investigative offices and decision makers. The official record shows that we did that quickly and professionally. We have presented information about our efforts to members and committees and subcommittees of the Congress and Senate several times over the years.  Allegations that DIA and DPMO failed to pursue the issue (such as those in the following letter) and that Beck "discovered" this matter are nonsense.

Miami Herald Article

In August 1999, the Miami Herald published an article about the "Cuban program."  The article was based on information from former POWs who had been tortured by the "Cubans."  The appearance of this article set off a minor flap among the MIA "activist" community who determined to bring to justice the evil-doers.  As is usual with the "activist" campaigns, their raging against the Cubans is accompanied by charges that the US government ahs been covering-up this incident for years. 

Beck's Letter to the Miami Herald

Now, we come to the best part.  CDR Beck has written a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald.  The letter is reproduced below. 

bulletBeck's letter is in this type. 
bulletI have inserted notes and comments in the body of the letter in this type.

BEGIN QUOTE, CDR BECK'S LETTER TO THE MIAMI HERALD

Letter to the Editor Section

Miami Herald

Attn.: Kathleen Krog

Editor,

As the POW investigator who first surfaced the story of Cubans in Vietnam through Congressman Robert Dornan's Subcommittee in October 1996, I would like to add some background to Juan Tamayo's article ('Torturers Aim Was Total Surrender,' Aug 22).

Hardly.   "As the POW investigator who first surfaced the story of Cubans in Vietnam..."   As I stated above and as is shown in the official record, this story was well-known over 20 years ago and was briefed to Congress in the 1970s.   One of the enclosures to the official record of September 1996 Congressional hearings establishes the fact that Mr. Dornan was alerted to the "Cuban" program in 1987.

A cadre within the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO), including the official credited with identifying the Cubans, actually stonewalled internal inquiries and hid the 'Cuban files' for nearly two decades. Bob Destatte initially lied about the file's existence and later its contents. His admission came only after he confused his lies and contradicted earlier denials. It took Congressional action to pry the files loose.

More nonsense.  See note at the end of the first paragraph of the letter.

Only after Dornan's POW oversight committee subpoenaed the files did an accurate picture of the Cuban program and the more-troubling DPMO cover-up develop. After my testimony, I traveled to Havana to discuss Cuba's role directly. My goal was to see if Havana has information on American POWs who did not return after the war ended. I was shown films and photos that Cuban officials are willing to share with a proposed delegation of POW family alliance members and former POWs as a starter.

Now, let me see if I understand this.  Chip Beck, under the auspices of Bob Dornan, travels to Cuba and there the Cubans pour out their souls to him, reveal their darkest secrets, and seek his eternal friendship.  Let's review the bidding.  Dornan is  one of the most anti-Castro mad dogs of the Republican right.  Beck has openly proclaimed himself to be a "CIA station chief."  And the Cubans are going to welcome this guy into their midst?  Frankly, I do not believe this story.  He did travel to Cuba but I suspect that that is about as far as it goes.

Ironically, Cuba military and intelligence officials were more open about their POW involvement than were my former Pentagon colleagues.

Destatte, a 20 year DPMO bureaucrat, claimed no Cubans were involved with POWs, even though he had read the sequestered contents of the 'Cuban Files' and knew his statement was false. He initially said the files did not exist, but another colleague who accidentally learned of them had told me otherwise.

I do not believe this statement.   Bob Destatte knew all about the "Cuban program."  As a matter of fact -- fact is but one element missing from Beck's letter -- pages 160-176 of "Accounting for POW/MIA's From the Korean War and the Vietnam War", Hearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Committee on National Security, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth
Congress, Second Session, hearing held September 17, 1996, ISBN 0-16-054352-5, contains copies of every unclassified item that Bob Destatte had written on the subject as of 17 September 1996--two weeks before DPMO let Beck go. As those documents show, Beck and his friend on the Miami Herald misrepresented the facts concerning both the "Cuban Program" and Destatte's actions and views regarding the program.

Pressed further, Destatte claimed the Cubans were only 'English language teachers gone awry,' and were not on an intelligence mission. Another falsehood or outright stupidity.

This statement by Beck is an absolute purposeful misrepresentation of factual information provided to Beck by Bob Destatte.  Destatte said one thing and Beck has twisted Destatte's statement.   To see what Destatte really said, after you have read this article, go to the article on hearings held by Representative Bob Dornan and, from there, go to the listing of documents and read Enclosure 1.  There you will find what Destatte really said:  That the Vietnamese claimed to him (Destatte) that the Cubans were there primarily to teach them English.  At no time did Destatte claim that the Cubans were merely English teachers.

Destatte, who is married to a North Vietnamese woman, later claimed when Hanoi found out what the Cubans were doing, they were abruptly sent home to Havana. Again wrong. The Cubans simply completed a year-long project, with the help of Hanoi, Moscow, and East Berlin, and moved to the next phase.

"Destatte, who is married to a North Vietnamese woman . . . "  What's the point here, Commander?  Are you insinuating the Bob Destatte is something less than a patriot because of his wife?   Obviously Beck  is not aware of the fact that Ms. Destatte's family was treated brutally by the Commies and that those family members who are in the US are here only by the grace of God and a lot of luck. 

This distorted history is one that DPMO, not Havana, peddles in support of the old bromide that only Vietnamese intelligence services were involved with American POWs.

When I asked a Colonel in Cuba's military intelligence service about DPMO's initial denials about Cuban involvement in Vietnam, he bluntly said, 'B.S., we were there and we were involved.' The candor was welcome.

CDR Beck would have us believe that he simply swished into Cuba and immediately became close comrades with Cuban intelligence officers.  Way back when I played high school ball, we had a saying "You can bullshit the fans but you can't bullshit the players."   I suspect that boatloads of MIA "activists" -- the fans -- are eating this   up.  Anyone who has a clue about intell work -- the players -- recognizes this claim of Beck's for the foolishness that it is.

I also met Raul Valdez Vivo in November 1998. While he oversaw many activities of 11,000 Cubans in Indochina, he was not one of the interrogators at 'the Zoo.' He and Marta Rojas, another Cuban war correspondent, did interview as journalists U.S. POWs held by the Viet Cong in Tay Ninh Province in 1965. No physical abuse was involved. Both Valdez and Rojas subsequently wrote about the encounter -- something DPMO missed over the years, in spite of open source information and POW debriefings.

I spent 1969-1975 in Indochina (I was not a POW as the article indicated, but a Special Operations expert) and knew then that Cubans were present in the war. So were a lot of people you would not expect. However, it was not until I looked at the files acquired by Dornan's office that I fully understood what the Cuban mission with our POWs really was. That mission, known in the intelligence business as 'political action,' was confirmed during conversations in Havana in 1998 and 1999.

"I was not a POW as the article indicated. . . "  Wonder how the newspaper got that idea?  Of course, the good Commander would not have hinted at this falsehood.

The Cubans did not try to hide their presence, but a handful of my former U.S. colleagues did.

Contrary to DPMO assertions, the Cuban intelligence team at the Zoo operated with full knowledge and cooperation of Hanoi, financial backing of the Soviet Union, and collateral efforts of East Germany, which ran a simultaneous operation with American POWs, for the same propaganda purpose in 1967-68.

I'm confused here.  US intell knew that the US POWs were moved into the "Cuban program" with the knowledge and cooperation of the Vietnamese.  Yet, Beck claims that DPMO asserted to the contrary. 

The East German, Cuban, Soviet, and Vietnamese joint operations goal was to collect photographic, documentary, and audio material to support the largest anti-U.S., anti-war, propaganda operation since WWII. East German operatives directly involved in their own project in Hanoi told me in 1998 in Berlin that Moscow funded the operations with $750,000 over two years, and provided me photographs of their operational contacts with the POWs.

Again, Beck stretches credulity.   Why in the world would "East German operatives" tell him anything?

That was a large sum of money in those days for a political action operation. Former Soviet GRU Colonel Stan Lunev put it in further perspective when he told me in 1995, 'The USSR spent more on the propaganda war against the U.S. than it did on the military hardware we sent to Vietnam.'

The two East German and Cuban teams collected copious material used in an October 1968 anti-war demonstration in Havana, in which Marxists, Socialists, and anti-war groups from around the world, and the U.S. joined in. This is actually a fairly normal activity for most intelligence services to wage against their adversaries, which we were at the time.

I read accounts by Ed Hubbard and Jack Bomar in DPMO files (most of which were unclassified to begin with, but still hidden). There is no doubt that the first 10 POWs in the program were severely treated. The second group of 10 were instructed by their Senior Ranking Officer (SRO) to be as evasive as they could without antagonizing the man nicknamed 'Fidel.'

What the Cubans, Soviets, and Vietnamese wanted were snatches of conversations, admissions that the war was unjust, and other visual, written, and audio material that could be edited anyway the propaganda experts in Hanoi, Moscow, and Havana deemed in their interest. Even Presidential hopeful, John McCain was pulled into this operation, on a higher level, when he was interviewed by Spanish psychiatrist Dr. Barrel, who lives in Cuba. McCain was not touched by the psychological specialist, but was instead manipulated by an unseen Hanoi-Soviet hand into making statements against the war and against the U.S. These were later published and broadcast to American troops.

As a POW investigator in 1995-96, what interested me about the Cubans, was not the alleged brutality, because unauthorized torture took place on all sides of the Vietnam War. I was interested in the intelligence-related cooperation between Havana, Hanoi, Moscow, and communist bloc countries with regard to our POWs. This is one area DPMO steadfastly avoids investigating.

Oddly, while we officially shun the Cubans, who told me they are willing to cooperate on the POW issues I raised, we pour billions into Russia, Vietnam, and China, who are still lying about the 'Unrepatriated POWs,' and who see a future when they may reinstate the secret exploitation programs against us.

With the demise of the Soviet Bloc, new options are available to explore the unanswered questions of what happened to known POWs who never returned. I view Cuba as a potential ally and resource of information, not a continuing adversary. Continuing Cold War rhetoric won't help, but a change in our unproductive attitudes can. First, we have to recognize Cubans as a proud, independent people, not an appendage of the U.S.

In Havana. and at the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, officials told me that it was against Cuban policy to physically mistreat POWs. Yet, based on debriefings I summarized, these officials did not dispute the accounts, saying only that if they happened, it was against their own rules.

That statement does not answer the question of what happened and why, but it provides an opening to find out. The beatings started in late October 1967. Che Guevara, whose fate I closely followed before and after his death, was summarily executed as a prisoner in Bolivia on October 7, 1967 - just weeks before the beatings at the Zoo began.

As many Miami residents know, U.S. Special Forces teams and CIA operative Felix Rodriguez (by his own published account) was involved in tracking down Che and helping the Bolivians capture him. What has never been answered is the extent to which CIA or American officers anticipated, acquiesced to, or ordered Che's death. You can guess what Havana thought at the time.

The preceding paragraphs defy comment, they are so out of touch with reality.  CDR Beck is amazingly ignorant of US intell and special ops history.  He says: "What has never been answered is the extent to which CIA or American officers anticipated, acquiesced to, or ordered Che's death."  Get serious.  The US activities that led to the death of Che Guevara are one of the worst kept secrets in the business.  In fact, it seems that only Beck is in the dark.

I raised the question in Havana whether one of the Cuban interrogators personally knew Che, or as a revolutionary, was so affected by Guevara's execution as a prisoner, that he might have initiated the beatings without officially or fully notifying Havana about how he achieved his interrogation results. It is a possibility that the Cubans told me they would examine for the families and in the interest of resolving old wounds.

Let's give them a chance. As a former interrogator, I believe there is a morality involved in the treatment of prisoners, one that I always adhered to professionally. However, I know of Americans, Asian, African, and Latino allies, who tortured prisoners without notifying their superiors. I once turned in an American officer who allegedly beat to death a prisoner under his control in the Middle East. He was quietly fired, but never charged with the crime I believe he committed.

Just as I would not advocate turning the U.S. officer over to Hizbollah, neither do I think the Cubans should give us the DGI officers allegedly involved. Neither should the individuals avoid consequences for unauthorized actions, nor should the CIA nor DGI solely investigate their own personnel to determining whether a crime was committed or court action required. The FBI and Cuban State investigators should do that, respectively.

In 1989 similar charges originating from the U.S. resulted in the investigation, trial in Cuba, and execution of General Arnauldo Ochoa for narcotics trafficking.

If Cuban officers violated internal rules by beating Hubbard and other POWs, let's work with the Cuban government, not against it, to examine what happened and agree on appropriate action as professionals, not a mob.

Our goal should be to resolve past differences, and make sure beatings, invasions, and animosities are things of the past.

During two visits to Havana, I solicited official assistance in resolving another case involving an American and Cubans in Africa. There was cooperation on the part of the Cubans which is still ongoing, and further progress awaits my next trip. Emotions raised by Herald article is understandable, but fixation on old wounds does not help find out what happened to the other, unrepatriated POWs.

The USSR exploited foreign POWs, including 9000 Americans, beginning with the First World War, when the Allies intervened in the Bolshevik Revolution. By comparison, Cuba's role cited in the article is but a pale footnote.

Cuban officials, former East German operatives, and Soviet defectors have given me a fairly good idea of how, why, and when the various Soviet-backed exploitation programs evolved.

In Jupiter, Florida, the late Colonel Phil Corso (POW Special Projects officer under MacArthur and Eisenhower) told me in 1996 that 'When you expose what the Soviets did to our men, you are going to have to expose the American policies that allowed it to happen. When you do that, you will be diverted and your operations paralyzed.' He was talking about Washington, not Havana or Moscow.

Colonel Phil Corso is a joke.   In the first place, Corso was a staff officer on the Defense Department staff at the White House, he was not a "POW Special Projects Officer" for anyone.  I have read Corso's claims and testimony.  Nowhere does he ever claim such a title for himself.

Corso claimed that, on several occasions,  he personally briefed Eisenhower regarding US POWs from the Korean War transported to the USSR.  However, the records in the Eisenhower Library of the President's daily activities do not support Corso's claims; neither does the senior White House aide whom Corso claims was present at some of his briefings.

We all got a true view of Corso's detachment from reality when, a couple of years ago, he published a book.   In this book, Corso claimed that  -- are you ready for this? --  the US secretly recovered devices from the "UFO" that crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947.  Because this UFO was from an advanced civilization, the devices that were recovered led to the development of the transistor, the microprocessor, and the personal computer.  I swear -- that's what Corso said.   Beck and Corso together --  if bullshit could fly,  that place would have been an airport.

After you have read all you can stand about Beck, follow this link for more details on Corso's book.

Rather than vilify the Cubans for their Cold War tactics, since we had some nasty habits too, we need to resolve past issues peacefully and set a new course. As a former 'Cold Warrior' who saw combat against Cuban forces, I have no problem saying 'enough.' We need to put the past in a balanced perspective. Our hands are not clean, either.

I was told in Havana that Cuba wants to resolve bilateral differences and is open to discussing 'any' issue. 'But first somebody has to sit down at the table and talk with us.' When I asked if Fidel agreed with this policy, I was told, 'yes.'

So let's do it, and put both sides to the test.

CDR. Chip Beck, USNR (Ret)

Arlington, Virginia

CDR. Beck is a retired CIA Clandestine Service Officer and former Chief of Station.

 

END OF THE QUOTED LETTER FROM CDR BECK TO THE MIAMI HERALD

What Is It Really About?

In the years that I spent in the MIA issue, I observed a phenomenon.  Individuals who came into the issue with no previous knowledge fell into two camps:

bulletOne group got busy, buckled down, learned the issue, and made important contributions.
bulletThe other group became enamoured of the mythology and the charlatans surrounding the issue and decided that they and they alone had the truth. 

This latter group  would become completely absorbed with the most non-productive actors in the MIA issue -- Senator Smith, Representatives Dornan and  Rohrabacher, Billy Hendon, Mark Smith, Mike Peck, Bobby Garwood, Task Force Omega, Operation Just Cause, the National Alliance, and the like.  Eventually those who fell into this trap came to the point where they accused anyone who had been there when they arrived , or anyone who disagreed with them, of being part of a cover up, of being stupid and hidebound, or worse. CDR Beck is a perfect example of the second group.  His analysis is shallow, his claims about his own background are seriously overrated, yet he is now able to surround himself with a (small) crowd of admirers who have elevated his drivel to the level of Gospel.

"I Can Make Them Believe Anything"

Congressman Billy Hendon once told me the theory that underlies the personal attacks that Hendon and persons like Beck make on military leaders and public servants.  Hendon bragged that he could make the American public believe anything he wished it to believe on the POW/MIA issue, or any other issue.  He explained that he only needed to make it controversial to oppose him, because, in Hendon's words, people in uniform and public servants "don't have the balls" to confront him out of fear that the controversy will harm their careers. Thus, said Hendon, he can make the most reckless and outrageous charges, knowing that he will not be called into question.  And, when people see Billy and others like him -- Beck, for example -- going unchallenged, the audience   assumes that the critics are  correct.  Billy was probably correct in his assessment -- but I have no intention of letting them go unchallenged, thus, the MIA Facts Site.

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Here are links to other articles in this series.

  1. Follow this link to read the statement by Mr. Robert J. Destatte, senior DOD POW-MIA analyst regarding the "Cuban program."   Statement made November 4, 1999, in Congressional hearing.
  2. Follow this link to an article about former Congressman Bob Dornan and his venture into the "Cuban program."  This link takes you to a copy of a "special orders" speech made by Dornan, attacking Bob Destatte.
  3. Follow this link to a collection of newspaper articles that report on the November 4 hearings.
  4. Follow this link to a collection of items from the official record of a previous Congressional hearing.
  5. Follow this link to an attempt by author Al Santoli to make something out of nothing.
  6. If you have a copy of the book Honor Bound:  American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961 - 1973, you can read about the "Cuban program" on pages 394 - 407

This just in -- January 19, 2000 -- Beck visits Cuba, sucks up to Cubans.

This article last modified on  January 19, 2000.