CIA to Release Records on Cold War Spymaster German General Reinhard Gehlen
Press Release · Wednesday, September 20, 2000
Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group
|Thomas H. Baer, Los Angeles
Richard Ben-Veniste, Washington DC
John E. Collingwood, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Elizabeth Holtzman, New York
|Michael J. Kurtz (Chair), National Archives and Records Administration
Harold J. Kwalwasser, Office of the Secretary of Defense
William H. Leary, National Security Council
Kenneth J. Levit, Central Intelligence Agency
|David Marwell, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Eli M. Rosenbaum, Department of Justice
William Z. Slany, Department of State
Today, citing the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, the Central Intelligence Agency filed an affidavit in U. S. District Court acknowledging an intelligence relationship with German General Reinhard Gehlen that it has kept secret for fifty years. The CIA's court filing today in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal of researcher Carl Oglesby admitted the Gehlen relationship. The CIA stated that it has records related to Gehlen and pledged that it will process them for release in accordance with the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. The CIA cited a commitment to conform to the spirit of the Disclosure Act as the primary reason for its release decision at this time.
For the better part of two years, the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), established under the Act, has overseen the declassification and release of records of the U.S. Government related to war crimes and war criminals of World War II.
The CIA's announcement marks the first acknowledgement by that agency that it had any relationship with Gehlen and opens the way for declassification of records about the relationship. Gehlen, who had served as Hitler's most senior military intelligence officer on the eastern front, was one of the ex-Nazis who became a U. S. intelligence resource after the war. He ran an extensive network of spies with Nazi and collaborationist backgrounds known as the Gehlen Organization. The network was aimed at the Soviet Union during the postwar period, and purportedly received millions in U.S. funding.
Working immediately after the war with Army Intelligence, the Gehlen Organization became the responsibility of the CIA, which continued the relationship until 1956. One document released by the IWG on June 26, 2000, shows an early connection between the Strategic Services Unit (predecessor of the CIA) and Gehlen's group. The SSU searched for members of Gehlen's organization in POW camps and extensively interrogated them. As the Cold War developed during 1946, American intelligence officials found themselves lacking recent experience with Soviet intelligence activities and decided to use German experts on the Soviet Union-even though some may have been war criminals.
In addition to the task of declassifying records related to the Holocaust and war crimes during World War II, the IWG is responsible for identifying and overseeing declassification of records of post-war activities involving the use of Axis war criminals. Gehlen's organization fits into that category.
Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the IWG, said "This shows that the law is working. We now must work closely with the Agency to follow through with the release of these records." The IWG coordinates the transfer and release of records at the National Archives and Records Administration and notifies the public when they are available for study.
This page was last reviewed on October 16, 2019.
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