- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
A top State Department official accused of suppressing an investigation into four drug-related killings in Honduras tells The Cable that he’s innocent.
The official, William Brownfield, the assistant secretary for international narcotics and law-enforcement affairs, is the latest diplomat to fall prey of Aurelia Fedensin, a former State Department inspector general investigator and self-proclaimed whistleblower who is leaking memos detailing eight examples of alleged misconduct by State Department personnel or contractors. On Monday, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium had to fight off charges, based off of documents leaked by Fedensin, that he was soliciting prostitutes and having sex with minors.
The latest allegations — that Brownfield “stymied” an investigation into the killing of four Hondurans in a botched counternarcotics operation overseen by the State Department — were published by the New York Post, aggregated across the web, but denied fervently by Brownfield.
“Allegations in the press that I stymied an investigation into a shooting incident in Honduras are false,” he told The Cable. “The issue was never whether the incident would be investigated, but rather which U.S. Government organization would review the involvement of U.S. law enforcement support of a foreign police operation overseas.”
The 2012 incident in question involved the pursuit of narco traffickers on a boat by Honduran police and DEA personnel. At some point during the chase, Honduran police opened fire on the boat from a number of positions, including a State Department-owned helicopter, and four Hondurans were killed.
As The New York Times reported last May, the incident sparked riots and the burning of government buildings as locals insisted the victims on the boat were merely fishing. U.S. and Honduran officials maintained that authorities killed two drug traffickers and seized 1,000 pounds of cocaine in the operation.
Brownfield had no role in the operation, but according to Wednesday’s New York Post, which cited an Office of the Inspector General internal memo, Brownfield stymied an investigation into potential misconduct in the operation. He “was not forthcoming and gave the impression [that State] should not pursue the investigation,” read the memo, which referenced an interview between an unnamed agent and Brownfield.
But Brownfield says the allegation is impossible because such an interview never happened. “I was never interviewed by anyone from the Office of the Inspector General or Bureau of Diplomatic Security about this incident” he told The Cable.
Going further, he said he was the one trying to get the ball rolling on an investigation, which proved difficult because it fell under the authority of both the DEA and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
“In fact, the role my office played was to broker a meeting between DS and DEA to encourage coordination and information sharing,” he told The Cable.
Ultimately, the two agencies failed to agree on whether the DEA or DS should investigate the matter. The DEA concluded its internal investigation noting that not a single DEA official fired a shot in the exchange. An investigation by Honduran police came to the same conclusion.