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Congress, CIA in Dispute Over Nazi Files

The Central Intelligence Agency is coming under Congressional pressure for refusing to release thousands of documents on Nazi war criminals to a government historical research group. Historians believe the documents may contain embarrassing disclosures about postwar working relationships between U.S. intelligence operatives and former Nazis.

Senator Mike DeWine, a Republican from Ohio, says the CIA is in defiance of a 1998 law that orders the release of classified files on Nazi war criminals, and that he will call CIA Director Porter Goss to a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, if the dispute cannot be settled.

The law, co-authored by Mr. DeWine, requires federal agencies to turn over all files on alleged Nazis to a special inter-agency historical working group.

The CIA has turned over more than one million pages of documents, most of them relating to its World War II predecessor agency, the Office of Strategic Services. But Congressional officials say it is withholding thousands more pages.

Talking to VOA, Mr. DeWine says the CIA is refusing to divulge any documents dated after the end of the war.

"So, the CIA seems to have the attitude that this only covers war crimes that were committed by these individuals, which would preclude anything that happened after 1945 at the close of World War II," said Mike DeWine.

The CIA contends that it has released everything required of it under the law.

An agency spokesman, who asked not to be named, told VOA, all files identified with commission of war crimes have been released. He describes the agency's file search as aggressive and thorough. But, he adds, the CIA has a solemn obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.

Closed-door negotiations between the CIA and the inter-agency working group have failed to resolve the dispute.

Earlier revelations have shown how U.S. intelligence operatives in Europe started relying on known Nazis - including suspected war criminals - to collect information on communism and the Soviet Union shortly after the war's end. Some of them later settled in the United States.

Norman Goda, a history professor at Ohio University and a consultant to the inter-agency working group reviewing the files, says U.S. officers justified using ex-Nazis for the information they could furnish.

"American intelligence operatives would typically make the argument that So-and-So belonged to this or that Nazi intelligence organization, and knew a great deal about underground communist networks, whether they were in France or Italy, or valuable information on the Soviet order of battle, and that sort of thing," said Norman Goda.

But, he says, documents already released show that much of the information they furnished was relatively worthless.

"What we have found in the documents released so far is that the thugs who were hired remained thugs after their hiring," he said. "They were never particularly good intelligence men to begin with. They were simply Nazi provocateurs who had found a way to make a living after the war."

Mr. DeWine says, even if the history has some embarrassing moments about U.S. employment of Nazis, it still needs to be aired.

"In some cases we were dealing with these people after World War II for an extended period of time," said Senator DeWine. "We used them, had them in our employ, sometimes, you could say, for good reasons because of the Cold War. But we still need to know that today. That needs to come to light, so we can make value judgments. Was that the right thing to do?"

The CIA spokesman says a report on its compliance with the disclosure law will be released soon. He adds that it is not known if Director Goss or another agency official will appear before Senator DeWine's planned hearing.