US Intelligence Oversight Board cites SOA (1996) Print
Intelligence Oversight Board Cites U.S. Army School of the Americas for Training That Condoned Executions, Extortion, Abuse

Report Discredits Pentagon Assertions that Army School Strengthens Latin American Democracies

The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) used training materials that condoned "executions of guerillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion, and false imprisonment" asserts an Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) Report issued June 28, 1996, in Washington, DC. The IOB, a four-person, independent board created three years ago by President Clinton, is charged with investigating excesses and abuses by the US intelligence community.

"This IOB Report is the 'smoking gun,'" responded Carol Richardson from SOA Watch, an organization headed by Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois. "It documents what those who oppose the SOA have always known -- The School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, has been training Latin American soldiers how to torture and kill their own people." Fr. Bourgeois and twelve others are serving federal prison terms for a November 1995 civil disobedience action against the SOA.

The IOB Report discredits repeated statements from SOA and Pentagon officials that the SOA seeks only to professionalize Latin American armies and strengthen democracies. The IOB, headed by attorney Anthony S. Harrington and including Gen. Lew Allen, Jr., USAF (Retired), found that the "School of the Americas ... used improper instruction materials in training Latin American officers from 1982 to 1991. ... certain passages appeared to condone practices such as execution of guerillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion, and false imprisonment."

The SOA was dubbed the "School of Assassins" after a United Nations Truth Commission implicated 19 SOA graduates out of 26 Salvadoran officers cited for the 1989 "execution style" massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter in San Salvador. The U.N. Commission went on to document that three quarters of the Salvadoran officers responsible for seven other massacres during El Salvador's bloody civil war were trained by the Fort Benning school.

In its 50 years, the SOA has trained more than 59,000 Latin American soldiers in combat skills, counter-insurgency techniques, commando tactics, and psychological operations. SOA graduates include some of the region's most despicable military strongmen and human rights abusers. Roberto D'Aubuisson, head of the Death Squad in El Salvador, attended the U.S. Army SOA. Guatemalan Col. Julio Robert Alpirez, a CIA operative, trained at the SOA most recently in 1990. Shortly after he returned to Guatemala, Alpirez ordered the murder of U.S. citizen Michael DeVine, who was living in Guatemala, and the 1992 torture of Efrain Bamaca, Guatemalan husband of U.S. lawyer Jennifer Harbury. The DeVine and Bamaca murders and the abduction, rape, and torture of U.S. nun Sr. Dianna Ortiz, helped prompt the IOB investigation.

SOA Watch, 1996