CIA under attack on Nazi files issue

Rabbi Michael Miller, left, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, center, and Elizabeth Holtzman at a news conference in New York on Jan. 31. (Chanan Tigay)

Rabbi Michael Miller, left, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, center, and Elizabeth Holtzman at a news conference in New York on Jan. 31. (Chanan Tigay)

NEW YORK, Feb. 1 (JTA) — The CIA’s apparent refusal to divulge information about America’s “cozy relationship” with some Nazis after the Holocaust has outraged legislators, Jewish officials and members of a government task force looking into Nazi war criminals. “Even the KGB has opened up their files,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) told reporters during a news conference Monday. “Our government has protected its cozy relationship with the Nazi war criminals for far too long,” she added. The CIA and other national agencies are required under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 to release classified information pertaining to Nazi war criminals to a working group investigating the subject. The group would then make the materials available to the public at the National Archives in Washington and in reports. So far, the State, Justice and Defense departments and the FBI and National Security Council all have given the Nazi War Crimes Interagency Working Group some 8 million pages of formerly classified material, in what group members say is the largest governmentwide document declassification since the Kennedy assassination. But Maloney and members of the working group say that although the CIA has released 1.2 million pages, largely from its predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services, otherwise the agency has harmed their efforts to achieve an accurate historical record of the period. Maloney, the lead sponsor of the 1998 legislation in the House of Representatives, said that she and members of the working group — along with Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and other members of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee — were scheduled to meet with CIA representatives on Tuesday in Washington. A CIA spokesman told JTA that the agency had acknowledged having maintained relationships with war criminals and “provided a general description of the operational tasks those individuals were asked to perform.” The “CIA has not withheld any materials identified in its files related to the commission of war crimes,” the spokesman said, requesting that his name not be used. But Maloney said the CIA is keeping what could amount to hundreds of thousands of pages of relevant documents under wraps. The working group is seeking materials from the Stasi, the East German secret police, that reportedly were transferred to the CIA after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, along with further material on Nazi war criminals who were recruited by and worked for the agency during the Cold War. Its members are also demanding that the CIA acknowledge its relationship with some SS officers. The CIA is “thumbing its nose at Congress, at the survivors of the Holocaust, at Americans who despise and abhor everything that the Nazis stood for,” said Elizabeth Holtzman, a former member of Congress who is a working group member. Members of the group — which includes, among others, representatives of the CIA, FBI and Defense department — would not speculate about the reasons behind the CIA’s apparent noncompliance, nor would they say how many names were on a list of Nazis they presented to the CIA on Feb. 10, 2004. The 1998 legislation offers agencies certain exemptions that would allow them to withhold documents. In such an instance, the agency would be required to let Congress know why it was not divulging particular documents. The CIA, working group members said, has not done so. The CIA spokesman said the agency expects to report to Congress soon. Thomas Baer, a former federal prosecutor and a member of the working group, said information pertaining to U.S. recruitment of war criminals could have very practical applications today. America is “now recruiting a lot of spies,” he said. “But the character of the person that is being recruited — his or her motivations, their integrity — must play a role in making a determination with whether to use them. “Here, they consorted, dealt with, paid, used, some of the lowest forms of humanity in world history. And you know, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said he was “confounded by the stonewalling of the CIA in regard to its requirement to live up to the measure of this act.” The working group’s demand for documents, he said, is an effort to “bring some closure, not only in terms of justice for those who were wronged during World War II, and of course for the 6 million” Jews and others who perished during the war, “but also some closure to this ugly period in world history.”

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