- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The CIA yesterday declassified 27,000 files concerning Nazi war criminals and those involved with them as part of the largest release of public files — more than 8 million — in U.S. history.

Historians said the files offer a window into problems with United States’ Cold War recruitment of war criminals who produced unreliable information.

For example, the records show how the CIA recruited Tscherim Soobzokov. After serving as an SS officer with German forces in 1942, Soobzokov immigrated to Jordan in 1947. The CIA then recruited him — under the code name “Nostril” — as an informant who might be sent on missions to infiltrate the Soviet Caucasus.

After he was polygraphed in 1953, a CIA official noted, “Subject has consistent and pronounced reactions to all questions regarding war crimes, and is, no doubt, hiding a number of activities from us on that point.”

But, the official noted “clear evidence of a war crimes record might also serve as a possible control.”

Interagency Working Group (IWG) historian Richard Breitman said the CIA “showed bad judgment” in employing and assisting a man who “served as an officer in a criminal organization, admitted having committed some war crimes, and consistently lied about his past.”

The declassification came as a result of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 instigated by the IWG, which locates, identifies, inventories and recommends for declassification government documents on Nazi and Japanese war crimes now barred to the public.

Washington lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste, an IWG member, said the CIA had previously been too cautious about making the files public.

“Legitimate matters of security must be kept secret,” but, he said, there has been “far too much secrecy in the government,” which he said gets trapped in “the pitfalls of expediency rather than ideals.”

Thomas H. Baer, an IWG public member, said at a press briefing at the National Archives that the CIA is disclosing it used Nazi war criminals “warts and all.”

CIA spokesman Stanley Moskowitz, also an IWG member, said neither he nor former CIA Director Porter J. Goss saw any inconsistency “with a reinvigorated effort to protect secrets that needed protecting and declassifying secrets whose reasons for being secret had long since passed.”

Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, said the IWG “demonstrate that the U.S. government is committed to pursuing the truth, wherever the trail may lead, so that the answers — long overdue and yes, sometimes unpleasant and even painful — can at last be disclosed.”

A similar declassification of information dealing with Japanese war criminals is expected to be announced at the end of the summer, said Mr. Rosenbaum, also an IWG member representing the Justice Department.

The newly declassified files are available for research at the National Archives facility in College Park, according to the IWG.

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