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Sessions Admits Agents Strayed in Latin Probe

February 02, 1988|United Press International

WASHINGTON — FBI Director William S. Sessions acknowledged today that some agents may have gone too far in a controversial undercover investigation of U.S. citizens opposed to Administration policy in Central America.

After a briefing for reporters, Sessions said the operation "was not properly directed" in some areas of the country, where bureaus were overzealous and apparently misinterpreted orders from headquarters.

At the same time, the director said such abuses are difficult to prevent.

The admission came as the new FBI chief, just three months on the job, was called to testify secretly before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the operation, details of which were brought to public attention recently by the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights.

The group, referring to more than 1,000 pages of FBI documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, said the bureau conducted a massive probe of groups opposed to President Reagan's policy in Central America and sought to stifle dissent from 1981 to 1985.

Defends Investigation

Sessions, however, defended the investigation of groups connected to CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, as legitimately founded on information from various sources that the group was linked to a terrorist organization, the FMLN.

He conceded, however, that in at least one instance, agents went too far.

"I would say it (the investigation) was not out of control, but as to that particular facet, it was not properly directed," he said.

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