CIA should clean house on Honduras Timely precedent: Agency disciplines 10 for shielding human rights abuses in Guatemala.


DIRECTOR OF Central Intelligence John M. Deutch acted decisively in disciplining 10 CIA officers for withholding information from Congress on agency ties to a Guatemalan military officer implicated in two murders. Mr. Deutch told the congressional Select Committee on Intelligence he had asked a former chief of operations in Latin America and a former Guatemala station chief to retire.

That raises hopes that the CIA will finally bite the bullet and face its record of involvement in the training of Honduras' infamous Battalion 316, and suppression of the facts about the unit's reported kidnapping, murder and torture of suspected dissidents in the early 1980s.

In June, The Sun printed the results of a 14-month investigation by reporters Ginger Thompson and Gary Cohn into U.S. links to Battalion 316. In Honduras, 11 current and former military officers were indicted on charges flowing from those human rights abuses. The most Mr. Deutch has said is that "an independent group" is reviewing the Honduras record for "lessons about how to not do things."

The agency discipline relating to Guatemala responded to congressional pressure for information on goon squad murders of an American citizen and the husband of another. Mr. Deutch is making a commendable effort to respond to criticisms of lax discipline and unacceptable practices of the agency in the declining years of the Cold War, and to bring the intelligence community into the accountability demanded of all government agencies.

Mr. Deutch should now bring the same standard to bear on the U.S. links to Honduras' Battalion 316's acts of terror against Hondurans more than a decade ago. Congress, through its select committee, is entitled to equal candor on that one.

In the uncertain world now emerging, U.S. security will -- more than ever -- require intelligence gathered with credibility by agencies that Americans trust. Cleaning up such old accounts as the Battalion 316 matter is a necessary prelude to restoring trust.

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