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An Interim Report on Declassification by the National Commissioner
for Human Rights in Honduras
Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza
Susan C. Peacock


The publication of this report is the result of a team effort by numerous individuals and organizations worldwide, who continue to work together to unveil the truth about human rights abuses in Honduras. The National Commissioner fo r Human Rights is profoundly grateful for all the multifaceted support which the has received in his declassification efforts.

The Program on Peace and International Cooperation of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation merits special words of appreciation for the generous research and writing grant which it extended to the Commissioner. The MacArthu r Foundation grant enabled the Commissioner to pursue, compile and analyze human rights information available in the United States, primarily declassified U.S. government documents, and to publish our account of the process.

Technical support provided by the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has greatly enhanced the Commissioner's capacity to manage massive amounts of human rights information. Senior Associate Stephen A. Hansen deserves special words of commendation for the design and successful implementation of a sophisticated system of full text databases.

The warm hospitality which the National Security Archive has extended to the Commissioner's U.S.-based researcher has been pivotal to our documentation efforts. The Commissioner is grateful to Senior Analysts Kate Doyle and Peter Kornbl uh, and to all the Archive staff for sharing their considerable expertise in the procurement and analysis of declassified documents as a source of human rights information.

The family of Father James Carney has been diligent in conducting their own investigation of the circumstances of his death. Their willingness to share the information which they have compiled over the past decade has been most helpful.

The research assistance of Jack R. Binns, Alexander Hernández, Adam Isacson, the Latin America Working Group, Father Joseph E. Mulligan, CELS, SOA Watch, the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Osiris Villalobos, and Gwen Wilbur is gratefully acknowledged.

The work and dedication of Xiomara Bú, Yovanny Argueta and Elia Ruth Velásquez, Paul Jeffery and Sally Hanlon in the translation and editing of the report is appreciated. All those on the staff of the National Commissioner who provided support in the elaboration of this report are to be thanked.


"You shall know the truth, and the truth will

make you free."

The words from the Gospel according to John are emblazoned in the foyer of CIA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C. Indeed, basic human freedoms and the process of discerning the truth are linked. Knowledge of the truth is a lib erating force.

The right to know the truth is a human right. It is also a fundamental principle of democracy. In a true democracy, citizens know what their government has done in their name, and can hold authorities, both elected and non-elected, acco untable when injustice, corruption and abuses are perpetrated.

The National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, believes that piecing together the truth and documenting the often tragic events in Honduras' recent past will strengthen democracy. When that which was h idden is made known, when that which was done in the dark is brought to light, when truth-tellers speak and act with courage, only then can we ensure that the basic human rights of all Hondurans are respected. The transformation of Honduras into a more de mocratic society lies in our people's spirit, ability and will to know and confront the terrible truth of a legacy of human rights violations.

It has been four years since the Commissioner published The Facts Speak for Themselves, a preliminary report on human rights abuses which occurred in Honduras in the 1980s. Since that report was issued, the Commissioner has conti nued to document past abuses and to support the Public Ministry's efforts to prosecute and convict those responsible. The Commissioner's human rights investigations are ongoing and multifaceted. Truth-seeking and truth-telling require diligence, persisten ce and perseverance.

This report focuses on one particular aspect of the Commissioner's investigation--the critical effort to gain access to formerly secret, "declassified" documents from the U.S. and Argentinian governments as an important source of human rights information. This information from foreign governments supplements that attained in Honduras from those who were eyewitnesses to abuses, survivors of clandestine detention and torture, and former members of the Honduran military.

The report is divided into three sections:

1. A description of the efforts to obtain human rights information from the U.S. and Argentinian governments;

2. An analysis of some of the information which has become public in the case of the disappearance and presumed death of Father James Francis Carney;

3. Reflections on the efforts to date to obtain human rights information, and recommendations for continued follow-up.

As Carlos Roberto Flores prepares to assume leadership as the President of Honduras, the National Commissioner for Human Rights publicly recommits himself to work with him and his administration to document and disclose the truth about human rights abuses, past and present.


In Search of Hidden Truths is the second interim report of the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras. The report focuses on a fundamental and simple right: the right to know the t ruth. It addresses a sensitive and controversial topic -- the declassification of foreign government documentation which contains information regarding Honduran human rights abuses in the 1980s. These abuses include the disappearance of more than 184 peop le, among them a U.S. citizen, Father James Francis Carney, known in Honduras as "Padre Guadalupe."

The National Commissioner, otherwise known as the Human Rights Ombudsman, is a position created by the Honduran constitution. The current Commissioner, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, has been gathering evidence from victims as well as perpet rators of human rights abuses that took place during the 1980s. As a critical supplement to their eyewitness testimony, over the last four years, the Commissioner has sought documentation from Honduras, as well as two other countries involved in the strif e during that period: Argentina, and, most importantly, the United States, which was heavily involved in Honduran security operations during the Contra war against Nicaragua.

In Honduras, the Commissioner's office discovered that government documents are simply "desaparecidos" -- disappeared like so many human rights victims. As in the majority of Latin American nations, Honduras has no clear laws to preserv e State archives nor any legal process for public disclosure of internal records. Honduran citizens, unfortunately, do not, at this time, have the legal right to gain access to internal information about the activities of their own government officials. C onsequently, efforts by the office of the National Commissioner to recover relevant Honduran documents relating to multiple past abuses of human rights have proven fruitless. After considerable investigation, the Commissioner was able to identify the loca tion of an archive in the military intelligence offices in Tegucigalpa. When investigators arrived, however, the file cabinets were empty. For reasons of space, they were told, military files are burned every five years.

To establish the historical record, therefore, obtaining documents from the two foreign governments which collaborated closely with the Honduran military during the 1980s has become critical for this human rights inquiry. Commissioner V alladares formerly requested the cooperation of Argentina, and subsequently traveled to Buenos Aires in October 1996. Since Argentinian agents had worked closely with the Honduran high command and trained Nicaraguan Contras on Honduran soil in the early 1 980s, the office of the Commissioner believed that Argentinian documents might yield hard information from that era. Regrettably, the government of Argentina has to date produced only a slim file of responsive material.

The United States, which has the most advanced archival and freedom of information system in the world, offered the best opportunity and hope for uncovering hard historical documentation on Honduras' violent past. During the Reagan admi nistration, the CIA, Pentagon, and other U.S. intelligence agencies worked closely with the Honduran military. A June 1995 expose in The Baltimore Sun revealed the extensive CIA role in the creation and training of Battalion 3-16 -- the Honduran mi litary unit primarily responsible for many of the human rights atrocities in the 1980s -- as well as documents on U.S. knowledge of abuses. In the United States, The Sun series generated several internal CIA investigations, which centralized hundre ds of relevant documents, and a CIA Inspector General's report on the agency's relationship to the Honduran military.

Chapter I describes the extensive, protracted effort by the Commissioner's office to secure access to this important pool of clearly relevant documentation. The administration of Bill Clinton, which has previously authorized the declass ification of significant records on El Salvador and Guatemala, promised its support in several diplomatic letters. President Clinton himself pledged in December 1997 that key CIA documents would be released "by the end of the year."

Some documents were declassified: The State Department released over 2,500 pages of cable and memoranda which officials stated reflected a thorough search of its files; the Defense Department released 34 records but has renewed its sear ch for more records; the CIA released 36 documents on the case of Father Carney and 94 documents on five other Honduran cases.

The ongoing process to obtain U.S. documents has, however, proven exceedingly frustrating. Far more has been promised than has actually been produced. The CIA, for example, has yet to release the recent report of its own Inspector Gener al. Many of the documents that have been released are either irrelevant to the specific requests of the Commissioner, or, as in the case of CIA records, are almost entirely deleted.

The censored pages are a metaphor -- the excised sections of text are black, as are the violations which remain hidden.

The United States government agreed to help the Commissioner because it understood that the transition to strong civilian rule necessitates a comprehensive rendering of the past. Indeed, this inquiry is part of the broader process of co nsolidating democracy which is now occurring in Honduras. This process is full of hopes and dreams, but it is overshadowed by the memory of events of the last decade -- events which remain unresolved in the national consciousness. In the conclusions of The Facts Speak For Themselves, a preliminary report on disappeared persons which he published in 1993, the Commissioner stated, "It is necessary to speak the truth and to do justice. Forgiveness and reconciliation are possible only after the truth i s known."

It is urgent that the truth be known so this process can continue unabated. The Human Rights Commissioner has made this urgency known to U.S. authorities; and this report is intended to reiterate the need for the Clinton administration' s support for the declassification of documentation on human rights violations in Honduras. Despite inexplicable delays, the Commissioner continues, in good faith, to hope and expect that release of the documents will be forthcoming in the near future.

*** *** ***

The report is structured around three chapters, and comprehensive appendices which contain the full texts of declassification requests, diplomatic correspondence, and a chronology of the Commissioner's four-year effort to obtain human r ights documentation from the U.S. and Argentinian governments.

Chapter I provides an introduction to the U.S. declassification process, including the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It identifies the legal process and outcome of several major FOIA inquiries on Honduras -- filed by the family of Father James Carney, The Baltimore Sun, and former Ambassador Jack Binns. Chapter I also explains the government-to-government requests for access to internal documentation, and provides a status report on the information obtained to date.

Chapter II provides an analysis of the documentation obtained on the case of Father James Carney. The documents cover Operation Patuca -- the Honduran military effort to track and eliminate an insurgency group with which Carney was trav eling at the time of this disappearance. This chapter reviews the multiple explanations, contained in the documents and other evidence, of the circumstances of Father Carney's death.

Chapter III summarizes the Commissioner's key considerations and recommendations for continuing work by his office and other Honduran government officials.

The report concludes with brief observations on the paramount importance of a honest and open excavation of history, including recent U.S. history, to the Honduran transition to a full and accountable democratic state.

Chapter I



Conducting an investigation of human rights abuses which took place in the past is like putting together a large jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has many pieces, which must be located and configured so that it can be solved. In human rights i nvestigations, information must be gathered from a variety of sources -- eyewitness testimonies, legal documents, exhumations, etc. -- in order to piece together the truth about the events which took place. The investigations of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras are an example of this.

Documents from the U.S. government, which have been "declassified" and made available publicly, are one important source of information for Honduran human rights investigators. They may help provide a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in historical human rights cases. Nonetheless, they alone will not give a full picture of the crimes which were committed.

The U.S. government is a meticulous record-keeper. It has clear regulations which guide what information is recorded, how it is safeguarded, and whether or not it is available to the public. The world can be certain that, when perceived U.S. interests are at stake, that government will gather and systematize reams of information.

During the decade of the 1980's, there was significant U.S. involvement in Honduras and in the neighboring countries of Central America. The U.S. government compiled detailed records on happenings throughout the Central American region. Disclosures at the Iran-Contra hearings, to the Truth Commission in El Salvador, and in conjunction with the Intelligence Oversight Board investigation on Guatemala give one a sense of the type and scope of information collected routinely by the U.S. The re is no doubt that U.S. government files contain ample information about Honduras, and that some of it would be extremely helpful to human rights investigators.

For this reason, over the years a number of declassification requests have been submitted to the U.S. government for human rights information on Honduras. These declassification requests fall into two broad categories, those made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and those made government-to-government. This chapter describes the declassification process in detail and gives the status of each request which has been presented to date.



The original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted in 1966 by the U.S. Congress and went into effect in 1967. It established, for the first time, a statutory right of access by "any person" to records of federal agencies of the U.S. government. The FOIA attempted to control government secrecy by establishing requirements for the public disclosure of information.

The FOIA's underlying premise was that all federal agency records must be accessible to the public unless a specific exemption is made. Section 552(b) listed nine exemptions which permit U.S. government agencies to withhold access to re cords requested under the FOIA. These exemptions appear in Appendix D of this report.

Since its enactment, the FOIA has been amended three times. The amendments have dealt primarily with administrative issues and the scope of exemptions. Administrative deadlines were set by which FOIA requests must be processed, or a req uester has standing to sue. Agencies were instructed to charge only the actual costs involved in the search for and subsequent copying of documents responsive to a request. Instances in which these processing fees were to be waived were specified. The pri nciple of "segregable portion" was established whereby, even when some portion of material is exempt, the remainder must be released.

The FOIA included several requirements about agency denials which were intended to facilitate appeals. FOIA requesters must exhaust their administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit to attempt to obtain records.

To date, three FOIA requests have yielded human rights information on Honduras. The first was submitted by several U.S. citizens to petition for information on the circumstances surrounding the "disappearance" of one individual, Father James Carney. The second request was made by a newspaper, The Baltimore Sun. This request sought information from a set time period, while at the same time pursuing documents on specific issues and individuals. The third request was filed by a form er U.S. diplomat and presidential appointee, Jack R. Binns, for documents generated during his years as Ambassador to Honduras. The declassification process for each of these requests is examined in some detail.


Since Father James Francis Carney, also called "Padre Guadalupe", disappeared in Honduras in September, 1983, his family has persisted in their efforts to determine his fate. Virginia Carney Smith sent an initial hand-written reques t for information on her brother's case to the U.S. government in October, 1983, shortly after learning that Fr. Carney was missing.

Declassified State Department cables between headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa indicate that the request was received. It was assigned the FOIA Case Identification Number 8303036, and initial steps were taken to process i t.1 However, Smith received no communication from the U.S. government concerning the request, and no documents were forthcoming.

Given the government's lack of responsiveness, family members (Maureen Frances Carney, Virginia Carney Smith, Eileen Carney Connolly, John Patrick Carney, and W. Joseph Connolly) filed a FOIA request on August 25, 1984 through their att orney, Peter A. Schey. Their FOIA request sought information from the following U.S. government entities:

• Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

• Department of State (DOS)

• Department of Justice - Office of Legal Policy (DOJ-OLP)

• Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

• Department of the Army (ARMY)

• Department of the Navy (NAVY)

• Department of the Air Force (AIR FORCE)

• National Security Agency (NSA)

• Department of Defense (DOD)

• Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

This request was assigned the FOIA Case Identification Number 8403222. The documents which the Carney family received in response to their FOIA request, and their contents, are described in more detail in Chapter II.

Nonetheless, the U.S. government denied the release, in full or in part, of more than 300 documents in response to the Carney family FOIA. The agencies claimed that the "national security" and "foreign policy" exemptions of the FOIA all owed the withholding of information.

Of all the U.S. government agencies, the CIA was the least forthcoming in its response to the Carney family. In response to the petition to release any documents indicating "the involvement or non-involvement of personnel from the Centr al Intelligence Agency ... in the 'debriefing' or interrogation of Padre Guadalupe in Honduras in August or September 1983," the CIA stated that "the fact of the existence or non-existence of any documents which would reveal a confidential or covert CIA c onnection with, or interest in, those items of your request ... is classified." The CIA further clarified that by denying the plaintiffs' request, they were "neither confirming nor denying that any such documents exist."2

Of the responsive documents that did surface during the CIA's review, 118 were withheld in their entirety and fourteen in part under the FOIA exemptions. CIA information contained in one FBI document was also denied.

Under the terms of the FOIA, the Carney family continued to pursue the release of documents which had been withheld. On their behalf, their lawyer filed administrative appeals with the various agencies, arguing that information had been improperly exempted. In these appeals, the Carney family requested Vaughn indexes. A Vaughn index is a detailed list of withheld documents correlated to the exemptions which are claimed by a U.S. government agency to justify the withholding.

The appeals process yielded very little substantive information. The family's appeals to the DOJ-OLP, NSA, DIA and NAVY were denied outright. The appeals to CIA, DOS and ARMY resulted in the release of additional information: in some ca ses entire documents were released, and in other instances portions of documents were released.

At this point, all administrative remedies for the Carney family's FOIA request had been exhausted without a satisfactory outcome. Thus, on February 4, 1988, the family filed a complaint for injunctive relief under the FOIA and the Priv acy Act. The suit sought (1) to enjoin U.S. government agencies from withholding records they requested under the FOIA, and (2) to compel the release of improperly withheld records to the family. All the agencies listed on the initial FOIA request were na med as defendants.

The lawsuit was brought in the federal district court in the central district of California in Los Angeles. Honorable Mariana R. Pfaelzer was the U.S. District Court Judge initially assigned to the case. In the course of the proceedings , either the District Court or the parties voluntarily dismissed the NAVY, AIR FORCE, NSA, OLP and DOD as defendants.

With defendant CIA, 53 documents were in dispute. The CIA claimed either national security information, internal agency rules or inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum exemptions for all of these documents. (See Appendix D, on F OIA exemptions.) In response to the litigation, the CIA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in which it argued that the family ("the plaintiffs") had never clearly articulated its claim that information had been improperly withheld. The family then filed both a Motion in Opposition to the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion for In Camera Review and Injunction, asking that the judge personally review the documents in dispute in her chambers before making a determination.

On February 28, 1991, U.S. Magistrate Judge Venetta S. Tassopulos concluded that "there is no basis to grant plaintiffs" request for in camera review of withheld documents." She further found "that the defendant has successfully establi shed that the withheld information is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of the FOIA."3 She recommended that the CIA Motion for Summary Judgment be granted, ruling against the Carney family.

Despite the diligent pursuit of relevant information by Fr. Carney's family over so many years, some in the U.S. government had earlier made the determination that the case was closed. A declassified handwritten note on an August 19, 19 85 telephone conversation stated outright: "Fr. Carney case transferred to POL 6 months ago -- case is dead. Front office does not want the case active ... we aren't telling that to the family!!"4 In the face of such resistance, the persistence of the fam ily of Fr. Carney in their quest for the truth regarding the fate of their brother is truly admirable.


John Carroll, editor of The Baltimore Sun, was intrigued by a wire service report about the The Facts Speak for Themselves, the Honduran Human Rights Commissioner's preliminary report about forced disappearances in tha t country. He instructed reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson to investigate. They pursued the story for 14 months, an unusual commitment for a North American newspaper. The Sun published a prize-winning, four-part series in June, 1995 to report its extensive findings of U.S. knowledge of, and complicity in, human rights violations in Honduras.

As part of its information-gathering efforts for that series, The Baltimore Sun filed a FOIA request on May 26, 1994. The Sun request covered the period from 1979 through April, 1994. It included:

Any and all information related to the origin, structure, members and functions of Battalion 316; any and all information relating to assistance and training provided by the United States government and others to members of Battalion 31 6, and any all (sic) information relating to possible human rights violations committed by members of Battalion 3-16.

It specifically requested any and all information on the case of Inés Consuelo Murillo, a young Honduran lawyer who survived 80 days in illegal detention, and on the activities of two Honduran military personnel, Gen. Gustavo Alv arez Martínez and Major Ricardo Zuniga Morazán. The request also sought, "All documents and information requested by Dr. Valladares."5

Almost a year passed, and no documents were surfaced in response to The Sun's FOIA request. The newspaper grew impatient. It hired the law firm of Baker & Hostetler, and threatened to sue the CIA to obtain documents. The very next day a packet of fourteen declassified documents was delivered to The


More time elapsed. Then, on January 24, 1997, the CIA delivered two training manuals to The Baltimore Sun in response to the newpaper's request. The two manuals were titled: Human Resources Exploitation (1983) and Kubark Counteri ntelligence Interrogation (1963).


Jack R. Binns was the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from October 10, 1980 until October 31, 1981. Now retired from the U.S. Foreign Service, he is writing his memoirs. In order to ensure the accuracy of his recollections, Binns wanted to review the documents, classified and unclassified, which had passed in and out of the Embassy during his tenure as Ambassador.

Binns first sent a letter to the State Department requesting information on August 12, 1995. Later he learned of the mandatory presidential review provision (22 CFR 171.25) of the FOIA. As former presidential appointees, Binns and other former U.S. Ambassadors are given special dispensations vis-`a-vis access to government records from their time of service. The State Department permitted Binns to read and take limited notes on classified documents from the period of his ambassadorship. After this perusal of the documents, Binns submitted a FOIA request to the State Department on October 27, 1995, which focused exclusively on his time in Honduras. (See Appendix A, for the full text of the FOIA request.)

Binns' FOIA request (Case Control No. 9600652) was handled in an expedited fashion because of his status as a former presidential appointee. On August 22, 1996, he received a formal response to his request. At that time, the State Depar tment released a number of documents to Binns, most of which were cables which had been exchanged between the Embassy in Tegucigalpa and headquarters in Washington, D.C. While the cables covered a broad range of subjects some valuable human rights informa tion has been gleaned from them.

At the same time, Binns was informed that some documents were being entirely or partially withheld, and that others required inter-agency coordination before a decision on release could be made. It was unclear exactly which documents we re in question or how many there were.

Therefore, on August 27, 1996, Binns requested a listing of those documents which had been withheld under provisions of Executive Order 12958, so that he might file an appeal. (See Appendix D, for explanation of FOIA exemptions.) When the FOI Office informed Binns that "policy" precluded them from providing him with such a list, he found this to be "extraordinary, if not completely bizarre."6

In his subsequent appeal dated October 11, 1996, Binns observed that given "the fact that I already know the number and general subject matter of all documents in question, the Department's refusal to release this information seems to s erve no purpose other than to obstruct the requestor's ability to appeal decisions to withhold documents."7 Given this situation, Binns submitted 24 single-spaced pages listing the number and title of each cable which had been withheld, as well as an infe rred description of the content and his argument as to why each should be released. The specificity of the appeal was truly impressive.

Ambassador Binns' appeal was successful. The Appeals Review Panel ruled in his favor and the previously withheld documents were released to him.


The FOIA mandated that "any person" may submit a request for the declassification of information to the U.S. government. "Any person" has been interpreted by the U.S. courts (Stone v. Export-Import Bank of the United States, 1977 an d 1978) to include foreign citizens, foreign governments and corporations. Thus, the Honduran government or a Honduran citizen may file a FOIA request.

Honduran government officials carefully weighed the option of filing a FOIA and decided not to pursue it due to time constraints. FOIA requests are handled on a first-come-first-served basis in the order in which they are received. Give n the tremendous backlog of FOIA requests, it is not uncommon to wait several years for a response.

Honduran government officials required a more expedited response than the FOIA would provide. Time was of the essence in the conduct of their investigations. It was felt that several years was too long to wait to attain human rights inf ormation.

There is historical precedence for prompt U.S. response to government-to-government requests. Such requests are generally expedited and handled more quickly than FOIA requests.

Given the urgency of obtaining information for on-going human rights investigations and for the prosecution of rights violators, Honduran government officials opted to submit government-to-government requests to the United States and to Argentina. The requests were made by two Honduran government entities, the National Commissioner for Human Rights and the Public Ministry.


The National Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Leo Valladares, made his initial request for human rights information from the U.S. government on November 15, 1993 to aid in the preparation of The Facts Speak For Themselves, a preliminary report on the forced disappearance of persons in Honduras. The response from the U.S. government was positive. In a December 8, 1993 letter to U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, President Bill Clinton indicated: "We are willing to assist Dr. Valla dares. However, it is not feasible to review all the reporting on Honduran human rights matters since 1980 for material related to the 140-plus disappearance cases, as Dr. Valladares has so far requested." The Commissioner was asked to narrow his request.

On December 21, 1993, Dr. Valladares submitted a second, more focused request to the U.S. government. Valladares gave then U.S. Ambassador William Pryce a letter to which was appended a "List of Questions on Topics About Which Informati on Is Requested from the United States Government." This list included questions on general topics and on specific human rights cases. Again, the Clinton administration expressed a willingness to cooperate, but indicated that the request list was still to o broad.

Valladares presented a third, profoundly abridged declassification request to Ambassador Pryce on August 1, 1995. Information was requested on: (1) six human rights cases; (2) General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez; and (3) on Battalio n 3-16. This request for human rights information was directed to six U.S. government agencies -- the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Army, the National Security Council, and the Department of State. The text of this request is contained in Appendix A of this report.


Government-to-government declassification requests were also submitted by officials of Honduras' Public Ministry in June, 1995. On the thirteenth of that month, Attorney General Angel Edmundo Orellana Mercado wrote a letter to Ambas sador Pryce. Dr. Orellana notified the U.S. government that Honduran human rights investigators were giving priority to the case of the forced disappearance of Fr. James Carney. He formally requested information concerning that case from the State Departm ent and other government agencies. (See Appendix A, for the text of this letter.)

Two days later, Sonia Marlyna Dubón de Flores, then the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, delivered a detailed request to Amb. Pryce. Her request focused on nineteen points related to five areas: (1) CIA involvement in Hondura s; (2) Battalion 3-16; (3) the Department of Special Investigations; (4) specific military-police operations; and (5) the intelligence and counterintelligence activities of several Honduran citizens. Human rights information was also requested on the case s of Miguel Francisco Carías, Father James Francis Carney, Roger Samuel González, and Nelson MacKay Chavarría. (See Appendix A, for the text of this request.)


The Clinton administration took steps to process the three government-to-government requests from Honduras. John Hamilton, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, was designated to coordinate the d eclassification of human rights information on Honduras across the different government agencies. Hamilton constituted and convened a Working Group on the Honduras declassification comprised of representatives from the various agencies. In addition, the C IA formed its own Honduras Working Group in response to the declassification requests.

Since the submission of the requests, the Honduran Human Rights Commissioner has been in regular contact with U.S. government officials. He has inquired repeatedly about the status of the declassification, urging the accelerated review of records and the expeditious release of responsive documents. Dr. Valladares has made five trips to Washington, D.C. to raise the issue face-to-face with presidential advisers, agency officials, and members of Congress. These efforts are documented in t he "Chronology" found in Appendix B of this report.

The U.S. government has consistently promised that the government-to-government requests are being treated seriously, and that more human rights information will be released "very soon." These assurances have an empty ring when one exam ines the actual track record of the U.S. government in delivering the requested information. In reality, the response has been excruciatingly slow, and the amount of substantive human rights information gleaned from the documents released to date has been bitterly disappointing. This reality becomes poignantly evident in the following section of this report, which examines the actual information which has been yielded by the government-to-government requests to date. The response of each U.S. agency is no ted.

U.S. Department of State (DOS)

The U.S. State Department released three separate batches of declassified documents to Honduran government authorities, giving the DOS the distinction of being the U.S. government agency that has been most responsive to the Hond uran government-to-government requests. This is not saying much when one considers the actual information received. Many of the documents were already in the public domain, or they contained very little human rights information specific to the government- to-government petitions.

On September 15, 1995, the first batch of DOS information, consisting of six documents, was handed to Dr. Valladares by Mr. John Hamilton. The documents turned over were already in the public domain and had already been obtained and scr utinized by the Human Rights Commissioner. They had been released previously to either The Baltimore Sun or the family of Father James Carney in response to their FOIA requests.

The second set of DOS documents, released in February, 1996, contained about 600 pages concerning the case of Father James Carney. Again, the bulk of this material had been previously released to Carney's family in response to their FOI A request. The information consisted mostly of cables exchanged between the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and State Department officials in Washington, D.C.

The third set of DOS documents, released on September 5, 1996, contained 2,033 pages. Again, the documents were primarily cables. They dealt with a wide range of subject matter (election campaigns, corruption involving AID-funded projec ts, the defection of Army Colonel Leonides Torres Arias, etc.).

The State Department has indicated that all the documents which are responsive to government-to-government requests from Honduras have now been released from this U.S. agency. Although the released documents do make mention of General A lvarez, Battalion 3-16, and the six individual cases outlined in the declassification request of the Honduran Human Rights Commissioner, they contain little human rights information which is responsive to the specifics of the petition.

Even though the utility of the declassified DOS documents is limited, they do provide a few clues which have helped increase the understanding of the context of human rights violations in Honduras. In the case of documents on General Al varez, for example, it is interesting to know what he said to visiting Congresspersons from the United States or in response to journalist's questions at press conferences. This is important background information, but it is less helpful than concrete inf ormation on Alvarez's involvement in cases of human rights violations, or his connections to the Battalion 3-16 death squad, or his relationship with Argentina's armed forces.

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)

Of all of the U.S. government agencies, the DOD has been the least forthcoming in its response to the Honduran government's declassification requests. A total of 34 heavily excised documents were made available on March 13, 1997 . At the time, it was unclear whether or not this would be all the DOD material released. Therefore, on June 10, 1997, Dr. Valladares wrote a letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Inter-American Affairs, Maria C. Fernández-Greczmiel, seeking cla-rification. He queried: "Will more documents be forthcoming from the DOD which are responsive to my request, or have I already received all the documents that you intend to release? If more documents are 'in the pipeline', as you say, please s pecify a date by which I might expect to receive them." (See Appendix C, for the full text of this letter.)

In her June 18, 1997 response to Dr. Valladares, Fernández-Greczmiel stated:

... after making an initial submission of documents, the Department of Defense initiated another comprehensive survey involving all major agencies within DOD to determine if there were additional documents which were responsive to your request. This process is still underway.

We anticipate receiving the results of that search soon, but it is difficult to predict the exact date as to when and what documents will be available. Please be assured that this process is being expedited as much as possible, and I am hopeful that we can make this submission to you, through the State Department by early July. (See Appendix C, for the full text of this letter.)

The early July date has come and gone. Months have passed without any additional communication from DOD as to the status of their declassification effort. Most recently, in December, Clinton himself indicated in a letter that the releas e of DOD documents would take place "by year's end." Indeed, 1997 has come and gone.

In addition, Dr. Valladares was advised early on that U.S. Army and National Security Council documents would be processed through the Pentagon. No document recognizable as having originated with either of those two entities has been tu rned over thus far.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

The CIA has released two batches of documents in response to the declassification requests from the Honduran government. The first consisted of 36 documents (124 pages) related to the Carney case, and a "Summary of CIA Documents on Father Carney." The release occurred on March 13, 1997.

A second batch of 97 CIA documents (313 pages) were turned over on August 29, 1997. This information focused on the remaining five human rights cases involving Honduran citizens which were included in the Commissioner's request. The doc uments are excessively excised. They contain more information on the organization and activities of leftist groups in Honduras than they do on the kidnappings, illegal detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings which occurred in the individual cases in question. It is the latter information that Honduran human rights investigators urgently seek to obtain.

The CIA has delayed the release of Honduran human rights information despite clear target dates which have been laid out by President Clinton himself. On June 13, 1997, in a letter to 51 Members of Congress, Clinton wrote that the: "CIA expects to release any human rights-related material on General Alvarez by early September and on Battalion 3-16 by late November."

In December, 1997, Clinton wrote another letter, indicating that the release of the same material would take place "by year's end." Again, these dates have passed without any explanation to Honduran authorities.


In addition to the Honduran government-to-government requests which have been made to the United States, human rights information also has been sought from the Argentinian government. This is because Argentina was heavily involved i n military operations and training within Honduran territory during the period in question.

In May, 1996, Argentinian President Carlos Saúl Menem visited Honduras. During this visit, in response to questions from the Honduran press, Menem expressed a willingness to turn over documents in the possession of his government concerning human rights matters in Honduras, particularly the terrible practice of the forced disappearance of persons.

On September 2, 1996, Dr. Valladares followed up by sending an official letter of request to Menem. The Commissioner asked that Menem "order the respective authorities of your country to put at our disposition all documentation, be it a lready public or still considered secret ("classified"), with the objective of determining what occurred in Honduras." (See Appendix A, for the full text of the letter.) Information was requested on six topics:

1. The presence of Argentinian military officers in Honduras between 1980 and 1990;

2. Arms sales and counter-insurgency training to the Honduran security forces;

3. The Argentinian role in the organization and training of the Nicaraguan "Contras" (the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, FDN, and other known groups) in Honduran territory;

4. The nature of the Tripartite Agreement between Argentina, Honduras and the United States (1981) to support and promote the Nicaraguan "Contras" with an operational base in Honduras;

5. The responsibility of various military and intelligence entities for the coordination of Argentinian military operations in Honduras; and

6. The funding of Argentinian military activities in Honduras.

(See Appendix A, for the complete text of this request.)

After receiving no response from the Argentinian authorities, Dr. Valladares travelled to Buenos Aires in mid-October, 1996 to meet with various officials to inquire about the status of the petition. He was told by the Argentinian Sub-s ecretary for Human Rights Alicia Pierini that no official documents exist about past repressive military operations in Honduras. Pierini emphasized that "we also seek to reconstruct the historical truth about the tragic National Security Doctrine."8

Fortunately, Dr. Valladares did not go away totally empty-handed. During that visit, he was given a thin packet of documents and photographs, the majority of which relate to Rafael López Fader's activities in Honduras with the Ni caraguan "Contras." López Fader had been charged for his participation in the kidnapping and extortion of Osvaldo Fabio Sivak in Argentina. In his defense, López Fader argued that he could not possibly have committed the alleged crime becaus e, at the time that it occurred, he was in Honduras performing a secret mission. López Fader testified that, while operating as a secret agent of the Argentinian army in Honduras, he used the pseudonym "Raúl Enrique Martínez."

Although this implies Argentinian involvement in secret missions in Honduras, a practice which was probably documented extensively, no further information has been received. In fact, since last autumn, there has been no further response by the Argentinian government to the Commissioner's information request.


1 "Freedom of Information Act Request No. 8303036 from Virginia Smith," DOS Unclassified Cable #306596 from U.S. Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. to U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, DOS Carney Declassification (Case ID: 95279701, 1/30 /96), Document E9, October 27, 1983, 2 pp. and "[F]reedom of Information Act Request No. 8303036 from Virginia Smith on Father Carney," DOS Unclassified Cable #015634 from the U.S. Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, DOS Carney Declassification (Case ID: 95279701, 1/30/96), Document E22, January 18, 1984, one page.

2 "Complaint for Injunctive Relief under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act," United States District Court for the Central District of California, Civil Action No. 88 00602 MRP Kix, February 4, 1988, p. 12.

3 "Report and Recommendations (Central Intelligence Agency)," U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. CV 88-0602-MRP(T), p. 63.

4 Handwritten Note on Telephone Conversation with Lincoln Benedicto, DOS Carney Declassification (Case ID: 95279712, 02/02/96), Document C189, August 19, 1985, page one.

5 "Documents on Disappearance of Father Carney," DOS Limited Official Use Cable #151003 from the Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, DOS Carney Declassification (Case ID: 9527970 3, 02/02/96), Document E92, pp. 2-3.

6 Letter from Jack R. Binns to the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Chairman, Appeals Review Panel, U.S. Department of State, October 11, 1996, p. 1.

7 Ibid, pp. 1-2.

8 "Reconocen haber intervenido en 'guerra sucia'", El Pregonero (Washington, D.C.), October 24, 1996, p. 16.

Chapter II



The forced disappearance of a person is a terrible crime. The fate of each "desaparecido", or disappeared person, is forever shrouded in mystery. Loved ones pray and worry and grieve and fear the worst. They must endure the pain of loss and uncertainty. There are no mortal remains to lay to rest. In Honduras, 184 cases of disappearances have been documented by the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras.

Father James Francis Carney is one of the 184 disappeared of Honduras. The case of Fr. Carney is illustrative because the U.S. government has declassified more information on this particular case of forced disappearance that on any othe r. This is due to a combination of factors, not the least of which is the fact that Fr. Carney is the only U.S. citizen among the disappeared. Loved by many humble, hard-working peasants and hated by some of Honduras' most powerful men, Fr. Carney was an outspoken public figure in that country for almost two decades. Over more than a decade, numerous overtures by relatives and Jesuit colleagues to both the Honduran and U.S. governments to try to determine Fr. Carney's fate have helped to keep this case in the public eye.

The declassified material related to the Carney case, examined in this chapter, illustrates of the type of information contained in U.S. government documents which is of interest to Honduran human rights investigators. In addition, this chapter identifies information gaps and questions raised by the declassified documents that have yet to be resolved, and makes recommendations as to how to proceed with the investigation of this particular case.


James Francis Carney was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 28, 1924. >From 1943 to 1946 he served in the United States Army, stationed primarily in France and England. After World War II, he returned to the United States, where i n 1948 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri, to study for the priesthood. Ordained in 1961, he was assigned to a Jesuit mission in Honduras where he served for almost twenty years. Father Carney, known to Honduran peasants as "Padre Gua dalupe," became a naturalized Honduran citizen in September, 1974 and subsequently renounced his U.S. citizenship.

On November 17, 1979, Carney was expelled from Honduras by the military government of General Policarpo Paz García. A State Department telegram from that period indicates that Carney was "considered somewhat controversial by the GOH [Government of Honduras] because of his strong feelings about social justice, and his work with campesinos."1 Shortly thereafter, in a diplomatic note dated November 24, 1979, the Honduran government informed the U.S. Embassy that Carney's Honduran ci tizenship had been revoked.

Despite the petitions of the official Church hierarchy and 25,000 signatures of lay persons, Fr. Carney's attempts to legally re-enter Honduras were refused. He became the parish priest of San Juan de Limay in the Province of Esteli, Ni caragua.

In July of 1983, Fr. Carney crossed from Nicaragua into Honduras with a small guerrilla column of the Central America Revolutionary Workers Party (Partido Revolucionario de Trabajadores Centroamericanos - PRTC) led by Dr. José Ma ría Reyes Mata. Before accompanying this group as their chaplain, he submitted his resignation to the Society of Jesus.

Fr. Carney disappeared some time in mid-September 1983. Multiple versions of his death have surfaced. Some involve serious allegations of complicity by Honduran military officials and U.S. personnel. For example, Florencio Caballero, a former member of the 316th Military Intelligence Battalion, testified that Honduran soldiers captured Carney and other PRTC guerrillas in a military operation named "Patuca". Carney was then taken to El Aguacate, a supply base of the Nicaraguan "Contras," where he was interrogated. He was subsequently thrown to his death from a helicopter. Caballero revealed that the orders for Carney's disappearance came from the Chief of the Honduran Armed Forces General Alvarez Martínez during a planning meeting for the so-called "Patuca Operation." According to Caballero, North America personnel, including one man he knew only as "Mr. Mike", were present at that meeting when Alvarez ordered his men to kill Carney after interrogating him.


The U.S. government has received both Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and government-to-government requests for human rights information regarding the case of Fr. Carney.

As part of their investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death, Fr. Carney's siblings submitted FOIA requests in October, 1983 and August, 1984. Their hypothesis that the U.S. government must have information on the Carney ca se had been reinforced by conversations at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Indeed, a declassified telegram recounts the very first visit of Carney's relatives to the U.S. Embassy on September 28, 1983, noting that: "EMBOFFS [Embassy officials] ASSURED TH AT GOVERNMENT OF HONDURAS WOULD HAVE TOLD EMBASSY OF ANY INFORMATION HELD ON FATHER CARNEY."2

Over the past decade, Carney's family has been untiring in its quest for information on the case. Investing considerable time and financial resources, they exercised their right of access to U.S. government information to the fullest ex tent possible under the FOIA. This process is described in detail in Chapter I of this report.

In addition to the Carney family FOIA request, three government-to-government declassification requests have been submitted which specifically mention of the Carney case. The first two originated in the Public Ministry of the Republic o f Honduras.

On June 13, 1995, Honduran Attorney General Edmundo Orellana Mercado directed a letter to then-U.S. Ambassador William T. Pryce which explained that the investigation of the Carney case was a priority for the Office of the Special Prose cutor for Human Rights. Dr. Orellana went on to ask: "That all of the information that lies in the Department of State and other Governmental Offices about the forced disappearance of Father Carneige (sic) be given to us." (See Appendix A, for the full text of this letter.)

Two days later, then-Special Prosecutor for Human Rights Sonia Marlyna Dubón de Flores sent a second, more specific request to Amb. Pryce for U.S. information on nineteen different topics. Among these topics, Ms. Dubón pet itioned for: "Reports and documents of the CIA with respect to the death of the Jesuit priest of North American nationality JAMES FRANCISCO CARNEIGE (sic), known as 'Padre Guadalupe." (See Appendix A, for the full text of this letter.)

The Carney case was also one of the six cases about which Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza requested U.S. information in a formal petition which was personally presented to Amb. Pryce on August 1, 1995. The Commissione r sought: "All the records concerning the disappearance of Father JAMES FRANCISCO CARNEY, known as 'FATHER GUADALUPE." (See Appendix A, for the full text of these request.)



Fr. Carney served as a chaplain to a group of fewer than one hundred men and women belonging to the Central America Revolutionary Workers Party (PTRC) that crossed by foot from Nicaragua into Honduras on or about July 19, 1983. Carn ey's presence with the group is confirmed in diary entries of the group's leader, Dr. José María Reyes Mata, who chronicled the journey of the guerrillas through a mountainous region of Honduras.3 When Reyes Mata was killed by Honduran soldi ers, his diary was retrieved, though several pages were missing. An English translation of the diary, prepared by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), has been declassified by the CIA. The diary makes several references to a "Mario," the name which is known to be Fr. Carney's pseudonym. The August 15 entry notes that:"... Mario, the one who was presumed to be the weakest of all, had reached the ravine about 600 meters from the camp."4 This is the last mention of Mario in the text of the diary .

The PRTC group was considered a serious threat to Honduras' national security. "The infiltration from Nicaragua of a Cuban-trained guerrilla force into a remote region of Honduras" was characterized as "the most significant internationa l security threat of 1983" in a 1988 report on an investigation for the CIA Inspector General. The report declared: "The guerrilla infiltration was disturbing evidence that Havana and Managua were intent on introducing guerrilla war to Honduras."5 A full- scale military operation was mounted against the PRTC group.

Passages from formerly secret U.S. documents provide a partial response to key questions regarding the destiny of the PRTC guerrillas, among them: When did the Honduran military begin to monitor the movements of the PRTC guerrillas? Whe n did the Honduran military become aware of Fr. Carney's presence with the PRTC group? How were PRTC guerrillas treated by the Honduran military upon their capture or desertion? To what extent was there U.S. involvement in the detection, tracking and elim ination of the PRTC group? What did employees of the U.S. government know about the welfare and whereabouts of Fr. Carney, and when did they learn it?

Detection of PRTC guerrillas

On August 1, 1983, two PRTC guerrillas deserted near the town of Catacamas and turned themselves in to the Honduran army. According to a declassified State Department telegram: "WHEN GOH [Government of Honduras] FIRST BECAME AWA RE OF THE GROUP'S PRESENCE IN HONDURAS, BY THE ARRIVAL OF TWO DESERTERS AT CATACAMAS ON AUGUST 1, THEY SHARED THIS INFORMATION WITH U.S. DEFENSE ATTACHE OFFICE. THE U.S. DEFENSE ATTACHE OFFICE DID NOT HAVE INFORMATION PRIOR TO THIS DATE REGARDING THIS GRO UP'S PRESENCE IN HONDURAS."6 Immediately after the deser-ter's appearance, the Honduran military mounted the "Patuca Operation" in order to locate, capture and eliminate the PRTC guerrillas.

On August 4, 1983, the Honduran Army's Patuca Task Force arrived in Nueva Palestina, Olancho, to set up its headquarters and to launch the counter-insurgency mission. The very next day, U.S. Army Rangers from Fort Lewis, Washington, wer e parachuted into Olancho. They remained there until August 16, participating in what the Pentagon called a "simulated counterinsurgency operation" with Honduran forces.7 This was all part of larger U.S.-Honduran military exercises which were described as follows in a declassified trip report of the Investigations Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Big Pine II (Ahuas Tara II) lasted from August 1983 to February 1984. This exercise, in which approximately 6,000 U.S. Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel participated, included an amphibious landing by a marine amphibious unit o n the north coast, a combined field training exercise of Honduran units and U.S. Army Special Forces in a counterinsurgency exercise in a remote area of Honduras, and a combined artillery exercise of the division artillery from the 101st Airborne Division and the Honduran army.8

Thus, a significant numbers of U.S. forces were present in Honduras for the duration of the Patuca Operation.

U.S. reporting on the operation

Declassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents indicate that the U.S. military closely monitored the Patuca Operation. The DIA reported in meticulous detail on intelligence gathered on the PRTC group and on its modus o perandi. Intelligence reports included:

• the name, pseudonym, rank and place of origin of all guerrillas (ie. deserters and those still at large);

• the dates and locations at which guerrillas deserted or were captured, wounded or killed;

• the organization and exact size of the guerrilla group;

• the demographics and morale of the guerrilla group;

• the location of those guerrillas still at large;

• the types of training received by the guerrilla group;

• the quantities of supplies (arms, equipments and food) that the guerrillas were carrying;

• the location and contents of arms caches; and

• the inventory of equipment, documents, tape recordings, weapons, etc, captured from the guerrillas.

The DIA documented the participation of the following Honduran military units in the operation:

• Special Forces Squadron;

• Company of the 5th Infantry Battalion;

• Company of the 9th Infantry Battalion; and

• Company of the 16th Infantry Battalion.9

Declassified documents also indicate that it is likely that interrogators from the 316th Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB), more commonly known as Battalion 3-16, participated in the Patuca Operation. A declassified document from th e Pentagon described the organization and functions of the 316th MIB and observed:

Because the MIB has access to a great deal of information it has the further responsibility to support the Special Forces Battalion and the Cobras. The Special Operations Squadron acts as the coordinator for all required support such as communications, intelligence, and planning, and can provide personnel, if necessary. In addition, the MIB now appears to be the primary agency to conduct interrogations of captured or detained subversives.10

Exchange of intelligence information

Shortly after Carney's disappearance, on September 28, 1983, his relatives visited the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa for the first time. A declassified cable reporting on the visit indicated that, "EMBOFFS [Embassy Officials] DENI ED U.S. HAD GIVEN GOH [Government of Honduras] INTELLIGENCE TO BE USED IN OLANCHO OPERATION." Later, the same cable mentioned that "EMBOFFS ALSO NOTED TO FAMILY THAT FAMILY'S ESTIMATE OF EXTENT OF USG [United States Government] INFLUENCE WITH GOH WAS EXCE SSIVE, AND COUNSELED FAMILY TO BE MINDFUL IN MEETINGS WITH GOH OFFICIALS THAT HONDURAS WAS INDEED A SOVEREIGN COUNTRY."11

However, two months later, U.S. Embassy comments on the report issued by the Carney family on their investigation into the fate of their brother stated:


Such apparent contradictions fuel speculation about the exact role of U.S. military advisors and CIA agents in the Patuca Operation. How genuine was the U.S. government concern that Honduras' sovereignty be respected?

Activities of U.S. military advisers

Several formerly secret documents make passing reference to the presence of U.S. military personnel. For example, one update on counter-guerrilla operations in Olancho indicated:


Other documents point to much more direct U.S. participation in the operation. In a December 7, 1983 letter to Carney's family, the State Department stated that:

During the Honduran military's operation against the guerrillas, the U.S. Defense Attache assisted in debriefing the guerrillas. This is a normal aspect of a military intelligence sharing relationship such as presently exists between th e U.S. and Honduras. The U.S. Defense Attaché has no recollection of hearing that a United States citizen was part of the guerrilla group.14

It appears that U.S. personnel also assisted with psychological operations targeted at the civilian population in the region where the PRTC group was operating. One intelligence report indicates that two guerrilla deserters were videota ped, stating that:


Cia trained death squads in honduras { April 20 2004 }
Honduras staging ground for nicaraguan contras { April 20 2004 }
Honduras troops go home after negroponte appointed to iraq { April 20 2004 }
Negroponte coversup death squads in honduras { April 14 2004 }

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