The D.E.A. Directed Slaughters in Latin America, and Then Lied about It.

It appears that the Drug Enforcement Administration covered up its role in death squad activities in the Honduras.

I’m not particularly surprised. Given the US record on such things (Google School of the Americas) involves actively support of human rights abuses, and training for those who commit these crimes, it is part of the tradition of “American Exceptionalism.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration misled the public, Congress and the Justice Department about a 2012 operation in which commando-style squads of American agents sent to Honduras to disrupt drug smuggling became involved in three deadly shootings, two inspectors general said Wednesday.

The D.E.A. said in response that it had shut down the program, the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team.

Under the program, known as FAST, squads received military-style training to combat Taliban-linked opium traffickers in the Afghanistan war zone. It was expanded to Latin America in 2008 to help fight transnational drug smugglers, leading to the series of violent encounters in Honduras in 2012.

A scathing 424-page joint report from the inspectors general of the Justice and State Departments underscored the risk that Americans accompanying partner forces on missions in developing countries, ostensibly as trainers and advisers, sometimes drift into directly running dangerous operations with little oversight.

The report focused on the first shooting, on a river near the village of Ahuas on May 11, 2012. A boat collided with a disabled vessel carrying American and Honduran agents and seized cocaine. Gunfire erupted, and four people on the boat were killed.

The D.E.A. said at the time that the victims were drug traffickers who had attacked to try to retrieve the cocaine, but villagers said they were bystanders. The inspectors general found no evidence to support the agency’s version, disputing a claim that surveillance video showed evidence that the people on the boat had fired on the disabled vessel.

“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip,” the report said, “D.E.A. officials remained steadfast — with little credible corroborating evidence — that any individuals shot by the Hondurans were drug traffickers who were attempting to retrieve the cocaine.”

The inspectors general also rejected the D.E.A.’s insistence at the time that the operation — as well as two others, in June and July 2012 — had been led by Honduran law enforcement officials. The review “concluded this was inaccurate” and said D.E.A. agents “maintained substantial control.”


The D.E.A. refused to cooperate with the State Department as it sought to investigate what had happened in Ahuas. Michele M. Leonhart, then the agency’s administrator, told the inspector general she had approved that decision because subordinates told her there was no precedent for the State Department to investigate a D.E.A. shooting and it might compromise its investigations, the report said.


The killings in Honduras, along with at least two episodes in 2012 in which partner countries shot down suspected smuggling planes after receiving intelligence from the United States about their flight paths, led to increased media and congressional scrutiny of the D.E.A. Within a few months, the agency was rethinking and scaling back its operations, including considering a requirement that FAST agents stay on helicopters rather than join their trainees in raids.

One of the lawmakers who raised critical questions about the FAST operations in Latin America after the Ahuas shooting, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called the new report “nothing less than a wholesale indictment of the D.E.A. and Honduran police.”

Calling for compensation to the families of the victims, he said the report unmasked “egregious events and conduct” and a subsequent cover-up that “demeaned the lives of the victims and the reputation of the United States.”

I think that Pat Leahy massively overestimates the esteem to which the United States is held.

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