MIA Facts Site

Senator Smith Debates Reality (again)


Summary. Senator Smith has, again, set out on a debate with reality.  If you have not read any of my other articles about Smith, return to the Table of Contents  page and locate the articles on Garwood, Hendon, the "Island Fortress," and Senator Smith's Cowboy.  They will give you a flavor of what this man is capable of believing.  And, while you are there, read the articles on the 1205 document.  After all that reading, come back to this article.

In late August 1998, the CIA released the results of their review of Vietnamese cooperation with the US on the MIA issue and their review of the "1205" and the "735"  documents.   This review was in the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).  Smith had pushed for this NIE.

Now, this was a shrewd move on Smith's part.  The outcome of the NIE could be only one of two ways:  either it would support Smith's cherished beliefs or it would not support him.

bulletIf the NIE did not agree with him, Smith could simply announce that the NIE was further evidence of US government cover-up, incompetence, and other conspiratorial acts.  He could then convene his own team of "experts" who would -- surprise, surprise -- trash the NIE.
bulletIf the NIE agreed with him, well, wouldn't that just be peachy.

So, what happened?  The NIE did not agree with Smith.  For the summary of the NIE, click here.

What did Smith do?  Of course, he responded that  ". . . in many areas, the final product is not thorough, is not objective, and contains serious analytical flaws."  Click here to read Smith's announcement on the NIE.

Give me a break.  Smith wouldn't know an analytical flaw, thoroughness, or objectivity if any one of the three bit him in his ample butt.  Note, too, that the senior analyst of the US Senate also said:

"Currently, I am preparing my own review of this estimate which will further illustrate its many inaccuracies and shortcomings, and provide additional evidence of Vietnam's continued stonewalling on key POW/MIA issues, such as the documents uncovered in former Soviet archives in 1993."

Let me outline for you what is about to happen.  Smith's "own review" should be a real thing of beauty.  I suspect that he will assemble an "analytic team" comprising all the usual suspects.  Look for him to employ Bell, Veith, Santoli, Beck, Castle, Hendon, Usry, and a few others.  Of course, their conclusions will be dramatically opposite those of the NIE.  Smith's review will be released and it will be hailed as the best thing to happen in the MIA issue by the National League of Families, the National Alliance, John What's-his-name of the American Legion, Bob Necci, Ted Sampley, and others.

Meanwhile, the troops of the Joint Task Force - Full Accounting and the analysts of DPMO will continue to plod along, finding remains, answering questions, digging out documents and eyewitnesses, and generally doing the only useful work that is being done on the MIA issue.

Let's hope that the authors of the NIE and the other serious folks in the US government have enough sense to ignore Smith and his confederacy of dunces.

Summary of NIE 98-03

Vietnamese Intentions, Capabilities, and Performance Concerning the POW/MIA Issue

Key Judgments

Since the early 1990s, we have seen evidence for increased
Vietnamese cooperation on the POW/MIA issue in the strengthened staffing,
increased responsiveness, and growing professionalization of the
Vietnamese organizations that deal with this issue. In our view, Hanoi
judges that closer ties to the United States are in Vietnam's own
security and economic development interests, and that normalization
requires progress on the POW/MIA issue. US financial support for
cooperative action and willingness to agree to reciprocity on Vietnamese
humanitarian concerns also encourage cooperation. Consequently, we judge
that Vietnam has become more helpful in assisting US efforts to achieve
the fullest possible accounting of American personnel missing in action
during the Vietnam conflict. On the issue of recovering and repatriating
remains of US personnel, we rate Vietnamese cooperation as excellent.
Cooperation also has been good on assisting with trilateral investigations
and providing documents (see table).

We think the decision to be more cooperative with the United States on
POW/MIA accounting has not come easily to the Vietnamese leaders.
Longstanding ideological distrust, lingering animosity from the war,
suspicion of American motives and fear of intelligence exploitation all
have operated at times to limit Vietnam's willingness to cooperate on
recovering or accounting for US MIAs. But our reporting suggests that the
POW/MIA issue no longer has the political sensitivity it once had.

Incidents of outright refusal to cooperate with US investigators have
decreased, but instances in which the Vietnamese raise objections to POW,
MIA activities still remain. In most cases, the Vietnamese cite
considerations of sovereignty: for example, in refusing to make internal
Politburo documents accessible to US investigators; security, such as not
allowing US officials to enter classified locations and facilities; or
technical problems, such as difficulty in locating documents or records.
Occasionally the Vietnamese state that local villagers are concerned about
the intrusive nature of investigations and recovery activities.

Summary Evaluation: Vietnamese Cooperation With the United States on POW/MIA Accounting  


Level of Cooperation


Joint field activities; recovery and repatriation of remains


Has been improving since early 1990s; increasing professionalism on part of Vietnamese
Assisting with trilateral investigations


Vietnamese working hard to obtain Laotian cooperation in recovery efforts
Providing documents, personal artifacts, and equipment


Vietnamese have provided numerous documents but probably are holding out on those that would embarrass the government
Making officials available for interviews 

Fair to Good

Some retired officials resist interviews
Live sightings

Reluctant, but cooperation still reasonably good 

Vietnamese resent live-sighting investigations and question their utility
Transfer of POWs to the Soviet Union


Vietnamese say none were 
transferred but issue remains open

(Back to text) Moreover, although Vietnam's performance generally has improved with
respect to the US POW/MIA issue, we think Hanoi has not been completely
forthcoming on certain POW/MIA matters:

In some instances, we believe full disclosure would prove embarrassing to
the regime. For example, Hanoi continues to deny that US POWs were
mistreated while in captivity in the North. We think Vietnam still has
records it could make available to US investigators but which would
discredit its denials of mistreatment. A few reports of transfers of US
POWs to Russia and other countries are unexplained, and the books remain
open. Although 120 live-sighting investigations have been carried out by
US teams, none has generated any credible evidence of American POWs left
in Vietnam. Hanoi protests having to investigate such cases, but reports
appear regularly - most recently on five POWs possibly being held in Laos
- and established procedures for resolving them continue to be in effect.
Although Vietnam's overall performance in dealing with the POW/MIA problem
has been good in recent years, the unresolved issues noted above suggest
the need for continued close attention by the US Government.

We assess continued progress in POW/MIA accounting will require overcoming
two types of obstacles:

Technical problems, such as difficulty in retrieving archival materials,
contacting leads, and conducting field activities by the Joint Task
Force - Full Accounting (JTF-FA), are more amenable to resolution than
political obstacles. Not all can be overcome -- the passage of time and
geographic change increase the difficulty of recovery operations -- but some can be resolved through improving technology, maintaining US financial
support, and continued professionalization on the part of the Vietnamese.
Overcoming political obstacles -- such as Vietnam's sensitivities about
infringements on its sovereignty and obstructionist tendencies on archival
research and live-sighting reports -- will be more difficult. In the past,
Vietnam has reacted best to straightforwardness combined with respect and
US acknowledgment of Hanoi's own MIA accounting efforts.

We have reviewed the so-called 1205 and 735 documents, which purport -- falsely in our view -- to be reports to the party leadership containing statements that Hanoi held large numbers of US POWs above those acknowledged to the United States. We believe the judgments in the 1993 Department of Defense (DOD) assessment remain valid: that the documents are probably authentic GRU-collected documents (Soviet Military Intelligence). But many of the details of the documents, including dates and other facts, are implausible or inconsistent with reliable evidence. In particular, the numbers of POWs allegedly held by Hanoi at the times mentioned are inconsistent with reliable US Government statistics and far outnumber the actual total of open cases.

We believe that neither document provides a factual foundation upon which to judge Vietnamese performance on the POW/MIA question.  (End of summary of NIE 98-03)

Senator Smith's Announcement

A couple of days after the NIE was released, Senator Smith issued the following announcement.  QUOTE

Statement by Senator Bob Smith (R-NH)
on Vietnam POW/MIA National Intelligence Estimate

August 27, 1998

"President Clinton has certified to Congress that Vietnam is fully
cooperating in good faith on the POW/MIA issue based on all
information available to the US Government. The declassified portion
of the estimate released this week contradicts the President. There
has not been good faith full disclosure by Hanoi.

While I welcome the estimate's judgment in that regard, I must say
that I still have very serious concerns with the rest of the
estimate. After I convinced National Security Advisor Sandy Berger
to order this estimate last year, I received subsequent assurances
from CIA Director George Tenet and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Pat Hughes
that they would conduct "the most thorough and objective review
possible." Instead, in many areas, the final product is not
thorough, is not objective, and contains serious analytical flaws.

I have already conveyed some of my concerns personally to John
Gannon, the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, in a
closed-door meeting earlier this summer. Currently, I am preparing
my own review of this estimate which will further illustrate its
many inaccuracies and shortcomings, and provide additional evidence
of Vietnam's continued stonewalling on key POW/MIA issues, such as
the documents uncovered in former Soviet archives in 1993. It is my
hope that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will step up
its own review of this estimate in the coming weeks, in view of the
Bipartisan concerns raised by that committee last Year."

Sen. Smith serves as US Chairman of the Joint U.S.-Russia Commission
on POW/MIA Vietnam War Working Group, and is a senior Member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee. He co-chaired the temporary Senate
Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in 1992.


Comment.  This announcement is silly.  "A closed-door meeting?"  What's that supposed to mean.  Would the senator usually meet with a senior intelligence official on the Jerry Springer Show?  "Preparing my own review?"  Get serious.  Smith had his "own review" prepared a long time ago, ready to go.  It will be his usual bumble.