Statement - Father Roy Bourgeois, School of the Americas Watch

Illegal FBI / JTTF Spying >>

Instead of investigating any of the heinous crimes of graduates of the School of the Americas, our government is using its resources and time to monitor peaceful demonstrators, people who are working for true democracy in this country. It's shameful.

My name is Roy Bourgeois, and I'm a Maryknoll priest and one of the founders of School of the Americas Watch. I was born in Louisiana and served as a Naval Officer for two years before entering the seminary. In 1972 I was ordained a Catholic priest and went on to work with the poor of Bolivia for five years before being arrested and forced to leave the country, then under the repressive rule of dictator and School of the Americas graduate General Hugo Banzer.

In 1980 I became involved in issues surrounding our government's policy in El Salvador after four U.S. churchwomen -- two of them friends of mine -- were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers.

In 1990, about a dozen of us gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, home of the School of the Americas, to vigil in remembrance of those killed by graduates of the institution and to call for its closure. For over 15 years, we have come to this place in nonviolence and in peace, and in bigger and bigger numbers each year, to challenge the violence of this institution.

When the Pentagon finally admitted in 1996 that the School of the Americas had used manuals for at least 10 years that advocated torture – confirming what human rights advocates and torture survivors had claimed for years – Army officials immediately treated it as an image problem, not a criminal problem.

Since then, the Pentagon has poured millions of dollars into a public relations program to attempt to distance the school from its sordid past. Instead of investigating the development and use of training manuals that violated U.S. and international law, or investigating even one instance of the more than 600 documented cases of human rights abuses by graduates of the school, the U.S. government has continued to divert resources to public relations.

I see the same frustrating pattern with the release of these declassified FBI files. Instead of using resources to further the causes of justice and accountability, the U.S. government is using precious resources to investigate peaceful demonstrators. We must be vigilant in speaking out against this kind of abuse of power and in standing up for civil and human rights violations, whether they occur in Latin America or in our own country.

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