*EPF305  08/05/92 *

(Article on Senate panel hearing August 5)  (610)
By Jim Shevis
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- A two-day inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA
Affairs into live-sighting reports of American prisoners-of-war in
Indochina ended in a standoff between the panel and Bush administration
witnesses August 5.

The standoff was most apparent in an exchange between Senator Bob Smith
(Republican of New Hampshire) and Robert De Statte, senior analyst in the
Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) special office for POW/MIA affairs,
over the fate of crewmembers of a U.S. reconnaissance plane downed in
Vietnam February 5, 1973, shortly after the Paris Peace Accords that ended
the Vietnam War.

Smith said the committee had information suggesting that four of the eight
aviators on the plane bailed out and were captured by the People's Army of
North Vietnam (PAVN).  He said the information included a PAVN radio
transmission -- intercepted by U.S. intelligence specialists 45 minutes
after the crash -- saying that the four had been captured.

On February 22, 1973, Smith said, the Defense Department declared all eight
men aboard the EC-47 dead.  According to Smith, a DIA memo two months later
said that "the agency's interest in pursuing the matter is academic"
because the entire crew had been listed as killed in action.

De Statte stoutly defended DIA's position in the matter, saying that the
PAVN radio message was not about the EC-47 but referred to another
aircraft, possibly a helicopter of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam

The captured aviators were "probably pilots of the ARVN who were being moved
to North Vietnam," De Statte said.  "It was not the EC-47 crew."

Smith drew applause from spectators, many of them relatives of missing
American servicemen, when he heatedly told De Statte of his frustration and
dissatisfaction with that explanation and other parts of his testimony.
The explanation "borders on the dishonest," Smith said.

"These hearings are not meant to be a condemnation of DIA or the
administration," said Smith, who is vice chairman of the POW/MIA panel and
himself a Vietnam War veteran.

"I believe the president is committed (to resolving the POW/MIA ISSUE),"
Smith said, "but he is committed only on the basis of what he gets from his

Jim Copp of Hampstead, North Carolina, a self-described "POW/MIA activist,"
took issue with De Statte's testimony in his own way.

The Vietnam War veteran got out of his seat, and stood behind De Statte
holding a one-word sign that read "Perjury."

Senator John F. Kerry (Democrat of Massachusetts), who chairs the Senate
committee, ordered Capitol police to escort Copp from the hearing room.

The standoff between the Senate committee and the DIA officials showed
itself earlier in a discussion of a "re-education"-camp system in and
around Vietnam's Son La province northwest of Hanoi.

Smith, Kerry and Senator Charles Grassley (Republican of Iowa) all
interrogated the DIA panel about live-sighting reports from various
sources, only to have each knocked down as a "fabrication."

For example, Kerry asked the panel about a 1976 firsthand report of a
1ighting of 60 to 70 men believed to be American POWs.  "The prisoners were
old, weak, moved slowly and were watched by seven guards," Kerry said.

DIA's evaluation of the sighting was that it was a fabrication by a source
who said originally that all of the men were white Caucasians but later
changed his story to say they were Hawaiians or American Indians.

DIA added that a second source later debunked the first source.