Overseas/Interdiction

New Report: CIA Lied About Missionary Plane Shot Down Over Peru

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In 2001, the Peruvian Air Force shot down a plane flying over the Amazon after receiving information from the CIA that the plane was trafficking in narcotics.  It wasn't.  It was filled with Christian missionaries.  The attack resulted in the death of 35-year-old Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter Charity.  The CIA was working with the government of Peru as part of a program to intercept drug planes en route—another part of our disastrous drug interdiction efforts in Latin America.

Seven years later, CIA Inspector General John Helgerson has issued a blistering report finding that the CIA repeatedly lied and covered up details about the intercept program, about the downing of Bowers' plane, and about other incidents that never made the news.

Unfortunately much of Helgerson's report is classified, so the conclusions, while damning, are frustratingly lacking in detail.  Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), whose district Bowers was from, is trying to get the entire report declassified.  Here are a few excerpts from what's been released to the public [pdf]:

The plane, following the Amazon River in its westward journey in daylight, was tracked by a CIA aircraft as a suspected narcotrafficker and was fired on by the Peruvian Air Force.  The mother and infant were killed; the American pilot was seriously wounded.  Within hours, CIA officers began to characterize the shootdown as a one-time mistake in an otherwise well-run program.  In fact, this was not the case.

[…]

The routine disregard of the required intercept procedures in the ABDP led to the rapid shooting down of target aircraft without adequate safeguards to protect against the loss of innocent life.  Key Peruvian and American participants in the program told OIG that, in many cases, performing the required procedures would have taken time and might have resulted in the escape of the target aircraft.  In addition, because the required procedures to establish contact with a target aircraft were difficult to conduct, it was easier to shoot the aircraft down than to force it down.  The result was that, in many cases, suspect aircraft were shot down within two to three minutes of being sighted by the Peruvian fighter – 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. 

[Emphasis in original.]

In other words, the risk of the loss of innocent life was acceptable if it meant more efficient ways of inhibiting the delivery of narcotics.  Lying to Congress and the exeuctive?  All worth it.  Because it's all about stopping people from getting high.

Collateral damage—and let's face it, that's how the CIA and federal drug warriors view Veronica and Charity Bowers—has always been an accepted part of drug prohibition, but this callous disregard for the loss of life and human rights seems particularly egregious in our foreign interdiction efforts.  See the House of Death case, where federal agents looked the other way while one of their Mexican informants participated in a series of brutal and entirely preventable murders.  See our pre-September 11 anti-narcotics alliance with the Taliban, or our continued drug interdiction aid to Thailand after the government mass executed thousands of suspected drug offenders, sans trial.

My favorite most recent example is an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star by a former DHS counter-narcotics official insisting that the increasingly bloody and brutal drug-related killing in Mexico is a sign that the U.S. and Mexico are "winning" the drug war.  Because what's a few thousand dead Mexicans if we can point to a 19 percent drop in the use of cocaine here in the U.S.?

NEXT: Yes, He Can. Maybe. When He Gets Around To It: An Ongoing Series

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  1. But think of all the lives that have been saved from this program! Our children would all be junkies if it weren’t for the sacrifices that the CIA makes.

    1. bingo.. so what your saying is they can come in you’r house and kill a member of your family without reason.. walk off and be like OH! we thougth they were traffikers and you would wave them farewell with a smile on your face? sure your fine with it as long as its not happenign to you, you selfish bitch.

  2. I’m still not understanding the concept of “shoot down planes that might be trafficking drugs”. Isn’t that the equivalent of firing a machine gun into a car that might have drugs in it?

  3. Radley-

    There was a story (AP, I assume) in my local paper, yesterday, about a police officer (FBI agent?) killed in a dawn drug raid in Pennsylvania.

    Do you have details/ post?

  4. Goddammit Balko, I was in a good mood.

  5. So we missed the fall of the Soviet Union, said we were sure we’d find WMD in Iraq, and got a few God-botherers killed. So what.

    But by God, if one of our agents working at a desk in Langley sends her husband on a trip to Niger, who then goes all over national TV lying about it, we will spare no effort to find the evildoers responsible for leaking her name!

  6. Radley Balko, you are a broadsword of righteousness.

  7. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs! I mean, sure this might have SEEMED to have been a missionary flight and not a drug-running flight, but HOW COULD WE KNOW! We should be shooting down MORE planes, just to be sure. Since Miami’s the hub for most of the drugs coming in and out of America, I say we shoot down every plane taking off from or trying to land at MIA. It’s the only way to be sure.

    1. are you fucking retarded? Im sure they searched the plan after being shot down fuck nut.. HENCE they said there werent any drugs abored.. how would one go about finding this out… maybe ummm PULLING THE PLANE OUT THE FUCKING WATER. go to school and learn common sense before trying to look retarded over something you seen on tv and want to chit chat about kid.

  8. P Brooks, it was in his Morning Links on The Agitator yesterday.

  9. Because what’s a few thousand dead Mexicans if we can point to a 19 percent drop in the use of cocaine here in the U.S.?

    Silly Radley, Mexicans aren’t people; they’re not even semi-human like Canadians. So what’s a few dead ones to the US Government?

  10. J P B- thanks.

    I only scanned the first few paragaphs of the story I saw.

    *******

    Those darn South American oppressors, and their evil human rights abuses! We must prevent them, at all costs, from selling their goofy flapped hats in our country!

  11. performing the required procedures would have taken time and might have resulted in the escape of the target aircraft. In addition, because the required procedures to establish contact with a target aircraft were difficult to conduct, it was easier to shoot the aircraft down than to force it down.

    Procedures are hard!

  12. Now I’m confused. I thought the elimination of religious wingnuts was supposed to be a good thing.

  13. Disclosure: I grew up as a missionary kid in Peru.

  14. Wow this policy sure is expensive and awful! Well, it’s okay I suppose… as long as it’s for ________.

    -Average American Voter

    Fill in the blank:
    A) the children
    B) the economy
    C) our noble troops
    D) our boys in blue
    E) senior citizens
    F) sick people

  15. What’s really nice is that the arbitrary abuse of power at the FBI, CIA, ATF, etc. just keeps humming happily along no matter who occupies the White House. Here’s some change that I could believe in, Mr. Obama. Gonna do anything about it?

  16. From the link:

    “We cannot have a community that operates outside the law and covers up what it does and lies to Congress,” Hoekstra said today.

    It is oddly gratifying to read that these words came from Hoekstra, even if I don’t expect their full implication to play out in Hoekstra other work on the House Intelligence Committee.

    As for the incident itself…Well, I don’t read Radley Balko posts to brighten my day.

  17. I’m still not understanding the concept of “shoot down planes that might be trafficking drugs”. Isn’t that the equivalent of firing a machine gun into a car that might have drugs in it?>/i>

    Shut up Episiarch. Don’t give them any ideas.

  18. Shooting a person because they might have drugs in them?

  19. Where’s joe to justify this kind of stuff as proper application of violence?

  20. the CIA lied?

    I’m shocked, shocked!!

    fortunately, Obama will make sure this never happens again.

  21. Flight 93 was shot down.

  22. I read the link from the Agitator. That FBI agent was a fucking SAINT! I anticipate a National Day of Mourning in his name.

    I shouldn’t be a dick, but his death was stupid and unnecessary, and a woman will in all likelihood spend the rest of her life in prison for no good reason. Why couldn’t those dumb fucks just walk into his office in the middle of the day and arrest him?

  23. Flight 93 was shot down.

    Fucking no-good drugrunners. Serves ’em right.

    My nails look fabulous!

  24. Why couldn’t those dumb fucks just walk into his office in the middle of the day and arrest him?

    Exactly. And all the talk about them expecting a fight from the guy only reinforces that point.

  25. Quiet arrests don’t make the news. If you don’t get noticed cracking skulls, how can you justify buying those reinforced boots?

  26. Flight 93 was shot down.

    With ultra super top secret particle beam weapons.

    By the Romulans.

    1. no no… chuck norris pointed at the plane.. and said BANG! and it came crashing down….

  27. I’m still not understanding the concept of “shoot down planes that might be trafficking drugs”. Isn’t that the equivalent of firing a machine gun into a car that might have drugs in it?

    Yeah. What’s your point?

  28. Another happy thought which occurrs to me; not only will they charge the wife, who is alleged to have fired the fatal shot, with first degree murder, but probably the husband, too. Because Agent Whosis was killed as they were both committing the “crime” of being invaded by the police. Maybe they’ll charge the children, and try them as adults.

  29. New Report: CIA Lied About Missionary Plane Shot Down Over Peru

    When I first read this, I thought it said “News Report,” and I wondered how “Dog Bites Man” could qualify as news.

  30. With ultra super top secret particle beam weapons.

    By the Romulans.

    The Romulans wouldn’t dare breach the Neutral Zone for this. Unless they were posing as Vulcans…

  31. J sub D | November 21, 2008, 12:57pm | #
    Flight 93 was shot down.

    With ultra super top secret particle beam weapons.

    By the Romulans.

    Don’t be such an idiot. Everyone knows it was the Rigelians. The Autonarch Faction, to be precise.

  32. Doubt all you want, but tell me this – why was there not a single Romulan on board Flight 93?

  33. @ 11:43 –

    Well played, sir.

  34. You know what the big difference between the mafia and the U.S. government is?

    The mafia steals less, kills fewer people and generally avoids killing women and children. 😉

  35. “Better safe than sorry?” Honey, I am NEVER sorry.

  36. Doubt all you want, but tell me this – why was there not a single Romulan on board Flight 93?

    Uh…transporters and cloaking devices, dude. It’s the sneaky Romulan way.

  37. No, no… the Romulan embassy called them that morning and told them not to go to work. They all went uptown for a bagel and a nice schmear.

  38. Uh…transporters and cloaking devices, dude. It’s the sneaky Romulan way.

    Sure, but the Vulcans know that, and they know we know that. Maybe it was Vulcans, pretending to be Romulans pretending to be Vulcans!

  39. Who invented the cloaking device?

    The Romulans. If you watched the episode Balance of Terror (I know you did), you know they have to unmask to engage with weapons. This explains how all of the eyewitnesses, folks who routinely stare at commercial flights overhead, managed to be eyewitnesses to the engagement.

  40. You’re just a raving anti-Romulanite. Probably hate Wookies too.

  41. Sure, but the Vulcans know that, and they know we know that. Maybe it was Vulcans, pretending to be Romulans pretending to be Vulcans!

    Only Kirk can beat a Vulcan at 3-D chess, dude, so you trying to out-think them is pointless.

    they have to unmask to engage with weapons

    The Romulans were the second gunman on the grassy knoll!

  42. Only Kirk can beat a Vulcan at 3-D chess, dude

    True, but there’s not a Vulcan alive I can’t destroy at Dance, Dance Revolution!

  43. True, but there’s not a Vulcan alive I can’t destroy at Dance, Dance Revolution!

    Dance, Dance Revolution is not logical.

  44. Whoa! This thread has descended into a “swirling miasma” of nerdiness. Epi, what are you? Some kind of coked up nerd?

  45. Dance, Dance Revolution is not logical.

    Hence my dominance over Vulcans, because I’m definitely not any good at it.

  46. Some kind of coked up nerd?

    Wow, you say that as if it were a bad thing to be.

  47. Just Plain Brian,

    Just throwing some insults towards Epi. Picture Dennis from Always Sunny in Philadelphia in that episode where he and Dee are on smack. That’s the way I picture Episiarch.

  48. Epi, what are you? Some kind of coked up nerd?

    Nerd is inapplicable to someone with my looks, Naga. Coked-up asshole probably works better.

  49. This thread has descended into a “swirling miasma” of nerdiness.

    Been waiting all day to use that, or did you fit in it somewhere last night?

  50. 19% reduction in cocaine use? That’s easy to figure out, the pin-striped bandits can’t afford it after losing their jobs. Cocaine is a hell-uv-a-drug and it ain’t cheap.

  51. SugarFree,

    I was unable to use the phrase at work yesterday. Almost no customers. Made a whopping $117 and I didn’t wanna waste it on buying some of my co-workers dictionaries. Still . . . props to you for introducing the phrase to me.

  52. Picture Dennis from Always Sunny in Philadelphia in that episode where he and Dee are on smack.

    I haven’t seen that episode yet – I only started watching recently as a result of the talk about the show here, but I do plan to watch all of them eventually.

  53. Epi,

    My apologies. I forget that you are strong in the nerd.

  54. Picture Dennis from Always Sunny in Philadelphia in that episode where he and Dee are on smack. That’s the way I picture Episiarch.

    Dee: When you become a veterinarian, will you buy me head shots, please?

    Dennis: (yelling at a dog) Hey, hey, get outta here, you piece of shit! (to Dee) Yeah, I’ll buy you stuff. I’ll buy you lots of things. I’m definitely gonna buy a bunch of crack.

  55. 19% reduction in cocaine use? That’s easy to figure out, the pin-striped bandits can’t afford it after losing their jobs

    I’d figure you could cut out 19% by simply being stingy with that one person (different person each time) who simply “doesn’t have any cash on them, and will get you back later”.

    I mean, so I’ve read.

  56. Cocaine is a hell uv a drug.

  57. Damn you zig zag man! Beat me to it.

  58. Dead babies can’t take things off the shelf.

  59. J P B,

    I don’t wanna spoil that episode for ya but you gotta watch it. It’s the one entitled “Dee and Dennis go on Welfare”.

  60. I only started watching recently as a result of the talk about the show here, but I do plan to watch all of them eventually.

    Go to hulu.com and you can watch that episode (and many others).

  61. I don’t wanna spoil that episode for ya but you gotta watch it. It’s the one entitled “Dee and Dennis go on Welfare”.

    Thanks, I’ll see if I can find a place to download it.

    Don’t worry about revealing spoilers, though, I don’t really care for surprises anyway.

  62. Go to hulu.com and you can watch that episode (and many others).

    I’ll check it out. Thanks for the tip!

  63. Hulu.com? Sounds like a Romulan plot to brainwash you . . .

  64. I’m still laughing about Charlie’s musical from last nights Always Sunny . . .

  65. Naga,

    Lovecraft is a fantastic source for funny sounding archaic terminology, if you’ve never indulged. It’s all “eldritch” this and “horripilation” that.

  66. WHAT!!! Are you doubting my Lovecraft credentials? I own just about everything he ever wrote! That’s a lot of insanity, chaos, and troubling words that I don’t entirely understand or care to look up! Horripilation sounds worth it though.

  67. Naga,

    Not at all, but some of you kids these days don’t like to read. What with your World of Witchcraft and your Facialbook.

  68. It’s a blog.
    It’s a chat room!
    It’s two mints in one!

  69. Well . . . god damn . . . goose bumps? Gonna use that word tonight in front of the co-workers and tell em’ “it’s a me-chung word, don’t worry your little Asian heads about it.

    *I bartend in the Asian fusion retaurant in my casino now*

    **me-chung means white people**

  70. I don’t have the inclination for video games that a lot of my generation have. I was an avid bookworm till I lost my virginity at 14. Since then my free time is either reading, homework, drinking, or trying to get laid. Not a lot in between for me.

  71. Oh and “facialbook”? LMAO!!! Instant classic!

  72. Dear Mr. Period,

    Go drink some cranberry juice.

  73. **me-chung means white people**

    Is that a step up from “gwailo“?

  74. http://www.facialbook.com/

    It’s not the good kind of facial, unfortunately.

  75. Go drink some cranberry juice.

    Give him a break, clearly he’s on his period.

  76. JPB,

    It helps with the bloating. I was trying to be helpful.

  77. It helps with the bloating. I was trying to be helpful.

    Gotcha, my bad. It appears I have much to learn about menstruation.

  78. It helps with the bloating. I was trying to be helpful.

    Some laxatives and a saline enema would work wonders.

  79. It appears I have much to learn about menstruation.

    I wish I did. Never get married, dude.

  80. SugarFree,

    When you said “Facialbook” I had a different type of facial in mind. Also, most of the workers in my restaurant are Korean and Vietnamese.

  81. I didn’t know an actual site existed, I figured facebook would be cybersquatting on the eddress just to keep people from putting up the sticky-fun type of facial.

  82. SugarFree,

    Same here. I would be very surprised if such a site doesn’t exist however.

  83. Ok, just finished, good call on the episode Naga Sadow.

    “We shouldn’t be calling Hector or Wallace or any other large pimp”

  84. I do what I can JPB.

  85. Suppose the plane did have drugs aboard, but one of the drug lords has has his 4 yr. old daughter aboard? Is it worth it to kill a child just to bring down a drug shipment? Not in my book.

  86. Suppose the plane did have drugs aboard, but one of the drug lords has has his 4 yr. old daughter aboard? Is it worth it to kill a child just to bring down a drug shipment? Not in my book.

    You know as well as I do that you could have one low-level cartel member with 2 grams of coke, 60 orphans, and 20 nuns on a plane, and the CIA would shoot it down and say it was justifiable. As long as the 60 orphans and 20 nuns weren’t American. Then they’d apologize. But it would get us to about the same point either way.

  87. What’s really nice is that the arbitrary abuse of power at the FBI, CIA, ATF, etc. just keeps humming happily along no matter who occupies the White House. Here’s some change that I could believe in, Mr. Obama. Gonna do anything about it?

    Let us not go off half cocked here. The president needs to assemble a team headed up by the vice president. The committee will liason with the CIA, DEA, Coast Guard, the Peruvian government and members of congress. This working group will then submit recommendations to the president who will act on the in a deliberate, thoughful manner.

    Any more questions, dope fiend?

  88. Let’s have lunch!

  89. Aggressively targeting the competition? Maybe someone could sue the CIA on anti-trust grounds.

    http://www.narconews.com/darkalliance/drugs/start.htm

  90. Our government is run by cowards who see hedonism as evil as Nazism or what ever -ism they see as immoral. If they believe that getting high is a sin then they should go to S. America, Asia ECT. and fight their own wars. How many more mass murders and fear tactics is going to take before people start throwing molotov cocktails at the white house?

    SERVEY SAYS: When the government starts shooting their own citizens.

    Oh wait its already happening, so much for angry riots.

  91. “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.”
    (washingtonpost.com)

    Aberration: departing from the right, normal, or usual course. From Latin ab- + errare ‘to wander’

    This stuff is wanderful!

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