November 23, 1999
Legion Assails Declassification Delay
for Sake of POW/MIA Families
Steve Thomas, 202-861-2700, ext. 1312, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or
Joe March, 317-630-1253 or e-mail: email@example.com
Web site: http://www.legion.org
As a long-standing advocate for a full accounting of American POW/MIAs, the leader of The American Legion said today the administration has "no excuse" for delaying the declassification of documents that could hold clues to POW/MIA whereabouts.
Some federal agencies have failed to review all of the documents that were scheduled for declassification by April 2000. President Clinton on Friday extended the deadline for the declassification of historical documents by 18 months. The move sidestepped Executive Order 12958, issued in 1995, that automatically declassified certain government documents more than 25 years old.
"The American Legion is concerned about the issue in general, and particularly with respect to POW/MIA accounting," National Commander Al Lance wrote in a letter delivered to the president today. "We believe many documents that are currently classified hold clues -- and answers -- which will help us determine the fate of America's missing servicemembers from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and South East Asia.
"An extension of the deadline for declassification is unacceptable to The American Legion. Federal agencies and their employees are paid to implement and enforce the law. It is not the fault of the public if some government agencies cannot, or will not, carry out their responsibilities.
"We would recommend that an outside agency, such as the Department of Justice, provide oversight and follow-up on the declassification process and enforce the timeline originally established by EO 12958."
More than 8,100 American POW/MIAs from the Korean War and 2,242 missing or captured U.S. military personnel from the Vietnam War remain unaccounted for. Lance, attorney general of Idaho, was elected national commander of the 2.8-million member American Legion Sept. 9, at the 81st National Convention of the nation's largest veterans organization in Anaheim, Calif. He served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps during the Vietnam War.