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from the Congressional Record: September 25, 1997 (Senate)
Page S9969-S9976

      By Mr. DODD (for himself, Mr. Bingaman, Mr. Bumpers, and Mrs. 

  S. 1220. A bill to provide a process for declassifying on an 
expedited basis certain documents relating to human rights abuses in 
Guatemala and Honduras; to the Committee on Governmental Affairs.

                    the human rights information act

  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, today, I am introducing the Human Rights 
Information Act--legislation designed to facilitate the 
declassification of certain United States documents that relate to past 
human rights abuses in Guatemala and and Honduras. This act would 
ensure the prompt declassification of information by all relevant U.S. 
Government agencies concerning human rights abuses, while providing 
adequate protection to safeguard U.S. national security interests. 
Timely declassification of relevant materials would be of enormous 
assistance to the Guatemalan and Honduran people who are at this moment 
confronting past human rights violations as part of ongoing efforts to 
strengthen democratic institutions in those countries, particularly 
their judiciaries.
  This bill would ensure prompt and complete declassification within 
the necessary bounds of protection of national security. It would 
require Government agencies to review for declassification within 120 
days all human rights records relevant to inquiries by the Honduran 
human rights commissioner and the Guatemalan Clarification Commission. 
An interagency appeals panel would review agencies decisions to 
withhold information. The bill follows declassification standards 
already enacted by Congress in the JFK Assassination Records Act but is 
much simpler and less expensive than that law.
  Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares has already made a 
request of the United States

[[Page S9971]]

Government for any relevant documents concerning Honduran human rights 
violations and particularly those alleged to have been perpetrated by 
Honduran military Battalion 3-16 that resulted in more than 184 
killings or disappearances in the early 1980's.
  The Guatemalan Clarification Commission, which was set up by the 
December 1996 peace accords to establish a historical record of the 
massive human rights violations that occurred during more than three 
decades of civil war, is expected shortly to make a similar request for 
relevant United States documents concerning this period. The U.S. 
Government is, properly, offering financial assistance to the 
clarification commission. The United States should also support the 
commission's important work to end impunity by providing relevant 
declassified documents.
  While it is true that the Clinton administration has already 
declassified some documents related to Honduras and Guatemala, by 
Executive order, such declassifications have been very narrowly 
focused. And, despite a number of letters from Congress requesting 
prompt action, the administration's response to the longstanding 
request by Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Valladares, which was 
first submitted in 1993, has been slow and partial.
  Moreover, although the administration officially agreed to honor the 
Honduran request, many of the documents released to date have been 
heavily excised, yielding little substantive information. The State 
Department has turned over 3,000 pages, but other agencies have been 
much less forthcoming. For example, the CIA has released 36 documents 
concerning Father Carney, a United States priest killed in Honduras, 
and 97 documents pertaining to 5 other key human rights cases. Most are 
heavily excised. The Department of Defense has released 34 heavily 
excised documents, but almost nothing that relates to the activities of 
Battalion 3-16.
  The administration has also declassified numerous documents on 
Guatemala in response to public demands. These focus, however, on 
approximately 30 cases of human rights abuses directed against 
Americans in Guatemala. The cases of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna 
Mack and guerrilla leader Efrain Bamaca, husband of American lawyer 
Jennifer Harbury, were exceptions. In May of this year, the CIA also 
released an important batch of documents concerning its 1954 covert 
operation in Guatemala. However, thousands of documents on human rights 
violations that could be of interest to the clarification commission 
remain classified. Many of the documents already declassified were 
heavily excised, and, as in the Honduran case, the intelligence and 
defense agencies were less forthcoming than the State Department.
  Mr. President, I would hope that my colleagues can join me in voting 
for the Human Rights Information Act. This will send a very powerful 
signal of support for efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of 
law throughout the hemisphere. It will also greatly assist Latin 
Americans who are currently bravely working to shed light upon a dark 
period of their recent pasts so that they can prevent such heinous 
abuses from occurring in the future.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                S. 1220

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the "Human Rights Information 

     SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

       Congress finds the following:
       (1) Agencies of the Government of the United States have 
     information on human rights violations in Guatemala and 
       (2) Members of both Houses of Congress have repeatedly 
     asked the Administration for information on Guatemalan and 
     Honduran human rights cases.
       (3) The Guatemalan peace accords, which the Government of 
     the United States firmly supports, has as an important and 
     vital component the establishment of the Commission for the 
     Historical Clarification of Human Rights Violations and Acts 
     of Violence which have Caused Suffering to the Guatemalan 
     People (referred to in this Act as the "Clarification 
     Commission"). The Clarification Commission will investigate 
     cases of human rights violations and abuses by both parties 
     to the civil conflict in Guatemala and will need all 
     available information to fulfill its mandate.
       (4) The National Commissioner for the Protection of Human 
     Rights in the Republic of Honduras has been requesting United 
     States Government documentation on human rights violations in 
     Honduras since November 15, 1993. The Commissioner's request 
     has been partly fulfilled, but is still pending. The request 
     has been supported by national and international human rights 
     nongovernmental organizations as well as members of both 
     Houses of Congress.
       (5) Victims and survivors of human rights violations, 
     including United States citizens and their relatives, have 
     also been requesting the information referred to in 
     paragraphs (3) and (4). Survivors and the relatives of 
     victims have a right to know what happened. The requests have 
     been supported by national and international human rights 
     nongovernmental organizations as well as members of both 
     Houses of Congress.
       (6) The United States should make the information it has on 
     human rights abuses available to the public as part of the 
     United States commitment to democracy in Central America.


       In this Act:
       (1) Human rights record.--The term "human rights record" 
     means a record in the possession, custody, or control of the 
     United States Government containing information about gross 
     human rights violations committed after 1944.
       (2) Agency.--The term "agency" means any agency of the 
     United States Government charged with the conduct of foreign 
     policy or foreign intelligence, including the Department of 
     State, the Agency for International Development, the 
     Department of Defense (and all of its components), the 
     Central Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance 
     Office, the Department of Justice (and all of its 
     components), the National Security Council, and the Executive 
     Office of the President.


       (a) In General.--Notwithstanding any other provision of 
     law, the provision of this Act shall govern the 
     declassification and public disclosure of human rights 
     records by agencies.
       (b) Identification of Records.--Not later than 120 days 
     after the date of enactment of this Act, each agency shall 
     identify, review, and organize all human rights records 
     regarding activities occurring in Guatemala and Honduras 
     after 1944 for the purpose of declassifying and disclosing 
     the records to the public. Except as provided in section 5, 
     all records described in the preceding sentence shall be made 
     available to the public not later than 30 days after a review 
     under this section is completed.
       (c) Report to Congress.--Not later than 150 days after the 
     date of enactment of this Act, the President shall report to 
     Congress regarding each agency's compliance with the 
     provisions of this Act.


       (a) In General.--An agency may postpone public disclosure 
     of a human rights record or particular information in a human 
     rights record only if the agency determines that there is 
     clear and convincing evidence that--
       (1) the threat to the military defense, intelligence 
     operations, or conduct of foreign relations of the United 
     States raised by public disclosure of the human rights record 
     is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest, and 
     such public disclosure would reveal--
       (A) an intelligence agent whose identity currently requires 
       (B) an intelligence source or method--
       (i) which is being utilized, or reasonably expected to be 
     utilized, by the United States Government;
       (ii) which has not been officially disclosed; and
       (iii) the disclosure of which would interfere with the 
     conduct of intelligence activities; or
       (C) any other matter currently relating to the military 
     defense, intelligence operations, or conduct of foreign 
     relations of the United States, the disclosure of which would 
     demonstrably impair the national security of the United 
       (2) the public disclosure of the human rights record would 
     reveal the name or identity of a living individual who 
     provided confidential information to the United States and 
     would pose a substantial risk of harm to that individual;
       (3) the public disclosure of the human rights record could 
     reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion 
     of personal privacy, and that invasion of privacy is so 
     substantial that it outweighs the public interest; or
       (4) the public disclosure of the human rights record would 
     compromise the existence of an understanding of 
     confidentiality currently requiring protection between a 
     Government agent and a cooperating individual or a foreign 
     government, and public disclosure would be so harmful that it 
     outweighs the public interest.
       (b) Special Treatment of Certain Information.--It shall not 
     be grounds for postponement of disclosure of a human rights 
     record that an individual named in the

[[Page S9972]]

     human rights record was an intelligence asset of the United 
     States Government, although the existence of such 
     relationship may be withheld if the criteria set forth in 
     subsection (a) are met. For purposes of the preceding 
     sentence, the term an "intelligence asset" means a covert 
     agent as defined in section 606(4) of the National Security 
     Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 426(4)).


       In the event that an agency of the United States receives a 
     request for human rights records from an entity created by 
     the United Nations or the Organization of American States 
     similar to the Guatemalan Clarification Commission, or from 
     the principal justice or human rights official of a Latin 
     American or Caribbean country who is investigating a pattern 
     of gross human rights violations, the agency shall conduct a 
     review of records as described in section 4 and shall 
     declassify and publicly disclose such records in accordance 
     with the standards and procedures set forth in this Act.


       (a) Duties of the Appeals Panel.--The Interagency Security 
     Classification Appeals Panel (referred to in this Act as the 
     "Appeals Panel"), established under Executive Order No. 
     12958, shall review determinations by an agency to postpone 
     public disclosure of any human rights record.
       (b) Determinations of the Appeals Panel.--
       (1) In general.--The Appeals Panel shall direct that all 
     human rights records be disclosed to the public, unless the 
     Appeals Panel determines that there is clear and convincing 
     evidence that--
       (A) the record is not a human rights record; or
       (B) the human rights record or particular information in 
     the human rights record qualifies for postponement of 
     disclosure pursuant to section 5.
       (2) Treatment in cases of nondisclosure.--If the Appeals 
     Panel concurs with an agency decision to postpone disclosure 
     of a human rights record, the Appeals Panel shall determine, 
     in consultation with the originating agency and consistent 
     with the standards set forth in this Act, which, if any, of 
     the alternative forms of disclosure described in paragraph 
     (3) shall be made by the agency.
       (3) Alternative forms of disclosure.--The forms of 
     disclosure described in this paragraph are as follows:
       (A) Disclosure of any reasonably segregable portion of the 
     human rights record after deletion of the portions described 
     in paragraph (1).
       (B) Disclosure of a record that is a substitute for 
     information which is not disclosed.
       (C) Disclosure of a summary of the information contained in 
     the human rights record.
       (4) Notification of determination.--
       (A) In general.--Upon completion of its review, the Appeals 
     Panel shall notify the head of the agency in control or 
     possession of the human rights record that was the subject of 
     the review of its determination and shall, not later than 14 
     days after the determination, publish the determination in 
     the Federal Register.
       (B) Notice to president.--The Appeals Panel shall notify 
     the President of its determination. The notice shall contain 
     a written unclassified justification for its determination, 
     including an explanation of the application of the standards 
     contained in section 5.
       (5) General procedures.--The Appeals Panel shall publish in 
     the Federal Register guidelines regarding its policy and 
     procedures for adjudicating appeals.
       (c) Presidential Authority Over Appeals Panel 
       (1) Public disclosure or postponement of disclosure.--The 
     President shall have the sole and nondelegable authority to 
     review any determination of the Appeals Board under this Act, 
     and such review shall be based on the standards set forth in 
     section 5. Not later than 30 days after the Appeals Panel's 
     determination and notification to the agency pursuant to 
     subsection (b)(4), the President shall provide the Appeals 
     Panel with an unclassified written certification specifying 
     the President's decision and stating the reasons for the 
     decision, including in the case of a determination to 
     postpone disclosure, the standards set forth in section 5 
     which are the basis for the President's determination.
       (2) Record of presidential postponement.--The Appeals Panel 
     shall, upon receipt of the President's determination, publish 
     in the Federal Register a copy of any unclassified written 
     certification, statement, and other materials transmitted by 
     or on behalf of the President with regard to the postponement 
     of disclosure of a human rights record.


       Upon completion of the review and disclosure of the human 
     rights records relating to Guatemala and Honduras, the 
     Information Security Policy Advisory Council, established 
     pursuant to Executive Order No. 12958, shall report to 
     Congress on the desirability and feasibility of 
     declassification of human rights records relating to other 
     countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report 
     shall be available to the public.


       (a) Freedom of Information Act.--Nothing in this Act shall 
     be construed to limit any right to file a request with any 
     executive agency or seek judicial review of a decision 
     pursuant to section 552 of title 5, United States Code.
       (b) Judicial Review.--Nothing in this Act shall be 
     construed to preclude judicial review, under chapter 7 of 
     title 5, United States Code, of final actions taken or 
     required to be taken under this Act.


       For purposes of carrying out the provisions of this Act, 
     there shall be 2 additional positions in the Appeals Panel. 
     The positions shall be filled by the President, based on the 
     recommendations of the American Historical Association, the 
     Latin American Studies Association, Human Rights Watch, and 
     Amnesty International, USA.

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