Sunday, November 23, 2008

Report Says CIA Withheld Information From White House

There are 58 days until Jan. 20, 2009.


t r u t h o u t | 11.21


Report Says CIA Withheld Information From White House

Thursday 20 November 2008


by: Pamela Hess, The Associated Press


    Washington - The senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Thursday called for a criminal investigation into whether the CIA lied to Congress and withheld information from the Justice Department during its inquiry into the 2001 shoot-down of an American missionary plane by the Peruvian air force with help from a CIA spotter plane.


    The CIA's Office of General Counsel advised agency managers to avoid producing written reports about the incident "to avoid both criminal charges against Agency officers and civil liability," according to unclassified excerpts of an August CIA inspector general report released Thursday by Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra..


    The report said the CIA withheld from the National Security Council, Justice Department and Congress the results of multiple investigations that documented continuous and significant violations of aircraft intercept procedures created to prevent the shoot-down of innocent aircraft over the Amazon jungle. The classified report was completed in August and sent to Congress in October.


    Many aircraft were shot down by Peruvian fighter aircraft within two to three minutes of being spotted regularly "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 report said.


    Hoekstra suggested other innocent aircraft may have been shot down.


    In the case of the missionary shoot-down in April 2001, the report said CIA officers misrepresented the incident as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program.


    "In fact, this was not the case," according to the report. "Between 1995 and 2001, the Agency incorrectly reported that the program complied with the laws and policies governing it."


    "Violations of required procedures occurred in every shoot-down the CIA took part in" for the six years of the CIA's Airbridge Denial Program with Peru, said Hoekstra, who read unclassified portions of the report to journalists. The number of shoot-downs was not made public.


    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.


    "As DOJ was making that determination, information was being withheld" by the CIA from the National Security Council, Congress and Justice, Hoekstra said.


    "This is as ugly as it gets: an agency operating outside of the law, covering it up and getting away with it as long as they did," said Hoekstra.


    CIA Director Michael Hayden has made no decisions regarding the IG's recommendations, but has asked former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, a former fighter pilot an expert in air interdiction operations, to advise him, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal CIA matters.


    He called the latest report further evidence that parts of the intelligence community and the CIA believe they are not accountable to Congress or even their own managers.


    CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield pledged the CIA's full cooperation with Congress, saying:


    "This situation obviously calls for careful deliberations that will result in sound fair decisions."


    Hoekstra also called Thursday for the declassification of the CIA report on the incident, which killed a Michigan woman and her infant daughter. The pilot, the woman's husband and her son survived.


    He said the intelligence committee will likely hold hearings on the matter in the new year.


    The incident occurred in April 2001 in Peru's remote Amazon region near the Colombian and Brazilian borders as part of the CIA's airbridge counternarcotics program. A CIA-contracted surveillance plane was supposed to identify drug-smuggling aircraft, and Peruvian and Colombian fighters were supposed to intercept them and order them to land. If they didn't follow those orders, the fighters had authority to shoot them down.


    According to a U.S. report released by the State Department in 2001, the CIA aircraft initially identified the plane, but then grew concerned that it was an innocent flight, too late - given language problems and established procedures - to prevent the Peruvian fighter from firing.


    The shoot-down was "even more senseless and avoidable than I originally imagined," Hoeskstra said.


    "It is a blot, a dark stain," he said. "This is a sad day for the CIA."


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