CIA Errs in Guatemala, but No Proof of Murder

By Jonathan S. Landay, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 1995 | Go to article overview

CIA Errs in Guatemala, but No Proof of Murder


Jonathan S. Landay, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


CENTRAL Intelligence Agency officials have been cleared of involvement in the murder of a US innkeeper and the disappearance and presumed execution of a rebel leader in Guatemala. But the agency has not escaped untarnished.

The CIA's own inspector general and President Clinton's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) found that CIA officials produced flawed intelligence reports on the two cases and strayed from established procedures. CIA officials also failed to keep the State Department and Congress properly briefed, they concluded.

The investigations, though, left a central question in the 1990 slaying of Michael DeVine and the disappearance in 1992 of guerrilla leader Efraim Bamaca Velazquez unresolved: Was a paid CIA informant involved? Senior CIA officials indicate they don't intend to pursue an answer. Says one: "I'm not sure we will do a lot more work on this."

As a result of the investigations, the findings of which were announced Wednesday, CIA director John Deutch is mulling disciplinary action against unnamed agency officials and working on new guidelines to improve the CIA's cooperation with Congress and US ambassadors. He is also overhauling the methods the CIA uses to select its overseas station chiefs, recruit informers, and monitor human rights abuses.

The steps represent the latest reform effort Mr. Deutch has launched since assuming the agency's top job in May with a pledge to lead it out of one of the bleakest eras of its 48-year history. He must repair damage inflicted by double agent Aldrich Ames, tackle sex-discrimination problems, and root out lingering cold-war-bred cronyism and disdain for accountability.

"As I have said before, when we have done something right, we should be proud; when we have done something wrong, we must acknowledge mistakes and act properly to correct them," Deutch wrote to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees this week.

CIA officials, however, acknowledge that lawmakers are not happy with Deutch's assurances, especially his assertion that agency officials did not deliberately withhold information about Guatemala. "They disagreed with our view that there was not an intentional misleading," one CIA official says.

Deutch's statement accompanied the findings of the IOB and an in-house CIA investigation into the murder by Guatemalan soldiers of DeVine, an American who ran a tourist inn, and Mr. …

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