Printer Friendly

Pentagon admits use of torture manuals: training books used for Latin Americans at Ft. Benning school.

WASHINGTON - The telephone line from Atlanta Federal Penitentiary was static-free, and the jubilation in the voice of the prisoner, Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, came through loud and clear.

"We have been waiting for this," he said. "For six years - ever since we started protesting at Fort Benning - we've been hearing about the manual of torture. Finally," said Bourgeois, "after consistently lying to us, the Defense Department has admitted the torture manuals exist." Bourgeois was referring to the Department of Defense's release Sept. 20 of U.S. Army intelligence manuals used from 1982 to 1991 at the Army's School of the Americas - first located in Panama and then in Fort Benning, Ga. Bourgeois is serving a six-month sentence for protests at the military installation that houses the school. He is due for release in December.

Bourgeois and others long insisted that the Pentagon was training Latin American military in techniques that included execution, torture and beatings

"What angers me," said Bourgeois, "is that until just a few months ago, the SOA officials denied there were any manuals used to teach torture." The waiting in prison, he said, "has been the dark night of the soul. But then I had a hint something might break."

Others convicted for SOA protest included Jo Anne Lingle, a Mennonite mother of eight, and Ursuline Sr. Claire O'Mara, both released earlier this year after serving two-month sentences, and Louie Benedetto and Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel, still in federal prisons in New York and Sheridan, Ore., respectively.

The Pentagon makes no mention of the protests. Rather, the Defense Department's coyly worded "memorandum for correspondents," stated it was releasing translations from Spanish-language training manuals pulled from circulation in 1991 when the Department discovered that the material contained passages that appeared to condone practices violating U.S. policy.

"The review found that about two dozen isolated phrases, sentences or short passages, out of 1,100 pages in six manuals, were objectionable or dubious," stated the Defense Department, which then quoted such sentences as:

* "Another function of the CI (counterintelligence) agents is recommending CI targets for neutralizing is (eliminating), includ(ing) ... government officials, political leaders and members of the infrastructure."

* "Mechanical methods which could be could be used under certain extenuating circumstances: Sodium pentathol compound could be intravenously injected ... another method is hypnotism."

* In a section dealing with forcing government employees to join guerrilla organizations to spy for military counterintelligence, the manual states the CI agent could cause the arrest of the employee's parents, imprison the employee or give him a beating as part of the placement plan of said employee in the guerrilla organization ... the employee's value could be increased by means of arrests, executions or pacifications.,

Bourgeois said he had gone to Uruguay and Paraguay to interview two SOA graduates and took with him someone who was tortured by SOA graduates."

Each graduate spoke about the manual," Bourgeois said, and admitted they learned torture techniques from it. That admission was filmed. It is now part of a documentary movie, "Inside the School of the Assassins," produced by three-time Academy Award nominee Robert Richter. The movie was lead film at the 1996 Amnesty International film festival in Amsterdam.

One SOA Panama graduate said on camera that he was taught torture techniques using homeless people rounded up on Panama's streets. He said homeless people were brought to the class as human guinea pigs to test techniques for obtaining maximum information - through electric shock and other methods - without causing death.

Bourgeois said, "We are hoping, the Pentagon's revelation, made public, will force Congress to say `No more. Let's shut this place down.'"

He said he hoped members of Congress would begin to see the School of the Americas as a School of Assassins, as it is known in Latin America because SOA grads overthrew so many of the civilian governments there."

Bourgeois said, "We are hoping the Pentagon's revelation, made public, will force Congress to say `No more. Let's shut this place down.'"

He said he hoped members of Congress would begin to see the School of the Americas as a School of Assassins, as it is known in Latin America "because SOA grads overthrew so many of the civilian governments there."

Bourgeois said, "We want the school closed, shut down. I said this to Secretary of the Army Joe Reeder in (Congressman) Joe Kennedy's office last spring. The Pentagon only acknowledged a few bad apples - which we find offensive. Somehow, the Pentagon and the Army are going to hold on to SOA because it' our way of controlling Latin American poor and using the local military to do it."

Kennedy's office told NCR: "This partial document release shows what we have long suspected: Taxpayer's' dollars have been used to train military officers in executions extortion, beatings and other acts of intimidation - all clear human rights abuses. The American people have a right to see the full document."

The Defense Department, meanwhile, stated that "The school has a Human Rights Committee and every (SOA) instructor is certified in his or her ability to teach human rights."

SOA protesters contend that this did not deter some from teaching torture techniques.
COPYRIGHT 1996 National Catholic Reporter
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Jones, Arthur; Vidulich, Dorothy
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Oct 4, 1996
Words:858
Previous Article:Henri Nouwen, a mentor to thousands, dead at 64.
Next Article:From loved leader to 'two-faced rotter.' (Roderick Wright, Scottish bishop has weekend with one woman and a 15-year-old son with another)
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters