WASHINGTON – The CIA (search) has agreed to release more information about Nazi war criminals it hired during the Cold War, ending a standoff between the intelligence agency and the group seeking the documents, Sen. Mike DeWine said Sunday.
DeWine, R-Ohio, was lead Senator author of a 1998 law that required all U.S. government documents related to Nazi war crimes to be declassified, but the Central Intelligence Agency had resisted giving up details about the work performed by agents with Nazi (search) ties.
The law has led to the release of more than 8 million pages of documents, including 1.25 million from the CIA, which showed that the agency or its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (search), had a relationship with some individuals later found to be war criminals.
Some documents obtained by the working group, for example, show that the CIA recruited and hired five assistants to Adolph Eichmann, the man known as the architect of the plan for exterminating the Jews during World War II.
The CIA provided a general description of the operational tasks performed by war criminals that it hired, but a governmental working group created to declassify the documents wanted to know more about what these people did for the agency. The working group also sought documents on all former SS officers who worked for the CIA after WWII.
The agency resisted, saying it would only release information on people who were proven war criminals. It also claimed information on the intelligence operations these people performed was exempt from the disclosure law because on a rule that allows the CIA to protect its sources and methods. A letter sent Friday to the group — officially called the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group — reversed both stances.
"This is good, this is really what we anticipated when we wrote the law," DeWine said Sunday. "We have an obligation to bring this information out for the Holocaust survivors and their families and the public."
In the letter, Stanley M. Moskowitz, the agency's director of congressional affairs, said the CIA would make available previously unreleased documents, including operational files and East German intelligence, to group members on Monday.
"We agree that documents concerning acts performed by Nazi war criminals, to include members of the SS, on behalf of CIA are relevant and are subject to declassification review," the letter said.
Many of the former Nazi officials were sought by the CIA to provide expertise on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War (search). DeWine said it's important to "know what happens when our government deals with criminals and uses criminals for its own purpose."
The working group is to disband in March, creating an urgency for getting the documents released from the CIA. DeWine said he would seek legislation to extend the group's mandate for two years. A hearing on the matter set for Feb. 15 would be canceled if the requested documents are provided, he said.