On Friday, this year's POW/MIA Day, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office issued a new fact sheet on its efforts to recover US POW/MIAs from North Korea and the Korean War. But there may be some roadblocks on the way, according to a report from KPOW.
"Finding live Americans is the highest priority of our accounting process," the fact sheet said.
"DPMO, with the full support of the U.S. intelligence community, aggressively investigates all credible reports and sightings of alleged American survivors of the Korean War living in North Korea. Since 1995, more than 25,000 defectors from North Korea have been screened for information concerning Americans possibly living in the North."
POW research specialist Mark Sauter sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense concerning missing U.S. personnel captured during the Korean War that continued to live in the DPRK, PRC and Soviet Union Bloc countries. When the DoD responded, they provided little information. Alesia Williams, chief of the Freedom of Information Act Staff, provided the following information.
Upon review, I have determined that some portions of two documents (9 pages) must be withheld in part from disclosure pursuant to the FOIA…
Further, I have determined that the remaining five responsive documents (33 pages) must be withheld in full pursuant to the FOIA. These withheld documents are exempt from release pursuant to Exemptions 1, 3, and 6 of the FOIA…
Exemption 6 applies to information which if released would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of other individuals.
But with documents being kept secret, including the ones above, it will be difficult for the DPMO move forward with its mission to find these people–especially since they implied their efforts have failed thus far.
"To date, this effort has produced no useful information concerning live Americans," the release said. The DPMO failed to mention that it and other government agencies are keeping the secrets that may answer some questions as to what happened to U.S. servicemen held in North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union after the Korean War, and other Americans reportedly imprisoned in North Korea during the Vietnam War and possibly the Cold War. KPOW reports:
The latest example is the refusal of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to release five documents on US POWs from the Korean War seen alive after in North Korea, China and/or the former Soviet Union. You can see the letter DIA sent us [here], which asserts the documents are still classified and also cannot be released for other reasons.
The documents DIA did release to KPOWs under this request seem like "useful information" to us, contrary to DPMO's claims that no such evidence has surfaced.
But then DPMO is known to phrase its denials carefully: "No useful information" from "defectors." What does the Pentagon mean by "useful information?" And if North Korean defectors have provided no "useful information," could such information have been collected by means other than defectors, such as foreign visitors, signals intelligence or other methods?
In the years after the war, US POWs were reported in captivity in North Korea and the Soviet Union… Some documents we've forced out of the government even mention specific buildings where American POWs were reported as late as the 1990s–the Pentagon apparently did not find this information "useful," since there is no record of a substantial effort to determine the potential veracity of those reports.
The response letter to Sauter shows that information may not be kept in foreign countries but instead may be held by government agencies in the United States.