Renate Kline is making the dreary rounds, newspaper to congressional aide to committee staff, telling anyone who will listen that the State Department is not playing straight with her over the circumstances of her son's murder in El Salvador's bloody war.
"It's an embarrassment for them," she said. "They don't want it publicized that a completely innocent American was killed down there."
Kline wants her son's name added to the list of six Americans previously found dead in El Salvador; progress in investigating these deaths must be shown before more U.S. aid can be sent to that country.
Michael David Kline, his mother says, was 21, rather a loner, an adventurous master of five languages who had traveled widely and was making his last bus trip through Central America before going off to college, when he was killed last October.
He was "politically informed but not active in any way," she said.
"He made posters, collages about injustice and hungry kids, but he never got into any groups. He had the attitude of, 'Oh, well, we can't do anything about it.' "
State Department descriptions of him as a "drifter," she said, "are slanderous."
It is generally agreed that three Salvadoran soldiers pulled Kline off the bus in eastern Morazan province on Oct. 13, reporting later that he looked "suspicious" with his long hair, knapsack and rubber sandals.
The soldiers then said Kline tried to escape, ignored warnings and was shot from about 30 feet away as he ran down the road.
They said he had no passport or identification, and just $500 in travelers' checks.
His mother, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was told all this at her home in Kiel, West Germany, on Oct. 21, when officials managed to trace the checks.
The story fell apart quickly. There were powder burns on her son, indicating close-range shots, and multiple bruises and burns, suggesting torture, according to photographs. Two shots were fired from the front.
Kline's mother has State Department documents showing that these inconsistencies were known weeks before she was told of them, on Nov. 20.
John Caulfield of the State Department's Consular Affairs Bureau said officials had to wait until Nov. 15 to get full confirmation of the body's identity from dental records before telling Kline about what he agreed are "blatant discrepancies."
Kline asked, if that was the case, why the department was pressing her as early as Oct. 29 to arrange to have the body buried. Caulfield said funeral arrangements always are mentioned early "as a matter of information."
Kline, 51, also said she was first told that the U.S. government already was investigating, and then that only the Salvadorans could do it; that the body already had been buried and then that it had not; that documents would be sent that never were.
"We totally reject the allegations that we have not sought to pursue this case in the most aggressive way possible," Caulfield said.
Ignoring government warnings that it would be dangerous, Kline and her 20-year-old daughter and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union went to El Salvador in December to investigate for themselves.
The attorneys, Leonard Weinglass and Mark Rosenbaum, reported that no official probe of Kline's death had begun. The soldiers involved still are on duty.
"The State Department has given me wrong information and withheld information and tried to keep me from finding things out," Kline said. "I just want to find out what really happened."