Amnesty International USA prepares to sue CIA, DEA, and others for unlawfully withholding information about alleged collusion with Colombian Death Squads

Washington, DC - President Clinton must order an investigation into the allegations of US complicity with Colombian death squads that were reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer and El Nuevo Herald, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) reported. These allegations parallel a similar investigation AIUSA began in 1994. AIUSA's investigation has been hampered by the withholding of information on these death squads by US agencies.

"US agencies such as the CIA are unlawfully withholding information about death squads, with whom they have allegedly worked," said Carlos M. Salinas, Acting Director of Government Relations, who is leading AIUSA's inquiry. "Since President Clinton approved sending $1.3 billion in aid to Colombia, and since he waived the modest human rights conditions that Congress had placed on the aid, ordering an Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) investigation is the least he could do."

The death squad in question is PEPES, People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar, the notorious leader of the Medellin drug cartel. In 1993, this group set out to systematically attack and destroy anyone associated with Pablo Escobar. Once Escobar was killed, PEPES was transformed into a nationwide paramilitary network that continues to account for the vast majority of political killings in Colombia.

If the allegations of US collusion with death squad operations are true, it is a classic example of "blowback," or unintended consequences of covert activity - a highly questionable and illegal action with detrimental consequences. Colombia continues to suffer a human rights emergency, with more than 3,000 people extra judicially executed or "disappeared," mostly at the hands of paramilitary groups that work closely with the Colombian Army.

Amnesty International USA filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 1996 with various US intelligence and defense agencies seeking information on the PEPES death squad. Some of the requests were denied in full, while others were only partially met. As a result, AIUSA is preparing a lawsuit to compel the release of information from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and other agencies.

AIUSA mobilized its membership to contact the White House to urge the Administration to conduct the Intelligence Oversight Board investigation.

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