Relatives of an American missionary family killed when their light plane was shot down over Peru during a CIA operation nine years ago have accused the United States government of a cover-up.
Jim and Veronica Bowers were working as Christian missionaries in jungle along the Amazon River in northern Peru.
They were flying back to camp with their two children, six-year-old son Cory and infant daughter Charity, who was sitting on Veronica Bowers’s lap, when their Cessna aircraft was mistakenly targeted by CIA spotters in 2001.
A dramatic video recording of the CIA operation shows the agency followed the Bowers’s plane for about two hours and called in the Peruvian air force to intercept it.
The CIA agents are heard discussing with their Peruvian counterparts whether the plane is “dirty”, or involved in illegal drug-related activity.
After the Peruvian officers decide the plane is “dirty”, the video shows a fighter jet descending on the Bowers’s aircraft and opening fire, sending the Cessna into the river below.
Veronica and baby Charity were both killed in the operation.
A bullet went through Veronica’s back and into Charity’s skull, London’s The Times reported.
After a nine-year internal CIA investigation the agency found none of its officers acted inappropriately in the incident.
The agency said it had taken disciplinary action against 16 officers involved.
Veronica Bowers’s father, Garnett Luttig, told the newspaper the US government lied and “covered up” what really happened to his daughter and granddaughter.
“I am sick and tired of this government,” Mr Luttig said.
“There is nothing but a bunch of liars up there.
“They have lied, they have covered up.
“My opinion is some people need to go to prison, a bunch of them.”
The video recording reveals the CIA agents doubted the plane was “dirty” but left the final decision to their Peruvian counterparts.
“Are you sure [it]is bandito? Are you sure?” one CIA officer is heard asking the Peruvian air force plane.
“Yes, OK,” the Peruvian replied.
One of the CIA officers confides to the other: “I think we’re making a mistake.”
The recording shows the CIA agents trying to call off the operation at the last minute but their lack of Spanish impeded communication.
As the fighter jet opened fire on the Bowers’s plane one CIA officer yelled: “Tell him to terminate! Don’t shoot”.
It was too late. Veronica and Charity Bowers were killed and the pilot was shot in the leg.
In a statement to America’s ABC News network the CIA said “this was a tragic episode that the agency has dealt with in a professional and thorough manner”.
“Unfortunately, some have been willing to twist facts to imply otherwise.”
– Article from The Sydney Morning Herald on February 5, 2010.