Man Claims He Infiltrated CISPES as FBI Informant
DALLAS (AP) _ A man who says he is a former FBI informant charged Wednesday that agents here burglarized offices of opponents of the Reagan administration’s Central America policy and allegedly stole documents.
Frank Varelli, 37, said he infiltrated the Dallas chapter of the U.S. Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador on FBI orders. He also said the investigation of the church-led group’s activitivies, which began in 1981, continues in Houston.
″Whatever documents in 1982-1983 that I was not able to obtain legally, the bureau designated, on a regular basis, two agents to come to the Bethany House and go in and obtain those documents,″ Varelli told about 30 members of CISPES at the Martin Luther King Community Center.
Bethany House is a Catholic religious community in Dallas.
″The documents had more to do with organizational structure and membership,″ he said.
He said the Dallas bureau office was chosen for the investigation because he had already begun work infiltrating the group and the FBI wanted to centralize its probe.
″I was the first one who ever went into a CISPES group,″ said Varelli, who was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and came to the United States 18 years ago.
The FBI has declined to comment on the case but said he worked for the bureau at one time.
Michael Ratner, a CISPES lawyer, interviewed on the CBS Evening News Wednesday, said, ″The FBI has admitted to us that it has 17 volumes of information on the Dallas chapter of CISPES, and on the national chapter.″ He said the committee has hundreds of other chapters around the country.
The committee has used a variety of tactics to attack the Reagan administration’s policies of refusing to give political asylum to Salvadoran refugees, of training Salvadoran troops in anti-guerrilla tactics and in supporting a government in El Salvador that CISPES accuses of human rights violations.
Varelli’s allegations were first aired on television station WFAA on Monday and Tuesday. He has sued six FBI agents and seeks to recover money he claims the agency owes him.
Varelli told Linda Hajek of CISPES that its offices’ phones were tapped and mail intercepted in the investigation. He also said he wrote down license numbers of vehicles parked outside the offices.
″Your mail was stopped and detained for two to three days,″ he told Ms. Hajek in response to a question.
Other organizations in Dallas, including Casa America Libre, were also investigated by the bureau, Varelli claimed.
He also said he flew to Virginia to give talks on how to infiltrate CISPES. But Varelli, who said he became disenchanted partly because he said the FBI owed him money for his work, apologized to CISPES members for his activity.
″There was not one single criminal activity (I uncovered) in 3 years of investigations,″ he said.
Varelli said he believes the National Security Council authorized the investigation. He said the FBI sent him to his native El Salvador to talk with the national guard, which he provided with information on traveling Americans and Salvadoran nationals and deportees.
He said the bureau obtained lists of traveling Americans from airline reservation computers in Houston. Varelli said he believed death squads killed some of the deportees.