NEW YORK (Aug. 23)
The report released last week titled “Klaus Barbie and the United States Government” by Allan Ryan, Jr., outgoing director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), is in certain aspects an historic and remarkable document.
Yet, a close study of the 216-page report raises some disturbing questions in that it conspicuously fails to address itself to the issue, even after nearly 40 years of denial and cover-up, that Nazi war criminals and collaborators had found refuge — and in numerous, provable instances, employment by government agencies — in this country.
The report’s historic value comes from the fact that it is the first official admission by the U.S. government that it had used and protected from prosecution by an ally — in this case, France — a wanted, notorious war criminal, Klaus Barbie, executioner of French Jews and resistance movement heroes during World War II.
The report’s documentation consists of nearly 600 declassified Army, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and State Department intelligence materials covering the period 1947-1951 when the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in Europe knowingly used and protected Barbie. That the American government released such a body of evidence –which is powerfully replete with self-damning, self-damaging revelations — ultimately redounds to the credit of both Ryan and the Justice Department.
When Ryan said at a jammed press conference last Tuesday that “justice delayed is justice denied” is a basic democratic principle, he was invoking the best in American democracy and in himself as a thorough-going law enforcement professional.
CONCERN OVER THE GENERAL PREMISES
Of concern, therefore, are the broader, general premises which undergird the report rather than the more than a few factual and historic errors contained in it. Despite the crushing evidence that the report offers, showing the shameful duplicity of the CIC in both using Barbie and protecting him from French justice, Ryan concludes that it was perfectly “defensible” in 1947 to seek out, recruit and use Barbie. Ryan blames the then Cold War for such usage.
Barbie was sought out and recruited because it was believed that he could provide U.S. intelligence agencies with information about Soviet activity in Europe in the struggle against Soviet Communism. But from a practical view. Barbie provided no intelligence of worth about Soviet activity. His role in France was to hunt down, torture and exterminate the resistance movement and Jews. These were the only “Communists” about which Barbie was knowledgeable.
The Ryan report glides over this point of the qualitative level of the purported “value” which the CIC found in a Barbie. The “defectors” from the Soviet zone of occupied Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe — who were also sought out and recruited like Barbie — were actually large numbers of fascist collaborators: Iron Guardists from Rumania, Thunder Cross vigilantes from Latvia, Ukrainian pogromists of the proscribed Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) barred from the benefits of the International Refugees Organization (IRO) immediately after World War II, and from other similar organizations who fled Westward.
LISTS SHOWED BARBIE WAS A WAR CRIMINAL
Ryan, in his report, asks if the American intelligence officers who hired Barbie in 1947 really knew who he was. His name was “not generally known” at that time and did not become “known” until later, the report insists. Therefore, by inference, these officers can be excused on the grounds of ignorance.
The report itself shows that lists compiled as early as the summer of 1945 counted Barbie among the wanted war criminals. There was CROWCASS (Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects), an American listing of wanted Nazis, the United Nations War Crimes Commission, and other lists. More importantly, the individual listings of the Grand Alliance (Holland, Belgium and the Soviet Union) also identified Barbie as a war criminal.
An analysis of the report’s text shows that some 46 percent of its data base was given to the Justice Department by the French. The single most inclusive documentation on Barbie in Lyon where he was gestapo chief, originated with the French resistance. Yet, the Ryan report does not contain a single reference to this source which is enormously rich and precise in its detail.
COMPOUNDING AN OMISSION
Moreover, to compound this basic omission, the report totally fails to put the role of Barbie, the gestapo and Lyon within the German occupation of France and the treasonous Vichy government with which the U.S. maintained diplomatic contact and gave sympathetic support during the larger part of Barbie’s murderous activities in Lyon.
It is important to recall that Lyon was under the Vichy government which continued to administer southern France after the Nazis occupied the north until early 1942 when the Nazis installed their own military-political apparatus in the south as well. Barbie was sent into Lyon, which was the acknowledged capital of the resistance movement, in 1942 and for the next two years he was responsible for the execution of some 4,000 people and the deportation of 7,000 more, most of whom never returned from the death camps in Eastern Europe.
It is small wonder, therefore, that the intelligence analysis of Barbie’s role and the now-admitted postwar American utilization of Barbie fails to consider a crucial pattern in the fabric of history were Barbie’s post-war activities a continuation by other means to exterminate the remnants of the French resistance movement?
CIC, DRAGONOVICH RELATIONSHIP DOCUMENTED
Another, explosively vital documentation in the Ryan report is the relationship between the CIC and one Padre (actually Monsignor) Krunoslav Dragonovich who is described in the report as the “operator” of a “sort of underground railroad, dubbed (by the CIC) a ‘rat line’ that ran from Austria to Italy where it relied on a Croatian priest (Dragonovich) … attached to a seminary in Rome where Croatian youths studied for the priesthood.”
Additionally, the report notes that “Dragonovich used this base to operate an escape service for Croatian nationalists fleeing from the Yugoslav authorities.” Moreover, the CIC itself, the report says, “was under no illusions” about the priests” Dragonovich is known and recorded as a fascist, war criminal, etc.’ (the CIC stated in a top secret message) and his contacts with South American diplomats of a similar (fascist) class are not approved by U.S. State Department officials ….”
Yet, the Ryan report continues, the “CIC saw advantage, however, in cloaking its ‘visitors’ with Displaced Persons status and in dealing with someone who had ties to the Catholic Church: ‘(W)e may be able to state, if forced,’ (the CIC observed in 1950) that the turning over of a DP (Displaced Person) to a Welfare Organization (of the Vatican) falls in line with our democratic way of thinking and that we are not engaged in illegal disposition of war criminals, defectees and the like’.”
It is further proven in the documents accompanying the Ryan report that Dragonovich charged anywhere from $1,000 to $1,400 for each “defectee” transported over the “rat line” he operated that clearly was the escape line for major war criminals, including Ante Pavelic and Andrija Artucovic of the Ustachi collaborationist “government” during the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia 1941-44.
Artucovic has enjoyed refuge in the U.S. since 1948. He lives in affluence in Seal Beach, California. Recently, an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) judge barred his deportation from the U.S. Both the late Pavelic and Artucovic are charged with participation in the slaughter of more than 700,000 Serbians and Croats along with some 78,000 Jews.
REPORT FAILS TO PURSUE THE MATTER
But even with this totally damning evidence of Vatican complicity in providing “benevolent projection” over its illegal escape routes for, among others, wanted Nazi war criminals, Ryan’s report fails to pursue this matter. In fact, Dragonovich was Barbie’s sponsor and secured his Bolivian visa for him.
When this writer first revealed (last February in a three-part series in the Daily News Bulletin) the details of the so-called La Vista report — a 1947 “top Secret” State Department investigation into the Vatican’s monastery escape routes operative immediately after the war — Ryan’s office did not know of its existence and asked me for a copy. 1 referred him to the State Department. That agency “could not find” copies of the La Vista report, according to the Justice Department. I then sent the full text to the OSI for its use in the Barbie investigation.
However, there is not a word about the La Vista report — officially titled “Illegal Emigration Movements in and Through Italy,” authored by Vincent La Vista, an international lawyer then (1947) military attache to the American Embassy in Rome and a skilled intelligence/diplomatic State Department officer — in the Ryan report.
My own disclosures coupled with the documents in Ryan’s report establish conclusively that the “ratline” over which more than a few wanted Nazi war criminals escaped justice — besides Barbie — was in fact the very monastery routes operated illegally by some 22 different national clerics — in addition to Dragonovich — that, as the La Vista report found in 1947, enjoyed the protection of the Vatican.” Why is such a vital aspect of the Barbie matter missing?
Finally, another asserted premise of the Ryan report is the innocence of the CIA. Ryan takes particular pains to exonerate that agency of any role in the utilization of Barbie. “It is my conclusion,” Ryan wrote, “that at no time from the end of World War. II to the present time has the Central Intelligence Agency had any relationship with Klaus Barbie.” (The CIA was not operational until 1948.)
Yet, such an assertion fails to examine adequately the substantial evidence unearthed by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld in Paris that both French and West German intelligence sources are on record about such involvement; that the Interior Minister of Bolivia told ABC-TV’s correspondent, John Martin, that there was CIA contact with Barbie during 1974-75; that substantial sources which I have reported alleged that Barbie was involved with the 1967 search for and killing of Che Guevara in Bolivia, an operation that had been widely associated with CIA involvement.
Instead, Ryan asserts in his report that the CIA allowed him to examine its files on Barbie. No doubt that Ryan and his associates did examine carefully what the CIA gave them. The question is, did the CIA provide all the data that it had on Barbie or just selected files? This aspect of the report is as disquieting as the other factual and historical omissions and evasions.
A connection between the CIA and Barbie is clearly established in CIC “top secret” reports in the documents provided by Ryan in his report. One George Neagoy, a CIC agent, had “sole responsibility” and “overall supervision and conduct” over the “rat line” that freed Barbie. Neagoy went directly from the CIC to the CIA not too long after accompanying Barbie to Italy.
Last month, on July 4, the BBC aired a television documentary naming Neagoy as “a CIA agent” who had figured in the Barbie case, Ryan specifically denies a relationship, a denial which does not stand up under a careful study of the original declassified documents accompanying Ryan’s own report. These documents show to what purposes American intelligence agencies used Barbie. Necessarily, it had to include the CIA which picked up Barbie from the CIC in 1948. The CIA had absorbed the activities of the CIC as a “contact agent” for nearly three decades.
REFERENCES TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
There are frequent references in CIC and State Department documents accompanying the Ryan report referring to “BANDERA,” “Ukrainian groups” and “Rumanian German ethnics” throughout the 1947-51 period when Barbie was used.
“BANDERA” refers to Stefan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist terrorist and anti-Semite. “Ukrainian groups” means, among others, the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), a proscribed fascist group that supplied much of the collaborators who helped implement the Nazis’ “final solution.”
“Rumanian German ethnic” means the leadership of the Iron Guard and the Green Shirts that figured in recent war criminals trials in the U.S. by the Justice Department. Archbishop Valerian Trifa, self-admitted war criminal who was ordered deported last December, who heads the Rumanian Orthodox Episcopate in the U.S., was a leader of the Iron Guard and the Green Shirts.
Barbie clearly was part of an elaborate organization of these remnant fascist elements to be used in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. By 1947 the CIC was feeding such elements as a subsidiary operation into the so-called Gehlen Organization. Its chief was the former Nazi intelligence director of Eastern Front sections, Gen. Reinhard Gehlen.
By 1948, the Gehlen Org, as it was known, was financed, operated and controlled by the CIA. Thus, by that date Barbie might well have been part of that intelligence strategy. But nowhere in the Ryan report is there a suggestion of this vital CIA connection. Instead, the report states that the CIC and, by implication, other agencies were concerned “almost exclusively” with Barbie’s “knowledge of post-war activities of ex-SS officers.” The report neglects to determine what activities, but the documents themselves show what he was doing in large part. And it had to include the CIA in the view of the complex history and relationship between U.S. intelligence agencies and Barbie.