CIA withheld information from DOJ in 2001 shootdown of Peru plane: report

CIA withheld information from DOJ in 2001 shootdown of Peru plane: report

[JURIST] The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] may have withheld information from the US Department of Justice and other agencies regarding a plane carrying a US missionary family shot down over Peru in 2001, according to excerpts [text, PDF] released Thursday from a classified report by the CIA Inspector General dated August 25. The plane was shot down by the Peruvian Air Force after being tracked by a CIA plane as a narcotrafficker as part of the Narcotics Airbridge Denial Program [legal analysis] (ABDP). The report said that the CIA "characterize[d] the shootdown as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program. In fact, this was not the case." It further concluded:

CIA did not fulfill its legal obligation to keep Congress and the NSC fully informed of significant activities concerning the ABDP. Between 1995 and 2001, the Agency incorrectly reported that the program complied with the laws and policies governing it. In the aftermath of the missionary shootdown, CIA conducted several internal examinations into the circumstances of the shootdown and the broader conduct of the ABDP that documented sustained and significant violations of required intercept procedures dating back to the first shootdown. Yet the Agency denied Congress, the NSC, and the Department of Justice access to these findings. Seeking to avoid both criminal charges against Agency officers and civil liability, OGC advised Agency managers to avoid written products lest they be subject to legal scrutiny.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) [official website], Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee condemned [press release] the CIA for actions by what he called "rogue elements" and sent letters to the CIA Inspector General and the CIA Director [letters, PDF] urging declassification of all relevant files. Hoekstra also called for the Intelligence Committee to hold hearings on the matter.

The plane, shot down in April 2001 [BBC report] over the Amazon jungle, carried a family of missionaries from Michigan. Veronica “Roni” Bowers and her daughter were killed, while her husband, son, and the pilot survived the crash. The CIA initially identified the plane as a narcotrafficker, but then began to suspect it was innocent, according to a 2001 State Department report [text]. At that point it was too late to stop the Peruvian Air Force from firing because of language problems and established procedures. The ABDP was suspended in Peru after the incident.