United States. Congress. House. Committee on Veter.

Viewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 online

. (page 10 of 23)
Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 10 of 23)
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Fred O. Rush, Jr.

Paul J. Seton

William E. Speck

Theodore Yarboro. MD. MPH

Executive Director
Dwight Edwards, MEd



My name is John Arthur Liebert and 1 am a psychiatrist from Seattle, Washington, specializing in the clinical
and medicolegal problems of trauma and violence 1 was a flight surgeon in a transport squadron with
worldwide, logistics responsibilities, including the Republic of Vietnam, from 1964 through 1966 I later
entered psychiatry and spent two years as both Chief Resident and a Menial Hygiene Clinic psychiatnst at
the Seattle Veterans Hospital from 1966 through 1970 In 1969 1 presented one of the first papers on "Post-
Vietnam Syndrome" at the First Americtn Lake Veterans Hospital Symposium on the Returning

My subject today is the special problem of second injury caused by forced silence and disavowal of combat
histories in special operations and couniennsurgency veterans (Second Injury is best defined in the context
of studies of concentration camp survivors Holocaust survivors suffered second injury when their pre-arrest
psychiatric histones were considered by German psychiatrists for purposes of assessing medical damages in
reparations claims Obviously, such consideration following so extreme a traumatization, particularly amidst
the hygienic field of German psychiatry, compounded psychic numbing with a final kick of dehumanization)

The onginal title of my presentation on this subject lo the Amencan Academy of Forensic Sciences in 1980
was Marathon Man or Impostor? The Price of Covenip. 1 decided lo change ihe name of the paper,
because 1 thought that title would be presumptuous There is. however, validity in the onginal title, as the
case to be presented involves a question of identity for Matt, the inmate shown under the arrow in a county
jail line-up (Figure #1) The question was whether Matt was a 28 year-old offender who, after emerging
from the psychedlic drug scene following his 1970 honorable discharge as a non-combat lieutenant in Army
Special Forces, committed the prosaic cnme of armed robbery Was Malt, on the contrary, better
represented by the photograph of a clean-cut Army officer in Figure #2. honorably discharged in 1971 as a
Special Forces Captain with numerous combat medals The photograph in Figure t*2 was taken at
graduation from Officer's Candidate School in the United States Army , a fact the Government never

"Marathon man" aspects of this case denve from pre-sentence investigative findings establishing that Matt
most likely emerged from a complex military background, serving from 1966 through 1971 as a Special
Forces Captain in international, couniennsurgency warfare It was determined from that investigation that
psychiatnc detenoration led to ihe offender portrait you see in the 1974 jail line-up, (Figure *1) Another
"marathon man" aspect of this case denves from the military command for which he served, because Matt's
case IS not an expose' type of case related to CIA- but strictly nulitary

Matt was referred to me by his defense attorney in 1974 for pre-trial evaluation During commission of his
crime, he and his accomplice forced their way into a retail store in the Pacific Northwest When asked
whether he would have used the weapons found in his possession. Matt responded. "Heavens no I hate
guns, I saw too many people killed in Cambodia 1 am sick and 1 need a psychiatnst "

Matt stated he had been using hallucinogenic drugs for three weeks pnor to the crime He was, in fact, on
federal probation at the time of the cnme following conviction for conspiracy to manufacture hallucinogenic
drugs in 1972 That conviction followed his refijsal to both fijnction as an informant for the DEA and to
cooperate or answer questions in a 1972 grand jury investigation of organized crime activity in drug
trafficking This federal conviction followed one year from the date Malt stated he was discharged from
the Army, 1971 - but two years following his official discharge in 1970

There were no military records available at the time of my initial evaluation, but. af\er five interviews, I felt
there was credibility in his version of a military career terminating with federal and state charges His wife
told him that, unless he revealed his background to a psychiatnst, she would divorce him My examination,
therefore, was his first civilian disclosure of any complex military assignments

Following these interviews. I discovered that Matt was proficient in karate, ocean kayaking and wilderness
survival One day he stopped at my oflfice with his kyak on a car. he was heading for Alaska, prepared for
attack by gnzzly bears at beach campsites Further evidence of Matt's combat career and associated mental
disturbance was contained in the police report, which stated

"Within a matter of minutes the defendant's car was stopped by police officers and the
suspects were placed under arrest Found inside ihe car was the pack sack with the money
taken from the store and also found in the car ,va'i a loided 25 caliber semi-automatic
pistol, a loaded 9 mm semi-aulomalic pistol and a loaded 38 caliber revolver, an Ml nfle
for which there was a loaded clip in the car In addition to these weapons, two tear gas
canisters were also located "

Matt was fijrther descnbed by the victim in the robbery as "scraggly appeanng, but very cool "

Because of the paucity of documentation of Matt's military history, his attorney decided not lo use a
psychiatnc defense based on combat-induced neurosis (Posttraumatic Stess Disorder was not an acceptable
diagnosis at that time) and resultant dissociative reaction Instead, the attorney tned the case in an attempt
to eliminate the finding of fact, the deadly weapon's charge, which in the State of Washington would have
resulted in a mandatory minimum pnson sentence of five years


Matt was a poised and credible witness during the trial and withstood aggressive cross-examination
regarding the possession of a gun during the robbery The jury eliminated the firearm finding, and Matt was
convrcted of robbery without the finding of a deadly weapon At this pomt, he became eligible for probation
by Supenor Court in the Stale of Washington Complicating his Supenor Court disposition, however, was
a federal probation violation In Seattle Federal Distnct Court the likelihood of imprisonment following the
first probation violation is extremely high The stakes, therefore, were very high in this case when it was
referred to the Pre-sentence Investigation Unit of King County Superior Court There was an opportunity
to place Matt on probation, both federal and state, if his military history could be verified If however, he
was proven to be an impostor, imprisonment, both federal and stale, was a certainty Failure to convince
both federal and state court of the jeopardy of ignonng Malt's true military history would mean the
difference between 1 years of combined federal and slate imprisonment versus probation, and in my
opinion, eliminate the opportunity to restore his loyalty to the United States government I was afraid that
he would turn his counterterrorist skills against our government if invalidated by the second injury of final
disavowal from the United States Judiciary, because he was fluent in Marxist and Maoist rhetoric

The state pre-sentence investigative unit in Seattle was a multi-disciplinary team, retaining the services of
both a psychiatrist and psychologist At that time it was a model, federal LEAA program with unique
investigative capacity The staff psychologist stated in his report,

"It is important to note fi'om the outset that the subject represents a highly unusual case
for the unit in several ways First of all, it is a very complicated military history which has
sigruficant implications relative to his current function Secondly, many of the aspects of
his background required extensive corroboration due to conflicting data Third, much
of the data which we have uncovered is of a sensitive nature This latter aspect has
necessitated a confidential report in the writing of our reports The end result of all of this
is that the subject's evaluation represents the most extensive evaluation this unit has done
in terms of man hours, checking independent sources of information, preliminary staffing
and interviewing 1 believe it is fair to say that the limits of the unit were tested, and I

believe that the data generated here in making our recommendations to the court were
valid and complete"

The documents that I am presenting here, merely a thumb-nail sketch of the pre-sentence investigation,
represent approximately 500 hours of clinical and investigative time for the determination of whether a
recommendation for prison or probation was to be made to Supenor Court

The conflicting records start with the Army personnel records, not obtained until pre-sentence investigation.
The important factual question was whether this man had been in combat or not Figure #3 is a typewritten
confirmation of telephone information from the Army personnel center in St Louis In the second line,
"overseas duty" is scratched out and reference is made to "conscientious objector status" Military records
sent to the Pre-sentence Investigation Unit, therefore, designated him as a conscientious objector who. by
implication, had never seen any overseas duty This official version was confirmed in the Army's discharge
paper (Figure #4). showing him to be a Special Forces Lieutenant and Mortar Unit Leader stationed in the
Military District of Washington (DC ) dunng the peak years of the Vietnam War The United States
Attorney's Office verified this information

The investigators did not believe that conscientious objectors could enter Special Forces or, if so, that a
monar unit leader could be stationed in Washington DC during the four peak years of the Vietnam War,
1966-1970 At the bottom of Figure #5, a psychiatric report from Walter Reed Army Hospital concluded
with the diagnosis of Inadequate Personality Ultimately Matt's case revolved around this psychiatric
report It still does The psychiatric report appears to be a certificate leading to court martial Allegedly
Matt was referred to the psychiatrist, because he was wearing unauthorized Captains' bars and combat
ribbons In the second paragraph the psychiatrist continues,

"It made him feel pretty good, like he had been in the Republic of Vietnam Unable to
explain what prompted him to do this, he states, 'Never thought anyone would say

Matt's diagnosis, "Inadequate Personality", synonymous with Casper Milkioast, is no longer an accepted
diagnosis, because it has no validity Walter Reed Army Hospital was unable to find any record of a
psychiatnc examination having been performed on Matt I talked to the psychiatnst personally whose name
was on the document He was a psychiatric resident at the time of the alleged evaluation and had absolutely
no recollection of having either certified Matt for Court Manial or ever having examined anyone like Matt.
As a former military physician. I knew that a doctor would never forget a "Certificate" of this gravity His
response to my reading the document to him was, "It sounds like an amateur job"

The Pre-sentence Investigative Unit could find no record of either an agency or operation designated
"Student Detachment" ever having existed in Washington DC All of Matt's personnel records, however,
showed this information with the diagnosis of Inadequate Personality supporting disaplinary actions for
wearing unauthonzed Captains' bars It was later confirmed circumstantially, however, that he had infact
been a Captain in the United States Army

An investigator then talked to Matt's estranged ex-wife in an interview which required a 400 mile round trip
to the Indian Reservation where she resided She explained to the investigator that there had been a lot of


conflict in the marital relationship and that Matt had been gone most of the time She attributed their
trouble to the fact that "we never saw each other" She said that when Matt went on a mission, she only
knew by his absence. In 1970 he came home from demonstrating in the Washington DC riots all cut up,
and she had to clean blood off him She thought that his superior officers wanted her to divorce him,
because she was asking too many questions at the time

Matt was also interviewed by the head of the "Ted task force" in King County This task force was
established to investigate the disappearance of several women in the Pacific Northwest in the mid 70's The
case is currently cleared as the Ted Bundy case (3) Matt wanted to assist with information explonng the
possibilities of continued body dismemberment by some veterans after returning home The interviewer and
chief of this task force had recently returned from Vietnam, where he had served as a Captain in the
military police Additionally, the head of the pre-sentence investigation was also a former military police
Captain, recently returned from Vietnam Both these experienced cnminal and military investigators
established unequivicoally that Matt had been in combat in Vietnam despite official military records
denying both combat or any overseas duty

Matt's Army finance records at Fort Benjamin Hams had never been checked by investigators, so, I finally
located the custodian of the Army finance records My notes from the conversation, verified by a third
party, included such phrases as

"I am only the custodian here We won't stick our names on the line as to whether the
man was overseas or not We won't commit ourselves Our records are very sketchy with
large gaps in them which we cannot explain There are circumstances here that I would be
concerned about if it were my future "

Because of the pre-sentence findings, which impeached the official military records, Matt was placed on
state probation An aggressive attempt was made by King County Supenor Court to block his imprisonment
in a Federal facility The US Attorney's Office threatened to appeal the federal judge's authority to place
this man on probation following probation violation Matt was therefore committed to the federal prison
system where he was evaluated in the Federal medical facility at Springfield. Missouri by a federal prison
psychiatrist This psychiatrist reported,

"There is no evidence of a thought disorder At no time during my time with him could I
catch him in any way giving information that was false or deviant to that which he had
given before At no time has this individual appeared to be psychotic, although his
psychological testing showed a very high paranoid peak We should be aware that we
might be able to check fiirther into his military background although this may be quite
difficult "

Documents that were returned to me from the defense attorney placed him in a classified military unit with a
history of receiving a Vietnam campaign medal, silver star, purple heart and master parachutist with two
years, one month and eight days of overseas service " ( Figure 6 ) Matt's Effectiveness Repon for Special
Forces Training placed him in the 94th percentile of his class and thereby impeached the psychiatnc report
officially diagnosing him as "Casper Milktoast"- or Inadequate Personality (Figure 7)

The consequences of these convoluted legal proceedings include disqualification for Veterans Administration
benefits following final appeal in Washington DC There was no attorney throughout his appeal because of
the maximum allowable legal fee of $10 00 per case I functioned as the subject's advocate, offering to
testify at the Appeal Board without expense to the United States government I was never invited to testify
Mart's Veterans Admimstration appeal was denied because of pre-existing Inadequate Personality and
military records establishing that he had never served overseas He was therefore found ineligible for
combat-related disability Matt's social security appeal, however, was successful This appeal was the
culmination of an extensive hearing that lasted well into the night Coincidentally, the federal administrative
judge hearing this case had expenence with medical retirements of sensitive military personnel His ruling
was as follows

"The administrative law judge was impressed quite favorably by the desire of the claimant,
his wife, his doctor and his attorney to get the claimant's military records straight and now
to recogiuze the claimant's true service to his country The subject is a very intelligent
individual who may be able to return to a more normal life and again be regularly
employed when time and counseling dim the urpleasani mernones of '.he Special Forces
missions After carefijl consideration of all the evidence of record, the administrative law
judge finds that the disability earning requirements are met "

Official federal personnel records, including what appears to be a fraudulant psychiatric report, were
impeached as evidence in this hearing

One of the problems with this case was that consultants had only sparse documents oriented towards specific
questions I decided that if I were to obtain consultation in this case, I would provide background, or at
least a probable context, for a case such as Matts This background was not familiar to me, although 1 had
been a military physiaan assigned to a complex military mission


A couple of vignettes from my notes on Matt's case help to personalize and perhaps clarify it The last
comment the subject made when I asked him, "Now, how do you explain this conflict in your records'* How
do you explain the dispanty - the bizarreness''" He responded,

"I was TDY only, never permanently stationed I was always TDY. There were no
written records kept I am expendable "

In jail I asked him the same question His response was,

"Dr , all 1 can say is that in war. truth is the first casualty Men are second "

In the Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, a comprehensive discussion of US Military involvement in the
interdiction of opium supplies from Chmese warlords in the Golden Triangle explains the Golden Retriever
entry That operation continues, likely under a different name and agency It has always involved full-scale
combat, and does to this day (Figure 6)

1 have examined eight veterans of special operations since 1974 In general they tend to be highly
intelligent, with both a history of athletic success in high school and early recognition, upon arrival in-
country, that large scale military operations were more dangerous than either being on their own or attached
to multi-national units, including Australians and Koreans These men bond in psychotherapy and succeed in
real life, probably at a higher rate than their cohort of combat veterans Their military records run the gamut
from total disavowal of any overseas duty to non-combat. PCS or TDY transfers to Vietnam

Roy was allegededly a non-combatant who served several tours of duty in Vietnam as a motor pool
specialist He received a bullet wound to his head Tom. a marine who recently died, officially had eight
weeks TDY as a non-combatant in a MACV motor pool A Veterans Hospital staff was able to confirm the
validity of more than two years of special operations with a multi-national counterinsurgency unit for Tom

In all my cases, where DD2l4s disavowed overseas duty under hostile fire, pay records confirm the
opposite In three cases of Factitious post Vietnam Syndrome, wherein men falsely claim Posttraumatic
Stress Disorder from special operations in Vietnam, they were all unable to produce documentation on either
a DD214 or their finance records of overseas service under hostile fire

One very convincing case, an inner city police officer with Urban Survival Syndrome from recent combat
with gangs, admitted deception, stating "I wasn't in Vietnam. I was on my way I feel like I was there "
The other two cases of Factitious Post-Vietnam Syndrome suffer from pathological narcissism with no
evidence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder It is not always easy to diagnose Factitious Post-Vietnam
Syndrome, however, from a man's presentation, other than when he presents with robust evidence of
pathological narassism, but the scope of this problem demands that more credibility be given their
presentations within the VA clinical system Reckless and naive disavowal of combat histones repeats the
blatant errors of German psychiatry following WW II Holocaust survivors claiming reparations were
arrogantly and ignorantly confronted with facts of their pre-arrest neuroses Such disavowal, in other
words, dehumanizes these veterans, thereby causing second injury to them and risking violence

To understand the bulk of current and officially disavowed veterans, however, a brief historical review of the
public record regarding special operations during the Vietnam War is necessary The secret Viet Cong
terrorist network in South Vietnam, known as VCI. provided logistics support to incoming Viet Cong
raiders, guides and intelligence for incoming north Vietnamese Army units and taxation as well as
conscnption of south Vietnamese citizens It is estimated that direct acts of terrorism by the VCI caused
6,000 deaths, including 1200 hand-picked assassinations of South Vietnamese civilians Of these
assassination victims, 350 were village and hamlet chiefs Nearly 15,000 south Vietnamese civilians were
wounded by the VCI terrorist network

This VCI was so successfiil that in 1966 President Johnson appointed Robert Komer to develop an
alternative to our conventional military operations and hopelessly entangled intelligence network, to date
unsuccessfiji in checking VCI operational successes

"VCI provided pervasive and insidious threat to eventual victory in Vietnam
making destruction of the VCI our most formidable task", according to MACV
Report dated 6/29/67

Phoenix became the code name for a new, unified and coordinated counterintelligence and counterterrorist
program to destroy the VCI at provincial, district and central levels To that point there were often more
allied operatives in a district than there were counterpart VCI cadre to detect, but there was no coordinated
command structure The new counterterrorist operation, as pan of President Johnson's other war, was
named Phoenix, afler a bird of Egyptian mythology that nses renewed from the ashes of its funeral pyre
Ironically, The Phoenix is also associated with discovery of immortality in medieval alchemy In Vietnam,
however Phoenix meant total destruction of a Viet Cong "government of the night" that employed an
estimated 80,000 officials and bureaucrats in a shadow south Vietnamese government "Exploitation" as
documents euphemistically refer to these special operations, were accomplished by secret, small-unit
missions, usually at night, into hamlets considered either VCI controlled or contested.


On the heels of the Tet Offensive in 1968, this program deactivated 16,000 VCI officials Under
Westmoreland, Komer directed this program, designated Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development
Support (CORDS) He was succeeded by William Colby on 1 1/6/68 The summary of Colby's instructions

"The Phoenix program was one of advise, support and assistance to Phung Hung (a
parallel RVN-Phoenix program) operations against the VCI, to include collection of
intelligence identifying its members, inducmg them to abandon their allegiance to the VC
(47,000 did in 1969) and rally to the government, captunng and anesting them in order to
bring them before provincial security committees for lawful sentencing and, as a final
resort, the use of military or police force against them, if no other way of preventing them
from their unlawful activities is possible "

Colby further reported that in 1969, 19,534 VCI oflRciaJs were captured, and 6187 were executed Each
distnct intelligence coordination center, DICOC, had United States military officers assigned for this project.
Reportedly, a total of 450 United States military personnel were assigned to Phoenix, and 20,000 VCI
officials and bureaucrats were ultimately killed in Phoenix, allegedly through unuitended fire fights or while
resisting arrests

As declassification of our operations in Vietnam proceeds, I believe it will be demonstrated that there were
far more US military personnel, particularly non-commissioned personnel, assigned to the Phoenix project
They included Navy Seals, Navy Medics, Air Force personnel, Mannes and Special Forces 1 believe it will
also be reported that, af^er 1968, when CORDS de-emphasized counter-insurgency operations in favor of
pure intelligence gathenng, other Phoenix projects were initiated under DIA and other commands, perhaps

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 10 of 23)