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.

Image 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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