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Internal Report Criticizes CIA in Handling of Guatemala Killings

July 26, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An internal CIA investigation into the deaths of an American and a rebel commander in Guatemala criticizes the agency for failing to share intelligence about the cases with Congress and the State Department, according to U.S. officials and a congressional source.

Responding to President Clinton’s order for a governmentwide review, the CIA inspector general investigated the killing of American innkeeper Michael Devine in June 1990 and the March 1992 disappearance of Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, the husband of American lawyer Jennifer Harbury.

The agency’s findings are included in an interim report by Clinton’s Intelligence Oversight Board that the White House was making public today. The board’s final product will include information from other government agencies as well.

The findings include a conclusion that CIA officials were not implicated in the two deaths, but that the agency failed to properly inform congressional oversight committees and the U.S. Embassy of intelligence information it had, a senior official said today.

An unanswered question remains why Devine, a former Peace Corps worker who ran a tourist hotel, was killed, said the official. Theories have ranged from rumors that he possessed a stolen military weapon to speculation that he stumbled on an illegal drug or wood harvesting operation.

Clinton ordered the review March 30 following allegations that a CIA paid informant was involved in the Bamaca and Devine deaths.

CIA inspector general Fred Hitz briefed the House Intelligence Committee on the findings Tuesday, and was to report to the Senate Intelligence Committee today, officials said.

Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., a member of the House committee, initially claimed that Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, said to be a CIA informant, was involved in the deaths and that U.S. officials were covering up their knowledge even while Harbury was on hunger strikes in an effort to get a full accounting of the disappearance of her husband.

A congressional source and an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that among the inspector general’s conclusions was that the CIA broke no laws. However, he faulted CIA officials for their reporting lapses.

The congressional source said the investigation found the CIA did not keep the U.S. Embassy or Congress properly informed.

William Studeman, then the CIA’s acting director, admitted last April the agency failed to relay important information on the Devine case to the congressional oversight committees. Studeman also disclosed the CIA recalled its station chief in Guatemala earlier this year for delaying a report with key information.

U.S. officials also have told Congress they believe Alpirez was, at a minimum, involved in covering up Devine’s death and is knowledgeable or involved in Bamaca’s fate.

Harbury, Bamaca’s widow, is in Guatemala working to get permission to search for her husband’s body on a remote military post where he may be buried.

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