The Supreme Court agreed this week to decide whether former Clinton Administration officials such as Secretary ofState Warren Christopher or former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake could be sued by human rights lawyerJennifer Harbury for deliberately misleading her about the fate of her Guatemalan husband.
Jennifer Harbury was married to Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a Mayan guerrilla commander known as Commandante Everardo,who was fighting the brutal Guatemalan military.
Everardo was captured in 1993, tortured for more than a year and executed, under the watch of a Guatemalan militaryofficer who was on the payroll of the CIA. After Everardo disappeared Jennifer Harbury fasted–first for more thanfour weeks in Guatemala’s Presidential Palace and then for three weeks in front of the White House, seekinginformation about what had happened to her husband.
Harbury later filed several lawsuits against U.S. government agencies and individual officials, charging that theyrepeatedly lied to her about what they knew of her husband’s death. As a result of her case the CIA was forced toimplement guidelines which supposedly restrict its ability to put human rights abusers on its payroll as intelligenceassets or covert operatives.
Then came the Sept. 11 attacks. Suddenly intelligence reforms brought about by Jennifer Harbury’s case were beingblamed for handicapping the efforts of US officials to fight terrorism. Now lawyers representing the former ClintonAdministration officials named in the suit are saying “what’s at stake here is covert operations, and that has directramifications for Afghanistan.”
- Jennifer Harbury, lawyer and human rights activist.