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- Subject: CIA Discloses Korean Spy Records
- From: AOLNews@aol.com
- Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 14:00:29 EDT
- Full-name: AOL News
CIA Discloses Korean Spy Records
.c The Associated Press
By ROBERT BURNS
WASHINGTON (AP) - The CIA lost so many Korean agents in futile attempts to operate behind enemy lines during the Korean War that the agency later privately judged its use of American-trained loyalists as ``morally reprehensible,'' declassified records show.
This frank judgment is significant not only for the internal angst it exposes but also because the Central Intelligence Agency had never before publicly acknowledged the scope or the outcome of its covert operations during the war.
The records show the CIA sent untold numbers of agents - in the thousands, judging from the censored documents - into North Korea during the 1950-53 war. Their missions ranged from intelligence collection to establishing ``escape and evasion,'' or E&E, networks to rescue downed U.S. pilots.
``E&E operations as conducted by CIA in Korea were not only ineffective but probably morally reprehensible in that the number of lives lost and the amount of time and treasure expended was enormously disproportionate to attainments therefrom,'' a July 1973 CIA historical review said, quoting from a January 1954 report by the Korea Branch chief at CIA headquarters.
Early in the war, CIA espionage efforts scored some notable successes, but most of its efforts at penetrating North Korea once peace talks began in the summer of 1951 failed, the records show.
Portions of the secret 1973 review and other CIA records were declassified at the request of a private author, Michael E. Haas. The CIA provided The Associated Press with copies of the declassified pages after the AP inquired about the disclosures.
Some of the CIA's agents were South Koreans allied with U.S. forces. Others were anti-communist North Koreans forced to flee when China entered the war in October 1950 and drove American and allied troops back across the 38th parallel, which was - and remains - a dividing line between the two Koreas.
Haas, a retired Air Force colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran, used the 1973 report and other declassified CIA records in writing ``In the Devil's Shadow,'' published in March by the Naval Institute Press. The book provides a detailed description of CIA and U.S. military operations behind North Korean lines.
CIA spokesman Tom Crispell said the agency had no comment on the book.
The CIA pledged publicly in 1993 to declassify its records on Korean War covert operations but has not done so. Haas said he obtained the CIA documents only after a private lawyer intervened.
Haas said the CIA refused to release an exact count of agents it infiltrated into North Korea during the war - often aboard Air Force planes. But he cited a partially declassified CIA document, titled ``Infiltration and Resupply of Agents in North Korea, 1952-1953,'' which stated that ``thousands of personnel'' were air dropped into the communist country from June 25, 1950 until the truce on July 27, 1953.
The U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy also sent untold hundreds of Koreans on such missions by land, air and sea.
Few agents made it back alive, especially in the last two years of the war. Their inherently dangerous missions were made even more hazardous by bureaucratic conflict and confusion that combined to produce what Haas called ``behind-the-lines chaos.''
A senior agency official, whose identity was not disclosed, warned in September 1952 that agents sent north to set up escape and evasion networks ``had almost no chance of success.'' He predicted they would be captured ``and that the majority of them would be doubled,'' to work for the enemy.
He apparently was right.
During the latter part of 1952, the CIA's airdropped teams ``were annihilated, taking 100 percent losses as many simply disappeared after parachuting into North Korea,'' Haas wrote, citing other CIA documents.
The 1973 CIA historical review said ``no airman or POW was known to have been assisted by CIA-sponsored clandestine mechanisms,'' and it said little was gained from the ``numerous Koreans sacrificed in what proved to be a basically futile attempt'' to set up resistance cells and pilot rescue networks.
The report alludes to another aspect of the morality question, beyond the sacrifice of Korean lives. It mentions an individual Korean agent, whose identity is blacked out, who had a hand in the North Korean drug trade.
``His trading with the enemy was an immense financial benefit to them since his American intelligence connections served to facilitate widespread traffic in narcotics amounting in value probably to many millions of dollars,'' it said.
There is no elaboration on the narcotics connection, but it suggests at least an indirect CIA link to the drug trade.
Crispell, the agency spokesman, said, ``There is no indication that the CIA supported or benefitted from illicit activities involving this individual.'' An intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity said the Korean agent's relationship with the CIA was ended after his drug trafficking became known.
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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