Ann Mills-Griffiths: Creative Accounting

Today’s post is going to take a look at the National League of Families’ creative accounting.

We thought we would take a layman’s look at the forms.  If you would like to see the forms we are referencing, you can find them here: Past 990 IRS forms.    Here are some questions that really jumped out at us from the 990s forms:

 

1)  In recent years, the NLF’s tax forms have not disclosed any revenue they take in from membership dues.   Why, with at least two locations in the forms where they are supposed to indicate income from membership fees, is the amount not listed?

2)  The NLF states that it makes no income from any fundraising events. Yet, in 2009 they claim to have spent $3,317 and $3,105 in 2008 for just that.   Therefore how do they justify the various amounts they dedicate annually to fundraising?  Also, are we to believe that the fees we pay just to attend the annual meetings in DC do not have even an additional $5 or so in them to add to the NLF coffers?  What about the League sanctioned vendors who sold their wares outside the conference hall?  Did the NLF not receive revenue from those vendors?

3)  On the first page of both the ’08 and ’09 990 forms they claim to have no volunteers yet list the services of unpaid volunteers at $400,123 and $422,914 respectively.  How do we explain over $820,000 in volunteer hours over two years with no volunteers?

4)  If anyone out there has an accounting background, we would love to know what “casual labor” is.  On p. 10 of the 2009 990 form it lists $10,031 for casual labor and the only definition we can find of ‘casual labor’ is “work that does not promote or advance the cause of the organization/business.”

We sincerely hope that the NLF’s Board Members are paying very close attention to what is being shared here.  While researching for this piece we discovered something very revealing.  If the League were to lose their non-profit status, according to multiple websites we consulted, Board members could be responsible for paying any excise tax that is levied against the NLF if the IRS determines that actions of the League financially benefited another individual.  We would highly recommend that everyone read the following links:  Link #1 (About loss of tax-exempt status), Link #2 (IRS link to Questions about running a tax-exempt organization) and Link #3 ( IRS Exemption requirements).

This last link includes this significant piece of information, 

“The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.”

Could the fact that close to half of an organization’s income was routinely used to pay the salary, benefits and pension for its sole employee be considered an excess benefit transaction?

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Duplicity, Ann Mills Griffiths Style

Many of you may have been privy to the email that Mrs. Patricia Hopper sent to members of the Board of Directors of the National League of Families (NLF) on Tuesday outlining the situation of the apparent illegal elections that took place last month within the NLF.  If you did not, read it here:  Hopper Letter to NLF Officers.  Mrs. Hopper did a phenomenal job of explaining the illegal nature of the elections and how it needed to be rectified in order for the organization to move forward in an ethical and legal fashion.

To summarize, AMG knowingly allowed Susie Harvey, who is no longer a legal family member, to continue in a family member status and run for the Board of Directors of the NLF after Ms. Harvey remarried (twice) and severed her legal relationship with her now ex-brother-in-law SSG Stephen Geist, USA who is still POW/MIA.

Ms. Harvey erroneously argued that because she had been given some sort of power of attorney from her ex-husband to represent him in the POW/MIA case of his brother, SSG Geist, somehow makes her the PNOK and re-establishes her status as a family member.  After reviewing the NLF’s by-laws for a definition of a family member and after speaking with several attorneys and paralegals (we live in different states) not one supported the NLF’s stance on Ms. Harvey being a legal family member per the law.  The NLF even considers Harvey’s third and present husband a family member as well.

Interestingly enough, we also received an email from a wife of a missing man who, in the mid 80’s, after almost two decades of waiting for her husband to come back from Vietnam, finally remarried.   When she called the NLF offices and spoke with AMG regarding a question in the paperwork to renew her NLF membership, AMG was quick to inform her that now that she had remarried she was no longer a family member.  She was then told that if she wanted to continue as a member of the NLF, it would have to be as an associate member, not a family member.

UPDATE: We just received an email (8/1/11) from the POW/MIA wife mentioned above.  She asked that we correct the piece with the following fact.  Apparently AMG cashed her check for associate membership after their phone conversation yet never put her on the mailing list even as an associate member.  So, AMG pulled a “take the money and run.”  Interestingly enough, money will be the theme of our next post. 

This clearly shows that AMG cherry-picks through the by-laws of the NLF and uses them to her advantage when she pleases with no regard for the by-laws of the organization that has supplied her with a salary, pension and many other benefits over the years.   This also presents a complete disregard for the rationale for having by-laws in the first place – to prevent individuals from randomly making decisions for their personal benefit, not those of the organization and its membership.

As if this all weren’t enough, we received a forward of the email reply that was sent to Mrs. Hopper from the NLF’s Mark Stephensen:


Patty,
 
After reading your four page rant, I found it to be irrelevant, baseless and without merit.  Please stop wasting our time.  We have work to do.
 
V/R,
 
Mark Stephensen, Past Chairman, Current Treasurer
Board of Directors
National League of POW/MIA Families

It is clear that Mr. Stephensen shares the same disregard for the by-laws of the NLF and the organization’s membership as AMG.   I wonder what Mr. Stephensen thinks about the family member who contacted us above about being downgraded to an associate member after she remarried per AMG?

If Mr. Stephensen sees respecting and clearly adhering to the by-laws of the NLF as “irrelevant, baseless and without merit” then we certainly have to question his agenda as well.   If an NLF Board Member sees the important work of the Board to be something outside of enforcing the by-laws and responding professionally to the real concerns of its membership, it is no wonder that so many family members have disassociated themselves from the NLF.   Year after year, cavalier behavior like this toward members is the reason why so many families felt disenfranchised by those who were purportedly representing them.

One final thought, could this little fiasco be the reason why, during the Membership Meeting last week in DC, the Board floated the idea out there to allow concerned citizens to have family member status within the NLF?  While no one seconded the motion and even Dick Childress stood up and said he didn’t agree with it, was the Board already aware of their faux pas and looking for a backdoor to grandfather in their mistake?  After decades with the legal definition of family member being enforced – the timing of this is suspect to say the very least.

Mr. Stephensen certainly proves that it is time for a change at the NLF.

A Family’s Story: Adventures in Laos

As the news of our website begins to spread to those involved in the POW/MIA Issue, more and more family members are coming forward with their stories about Ann Mills-Griffiths.  Over the weekend we were contacted by a family member and former member of the National League of Families with an incredible story of just how far Ann was prepared to go to maintain control.

According to this family member in the early 80’s some 12 to 15 individuals that were involved in the issue, many POW/MIA parents, received invitation packets to spend three glorious weeks in Laos through the OxFam organization. Oxfam, an international organization whose mission statement is to, “find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice” around the world, invited this hand-picked group to bring supplies and other gifts to the Attapeu Province of Laos.

Another organization, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), also played a role in this trip by partnering with OxFam.  AFSC was founded in 1917 during World War I as an avenue for conscientious objectors to still serve the war effort without enlisting.  Many served as ambulance drivers, attended to the wounded or stayed behind after the war to help with the rebuilding of Europe.

The purpose of the trip was to impress the provincial chief of Attapeu in the hopes that he would then be more cooperative with information and possibly facilitate the release of  some of the American POWs who were believed held in the area.   The 30 some paged packet gave details of the all-expense paid visit, a background on the cultural aspects of the trip and the tentative schedule of events and travel itinerary.

The family member we spoke with found the packet’s arrival somewhat unexpected.  After a call to the contact number at OxFam to ask just how the organization came across their name and address, it was discovered that the list of those to be invited was given to OxFam by none other than AMG. This of course sent up a red flag as the family member and AMG were not the best of friends, to put it mildly.  Therefore, the idea of AMG submitting names to OxFam was suspect to say the least.

The family member then called AMG to confirm the information and also to ask why AMG would give their names and addresses to the international organizations without checking with them first.  In typical AMG fashion, she made light of the “oversight” and spoke of the great opportunity this would be for all involved and its’ once in a life time implications.

The family member we spoke with, upon seeing the list of invitees, considered it a who’s who of AMG’s least favorite people.  In the end, no one took the bait and the trip did not take place.  Yet there are two important pieces of information that caught our attention as we discussed this story with the family member.

1) On the list of invited was Errol Bond, the Vice President of the Support Our POW/MIAs organization, someone who had questioned AMG with regard to the money laundering via the Support Our POW/MIAs non-profit.  Mr. Bond resigned from his post with that organization because of AMG’s questionable decisions with regard to the Support funds. .

2) The dates and location of this trip to Attapeu coincided with one of the POW rescue missions led by Bo Gritz.

Imagine what would have happened to that group of POW/MIA family members and activists if they were caught flat-footed in Attapeu, Laos in the wake of a POW rescue attempt.

Professor Paul Marx: An uneducated viewpoint of the POW/MIA Flag

iraq pow flag The POW/MIA Flag: Obviously still has meaning for our present day warriors

 

Linked here is what the Baltimore Sun seems to feel is an appropriate op ed piece for Memorial Day Weekend. *eyes rolling*

University of New Haven Professor Emeritus Paul Marx, now a freelance writer, has once again shown the ignorance of academia in respect to the POW/MIA Flag. It also supports my long-held personal opinion that simply referring to oneself as ‘a writer’ certainly doesn’t make one omnipotent nor judicious.

Marx refers to our flag as “ugly, political and of very limited meaning”, “It continues to be flown despite the fact that the war ended 34 years ago and there are no Americans held prisoner in Vietnam” and “It continues to be flown out of ignorance or indifference.” I almost don’t even know where to begin except to truly wonder if the editor of the Baltimore Sun was on vacation the day this piece was submitted for publication. 

Mr. Marx, you bet our flag is political. Because of politics, lack of true governmental oversight and the DoD’s desire to cover their mistakes, both past and present, we fight for the full accounting of our loved ones. It may be limited in meaning to you because you do not understand its meaning, purpose or intent and didn’t take the time to go to Google and find out.

It is called the POW/MIA Flag, in honor and remembrance of those who were POW and or MIA from Vietnam who are still unaccounted for.  Over time it has become a symbol for those who are missing from all military conflicts.  Uncle Sam may want America to believe that there are no prisoners left in Vietnam, yet the over 900 live-sighting reports that have been all uniquely discredited make for interesting discussion to say the least.  Furthermore, the MIA reference is still pertinent due to the fact that there are still over 1700 American servicemen who the US and Vietnamese have not accounted for from the end of the war to present day.  Many were known to be held into captivity, photographed in captivity and have had live sightings reported well into the 1990’s.  The only thing that seems to be limited is your grasp of the topic of your op ed piece.  How many times have you, as a professor, critiqued your own students for making such an agregious error?

The only ignorance I see here in on the part of people like you and select others who have taken their cursory understanding of our flag and the POW/MIA Issue exclusively to add yet another published work to the list of your post-retirement publications. Indifference, well that characteristic can again be  attributed to you due to your refusal to educate yourself on the topic before you and then to have the audacity to pass it on for publication. You, Sir, have the luxuries of ignorance and indifference with regard to the POW/MIA Issue for the simple fact that our loved ones and thousands more since colonial times died for this nation and what it stands for to give you the right to be an educated idiot.

Incidentally, if anyone would like to email Mr. Marx, pppmarx@comcast.net.

The VVA: Newsletter article penned by Hendon

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The Vietnam Veterans of America Newsletter recently posted a cover story on the POW/MIA Issue and An Enormous Crime author, former Congressman Bill Hendon, provides some additional commentary.

Here is a compelling excerpt;

A half-dozen or so postwar intercepts of secret Pathet Lao radio transmissions describing how, when, where, and why they were holding or moving American POWs collectively described the confinement or movement of well over one hundred American POWs inside Laos. DIA’s and the majority’s ruling? Not one of the postwar radio intercepts relating to living American POWs was to be believed.

And last but not least, some 925 postwar intelligence reports the committee investigators had deemed plausible or credible, many reporting U.S. POWs being held at the same prison or in the same area at the same time or over a period of time: all 925 sources were either lying or confused, DIA officials said. A majority on the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs agreed.

As we all venture to cookouts, memorial events and the like, The POW Warrior would like to thank the some 400,000 patriotic Americans who have made the pilgrimage to Washington, DC this weekend to participate in Rolling Thunder’s annual POW/MIA demonstration in our nation’s capital. Each and every one of them are heroes in my book for willingly giving of their time, money and energy in the name of our POWs and MIAs.

And finally, in honor of those who ride for our POWs this weekend, here is the link to our article from last year in response to columnist Garrison Keillor who was “inconvenienced” last year as the demonstration passed him on the way to the museums on Constitution Avenue. 

To the millions of proud and brave Americans who served this great country of ours with honor and distinction, this Memorial Day Weekend, we solemnly say Thank You.

The POW Warrior

Update: The POW Warrior has learned from another family member that a retraction of sorts for the above referenced article will appear in the next VVA Newsletter. It will be posted here once the VVA has it linked on their site.

Saying Goodbye to Ted Sampley: The Activist’s Activist

Ted Sampley

Over the years I had always heard stories about Ted Sampley.  In each of them he seemed larger than life.  I remember being a bit nervous the first time I met him at a POW/MIA event wondering if what I had to say would resonate with someone as tuned in to the Issue as Ted was.  What I found was what I can only refer to as a gentle giant.  Ted’s eyes said more to me than anything that would come out of his mouth that day.  I saw compassion, tenderness and most importantly, as I told him our story, I saw the wheels in his head turning.  Ted was a wonderful speaker but he was also an amazing listener.  He asked probing questions and made thought-provoking suggestions.

Ted, for all extensive purposes, gave his life to this Issue; for the families and for the spirit of each of those who are still unaccounted for.  His passion and selfless acts, as daring and creative as they were, were all part of a deeper sense of dedication and loyalty to those less fortunate; those who never made it out of Vietnam alive. 

The most incredible part of Ted Sampley is that he was able to maintain this passion, this furvor for decades.   His love for his fellow warrior and for the nation that he dedicated 10 years of his life to was linked to every project that he became a part of, be it restoring or rejuvenating the vibrancy of his hometown or standing with a bullhorn on The Mall in DC, Ted was a believer.

Since his death, one of his detractors collectively with the Washington Post here here and here have unsuccessfully attempted to take parting shots at Ted.  The WaPo has been “selective” in the comments that they have allowed to appear coupled with these articles.  The Pow Warrior has submitted a lengthy response that has, interestingly enough, not yet been accepted.   If you would like to have a copy, please email me.

I will leave you all and Ted, with the closing paragraph of my commentary which I am sure Ted would find quite fitting and may well give him cause to smile …

This hit piece and that of Ms. Keating’s do far more to illuminate your own personal characters than that of Ted Sampley.  Ted believed in a cause, sacrificed himself and dedicated his life to that cause.  Few people leave this world with the ability to have this said about them; even fewer in that select group are reporters.  Therefore, in the end, Ted still wins.

The Measure of The Man: Why John McCain doesn’t measure up ….

 ~The Measure of The Man~

Anyone who has had an adversarial relationship with John McCain will tell you that there are few with less self-control than the senator from Arizona. Many have questioned his ability to maintain a clear head in a time of crisis. For those of us who have seen these sparks of insanity from McCain, we know all too well that what lies beneath is something dark, ominous and certainly not presidential. John McCain makes reference to his service to our great nation by almost daily reminding us of his five and a half year captivity in the Hanoi Hilton. Yet few have been able to look beyond McCain, the POW, to examine his political record, as if it were taboo somehow to be critical of a former prisoner of war. But what about this former prisoner of war and his criticism of the very same people who fought to bring him home from the dark dank cell he likes to remind us about so much? – The POW/MIA Families of those less fortunate than McCain, those who still have yet to be returned to the soil they gave their lives for.

Since his return from Hanoi, McCain has …

~Ignored pleas of POW/MIA Family Members for his political influence in the overall POW/MIA Issue as well as with their individual cases

~Verbally abused POW/MIA Family Members in public and private

~Attempted to negatively influence those who testified before the 1992 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs

~Diminished legislation that gave oversight and protection to the families

~Dismantled protection to any future servicemen that go missing.

Yes, John McCain, the American politician, the man who many think would and should be the primary advocate and activist for the POW/MIA Issue is in fact the Issue’s primary adversary. You read correctly, the Issue’s primary adversary. John McCain has not provided one positive contribution to these same families that fought along side the first Mrs. McCain for close to six years to bring home all of those who were known to be captured by the Vietnamese. One would think that McCain would feel almost beholden to these fine American military families who united in one of their darkest hours to keep the POW/MIA Issue in the forefront of the War in Vietnam. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Cruel Encounters with McCain by POW/MIA Family Members

In the beginning, when McCain’s political aspirations began to pan out at the national level, many POW/MIA families made the erroneous assumption that John McCain would be a logical ally as they still fought with the Department of Defense for answers on the fate of their loved ones. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. There are many very well known encounters between John McCain and POW/MIA family members. Here we will quickly focus on three of these encounters. The first is with the family of fellow Air Force pilot David Hrdlicka’s wife Carol and Jane (Duke) Gaylord, mother of missing civilian Charles Duke.

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Col. David Hrdlicka, USAF while in captivity

A recent statement put out in January of 2008 by Mrs. Hrdlicka’s attorney reads;

According to Mrs.Carol Hrdlicka, when POW/MIA family members confronted Sen. John McCain in the halls of Congress after the conclusion of the Committee’s Report, he shoved the wheelchair of handicapped POW mother Jane Gaylord out of his way knocking it into her niece who was behind the chair attending to her aunt and she was pushed up against a wall. Subsequently Mrs. Gaylord filed a complaint for assault against the Senator but the matter was squelched by the powers that be. As Senator McCain attempted to jump on an elevator to make a quick escape from the POW/MIA family members gathered, he shouted at Mrs. Hrdlicka, “You don’t know what I’ve been through”(indicating he was a former POW and inferring Mrs. Hrdlicka had no comparable experience or appreciation of his great suffering and sacrifice). As the door to the elevator began to close around the cowering Senator who was making good his get-a-way, Mrs. Hrdlicka raised a large photo of her POW husband Col. David Hrdlicka and thrust it at the elevator doors to show the Senator that she did indeed share in the suffering of POWs and family members and shouted that she had clear proof her husband David was still alive in captivity. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hrdlicka’s cries and pleas for help from government officials bent on closing the chapter on POWs fell on deaf ears and blackened hearts!“

The 1991-92 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs

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Victor J. Apodaca, Jr., USAF

Another incident and most likely the most disturbing occurred in 1992 while McCain was an outspoken member of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The senator from Arizona continually interrupted, argued with and ridiculed testimony given by various governmental employees involved in the POW/MIA Issue as well as family members. In fact, he brought the sister of a missing Air Force pilot to tears during one of his confrontational rants, Dolores Apodaca Alfond. Her testimony (p.379) at a hearing of the POW/MIA committee Nov. 11, 1992, was revealing. She pleaded with the committee not to shut down in two months, as scheduled, because so much of its work was unfinished. Also, she was critical of the committee, and in particular Kerry and McCain, for having “discredited the overhead satellite symbol pictures, arguing there is no way to be sure that the [distress] symbols were made by U.S. POWs.” She also criticized them for similarly discounting data from special sensors, shaped like a large spike with an electronic pod and an antenna, that were airdropped to stick in the ground along the Ho Chi Minh trail. These devices served as motion detectors, picking up passing convoys and other military movements, but they also had rescue capabilities. Specifically, someone on the ground — a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor detail — could manually enter data into the sensor pods. Alfond said the data from the sensor spikes, which was regularly gathered by Air Force jets flying overhead, had showed that a person or persons on the ground had manually entered into the sensors — as U.S. pilots had been trained to do — “no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 U.S. POWs who were lost in Laos.”

Other than the panel’s second co-chairman, Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., not a single committee member attended this public hearing. But McCain, having been advised of Alfond’s testimony, suddenly rushed into the room to confront her. His face angry and his voice very loud, he accused her of making “allegations … that are patently and totally false and deceptive.” Making a fist, he shook his index finger at her and said she had insulted an emissary to Vietnam sent by President Bush. He said she had insulted other MIA families with her remarks. And then he said, through clenched teeth: “And I am sick and tired of you insulting mine and other people’s [patriotism] who happen to have different views than yours.”

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One of the many faces of John McCain

Here is the link to the video, just posted on YouTube

By this time, tears were running down Alfond’s cheeks. She reached into her handbag for a handkerchief. She tried to speak: “The family members have been waiting for years — years! And now you’re shutting down.” He kept interrupting her. She tried to say, through tears, that she had issued no insults. He kept talking over her words. He said she was accusing him and others of “some conspiracy without proof, and some cover-up.” She said she was merely seeking “some answers. That is what I am asking.” He ripped into her for using the word “fiasco.” She replied: “The fiasco was the people that stepped out and said we have written the end, the final chapter to Vietnam.” “No one said that,” he shouted. “No one said what you are saying they said, Ms. Alfond.” And then, his face flaming pink, he stalked out of the room, to shouts of disfavor from members of the audience. As with most of McCain’s remarks to Alfond, the facts in his closing blast at her were incorrect. Less than three weeks earlier, on Oct. 23, 1992, in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush — with John McCain standing beside him — said: “Today, finally, I am convinced that we can begin writing the last chapter in the Vietnam War.”

The committee did indeed, as Alfond said they planned to do, shut down two months after the hearing. It is highly recommend that you take a few moments to follow the link provided below which will take you to the Library of Congress website and the specific record of the hearings from the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. To give you a sampling of McCain’s treatment of witness who appeared before the Committee, click on the November, 1991 hearings and proceed to page 437 of the record where Mr. Tracy Ursry, the Minority Staff chief investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with regard to legislative inquiries on the POW/MIA Issue, is “cross-examined” by McCain. McCain’s segment begins on p. 443. After reading that portion, you will see that McCain did not sit on the Committee with an open mind but with a methodical agenda, that of giving then President Clinton the necessary cover to re-establish trade with Vietnam at the expense of the full and accurate accounting of our missing servicemen. Make no qualms about it, a few years later both McCain and Sen. John Kerry were there by design for the photo op with President Clinton when the official announcement regarding lifting the trade embargo with Vietnam was made public.

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Re-establishment of Trade with Vietnam at the expense of our missing men

The Truth Bill

In 1989, 11 members of the House of Representatives introduced a measure they called “The Truth Bill.” A brief and simple document, it said: “[The] head of each department or agency which holds or receives any records and information, including live-sighting reports, which have been correlated or possibly correlated to United States personnel listed as prisoner of war or missing in action from World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict shall make available to the public all such records and information held or received by that department or agency. In addition, the Department of Defense shall make available to the public with its records and information a complete listing of United States personnel classified as prisoner of war, missing in action, or killed in action (body not returned) from World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Vietnam conflict.” Bitterly opposed by the Pentagon, “The Truth Bill” got nowhere. It was reintroduced in the next Congress in 1991 — and again disappeared. Then, suddenly, out of the Senate, birthed by the Arizona senator, a new piece of legislation emerged. It was called “The McCain Bill.” This measure turned “The Truth Bill ” on its head. It created a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the available documents could emerge. And it became law. So restrictive were its provisions that one clause actually said the Pentagon didn’t even have to inform the public when it received intelligence that Americans were alive in captivity. First, it decreed that only three categories of information could be released, i.e., “information … that may pertain to the location, treatment, or condition of” unaccounted-for personnel from the Vietnam War. (This was later amended in 1995 and 1996 to include the Cold War and the Korean conflict.) If information is received about anything other than “location, treatment or condition,” under this statute, which was enacted in December 199l, it does not get disclosed. Second, before such information can be released to the public, permission must be granted by the primary next of kin, or PNOK. In the case of Vietnam, letters were sent by the Department of Defense to the 2,266 PNOK. More than 600 declined consent (including 243 who failed to respond, considered under the law to be a “no”).

Finally, in addition to these hurdles and limitations, the McCain act does not specifically order the declassification of the information. Further, it provides the Defense Department with other justifications for withholding documents. One such clause says that if the information “may compromise the safety of any United States personnel … who remain not accounted for but who may still be alive in captivity, then the Secretary [of Defense] may withhold that record or other information from the disclosure otherwise required by this section.” Boiled down, the preceding paragraph means that the Defense Department is not obligated to tell the public about prisoners believed alive in captivity and what efforts are being made to rescue them. It only has to notify the White House and the intelligence committees in the Senate and House. The committees are forbidden under law from releasing such information. At the same time, the McCain act is now being used to deny access to other sorts of records. For instance, part of a recent APBnews.com Freedom of Information Act request for the records of a mutiny on a merchant marine vessel in the 1970s was rejected by a Defense Department official who cited the McCain act. Similarly, requests for information about Americans missing in the Korean War and declared dead for the last 45 years have been denied by officials who reference the McCain statute.

The 1995 Missing Service Personnel Act

In the years following the 1992 –93 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, the POW/MIA Community along with family members began working with concerned legislators and crafted legislation to strength their battles with the Department of Defense as they have little if any oversight from anywhere within the government when they were deceived or even outright lied to by POW/MIA agencies. Wanting to shield future military families from the pain they had suffered for close to three decades they included language that would make the reporting of an MIA more responsive. McCain, in short ordered weakened this act if not stripped it entirely making it almost worthless.

In the 1995 act, the theater commander, after receiving the MIA report, would have 14 days to report to his Cabinet secretary in Washington. His report had to “ certify” that all necessary actions were being taken and all appropriate assets were being used “to resolve the status of the missing person.” This section was stricken from the act in 1996 by McCain and replaced with language that made the Cabinet secretary, not the theater commander, the recipient of the report from the field. All the certification requirements also were stricken. ‘Turn commanders into clerks’ “This, ” said a McCain memo, “transfers the bureaucracy involved out of the field to Washington.” He argued that the original legislation, if left intact, “ would accomplish nothing but create new jobs for lawyers and turn military commanders into clerks.”

One final blow in the law was McCain’s removal of all its enforcement teeth. The original act provided for criminal penalties for anyone, such as military bureaucrats in Washington, who destroy, cover up or withhold from families any information about a missing man. McCain erased this part of the law. He said the penalties would have a chilling effect on the Pentagon’s ability to recruit personnel for its POW/MIA office. Well, this writer would have to questions this line of thinking as we, thankfully live in a democracy where we all are innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, these criminal penalties would have to be proven before any penalties could be enforced. Just as with anyone accused or suspected with a crime, if you are innocent and have nothing to hide, then there should be no grounds for concern. Does McCain no have faith in our federal judicial system?

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Cpl. Greg Harris, USMC

This last portion of McCain’s heartless manipulation of this legislation has some present day ramifications. Case in point, that of Marine Corporal Greg Harris. During a recent meeting with the case analyst, the family has reported that they were lied to and deceived by their case analyst in an attempt to cover up a report that confirmed Harris’ captivity. The report was kept from the family and reported to them in writing and again during the meeting as being hearsay information. Yet, the family had obtained the report without the knowledge of the analyst. The report clearly stated that the information was a firsthand account of Harris’ capture yet the case analyst, with no fear of repercussions, knowingly lied to the family trying to pass off the contents of the report as hearsay thus belittling its value. According to family members who were present at this meeting, when the case analyst was confronted with this contradiction between “firsthand” and “hearsay” reporting, she simply replied, “Well, it says firsthand, but it doesn’t mean firsthand”. If McCain had not purposefully taken away the prosecutorial clause in the original Missing Service Personnel Act, the Harris case analyst would have been much less likely to lie to the family knowing the ramifications. Yet, with no oversight whatsoever, case analysts and any other government official involved with the POW/MIA Issue can do and say what they like with the knowledge that John McCain has covered their six.

Conclusion

If indeed actions do speak louder than words, then the measure of the man that is John Sidney McCain is one of questionable character. Being a former POW himself, knowing the pain and agony that his own family members and first wife went through during his captivity, how can he, in good conscience, prolong and even in some cases make more excruciating that same pain his loved ones endured? Does what has been referenced here give Americans a sigh of relief or cause for grave concern with regard to a potential McCain Presidency? Do the families of the four missing American soldiers in Iraq know how John McCain weakened their position and took control of their son’s fate from those on the ground and transferred it to the political spin doctors in Washington? This is the measure of the man and he simply does not measure up.

Reference:
The War Secrets Sen. John McCain hides by Sydney Schanberg, April 25, 2000.

P.S. – Although not POW/MIA related, here is another “measure of the man” during a visit to a wounded warrior at Walter Reed. Major Z is indeed a true American Hero!