WASHINGTON (Jul. 10)
The dismissal of denaturalization proceedings against a Russian-born U.S. citizen, Tscherim Soobzokov, of Paterson, N.J., because the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency knew of his services to the Nazis in World War II, raised questions here that remained unanswered today.
One question is whether other alleged former Nazis in the U.S. are protected from effective prosecution because of similar covers provided them; another is why the cover-up of Soobzokov was not disclosed earlier, because he was granted citizenship in Paterson on April 17, 1961.
Federal Judge H. Lee Sorokin dismissed the proceedings yesterday on a motion by Allan Ryan, Jr., director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigation (OSI). Into a seven-page press statement, Ryan said that his office did not allege that “Soobzokov had actually taken part in the persecution of any person because of race, religion or political beliefs” and that “such accusations had been made by others.” He added that he did not believe “we had sufficient evidence to prove that Soobzokov had in fact taken part in persecution.”
Furthermore, Ryan said, “We cannot base a denaturalization action” on Soobzokov’s membership in Nazi organizations but “we can proceed only on a showing that the defendant concealed his affiliation with such organizations.”
Soobzokov is currently chief of the Purchasing Department for Passaic County, N.J. On Dec. 5, 1979, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigation (OSI) served him with a denaturalization notice. The notice accused him of concealing his collaboration with the Waffen SS and his participation in Nazi atrocities in and around Kransnador, in the Transcoucasus.
SOLON ANGERED BY IMPLICATIONS
Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D.NY), chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee an immigration, declared in a statement today that she is “angered by the implications” of the proceedings leading to dismissal of the denaturalization proceedings against Soobzokov. She said that “This once again raises the spectre of possible connivance and collusion on the part of our government in admitting and providing sanctuary to suspected Nazis and makes it all the more imperative that a thorough investigation be conducted about our government’s 35 year history of inaction in these cases.”
Ryan disclosed that Soobzokov had, in an apparently valid document, disclosed over his signature in 1952 to U.S. Consular officials at the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan, where he was then living, his affiliation with the Waffen SS, the North Caucasian Legion and the Tachtamukai town police.
CIA HAD DOCUMENTS
The CIA, Ryan said, “advised us that it had in its possession a copy of the form V-30 itself as the defendant had produced it to us, and a copy of on operational memorandum dated August 3, 1953 from the American Embassy in Amman to the Department of State.” In addition, Ryan disclosed, “The CIA also had a cover letter from the State Department to the CIA dated August 18, 1953, forwarding certain materials and soliciting the CIA’s views on the matters disclosed therein.”
Ryan said the CIA did not disclose the three documents because it “is not free to release” them since “the CIA did not originate” them but “which come to it from the State Department.” Ryan said the State Department informed him “it can find no evidence” that the V-30 form had been filled out by the defendant. However, Ryan pointed out, many applications for immigration visas from the mid-1950s have since been “routinely destroyed” and that the State Department cannot state that Soobzokov did not complete such a form.
With respect to why these facts were not disclosed earlier, Ryan said “I am satisfied that the shortcomings in the procedures used in this case were nothing more than a legitimate misunderstanding of what was necessary to make such full disclosure to us.”
Since Soobzokov also was accused of failing to disclose “certain convictions in the Soviet Union prior to World War II,” Ryan said he had expected evidence to “show clearly and convincingly the nature of those convictions. “But, he added, “I am not satisfied that we can prove” the existence of the alleged convictions or “the acts that gave rise to them.”
GOOD QUESTIONS RAISED
At the Department of Justice, a top aide to Ryan told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the JTA had raised “good questions” about the ramifications of this case and possible implications for others under the CIA development. The aide suggested communicating with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the State Department. The latter agreed to provide the JTA with a response.
The questions raised by the JTA included whether the former Croatian Interior Minister, Andrija Artukovich, whose extradition Yugoslavia has been demanding without success for more than 30 years, and Archbishop Valerian Trifa, a former leader of the Rumanian Iron Guard, who has been successfully resisting U.S. legal proceedings for a generation, also have official U.S. protection in some way.