Judicial Watch Sues Department of Defense for Records on American POWs Held Captive in Cuba
MARCH 22, 2016
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense to obtain records about American prisoners of war (POWs) who may have been held captive by Cuban government or military forces on the island of Cuba. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:16-cv-00151)).
The Judicial Watch lawsuit was filed after the Defense Department failed to comply with a June 1, 2015, FOIA request seeking access to the following:
Any and all records depicting the names, service branch, ranks, Military Occupational Specialty, and dates and locations of capture of all American servicemen believed to have been held captive by Cuban government or military forces on the island of Cuba since 1960.
Responding to the lawsuit, the Department of Defense initially claimed to have no responsive records.
An opinion piece published in Accuracy in Media by John Lowery, describes at least 17 U.S. airmen captured during the Vietnam War and reportedly brought to Cuba for “medical experiments in torture techniques.” When U.S. Navy F-4 Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Clemie McKinney’s plane was shot down in April 1972, he was reportedly held in the Cuban compound called Work Site Five in North Vietnam. The Department of Defense reportedly said he was killed in the crash but a CIA document later published included a picture of McKinney standing next to Fidel Castro. Lowery also reported:
More than 13 years later, on August 14, 1985, the North Vietnamese returned Lt. McKinney’s remains, reporting that he died in November 1972. However, a U.S. Army forensic anthropologist established the “time of death as not earlier than 1975 and probably several years later.” The report speculated that he had been a guest at Havana’s Los Maristas prison, with his remains returned to Vietnam for repatriation. (We also paid big money for the remains—delivered in stacks of green dollars to Hanoi aboard an AF C-141 from Travis AFB, California.) Unfortunately, our servicemen held in the Cuban POW [prisoner of war] camp near Work Site Five (Cong Truong Five), along with those in two other Cuban run camps were never acknowledged nor accounted for and the prisoners simply disappeared.
In 1999, during testimony before Congress, Mike Benge, former prisoner of war (POW) and POW historian stated: “I have also uncovered evidence of the possibility that American POWs from the Vietnam War have been held in Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro’s G-2 intelligence service.”
American POWs describe Cuban interrogators in a Hanoi prison as the Zoo. Cuba reportedly provided personnel who helped improve the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was used by the communists to support military attacks against U.S. military forces in Vietnam.
“The fact that we had to sue the Obama administration to get simple answers as to whether Cuba held and tortured American POWs strongly suggests that a cover-up is underway,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration admires Castro’s Cuba so much that even the fate of the regimes victims, even American POWs, is of little concern. I have a feeling that President Obama won’t be raising this issue with the Cuban regime this week.”