PRESIDENT Clinton has wisely promised members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus that he will release documents concerning the CIA connection to Battalion 316 of the Honduran military, which kidnapped, tortured and murdered suspected leftists in the 1980s.
This is the material that Honduras' human rights commissioner, Leo Valladares, has long been seeking. That country is trying to come to terms with its past, just as countries ranging from Germany to South Africa are trying to recover their own national memories.
The work of Battalion 316 and its connection to CIA training was investigated by Sun reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson in a notable series of articles, after a long inquiry, two years ago. They reported that State Department and CIA officials knew of crimes and misled Congress. Honduras, a democratic and friendly country, is trying to learn the truth about the disappearance in the 1980s of 184 persons, and deserves every possible assistance from Washington now.
In his letter to members of Congress, President Clinton promised to release documents originating in the CIA and Department of ** Defense beginning in July. "CIA," he wrote, "expects to release any human rights-related material on General Alvarez by early September and on Battalion 316 by late November. The Department of Defense is conducting its own survey to identify any additional materials that are responsive to the Honduran government's request. . ."
This is pretty slow declassification based on promises 2 years old. But this has the president's signature and dates for compliance. In addition, Mr. Clinton promised that the CIA inspector general's investigation of these matters will be completed this month and "shared with the appropriate committees of Congress."
The intelligence committees of Congress are historically good about keeping secrets entrusted to them. Mr. Clinton should consider declassifying portions and a summary of this report, so that the Honduran government and all members of Congress and the American people can understand its import. Some of these crimes date to 1981. The 1980s wars in Central America are over. The healing process requires full knowledge of what occurred.
Pub Date: 6/23/97