Tuesday, April 12, 2005here it is at last...
Negroponte Used CIA Back Channels to Defy Congress
By Michael Dobbs
The Washington Post
Tuesday 12 April 2005
Papers illustrate Negroponte's Contra role - show intelligence nominee was active in US effort.
The day after the House voted to halt all aid to rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras John D. Negroponte urged the president's national security adviser and the CIA director to hang tough.
The thrust of the envoy's "back channel" July 1983 message to the men running the contra war against Nicaragua was contained in a single cryptic sentence: "Hondurans believe special project is as important as ever."
"Special project" was code for the secret arming of contra rebels from bases in Honduras -- a cause championed by Negroponte, then a rising diplomatic star. In cables and memos, Negroponte made it clear that he saw the "special project" as key to the Reagan administration's strategy of rolling back communism in Central America.
As Negroponte prepares for his Senate confirmation hearing today for the new post of director of national intelligence, hundreds of previously secret cables and telegrams have become available that shed new light on the most controversial episode in his four-decade diplomatic career. The documents, drawn from Negroponte's personal records as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, were released by the State Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Washington Post.
The documents were initially declassified and provided to Negroponte in 1998, after his retirement from the Foreign Service, but the vast majority have never been made public. A State Department FOIA official said yesterday that about 100 documents from the collection are still being "processed."
The documents offer revealing glimpses into the personality, leadership style and political attitudes of the man President Bush selected to shake up U.S. intelligence in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Negroponte's determination to reverse the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua occasionally put him at odds with fellow envoys and with more cautious State Department bureaucrats.
"I have my doubts about a dinner at the residence for a man who is in the business of overthrowing a neighboring government," cabled U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Anthony Quainton, after Negroponte played host to the political leader of the contra rebels, Adolfo Calero. Quainton made it clear that he was not a fan of Negroponte's "gastronomic diplomacy."
Overall, Negroponte comes across as an exceptionally energetic, action-oriented ambassador whose anti-communist convictions led him to play down human rights abuses in Honduras, the most reliable U.S. ally in the region. There is little in the documents the State Department has released so far to support his assertion that he used "quiet diplomacy" to persuade the Honduran authorities to investigate the most egregious violations, including the mysterious disappearance of dozens of government opponents.
The contrast with his immediate predecessor, Jack R. Binns, who was recalled to Washington in the fall of 1981 to make way for Negroponte, is striking. Before departing, Binns sent several cables to Washington warning of possible "death squad" activity linked to Honduran strongman Gen. Gustavo Alvarez. Negroponte dismissed the talk of death squads and, in an October 1983 cable to Washington, emphasized Alvarez's "dedication to democracy."
The cables show that the two men typically met once a week, and sometimes several times a week. Although the Honduran military had ostensibly turned over power to a civilian government headed by President Roberto Suazo, Negroponte and the U.S. Embassy viewed Alvarez as the go-to person on security matters. The ambassador supported an April 1983 request by Alvarez for more weapons for the contra rebels, and he predicted that the size of the contra force "could be doubled in next five months if we provided necessary weapons."
Negroponte's support for Alvarez remained unwavering until March 30, 1984, when fellow officers ousted Alvarez from office, accusing him of corruption and authoritarian tendencies.
The cables show that Negroponte enjoyed a close relationship with senior Washington policymakers, such as then-CIA Director William J. Casey, that was unusual for career diplomats. He used a back-channel system of communication through the CIA to send messages to Casey and others that he did not want widely distributed, offering advice on how to sell the "special project" to an increasingly suspicious and skeptical Congress.
The secret message traffic suggests that Negroponte was highly attuned to the political and public relations ramifications of embassy and State Department reporting. He occasionally berated colleagues for their lack of discretion and worked hard to maintain the fiction that Honduras was not serving as the logistical base for as many as 15,000 anti-Sandinista rebels known as the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, or FDN.
"We request that Department no longer clear out cables for Codels [Congressional Delegations] which of late almost invariably have included 'meet with FDN' or 'visit contra camps,' as one of the desired schedule items," Negroponte cabled then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz in July 1984.
The cables show that Negroponte was unremittingly skeptical of a regional peace initiative for Nicaragua known as the Contadora process, which would have left the Sandinista government in power. In a private cable to Shultz in May 1982, six months after taking over as ambassador, he expressed fears that peace negotiations could lead to the consolidation of communist influence in Nicaragua.
As reports of U.S. covert support for the contra war swept Washington in 1982, Negroponte became a controversial symbol of Reagan administration policies. The ambassador kept a separate file documenting his efforts to combat the negative press coverage, and he fired off letters to editors and newspaper owners to complain about their correspondents' reporting.
In a letter to Washington Post Co. Chairman Katharine Graham in November 1982, Negroponte complained about an unflattering profile in Newsweek -- which the company owns -- that depicted him as "a bit imperious" and an admirer of Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar." Not true, insisted Negroponte. "What little leisure time I have for casual reading does not incline in the direction of English literature but rather towards 19th and 20th century history," he wrote.
Evidently, the Julius Caesar reference got to Negroponte, because six months later he was referring to the play in a back-channel message that relayed complaints from Honduran leaders about being "taken for granted by Uncle Sam." To emphasize his point, the ambassador quoted from the play to illustrate the relationship between the Honduran and U.S. governments:
"Cassius: You love me not.
"Brutus: I do not like your faults.
"Cassius: A friendly eye could never see such faults."
Monday, April 11, 2005like this are why...
Washington, DC, Apr. 8 (UPI) -- The Pentagon is making permanent the newly minted "enemy combatant" designation for certain prisoners, a move opposed by human rights groups.
A March 23 draft of a new joint doctrine for detainee operations would codify for the first time for military operations the term enemy combatants -- those who fight outside the protections of the Geneva Conventions because they are members of designated terrorist organizations or other irregular groups.
Membership in or "affiliation" with any of the groups listed by the U.S. State Department makes a detainee eligible for "enemy combatant" status, and obviates the privileges of the Geneva Conventions, according to the document.
Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the military recognized no such thing as an enemy combatant. All those captured on the field of war were guaranteed protection under the four Geneva Convention treaties, which automatically cover all civilians, militia, wounded and regular military.
However, after the attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration determined that members of al-Qaida and some members of the Taliban would not be covered by the treaty "because of their own actions," according to the draft doctrine.
The move to entrench "enemy combatants" in U.S. military doctrine alarms groups like Human Rights Watch, which on Thursday protested the draft in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Human Rights Watch maintains the Geneva Conventions "leave no category of detainee unprotected." The conventions make allowances for captured combatants who do not qualify as prisoners of war; they are not entitled to full privileges, and they may be prosecuted for taking up arms.
The U.S. Army's own field manual says the Fourth Geneva Convention includes "all persons who have engaged in hostile or belligerent conduct but who are not entitled to treatment as prisoners of war."
Human Rights Watch asserts the decision to disavow the Geneva Conventions in the global war on terror by creating a new category of detainee is at the root of what it calls "the widespread and serious mistreatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay."
The White House and Pentagon's decision to release the military from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions for enemy combatants has set the armed forces up to inadvertently or otherwise commit war crimes, Human Rights Watch says.
"This departure from longstanding law, particularly one deeply imbued in the training and practice of U.S. armed forces, will invariably lead to further abuses," HRW wrote.
For its part, the Pentagon maintains that though the Geneva Conventions do not apply to enemy combatants, the prisoners are treated humanely. It says any abuses of detainees that has occurred is the function of human failure rather than flawed policy.
Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned by a caveat in the definition of enemy combatants. The draft joint doctrine on detainee operations says enemy combatants are to be treated humanely "subject to military necessity."
However, the proposed doctrine also states: "There is no military necessity exception to this humane treatment mandate. Accordingly, neither the stress of combat operations, the need for actionable intelligence nor the provocations by detained/captured personnel justify deviation from this obligation."
The minimum requirements for humane treatment of enemy combatants, according to the draft joint doctrine, is food, water, clothing, shelter, medical treatment and the freedom to practice religion.
Human Rights Watch is also concerned by the list of names and organizations eligible to be classified as enemy combatants.
"The list contains generalized names and aliases (for instance, "Mohammad Zia" and "Abdullah Ahmed") that are shared by tens of thousands of persons worldwide," Human Rights Watch wrote. "The lists also name entities that are neither at war with nor engaged in terrorism against the United States; for example, the Basque separatist group Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Sword of David or American Friends of the United Yeshiva Movement; and the Real Irish Republican Army."
The list also includes groups that are no longer active.
The organization is also concerned about what it means to be "affiliated" with one of the groups. It is undefined in the document, and could be broadly interpreted to cover those who contribute to charitable organizations associated with the groups.
The decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions to members of al-Qaida and the Taliban reflects the administration's interpretation that the Geneva Conventions are handshake agreements among nation-states with each side promising to behave according to a set of standards, rather than a code of conduct that binds all signatories, no matter whom they are fighting.
The Pentagon confirmed last year all fighters in Iraq were to be covered by the Geneva Conventions by dint of geography: Iraq was a signatory to the treaties as is the United States, and therefore both were bound by it.
"In the conflict with Iraq, there is absolutely no question that the Geneva Conventions, the third and fourth Geneva Conventions apply, period," a senior defense official told reporters May 21, 2004.
However, a Kuwaiti-born Jordanian -- who is also a naturalized U.S. citizen -- who was captured in Iraq in December was designated by the U.S. military in Iraq an "enemy combatant," the military confirmed.
Pentagon and Central Command officials believe he is the first prisoner designated an "enemy combatant" in Iraq so far.
Pentagon officials could not immediately say whether there has been a policy change officially exempting Iraq's irregular fighters from the Geneva Conventions from Iraq's irregular fighters.