Documents Shed Light on C.I.A.'s Use of Ex-Nazis

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Jun 6, 2006.

  1. June 6, 2006
    Documents Shed Light on C.I.A.'s Use of Ex-Nazis
    By SCOTT SHANE

    WASHINGTON, June 6 — The Central Intelligence Agency took no action after learning the pseudonym and whereabouts of the fugitive Holocaust overseer Adolf Eichmann in 1958, according to C.I.A. documents that shed new light on the spy agency's use of former Nazis as informers after World War II.

    The C.I.A. was told by West German intelligence that Eichmann was living in Argentina under the name "Clemens" — a slight variation on his actual alias, Klement — but kept the information from Israel because of German concerns about exposure of former Nazis in the Bonn government, according to Timothy Naftali, a historian who examined the documents. Two years later, Israeli agents abducted Eichmann in Argentina and took him to Israel, where he was tried and executed in 1962.

    The Eichmann papers are among 27,000 newly declassified pages released by the C.I.A. to the National Archives under Congressional pressure to make public files about former officials of Hitler's regime later used as American agents. The material reinforces the view that most former Nazis gave American intelligence little of value and in some cases proved to be damaging double agents for the Soviet K.G.B., according to historians and members of the government panel that has worked to open the long-secret files.

    Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman from New York and member of the panel, the Interagency Working Group on records concerning Nazi and Japanese war crimes, said at a press briefing at the National Archives today that the documents show the C.I.A "failed to lift a finger" to hunt Eichmann and "forced us to confront not only the moral harm but the practical harm" of relying on intelligence from ex-Nazis.

    She said information from the former Nazis was often tainted both by their "personal agendas" and their vulnerability to blackmail. "Using bad people can have very bad consequences," Ms. Holtzman said. She and other group members suggested that the findings should be a cautionary tale for intelligence agencies today.

    As head of the Gestapo's Jewish affairs office during the war, Eichmann implemented the policy of extermination of European Jewry, promoting the use of gas chambers and having a hand in the murder of millions of Jews. Captured by the United States Army at the end of the war, he gave a false name and went unrecognized, hiding in Germany and Italy before fleeing to Argentina in 1950.

    Israeli agents hunting for Eichmann came to suspect in the 1950's that he was in Argentina but they did not know his alias. They temporarily abandoned their search at about the time, in March 1958, that West German intelligence told the C.I.A. that Eichmann had been living in Argentina as "Clemens," said Mr. Naftali, who is now at the University of Virginia but will become director of the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in October.

    The United States government, preoccupied with the cold war, had no policy at the time of pursuing Nazi war criminals. The West German government was wary of exposing Eichmann because officials feared what he might reveal about such figures as Hans Globke, a former Nazi then serving as a key national security adviser to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Mr. Naftali said.

    In 1960, also at the request of West Germany, the C.I.A. persuaded Life magazine, which had purchased Eichmann's memoir from his family, to delete a reference to Globke before publication, the documents show.

    Since Congress passed the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act in 1998, the Interagency Working Group has persuaded the government to declassify more than 8 million pages of documents. But the group ran into resistance starting in 2002 from the C.I.A., which sought to withhold operational files from the 1940's and 50's.

    After Congress extended the working group's term to 2007, and after the intervention of Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio; Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California; and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, Porter J. Goss, who was the C.I.A. director, ordered the release of the records with very few deletions.

    Stanley Moskowitz, a C.I.A. official who assisted the working group for the last year, said the delicate question of releasing operational files has long been a "nettlesome problem" but that "the passage of time has shifted the balance" toward release. He said the new C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, has agreed to continue releasing the records.

    Norman J. W. Goda, an Ohio University historian who reviewed the C.I.A. material, said it showed in greater detail than previously known how the K.G.B. aggressively targeted former Nazi intelligence officers for recruitment after the war. In particular, he said, the documents fill in the story of the "catastrophic" Soviet penetration of the Gehlen Organization, the post-war West German intelligence service sponsored by the United States Army and then the C.I.A.

    Mr. Goda described the case of Heinz Felfe, a former SS officer who was bitter over the Allied firebombing of his native city, Dresden, and secretly worked for the K.G.B. Felfe rose in the Gehlen Organization to oversee counterintelligence — placing a Soviet agent in charge of combating Soviet espionage in West Germany.

    The C.I.A. shared much sensitive information with Felfe, who visited the agency in 1956 to lobby for West German involvement in C.I.A. operations, Mr. Goda found. A newly released 1963 C.I.A. damage assessment, written after Felfe was arrested as a Soviet agent in 1961, found that he had exposed "over 100 C.I.A. staffers" and seen that many eavesdropping operations ended with "complete failure or a worthless product."

    The documents show that the C.I.A. ignored "clear evidence of a war crimes record" in recruiting another former SS officer, Tscherim Soobzokov, said another historian at the briefing, Richard Breitman of American University. Because it valued Soobzokov for his language skills and ties to fellow ethnic Circassians living in the Soviet Caucasus region, the C.I.A. deliberately hid his Nazi record from the Immigration and Naturalization Service after he moved to the United States in 1955, Mr. Breitman said.

    But Soobzokov would not ultimately escape his past. He died in 1985 of injuries suffered three weeks earlier when a pipe bomb exploded outside his house in Paterson, N.J. The murder case has never been solved.