U.S. intelligence agencies actively recruited Nazis and European collaborators as anti-Soviet informants after World War II and later helped at least five of them enter the United States, a special report to Congress said yesterday.
The report, summing up a three-year investigation by the General Accounting Office, said the five included two alleged war criminals, a former Nazi SS officer, a convicted conspirator in an assassination and a traitor.
There have been previous reports that U.S. officials had helped or harbored former Nazis, but the GAO report provided new details and the first formal confirmation of numerous incidents. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter W. Rodino (D-N.J.), who commissioned the inquiry, called the findings "extremely distressing."
"The laws and policies of our government specifically excluded from admission to the United States those wanted for these unspeakable crimes during the war," Rodino said in releasing the report. "It is unconscionable that we had any involvement in allowing anyone responsible for the Holocaust to find safe haven within our shores."
The GAO said it uncovered "no specific program to aid the immigration of undesirable aliens." It said the five received assistance individually. Two of them, the report said, "were protected from investigation."
In one of these cases, the GAO investigation found, the Central Intelligence Agency "invoked national security reasons to legalize an alien's immigration status." In the other case, the report indicated, the intelligence agency in question simply took no action "once it learned of derogatory information about one alien's wartime background."
The GAO said it reviewed U.S. intelligence personnel files and other records on 114 selected aliens and found that 12 who had "undesirable or questionable backgrounds" had immigrated to the United States. Of the five who were given assistance, one was brought here under an assumed name, the report said, and another "was accompanied to the consular office by an intelligence officer whose agency followed up on the immigration."
The other seven, the GAO found, managed to reach here "without immigration assistance," but all of them had also been "associated with U.S. or allied intelligence."
The report for Rodino's committee described some activities of the 12 individuals but named none, partly because much of the information identifying the U.S. agencies with the aliens and the location of their activities is still classified.
The GAO study also confirmed a special Justice Department inquiry's 1983 conclusion that the U.S. government had employed Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo chief of Lyons, as a paid informer in 1947 and later protected him from extradition to France and organized his escape to South America.
At a news conference in Rockland, Mass., former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus, who contended several years ago that the government recruited war criminals in the wake of World War II, said one of the anonymous five cited in the GAO study was Stanislaw Stankevich, the so-called "Butcher of Borrisow" in White Russia, who died in 1980. Loftus said the State Department's Office of Policy Coordination, a postwar rival of the CIA, played a major role in protecting Stankevich.
The GAO said most U.S.-employed Nazis and collaborators remained in Europe subsequent to their work. The report said the controversial recruitments took place under the increasing Cold War pressures of rivalry with the Soviet Union and urgent demands for "the highest possible quality of intelligence on the U.S.S.R. in the shortest time possible."
Describing the prevailing attitude of the time, one former intelligence officer told GAO investigators that "any SOB who was against the Russians was our SOB." Another ex-officer, the report said, declared that "we would have slept with the Devil to obtain information on communists."
The GAO emphasized that it could not tell how many Nazis and European collaborators received official assistance in coming to the United States, but the issue has received growing attention since a special Justice Department office was set up in 1979 to find and deport those living in this country illegally. The former head of that office, Allan Ryan, says "Nazi war criminals came here by the thousands."
The GAO report said those who were given U.S. intelligence agency help included "Subject A," who was listed as a wanted war criminal by the U.N. War Crimes Commission on charges that he ordered the executions of suspected communist sympathizers. Now dead, he came here in the mid-1950s.
Subject B, who Loftus said was Stankevich, "occupied many positions of trust as part of a Nazi-appointed government in Eastern Europe" and was "alleged to have been involved in massacres of several thousand civilians, predominantly Jews." He was said to have helped a U.S. agency apprehend and convict a Soviet agent in the U.S. zone of Germany in 1951 and, for that, was helped in emigrating here several years later. The agency, the GAO said, "was aware of the subject's background and had established a file on him in 1949."