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CIA and Peru lied about missionary plane shot down in 2001

There was a time when the CIA was a law unto itself and carried out all kinds of illegal activities. If you thought those days were gone, they apparently returned during the Bush presidency.

You may recall the incident in 2001 when a private plane carrying Baptist missionaries was shot down in Peru killing a female missionary and her child. An internal CIA investigation has now revealed that the incident was a terrible mistake that resulted from lax oversight of a joint CIA/Peru program intended to bring down drug traffickers.

The program had succeeded in bringing down numerous suspect planes when, on April 20, 2001, a Peruvian pilot mistakenly shot into a small aircraft carrying a family of Baptist missionaries from Michigan. A bullet struck and killed one of the missionaries, Veronica “Roni” Bowers, and her infant daughter, Charity. The pilot was wounded but managed to land the plane. Bowers’s husband and their 6-year-old son were not injured.

Multiple investigations at the time found that the CIA had been lax in its oversight of the program and had failed to ensure that strict rules were followed in identifying the plane before calling in the Peruvian fighter. Yet, according to the inspector general’s report, agency officials sought from the outset to conceal the program’s serious problems, while portraying the 2001 shooting as an aberration.

“Within hours, CIA officers began to characterize the shoot-down as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program,” the report stated. “In fact, this was not the case.”

Instead, in nearly every instance, CIA and Peruvian participants ignored guidelines intended to prevent innocent pilots from being shot from the sky, it said. Often, suspect planes were shot down “within two to three minutes of being sighted . . . without being properly identified, without being given adequate warnings to land,” it said.

[Michigan Rep. Peter] Hoekstra, citing the still-classified portions of the report, said the CIA’s program was “actually operating and being implemented outside the law.” The investigators found that CIA managers “knew of, and condoned” the violations and failed to properly oversee the program, he said (all emphasis mine). Read the rest of this entry »

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