*EPF202   08/04/92 *

(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

"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

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

"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.