CIA chief in Guatemala was relieved in January

March 25, 1995|By Tim Weiner | Tim Weiner,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- One official at the Central Intelligence Agency has been removed from his post, and President Clinton has warned that others may follow in the furor raised by the

agency's employment of a Guatemalan army colonel, government officials said yesterday.

The colonel was linked to the deaths of an American innkeeper and a leftist guerrilla who was the common-law husband of an American lawyer.

Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Clinton would order the dismissal of anyone at the intelligence agency who deliberately withheld information in the case. He also said Mr. Clinton was among those unsatisfied with the agency's answers so far.

The CIA station chief in Guatemala was reassigned to the agency's headquarters in January after U.S. Ambassador Marilyn McAfee accused him of withholding information about the case, the officials said.

An internal probe at the CIA is focusing in part on the actions of officials at the top of the agency's covert-operations directorate. It is being conducted by Fred Hitz, the agency's inspector general, who is highly regarded on Capitol Hill for his work assessing the case of Aldrich H. Ames, the former agency official who sold secrets to Moscow.

The Guatemala case became public this week when Democratic Rep. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey, who is on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said a Guatemalan military officer who was on the CIA payroll had ordered the murders of the innkeeper, Michael DeVine, and Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, the leftist guerrilla who was the common-law husband of Jennifer Harbury, a Baltimore-born lawyer.

Among the CIA officials being questioned is a former chief of the Latin American division of the agency's operations directorate, who is now the agency's station chief in Switzerland. He oversaw all CIA clandestine operations in Latin America from 1990 to 1992, the period in which the killings took place.

Several former CIA officers said it was inconceivable that the Guatemala station chief would not have reported the killings to the division chief. Another officer being interviewed is Jack Devine, chief of the Latin American division from January 1993 to October 1994, when he became the associate deputy director of operations -- the No. 2 post in the agency's clandestine service.

Mr. Devine was chosen for that post after his predecessor, John MacGaffin, was removed by R. James Woolsey Jr., then director of the agency, for secretly giving an award to a senior covert-operations officer. The officer had just been disciplined by Mr. Woolsey for negligence in the Ames case.

Mr. Devine's successor as Latin American division chief is a former station chief in El Salvador who is the first woman to be named division chief in the CIA's covert-operations directorate. Non-CIA government officials said she was forthcoming in the search for facts about the case.

The investigation focuses what they knew and when they knew it.

Law-enforcement officials said yesterday that a review of files at the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation found no formal record that the CIA had provided them with any information on the death of Mr. DeVine, although one Justice Department official said he recalled hearing about the case.

Officials familiar with the CIA's version of events challenged that account, saying the intelligence agency had given a thorough LTC account of its knowledge of the killing of Mr. DeVine, including the role played by the Guatemalan colonel in late 1991.

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