The Central Intelligence Agency has agreed to release thousands of documents on Nazi war criminals to a government historical research group. The agreement ends an impasse over 60-year-old papers that are believed to show ties between the CIA and former Nazis after World War Two. 

The CIA is beginning to declassify files related to its postwar relationships with ex-Nazis, ending a standoff between Congress and the intelligence agency over the documents' release.

Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the government-sponsored historical panel reviewing the files, praises the agency decision as a breakthrough in the impasse.

"I think we've made a huge amount of progress, at least in principle, and the whole atmosphere in terms of dealing with the CIA is cooperative, or at least seems to be now," Ms. Holtzman says. "And we hope that this is going to auger very well for the kind of disclosure that Congress wanted and that the American people are entitled to."

A CIA spokesman, who under agency rules can not be identified, says the agency decided to release the additional files to be, as he put it, as flexible as possible.

A 1998 law called on federal agencies to release files on former Nazis to a government-sponsored historical panel, called the Interagency Working Group. The CIA turned over more than one million pages of files, but balked at releasing others. Ms. Holtzman says the withheld files deal with the CIA's use of former Nazis to gather information on Communism and the Soviet Union in the postwar era.

"The issue is about the CIA and its relationship with Nazi war criminals, its hiring of them, its employing of them, its protecting them from judicial, prosecutorial accountability, and other things, their relationship with Nazi war criminals," Ms. Holtzman says. "They had said, 'we're just not telling you this, period. It's completely outside of the act and we simply refuse to give you any of these materials.' And it was a line in the sand that they drew."

Senator Mike DeWine, a Republican from Ohio who sponsored the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, had threatened to call CIA Director Porter Goss to a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee if the dispute was not settled.