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Transcript of Charlie Rose Interview; Rep. Robert Torricelli, Elliot Abrams, and Allan Nairn

Following is a transcript of Friday 03/31/1995

ROSE: Tell me what you have found out, Allan. . .

NAIRN: Alperez is one Colonel on the CIA payroll who committed two murders. From talking to both Guatemalan and U.S. operatives involved in this, its clear that there are many, perhaps dozens of Guatemalan military officers on the CIA payroll who've been involved in thousands of killings. The G-2, the military intelligence service which coordinates the assassinations and disappearances-their top officials have for years been paid by the CIA. I was able to learn the names of three of them who've been on the payroll, as well as General Hector Gramajo, General Roberto Matta, two of the top officers, closest U.S. proteges, who've been directly involved in commanding massacres in the Northwest Highlands. Furthermore, there are actual U.S. CIA agents who work directly inside the G-2. I was able to learn the names of two of them, Joe Jacarino and Randy Capister. They provide what's called technical assistance and advice. l was able to reach colonel Alperez on the phone in Guatemala. He denied being involved in the Devine and Bamaca killings, said the CIA wasn't paying him, but he talked rather extensively about how the CIA essentially helps to run the G-2 with on-going advice and American advisers right there inside this systematic killing operation.

ROSE: you recorded this conversation?

NAIRN: No, I took extensive notes on it. And it's not just the CIA. It's the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House as well. For example, here are some internal State Department records which indicate that during both the Bush and Clinton administrations after there was a supposed cutoff of military aid to Guatemala, the State Department authorized at least 114 separate sales of pistols and rifles to Guatemala. The U.S. military has been planning joint maneuvers with the Guatemalan military this spring. This is an across the board policy and you have to hold the President accountable for that.

ROSE: Elliot, you were Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American affairs during the Reagan administration. Tell me what you make of this story, what you know about what went on...  

ABRAMS: ...from what I can see there's a lot less here than meets the eye. The fact that the CIA maintains relationships with intelligence people and military people in Central America and throughout the world is not news. The fact that some of them are pretty unattractive people is not news... That we had an ongoing CIA program in Guatemala at a time there was a military cutoff, you can't do that without a finding, its got to be approved by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. So one question to ask is: if the intelligence committee's didn't like this why didn't they stop it? Before we start jumping up and down here and saying this is another case of the CIA out of control, here I think I might agree with Mr. Nairn that if this was a Bush and Clinton policy, then let's talk about the policy of the President in both cases, and let's not start talking about a rogue CIA which does not yet appear to me to exist.

ROSE: Let me just ask you a hypothetical question. Would you as an assistant secretary of State for Latin American affairs, if you found out that our government was paying a man in the Guatemalan military after it learned that he had been implicated in the assassination of an American or someone married to an American, would you be outraged?

ABRAMS: I would certainly be outraged in the Devine case which looked like the cold blooded murder of an innocent American. The notion that we would continue to employ such a person would give him and others in the Guatemalan military the sense that we just didn't care about the killing of American citizens.  The Bamaca case is a different case. That guy was a guerrilla and he was not an American.

ROSE: Yeah, but he wasn't killed in battle, he was killed in prison.

ABRAMS: No, but it is a different case. And the responsibility we have is to protect above all American citizens, not Guatemalan guerrillas. So it is a different case, different kind of level of seriousness for the U.S. government.

NAIRN: Charlie, you asked a hypothetical: How would Mr. Abrams react? In fact we have the historical record. We can see how he and the other Reagan and Bush and Clinton officials have reacted.

ROSE: In the State Department, or in the CIA, or both?

NAIRN: Across the board. And in the face of this systematic policy of slaughter by the Guatemalan military, more than 110,000 civilians killed by that military since 1978, what Amnesty International has called a "government program of political murder," the U.S. has continued to provide covert assistance to the G-2 and they have continued, especially during the time of Mr. Abrams, to provide political aid and comfort. For example. . .

ABRAMS: Uh, Charlie.

ROSE: One second.

NAIRN: ...during the Northwest Highland massacres of the [early] '80s when the Catholic Church said: "never in our history has it come to such grave extremes. It has reached the point of genocide," President Reagan went down, embraced Rios Montt, the dictator who was staging these massacres, and said he was getting "a bum rap on human rights." In '85 when human rights leader Rosario Godoy was abducted by the army, raped, and mutilated, her baby had his fingernails torn out, the Guatemalan military said: "Oh, they died in a traffic accident." Human rights groups contacted Mr. Abrams, asked him about it, he wrote back-this is his letter of reply-he said: yes, "there's no evidence other than that they died in a traffic accident."  Now this is a woman raped and mutilated, a baby with his fingernails torn out. This is long-standing policy.

ROSE: ...these are specific points raised by Allan having to do with your public conduct.

ABRAMS: I'm not, I tell you, whatever Allan Nairn wants to do, Charlie, I'm not here to refight the Cold War. I'm glad we won, maybe he's not.  What I'm here to say is we're talking not about U.S. policy in the world .

NAIRN: Won against who, won against those civilians the Guatemalan army was massacring?

ABRAMS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.  Wait a minute. Wait a minute. We're not here to refight the Cold War.  We're here to talk about, l thought, a specific case in which an allegation is being made that the husband of an American, in another case an American citizen, were killed and there was a CIA connection with, allegedly, with the person allegedly involved in it. Now I'm happy to talk about that kind of thing. If Mr. Nairn thinks we should have been on the other side in Guatemala, that we should have been in favor of a guerrilla victory, I disagree with him.

NAIRN: So you're then admitting that you were on the side of the Guatemalan military!

ABRAMS: I am admitting that it was the policy of the United States, under Democrats and Republicans, approved by Congress repeatedly to oppose a Communist guerrilla victory anywhere in Central America including in Guatemala.

NAIRN: "A Communist guerrilla victory!"  Ninety-five percent of these victims are civilians-peasant organizers, human rights leaders, priests-assassinated by the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army.

ROSE: I'm happy to invite both of you, I'm happy to invite both of you back to review Reagan and Bush administration policy. Right now I want to stick to this point [re Alperez scandal]...

NAIRN: Let's look at reality here. In reality we're not talking about two murders, one Colonel. We're talking about more than a hundred thousand murders, an entire army, many of its top officers employees of the U.S. government. We're talking about crimes and we're also talking about criminals; not just people like the Guatemalan Colonels but also the U.S. agents who've been working with them, and the higher level U.S. officials. I mean, I think you have to apply uniform standards. President Bush once talked about putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity-Nuremberg style tribunal.  I think that's a good idea. But if you're serious, you have to be even-handed. If you look at a case like this, I think we have to start talking about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial. I think someone like Mr. Abrams would be a fit subject for such a Nuremberg-style inquiry,

ABRAMS: (laughs)

NAIRN: ...but I agree with Mr. Abrams that Democrats would have to be in the dock with him.

ROSE: Well, well 1...  

NAIRN: The Congress has been in on this. The Congress approved the sale of 16,000 M16s to Guatemala. In '87 and '88...

ROSE: All right, but hold on one second,

NAIRN: ...they voted more military aid than the Republicans asked for.

ROSE: And again, I invite you and Elliot Abrams back to discuss what he did, but right now...

ABRAMS: No, thanks Charlie, but...

ROSE: Elliot, go ahead Elliot, to repeat the question, do you want to be in the dock?

ABRAMS: It is ludicrous, it is ludicrous to respond to that kind of stupidity. This guy thinks we were on the wrong side in the cold war. Maybe he personally was on the wrong side. I am one of the many millions of Americans who...

NAIRN: Mr. Abrams, you were on the wrong side in supporting the massacre of peasants and organizers and anyone who dared speak. Absolutely. And that's a crime. That's a crime, Mr.  Abrams, for which people should be tried. It's against the law.

ABRAMS: All right, we'll put all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock....

TORRICELLI: I don't believe that the likes of a Webster or a Gates or a Woolsey, all directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, would be condoning or even knowledgeable of the kinds of activities that we're now hearing about occurred in Guatemala.

ROSE: I assume you would agree with that Elliot?

ABRAMS: Well I, we'll find out, lets see if they were not aware.

ROSE: That all this could take place without being reported up the line to the Director.

ABRAMS: If all of this happened and none of them were aware, one has to say: what kind of managers were they? I would urge Bob Torricelli to stick to the facts and to avoid the kind of crackpot theories that we're getting from Mr. Nairn. If you stick to the facts there may be quite enough to get people's attention.

TORRICELLI: Well, I m trying to stick to...

ROSE: I, I also have to say that Allan Nairn is a distinguished reporter who won the George Polk Award last year. So, I mean, you know, I don't want him characterized on this broadcast as a crackpot. I mean, you can have a personal argument about what he says about you specifically, but,

ABRAMS: Well, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, when a guy tells me he thinks the entire U.S.  Leadership during the Cold War needs to have a Nuremberg trial, he's a crackpot.

ROSE: OK, I mean, I, I wouldn't, point well taken.  

NAIRN: Well, it s Mr. Abrams s right to say whatever he wants, but the facts speak for themselves. And in the case of Guatemala you have this ongoing pattern of murder which has been public record-the Catholic Church in Guatemala has documented it, all the human rights groups have documented it. And on the public level, not even talking about the covert level, year after year the U.S. has continued to provide all different kinds of aid to the Guatemalan military. Right now it's the Clinton administration that's talking about a joint maneuver with the Guatemalan army, it's the State Department that was licensing these 114 pistol and rifle sales. The idea of a rogue operation is really preposterous when you have this kind of systematic, ongoing program that stretches back over years over both Democratic and Republican administrations. . .  

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