U.S. government training of foreign police

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Especially since the Second World War, the United States has been involved, for many reasons, in U.S. government training of foreign police. In the cases of postwar Germany, Italy and Japan, developing a new police force, in a previously totalitarian state, was arguably part of the responsibility of an Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions. More recently, this has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where development of a respected police force is considered a sine qua non for successful counterinsurgency.

During the Cold War, however, especially in South America and Southeast Asia, Administrations were principally concerned with a Communist threat of subversion, to be met with host country internal security forces such as the police. A number of news articles and activists have equated such training and technical assistance with the Central Intelligence Agency, there are far more many agencies involved. There were allegations of torture that may well have been true for some advisers, although CIA classified guidance actually advised against it. The "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual (KUBARK is a cryptonym for the CIA) observed

If an interrogatee is caused to suffer pain rather late in the interrogation process and after other tactics have failed, he is almost certain to conclude the interrogator is becoming desperate. He may then decide that if he can just hold out against this final assault, he will win the struggle and his freedom.[1]

Historically, there are broader US policy aspects that need to be understood to put human rights issues in perspective. Serious Congressional concern with human rights abuses first manifested in 1973 legislation, although there had been earlier concerns.

WWII Occupation

Cold War

A representative 1961 Defense Department paper, during the Kennedy Administration,[2] makes the assumptions that the US should encourage the concept that the U.S. has "primary responsibility for the defense of Latin America against external attack, that the role of the Latin American nations in this mission is to be de-emphasized, and that the internal security mission of Latin American nations is to be accorded increased emphasis.

"As further means of coping with indirect communist penetration of the hemisphere, the U.S. should:

  • Seek to create increased awareness on the part of Latin American countries of the danger to hemispheric security posed by Castroism and communism in general and of the need to take prompt multilateral action, when necessary, to eliminate this danger.
  • Negotiate, or renegotiate, as may be required, bilateral agreements designed to provide assistance to countries requesting help in defending themselves against indirect aggression and subversion directed and sustained by communists from within or without the hemisphere." Human rights issues simply are not mentioned.

Police and military roles were blurred, as shown in a memorandum from President John F. Kennedy to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara:[3]

I would appreciate hearing what steps we are taking to train the Armed Forces of Latin America in controlling mobs, guerrillas, etc. In addition, as the events of the past week have shown in Brazil, the military occupy an extremely important strategic position in Latin America. I would like to know how many officers we are bringing up from Latin America to train here and whether we could increase the number. Also, what other steps we are taking to increase the intimacy between our Armed Forces and the military of Latin America. It has been suggested that we set up a camp in the United States similar to the FBI Academy which brings in police from all over the United States. We would bring up a good many officers from the different countries of Latin America for a period from 1 to 2 months; we would have FBI people there who could talk to them about the techniques they have developed to control communism, subversion and we could have our military coming in to teach them how to control mobs and fight guerrillas. In addition to increase their effectiveness it would also strengthen their ties with the United States. Will you let me know your view of this?

Many of the details in this section come from a study, ordered by Congress, by the General Accounting Office (GAO, now the General Accountability Office]] in 1992. the programs involved do not mention CIA participation, but it is widely accepted that CIA personnel, especially at the embassy level, certainly are aware of the effort. Being aware of training, however, does not necessarily mean participation in the training. Both the CIA and military intelligence with Counterintelligence Force Protection Source Operations[4] may have intelligence collecting relationships with local police.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, under the U.S. Department of State representatives at any embassy is expected to be aware of all contacts between US personnel and local law enforcement organizations. The 1973 legislation significantly limited police training of all sorts, partially in response to human rights concerns.

The majority of this training went to Latin America, but some did go to countries elsewhere in the world, according to Senator Alan Cranston,[5] especially those with narcotics or terrorism problems. Cranston cited six reasons why the Congress, in 1974, banned police training, after learning of training and equipping "police in Iran, Vietnam, Brazil, and other countries were involved in torture, murder, and the suppression of legitimate political activity":

  1. training was provided to so-called friendly anti-Communist regimes, without regard to whether they were dictatorships or not.
  2. law enforcement efforts were subordinated to U.S. counterinsurgency goals. As the GAO noted, U.S. training included such topics as counterinsurgency techniques, weapons use, and Communist ideology. This also meant, in practice, reinforcing the control of recipient countries' militaries over the police.
  3. and this is clearly borne out in the Langguth book,[6]U.S. trainers were not always the best America had to offer.
  4. U.S. intelligence agencies were given an important role in the development and execution of these programs.
  5. police training was not placed in the broader context of administration of justice, with its emphasis on judicial and prison reform.
  6. finally, human rights was rarely a factor in policy considerations at the time.

Cranston went on to say,

This ban remained virtually ironclad until 1985, when Congress authorized the President to support `programs to enhance investigative capabilities conducted under judicial or prosecutorial control' in functioning democracies in the Western hemisphere.

As a result, the United States Department of Justice--together with the State Department and the Agency for International Development--established the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program ICITAP. Operational responsibility was left entirely to ICITAP under the supervision of officials in the Deputy Attorney General's office, with policy guidance provided by the Department of State.

With an annual budget of less than $8 million, ICITAP has trained thousands of police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice personnel from 17 Caribbean island states, 6 Central American nations, as well as Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay. It is important to point out that, under the direction of David `Kris' Kriskovitch, a former FBI special agent, ICITAP has steered clear of any hint of the kind of problems that plagued the old AID Office of Public Safety.

Many observers credit ICITAP with spreading a consciousness of the need for civilianized law enforcement in new and emerging democracies in the region, and the recently agreed-to Salvadoran peace treaty--with its emphasis on the role of a civilianized police force in internal security--is proof of the soundness of this approach.

Unfortunately, the ICITAP Program remains underfunded, overextended, and relegated to playing only a regional role. As we see from the GAO report, it may provide the only bright spot in an area characterized by administration ineptness and neglect.

In principle, training and assistance to police, as opposed to military organization, is against US law, but the relevant law allows Presidential waiver of most provisions. A GAO report[7] provides "information on

  1. the legislative authority for providing assistance to foreign law enforcement agencies and personnel,
  2. the extent and cost of U.S. activities, and
  3. experts' opinions on the management of these programs.


US assistance to foreign police began in the 1950s,[5], and increased in the early 1960s when the Kennedy administration became concerned about growing communist insurgent activities and established a public safety program within the Agency for International Development (AID) to train foreign police.[8]

By 1968 the United States was spending $60 million a year to train police in 34 countries in areas such as criminal investigation, patrolling, interrogation and counterinsurgency techniques, riot control, weapon use, and bomb disposal[7] The United States also provided weapons, telecommunications, transportation, and other equipment. In the early 1970s, the Congress became concerned over the apparent absence of clear policy guidelines and the use of program funds to support repressive regimes that committed human rights' abuses. As a result, "the Congress determined that it was inadvisable for the United States to continue supporting any foreign police organizations".[7]


ICITAP was created in 1986 to help gain prosecution in key human rights cases in El Salvador and to bolster the criminal investigative capacity of Latin American security forces. Beginning with Panama in 1990, however, ICITAP became the principal U.S. agency involved in filling the “institutional gap,” restructuring of the entire law enforcement apparatus of countries in transition.[8] "The Criminal Division's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) and Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) office foster, support, and strengthen democratic principles and structures of law enforcement in foreign countries. Particularly in those countries that have recently embraced democracy, ICITAP and OPDAT provide training for police, prosecutors, and the judiciary and advice on American laws and programs to combat crime within a democratic framework."[9]

As the U.N. role in police monitoring and training during peacekeeping operations has expanded over the past several years, ICITAP collaboration with U.N.-sponsored police monitors (CIVPOL) from around the world has grown as well. Although the ICITAP mandate prevents it from doing actual policing in postintervention scenarios, its capacity to build local police forces is increasingly viewed as the ticket to quick military withdrawal following interventions or peacekeeping missions. As the scope of ICITAP activities has widened, so has its geographic reach. In 1996 alone, ICITAP initiated new projects in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the Croatian province of Eastern Slavonia, with new projects set for Brazil, Albania, Belize, and Liberia.

In theory, in rebuilding a justice system it would be logical to attempt to mobilize civilian experts in the field. Certain factors tend to preclude this, at least in the initial phases of an operation. The environment may be such that the security threat is still beyond that which civilian police forces could cope with. States generally do not have a spare capacity of civilian policing, as these personnel are fully engaged in daily policing at home. As a consequence the police contribution may be of the wrong category (i.e., border police) or from jurisdictions with an inferior human rights record. It has proven difficult to recruit civilian police for peace operations. Even more difficult is the problem of what to do about the other arms of the justice administration, such as the judiciary and prisons. The judiciary in particular presents a major problem, because judges and magistrates cannot be trained and employed within the same time frame as a police force. This aspect must be addressed, however, as a functioning police force cannot exist without a judiciary to serve.[10]


There is no specific indication that ICITAP operations are linked to CIA operations. Wayne Madsen speculated there may be, or the CIA involvement might be through private military contractors. Madsen did not suggest that the private military companies were providing the police training.[11] He observed that

Janice Stromsem, a career employee of the Justice Department who served as ICITAP's director, resisted the program's takeover by CIA elements. In February [1999], Stromsem was relieved of her duties after complaining to the Justice Department Inspector General that ICITAP was being used by the CIA to recruit agents among foreign police officials.

This issue had apparently come up before her relief, as the Inspectors General began their investigation in April 1997, looking into ICITAP and OPDAT, "...following allegations of program mismanagement and supervisory misconduct. The investigative team of special agents, auditors, inspectors, and support personnel, under the direction of a senior attorney, interviewed over 90 witnesses in the United States and several foreign countries and has reviewed over 5,800 pages of documents. The investigation is ongoing. Stromsem's complaint was investigated jointly by the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and CIA.[9]

Results in brief

In 1973 and 1974, the Congress enacted legislation forbidding U.S. agencies from using foreign economic or military assistance funds to assist foreign police, but it subsequently granted numerous exemptions to permit assistance in some countries and in various aspects of police force development, including material and weapons support, force management, narcotics control, and counterterrorism tactics. The 1974 prohibition did not apply to the use of other funds by agencies such as the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) or United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to train or assist foreign law enforcement personnel.

No government agency is in charge of calculating the cost. However, GAO identified 125 countries that received U.S. training and assistance for their police forces during fiscal year 1990 at a cost of at least $117 million.[12]

A constant refrain of current and former government personnel, as well as outside experts, said there is little headquarters coordination of training, certainly among countries and even in the same country.[13] Some thought that activities may not be efficiently implemented nor supportive of overall U.S. policy goals.

Legislative provisions on police assistance

In the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973, the Congress prohibited the use of foreign assistance funds for police training and related programs in foreign countries. In December 1974, the Congress added section 660 to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to terminate AID's public safety program and expand the prohibition by stating that:

On and after July 1, 1975, none of the funds made available to carry out this Act, and none of the local currencies generated under this Act, shall be used to provide training or advice, or provide any financial support, for police, prisons, or other law enforcement forces for any foreign government or any program of internal intelligence or surveillance on behalf of any foreign government within the United States or abroad.

The amendment applies only to funds appropriated to carry out the purposes of the Foreign Assistance Act, and does not apply to other agencies' appropriations.[14] Also, the prohibition does not apply to any activity of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) related to `crimes of the nature of which are unlawful in the United States' or assistance to combat international narcotics trafficking. According to DEA and FBI officials, the exemption permits these agencies to train foreign police. The act also permitted U.S. agencies to complete contracts for police assistance entered into before enactment of the amendment.

In 1981, the Congress began exempting specific countries or activities from the prohibition. Police in the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System received training in antiterrorism , police investigation. Panama received police force development assistance[15]

Police assistance

During fiscal year 1990 at a cost of about $117 million, the GAO estimated the major programs were: U.S. programs providing

  • International Narcotics Control ($45 million)
  • Antiterrorism Assistance ($10 million) programs
  • International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program ($20 million)
  • program to assist national police forces ($42 million).[16]

Concerns on management of assistance

Current and former State Department and other government officials, and academic experts who have been involved in assistance to foreign police forces, stated that the U.S. government lacks:[17]

  1. (a clear policy on the role of U.S. assistance to police forces in the new and emerging democracies,
  2. clearly defined program objectives,
  3. a focal point for coordination and decision-making, and
  4. a means for determining whether individual programs and activities support U.S. policy or contribute to overall U.S. interests.

They noted that each program is managed individually, and the only place that coordination is occurring is at the U.S. embassy in the country. They expressed concern that in a country with more than one program, activities may be duplicative. One official expressed the opinion that the U.S. government needs to develop national policy guidelines for all police assistance programs to insure that cumulatively they support common objectives. GAO is continuing to look at these issues in our on-going work.

Scope and methodology

The US General Accounting Office obtained information on CIA training and assistance provided to foreign law enforcement personnel, reviewed the legislative authority for providing this training and assistance, and identified efforts to coordinate these activities. They did not review program implementation in recipient countries. They interviewed officials and obtained records from AID and the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, in Washington, D.C.; reviewed legislation and agency legal opinions on foreign police assistance; interviewed academic and legal experts on current U.S. assistance to foreign police; and reviewed literature published on foreign police assistance and AID's public safety program.[18]

Legislative exemptions

Congressionally approved exemptions generally authorize activities that benefit a specific U.S. goal, such as countering the terrorist threat to U.S. citizens overseas or combating drug trafficking.[19]

1981 legislation

The International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1981 changed the section 660 prohibition on assistance to foreign police forces in Haiti and allowed such assistance for Haiti during fiscal years 1982 and 1983. The purpose was to help stop illegal emigration from Haiti to the United States. Subsequent acts continued this exemption for fiscal years 1984, 1986, and 1987[20]

1983 legislation

Congress authorized an antiterrorism program to train foreign police in the United States, the International Security and Development Assistance Authorizations Act of 1983. In 1990 Congress relaxed the section 660 restrictions to allow training outside the United States for 30 days or less if it relates to aviation security, crisis management, document screening techniques, facility security, maritime security, protection for very important persons, and handling of detector dogs.[21]

1985 legislation

Additional legislation in 1985, the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 addressed a series of police assistance activities. It expanded upon a 1984 act that authorized a judicial reform project in El Salvador and exempted assistance to Salvadoran police in judicial investigative roles from the section 660 prohibition.[22]

The 1985 act expanded the judicial reform program and the police training exemption to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1988 the Congress further expanded the judicial reform program to allow police assistance to promote investigative and forensic skills, develop law enforcement training curricula, and improve administration and management of law enforcement organizations. This act specifically prohibited the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. armed forces from providing training under this program.[22]

Maritime subjects were exempted from the section 660 prohibition, as well as the prohibition for any country that has a long-standing democratic tradition, does not have armed forces, and does not engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights. The act permitted such countries to receive any type of police assistance.

It authorized assistance to Honduran and El Salvadoran police for fiscal years 1986 and 1987, provided that the President determined and notified the Congress that those countries had made significant progress in eliminating human rights violations. This exemption permitted DOD to train and equip these countries' police forces to respond to acts of terrorism. The exemption was not renewed beyond FY 1987.

International Narcotics Control Acts

This series of acts approved certain police assistance activities in Latin America and the Caribbean for narcotics control purposes. The International Narcotics Control Act of 1986 permitted DOD to provide training to foreign police in the operation and maintenance of aircraft used in narcotics control. The International Narcotics Control Act of 1988 expanded DOD's role and allowed it to provide training and weapons and ammunition in fiscal years 1989 and 1990 to foreign police units that are specifically organized for narcotics enforcement in eligible countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This act also allowed economic support funds to be provided to Colombian police for the protection of judges, government officials, and members of the press against narco-terrorist attacks.

A 1989 version of this Act extended DOD's authority to train and provide defense articles to foreign police units in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru in fiscal year 1990, if the units are only for narcotics enforcement. This authority differs from the 1988 act in that it allowed DOD to provide, in addition to weapons and ammunition, other defense articles such as helicopters, vehicles, radios, and personnel gear.

The International Narcotics Control Act of 1990 authorized DOD to continue to train and equip police forces in the Andean region in fiscal year 1990. This act was similar to the previous acts in that it permits DOD to train police forces in the operation and maintenance of equipment and in tactical operations in narcotics interdiction and also allowed DOD to provide defense articles to these units. However, it also allows DOD to provide commodities, such as nonmilitary equipment or supplies, to narcotics control police forces. This act also continued the assistance to Colombia to protect against narco-terrorist attacks and extended this assistance to Bolivia and Peru for fiscal year 1991.[23]

Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990

In 1990, after the U.S. intervention in Panama, the Congress significantly enhanced the U.S. role in the development of the new police force in Panama. The Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990 permitted training in areas such as human rights, civil law, and overall civilian law enforcement techniques. The act also permitted DOD, using prior year military assistance funds, to procure defense articles and related services for law enforcement forces in Panama.[24]

Post-Cold War

After the end of the Soviet Union, although there were concerns with Marxist insurgencies, a good deal of police training focused on counternarcotics, and in some cases potential terrorism.

1991 legislation

A 1991 Act amended section 660 to allow U.S. assistance to police forces of countries that are members of the regional security system of the Eastern Caribbean. With the exception of Antigua and Barbados, other member countries did not require this exemption to receive assistance because they were covered under the existing exemption that permitted assistance to police forces in countries with long-standing democratic traditions, and no armed forces. Antigua and Barbados have armed forces.[25]

Other exceptions to police assistance prohibition

In addition to the exemptions previously discussed, there are other authorities that waive the prohibition on assistance to police forces of foreign countries. For example, the President may authorize foreign assistance when `it is important to the security interests of the United States'. This allows the President to waive any provision of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, including section 660.[26]

Antiterrorism assistance

The goal of the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance Program (ATA) is to improve foreign governments' antiterrorist capabilities to better protect U.S. citizens and interests.[16] In fiscal year 1990, the United States provided antiterrorism assistance to 49 countries at a cost of nearly $10 million. Sixty-two percent of the funds were spent in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe, and less than $500,000 was used to purchase equipment. Representative training included judicial protection, protection to very important persons, hostage negotiation, and antiterrorist operations. The Department of State manages the program and contracts with other U.S. government agencies, state or local police departments, and private firms to conduct the training. The Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the U.S. Marshals Service are regular trainers. In compliance with legislative requirements, most training takes place in the United States.

In addition to training provided under the ATA program, the Federal Aviation Administration provides aviation security training to a limited number of foreign officials who attend their basic security training courses.[16] The course deals in part with the role of law enforcement in support of passenger screening procedures and airport security programs.

International narcotics control

One of the objectives of the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (INM) international narcotics control training program is to strengthen host country enforcement and interdiction capabilities. During fiscal year 1990, INM provided a minimum of $45 million in training and equipment to foreign police, principally in Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, Pakistan, Thailand, and Turkey. These are all narcotics producing and trafficking countries.

INM reimburses other U.S. government agencies, primarily the Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA), Customs, and Coast Guard, to conduct the actual training. DEA provides narcotics investigative training, Customs teaches air, sea and land port search procedures, and Coast Guard teaches courses in maritime interdiction. Other agencies may also be requested to train on a reimbursable basis in areas where they have specific expertise. For example, DOD provides helicopter training to police in drug trafficking countries. Training is conducted both overseas and in the United States and is reviewed and approved by INM.[23]

In addition, DOD used military assistance funds to train and equip narcotics enforcement police in several drug producing and trafficking countries. Documents provided by DOD show that in fiscal year 1990, DOD provided training and equipment with a value of at least $17 million to Mexico, $1.3 million to Bolivia, $10 million to Colombia, $1 million to Ecuador, and $1 million to Peru. DOD officials informed us that training and equipment valued at more than these amounts may also have been provided. However, documentation was not available at the Washington, D.C., agency headquarters level that specified the amounts for law enforcement activities. The equipment provided consisted of UH-1 helicopters and spare parts, ammunition, small arms, riot control equipment, radios, and miscellaneous personal gear.

Investigative and international police training

In FY1986, AID transferred funds to DOJ to design, develop, and implement projects to improve and enhance the investigative capabilities of law enforcement agencies in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. This was part of AID's effort to reform judicial systems. Using these funds, DOJ established the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).[27]Operating under State Department oversight, ICITAP has conducted criminal justice sector needs assessments in the region and has expanded its training to include basic police management and police academy development. In fiscal year 1990, ICITAP received $7 million from the Department of State for its regional program. It trained more than 1,000 students from the Caribbean, Central and South America and sponsored 7 conferences. Training includes police management, criminal investigation, crime scene search, and forensic medicine courses. Except for students sent to training programs in the United States, ICITAP training takes place overseas.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also provides limited training for foreign law enforcement officials.[27] Each year approximately 100 international police officials attend the 11-week college level course at the FBI National Academy that includes studies on management and forensic sciences. The FBI pays for the training and subsistence, but does not pay for the students' transportation. Over the last 10 years, more than 1,100 foreign police officials from 89 countries have graduated from this course.

Using its own funds, the FBI created two training courses:

  • Training for Mexican police to better assist the United States in its investigations. Mexican officers receive a 3-day course in basic law enforcement techniques to include crime scene management, collection and preservation of evidence, hostage negotiations, forensic science, and investigative techniques. Since 1987, over 400 Mexican border police have been trained. FBI officials stated that the FBI plans to establish a training school in Mexico during 1992 at an estimated cost of about $250,000 annually, excluding salaries.
  • The second course developed by the FBI for foreign police was to provide mid-level management training for police officials from the Pacific Island nations. The 4-week course includes first-line supervision, investigative techniques, and hostage negotiations. During 1991, 52 students graduated from the course held in Guam at a cost to the FBI of about $35,000. About 50 students are expected to attend this course during the spring of 1992.

The FBI also provides other training and assistance to foreign police as requested, but the cost is unknown.[27] For example, the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime provided training to Canadian police. The Criminal Investigative Division conducted a training seminar for officers from Italy's three national law enforcement agencies on the use of sensitive investigative techniques such as the operation of confidential sources, undercover operations, and electronic surveillance. The FBI also furnishes on-the-job assistance to governments who request help during particularly difficult or sensitive investigations.

National Police Force Development

After the U.S. intervention in Panama in December 1989, ICITAP implemented a program to help develop the newly formed Panamanian Public Force using $13.2 million in fiscal years 1990 and 1991 foreign assistance funds.[7] This effort intended a professional, civilian national police force that is fully integrated into Panamanian society, capable of protecting its people, and dedicated to supporting the Panamanian constitution, laws, and human rights. Since the program began, ICITAP has trained about 5,500 police officers and provided institutional development assistance, such as help in starting the National Police Academy, improved recruitment procedures, and creating an in-house self-monitoring organization. In addition, ICITAP has worked closely with U.S. Embassy and Panamanian government officials to develop plans and policies appropriate for a police force in a democracy.

Counterterrorism and military assistance

DOD supplies a limited amount of military training and assistance to police officials. During fiscal years 1986 and 1987, DOD trained and equipped the El Salvadoran and Honduran police to counter urban terrorist activities.[27][28]

This assistance was authorized in response to the murder of U.S. Marines by terrorists in El Salvador and was managed and delivered by the U.S. Army Military Police. The assistance consisted of training in counterterrorism techniques and the supply of police vehicles, communications, weapons, and other equipment. This effort cost $19.8 million, of which $17 million was provided to El Salvador.

In fiscal year 1990, DOD spent $6.4 million in previously authorized but unused military assistance funds to purchase needed equipment and weapons for Panama's newly formed national police force. Items procured included police vehicles, communications equipment, small arms, and personal gear. This assistance was a one-time, emergency program.

DOD has an ongoing military assistance program to support Costa Rican police. In fiscal year 1990, DOD supplied $431,000 in military equipment and $232,000 in military training to the Costa Rican Civil Guard to help them carry out their responsibility to protect the border regions of the country. DOD provided equipment such as vehicles, personnel gear, and radios, and military training in areas such as coastal operations. Additionally, DOD conducted technical training courses in equipment maintenance and medical skills among others.[28]

DOD, along with the United Kingdom, supports the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System[29] that was formed after the U.S. intervention in Grenada. The Security System is composed of a few permanently assigned military officers, but largely depends upon island nation police officers who can be called up for military duty in case of emergency. The United States equips and trains these personnel to prepare them for such an eventually. In fiscal year 1990, DOD provided $4.2 million in military assistance funds that were used to purchase equipment such as jeeps, small arms, uniforms, and communications gear. DOD also provided $300,000 for training in special operations, rural patrol, field survival, and surveillance, as well as technical courses in communications, navigation, maintenance, and medicine.

Concerns expressed about police assistance

High-level program officials, former U.S. officials, and academic experts identified several issues that they believe affect the effectiveness of foreign police assistance. Their views are presented below; however, we did not verify whether the problems they identified have adversely affected programs in recipient countries.

Difficulties in determining cost and extent of assistance

Since some agencies fund assistance out of their own budgets, without necessarily having a line item for police assistance, the GAO "could not accurately determine the extent or cost of assistance to foreign police" In the GAO estimates, "some double counting of students may be occurring and agencies may not be differentiating between assistance provided to police and assistance provided to the military." This might happen when "the agency supplying the training and the agency paying for the training may both include the trainees in their reporting systems, such as when ICITAP pays for students attending the FBI academy."

While the DOJ was asked to calculate information on its work with foreign police, it could not assign a dollar value to items including "travel expenses, salaries, and expendable items such as course materials." H.[30] "Also, GAO could not always determine whether a student was a police officer or a military member because some agencies do not collect such data, DOD officials informed us that once they receive permission to train police in a specific activity they do not provide a further accounting breakdown. For example, training provided to the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System was for law enforcement personnel, although a few trainees may have belonged to military organizations."

Limited policy guidance or central management

Officials with whom the GAO investigators spoke stated that overall police training policy guidance at the Washington, DC, headquarters management level was limited. A former U.S. Ambassador in Latin America said that because there is no U.S. policy guidance, each agency pursues its own program agenda, which may not be in concert with long-term U.S. interests. Thus, he said, the U.S. government lacks a mechanism for considering how the various activities contribute to a strategy of fostering democratic institutions or to serving other national interests.

Program managers said each program is managed separately. According to the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, "the effect of the various pieces of legislation and resulting programs is that there is a lot of disparate police training and some interagency competition, but without anyone in charge. The coordinator believes that this does not serve U.S. interests. He stated that a Policy Coordinating Committee coordinates all antiterrorism assistance delivered by participating agencies such as the FBI and the State Department. He noted however, that the committee does not coordinate with agencies providing police training outside of the ATA umbrella. In addition, although INM, DEA, and the other agencies providing narcotics control assistance coordinate with each other, officials informed us that they do not routinely coordinate with ATA or ICITAP on police assistance activities."

In the absence of centralized management, decisions are made at the embassy level, by officials who may lack expertise in police training. Different officials, in the same embassy, may manage different programs. "For example, the ATA program generally is coordinated through the embassy's regional security officer, while ICITAP generally coordinates its activities through a political officer, or directly with the Ambassador, and DEA manages its programs through either an in-country attache or a special narcotics coordinator." A former ambassador in Latin America observed that delegating these decisions to the embassy makes the emphasis given to police activities completely dependent on the level of interest of the local ambassador.


A State Department official said that because of the proliferation of programs and the overlap in objectives, U.S. agencies may be duplicating efforts. As a result, determining which agency will provide training may depend largely on whether an agency has the resources or takes the initiative. A program officer acknowledged that some foreign officials are receiving similar courses from different agencies and similar program objectives may also result in duplicative administrative and assessment functions. An ATA official stated that although ATA's charter limits its training to antiterrorism, the strategy and objectives of ATA's training parallel those of ICITAP; both want to improve law enforcement capabilities. DEA is also concerned about general enforcement capabilities as part of its drug interdiction activities. However, each agency conducts in-depth force capability and training needs assessments before commencing training.[30]

Afghanistan and Iraq


  1. Central Intelligence Agency (July 1963), KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past, vol. George Washington University National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 122, p. 91
  2. Draft Paper Prepared in the Department of Defense (19 May 1961), U.S. Policy for the Security of Latin America in the Sixties, vol. Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XII, FRUS 76
  3. John F. Kennedy (September 5, 1961), National Security Action Memorandum No. 88: Training for Latin American Armed Forces, vol. Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XII, FRUS XII, Document 80
  4. Todd E. Gleghorn (September 2003), Exposing the Seams: the Impetus for Reforming US Counterintelligence
  5. 5.0 5.1 "U.S. Security", Congressional Record: S2874 [Senate], 5 March 1992
  6. Langguth, A.J. (1978). Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America. Pantheon. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GAO1992-03-05" defined multiple times with different content
  8. 8.0 8.1 Call, Charles T.. “9: Institutional Learning within ICITAP”, Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security. National Defense University.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "PNWD09" defined multiple times with different content
  9. 9.0 9.1 Operations - Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Department of Justice, Special Inquiries
  10. Kelly, Michael J.. “11: Legitimacy and the Public Security Function”, Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security. National Defense University. 
  11. Wayne Madsen (August 1999), "Mercenaries IN KOSOVO: The U.S. connection to the KLA - includes related article comparing United States foreign policy in Central America and Kosovo", Progressive
  12. U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), RESULTS IN BRIEF, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  13. U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), LIMITED POLICY GUIDANCE OR CENTRAL MANAGEMENT, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  14. Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-559, sec. 30(a), 88 stat. 1795, 1804)
  15. U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), Appendix III. Countries Receiving Police Assistance, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), Appendix II. U.S. Assistance Provided to Foreign Police ANTITERRORISM ASSISTANCE, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  17. U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), CONCERNS ON MANAGEMENT OF ASSISTANCE, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  18. U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  19. U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), Appendix I. Legislative Exemptions to the Prohibition on U.S. Assistance to Foreign Police, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  20. The International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1981 (U.S. Congress): P.L. 97-113, sec. 721(d), 95 stat. 1519
  21. International Security and Development Assistance Authorizations Act of 1983
  22. 22.0 22.1 International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985
  23. 23.0 23.1 U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL ACTS, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GAO1992-03-05IntNarc" defined multiple times with different content
  24. Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990
  25. The Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for 1991
  26. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 USC 2364
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), INVESTIGATIVE AND INTERNATIONAL POLICE TRAINING, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  28. 28.0 28.1 U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), COUNTERTERRORISM AND MILITARY ASSISTANCE, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters
  29. Center for International Policy, Eastern Caribbean Overview
  30. 30.0 30.1 U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security and International Affairs Division (5 March 1992), Appendix II. U.S. Assistance Provided to Foreign Police: DIFFICULTIES IN DETERMINING COST AND EXTENT OF ASSISTANCE, Foreign Aid: Police Training and Assistance; report to Congressional requesters