"Although this program has been going on a long time and it has been very successful, when you lose a young woman and a child … it is just too much," Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said after the meeting. "Is the program worth it?"
Tenet told the committee the agency would complete its investigation within the next 48 hours and report back to Congress. Although the meeting was classified, senators leaving the briefing did say that the investigation so far indicated that CIA operatives followed correct procedures but that Peruvians might have "accelerated" safety procedures on their side.
"It was a communication problem," Shelby said. "My judgment is that [Peruvian procedures] may have been accelerated."
Democrats and Republicans said President Bush had made the right decision to temporarily suspend interdiction activities in Peru. The results of the CIA review could call for a broader review of drug interdiction procedures at the very least, senators said.
"We have to do everything we can to make sure this does not happen again," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
And some senators openly questioned the utility of such programs, given the costs. "After all the facts are determined, our government will make a decision on how to proceed with this program in the future, if at all," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Tenet and agency staff gave committee members an oral update of the CIA's investigation of the incident that took place April 20, when the Peruvian air force shot down a Cessna 185 over the jungle that was suspected of smuggling drugs. CIA-operated surveillance aircraft alerted the PAF of the plane as part of a cooperative drug interdiction program.
Instead, the aircraft contained missionaries from Baptists for World Evangelism. Veronica "Roni" Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter were killed.
Senators said that over the last five or six years, the Peruvian air force has shot down roughly 30 aircraft as a part of the program.
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