03 August 2001

Transcript: State Dept. Briefing on April 20 Plane Shootdown in Peru

On-the-Record Briefing on the Joint U.S.-Peruvian Investigation Report
of the April 20, 2001, Accidental Shootdown of U.S. Missionary Plane

Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Affairs

Washington, D.C.

August 2, 2001

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. If we can begin, please. What
I would like to do is first go over the ground rules of what we are
going to do right now, and then introduce Mr. Rand Beers, our
Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs, who will be introducing the rest of the investigative team
and then running through the basics.

What we are going to do is we are going to open with some brief
remarks from him about what happened in this situation in Peru, and
then he will take questions on the basic report and the conclusions
that it reached. And then we will show the video to those of you who
wish to stay, and he will remain here and offer commentary and discuss
the video as it is going on, but also take questions on the video

So this afternoon, we are making available to you, I think, an
abundance of information on this subject, and Mr. Beers will be here
to help walk you through it.

So without further ado, let me introduce Rand Beers, the State
Department's Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement. Randy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Let me introduce the other members of my
team before we begin here, although they are not all here. Al Matano
from the State Department -- Al, raise your hand -- Ed Frothingham
from the Defense Department, Regis Matlock from the Agency, and Jeff
Hathaway from the Coast Guard. We also had a representative from the
JIATF-E, who was a member of the team.

This report is the product of a joint US-Peruvian accident
investigation. It includes an examination of documents, interviews of
participants, and other relevant individuals, as well as field visits
to Iquitos and Pucallpa. Cooperation between both sides was very good.
Private discussions were quite candid.

The report is jointly drafted by several members of the team and was
reviewed by all members of the team. In some cases, specific report
language may suffer from being a committee draft in two languages. We
apologize for that, and are here to try to translate if that is an

That said, the conclusions are fully shared by both the Peruvians and
Americans. The documents, which we are providing, are the report and
the video transcript. The report in the main presents a background
section, a sequence of events for the 20th of April, and our
conclusions. The transcript, which is in English, is essential in
order to hear the tape, because there is so much that is actually
happening at several points on the tape. It records what is said -- in
some cases in two languages, in some cases at the same time.

Let me now say, for those of you who may choose to leave and seek to
use the transcript and/or the tape, that the tape and the transcript
can be misleading. First, it is possible for more than one
conversation to be going on at the same time. There are four
communication channels, as well as a cockpit intercom, all of which
may be recorded simultaneously.

That said, the recording is done at the sensor operator station in the
rear of the plane, and some of the conversations which we know took
place were not recorded or fully recorded because the sensor operator
may have overridden them with his own conversations.

Second, not every conversation recorded was heard by every, or even
any, member of the crew. Everyone wore headsets, everyone could
deselect any channel, and thereby not hear them. Some of the
individuals who were highly focused on their tasks, particularly at
the high stress moments during this flight, could have mentally tuned
out some of the conversations, and anyone who was transmitting
automatically overrode any of the other channels appearing on his
earset at that particular time.

Finally, the English and Spanish language differences cause many or
most of the non-native speakers to not understand conversations in the
other language. And even if you here a "yes" in response to that
conversation, that does not mean that the person actually understood
what was said to him if it was not said in his native language. So it
is important to bear that in mind.

The sequence of events is a significant part of our report because it
goes beyond the video and benefits from additional information which
we derived from interviews of the participants. It is therefore more
complete than the transcript and is a melding of the various pieces of
information which we brought to bear.

Since we will be going through the sequence of events later when we
look at the tape, let me conclude my remarks by focusing on the
conclusions and what we did not conclude.

The report has several conclusions: first, that over the lifetime of
the program, references to the full range of intercept procedures
became less detailed and explicit in the joint official documents
implementing the program; two, that joint training used an abbreviated
set of procedures and was very much focused on safety of flight,
especially following a collision between the surveillance and
interceptor aircraft in 1999; three, the key participants involved in
the April 20, 2001, incident narrowly viewed their respective command
and control roles; four, that the characteristics of the flight of
OB-1408, the floatplane, generated suspicion within the Peru-U.S.
counter-narcotics aircraft; five, that the language limitations of the
participants played a role in reducing the timely flow of information
on April 20th; and six, that the communication system overload and
cumbersome procedures played a role in reducing timely and accurate
compliance with all appropriate directives.

The report did not conclude that any individual was responsible. In
fact, the charter of the joint investigative team specifically did not
authorize that the team would examine misconduct or fix blame. Rather,
the team was charged with establishing the facts and circumstances
surrounding the April 20 interdiction of the U.S. missionary
floatplane and the death of the two U.S. citizens. Moreover, we will
not be addressing today questions about recommendations regarding the
future of the program.

Finally, let me specifically say, because there have been press
reports suggesting otherwise, the team did not conclude that the
floatplane pilot, Mr. Donaldson, was at fault. The intercept
procedures followed by both governments should be robust enough to
prevent such an accident.

Mr. Donaldson, Mrs. Donaldson, and Mr. Bowers were kind enough to meet
with us in mid-May to answer our questions at a time when the April 20
events were still immediate in their minds, and when Mr. Donaldson was
still very much in the early stages of recovery from very painful
injuries. We deeply appreciate their participation.

And lastly, and I know that I speak for all of the team, we regret the
tragedy that occurred on April 20th, and especially the deaths of Mrs.
Bowers and her daughter, Charity. We hope our report will help in an
understanding of the events of that day, and we hope that it will
contribute to preventing any similar recurrence.

I would be happy to take questions now. Thank you.

QUESTION: My question is why you are not ready to discuss the future
of the program. What is the situation if you already have your

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The decision within our government was that
this accident report would then be followed by a report which would
examine the future of the program. That report was done under the
leadership of former Ambassador Morris Busby. That report is done and
finally, just very recently, delivered to the National Security

The decision process to take that report and turn it into a decision
is now at the very most initial stage. I am not in a position to tell
you how long that process is going to take, but the concept here is to
separate the accident report and the decision on whether to go forward
with the program.

QUESTION: In the identification phase of the incident, the apparent
decision by the Citation not to get the registration number of the
plane, was that part of these abbreviated procedures that had
developed or was that in fact even beyond those procedures as they
were understood at the time by the two? In other words, were they
supposed to check it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: To the best of our knowledge, there was no
formal agreement of who or when the identification of the plane was to
have been made. Having said that, I think that more often than not it
was likely that the Citation would identify the tail number. But it
was not always, and in some cases, based upon the incident itself,
there was not even a tail number identification because the plane
immediately began to flee and take evasive action.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: That's not in this report because it is
background information that is not relevant to this particular

QUESTION: Can you talk about your first conclusion of the report that
over the years some of the procedures became less and less detailed,
and how you think that might have contributed to this accident?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The decision by the two governments in 1994
to participate in this program jointly had a series of procedures
which were agreed between the two governments, and they were rather
detailed. By the time of this particular incident, there were
procedures which were in place which were less detailed.

Specifically, and you will see that in the video, the procedures --
it's also on page four and five in the background section of the
report which we've given you -- at the time of the incident, the
procedures that were basic to conducting these kinds of operations
referred to three phases. The three phases were to attempt to make
radio contact, to fire warning shots, and then to use deadly force.

The procedures that were laid out in 1994 included an attempt to make
visual contact between the time of the radio contact and the firing of
the warning shots. Those procedures, while generally alluded to under
a phrase which said general ICAO procedures, were not explicitly
enunciated and were not practiced and did not take place during this

QUESTION: Is it unusual for a plane to stay on VH frequency and not go
to the other one? Is that an issue?

And secondly, if I read this correctly -- 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: You're referring to who now?

QUESTION: To the suspect aircraft here. It was on VH, as I read it.
And the second question is, as I understand this, they believed that
he was taking evasive action because he was slowing down?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The first question: Mr. Donaldson's plane
had two radios on it, but he could only use one radio at a time. His
procedure was to be on the HF channel, which is longer-range and which
allowed him to communicate with his wife if anything happened when he
was out of range of the tower. It was his practice to stay on that
channel until he got within range of the Iquitos tower, and to then
make contact with the tower roughly 50 miles out. That was the radio
range that he reported to us, and at that particular point in time,
come in on the Iquitos tower frequency.

That is his explanation of why he was on those channels, and it is
understandable if you think in terms of the context of flying in very
remote areas in which you are between places that you could

The second question again, please?

QUESTION: As I read this -- 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Ah, slowing down, right.

QUESTION: Slowing down. That they said it was evasive action.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The perceptions of the people in the plane
and the reality of the event were not necessarily the same. But I
think it is fair to say that the folks in the plane looked at the
occasional change of course by Mr. Donaldson, who was trying to follow
the river in order to be within glide distance of the river since he
was flying a floatplane. The fact that he had been in a border area as
the flight initiated, which was one of the reasons that the Citation
was in that area to begin with because of intelligence information
that there had been suspicious air tracks in that area in the two
weeks prior to this particular event; the fact that he flew through
some foul weather; and the slowing down created the sense of

But on the issue of the slowing down, let me specifically say we are
not in a position to determine whether he slowed down or not. He
indicates he did not. There is a very good reason to believe that the
sense of slowing down may more have been the product of the
differential speed between the A-37, which stalled at a speed that was
higher than the speed that the floatplane was flying at. So he had to
conduct maneuvers which may have created the illusion that Mr.
Donaldson was slowing down, when in fact he wasn't slowing down.

But as to the general proposition of what Mr. Donaldson was doing, he
was following the course of the river, which you can see here is not a
very straight line, and he was maintaining a steady altitude. And
after he passed this point where this boundary of Colombia comes
south, he was going deeper and deeper into Peru during the entire
course of his flight.

QUESTION: I'm a little confused reading through your narrative. Early
on, you talk about how the -- just on a couple points -- the pilot
says -- or someone says it's OB-1408. But then later you get the sense
from reading this that they didn't really know the registration
number. I'm just a little confused. Is that the same as the
registration number or the tail -- is the tail number different from a
registration number? What is the -- because later you --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: You are illustrating the point that I was
trying to make. Just because you read in the text or hear on the tape
that a piece of information was provided does not mean that the people
on the plane, or all of the people on the plane or the person who
needed to know that information on the plane, necessarily understood

The A-37 pilot identified the plane, OB-1408, at an earlier point in
the time frame, but it is clear from the transcript and the interviews
that the host nation rider did not perceive the tail number until
later and did not communicate the tail number to the ground station in
Pucallpa until later still, and it is not clear that anyone in
Pucallpa ever registered that he had in fact transmitted the tail
number of the plane to the ground in Pucallpa.

QUESTION: So does no one on the ground ever check the tail number?


QUESTION: So they got it, but they didn't check it, and they never
looked in the --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Well, they say they never actually realized
they were in possession of that information.

QUESTION: I have a question on something you just said, which is
interesting because I remember the CIA was very adamant when this
happened that there were four phases to the process, and what you are
saying now is that they had abbreviated that to three phases.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I'm not in a position to comment about what
the CIA said at an earlier point in time about this process.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, anyway, you are now saying that there were only
three phases.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I am saying that the procedures -- radio,
warning shots, and use of deadly force -- were written down as three
phases. You can call the identification of the tail number an earlier
phase if you want to, or whatever.

QUESTION: But clearly there was some -- as you said, an abbreviation
of what was the original practice.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: There was no specific reference to visual

QUESTION: Was there ever a policy decision in Washington, by the State
Department or any other agency, to begin this -- to abbreviate the


QUESTION: So this was just done on the ground by the people locally?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: To the best of my knowledge.

QUESTION: Would you please describe in greater detail what happened in
1999, the U.S. tracking aircraft? Was it a Customs plane, was it a CIA
plane? As a result of that incident, was there a new agreement signed
with Peru? That incident is highlighted here as a pivotal incident.
Explain why, please.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Was this -- and it was a Citation also?
There was a midair collision between a Citation -- was it an A-37 or a
Tucano? -- and an A-37 aircraft in February of 1999. As a result of
that there was a serious concern about safety of flight. There was
thereby a new set of procedures which were agreed to, and in those
procedures there is reference to phases one, two and three only.

QUESTION: Can I ask just one more question?


QUESTION: I thought that general international aviation principles
said that when you are trying to force a plane down, you always have
to waggle your wings. Why would that have been eliminated if it was so

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I am not in a position to tell you why that
was done, but I can tell you that that same set of procedures, as I
mentioned earlier, did have a general reference to following ICAO
procedures as a general matter. But it did not specifically refer to
visual communication.

QUESTION: Am I understanding correctly that language was a problem in
this incident, that some people didn't understand English or Spanish,
or whatever the case was?


QUESTION: Okay, I have a follow-up. Why, in such a crucial program,
which resulted in death, such a basic -- I think it's a basic
requirement to understand the language -- why did you have people that
didn't understand the language?

And secondly, in the future, if you continue these flights, would it
be a good idea to have people understand the language?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The answer to your second part is of
course, with the benefit of hindsight. The answer to the first part of
your question was there was training for the Peruvian participants in
a series of technical terms and phrases in order that they could
communicate at a basic level about the procedures.

But I think it is also fair to say that the stress levels that
occurred in the cockpit on the 20th of April created impediments to
any level of understanding, although you will hear the host nation
rider talk in English occasionally, and you will hear some very broken
Spanish by one or another of the participants on the US side.

But as I also said earlier, you will in some cases hear a response
that suggests understanding, but subsequent action clearly indicates
that that particular message was not at all understood, and it was
simply a polite yes or okay.

QUESTION: When you get into that aircraft, do they already know --
both sides already know that they don't understand the language?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: No, they practice together and they train
together, and they believed before they took off that they could
communicate with one another. This was not sort of folks coming
together only for the first time in this particular instance. They had
been together -- what, for two or three weeks. Before they had trained
together, they had flown together. This was not even the first
operational flight that they had been on together.

So there was an expectation or understanding that, yes, they could
communicate. And it didn't show up, at least not in so pronounced a
manner, until this particular incident.

QUESTION: Since this incident, is the program -- does it remain


QUESTION: And have you noticed any effect upon drug exports from the
region or is there increased drug activity or is there a negative
effect of the suspension?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The information that exists in the broadest
sense have not indicated an upsurge in air flights that are suspect.
Our sensors, for example, over the horizon radar are still

Having said that, we don't have all of our collection capabilities and
we may be missing something, but the information we have does not
suggest that there is an increase, although you will hear anecdotal
information which says that things are happening. But we can't -- I
can't stand up here today and tell you that, as a general proposition,
we are seeing that.

QUESTION: Now, if I could just follow up, when we say "suspended" it
means the shooting down of the suspect, but do you still have airborne
radars in that area?


MR. HATHAWAY: No, no airborne radars.

QUESTION: That's the Citation? That was the airborne radar?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: That would be an airborne radar, yes.

QUESTION: If I am reading the report correctly, at 10:46:18, Citation
Pilot 1 said that it probably was an illegal flight. That's less than
two minutes, if I understand it correctly, before the actual shooting
occurred. And this may be clearer in the transcript, but I don't
really see here that there was any explicit statement by anyone aboard
the Citation saying, "Abort." The only reference is at one point they
say, "Wait a minute," which seems to get lost in the confusion.

Were there any explicit instructions from the Citation -- from the
Americans on the Citation to the host country rider to abort?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: At the very end, after it's too late, the
pilot tells the host nation rider to stop the intercept, and very
dramatically says, "No mas." The procedure is that the chain of
command is entirely Peruvian. The US participants were there to
assist, to provide information, to support, to act as a platform in
order to have the host nation rider aloft. They were not supposed to
intervene in the actual conduct of the phases one, two and three.

Having said that, I think there was an attempt that is at least worth
noting where the pilot calls his ground commander in Pucallpa and says
something to the effect, "I know it's not our call, but I have
reservations. Can you do something about this?" That ends up, to the
best of our information, never having been acted upon in the sense
that there is obviously not an action by the Peruvian counterpart to
stop the engagement.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what it means when the pilot repeats a
couple of times this guy doesn't fit the profile and he's trying to
slow the process down, the decision-making process?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: What he is talking about is that the
floatplane is flying at 4,000 feet. Normally you would expect a
trafficker to fly lower. His actual flight plan is deeper and deeper
in Peru, although there are these occasional deviations, and even the
pilot refers to he's turning north, maybe that means something.

What he is really talking about is there is no evasive action on this
guy's part. He doesn't appear to respond to any of the efforts to
communicate with him.

QUESTION: But that's saying two different things. The guy doesn't look
like our typical drug dealer, but he's also not responding to us. So
they just didn't make sense of it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: No, but you see that the standard
engagement scenario is when the call sign went out. They sought to
flee because they were aware that they had been intercepted.

QUESTION: Do the drug dealers ever respond?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Do the drug dealers -- 

QUESTION: Do the drug dealers ever respond to contact on radio waves?
I mean, if these are guilty --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Have we ever had record of an engagement
where they actually answered, as opposed to fled? We just don't know
the answer to that.

QUESTION: And also, how often are those planes Twin Otters?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I couldn't tell you how frequently they --

QUESTION: I mean, when you see a Twin Otter flying, does that add to
not fitting the profile?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Remember, this is a single-engine
floatplane. It was misidentified as a Twin Otter. What is interesting
about that, though, is that the plane that they followed the day
before was a Twin Otter floatplane. It turned out not to be a
trafficker and they broke off the engagement.

QUESTION: But the type of plane it is didn't give them any indication
that this wasn't a drug dealer? You can't tell that from --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: They use a variety of different planes,
including floatplanes.

QUESTION: There are in this area a number of American companies,
certainly missionary groups -- there may be other kinds of groups --
that may use small aircraft. Is there any attempt by our government to
brief these people on safety rules and regulations when flying around,
given that this operation is in the area?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: To the best of our information up to this
time, no. The requirements for flying in Peru are dictated by the
Government of Peru. There are licensing requirements. There are pilot
certification requirements. There are a series of other kinds of
information which are supposed to be provided.

But having said that, we and the Peruvian members of our team have
recognized that the actual distribution of that information has been
faulty and that that is something that has to be fixed in terms of
making that kind of information available to everybody.

Secondly, we wouldn't necessarily know that a U.S. citizen in Peru was
actually -- as Mr. Donaldson was -- was necessarily engaged as a
pilot, as opposed to he was there as a missionary. So I don't mean
that as an apology; I simply mean that as normally citizens who enter
foreign countries do come in to the embassy, do let the embassy know
where they are and what they're doing there. But what they say in any
given instance is dependent upon what they volunteer.

QUESTION: In this case, it says that the A-37 was not able to hit the
non-vital portions of the plane. Is that the protocol under phase
three to go for non-vital, or is it a shoot-to-kill?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: It is supposed to be disabling fire.

QUESTION: Disabling?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Disabling fire. But let me be clear. This
is not a precision munition. This is a machine gun, if you will, and
it is more of an area fire weapon than it is a point weapon, so an
attempt at disabling fire and the actual place that the rounds might
impact are different depending upon what is happening.

QUESTION: In the narrative it doesn't -- it's not spelled out at any
stage the procedure leading up to the decision to go to phase three,
to the shootdown. Why is that? And are you satisfied from your
investigation that the procedures were carried out correctly at that

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The procedures are phase one, radio; phase
two, warning shot; and, phase three, the use of deadly force.

QUESTION: But there is no -- 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: There is no checklist in between phase two
and phase three for all of -- any series of things to have occurred in
order for that to happen. And so as you look at the narrative, while
we can look back in hindsight and ask ourselves a lot of questions,
the procedures themselves simply say, after phase two, then obtain
authorization for phase three, and, if received, proceed to phase

QUESTION: But nowhere in the narrative does it say who gave the order
to proceed to phase three.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Oh, I'm sorry. If you look at the
background section, the order -- page five I think it is, four or five
-- the order to use deadly force comes from the Commander of the Sixth
Region of the Air Force. This is a general officer. He was contacted.
He happened to be in Lima at the time. He knew that the incident was
ongoing before he was asked to authorize phase three, and he did so.
That doesn't show up in the transcript because the transcript is only
of the radio tape.

QUESTION: The six points of conclusion, are they in any particular
order of significance to what contributed to the shootdown? And if
not, could you put them in order of what you think contributed most to
the events?


QUESTION: I would like to know about the language thing. What language
were they supposed to communicate in, and also, if the U.S. officers
participating in these kinds of surveillance programs are required to
be fluent in Spanish or not?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: The officers participating in this program
are not required to be fluent in Spanish. The effort was to make the
Peruvian participants sufficiently fluent in English in order that
they would be able to communicate.

But the Peruvian side of the mission was conducted in Spanish, and
everyone knew that that would be the case. But since the U.S.
participants were not supposed to be participating in that chain of
command, the decision was they didn't have to be aware of what was
being said in Spanish.

QUESTION: To follow that, given what you know now about the problems
of communication between the two sides, are you surprised there aren't
more cases like this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: There have been a number of cases in a
number of different individuals, and the language qualifications of
each of them have been different. To repeat this particular situation
at any other time, I am not in a position really to speculate on that.

I mean, I understand the point of your question, but you're asking me
to engage in a hypothetical discussion that I don't have enough facts
on to know what the frequency of the level of qualification of the
Peruvian participant was as it was in this situation, or the
inadvertent knowledge of Spanish was as limited as it appears to have
been in this, although there were some at least basic abilities to
understand some phrases in Spanish.

QUESTION: At what point did we discover that these folks aren't drug
traffickers, and what happened next?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I can't tell you precisely when we
discovered that they weren't drug traffickers. By later in the
afternoon, we in Washington had been informed by the Embassy that it
was a mistake. But I don't know when actually during the day or who
during the day actually made that discovery. There was some question
in Mr. Bower's mind as to whether or not he was still considered a
suspect when he was removed from the crash site to Iquitos. So I just
don't have that information.

QUESTION: I have a question and a clarification. The question is: Were
there any injuries or deaths in the 1999 incident? And the
clarification is again on this registration question. According to
your report and the transcript, a specific decision was made by the
American pilot not to approach the plane and obtain the registration
number, for reasons that you spell out in the report. And in the
transcript, there's a conversation between the two pilots where one
says, "Aren't you going to approach to see it?" And he says, "No, I
don't want him to see me."

My question is on that -- you have said that the registration thing
was not part of the procedures, as they existed at the time of the
incident. Was it part of the original procedures in '94, and had it
been in play before '99?

And second, I still don't understand your background comment about how
-- you said the pilot immediately tried -- immediately began to flee
and take evasive action as a reason for why -- one of the reasons why
they didn't get the registration number, and I don't quite understand

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Let me try to answer those questions. If
you look at the map here, and you notice that the plane originally
took off from this location in the vicinity of Leticia, in a place
called Islandia, which is on the river itself. During the flight path
by Caballococha, which is one of the places that you will hear
mentioned on the tape, and until you get roughly to this point, they
are in an area in which the borders are very close.

So in the mind of the crew, and given tactics that traffickers have
used in this particular location, and even a little away from that,
the ability to flee into an adjacent country and therefore be out of
the jurisdiction was a concern, a concern that is more pronounced
because there wasn't an interceptor aircraft there as well. The
Citation, as such, is not able to do anything except look. And so what
motivated them was, since all they could do was look and follow, they
felt that their role was better played out by remaining in an unseen
position in order to follow the plane until the interceptors arrived.

As the process moves deeper and deeper into Peru, and as the
interceptor joins up with the surveillance plane, that particular
motivation for remaining covert no longer pertains. But at that point
in time, the interceptor is in fact able also to obtain the tail
number, and in fact ends up doing so.

QUESTION: The number was written on the top of the fixed wing, which
they easily could see. It appears even in the tape.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: They could not see the tail number --
that's all I can tell you -- from their position at a mile and a half
behind the aircraft.

QUESTION: And on the question of the registration -- 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Oh, I'm sorry. What was the -- 

QUESTION: Whether that had -- whether -- because it appears that he
made a specific decision not to seek the registration, the implication
is that that would have been part of their normal procedure, except in
this case they decided not to. You have said it was not part of the
normal procedure. But had it ever been?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I'm sorry. Right. What I meant to say was
it was not specifically laid out who was responsible for obtaining the
tail number and when in the process. The original procedures that were
looked at in '94 talked about identifying the registration of the
aircraft, and the participants in all of these operations recognized
that that was a piece of information that had value in the whole

Having said that, the tail number does not necessarily end up being an
identification of the airplane, and there is a problem that occurs in
this flight that never becomes a significant issue.

But despite the fact that the pilots of the Citation correctly
identify the aircraft as a single engine, the host nation rider,
looking through the scope -- which you all will have an opportunity to
see what it looks like -- misidentified the type and said it was a
twin engine.

If the aircraft tail number had been provided to the ground in a
timely fashion, if the ground had investigated the tail number versus
the registration, while they would have seen it was registered to a
missionary organization, they would also have seen that it was single
engine. Given the fact that traffickers have on occasion forged tail
numbers, there would have been possibly a greater presumption of
suspicion as a result of that.

Now, they could also have gone back and checked to make sure that they
hadn't misidentified it, but my point is that one of the tactics of
the traffickers was to paint bogus tail numbers on the plane.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: And if anyone was killed or injured in the '99 incident?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Not to my knowledge. More of a touch than a

QUESTION: So the answer is no?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Regis? In '99, no, it was more of a touch
than a crash.

QUESTION: I have two questions. Number one, when you said that you
didn't see an increase in drug -- I don't know if it was trafficking,
or --


QUESTION: You haven't seen an increase in movement along that area?


QUESTION: Okay. Another question -- 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Remember that the traffickers have had
roughly five years of adaptation to the major impact of this aerial
interdiction program. And while they are still flying in that
north-south corridor, they are also sending a lot more drugs over land
through Bolivia into Brazil and to the coast for maritime shipment. So
the traffickers in Peru have made adaptations to the disruption of
that air corridor.

QUESTION: But aren't you concerned the longer that this goes on, this
suspension, that they might kind of re-adapt?


QUESTION: Actually, that's not my -- I have one other question. In
this transcript, there are about six separate instances, maybe seven
if you count right before the shooting down, that the United States
Citation plane voiced concerns that this was not a suspect craft, that
they were pretty sure, and whether it's a combination of the language
or communications overload, that basically those US concerns went -- I
don't want to say ignored but -- I don't know what the word would be.

But are you uncomfortable that as part of a U.S.-Peruvian interception
program that the United States doesn't have a say in whether such a
plane should be declared a plane worthy of shooting down? I mean,
you're providing intelligence information or reconnaissance
information on whether you deem this to be suspect, and then at the
end of the day your opinion didn't mean much as to whether the plane
was shot down or not.

Does that make you uncomfortable?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Well, first, let me say that it is not
clear how much of those concerns -- which are very manifest in the
tape -- were actually understood or fully understood on the part of
the host nation rider, who was, as far as the operation concerned, the
on-scene commander.

But, sure, we are concerned that the concerns that those individuals
-- even though they were not supposed to be in the chain of command --
went either not understood or unheeded. There is a lot of information
that comes out on this tape, and one of the things that I think all of
us took away from it was that we would have wished, in any possible
way, that any one of those warnings or suggestions had been understood
and heeded and prevented this horrible tragedy.

QUESTION: Do you think that the United States should have a say in the
chain of command as to --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: That goes to the heart of recommendations
pertaining whether or not to reinitiate the program. We didn't do
that, and I am not in a position to talk about that.

MR. BOUCHER: Can we do one or two more in this phase, and then move on
to the video?

QUESTION: Can I just ask you, just to get back to this abbreviation of
the phases, it strikes me that the U.S. crew clearly knew that we had
gone down to three phases and that the U.S. base in Peru knew that
there had been this abbreviation, and that now phase three meant you
shoot the plane down rather than some intermediate step.

Is it possible that these base commanders, U.S. officials, never told
Washington that this change had taken place, or did someone in
Washington know that this had happened?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: We are not aware that anyone in Washington
knew that these were the phases and that they were abbreviated.

QUESTION: So does someone need -- is there any disciplinary action for
that --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: This particular investigation didn't look
to the issue of fixing blame or disciplinary action.

QUESTION: The HCR at one point, quite late in the process, again
repeated the registration number once they knew the registration of
the aircraft, but he immediately -- and this seems to be within the
same sentence -- requested authorization to perform phase three. Isn't
that, I mean, a complete jump? If you've got the registration number,
why couldn't you wait a couple of minutes for them to check it out on
the ground? That seems fairly significant to me that he immediately
requested phase three?

And also, what did -- 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: It is puzzling. We have the same

QUESTION: Why did Mr. Donaldson say he didn't have his radio on?


QUESTION: Why didn't he hear any of these -- why was he not on the
right frequency that he could have heard any of these requests for

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: As I said earlier, from his perspective, he
believed that he could not effectively communicate with Iquitos until
he was within 50 miles of Iquitos. The incident occurs in this area,
and he is about between 80 and 90 miles from Iquitos at this point. He
comes up and talks to Iquitos because he wants to make an attempt to
find out what's going on. The first communication when he finally
raises Iquitos, he says, "There are military here, and I don't know
what they're doing."

So he is obviously registering concern at that point in time, and he
is changing from his high frequency radio channel to the Iquitos tower
frequency because of that. But in a normal procedure, by his standard
practice, he wouldn't have come up that soon. And the tape from
Iquitos tower doesn't even register the first two calls that he makes
to Iquitos. So he was, at that point of transmission with his radio,
really at the range limit of being able to communicate with Iquitos.
The plane heard it because the plane was right there and had that
radio frequency as one of the frequencies that it was tuned to during
the entire phase of this particular operation.

MR. BOUCHER: Can we do the video now? And then there will be a chance
for more questions after that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: There will be plenty of time for more
questions, you all, if you want to stay. Forty-five minutes.

(The video is shown.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: After that, they remain in the area. You
can see that on the transcripts. There was no indication from the crew
or from Mr. Donaldson or Bowers that there was any shooting at the
plane on the ground, as was mistakenly reported in the press.

I think you can see from the tape the sense of pressure and tension
and stress -- the complexity of the communications, the uncertainty on
the part of the Citation crew, the rapidity with which events
culminate at the very end -- that might not come out from simply
reading the transcript. But I am open to additional questions at this

QUESTION: Before this incident happened, have you ever seen or watched
any of these situations? I mean, all of these procedures, how they
work -- have you ever seen it before? And which was your first
reaction to seeing this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I have not personally watched one of these
tapes from any prior incident, either before or since. My own personal
reaction from watching it is the sense of tragedy and the sort of wish
at points during the process when I can hear pieces of information
that somehow they might have been acted upon. But -

QUESTION: But a sense of tragedy waiting to happen?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Well, because I know what the end of the
story is when I look at the tape.

QUESTION: But not just looking at the (inaudible) -- 


QUESTION: Looking, just watching and looking, listening to the
communications, the way they communicate, it looks very fragile. I
mean, it looks like a tragedy waiting to happen, actually. It doesn't
look like a tragedy just because a mistake, but a lot of mistakes.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: There were a series of pieces of
information that were un-acted upon. Yes, you're right. Are they
mistakes? I'm not sure I would want to characterize them.

QUESTION: Despite the fact that the report doesn't blame either side,
and I understand the necessity of not doing so, it is clear that the
Americans were the only ones urging any kind of caution, and the
Peruvians were overruling them. Isn't that true? Or can you point out
places in this transcript where the Peruvians were also saying, slow
down, they don't look so dangerous, maybe he's not a bandito. You
don't see the Peruvians saying that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: No, I can't say that. But I would say that
that is why we drew the conclusion that nobody stepped back far
enough, except for the pilot at the very end, to actually stop the
process. He tried, or he thought about it, but that's all that
happened. And I think we have to give the pilot, or the pilots, a
great deal of credit in terms of having some perspective on the
situation. But we still had an event that occurred.

QUESTION: But the way this is set up, he has no power to stop it,

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: That's correct, although you notice at the
end his action did cause (inaudible). But it was too late at that
particular point in time.

QUESTION: Right, but isn't that a fault of the program, then? Are you
considering giving the American side more authority?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I'm sorry, I can't answer that question.
That goes to the recommendation period that is under way right now.
You can draw that conclusion. I'm not commenting on that.

MR. FROTHINGHAM: Once again, consider that this is the sovereign
nation of Peru, and if you analyze it a little, step back and put it
the other way, if it were in the United States, we wouldn't be taking
directions from somebody else with the law enforcement activity within
the United States. So you have to kind of remember that relationship.

QUESTION: Has anyone on either side been disciplined, first? And
secondly, have the families seen this video yet? The Donaldsons or Mr.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I cannot tell you that anybody has yet been
disciplined. The families have seen the transcript. The families saw
the transcript prior -- or excuse me, they saw the tape with the
transcript prior to our meeting with them in mid-May.

QUESTION: No one yet has been disciplined?


QUESTION: Is there something in the works? The way you phrase that, is
there something likely to happen, or expected?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: There are proceedings that are looking at
the situation in Peru, but I am not able to tell you where they are in
terms of process.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the American side?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Not that I am aware of at this point in

QUESTION: And the previous 25 planes that were shot down, about 28 --


QUESTION: Did you -- were you able to recover most of these -- go to
the sites and determine whether or not these were in fact
drug-carrying planes? And were any of them in fact mistakenly shot
down that were not carrying drugs?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: We have no information that any were
mistakenly shot down. We were -- or I should say the Peruvians were
not able to recover all of them for sure. Is it the majority that they
got to the site? Of the Peruvians, yes. That they actually got to the
site and inspected what had transpired. The destruction of the plane
may have caused the evidence to be destroyed.

QUESTION: Is there going to be any compensation for the family

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I'm not really in a position to talk about
that. We did not have that as one of the elements of our charter.

QUESTION: Do you think in hindsight that it would have made any
difference had the civilian contractors been U.S. military personnel,
in terms of their relationship with the Peruvian military? There has
been some debate about the use of contractors. In hindsight, what do
you see?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: We saw no evidence that the fact that they
were civilian contractors would necessarily have made a difference in
this particular incident. There's nothing to suggest that that
particular characteristic was a responsible characteristic.

QUESTION: Two questions. One is I am interested in your thoughts on
the significance that no flight plan had been filed. Is it common
procedure to file a flight plan in that region on a flight to Iquitos?

And I'm also wondering if you can clarify a little bit point three of
the conclusions of participants involved in the incident narrowly
viewed their respective command and control roles, if you could
elaborate on what exactly that refers to?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I indicated to you earlier what Mr.
Donaldson viewed as his common practice in terms of calling Iquitos
from a location at about 50 miles away in order to alert them that he
was actually coming in. There really isn't anything that I could call
an absolutely common practice. This is the jungle. Different
individuals, different pilots do things differently.

QUESTION: It seems on the video that the Peruvians put a lot of weight
on the fact that no flight plan was filed.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: They did. That is absolutely correct. That
is absolutely correct. Without the tail number, without the
availability of the tail number, the other piece of information that
they were looking for in the reference during the incident to sorting
was whether or not there was any kind of a flight plan filed in that
particular area. And they were getting back an answer that there was

It is interesting to note and it is in the sequence that when the
original call for the sort went out, the Santa Clara base in Iquitos,
having seen the fact that OB-1408 went from Iquitos to Leticia on the
19th, specifically asked the tower in Iquitos where was OB-1408,
having some reason to believe that this plane might be coming back on
this day -- most of the time because those kinds of flights would be
out and back in a day -- whether they had any knowledge of the fact
that he had tried to get that information to the Iquitos tower. They
asked. At that point in time, the Iquitos tower did not have a record
of a flight plan coming out of the Leticia-Islandia area.

So the tower replied to the Santa Clara military base that they did
not have a flight plan and he was still in Islandia. That information
died there in the sense that they simply then reported to Pucallpa
that there were no flight plans and they didn't ever reference the
tail number of the plane. And as a result of that, if there had been a
chance for that tail number to have acquired any significance, it

QUESTION: Would it be expected that a pilot leaving from Islandia
would contact the tower in Leticia, even though it's a different

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: That's a possibility, but as again, you are
asking me what the common practice is, and I can't tell you what the
common practice is because there isn't one.

QUESTION: The other part of the question, as far as the key
participants narrowly viewing their respective command, could you
elaborate on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Yes. What that means is that the reference
here that we are trying to put out is, as I indicated earlier, when
the flight path gets over into this area, if you measure by distance
how far it is to the border, and you recognize that you have an
interceptor, which is a speed which is well faster than the
floatplane, and you see the altitude, then why would you use deadly
force at that point, as opposed to simply trailing the plane and see
where it goes. And if it makes an effort to escape, then the
interceptor is available and the time factor is long enough that the
interceptor is going to be able to perform the phase three part of the
mission if it looks like there is a cause to go to phase three that
would be created by an escape or a significant evasion attempt, which
there was not in this particular situation. That's the primary
conclusion that we are drawing there.

QUESTION: Is there any legal requirement to file a flight plan in
Peru? And if not, why would the Peruvian Air Force place so much
importance on the non-existence of a flight plan in this case? I mean,
there may be any -- if there's no legal requirement, there may be any
number of planes flying around without flight plans and it would
hardly be --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Yes, we are getting into a semantic issue
here. File a flight plan, activate a flight plan.

QUESTION: Whatever you do, I don't know what the procedure is. But is
there a legal requirement? Is it a legal --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I can't tell you whether it's a formal
legal requirement, or a procedural requirement but, yes, there is, on
the part of the Peruvian authorities, an expectation that a flight
plan will be filed and that a flight plan will be activated.

What happens in practice in this area doesn't always comport with what
the procedural requirements are, which is why when you all ask me,
well, what's common practice, if not procedurally required, I'm not
able to tell you. We were unable to obtain a sufficient sample of
information to tell you anything with assurance that would look like a
common practice.

QUESTION: Had this particular crew or the host country rider been
involved in any of the previous shootdowns?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Maybe I perhaps missed it, but there doesn't appear to be
any communication back to the host country rider in terms of the
results of the sort. In other words, did they tell him that they
couldn't find a flight plan? He appears to just be proceeding.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: No, it's in there. I'll help you find it
afterwards, if you want. But it is in there several times.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) second pilot here also trying to communicate
with Iquitos? Because that is obviously something a drug trafficker
would not be doing.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Our understanding is, no, the frequency
that they were on, except in the instance when they were specifically
told to go to another channel and make an effort to communicate, was
that the channel that they were on was the channel between the A-37
and the host nation rider on the Citation.

Other questions?

(No response.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Thank you all very much. 

(end transcript).

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