MIA Facts Site

Bad Legislation

Summary.  Legislation introduced into the Senate and the House in 1999 has the potential to interfere with serious efforts to account for and recover missing men from WW II, Korea, and Vietnam.  I urge readers to contact your   Senators and ask them to oppose S. 484, the "Bring Them Home Alive Act" and contact your Representatives to oppose H. R. 1926, with the same name.


From time to time, the MIA "activist" community convinces one or more members of Congress to introduce legislation that promotes the activist point of view.  This has happened in early 1999.  Things got started in February 1999 when Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell introduced S. 484, the "Bring Them Home Alive Act."  Now, in May 1999, Representative Joel Hefley has introduced the companion bill, H. R. 1926, also named the  "Bring Them Home Alive Act".

Senator Campbell's Letter

The following is a letter sent by Senator Campbell to the rest of the Senate asking that they support his bill.



WASHINGTON, DC 20510-0605

February 11, 1999

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to invite you to be an original cosponsor of the "Bring Them
Home Alive Act of 1999."  This Act would create the vital incentive needed
to persuade key foreign nationals to take the risks needed to return any
possibly surviving American POW/MIA's to the U.S. alive.

This bill would grant asylum in the United States to foreign nationals from
key countries who personally deliver a living American POW/MIA from either
the Vietnam War or the Korean War to the United States. Specifically,
citizens of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or any of the states of the former
Soviet Union who deliver living American POW/MIA's from the Vietnam War --
and citizens of North Korea, China or any of the states of the former Soviet
Union who deliver living American POW/MIA's from the Korean War -- would be
granted asylum under this Act.

The "Bring Them Home Alive Act of 1999" includes citizens of the states of
the former Soviet Union since recent news reports confirm that Soviet
officials had planned a program to bring captured "knowledgeable" Americans
to the Soviet Union for intelligence gathering purposes. While Russian
officials have claimed that this plan was never carried out, this is far
from certain.

Naturally, that foreign national's immediate family, including their spouse
and children, would also be granted asylum in the U.S. since their safety --
and even their lives -- would most likely be imperiled by such a daring
rescue of surviving American POW/MIA's.

If this bill leads to even one long-held POW/MIA's being returned home to
America alive this effort will be well worth it -- 10,000 times over. Even
though it has been many years since these two wars ended, they have not
ended for any Americans who may have been left behind and are still alive.
As long as there remains even the remotest possibility that there may be
surviving POW's in these regions, we owe it to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen
and Marines to do everything possible to bring them home alive. This is the
least we can after all they have sacrificed.

I plan on introduce the "Bring Them Home Alive Act of 1999" soon. If you
would like additional information -- or wish to be an original cosponsor of
the Bring Them Home Alive Act of 1999 -- please have your staff contact
Larry Vigil of my staff at 224-5852.



Ben Nighthorse Campbell
U.S. Senator


Text of the Bill

If you want to read S. 484, click here, or, go to this web site where you can search for the text of any bill before Congress:  http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.html

H. R. 1926, introduced into the House of Representatives in May 1999 has the same language.

So,What's the Problem?

The legislation offers refugee status in the U. S. to anyone who returns alive a U. S. POW from the Korean War or the Vietnam War.  The bill also requires that this offer be broadcast and advertised through various media.  So, you ask, what's the problem?   Sounds like a good plan.  Not exactly.


First, I recommend that you read these articles on the MIA Facts Site; the articles describe the bogus reports that U. S. investigators must deal with.

bulletFalse and Misleading Reporting
bulletThe Live-Sighting Reports
bulletLet's Sell the Bones

The Problem

If this legislation becomes law, I see two results that will be damaging to serious
U. S. efforts to account for our missing men.

bulletA flood of bogus reports will be generated.
bulletThe people we are dealing with -- Vietnamese, Lao, Koreans -- will have real reason to doubt our sincerity.

Bogus Reports

There is already a well-developed cottage industry in the refugee camps of SEAsia that produces bogus reports, phony photographs, bogus documents and witnesses, all claiming to know the location of live U. S. POWs. The articles cited above describe these bogus reports and the impact they have on attempts to collect serious information.  This legislation will do nothing but generate more bogus reports.

For example, in 1989, a group of eight members of Congress and one former Congressman offered a reward of $2.4 million to anyone who would free an American prisoner from Southeast Asia.  A photograph appeared in newspapers worldwide showing a group of grinning Congressmen standing in front of what was supposed to be a pile of money, advertising the reward.  Flyers advertising the reward offer were spread around the refugee camps in SEAsia.  Our interviewers in the refugee camps, who were collecting valuable information on missing Americans, were flooded with phony reports in response to this reward offer.  I cannot count the weeks that we wasted tracking down phony stories that were generated by refugees
in expectation of receiving a $2.4 million reward.

This is the result of reward offers.

Impact on Our Former Adversaries

Over the years, a lot of effort has gone into convincing the Vietnamese, the Lao, and now the Koreans to allow U. S. search teams into their countries to search for and recover missing men.  I recommend that you visit the web site of the Defense POW-Missing Persons Office and read the articles there describing the search teams that go in and out of SEAsia and Korea.   Read, too, about the U. S. personnel who are stationed in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia where they work full time on accounting for missing men.

The fact of the matter is that there are no live U.S. POWs held anywhere in the world.   The Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Koreans, Russians, and Chinese all know this.   If we pass this legislation and start to publicize it, we are saying to them that we do not trust them, that we do not believe their statements that they hold no U. S. POWs.  Exactly how do you think this will affect the hard-won cooperation that we now have?

Impact on Families, Congress, and Department of Defense

Another impact of this bogus reporting is that on the relationships among the families, Congress, and the Department of Defense.  When a bogus report is received, claiming that a missing man is alive, that report is sent to the man's family.  DoD policy is that if a report does or may pertain to a missing man, it is sent to his family.  It does not matter if we know the report to be bogus, it goes to the family.

The result of this practice has been , in some instances, to destroy or at least sour relations among the family, Congress, and the DoD.  Here is what often happens.   The family receives the report and one or more family members decide that the report is true.  Often, the family is contacted by one or more "activists" who represent themselves as experts and who begin to fill the family with nonsense, supporting the bogus report.

Then, the DoD analysts report their findings that the report is bogus.  The family does not believe them, accuses the DoD analysts of lying and covering up.  The "activists," of course, are just delighted with this state of affairs and do what they can to keep things stirred up.

The family often contacts their Congressional representatives who contact DoD who tells the representatives that the report is bogus.  Faced with a distraught family, with an activist who is not constrained by the truth, the member of Congress sometime sides with the family and then you have a huge, ongoing battle involving DoD, the family, and the Congress.  This is all a monstrous waste of time, it destroys relations that should be cooperative, and it generally helps no one -- except the activist who scores another family dragged into disorder.

These, then, are the likely results of the proposed legislation:

bulletIncreased bogus reporting
bulletInnocent families victimized by bogus reporting
bulletOur former enemies, who are now cooperating, will have reason to slow down or break off cooperation

Of course, these three results would please the MIA cultists no end -- they just love the publicity and the mud wrasslin'.

Sample Letter

The following is the text of a letter that I wrote to my Senators and Representative, urging them to NOT support S. 484 or H. R. 1926.  I encourage readers to do the same.

E-mail your representatives

You can locate your Congressional representatives' e-mail addresses here:


Write your representatives

Follow up your e-mail with a letter to your representatives.

A suggested letter

Here is my suggestion for a letter to your Senators and Representatives.  Note that the bill has two numbers -- S. 484 in the Senate and H. R. 1926 in the House.   Senator Campbell introduced the Senate version, Representative Hefley introduced the bill in the House.  Be certain to use the correct citation for the Senate or the House, depending on to whom you are writing.  I have put the text that needs to be changed in this typeface.

Dear (Congressman) (Senator) (Name):

I am writing to urge that you DO NOT SUPPORT (
H. R. 1926 if you are writing to the House of Representatives, S. 484 if writing to the Senate), also known as the
"Bring Them Home Alive Act of 1999," introduced by (
Representative Joel
Hefley if writing to the House, Senator Ben Campbell, if writing to the Senate

This bill would grant refugee status to any foreign national who frees an
American who is listed as missing in action (MIA) or who may have been a
prisoner of war (POW) from past wars.  On the surface, this appears to be
desirable legislation.  In fact, this legislation, if enacted, would impose
an immeasurable burden and distraction on agencies within the Department of
Defense that are charged with accounting from service members who remain MIA
from past wars. 

Especially in Southeast Asia, there is a robust cottage industry, mainly
centered on refugee camps, that specializes in generating phony information
about Americans missing from the Vietnam War.  The belief among refugees
from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia is that if they know anything about a
missing American, they will be granted admittance to the U. S.  Such is not
the case but this is the rumor that is perpetuated in the refugee camps.  As
a result, refugees with no other hope clog our investigative channels with
phony reports, hoping that they will be admitted to the U. S.

Rewards such as that proposed by ( Representative Hefley, Senator Campbell ) are serious detriments to meaningful progress in accounting for our missing men.  For
example, in 1989, a group of eight members of Congress and one former Congressman offered a reward of $2.4 million to anyone who would free an American prisoner from Southeast Asia.  American interviewers in the refugee camps, who were collecting valuable information on missing Americans, were flooded with phony reports in response to this reward offer, and wasted weeks    tracking down phony stories that were generated by refugees in expectation of receiving a $2.4 million reward.

There has been a small quantity of recurring bogus reports dealing with
Americans missing from the Korean War and World War II.  In response to
H. R. 1926, S. 484) this trickle would become a flood, thereby degrading efforts to
account for those men.

I believe that a second problem with (
H. R. 1926, S. 484 ) is the signal that this
legislation would send to our former adversaries in Southeast Asia --
Vietnam and Laos -- and Korea.  These nations are now cooperating with US efforts to account for our missing men.  By posting such a reward as that proposed in (
H. R. 1926, S. 484 ), we would be undermining the mutual trust and respect that has taken years to build up between us and them.  If this legislation is enacted, I can envision the Vietnamese, the Lao, and the Koreans either slowing down or stopping their cooperation because they would feel that we are no longer acting in good faith.

The simple fact is that there is no reason to believe that Americans who
remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, or the
Vietnam War are surviving in captivity anywhere in the world.  Every shred
of evidence related to missing men makes it clear that these men are dead.

I urge you to NOT SUPPORT (
H. R. 1926, S. 484 ) in spite of its high-sounding
objective, to "Bring Them Home Alive."

Thank you.

( Be certain to sign your name, snail mail address, phone number, and e-mail address. )

Thank you for your help to stop this nonsense.