UPDATE 6/25/09: House of Representatives Votes to Force the Pentagon to Release Information to SOA Watch
SOA Watch has received confirmation that Congress will vote on an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would require that the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC to release the names, ranks, country of origin, courses and dates attended of students and instructors at the institute.
The amendment will be offered by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA), Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and we expect the vote to happen on Wednesday, June 24.
For the past few years, despite the WHINSEC PR machine proclaiming an open and transparent school, the WHINSEC has been unwilling to provide information about the students and instructors. The Pentagon secrecy took effect after research revealed that the SOA/ WHINSEC continues to train known human rights abusers, and that instructors have been involved in numerous crimes. Freedom of Information Act requests since FY 2005 have all been denied, proof of WHINSEC’s unwillingness to submit to oversight from the public whose tax-payer dollars help fund the school.
Access to information regarding SOA/ WHINSEC graduates of previous years has been a valuable asset to human rights organizations who have been able to identify Latin American military officers and police that have committed human rights abuses or engaged in criminal activity in their home countries after attending the school as instructors or students.
SOA Watch supports the release of this important information at all U.S. military training facilities in the spirit of openness, transparency, and the public’s “right to know.” We see gaining access to the names of SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and instructors as a crucial step towards closing the SOA/ WHINSEC for good.
We expect a close vote and it is crucial for the success of this amendment that you contact your Representative TODAY and TOMORROW!
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE!!! — TUESDAY, June 23 AND WEDNESDAY, June 24
Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll free at 1-800-473-6711
Ask to speak with the military legislative assistant. Here is a suggested message for you to convey:
“Hello, My name is __________, and as your constituent, I urge you to vote YES on the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA)-Lewis (GA) amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill.
The amendment would release the names, country of origin, rank and dates of attendance at WHINSEC for graduates and instructors. This amendment is supported by Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Ike Skelton.
As you may know the School of the Americas, renamed WHINSEC, has a notorious history linked to serious crimes and human rights abuses throughout Latin America. In the past few years under WHINSEC, known human rights abusers have attended the school and WHINSEC instructors have been arrested in Colombia for returning home and aiding the drug cartels. None of this information would be known if the basic information about enrollment at WHINSEC were not disclosed. This information is vital to the work of Congress and human rights organizations who seek protection of human rights and promoting transparency, however all FOIA requests for this information are now being denied.
What is WHINSEC hiding?! Voting YES on the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA)-Lewis (GA) amendment is a vote FOR human rights and FOR transparency. I urge your boss to vote YES!!!