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Panel To Probe U.S. Ties To Deaths In Guatemala

In response to allegations of CIA wrongdoing in Guatemala, the White House has given an independent advisory group a broad mandate to probe whether U.S. intelligence agencies paid adequate attention to human rights abuses in Guatemala and reported all they knew about the deaths of U.S. citizens there over the past decade.

National security adviser Anthony Lake, in a memorandum sent over the weekend to the chairman of the president’s Intelligence Oversight Board, said the board should conduct a “government-wide inquiry” to determine whether “any intelligence regulations, procedures, or directives were violated” by the extensive covert U.S. intelligence operations in Guatemala.

The board’s inquiry was provoked by specific allegations that a paid CIA informant in Guatemala was involved in the slayings of U.S. innkeeper Michael DeVine and a Guatemalan guerrilla fighter named Efrain Bamaca Velasquez who was the husband of U.S. lawyer Jennifer Harbury. The allegations were first made March 22 by Rep. Robert C. Torricelli, D-N.J., and later confirmed by U.S. officials.

But Lake’s memorandum, dated April 7, makes clear that the probe should cover not only these cases but also examine “any intelligence that may bear on the facts surrounding the torture, disappearance, or death of any U.S. citizens in Guatemala since 1984,” according to a copy of the memo obtained Monday.

Lake asked the board in particular to review whatever the CIA and other federal agencies knew about the torture of Sister Diana Ortiz, a U.S. social worker, in 1989, and the deaths in 1985 of U.S. journalists Nicholas Blake and Griffith Davis.


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