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Panel Blasts Senator's CIA Allegations

March 18, 1997|JAMES RISEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — In a rare public rebuke to a fellow member of Congress, the Republican majority of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) made allegations about the CIA's role in two high-profile murder cases in Guatemala involving a U.S. citizen and a rebel married to another American that have proved false.

But in its final report on the lingering controversy over the CIA's role in Guatemala, the House intelligence panel still agreed with earlier government investigations that the CIA's paid informants in the Guatemalan army were involved in serious human rights abuses, and that CIA officials knew of their involvement and kept that information from Congress.

"The statutory requirement that the congressional intelligence committees be kept fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities was violated by the leadership of the CIA" in the Guatemalan case, the House report found.

But the report's most controversial finding related to Torricelli's role in bringing the Guatemala matter out into the public in 1995, when he was still a member of the House and served on its intelligence committee.

In a March 1995 letter to President Clinton, Torricelli publicized allegations that a paid CIA informant, Guatemalan Army Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, was linked to the 1990 killing of Michael DeVine, then living in Guatemala, and the 1992 abduction, torture and killing of Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a Guatemalan leftist guerrilla who was married to Jennifer Harbury, a U.S. lawyer.

In a separate letter a few days later, Torricelli referred to an anonymous fax he had received alleging that two U.S. Army officers were involved in purging records in order to cover up possible involvement of U.S. Army intelligence in the two deaths.

But the House committee report determined that "none of the allegations raised by Torricelli concerning the involvement of the CIA in the DeVine or Bamaca deaths have proven to be true." The report added that none of the allegations about U.S. Army intelligence were true, either.

Torricelli's office angrily responded to the House report, saying in a statement: "It is the Central Intelligence Agency and not Sen. Torricelli that has failed in its duty to the American people."

The statement said Torricelli stands by "the general accuracy" of his contentions. Democratic members of the House intelligence committee also dissented from the Republican majority report, disagreeing that Torricelli had been discredited.

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