WASHINGTON — Two former servicemen Wednesday gave a Senate committee three photographs they said showed several Americans left behind in Southeast Asia after the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but they said they did not know the names of the men and would not reveal their sources.
Former Army Maj. Mark Smith and former Sgt. Melvin McIntire, both from North Carolina, gave copies of the photos to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee under subpoena requiring that they present evidence they claimed to have of Americans being held against their will in Southeast Asia.
One photo showed three people standing by a lake, another showed one man in a shadow in a room and a third showed a man holding a rifle. Smith presented photocopies of three photographs but agreed to provide the originals in two days.
Not Prisoners' Photos
However, in an interview after his testimony, Smith said he did not contend that the three photographed Americans were being held prisoner, but that they remained in Laos after the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia in 1975 and probably had information about Americans still being held prisoner there.
The two had failed to appear at an earlier hearing to present what Smith had said would be conclusive evidence that Americans remain prisoners in Southeast Asia.
The two also gave the committee a map of Laos and surrounding countries marked with locations where Smith said Americans have been held prisoner at one time or another since 1975.
Their evidence was met with skepticism by several senators on the panel, including a former prisoner of war, Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.)
"They don't appear to be people held in restraint," Denton said, referring to the photographs. "I don't see anything in these papers . . . any tangible evidence that POWs . . . are the subject of any evidence here."
Smith said he has other evidence, including the names of Americans still held prisoner, but that he has not presented it to the committee because he was concerned about leaks of information by the panel.
"I do want to make perfectly clear," Smith said, "that these photographs were provided to me by a source in Thailand and depict, according to this source, who I consider to be reliable, Americans who were left in Southeast Asia at the conclusion of the Vietnam War."
The committee chairman, Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska), said before their appearance Wednesday that Smith and McIntire's failure to appear last month cast doubt on their credibility.
"I think it's fair to say some of us are beginning to question the reliability of this information," he said.
Smith, a former POW, told the committee under oath in January that he had photographs, locations and names of more than 30 Americans held in Southeast Asia.