Drug Policy

If We Make Sure We're Not Killing Innocent People, We Might Not Get to Kill Anyone at All


In April 2001, the Peruvian Air Force, working with the CIA, shot down a plane carrying two American missionaries and their children after mistaking them for cocaine traffickers. Veronica Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter, Charity, were killed by machine gun rounds, while her husband, Jim; their 6-year-old son, Cory; and the pilot, Kevin Donaldson, survived both the crash and the additional rounds that rained down on them as they struggled to stay afloat in the Amazon River amid flaming wreckage. On Wednesday, nearly nine years after Veronica and Charity Bowers were murdered with U.S. assistance, the CIA announced that it had concluded its internal investigation of the incident and planned to discipline 16 employees, many of whom are no longer with the agency. ABC News reports that "one of those involved said his discipline was no more than a letter of reprimand placed in his file, which he was told would be removed in one year." Despite the culpability implied by the decision to discipline those employees, the CIA issued a statement that put all the blame on the Peruvian Air Force:

The program to deny drug traffickers an "air bridge" ended in 2001 and was run by a foreign government. CIA personnel had no authority either to direct or prohibit actions by that government. CIA officers did not shoot down any airplane. In the case of the tragic downing of April 21st [actually, it was April 20], 2001, CIA personnel protested the identification of the missionary plane as a suspect drug trafficker.

The 109-minute videotape of the incident, as summarized by ABC News, tells a different story (emphasis added):

A CIA spotter plane saw the Cessna in which the Bowers family was flying and alerted the Peruvian Air Force….

The CIA spotter plane, with two operatives aboard, sneaked up behind the Cessna as it flew over the Amazon.

"We are trying to remain covert at this point," one of the CIA pilots on the plane can be heard to say on the tape.

The CIA pilot describes the aircraft as a high-wing, single engine float plane, which is accurate, that it has picked up on the border between Peru and Brazil.

But the CIA personnel misidentified the craft as a drug plane. The CIA alerted the Peruvian Air Force, which scrambled an interceptor. Over the next two hours, the CIA personnel would express doubts, but would not correct their error, and would repeatedly violate what the White House believed to be strict rules of engagement.

Said former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, who served in the White House at the time on the National Security Council, which created the anti-drug program, "Either the CIA spotter aircraft or the interceptor is supposed to get up close, identify the plane from the tail number, try to indicate to the plane that it should follow them to the ground."

That did not happen. Instead, the decision was made not to try to identify the tail number, because it might allow the plane to escape.

"You know, we can go up attempt the tail number," says a CIA operative on the tape. "The problem with that is that if he is dirty and he detect us, he makes a right turn immediately and we can't chase him."

When the Peruvian Air Force jet arrived it issued a warning to the target plane, saying, "We will shoot you down." The warning was in Spanish, which the Bowers and their pilot could understand, but it was on the wrong frequency.

The CIA pilots begin to have doubts. "This guy doesn't, doesn't fit the profile," says one. But nothing was done to pull the plane back.

The CIA then asks a Peruvian Air Force liaison, "Are you sure is bandito? Are you sure?"

"Yes, okay," says the Peruvian.

"If you're sure," responds the CIA operative. Then more serious doubts were quietly whispered.

"That is bullshit," says one CIA operative. "I think we're making a mistake."

"I agree with you," says the other operative.

A minute and a half later the gunships opened fire and the Bowers' pilot, Donaldson, screamed in Spanish for the jet to stop.

"They're killing me. They're killing us," yells Donaldson on the tape.

"Tell him to terminate," says one of the CIA operative to the Peruvian liaison. "No. Don't Shoot. No more, no mas."

The Peruvian liaison starts yelling at the pilot, "Stop! No mas, no mas, Tucan no more."

"God," says one of the CIA pilots.

By then the damage was done. Trailing black smoke, it headed for a river to land, with Veronica Bowers and her daughter Charity already dead from bullet wounds and the pilot wounded in both legs.

Jim Bowers, his son Cory and Kevin Donaldson survived. But for almost nine years, the CIA misled Congress, the White House and the dead woman's parents about how and why the agency defied the rules established to make sure innocent people were not killed.

The CIA blames the Peruvians, even though the attack was instigated by the agency's spotters as part of a program endorsed, facilitated, and in a sense demanded by the U.S. government, which enlists nations throughout the world in its fight to prevent Americans from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants. In a column right after the incident, I argued that "accidents" like this were inevitable once Congress authorized drug warriors to shoot down civilian planes and that the use of deadly force was in any case unjustified in this context, where the "crime" the government is trying to prevent is nothing more than the delivery of a product by willing sellers to eager buyers.

[via the Drug War Chronicle]

NEXT: Are We That Thinned-Skinned?

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  1. What’s crazy is that they think it’s okay to murder drug traffickers.

    1. It’s a War On Drugs.

      Dead traffickers are just collateral damage.

    2. +1. Innocent until proven guilty, and all that, being just a nice idea.

      Man In The Sky! this makes me mad.

      Seriously. If people spent half as much energy whining about Citizens United and directed it toward truly unjust things, how much better would the world be?

      1. But, but, but….UNION CARBIDE!

        1. Why is it that (typically liberals) think that corporations, for all the evil they can surely do, could really do much worse that this story illustrates that the government can do?

          Government really is just about inflicting pain on the disfavored and fluffing the pillow of the favored.

    3. That’s what I was going to say. The real problem here is that people think it is OK to murder a plane full of people to stop some cocaine from getting to where people want it.

  2. If you don’t want to get shot down as collateral damage, then don’t go to a drug country like Peru.

  3. Well, they meant well; and besides, they’re good patriotic Americans, and allowing them to be subjected to any consequences for their actions would send the wrong message.

  4. Cops kill innocents as part of the War on Drugs Brown People. Punishment for the offenders is negligible. Billions in waste continues, millions of lives continue to be ruined.

    I can walk 2 blocks from my apartment and by cocains from people I’ve never met. They’re easy to spot as they quietly say “rocks” as I walk past.

    This is so fucking retarded.

    1. no need to inject race into this

  5. No love poetry for the fake Juanita troll.

    1. I had to try.

      1. True love gives me extraordinary powers.

        1. IOW, you are Juanita?

          1. Wow! Did EAP just out Juanita?

          2. IOW, you are Juanita?

            Hardly. The prose style is all wrong and my lovely Juanita doesn’t blame victims of mistaken ID if they get whacked in the The War on Drugs Sanity.

  6. Shoulda written the survivors tickets for jaywalking.1st Rule: always CYA

    1. Like my friend got a ticket for lying on the freeway after she was hit by three cars after being knocked off her motorcycle. She survived.

  7. “The CIA blames the Peruvians…

    Well, at least they didn’t blame the victims.

    …which is a step in the right direction!

  8. Feds Hit & Run:

    This pretty much covers what we know so far about the vehicular assault on my person

    As I mentioned yesterday, one of the people standing over me as I lay in the street with a broken knee asked if there was anybody he could contact for me, and I gave him the number of the Daily Caller. I just figured he was a nice guy. I didn’t know he was the one who hit me.

    I’m pretty sure none of us knew until Thursday morning, when our wonderful office manager Laura got the man’s number from the call logs, and Tucker called him back to get his eyewitness account for our first news story about it. That’s when the man, whose name is Mike McGuinn and who turns out to be an agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, revealed he was the one who hit me.

    The police never told me who hit me. Guess they were too busy keeping the streets safe from my “jaywalking.” Well, I won’t be doing much walking of any kind for a while, officers. I sure would like to know who this eyewitness was, the one who allegedly saw me jaywalking at 26th and M at the same time I was being struck down in the street at 22nd and M. Oh, and I was jogging, supposedly. When I collided with the SUV. Because that’s what joggers do, right? They collide with vehicles, and not the other way around.

    So now I’m in the hospital, and in a few hours they’re going to try to fix my knee. It is my considered opinion that my knee never should have been damaged in the first place.

    To recap: I was hit by an SUV while crossing a DC street legally, the driver who hit me is a federal agent who failed to identify himself in any way, I’m about to undergo reconstructive surgery to repair the knee injury he admits he caused, and somehow I was issued a jaywalking citation whose particulars in no way match what was seen by multiple eyewitnesses.

    Wednesday night I just wanted to get a few things at CVS, watch Lost on Hulu, and go to bed after a long day of work. Now it’s turned into a whole big thing.

    Fine by me.


    1. I’m sure Radley will be on this soon enough, but if not:


      Funny how in all of these stories, the cops/marshalls/whatever are *always* doing their job *exactly* as the book tells them to do it. Is it in the appenidix of the book where it says to “always lie to CYA and never deviate from the narrative.”?

    2. In all honesty, I have trouble feeling sorry for Treacher. If I were in that situation, I’d probably decide to move out of the goddamn way of the SUV rather than stand there and yell “Are you really doing this?”.

  9. Sickening. It’s always about CYA as a top priority.

  10. Just remeber folks, it’s those evil corporations we have to worry about. Not your all-knowing government, who loves you and always looks out for you, never wanting to hurt you. Bathe in its love, everyone.

    1. If Monsanto had its way, it would have done far worse to that woman!

      1. What!? They’d make her Round-Up? Ready?!!! That’s WAY worse than being violently killed by govt thugs!

  11. Hey, let’s just machine gun planes if we suspect they might be transporting drugs! It’ll be fun!

    The fact that people can even get to that mentality is a sign of how fucked up the whole WOD is.

    1. Eggs. Omletes. Repeat as needed.

    2. If we machine gun every plane that might be transporting drugs, won’t that ground Fed-Ex’s entire fleet?

      1. Not to mention all the CIA’s light jets.


  12. A CIA spokesperson issued a statement to ABC News Wednesday:

    “Unfortunately, some have been willing to twist facts to imply otherwise. In so doing, they do a tremendous disservice to CIA officers, serving and retired, who have risked their lives for America’s national security.”

    what facts were twisted beside the one where the CIA blames the Peruvians?

    1. They risked their lives for America’s national security? The War on Drugs is a hindrance to national security because it takes resources away from protecting the country from real enemies and directs them to stop the trafficking of a desired commodity. So fuck all those guys.

      I’m curious, though, if these poor folks who were shot at voted for drug warrior politicians. What happens to the kids is terrible. I reserve judgment on how I’ll feel for the dead woman and her adult family members. I’m tentatively incensed on their behalf.

      1. So, if they voted for almost any serving politicians, they were asking for it?

      2. It’s worse than that, the WO(S)D funds practically every terrorist group in the world. PLO, Shining Path, you name it, if they’re not a State and they’re blowing people up chances are they’re profiting from the artificially high price of drugs. So in effect the next terrorist attack is funded by our governments.

  13. and the News that every spokemodel/newscaster absolutely positively must cover today is that Rahm Emmanuel rightfully pointed out that some liberal democrats are fucking retards.

    Oh. Did anybody catch that wild ass stuff on Idol this week?

  14. As an additional irony, the CIA has itself trafficked drugs to obtain funds to assist in their various schemes.

    Maybe they just didn’t want the competition.

  15. How is this different in principle from incinerating thousands of innocents in Tokyo and Dresden?

    1. That was a real war and you have to accept that everything that happens in a real war is going to suck.

    2. This is one of those “if you have to ask . . . . “

    3. Aside for the war comments below. Dresden and Tokyo were carpet bombing raids, the targets, basically, were industrial areas of the cities. We could say, the city it’s self was the target, so despite any consideration of collateral damage, the intended target was hit.

      Innocent folks on the plane were the target. But the CIA and Peruvian AF was intending to shoot drug trafficers, they did not, shoot down the “intended” target.

      Why do you think the citizens of Tokyo and Dresden were innocent? One could argure that the citizenry that supports the war effort, through funding or labor support are just as a vaild target as anything else that drives the enemies capabilities.

      During WWII women working in factories building bombs, aircraft, and anything else to support the war effort would have been a vaild target. It’s a good thing the Axis powers couldn’t get to our side of the oceans.

      1. So it would have been okay to bomb the factories the Schindler’s List Jews were were manning?

        1. Yes.

          Many Jews worked (by force) on the rocket programs. Any bombing action that would have saved allied lives, and reduced the enemies capabilites, is fair game in war.

          I would view that as a regretable loss of lives by people that never should have been placed into forced labor camps. But they were working for the enemies war efforts.

    4. There were AA guns all around Tokyo and Dresden. The Germans and Japanese could shoot back.


  16. Kurt Haskell has helped confirm massive US government lies surrounding the probable false flag terror attack known as the “underwear bomber” incident.


  17. Michael, you might want to ask if there there is any difference, in principle, between warfighting and law enforcement.

    I think there is.

    1. Our para-military police forces don’t think the difference is that great.

  18. false flag attacks are standard operating procedure. Killing innocent people is not that big a deal for these people.

  19. Kurt Haskell will be on these boards every day until we get a story.

    1. Kinda like the government brought down the WTC, huh?

      1. Chem season opened today. I’m gonna go look for some chem trails. Peace out.

      2. You should call him a birther…that will allow you to more effectively sidstep the issue without bringing up other events the governemnt has lied about.

        1. Right: if X lied about situation Y in the past, then X is also lying about situation Z now. Cool argument, bro.

  20. The government agent helped me board the plane without a passport. They are nice guys.

    1. The UnderwearBomber case if anything showed complete information failures and comical common security “mistake”. That he had been reported by his father!, to the US embassy and nothing was done speaks volumes of where the “security” money and measures need to go…

  21. Government employees = incompetent fucks.

  22. The WoD was just a pretext to kill some missionaries. Everyone knows the CIA is run by satanists.

  23. If we had a functioning justice system, the Bowers family would walk away with every red cent that everyone in that chain of command was worth, and half a dozen people would be facing a firing squad for this.


  24. Interesting statistic released today. 53% of Australians surveyed in 18 to 35 year old range use cocaine. Here’s hoping the CIA are not operating in Australian airspace.

  25. again our government put blame on others where it should stand up and face the music, those cowards who shot that plane, will answer to a higher authority, as they burn in hell for there actions, our system of government while protecting??? KILL under CIA cover, thugs and gangsters, lets look in our own backyard “our Country”??

  26. bestpriceforsales equus 3100 The service desk just laughed at me when I showed them my little toy. Since they had a $3 dollar machine in the back that could actually reset the light and diagnose any technical glitches.

  27. If you don’t want to get shot down as collateral damage,The real problem here is that people think it is OK to murder a plane full of people to stop some cocaine from getting to where people want it.

  28. this is creepy my name is Veronica Bowers and i have a 7 month old she was born Febuary 28 2010 which makes it that much weirder….

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