Ex-rebel given asylum despite U.S. suspicions Officials were convinced Salvadoran was involved in slaying of Americans

December 12, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. government allowed a former commander in El Salvador's leftist guerrilla army to settle in the United States and receive thousands of dollars in payments as an informant even though officials at the CIA and the Justice Department were convinced he had been involved in the killing of six Americans in 1985, a new report has concluded.

In a summary of a classified report on the matter, the inspectors general of the CIA and the departments of State, Justice and Defense cited contradictory claims about whether U.S. diplomats or intelligence agents were ultimately responsible for allowing the former rebel into the country in 1990 in return for his services as an informant.

The investigators concluded that U.S. officials violated no laws or regulations in allowing the former guerrilla, Pedro Antonio Andrade, to settle in New Jersey.

But they strongly suggested that Andrade might have been deliberately slipped beneath the radar of officials in Washington who had sought to block his way because of evidence that he helped plan the attack in which four U.S. Marines and two American businessmen were killed as they sat eating at a sidewalk restaurant in the Zona Rosa section of San Salvador.

The Republican senator who requested the inquiry, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, criticized the report yesterday as "obviously incomplete."

Despite the investigators' conclusion that no laws or regulations were broken in the affair, Shelby said he would press for a further explanation about which U.S. officials were responsible for the payments made to Andrade and the decision to grant him a special visa based on "the public interest."

A spokeswoman for the State Department's inspector general, Jacquelyn L. Williams-Bridgers, did not return telephone calls asking for comment on the issues raised by the report. Several spokesmen for the CIA could not be reached this afternoon in their offices at the agency's headquarters.

In an interview last month in the Paterson, N.J., jail where he is being held on charges of having overstayed his visa, Andrade acknowledged that he had, in fact, been a leader in an urban commando unit of the Central American Revolutionary Workers' Party, the smallest of the five rebel armies that made up El Salvador's leftist guerrilla alliance, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.

Andrade said that after his capture by the Salvadoran security forces on May 28, 1989, he was kept almost naked in a small, cold cell for five or six days, deprived of food and sleep, and interrogated around the clock by Salvadoran military and police intelligence officers.

By the time the U.S. Embassy's legal attache, Richard J. Chidester, arrived to question him June 6, along with FBI agent Ronald Ward, Andrade said he was delirious and demanded to be taken before a judge, as required by Salvadoran law. He claimed that Ward made threats against him and against relatives who had lived for years in the United States.

Ultimately, he said, he agreed to provide information about his former comrades to the Salvadoran authorities in return for safe passage to the United States for himself and his family.

The inspectors general confirmed the earlier accounts of U.S. officials who said the CIA ultimately paid out slightly more than $42,000 to maintain Andrade during the year that he served as a Salvadoran government informant, and then to resettle him, his wife and their children in the United States.

Their report also makes clear that within the U.S. government, it was agents assigned to the CIA's station in San Salvador who originally sought to broker Andrade's services as an informant.

"The CIA believed that Andrade could provide valuable intelligence regarding the plans and capabilities of insurgent groups," the report states. "In September 1989, because of the CIA's desire to exploit Andrade for intelligence, the embassy proposed that the Justice Department forgo extradition and prosecution of Andrade" for his role in the killings of the Americans.

Andrade was, in fact, a gold mine of intelligence about the rebels, U.S. officials said, starting with information that led Salvadoran and U.S. intelligence officials to the biggest cache of guerrilla arms ever uncovered during the 12-year civil war.

The stockpile was reported in a secret CIA cable to include 343 AK-47 assault rifles, 90 RPG-7 grenade launchers, explosives and ammunition.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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