The Justice Department yesterday confirmed that it has dropped a criminal investigation to determine whether CIA officials lied about circumstances surrounding the shooting down of a small plane carrying American missionaries.
In April 2001, the Peruvian Air Force shot down the plane, acting on information supplied by civilian contractors working for the CIA that the plane was running drugs. U.S. missionary Veronica Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter were killed.
On its Web site yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department inquiry sought to determine whether "at least four Central Intelligence Agency officers lied" to members of Congress and to their agency superiors about details of the way the drug interdiction program was conducted.
"The Justice Department has declined a criminal prosecution," said Bryan Sierra, a department spokesman, according to the Times. The department later confirmed the accuracy of Sierra's statement.
The criminal inquiry was conducted by the department's counterterrorism section. It examined testimony of CIA officials during closed hearings of the Senate intelligence committee and statements the officials made to agency superiors.
The anti-drug aerial-tracking programs in Peru and Colombia were suspended after the missionaries' plane was shot down.
The Bush administration agreed in 2002 to pay a total of $8 million to the survivors of the downed airplane, including pilot Kevin Donaldson; Bowers's husband, James; and their son, Cory.