|The Pentagon is Fighting Hard to Keep SOA/ WHINSEC Secrecy|
Human rights activists and SOA Watch took the U.S. government to court over its refusal to release the names of the trainers at the SOA/WHINSEC - and WON! In a landmark case, United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the Northern District of California ruled in April 2013, that the Pentagon has no grounds for refusing to release these names.
Now, the U.S. government is appealing the ruling and fighting to keep information about the SOA/WHINSEC secret, because this school has been connected to the training of torturers, death squads and military dictators throughout the Americas. The decision to file an appeal and not accept the ruling of Judge Hamilton unmasks President Obama’s claim that his administration would be the most transparent in history as just one more lie. SOA Watch and human rights defenders will continue to fight against the denial of access to information and against government secrecy surrounding the SOA/WHINSEC.
Background: The SOA made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Hundreds of SOA alumni have been implicated in human rights abuses and the formation of death squads, 11 Latin American military dictators, including Manuel Noriega of Panama, Hugo Banzer of Bolivia, General Rios Montt of Guatemala, attended the school. SOA graduates led the 2002 coup in Venezuela, and the 2009 coup in Honduras, and continue to be involved in repression in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and throughout Latin America.
By having public access to the records of the SOA/WHINSEC from 1946 to 2004, SOA Watch compiled the names, course, rank, country of origin, and dates attended for every soldier and instructor at the SOA, renamed WHINSEC in 2001. After researchers exposed cases of known human rights abusers attending WHINSEC (despite claims that the “new” school was committed to human rights), and shared this research with Congressional decision-makers, the Pentagon altered its approach to public access of information and refused to disclose any future information about students or teachers at WHINSEC.
The Pentagon knows that releasing the names of who is being trained at the notorious school, would lead to more disclosures about the atrocities that they are committing. The Pentagon is fighting hard to keep that information secret. The SOA/ WHINSEC is their flagship training school, and their way of controlling the militaries, and thus the people of the Americas. Justice will prevail and the school will be shut down.
The case will go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the Northern District of California. SOA Watch is going to ask the Ninth Circuit Court to uphold the value of transparency, and the public’s right to know, over the Pentagon’s secrecy.
With the increasing secrecy by the Obama administration, and their blatant disregard for the Congressional and Judicial calls for transparency, whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, and hactivists like Anonymous are playing an important role in uncovering the truth about government abuses that affect all of us.
SOA Watch will continue to take this fight for justice and transparency to the halls of Congress, through the judicial system (all the way up to the Supreme Court if we have to), to the media, but first and foremost into the streets. To win, we need to build a grassroots movement that is too powerful to be ignored. Take action against militarization from November 22-24, 2013 at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.We need to change the culture of secrecy, violence and domination, and create a culture of justice and peace in order to make the existence of places like the SOA impossible.
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The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.
Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.
As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.
The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!
Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.
Download this issue of Presente here.
Interview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras
SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.
By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.
For more info about ¡Presente!, go to About US.
Love is so short and forgetting is so long.
A challenging new documentary has quickly become one of the
widest-reaching films to encapsulate the history of the SOA Watch
An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.