Former POW Fights Public Access to POW/MIA Files
By Sydney Schanberg, 2008, NEW YORK (APBnews.com) — The voters who were drawn to John S. McCain in his run for the Republican presidential nomination this year often cited, as the core of his appeal, his openness and blunt candor and willingness to admit past lapses and release documents that other senators often hold back. These qualities also seemed to endear McCain to the campaign press corps, many of whom wrote about how refreshing it was to travel on the McCain campaign bus, “The Straight Talk Express,” and observe a maverick speaking his mind rather than a traditional candidate given to obfuscation and spin.
But there was one subject that was off-limits, a subject the Arizona senator almost never brings up and has never been open about — his long-time opposition to releasing documents and information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam and the missing in action who have still not been accounted for. Since McCain himself, a downed Navy pilot, was a prisoner in Hanoi for 5 1/2 years, his staunch resistance to laying open the POW/MIA records has baffled colleagues and others who have followed his career. Critics say his anti-disclosure campaign, in close cooperation with the Pentagon and the intelligence community, has been successful. Literally thousands of documents that would otherwise have been declassified long ago have been legislated into secrecy. For example, all the Pentagon debriefings of the prisoners who returned from Vietnam are now classified and closed to the public under a statute enacted in the 1990s with McCain’s backing. He says this is to protect the privacy of former POWs and gives it as his reason for not making public his own debriefing.
But the law allows a returned prisoner to view his own file or to designate another person to view it. APBnews.com has repeatedly asked the senator for an interview for this article and for permission to view his debriefing documents. He has not responded. His office did recently send APBnews.com an e-mail, referring to a favorable article about the senator in the Jan. 1 issue of Newsweek. In the article, the reporter, Michael Isikoff, (Yeah, the same Isikoff that 1st publicized the “pee-pee dossier” against President-elect Donald Trump in October 2016) says that he was allowed to review McCain’s debriefing report and that it contained “nothing incriminating” — although in a phone interview Isikoff acknowledged that “there were redactions” in the document. Isikoff declined to say who showed him the document, but APBnews.com has learned it was McCain.
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