CIA helped shoot down 15 planes in 'drug war,' often without warning
John Byrne
Published: Friday December 12, 2008

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The CIA's clandestine role in Latin American politics continues.

With the help of CIA spotters, the Peruvian air force shot down 15 small civilian aircraft between 1995 and 2001, ostensibly as part of the US-abetted war on drugs, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee revealed Thursday. Many of the shoot-downs were made without warning within two to three minutes of the planes being detected.

Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who disclosed the program, was the first to confirm the number of planes shot down in the CIA led "Airbridge Denial Program," which sought to derail the narcotic trade but also claimed the life of an American missionary from Michigan and her daughter in 2001. Charity Bowers' husband, Jim, is pictured above right.

A State Department inquiry previously said that the program had also forced 23 jets to land, but had not identified the more than a dozen planes that were destroyed mid-flight.

Most of the 15 planes shot down with the help of the CIA crashed in the jungle, Hoekstra told AP, and "the wreckage has not been or could not be examined to ascertain whether narcotics were aboard the aircraft.

"The Bowers could have gone in the same category if they had crashed in the jungle," Hoekstra said, referring to the missionary and her child, who hail from his state.

The Bowers' plane made an emergency river landing after it was hit.

A CIA inspector general's report in November raised questions about planes being taken down "without being properly identified, without being given the required warnings to land, and without being given time to respond to such warnings as were given to land."

It also said the CIA withheld information about multiple investigations that showed failures and violations of procedures from the National Security Council, Justice Department and Congress. The classified report was sent to Congress in October, AP said.

A spokesman for CIA director Michael Hayden asserted that the agency was "committed" to looking at the issue.

"Director Hayden is absolutely committed to a process looking at systemic issues and accountability that is as thorough and fair as possible," spokesman Mike Mansfield said.

The Peruvian "shoot down" program was shuttered after the death of Bowers and her child in 2001.