Some 27,000 pages of Central Intelligence Agency records regarding operational relationships between the CIA and former Nazis following World War II were disclosed yesterday at the National Archives.
The release was announced by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Nazi War Crimes, which was created by a 1998 law. The IWG, which has previously overseen the declassification of eight million war crimes-related records, is chaired by former Information Security Oversight Office Director Steven Garfinkel.
The latest release almost failed to occur due to CIA recalcitrance.
“In 2002, the CIA declared that it was no longer going to follow the criteria observed since 1999 for all the participating agencies in the IWG declassification project [and that] henceforth it would produce files relating only to individuals whom we could prove had personally engaged in war crimes,” recalled IWG member Richard Ben-Veniste (pdf).
“For 18 months the IWG tried to persuade CIA that its unilateral redefinition of its obligation was erroneous and unacceptable,” he said.
This obstacle was eventually overcome thanks to the intervention of the sponsors of the original legislation — Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) — and the effective support of Porter Goss, who had just become the new CIA Director.
CIA spokesman Stanley Moskowitz said (pdf) the Agency was now committed to full disclosure regarding the historical record of CIA’s connections to Nazis.
He said that when the declassification process is completed at the end of this year, “we will have withheld nothing of substance.”
(Mr. Moskowitz himself was once the object of unwanted disclosure when, to the dismay of Agency officials, he was publicly identified as the CIA station chief in Tel Aviv. See “CIA Station Chief in Israel Unmasked,” Secrecy & Government Bulletin, Issue 75, November 1998.)
“The relevance of today’s disclosures [on Nazi war crimes] to the issues this Nation faces today is striking,” suggested IWG member Thomas H. Baer (pdf).
The question the documents raise, he said, is: “To what extent, and under what circumstances, can our Government rely upon intelligence supplied by mass murderers and those complicit in their crimes?”
Initial assessments of the new disclosures were prepared by four historians for the Interagency Working Group, each of which includes several of the newly declassified documents. See:
“New Information on Cold War CIA Stay-Behind Operations in Germany and on the Adolf Eichmann Case” (pdf) by Timothy Naftali, University of Virginia.
“Gustav Hilger: From Hitler’s Foreign Office to CIA Consultant” (pdf) by Robert Wolfe, former archivist at the U.S. National Archives.
“Tscherim Soobzokov” (pdf) by Richard Breitman, American University.
“CIA Files Relating to Heinz Felfe, SS Officer and KGB Spy” (pdf) by Norman J.W. Goda, Ohio University.
For more information, consult the Interagency Working Group on Nazi War Crimes.