Washington, D.C., March 14, 2000 – Today's Washington Post features an op-ed on page A17 titled "Hardly a Distinguished Career," written by National Security Archive director Tom Blanton and commenting on the CIA's decision to award the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal to the highest-ranking CIA official fired in a 1995 scandal for failing to inform Congress about the CIA's ties to human rights abuses in Guatemala.
According to State Department biographical registers and journalistic accounts, the official, Terry R. Ward, started his career at the CIA in the early 1960s, initially in Laos as a paramilitary officer. He then served under diplomatic cover in a series of CIA stations in Latin America: Argentina in 1965 to 1968, the Dominican Republic from 1968 to 1970, Bolivia from 1970 to 1972, Venezuela from 1973 to 1975, and Peru from 1975 to 1977. By the middle 1980s, he had risen to the position of deputy chief of the Latin American division of the CIA's directorate of operations. In 1987 and 1988, he was station chief in Honduras, supervising the CIA's Nicaraguan contra operation. In early 1989, he returned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as chief of the Latin American division. In 1993 he became station chief in Switzerland, where he was when CIA director John Deutch fired him in 1995. For reasons of privacy, we have deleted the name of Ward's wife.
The CIA used two secret manuals during Terry Ward's career to train Latin American militaries and security services in interrogating suspects, one titled "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation - July 1963," and a updated version titled "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual -1983." These two documents were declassified in January 1997 in response to a 1994 Freedom of Information Act request by the Baltimore Sun, and the Sun's threat of a lawsuit under FOIA. The Sun headlined its report on the documents (27 January 1997, by Gary Cohn, Ginger Thompson, and Mark Matthews) as "Torture was taught by CIA." The Sun's story noted the admonition on page 46 of the 1963 manual that when planning an interrogation room, "the electric current should be known in advance, so that transformers or other modifying devices will be on hand if needed." The Sun reported that "...this referred to the application of electric shocks to interrogation suspects."
The 1963 manual included a 22-page section titled "The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources," which on page 100 admonishes that "drugs (and the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used persistently to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows capitulation. Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation. Once this shift has been accomplished, coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive."
The 1983 manual as declassified included numerous revisions made by CIA apparently in July 1984 in the wake of public revelations about a CIA "assassination" manual used by the Nicaraguan contras. The revisions added a full page following the table of contents labeled "Prohibition against use of force," and overwrote in hand-printed letters most of the manual's references to "coercive techniques." For example, the 1983 sentence on the second page of the introduction read "While we do not stress the use of coercive techniques, we do want to make you aware of them and the proper way to use them." The 1984 revisions overwrote "do not stress" with the word "deplore" and replaced the phrase "the proper way to use them" with the phrase "so that you may avoid them."
The CIA Inspector General's secret report titled "Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s" is dated 27 August 1997, and was declassified in September 1998 as the result of repeated requests by members of Congress and the National Security Archive on behalf of the Honduran human rights commissioner, Leo Valladares Lanza. Triggered by a series of reports by New York Times reporter James Lemoyne, the IG report detailed CIA's knowledge of human rights abuses in Honduras, including the activities of the Honduran death squad ELACH working for the 316th Battalion of Honduran military intelligence. The 316th Battalion was specifically formed in the early 1980s to support the CIA's program to interdict arms flows through Honduras from Nicaragua to the Salvadoran guerrillas -- the rationale given to Congress for the CIA's development of the Nicaraguan contras.
Although heavily censored, the IG report and related documents confirmed that the CIA failed to followup CIA director William Casey's 1986 commitment to Congress that the Agency would investigate ELACH and Battalion 316. Although the 316 Battalion was formally disbanded in September 1987, during Terry Ward's tenure as Honduras station chief, an 18 February 1995 CIA cable concluded that "Although the CI [counterintelligence] division [under the Honduran armed forces chief of staff for intelligence, or C-2] retained some of the 316th military intel battalion's functions and personnel [two lines deleted], a considerable number of the unit's personnel, sub-units and functions, such as analysis centers, were transferred to other sections within the C-2." In February 2000, the Honduran government announced that it would begin to pay reparations, initially in the amount of $2.1 million, to the families of 19 of the 184 acknowledged victims murdered by the 316 Battalion (see "Reparations for ‘Disappeared' Hondurans," in the Washington Post, 24 February 2000).
These excerpts describe (1) the State Department-funded investigation in 1986 and 1987 that established repeated instances of the murder or torture of prisoners by the Nicaraguan contras based in Honduras (pp. 197-201); (2) the contra's 1987 "counterintelligence" campaign within their own ranks, which included CIA polygraph experts as well as routine torture and indefinite detention while the contras' CIA handlers "turned the other way" (pp. 194-195); and (3) Terry Ward's role with the contras (pp. 222-223).
On October 15, 1991, the CIA station in Guatemala sent an "eyes only" cable to Mr. Ward (identified as "Chief/LA") titled "Station investigation of human rights violations in Guatemala." Summarizing the murder of U.S. citizen Michael Devine, the cable states that "the entire command structure of the military zone where the killing took place was controlled by men known to be capable of murder under the most casual pretext." At least one of those commanders was a paid CIA asset. After discussing several other cases, the cable concludes by reporting that "the extrajudicial killing of certain categories of persons is almost routine."
On June 28, 1996, the President's Intelligence Oversight Board reported that during the period of Mr. Ward's direction of Latin American operations, the CIA provided "vital" funding, ranging from $1 million to $3.5 million per year, to the Guatemalan military intelligence services (the D-2 and the Department of Presidential Security) whose human rights records "were generally known to have been reprehensible by all who were familiar with Guatemala." The Board said "we learned that in the period since 1984, several CIA assets were credibly alleged to have ordered, planned, or participated in serious human rights violations such as assassination, extrajudicial execution, torture, or kidnapping while they were assets -- and that the CIA was contemporaneously aware of many of the allegations." The Board found Mr. Ward "derelict" in not ensuring accurate information went to Congress about the Devine case specifically and the Guatemala human rights situation generally -- the offense cited by CIA director John Deutch when he dismissed Mr. Ward in 1995.
The June 1996 Oversight Board report went on to express alarm that until 1996, the CIA had never established guidance for balancing the value of an asset's information against other U.S. interests, such as "moral implications, the damage to U.S. objectives in promoting greater respect for human rights, the loss of confidence in the intelligence community among members of Congress and the public, and the effect of such relationships on the ethical climate within U.S. intelligence agencies." The resulting "scrub" of CIA assets, according to the Post's R. Jeffrey Smith (March 2, 1997, p. A1), "dropped more than a thousand secret informants from its worldwide payroll" for lack of productivity, criminality or human rights abuses. Smith wrote, "A disproportionately high number of informants dropped for such abuses were employed in Latin America during the 1980s and early 1990s." This was the peak of Terry Ward's CIA career.
Did Terry Ward train torturers? Did Terry Ward recruit human rights abusers and non-performing assets? We don't know for sure. Conversely, did Terry Ward's work save lives and make the U.S. more secure? Again, we don't know. The declassified record tells us only that he was "derelict" in his Constitutional duty to inform Congress of Guatemalan human rights abuses, that he failed to followup the CIA's commitment to investigate the Honduran military's death squad, that he looked the other way when the Nicaraguan contras tortured their prisoners, that he kept on the CIA payroll Guatemalan officers who were murderers, and that he was a senior official in a system that rewarded CIA case officers for the recruitment of assets regardless of the damage done to U.S. interests such as promoting human rights or civilian control of foreign militaries.
Tom Blanton is the director of George Washington University's National Security Archive, which helped the U.N. historical clarification commission in Guatemala and the Honduran human rights commissioner get declassified U.S. documents on human rights abuses in those countries. Michael Evans, Tamara Feinstein, Catherine Nielsen, and Carlos Osorio assisted with the research for this article and electronic briefing book.