Victory! Congress Orders School of Americas to Release Information

May 23rd, 2008 - by admin

School of the Americas Watch – 2008-05-23 22:53:27


We Won the Vote in Congress!
Pentagon Forced to Release
Information to SOA Watch

(May 24, 2008) — Thanks to your efforts and hard work in defense of human rights, the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability surrounding Defense Department policies suffered a severe blow today when the US House of Representatives approved the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009. The amendment forces the public release of names, rank, country of origin, courses and dates of attendance of WHINSEC’s graduates and instructors to the public.

The amendment was approved with a 220 to 189 vote!

• Click here to find out how your Representative voted.

This is a major victory for the international human rights community!You spoke up and now we are one step closer to transparency and closing the SOA/WHINSEC!

In recent years, WHINSEC has denied information that in the past has been vital in identifying the perpetrators of massacres, targeted assassinations, and human rights abuses committed in Latin America. In response to WHINSEC’s lack of transparency and its willingness to undermine public attempts of exercising oversight of the institution, human rights advocates and constituents have taken a stand for justice and demanded Congress to hold WHINSEC accountable.

The access to information regarding students and instructors attending WHINSEC will allow human rights organizations to continue to monitor the school and identify those graduates and instructors who have violated human rights or taken part in criminal activities in their home countries.

Information is power, and the more information we have, the closer we are to closing the SOA/WHINSEC once and for all!

We Won the House, Now Comes the Senate

The approval of this amendment will now lead us to face a new challenge to insure that WHINSEC also be held accountable by the U.S. Senate, in the coming weeks we will continue to keep you updated so we can work together towards another victory.

As our Legislative campaign will now move on to the Senate, please consider making a contribution to SOA Watch. Thank you!

[Previous Alert]

(May 21, 2008) — SOA Watch has received confirmation that Congress will vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009 that would require that the School of the Americas/WHINSEC 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) and Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and we expect the vote to happen on Thursday, May 22.

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. Freedom of Information Act requests for FY 2005, 2006 and 2007 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”.

It is crucial for the success of this amendment that you contact your Representative!

(Be sure to click the “Send a Fax” box to have the fax sent).

Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121

Please take the time to call the DC office of your Representative through the Capitol Hill Switchboard at 202-224-3121. 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) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2009. 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) amendment is a vote FOR human rights and FOR transparency. I urge your boss to vote YES!!!

(Don’t forget to click the “Send a Fax” box to have the fax sent).

• FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit the SOA Watch website at


and the Legislative Action Index at