Said Mendez: "They told us, why did we keep looking for them when they were already dead?"

Assertion: "Sanctity of the home is guaranteed by the Constitution and generally observed."

-- State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982.

Fact: Raids of homes without warrants were common in Honduras. The military stormed neighborhoods in search of Communist safe houses.

"They would burst into homes of people who were completely innocent and search for evidence," said Honduran journalist Noe Leyva. "Sometimes if they found Marxist books or pamphlets, they would arrest the resident without any warrant. It was ridiculous."

Leyva, now an editor at the Honduran newspaper El Tiempo, reported on human rights abuses for that newspaper in the early 1980s.

In July 1982, Oscar Reyes, a prominent journalist, was seized from his home along with his wife in an illegal raid. Upon their release from prison, the Reyeses found their home ransacked.

Assertion: "In rare cases in which members of the security forces have been accused of murder, the government has brought the perpetrators to justice."

-- State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1983

Fact: "I don't recall one case of that," said Edmundo Orellana, the Honduran attorney general.

Rumaldo Iries Calix, the former Honduran Supreme Court justice, said charges sometimes would be brought against low-level officers, but that the cases were always dismissed.

"No judge dared to convict a military official," Iries said. "There was so much repression against anyone who opposed the military."

Assertion: "There are no political prisoners in Honduras. Individuals are prosecuted not for their political beliefs but rather for criminal acts defined in the penal code."

-- State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1983

Fact: Orellana, who is investigating the disappearances of Battalion 316's victims, shakes his head in amazement at that assertion.

"This is totally untrue," he said. "There were political prisoners, and the disappeared are the proof. They followed, arrested and executed people who just thought differently."

One senator who was serving at the time as a member of the Senate intelligence committee describes what difference it might have made if the human rights reporting had been more truthful.

"I think its extremely important that the State Department be right on human rights, said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. "If we told the truth about Honduras and the whole Central American policy, ... billions of American tax dollars would have been saved, a large number of lives would have been saved, and the governments would have moved toward democracy quicker."

Negroponte, now U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, has declined repeated requests by telephone and in writing since July for interviews about this report. However, on Thursday, after publication of three parts of The Sun's series, he issued a written statement:

"Under my leadership, the embassy worked to promote the restoration and consolidation of democracy in Honduras, including the advancement of human rights."