Return to

August 22, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

POWs in Pyongyang
We have obtained a Defense Intelligence Agency report that states four American prisoners of war from the Korean War were sighted in North Korea in 1993.

A North Korean defector reported seeing the four POWs at the Changkwangsan Hotel coffee shop in Pyongyang in August or September of 1993.

The POWs were described as being in their 50s or 60s and were under the control of the North Korean military's reconnaissance bureau. They were in the North Korean capital to give a lecture on American "armed power."

The POWs were being transported in a Mercedes-Benz.

The report, declassified at the request of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs, also said that as of 1990 at least 10 U.S. prisoners, including "an unknown number of black men," were being held by North Korea in the Sungho district of Pyongyang.

Also, in 1986 two Americans were spotted in Pyongyang teaching "western customs, western lifestyle and English" at a North Korean Communist Party school.

The defector stated that he estimates that as many 60 American POWs are in North Korea.

The declassified DIA report comes after admissions by North Korea that its intelligence services kidnapped Japanese nationals and held them for decades.

Japan's government wants the issue of its abducted nationals to be raised during the six-party talks with North Korea on its nuclear program. American POW activists want the issue of missing American soldiers in North Korea raised at the Beijing talks as well, we are told.

Iraqi dishes
Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld took time out after yesterday's Pentagon briefing to talk to a girl sitting in the back of the briefing room.

The girl asked the general what is happening in Iraq that is good.

"Television dishes," Gen. Abizaid said. "There are television dishes literally everywhere in Baghdad" that Saddam Hussein had banned.

"And if you go now and you fly around Iraq, you see television dishes everywhere broadcasting all the bad news," the four-star general said.

Stumpf debate
The forced retirement of Navy Capt. Robert Stumpf served as a rally cry for pro-military groups who decried the Navy's "politically correct" direction. The episode got new life last year, when the Bush administration overruled a Clinton administration decision not to promote Capt. Stumpf because of his attendance at the infamous 1991 Tailhook convention. The Navy promoted him retroactively, with back pay, last year.

Now, the episode has reared up again this time on an anti-PC Web site, Rear Adm. Clarence A. "Mark" Hill Jr. penned an article titled "The Stumpf Affair."

Adm. Hill attacked the Navy for failing to defend the F-18 pilot and Gulf war hero when the Senate Armed Services Committee urged Navy Secretary John H. Dalton to rescind his promotion. Mr. Dalton initially backed Capt. Stumpf's promotion, but then backed off under intense committee pressure.

Adm. Hill's article drew a sharp reply from Mr. Dalton, who has generally stayed silent on the matter all these years. In a rebuttal to Adm. Hill, the former Navy secretary said he fought hard to win the promotion from commander to captain. But Mr. Dalton argued that the Defense Department inspector general had "documented instances of misconduct on Capt. Stumpf's part which cast grave doubt on his fitness to serve in a position of leadership."

Mr. Dalton's response stirred up the anger of Charles Gittins, Capt. Stumpf's attorney in the ordeal. Mr. Gittins wrote to the association that the IG never reached such a conclusion.

After Mr. Dalton ordered another investigation, Capt. Stumpf concluded the action was meant to wear him down, so he retired.

"Commander Stumpf rightly identified the political climate and decided to pursue his promotion after Secretary Dalton left office with the effect that the record clearly demonstrated what Dalton apparently was unable to see Commander Stumpf was a superior naval officer who was destined for flag rank and who happened to be in Las Vegas on the wrong Saturday night."

The ultimate decision to promote Capt. Stumpf was made by William Navas Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, on July 23, 2002.

"I conclude at this time that an injustice has resulted in not promoting petitioner to the grade of captain," wrote Mr. Navas.

He authorized the Board of Correction of Naval Records to amend Capt. Stumpf's personnel file to show he retired as a captain, with date of rank of July 1, 1995.

Special-ops rule
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week confirmed that the current Senate Intelligence authorization bill contains "side language" that if passed into law could lead to new constraints on the use of special-operations forces.

"We do not believe there is a constraint that's operative at the present time," Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting that two different Senate committees are dealing with the "complicated" issue.

After The Washington Times reported that a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence contains language that would require the military to obtain a presidential directive before deploying special operations commandos in some cases, Mr. Rumsfeld said he discussed the matter with the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"And I'm told that in discussions with the Armed Services Committee that that's not the case; that there was some side language in a report in the intel committee that suggested that, but the Armed Services Committee seems not to think that's a problem, and I certainly hope that's the case," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

"And if it's not the case, we would have to have more discussions and figure out how we sort it out, because in the global war on terror and the kind of an environment we're in, the security environment we're in, there is no question but that the special-operations people have been utilized to a much greater extent than previously and undoubtedly will be prospectively," he said during a Pentagon town hall meeting.

Weldon vs. Rummy
Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, is venting his anger at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over his department's failure to consult. It's a somewhat frequent complaint from Republican lawmakers toward this administration. But unlike most, Mr. Weldon is putting his unhappiness on the record in writing.

Mr. Weldon is sponsoring an amendment in the pending House defense authorization bill that would create a Commission on Nuclear Strategy of the United States. The Pentagon opposes the commission, but Mr. Weldon said it did not let him know.

In an Aug. 14 letter to Mr. Rumsfeld, the congressman said he was "dismayed" the Pentagon chose to oppose the commission "without making any effort to first consult with me and other congressional sponsors."

"More astounding than the lack of professional courtesy," Mr. Weldon wrote, "is the complete absence of logic in the department's opposition to the commission."

The Pentagon contends a commission would be redundant, since Mr. Rumsfeld's policy-makers already have produced the Nuclear Posture Review. Mr. Weldon, chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on procurement, says Congress has an oversight role and its commission would serve that purpose. In his letter, Mr. Weldon said he had gone to the mat several times for Mr. Rumsfeld in backing his nuclear programs in "razor thin victories."

"In response," the congressman writes, "the department has chosen to turn its back on my efforts and publicly oppose my legislation without so much as the courtesy of a phone call. Given that stand, I will be hard pressed to continue to fight the department's battles on these issues in Congress in the future."

Roche's future
September is crunch time for Air Force Secretary James Roche. On the fourth, he testifies to Congress on his deal to lease tanker jets from Boeing. Later, he goes before the Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing as Army secretary.

Mr. Roche's main opponent is Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who believes the tanker contract is a sweetheart deal from Boeing. We hear that while Mr. McCain likely will vote against Mr. Roche's nomination, he will not block a Senate vote.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    Return to