The State Department blocked law enforcement from investigating the shootings of four people in a fishing boat in Honduras in May 2012 during what police claimed was a drug- control incident, a memo leaked to The New York Post claims
Two pregnant women and two men were killed after Honduran national police opened fire on their small boat. Police said drugs were involved, but local residents said the boat was full of people fishing, and their deaths sparked riots in the Central American country's streets.
The shots were fired from a State Department-owned helicopter, and two Drug Enforcement Administration agents were involved, an agency spokeswoman admitted. However, the DEA insists its agents did not fire the shots.
The leaked memo, from 2012, says the DEA agents were under the authority of the State Department's chief of mission in Honduras and funded by a counter-narcotics program, and were "subject to investigation" by State.
But when the investigation began, "despite requests by the U.S. ambassador to Honduras and congressional pressure, DEA reportedly [was] not cooperating," the memo continues.
A State Department agent interviewed William Brownfield, the assistant secretary for international narcotics and law-enforcement affairs, “who reportedly was not forthcoming and gave the impression” that State “should not pursue the investigation," say claims in the leaked internal document.
The DEA claimed
it never fired any of the rounds in the incident, and that the people in the boat fired first, so the Honduran police acted in self-defense.
But residents in Honduras protested the shootings, burning down government buildings and demanding American drug agents leave the area, reports The New York Times
American and Honduran security officials claim that two traffickers were killed during the operation, which yielded 1,000 pounds of cocaine.
The Honduran incident has for months prompted demands from human-rights groups and lawmakers wanting to know how involved DEA agents were, The Washington Times reported
earlier this year.
While an investigation last year cleared the DEA of any wrongdoing, 58 House delegates in January sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder, calling the probe "deeply flawed."
The latest cover-up allegations against the State Department add to the furor caused this week when Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general, accused higher-ups of hiding the findings from another investigative report. That report says members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail and a U.S. ambassador solicited prostitutes
. State denies all the claims.
The diplomat has since been revealed as Howard Gutman, ambassador to Belgium. He told The New York Daily News
on Tuesday he is "angered and saddened by the baseless allegations."
Investigation into the cases has been opened by both the GOP-run House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Democrat-run Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina saying "the sanitizing of these reports explains Benghazi."
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