A key document used by the Department of Defense in its POW/MIA accounting efforts has
recently been declassified.
The Key Judgments of National Intelligence Estimate 98-03, Vietnamese Intentions,
Capabilities and Performance Concerning the POW/MIA Issue, discussed Vietnams
cooperation with the U.S. government on the POW/MIA issue. It was published in classified
form in April by the National Intelligence Council, a senior staff serving the director of
central intelligence, policymakers and senior military officials.
Mr. Robert L. Jones, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/Missing Personnel
Affairs, requested that Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet declassify the NIE
so it could be shared with family members, veterans and family organizations. The
declassification of the Key Judgments NIE 98-03 will enhance the publics
understanding of U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation on this important issue.
A copy of the document is attached.
||Vietnamese Intentions, Capabilities, and Performance
Concerning the POW/MIAIssue
||Since the early 1990s, we have seen evidence for increased
Vietnamese cooperation on the POW/MIA issue in the strengthened staffing, increased
responsiveness, and growing professionalization of the Vietnamese organizations that deal
with this issue.
- In our view, Hanoi judges that closer ties to the United States are in Vietnam s
own security and economic development interests, and that normalization requires progress
on the POW/MIA issue.
- US financial support for cooperative action and willingness to agree to reciprocity on
Vietnamese humanitarian concerns also encourage cooperation.
Consequently, we judge that Vietnam has become more helpful in assisting US efforts to
achieve the fullest possible accounting of American personnel missing in action during the
Vietnam conflict. On the issue of recovering and repatriating remains of US personnel, we
rate Vietnamese cooperation as excellent. Cooperation also has been good on assisting with
trilateral investigations and providing documents (see table).
We think the decision to be more cooperative with the United States on POW/MIA
accounting has not come easily to the Vietnamese leaders. Longstanding ideological
distrust, lingering animosity from the war, suspicion of American motives and fear of
intelligence exploitation all have operated at times to limit Vietnams willingness
to cooperate on recovering or accounting for US MIAs. But our reporting suggests that the
POW/MIA issue no longer has the political sensitivity it once had.
Incidents of outright refusal to cooperate with US investigators have decreased, but
instances in which the Vietnamese raise objections to POW, MIA activities still remain. In
most cases, the Vietnamese cite considerations of sovereigntyfor example, in
refusing to make internal Politburo documents accessible to US investigators; security,
such as not allowing US officials to enter classified locations and facilities; or
technical problems, such as difficulty in locating documents or records. Occasionally the
Vietnamese state that local villagers are concerned about the intrusive nature of
investigations and recovery activities.
Summary Evaluation: Vietnamese Cooperation
With the United States on POW/MIA Accounting
||Level of Cooperation
|Joint field activities; recovery and repatriation of
||Has been improving since early 1990s; increasing
professionalism on part of Vietnamese
|Assisting with trilateral investigations
||Vietnamese working hard to obtain Laotian cooperation
in recovery efforts
|Providing documents, personal artifacts, and equipment
||Vietnamese have provided numerous documents but
probably are holding out on those that would embarrass the government
|Making officials available for interviews
||Fair to Good
||Some retired officials resist interviews
||Reluctant, but cooperation still reasonably good
||Vietnamese resent live-sighting investigations and
question their utility
|Transfer of POWs to the Soviet Union
||Vietnamese say none were transferred but issue remains
Moreover, although Vietnams performance generally has improved with respect to
the US POW/MIA issue, we think Hanoi has not been completely forthcoming on certain
- In some instances, we believe full disclosure would prove embarrassing to the regime.
For example, Hanoi continues to deny that US POWs were mistreated while in captivity in
- We think Vietnam still has records it could make available to US investigators but which
would discredit its denials of mistreatment.
- A few reports of transfers of US POWs to Russia and other countries are unexplained, and
the books remain open.
Although 120 live-sighting investigations have been carried out by US teams, none has
generated any credible evidence of American POWs left in Vietnam. Hanoi protests having to
investigate such cases, but reports appear regularly most recently on five POWs
possibly being held in Laos and established procedures for resolving them continue
to be in effect.
Although Vietnams overall performance in dealing with the POW/MIA problem has
been good in recent years, the unresolved issues noted above suggest the need for
continued close attention by the US Government.
We assess continued progress in POW/MIA accounting will require overcoming two types of
- Technical problems, such as difficulty in retrieving archival materials, contacting
leads, and conducting field activities by the Joint Task Force-Pull Accounting (JTF-FA),
are more amenable to resolution than political obstacles. Not all can be overcomethe
passage of time and geographic change increase the difficulty of recovery
operationsbut some can be resolved through improving technology, maintaining US
financial support, and continued professionalization on the part of the Vietnamese.
- Overcoming political obstaclessuch as Vietnams sensitivities about
infringements on its sovereignty and obstructionist tendencies on archival research and
live-sighting reportswill be more difficult. In the past, Vietnam has reacted best
to straightforwardness combined with respect and US acknowledgment of Hanois own MIA
We have reviewed the so-called 1205 and 735 documents, which purport falsely in
our viewto be reports to the party leadership containing statements that Hanoi held
large numbers of US POWs above those acknowledged to the United States. We believe the
judgments in the 1993 Department of Defense (DOD) assessment remain valid: that the
documents are probably authentic GRU-collected documents (Soviet Military Intelligence).
But many of the details of the documents, including dates and other facts, are implausible
or inconsistent with reliable evidence. In particular, the numbers of POWs allegedly held
by Hanoi at the times mentioned are inconsistent with reliable US Government statistics
and far outnumber the actual total of open cases. We believe that neither document
provides a factual foundation upon which to judge Vietnamese performance on the POW/MIA