On May 22, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to declassify information about the notorious School of the Americas (now called WHINSEC), dealing a blow to the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability surrounding Defense Department policies.
The McGovern-Sestak-Bishop(GA) amendment (to the National Defense Authorization Act), which was passed by a 220 to 189 vote, forces the public release of names, rank, country of origin, courses, and dates of attendance of WHINSEC’s graduates and instructors to the public. It includes info only on those who attended or taught at the institute since the fiscal year 2005.
This information had been available in the past, but the Defense Department classified it two years ago. After introducing the amendment to the House, Rep. McGovern said,
The WHINSEC is supposed to be a model for transparency, accountability, and respect for civil society, including human rights groups and critics. What signal does the school send to its Latin American counterparts about our democratic values when it denies NGOs access to information that has been available for decades?
Georgia’s Rep. Bishop cosponsored the amendment “to help us put the lie to all of these protesters that come down and pretend, or that, through misinformation, believe that some sinister activities are taking place there.”
In the past, the student and instructor lists have enabled SOA Watch to connect SOA/WHINSEC graduates to murders (including the assassination of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero), drug cartels (SOA grad Lt. Byron Carvajal was convicted this year for the murder of 10 counternarcotics police in May 2006), paramilitaries our government lists as terrorist organizations, and massacres of whole villages, like El Mozote, El Salvador, where SOA grads killed more than 800 civilians, ages 2 months to 100 years—they systematically murdered the unarmed people, first beheading and shooting the men, then raping and shooting the women, then stabbing and shooting the children (ten of the twelve officers cited for the massacre by a 1993 UN Truth Commission were trained at the SOA).
This month’s legislative victory was the result of hard work by SOA Watch’s many, many dedicated volunteers and supporters. Check out SOAW.org for more info and plans for a Senate bill.
SOA Watch Long Island and SOA Watch NYC would like to thank the following congresspeople from New York who voted for the amendment (NYC and Long Island districts are in bold):
* Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-5)
* Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-24)
* Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-1)
* Rep. Yvette Clark (D-11)
* Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-7)
* Rep. John Hall (D-19)
* Rep. Brian Higgins (D-27)
* Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-22)
* Rep. Steve Israel (D-2)
* Rep. Nita Lowey (D-18)
* Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-14)
* Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-4)
* Rep. Michael R. McNulty (D-21)
* Rep. Jose Serrano (D-16)
* Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-28)
* Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-10)
* Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-12)
* Rep. Anthony D. Weiner (D-9)
Reps. Peter King (R-3) and Vito Fossella (R-13) were the only two of all the Long Island and New York City congresspeople to vote against the amendment. (Only four from all of New York State voted against it.) Three representatives who had cosponsored the amendment, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-20), Jerrold Nadler (D-8), and James Walsh (R-25), did not vote, neither did Gregory Meeks (D-6), who has voted in favor of a similar bill in the past.