CRAWFORD, Tex., March 25 -- President Bush signed legislation into law Friday extending by two years the life of a government panel charged with declassifying CIA documents that detail the spy agency's ties to former Nazis and war criminals.
The legislation, which won final congressional approval earlier this month, clears the way for the release of thousands of documents on former Nazis, including some who assisted in the CIA's Cold War espionage against the former Soviet Union.
The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group was established by the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 and had been set to disband by the end of this month.
The law Bush signed extends the group's life through March 2007.
The Nazi war crimes act requires federal agencies to provide the working group with all documents pertaining to Nazi war criminals for possible declassification and release.
The CIA, which has already turned over an estimated 1.25 million pages of documents, refused to release hundreds of thousands more, many of which detail its postwar ties to Nazis who have not been accused of war crimes.
The agency relented this month and agreed in principle to release more documents after Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), a prominent backer of the legislation, demanded that CIA Director Porter J. Goss explain the agency's refusal at a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee.