ACCESSION NUMBER:237654 FILE ID:EP-202 DATE:08/04/92 TITLE:DIA DENIES UNDERGROUND HANOI PRISON HELD POW'S AFTER 1973 (08/04/92) TEXT:*92080402.EPF *EPF202 08/04/92 * DIA DENIES UNDERGROUND HANOI PRISON HELD POW'S AFTER 1973 (Article on Senate POW/MIA panel hearing August 4) (660) By Jim Shevis USIA Staff Writer Washington -- Senators seeking to learn the truth about America's missing servicemen in Southeast Asia drew denials from representatives of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) over reports that U.S. soldiers and airmen had been imprisoned in an underground facility in Hanoi after the Vietnam War ended. Robert De Statte, an analyst with DIA's special office for POW/MIA affairs, told the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs that there was little likelihood that American prisoners were held after the war in an underground detention center near Ho Chi Minh's tomb in downtown Hanoi. Appearing before the Senate unit at its latest round of hearings on the POW/MIA issue, De Statte said that there is no evidence to sustain the belief that Americans were held in Hanoi or anywhere else in Vietnam after the war. "If there were American prisoners held there at any time after 1973, I am totally confident I'd have uncovered that from my talks with residents of that area," said De Statte, who told the Senate committee he had exhaustive knowledge of the area, having visited the site many times. That did not satisfy Senator Bob Smith (Republican of New Hampshire), a Vietnam veteran, who wanted to know whether De Statte had been allowed "unfettered" access in his Hanoi perambulations. De Statte acknowledged he had not. Smith, who is vice chairman of the Senate committee, said he felt it necessary to challenge the DIA official, "not to be hostile but because the American people whom I serve deserve to know." De Statte shot back: "I serve the same people." The August 4 hearing focused entirely on reports of live sightings of 1merican servicemen in Indochina. The Bush administration holds that it knows of none who were held there against their will after American soldiers were repatriated in the 1973 Operation Homecoming. According to Smith, the U.S. government has received some 600 reports that Vietnam has a "terrible secret -- it lied about American prisoners of war, and held many back at the end of the war." "The Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Interior harbored the biggest secret of all, according to these sources," Smith said. "They ran a secret underground prison system in the heart of Hanoi under the feet of visiting dignitaries -- a prison which held American prisoners of war after Operation Homecoming and well into the late 1980s." "In order to keep its secret, these intelligence sources say, Vietnam kept the Americans in isolation and moved them around at night." Word of the prison -- dubbed "the Citadel" -- leaked out from 70 separate sources in Hanoi alone, Smith said. These sources betrayed Vietnam's secret by reporting sightings or other information about American POWs being held in Hanoi -- the last place where people would expect them, Smith said. Smith said that reports from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency dispute DIA's assertion that the underground prison did not exist. Later, during a recess in the hearing, Smith said that "there are people who say they saw a prison there." "All we want DIA to do is to tell us whether they've researched this," Smith said. "It would seem to me that we ought to go to Vietnam today, and demand to see if there is such a prison." According to DIA, 2,266 American servicemen are still unaccounted for from the fighting in Indochina. Of that number, 1,095 are listed as killed in action and 1,171 as missing in action. The Senate committee resumes its hearing on August 5 with a further examination of live-sighting reports. H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who became involved in the POW/MIA issue in 1969, is among others scheduled to appear before the panel during August 11-12 hearings before the Senate Select Committee. NNNN .