November 21, 2008

Airbridge Denial Program: Murder in the Andean Skys

Report says CIA withheld info from White House
Fri Nov 21
The CIA withheld information from the White House, Justice Department and Congress about the 2001 shooting down of a plane over Peru carrying an American missionary family, part of a years long cover-up of lethal violations in U.S. drug-interdiction procedures, according to a classified internal CIA report.
Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, [my bold] the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called for a criminal investigation and said Congress would hold hearings on the matter in the new year.
[...] The CIA inspector general’s report dated Aug. 25, excerpts of which were released Thursday, said the agency hid from Congress, the National Security Council and Justice Department the results of multiple internal investigations that documented “sustained and significant” violations of White House-sanctioned aircraft intercept procedures. The procedures were created to prevent the shooting down of innocent aircraft over the Amazon jungle like the April 2001 downing of the missionaries’ aircraft.
“The plane, following the Amazon River in its westward journey in daylight, was tracked by a CIA aircraft as a suspected narcotrafficker and was fired on by the Peruvian Air Force. A Michigan woman and her infant daughter were killed and the American pilot was seriously wounded. The woman’s husband and son survived.
“Within hours, CIA officers began to characterize the shootdown as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program. In fact, this was not the case,” the report says.
Missionary Veronica "Ronnie" Bowers, 35, and her seven-month-old adopted daughter, Charity, were both killed when their single-engine plane was riddled with bullets before ditching into the Amazon River. [They were working for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism]
A report released by the State Department in 2001 said the CIA aircraft initially identified the plane but then grew concerned that it was an innocent flight. But it was too late — given language problems and established procedures — to prevent the Peruvian fighter from firing.
According to the report, many aircraft [my bold] were shot down by Peruvian fighter aircraft within two to three minutes of being spotted “without being properly identified, without being given the required warnings to land and without being given time to respond to such warnings as were given to land.”
The Peruvian fighter jets often did not give targeted aircraft any visible signals they had been intercepted before they were shot down. [my bold] [This means “suspects” are tried, convicted and murdered in cold blood thout benefit of a hearing, in a New York minute] Nevertheless, between 1995 and 2001 the CIA "incorrectly reported that the program complied with the laws and policies governing it."
The IG report said Peruvians and Americans participating in the counternarcotics program explained that they violated the procedures because they thought them too time-consuming and worried they "might have resulted in the escape of the target aircraft."
"Violations of required procedures occurred in every shoot-down the CIA took part in" [my bold] for the six years of the CIA's Airbridge Denial Program with Peru, Hoekstra said.
The number of shoot-downs was not made public.
The report says the CIA specifically withheld information from then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Rice asked the CIA on several occasions who had approved the change in procedures.
The investigation "found no evidence that any Agency officer ever responded to her request for information, despite the fact that certain senior agency managers were aware of the agency's own findings that the (program) had not fully complied with presidential requirements," the report states.
It also suggests the cover-up was sanctioned by the agency's top attorney. [my bold]
The CIA's Office of General Counsel advised agency managers to avoid producing written reports [my bold] about the incident "to avoid both criminal charges against agency officers and civil liability," the report says.
The classified version of the report identified personnel by name who, Hoekstra said, misled Congress and obstructed the Justice Department investigation into whether criminal charges should have been filed in the case. Justice ultimately decided against filing charges.
[...] CIA Director Michael Hayden has made no decisions regarding the IG's recommendations, but has asked a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to advise him, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal CIA matters. Myers, a former fighter pilot, is an expert in air interdiction operations.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield pledged the agency's full cooperation. He said the CIA will consider all of the facts to determine the way forward.
"This situation obviously calls for careful deliberations that will result in sound, fair decisions," Mansfield said.
The Transnational Institute has studied and reported on this issue and I strongly urge interested readers to click on the link below to read the full report. Following is the final paragraph of their conclusion:
[...] Government repression, increasingly militarized, thus finds itself before an "enemy" ever more disperse, far flung, and socially variegated. In sum, they find themselves criminalizing poverty and in confrontation with ever larger sectors of society, a recipe for social disaster and greater, more generalized violence. In countries with weak democracies and/or increasing levels of social violence and repression, these "side effects" of the US's drug war "remedy" may prove more detrimental than the narco-trafficking disease.

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