Pipelines to the United States

excerpted from the book


America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy

by Christopher Simpson

Collier / Macmillan, 1988

American policy on the use of defectors from the East, including those who had been Nazi collaborators, was institutionalized in three National Security Council decisions during late 1949 and 1950. The government still contends that revealing the full text of these orders would "damage national security" if they were published today, more than thirty-five years later. These high-level orders, which were reviewed and approved by both Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, are known as NSC 86, NSCID (pronounced "N-skid" and standing for NSC intelligence directive) 13, and NSCID 14. They are based on recommendations prepared by Frank Wisner's OPC division of the CIA during the Bloodstone program.

These decisions gave the CIA control of several highly secret government interagency committees responsible for handling émigrés and defectors both overseas (NSCID 13) and inside the United States itself (NSCID 14). Like the earlier Bloodstone effort from which these directives sprang, NSCIDs 13 and 14 were not designed to rescue Nazis as such. They were instead aimed at making good use of all sorts of defectors from the East-with few questions asked. The bureaucratic turf remaining after the CIA had taken its share was divided among the FBI, military intelligence, the State Department, and, to a small degree, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Most important in the present context, these orders authorized clandestine CIA funding of a variety of ostensibly private refugee relief organizations so as to ensure the cooperation of those agencies in the government's efforts to locate and exploit presumably valuable defectors. Under the aegis of these secret orders, the CIA assumed the power to bring "temporarily" anyone it wished to the United States (or anywhere else, for that matter), regardless of any other laws on the books in the United States or any other country.

NSCID 14, moreover, dramatically expanded the agency's authority to conduct clandestine operations inside the United States-in an apparent violation of the CIA's charter-as long as those affairs were conducted through emigre political organizations that supposedly still had some connection with the old country. The CIA has used that loophole to authorize hidden agency funding for the Committee for a Free Latvia, the Committee for a Free Albania, and other supposedly private exile organizations active in this country. A substantial amount of the agency's money ended up being spent on lobbying the U.S. Congress and on other propaganda efforts inside this country-a clear violation of the law.

When Congress created the CIA, it specifically legislated that the agency be barred from "police, subpoena, law-enforcement powers or internal security functions" in the United States. This was to be a foreign intelligence agency, not a still more powerful version of the FBI. Most Americans, including the members of the congressional watchdog committees responsible for oversight of CIA operations, have long contended that this provision banned the agency from involvement in political activities inside this country. Even Senator Leverett Saltonstall, long the ranking Republican on the Senate's intelligence oversight committee, remarked to then CIA

Director John McCone (in 1962): "Is it not true, Mr. McCone . . . that any work on ethnic groups in this country would not be within the province of the CIA? . . . Am I correct in that?" (McCone replied, "I cannot answer that, Senator," and the matter was dropped.)

But unbeknownst to most of the Congress and the American people, however, the agency has repeatedly chosen to interpret the NSC 86, NSCID 13, and NSCID 14 orders as authorization for substantial political involvement in immigrant communities in America. As early as 1949-only two years after Congress had thoroughly debated keeping the CIA out of American politics-the agency began underwriting several major programs designed to bring favored European exiles into this country. Then, in 1950, this immigration work was coupled with a multimillion-dollar publicity campaign in the United States tailored to win popular approval for cold war measures sponsored by the CIA, including increased funding for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberation, and the emigre political groups in the governments-in-exile program.

These efforts have left a lasting mark on American political life, especially among the United States' large first-generation Slavic and Eastern European immigrant population. Hundreds of thousands of decent people of Central and Eastern European heritage entered this country legally during the 1950s, often at the price of I great personal sacrifice. But the measures undertaken by the CIA in connection with NSC 86, NSCID 13, and NSCID 14 led to the infiltration of thousands of Waffen SS veterans and other Nazi collaborators into their communities in the United States at the same time. This in turn laid the foundation for a revival of extremist right-wing political movements inside immigrant communities in this country that continue to be active.

The CIA, and Frank Wisner's clandestine action shop (the OPC) in particular, were never content with the immigration to the United States of a handful of especially valuable assets. The 100 Persons Act was simply too restrictive, Wisner believed. The agency was running international programs involving thousands of foreign agents, with tens of thousands of subagents. Many of these men and women were risking their lives for the modest paychecks they got from the Americans, as he saw it. The promise of free immigration to the United States was crucial in recruiting new overseas help for the CIA and in retaining the loyalty of many persons already on the U.S. payroll.

According to State Department records, Wisner wanted to grant U.S. citizenship as a reward to not just "100 Persons" per year, but to thousands, even tens of thousands of informants, covert operators, guerrillas and agents of influence. Whatever else might be said of Wisner, he was never one to let sticky legal technicalities stand in the way of what he believed to be the best interests of the country. He set out to create a wide variety of both legal and illegal dodges to bring men and women favored by his organization into the country.

This immigration campaign became an integral part of CIA clandestine strategy of the period. The agency manipulated U.S. immigration laws and procedures on behalf of thousands of favored émigrés, selecting some for entry to this country and rejecting others. While only a fraction of this influx appears to have been Nazis or Nazi collaborators (the true number is impossible to know until the agency opens its files), it is clear that a number of identifiable war criminals were brought to the United States with CIA assistance during this period. Equally important, the security agencies of the government gave tacit support to private refugee relief committees the stated goals of which included assisting thousands of Waffen SS veterans in immigrating to the United States.

Bloodstone had begun this process on a relatively modest scale, with about 250 sponsored immigrants per year. By 1950, however, CIA representatives approached Congress with a plan to authorize special importation of some 15,000 CIA-sponsored refugees per year, in addition to those entering under the Displaced Persons Act and other more conventional immigration channels. They were to be émigrés "whose presence in the U.S. would be deemed in the national interest," according to Department of State documentation," as a result of the prominent or active part they played in the struggle against Communism." Congress whittled that authorization down to 500 "carefully selected" refugees over a three-year period. Even so, the CIA's professed need for 15,000 annual entrance visas is some measure of its ambitions in this field. Émigrés sponsored under this law came to be known as "2(d)" cases, after the section of the immigration code that provided the legal authorization.

Congress's refusal to support fully the agency's 15,000-visa-per-year immigration effort was not the final word on the matter. Indeed, the CIA expanded upon the authority it had been granted by the National Security Council under NSC 86 and NSCIDs 13 and 14. If the agency was barred from directly importing 15,000 exiles annually, it reasoned, it could still employ the NSC's top secret authorization to sponsor indirectly many of the same émigrés through ostensibly private relief organizations...

The private refugee aid groups were closely monitored by the CIA. As a later NSC decision on refugee and defector programs puts it, these programs "contribute to the achievement of U.S. national security objectives both toward Communist-dominated areas and the Free World.... These contracts, under which the [private] agencies are reimbursed only for services actually performed on behalf of escapees, are carefully supervised to assure that they give maximum support to the objectives of the program.''

Yet in several cases Nazi collaborators and sympathizers took control of key aspects of refugee relief agencies serving their nationalities in the United States.

It is clear today that several of these group and a number individual Vanagi Nazi collaborators enjoyed clandestine U.S. government subsidies from the CIA. This money was laundered through the CIA's Radio Free Europe and Assembly of Captive European Nations channels or through private organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, among others.

It is evident that the CIA knew that substantial numbers of men and former Nazi collaborators were streaming into this country through organizations that were themselves on the CIA's payroll. Highly competent U.S. intelligence officers followed each twist and turn of these emigre organizations and knew exactly who was linked to which political faction in the old countries. The affairs of Eastern European exiles were, after all, a major focus of the CIA's work at the time. Their relief groups and political organizations were thoroughly infiltrated with agency informers. Indeed, if the CIA did not know what was taking place in the immigration process, that in itself raises serious questions concerning its ability to collect and analyze information from refugee sources.

But nothing was done by the CIA, so far as can be determined, to stop the influx of ex-Nazis and collaborators during the 1950s. If anything, the government subsidies to their organizations actually increased. Some men and women who had once enlisted as agents for the Nazi occupiers of their homelands put their skills back to work as inside sources for the CIA and FBI once they had arrived here. Federal agencies are, of course, unwilling to release the names of their confidential informants, but a 1978 study by the General Accounting Office clearly establishes that working relations between U.S. police agencies and these former Fascists did

The[U.S.] army command eventually decided that much tighter control would be necessary to ensure the security and effectiveness of postnuclear guerrilla operations. The best of the emigre foot soldiers should be brought to the United States, the army concluded, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and provided with intensive training far beyond what was possible in the Labor Service units. The army reasoned that this more formal recruitment of émigrés would also permit the granting of security clearances to translators with backgrounds in Russian, Ukrainian, and other Eastern European languages. The new enlistees were to remain under U.S. Army control, even though the military was eager to cooperate with the CIA on specific missions.

In 1950 the army convinced Congress to pass an unusual piece of cold war legislation, known as the Lodge Act, that permitted 2,500 alien nationals (later raised to 12,500) residing outside the United States to enlist in the U.S. Army. It guaranteed them U.S. citizenship if they successfully completed five years of service. The overwhelming majority of the Lodge Act recruits who volunteered over the following decade have proved themselves to be loyal citizens. Most are intensely patriotic, many have been decorated for heroism in battle, and some have given their lives in service to their adopted country. It is ironic, then, that the U.S. Army chose to mix Gestapo agents and Nazi collaborators with this group of decent men.

According to declassified orders now found in the National Archives, about 25 percent of the enlistees were channeled into a variety of especially confidential assignments, including slots as atomic, chemical, and biological warfare specialists. Others became translators of captured secret documents and instructors for U.S. intelligence analysts.

Many of the remainder of the Lodge Act recruits underwent special guerrilla training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and became the nucleus of the present-day Green Berets. Indeed, the famous green beret itself is in part a legacy of the European military fatigues that so many of America's first Special Forces recruits had worn during their service prior to their arrival in this country. The commander of the program at Fort Bragg, interestingly enough, was Colonel Aaron Bank, an army paramilitary expert who only a few months previously had directed the CIC units responsible for running Klaus Barbie, Mykola Lebed, and similar intelligence assets in Germany.

Colonel Charles M. Simpson, the unofficial historian of the Green Berets and a thirty-year army veteran, leaves little question about the training of army and CIA volunteers placed under Colonel Bank's care at Fort Bragg. The instruction, Simpson writes, began with selection of sites for clandestine airdrops of agents behind enemy lines, then went on to "raids and ambushes [and] guerrilla organization." Particular attention was placed, he says, on "kidnap and assassination operations."

Unfortunately for the army, Lodge Act recruiting went more slowly than expected, and only 211 men (out of 5,272 applicants) had passed screening and actually enlisted by August 1952. Special Forces recruiters responded by easing the language and literacy requirements and by streamlining many of the security checks that had previously slowed the processing of volunteers.

Army Adjutant General Major General Edward Witsell ruled that the civilian immigration laws that barred ex-Nazis and collaborators from obtaining U.S. citizenship would not apply to the army's Lodge Act recruits. "[I]ndividuals enlisted under these regulations are not subject to exclusion from the United States under the provisions of the Internal Security Act or under the Immigration and Nationality Act . . . ," Witsell ordered, taking responsibility for screening émigrés out of the hands of civilian authorities altogether. True, "members . . . of any totalitarian party" were still barred from the United States under the army regulations, but ex-members of Fascist organizations were not, nor were veterans of armies that had made war on the United States. Witsell's unusual and probably unconstitutional decision seems to have gone entirely unnoticed at the time, perhaps because of the fact that the very existence of the ruling was withheld from the public under a classification of "Restricted-Security Information"

One result of this policy was that certain racist perspectives bordering on Nazi-style anticommunism persisted in the early Green Berets As Richard Harwood reported in the Washington Post some years later, "during those years, the Special Forces attracted recruits from Eastern Europe and old-line NCOs with single-minded views about 'fighting Communism.' . . . 'We had an awful lot of John Birch types then' says an officer with several years of experience in the Special Forces," Harwood writes. " 'They thought like Joe McCarthy.'

As puzzling as it may seem today, there is no question that the American army officers who recruited former Nazis into the Special Forces were motivated primarily by a hatred of totalitarianism. As they saw it, the Special Forces units were something of a creative maverick within the hidebound army, its members disdained shiny boots, army protocol, and just about anything that smacked of brass The Special Forces motto, "De Oppresso Liber " which the Green Berets translate as "From Oppression We Will Liberate Them," was not chosen for its public relations value, the slogan, like almost everything else about the forces, was generally kept secret in the early days. This catchphrase reflected the beliefs of the officers, or perhaps more accurately, it reflected what the officers thought that their beliefs were. In those simpler days the army staff could argue in complete seriousness that use of former Nazi collaborators as guerrillas behind Soviet lines would "prove . . . that our American way of life is approaching the ideal desired by all mankind."

In sum, the influx of former Nazis, Waffen SS veterans, and other Nazi collaborators into the United States during this period was not simply an oversight or an administrative glitch created by the inefficiencies of the INS. It was, rather, a central, though usually unacknowledged, aspect of U.S. immigration policy of the day, particularly as the program applied to refugees from the USSR and the Soviet-occupied states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. About 500,000 Eastern European exiles entered the United States under the Displaced Persons Act and the later Refugee Relief Act during this period, and it is obvious that relatively few of these immigrants were former Nazis or Waffen SS men and that of those who did fall into those categories, fewer still were war criminals. But even a small percentage of 500,000 people is a large number. Allan Ryan, the former director of the Justice Department's war criminal investigation unit, estimates that nearly 10,000 Nazi war criminals entered the United States during this period, although he rejects the suggestion that U.S. intelligence agencies had anything to do with this.

One of the most important characteristics of the war criminals who did come to the United States is that they did not arrive here as isolated individuals. As has been seen in the cases of the Croatian Ustachis, the Ukrainian OUN, and the Latvian Vanagis, to name only three, many of these immigrants were, in fact, part of experienced, highly organized groups with distinct political agendas that differed little from the Fascist programs they had promoted in their homelands. The anti-Communist paranoia of the McCarthy period gave these groups fertile soil in which to put down roots and to grow. In time they began to play a small but real role in the political life of this country.

Blowback - CSimpson

Fascism page


Index of Website

Home Page