Congressional Record: September 14, 2001 (Senate)
Page S9431-S9433                       


  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, yesterday the Foreign Relations Committee 
held a hearing to consider the nomination of John Negroponte to be the 
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. I was unable to 
attend yesterday's hearing because I was with my wife Jackie attending 
the birth of our daughter Grace.
  I believe that it was very important yesterday that the Committee 
hearing focused in part on a careful review of new information that has 
come to light related to Ambassador Negroponte's tenure in Honduras 
during 1981-85 to see whether Congress had been kept fully informed 
about all aspects of U.S. policy with respect to Honduras during his 
  I recognize, that this is not a normal week for the Senate or for the 
American people. President Bush has indicated that he wants the United 
States to be represented by an Ambassador at the United Nations as 
quickly as possible, particularly in light of this week's tragic 
events. I don't disagree with that view.
  However, the Foreign Relations Committee did have a responsibility to 
review the questions raised in connection

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with this nomination. They discharged that responsibility yesterday. 
The Committee has proceeded expeditiously, professionally and fairly 
with Ambassador Negroponte's nomination. It requested and receive 
documents from the State Department and CIA. Those documents were 
reviewed, consisting of several thousand pages, the committee proceeded 
with the hearing yesterday and today the Senate is ready to act. There 
have been no undue delays.
  Let's review the time line of this nomination to date. The President 
announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Negroponte for the U.N. 
post on March 6. The nomination was not submitted to the Senate, 
however, until May 14, nearly four months into the Administration, by 
contrast, Madeleine Albright was nominated for the U.N. post on January 
20, 1993 and confirmed six days later.
  On May 3, over a week before the nomination was submitted, the 
Committee Democrats wrote the President to request that the 
Administration provide documents to the Committee so it could review 
issues related to Negroponte's tenure in Honduras. On May 8, Committee 
staff submitted a list of requested documents to representatives of the 
White House and the State Department. The last document responsive to 
the original request of May 8 was not provided, however, until late 
July. The Committee staff reviewed several thousand pages of documents 
responsive to the request and determined that a number of documents 
which were still classified contained important information on 
questions raised about Ambassador Negroponte's tenure in Honduras.
  The chairman of the committee then requested that the State 
Department and CIA undertake a review of documents within the 
committee's possession that remained classified with a goal of making 
public as much information as possible in order to shed additional 
light on what role if any the United States played in the human rights 
abuses that were perpetrated against the Honduran people in the first 
half of the 1980s, and specifically what knowledge or involvement the 
United States Ambassador, at the time Mr. Negroponte, had in those 
abuses. The committee also offered to begin hearings prior to the 
August recess on U.N. issues, with another hearing to follow in 
September on issues related to Negroponte's service in Honduras. The 
administration chose to wait until September to begin the hearing 
process. So we are talking about a period of approximately fourteen 
weeks of working days of the Senate from the time the nomination was 
submitted until today. This compares quite favorably when compared to 
the Holbrooke nomination which took from February 1999 to August 1999 .
  Some conservative columnists have suggested that I and others are 
trying to re-fight the Central America conflict of the 1980's. Nothing 
could be further from the truth. Rather, I would argue that there is an 
effort underway in some quarters to rewrite the history of U.S. 
involvement in that conflict and sweep under the rug how politically 
painful and damaging that policy was. In the early 1980's, the Congress 
and the American people were told that the United States had no 
involvement in using Honduras in as a staging ground for a convert 
Contra program to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government. Later, 
when the so called second Boland amendment cutting off assistance to 
the Contra was passed we were told that the United States was not 
violating that provision of law. That of course proved to be untruth as 
the Iran Contra Investigation demonstrated. Similarly we were told that 
the Honduran military was not as a matter of policy violating human 
rights of its citizens or that the Salvadoran High Command had no known 
or culpability for the torture and murder of the American church women 
or the Jesuit priests. Of course we now know that none of that was in 
fact true. It is indisputable that this fabric of untruths and half 
truths caused deep fissures in the Congressional-Executive branch 
relationship and in the trust of the American people in their 
government. Those fissures will only be fully healed if there is 
honesty and full candor between the Executive and the Congress.
  Our policy was also controversial throughout Central America. Tens of 
thousands of Central Americans lost their lives during the 1980's, many 
at the hands of their own governments. Tens of thousands more had their 
lives permanently marred by losses of loved ones. Fortunately, in 1987 
Central American leaders took their fate into their own hands and 
crafted the Central America Peace Agreement. President George H. Bush, 
upon coming to office in 1989 embraced the peace agreement and reached 
out to the Congress in order to de-politicize Central America. 
Elections followed in Nicaragua, as did a negotiated settlement to the 
civil conflict in El Salvador. Honduras ceased to be a staging area for 
the U.S. backed contras. El Salvador and Honduras have undertaken to 
come to grips with the past by attempting to investigate and assign 
responsibility for the atrocities that occurred in their respective 
countries as an important step in the process of peace and 

  Since Ambassador Negroponte was last confirmed by the Senate as 
Ambassador to the Philippines in 1993, a great deal of new information 
has come to light about the nature and extent of human rights abuses 
during his tenure in Honduras. This information also raised questions 
about the appropriateness of the U.S. Embassy's response and about 
whether Ambassador Negroponte had been forthright with the Committee in 
1989 when I asked him questions about these matters.
  How has this new information come to light? It is the result of a 
number of investigations into this subject from 1992-1998: First in 
1992, Leo Valladares, the Honduran National Commissioner for the 
Protection of Human Rights undertook to catalog the disappearances and 
other human rights abuses that occurred in Honduras in the eighties. 
That investigation is still ongoing. Prompted by the Valladares 
investigation the Baltimore Sun's undertook its own year long 
investigation which resulted in 1995 in a four part series detailing 
human rights abuses by a special Honduran military intelligence unit, 
the so called Battalion 316, and U.S. embassy links to that unit, and 
knowledge thereof. In 1996, this led CIA Director John Deutch to 
establish a Special Working Group within the agency to assess whether 
the allegations raised by the series were valid. Finally, the CIA 
Director tasked the CIA's Inspector General to resolve specific 
questions raised by the Working Group as it related to the death of an 
American citizen, Father James Carney, and about the CIA's relationship 
with members of the Honduran military who may have committed human 
rights abuses before or doing that relationship.
  The picture that emerges in analyzing this new information is a 
troubling one. Some of the key facts that the Committee put on public 
record during yesterday's hearing thanks to the cooperation of the 
State Department and CIA are the following: One, during 1980-84, the 
Honduran military committed most of the hundreds of human rights abuses 
reported in Honduras. These abuses were often politically motivated and 
officially sanctioned; two, Honduran military units were trained by the 
U.S.--members of these units have been linked to death squad activities 
such as killings, disappearances, and other human rights abuses; three, 
the CIA's reporting of human rights abuses was inconsistent. Reporting 
inadequacies precluded CIA headquarters from understanding the scope of 
human rights abuses; four, the responsibility for monitoring and taking 
action against domestic subversion in Honduras was first the 
responsibility of a special unit of the Public Security Forces, FUSEP; 
five, at the recommendation of a joint U.S./Honduran military seminar, 
this responsibility was transferred in early 1984 to a new unit (which 
came to be known as Battalion 316) under the supervision of the 
Military Intelligence Division of the Armed Forces General Staff; and 
six, the FUSEP special unit and Battalion 316 counter terrorist tactics 
included torture, rape and assassination against persons thought to be 
involved in support of the Salvadoran guerrillas or part of the 
Honduran leftist movement; seven, as many as 250 instances of human 
rights abuses in Honduras are officially documented, including 
disappearances, torture, extra judicial killings; and eight, at least 
one death

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squad was known to have operated during 1980-84. This death squad was 
called ELACH, The Honduran Anti-Communist Liberation Army. There is 
information linking this death squad to chief of the National 
Intelligence Directorate of the Honduran Public Security Forces.
  When Ambassador Negroponte came before the committee in 1989 in the 
context of his nomination to the position of US Ambassador to Mexico, I 
asked him a number of questions related to his tenure in Honduras, two 
questions dealt with human rights. Given what we know about the extent 
and nature of Honduran human rights abuses, to say that Mr. Negroponte 
was less than forthcoming in his responses to my questions is being 
generous. I would ask that the my exchange with Ambassador Negroponte 
during that hearing in printed in the Record at this point.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                      Excerpt From Hearing Record

       Senator Dodd. That Battalion 316, I said ``alleged,'' but, 
     in fact, was that a death squad? Was that the name of a death 
     squad operating either within the Honduran military or with 
     their approval?
       Ambassador Negroponte. I do not recall knowing it as the 
     316th Battalion. In fact, some of what I am saying now may be 
     based on trying to reconstruct events after having discussed 
     this issue with individuals long after the fact, for example, 
     when Mr. LeMoyne wrote his story. But I recall it to have 
     been an intelligence unit.
       Again, I have never seen any convincing substantiation that 
     they were involved in death squad type activities.

  Mr. DODD. I know there will be those who say, that it isn't terribly 
important that the Honduran military committed human rights abuses more 
than fifteen years ago in some cases. Moreover, in relative terms those 
abuses in Honduras paled in comparison to what to else where in Central 
America. My response to that is that the Senate has a duty and 
responsibility to be a partner in the fashioning of U.S. foreign 
policy, and the only way it can be a full partner is if we in this body 
are kept fully informed. When it came to our ability to be full 
partners with respect to U.S. toward Honduras or elsewhere in Central 
America, I would tell you that we were unable to do that because we 
were flying blind.
  It gives me great pause as I ponder how to vote on this nomination to 
think that someone as intelligent and capable as Ambassador Negroponte 
would treat this committee and this body so cavalierly in his responses 
to my questions. I wonder who he thinks he works for?
  I was also troubled by Ambassador Negroponte's unwillingness to 
admit, that as a consequence of other U.S. policy priorities, the U.S. 
embassy, by acts of omissions ending up shading the truth about the 
extent and nature of ongoing human rights abuses in the 1980s. 
Moreover, in light of all the new information that I have just 
mentioned, I do not know how Ambassador Negroponte can continue to 
believe that it was simply ``deficiencies in the Honduran legal system 
coupled with insufficient professionalism of law enforcement 
authorities that ``led at times to abuses of authority by Honduran 
police officials.'' And, quoting his written answer to a committee 
question on this subject that, ``I did not believe then, nor do I 
believe now, that these abuses were part of a deliberate government 
  The InterAmerican Court of Human Rights had no such reluctance in 
assigning blame to the Honduran government during its adjudication of a 
case brought against the Government of Honduras by the InterAmerican 
Commission on Human Rights in 1987. In deciding the case of Honduran 
citizen Velasquez Rodriquez the Court found that ``a practice of 
disappearances carried out or tolerated by Honduran officials existed 
between 1981-84.'' And, as I mentioned earlier, based upon an extensive 
review of U.S. intelligence information by the CIA Working Group in 
1996, the CIA is prepared to stipulate that ``during the 1980-84 
period, the Honduran military committed most of the hundreds of human 
rights abuses reported in Honduras. These abuses were often politically 
motivated and officially sanctioned.''
  Moreover, Mr. Negroponte should have been forewarned to look for 
signs of government sponsored human rights abuses in light of concerns 
that his predecessor Ambassador Jack Binns, a career foreign service 
officer, had raised with the State Department concerning the mind set 
of the architect of Honduras' domestic countersubversion program with 
respect to a willingness to extrajudicial means in the context of such 
programs. Ambassador Binns was speaking about General Gustavo Alvarez 
who became Commander in Chief of the Honduran Armed Forces in 1982, and 
who had been Commander of Honduran Public Security Forces, FUSEP, from 
  Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA 
documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about 
government perpetuated human rights abuses than he chose to share with 
the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual 
State Department Human Rights reports. For example, a Negroponte cable 
summarizing meetings between Congressman Solarz and Honduran government 
officials in January 1985 makes note of a Honduran official's concerns 
about future human rights abuses due to ``fears that there might still 
be some ``secret operating cells'' left from the Alvarez era,'' here 
referring to General Alvarez who had headed the Honduran armed forces 
until he was removed in 1984 by his fellow officers.
  I don't quite know the difference between a ``death squad'' and 
``secret operating cells'', but since Ambassador Negroponte is 
officially on record as saying that no death squads existed in Honduras 
during his tenure, there must be some difference.
  There are also discrepancies with respect to when he became aware of 
certain cases where Honduran authorities were secretly detaining and 
torturing Hondurans suspected of subversion. And how he chose to report 
those cases to Washington. The case of dual national Ines Consuelo 
Murillo comes most readily to mind. Her detention and torture was 
described in detail on April 15, 1995 in the Baltimore Sun.
  These are but a few examples. There were others which taken together, 
paint a very mixed picture of whether the U.S. embassy was doing much 
to discourage Honduran government practices or how comprehensively it 
was collecting and reporting on such abuses. Having said that, there 
were no ``smoking guns'' in the documents that have been provided to 
the Committee.
  I know that this week is not just any week. I also know that the 
President is anxious to have an ambassador at the United Nations is a 
high priority, particularly in light of recent events. I will not stand 
in the way of the Senate moving forward with this nomination. I believe 
that yesterday's decision by the Committee on Foreign Relations to put 
on the public record all the additional declassified information that 
it has compiled in reviewing this nomination will contribute to the 
healing and reconciliation that is still ongoing in Honduras.
  Finally I would say a word of caution to other career foreign service 
officers, particularly junior officers, that they not consider this 
nominee's lack of candor before the committee as a model to be 
emulated. A United States Ambassador is a representative of the United 
States Government and ultimately works for the American people. That 
means that our ambassadors have an obligation to be truthful and 
forthcoming in relations with Congress as we are the people's 
representatives. If they are under instruction to withhold information 
as a matter of policy they should say so. Then, we can take it up with 
their superiors if we choose to do so. In my estimation, Mr. Negroponte 
did neither in his dealings with the Congress. I am deeply saddened to 
come to that judgement. Having said that Ambassador Negroponte has had 
a distinguished career and on balance has discharged his 
responsibilities ably and honorably. For that reason, I intend to give 
him the benefit of the doubt in light of how extremely polarized 
relations between the Congress and the Executive were over U.S. policy 
in Central America when he was serving as Ambassador in Honduras. I 
will therefore support his nomination to the position of the U.S. 
Permanent Representative to the United Nations.