Sunday, December 29, 2013

CIA Cannot Confirm or Deny Having Files on Infamous Nazi Doctor

Some things never fail to surprise. And surprise was my reaction to my recent FOIA request at the MuckRock website on a notorious Nazi doctor who had been tried at Nuremberg. The CIA returned a "Glomar" response to my FOIA on Doctor Kurt Blome.

The CIA wrote, "In accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request."

Towards the end of the article, and quoted in full, is my appeal of this decision to the CIA. It is published here as a public service, to educate the public about an aspect of the war fought by the "greatest generation," that is not fully explored in a Tom Hanks movie or even a decent World War II history book. (A "no responsive records" on a similar FOIA to the FBI is also being appealed. A FOIA request to the Army has not received any response thus far.)

Glomar responses are considered in cases of "sensitive national security." Just how sensitive a national security issue can it be to admit the CIA has or does not have files on Kurt Blome? For those who are trying to get the truth out of the government on a multitude of different issues, beyond which whistleblowers like Edward Snowden or Chelsea (formerly "Bradley") Manning have been able to provide us, the fact that information more than 60 years old is so sensitive that the government can't admit or deny knowledge of it boggles the imagination.

As readers may or may not be aware, I've been researching the allegations that the U.S. used biological weapons during the Korean War. The charges are still considered valid in China and North Korea, and along with the connivance of the United States in covering up Japanese biological and chemical warfare and medical experimentation in China during World War II, the truth or falsity of these charges are still a hot-button issue in Asia. (My recent article on the subject showed documentary proof that the U.S. was lying, at least in part, publicly about what was going on, and also showed that the U.S. was possibly involved in chemical warfare in Korea as well!)

A South Korean newspaper, The Chosunilbo, responding to Japan's latest provocation -- a visit by Prime Minister Abe to the notorious Yakasuna war shrine, where war criminals from World War II are buried -- reported, "By visiting Yasukuni, Abe has made it clear that he does not intend to back down from a diplomatic and even military confrontation with South Korea and China over the issue of whitewashing his country's wartime atrocities, Tokyo's flimsy colonial claim to South Korea's Dokdo islets and other territorial issues. It is obvious that he will push ahead with his rightwing agenda at all costs."

But what's all this got to do with Nazis, you may ask?

The research took me to the issue of the Nazis' own biological warfare program. According to the Nuremberg trial record, and the few histories on the subject written since, the Nazi doctor Kurt Blome was in charge of the National Socialists' "bacteriological warfare" program. He had built a testing facility in Posen, Poland, reportedly not too different from the Unit 731 facility in Ping Fan. It was captured by the Soviets, but Blome got away. He was later captured by the Americans, and interrogated by the secretive ALSOS group. He was tried as part of the famous Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg, but was acquitted. Some have implicated a deal was made with him for his BW information, and what he could tell the Americans about other Nazi scientists.

My research into the Unit 731 story had led me to track down the intelligence (OSS/Central Intelligence Group) connections of one primary figure involved in the decision to give amnesty to the Japanese BW war criminals, in exchange for getting BW (and other) data from them for use by U.S. scientists working at Ft. Detrick (and likely, too, for the Special Operations Division there, working on poisons and mind control research for the CIA). (This is the subject of an article to come, so I'm not going to give many details on who that intelligence person was.)

So I thought I should at least send a FOIA on Kurt Blome to the CIA. After all, according to historians Ute Deichmann, Linda Hunt, and Tom Bower, Blome had been a candidate for Army's Operation Paperclip, which sought out Nazi scientists to bring to the U.S. (like Werner von Braun). But presumably the U.S. Foreign Office or State Department balked on bringing this Nazi zealot to the America. After he was released from U.S. custody, he was interviewed by Ft. Detrick scientists, and subsequently, was said to be employed by the United States as a "camp doctor" at the European Command Intelligence Center at Oberursel, West Germany.

Now why, I wondered, was a Nazi doctor hired at the largest U.S. interrogation facility in post-World War II Europe? Moreover, why did Blome's trail end there? (A few sources state he was later arrested by the French and jailed, but I can find no clear documentary evidence of this.)

For the record, and I believe the readers' interest, I'd like to quote a bit from the June 16, 1947 closing brief at the Doctors Trial at Nuremberg for the United States of America versus Kurt Blome:
Blome was Deputy Reich Health Leader and Deputy Leader of the Reich Chamber of Physicians and the National Socialist Physicians' Association. He was a close collaborator of [Reich Health Leader, Leonardo] Conti, who was in direct charge of the civilian health service. By virtue of these positions, Blome held considerable power and influence. He knew that concentration camp inmates were being systematically used in criminal medical experiments. 

As the responsible head of bacteriological warfare, Blome personally suggested and carried out criminal experiments in that field. In the same connection he had poisons tested on human subjects and reported to Himmler on this matter.

Blome had full knowledge of the murderous freezing experiments by [SS doctor Sigmund] Rascher, supported his efforts to gain admission as an academic lecturer on that subject, and, as a member of the Reich Research Council, personally issued a research assignment to Rascher for further freezing experiments. He collaborated with Rascher in the Polygal experiments, during which inmates were shot and killed. He also issued a research assignment to Rascher in support of these experiments.

Blome had knowledge of [August] Hirt's [mustard] gas experiments in Natzweiler and furthered his work by issuing an assignment from the Reich Research Council.

As Deputy Reich Health Leader, Blome worked with the murderer [Arthur Karl] Greiser, Gauletier of Warthegan, who among other things assisted in the extermination of Jews in that area of Poland....
Historian, Michael H. Kater, in his book Doctors Under Hitler, said that Blome was one of a number of German doctors who were "instrumental not only in developing and introducing the Nuremberg race legislation but also in creating the severity with which its various enactments affected German Jews and the murderous ramifications thereafter" (p. 182)

Despite the crimes involved here, the story of U.S. government refusal to release records, and particularly obfuscation by the CIA, is nothing new. According to a 2005 Reuters story, "the CIA has refused to disclose documents about its postwar dealings with former Nazis who have not been accused of war crimes but belonged to organizations like the German Nazi party and the SS, congressional officials said. Some of the material is believed to deal with former Nazis who joined the allied Cold War effort against the Soviet Union in Europe, the officials said."

Former New York Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman told UPI at the same time as the Reuters article, "I think that the CIA has defied the law, and in so doing has also trivialized the Holocaust, thumbed its nose at the survivors of the Holocaust and also at Americans who gave their lives in the effort to defeat the Nazis in World War II."

What follows is the text of my FOIA appeal to the CIA:
December 12, 2013

Agency Release Panel
c/o Susan Viscuso
Information and Privacy Coordinator
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC 20505

Reference: F-2014-00114

Dear Agency Release Panel:

This letter constitutes an administrative appeal to the Agency Release Panel, such appeal being guaranteed by Section 3.5(e) of Executive Order 13526.

I am writing to appeal the determination by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with regard to my FOIA request filed on October 23, 2013, reference number F-2014-00114, for "all files pertaining to the former Nazi doctor Kurt Blome.”

The CIA response of November 6, 2013 indicated that, in accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA could “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive” to my request. CIA’s notification continued, “The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended, and section 102A(i)(l) of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended.” This will be referred hereafter in this appeal by the popular name given to such a rejection, i.e., as a “Glomar” response.

The following are my reasons for appeal:

1) Some information related to cooperation Kurt Blome gave to both the military and intelligence agencies of the US government have already been released and are in the public record, and is further discussed below.

2) In her book, "Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists and Project Paperclip, 1945-1990" (St. Martin’s Press, 1991), Linda Hunt noted that Kurt Blome had been interrogated as part of the Alsos missions at the end of World War II. Alsos was jointly staffed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the Manhattan Project, and Army Intelligence (G-2), and mandated to investigate enemy scientific developments. The investigation included biological weapons. From the Nuremberg trial, where Blome was a defendant, we know that he was involved in biological weapons research for the Nazi government.

3) The record of Blome’s Alsos interrogation is in the public domain. See Alsos interrogation at the National Archives in the Kurt Blome INSCOM dossier XE001248. Arrest reports: in Blome's Nuremberg arrest file, Record Group (RG) 238, NARS.

INSCOM stands for U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.

Blome’s status as an accused defendant in the Nuremberg proceedings is well-known. The records of that trial are public domain, and it is difficult to believe that the CIA has no files or records or reports that discuss Blome in relation to the war crimes charges or the trial itself.

At the trial, it came out that Blome admitted at the Nuremberg Trial that he had been head of an institute in Posen that did research on biological warfare for the Nazis. Experiments had been carried out on Soviet prisoners-of-war as part of this research. See The Nuremberg Medical Trial, 1946/47 (Walter de Gruyter, 2001), p. 56.

4) Kurt F. L. Blome (F. L. for Friedrich Ludwig, the middle names of the same Kurt Blome who is the subject of my FOIA request and this appeal) is mentioned by name in a declassified list of “Foreign Scientist Case Files, 1945-1958”, part of the scientists who signed up to work for the U.S. government as part of Operation Paperclip, or the later Project 63. See URL:

5) After Blome was acquitted at the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial in August 1947, according to Hunt’s book, two months later, “four representatives of Fort Detrick -- the Maryland army base that was also headquarters of the CIA's biological warfare program -- interviewed Blome about biological warfare…. During a lengthy interview Blome identified biological warfare experts and their locations and described different methods of conducting biological warfare.” (p. 180) Blome was ultimately given a position working for the Americans at Camp King interrogation center, Oberursel, West Germany.

The Fort Detrick interrogation is known from Blome’s INSCOM dossier and his Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) dossier, RG 330, NARS.

According to the National Archives website, JIOA was “was established in 1945 as a subcommittee of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The JIC served as the intelligence arm of the JCS, responsible for advising the JCS on the intelligence problems and policies and furnishing intelligence information to the JCS and the Department of State. The JIC was composed of the Army's director of intelligence, the chief of naval intelligence, the assistant chief of Air Staff-2, and a representative of the Department of State.”

“The JIOA was given direct responsibility for operating the foreign scientist program, initially code-named Overcast and subsequently code-named Paperclip.” (URL:

Hence, the fact that Blome acted as an “intelligence source” for U.S. intelligence circles is no secret.

6) Some of the information that Blome could have given interrogators has been pieced together from German archives. The German historian, Ute Deichmann in her book, "Biologists Under Hitler" (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996) mentions, as an example of this kind of information, the Wolfram Sievers at the Institut fur Zeitgeschichte (MA 1406/1).

In these diaries, Blome is described as having conducted neutron radiation experiments, as well as making plans to carry out experiments with bacterial pathogens (p. 417).

7) According to BBC television producer Tom Bower in his book, "The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists" (Little, Brown & Company, 1987), it is public record that Kurt Blome was hired by the U.S. Chemical Corps in August 1951 and certified by U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John McCloy, as “not likely to become [a] security threat to the US” (p. 254) Bower gives as citation for this material RG 330 JIOA case file, “Blome,” in the National Archives.

8) The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (P.L. 105-246, 5 U.S.C. § 552) mandated that Government agencies, including the CIA, take necessary steps necessary to declassify and open remaining classified records related to Nazi war criminals and criminality. This included “any person with respect to whom the United States Government, in its sole discretion, has grounds to believe ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion, during the period beginning on March 23, 1933, and ending on May 8, 1945, under the direction of, or in association with…. the Nazi government of Germany”.

This law included an exception that would “reveal the identity of a confidential human source, or reveal information about the application of an intelligence source or method, or reveal the identity of a human intelligence source when the unauthorized disclosure of that source would clearly and demonstrably damage the national security interests of the United States.

While there is an exception made similar to that which the CIA claimed in its “Glomar” response to my FOIA request, I would argue from the information above that there is already a good deal about Kurt Blome in the public record that likely is in CIA files, and withholding such information because of a possible revelation re an intelligence or methods source is a moot issue.

While there may be aspects of the request that could still be denied under one or another FOIA exemption, I would ask that the elements of the files and other information from my original request that can segregably be released, be so released.

In conclusion, I ask that the Agency Release Panel reconsider its “Glomar” decision to neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to my request.

I have shown that there is already a documentary of both the interrogation and employment of Kurt Blome by U.S. military and intelligence sources. I have shown that Kurt Blome is known to have been a used as an intelligence and/or methods resource after he came under U.S. custody. I have further shown that some of Kurt Blome’s expertise in scientific matters that may have been of interest to U.S. intelligence, and hence the CIA, has already been made public in German archives.

Finally, I would argue that lacking any reason to consider information on Kurt Blome something subject to a “Glomar” denial, it is also important to consider that it was the legislative intent of the United States Congress, in a law signed by the President of the United States, to release information related to Nazi war criminals or possible criminality by such persons.

According to the CIA’s own website, the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act was “the largest congressionally mandated, single-subject declassification effort in history, and a special website at the CIA was set aside to openly display documents the CIA released under this act. (URL:

In the spirit of that Act, and of the CIA’s own efforts to release information according to such lawful request and special effort, and given that so much about Kurt Blome has already gone into the public record concerning his activities as an intelligence and/or methods resource, and, finally, given the blood and treasure the citizens of the United States spent in fighting the Nazis, I ask that the “Glomar” exception be removed and my FOIA request appropriately processed.

I look forward to receiving your decision on this appeal in a timely fashion. If you have any questions, or believe discussion of this matter would be beneficial, please contact me or MuckRock News.


My thanks to both Jason Leopold and NSA Archive for their assistance, online and off, for help in understanding the Glomar experience!

[Update, 2/9/2014: In a letter dated January 22, 2014, the CIA responded to my appeal letter with the statement, "Your appeal has been accepted and arrangements are being made for its consideration by the Agency Release Panel."]

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