On 10 April 1997, the President’s National Security Adviser indicated in a letter to the Senate Majority Leader that he would direct the Intelligence Community to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Vietnam’s cooperation with the United States on Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) issues. Terms of Reference for the estimate were formulated by the National Intelligence Council and coordinated with members of the Intelligence Community and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The draft estimate was presented to the Military Intelligence Board and the National Foreign Intelligence Board for approval in April 1998, and NIE 98-03, “Vietnamese Intentions, Capabilities, and Performance Concerning the POW/MIA Issue,” was published in May 1998.
Senator Robert C. Smith issued A Critical Assessment of the NIE in November 1998 and asked that the Military Intelligence Board and the National Foreign Intelligence Board retract the estimate for reasons cited in his assessment. In January 1999, the Director of Central Intelligence advised. Senator Smith that both boards had voted unanimously to let the estimate stand, describing it as an accurate assessment of current knowledge and understanding of the POW/MIA issue. Senator Smith continued to demand that the estimate be retracted and, on 18 March 1999, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence requested that the Inspectors General of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense examine the estimate and the charges made in the Critical Assessment. We began a joint inquiry in mid-April 1999.