Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is a Defense Department facility at Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia, which provides “professional education and training for civilian, military and law enforcement students from nations throughout the Western Hemisphere.” In other words, it is a combat training center for Latin American soldiers. It is the Defense Department’s principal Spanish-language training facility and, along with the U.S. Air Force’s Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA), attracts the largest number of Latin American military students.

 

Although it is now also open for civilians and others not from Latin America, the institute’s strategic and singular focus remains the military training of Latin American soldiers. About 1,000-1,700 students attend the institute each year, and 90% of classes are taught in Spanish—although since English-language classes were added in 2003 the school has attracted more students from the Caribbean. Estimates of enrollment in 2006 showed the largest contingent was by far that of Colombian students.

 

Through its various incarnations since the original Latin American Training Center in 1949, the institute has trained more than 60,000 troops in counterinsurgency warfare—including anti-narcotic and crisis operations—and, many argue, more questionable tactics such as torture and coup operations handed down directly from Washington. The curriculum is based on standardized U.S. Defense training, tailored to the region’s specific needs, and overseen by an executive “Board of Visitors.”

 

To its critics, the institute is known as the “School of the Assassins,” as its graduates have been implicated in atrocities throughout the region’s last half-century of bloody political warfare. School of the Americas (SOA) trained many military personnel—several of them now notorious — before and during the years of the “National Security Doctrine,” in which Latin American military regimes dominated the political landscape and committed rampant human rights abuses.

 

To supporters, the school is a crucial defense outpost—formerly instrumental in Cold War-era Communist suppression, and now necessary to combat terrorism and protect national security. Defenders of the Institute also contend that it can’t be held accountable for the actions of a few alumni—and that it has since updated its curriculum to include mandatory human rights training.

more
History:

Part of the Defense Department, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) was “created” under the National Defense Authorization Act in 2001, “to provide professional education and training to eligible persons of the nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States.”

 

However, its predecessor, the School of the Americas (SOA) was founded more than 50 years ago. In 1946, the Latin American Training Center (U.S. Ground Forces) was established in Panama at Fort Amador, reportedly to train U.S. troops in jungle environment and as a foreign policy outpost to interface with Latin American militaries established during World War II. In 1949 it was expanded and moved to Fort Gulick (near Colon, Panama) and renamed the U.S. Army Caribbean Training Center. In the early 1960s, under President John F. Kennedy’s direction, a hemispheric security policy aimed at containing Communism led to an expanded role for the school—and an expanded curriculum, including more tactical and operational (combat-oriented) courses in addition to the original technical ones (like radar operation, vehicle maintenance, etc.). The School was renamed the U.S. Army School of the Americas (USARSA) in 1963. In 1984, after the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, the SOA was relocated to Fort Benning (read: was thrown out of Panama after nationalization of the canal).

 

The SOA originally taught military education courses translated into Spanish. Beginning in 1963, it began providing military training for Latin American officers and non-commissioned officers.

 

SOA Closing/Name Change

According to the federal government, the SOA closed because it had “outlived” its mission—because it had “fulfilled its Cold War era mission, because concerned citizens desired change, and because the region’s needs exceeded USARSA’s capabilities and authorizations.” That is, the government could no longer justify a combat training center with the (real or mythical) imminent Communist threat. 

 

The leap from Cold War containment, neoliberal and free-market-based “democratic” development to the new “Engagement Policy” underscoring the current WHINSEC mission is negligible. After the collapse of Communism, U.S. foreign policy in the region is still focused on neoliberal capitalist development and a derivative form of “democratization.” However, after the bloody history of military rule in Latin America, the U.S. has arguably been forced to alter its approach, prioritizing (at least topically) transparency, civil society, and the rule of law within the existing program of military development.

 

Critics argue that the name change was purely a PR stunt, requested by the Pentagon under advisement from private political consultants, to counter the accumulated infamy of the SOA and stave off a congressional reformist initiative to close it down.

 

And according to School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), the Defense Department approved $246,000 for “Strategic Communications Campaign Plan” to manage damage control and counter “negative political rhetoric that detracts from the mission of both WHINSEC and the Army.”

 

The new WHINSEC distinguishes itself from its notorious predecessor by claiming a new human-rights-based curriculum—with a mandatory eight hours of democracy and human rights instruction in every course. Its “new” mission includes “fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation by promoting democratic values; respect for human rights; and an understanding of U.S. customs and traditions,” and a focus on congressionally mandated subjects such as “leadership development; counterdrug; peacekeeping; democratic sustainment; resource management; and disaster preparedness and relief planning.”

 

For more information on the legislative changes behind the transition from SOA to WHINSEC, see the Reform section of this article and Just the Facts: A Civilian’s Guide to U.S. Defense and Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean.

SourceWatch: School of the Americas

School of Assassins: Past and Present of the School of the Americas (by Celina Andreassi, The Argentina Independent)

more
What it Does:

This largely depends on who you talk to.

 

Ask critics, and they will tell you that the institute has trained more than 60,000 soldiers in the counterinsurgency techniques, military intelligence, psychological warfare and interrogation, sniper training, and even torture, that have been the building blocks of the region’s history of bloody oppression and dictatorship. Ask a supporter, and they will tell you that the institute has carried out a mission they consider crucial to national security, under fire of false accusations and Leftist propaganda.

           

Mandate and Oversight

Section 2166 of the [2001 National Defense Authorization] Act establishes the authority for the Secretary of Defense to operate a facility that will provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of Western Hemisphere nations within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of the American States (OAS).”

 

The Secretary of the Army is the executive agent responsible for the institute’s operation, while the Secretary of Defense retains oversight responsibilities. The law that “created” WHINSEC also called for a federal advisory committee, the Board of Visitors (BoV), to conduct independent review of the institution and provide recommendations on areas such as curriculum, academic instruction and fiscal affairs. The 13-member BoV includes members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, representatives from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC, the “architect” of the Army), as well as six members designated by the Secretary of Defense — including representatives from “the human rights, religious, academic and business communities.”

 

TRADOC, responsible for all Army doctrine development and training, together with its subordinate command, the Combined Arms Center (CAC), exercise supervisory command over the institute. Under control of TRADOC, U.S. Army centers and schools provide “training support packages” for military operations taught at WHINSEC.

WHINSEC Charter (pdf)

Rumsfeld Names WHINSEC Representatives (Press Release)

 

Organization

Faculty and staff include members of all U.S. armed services, as well as service members from foreign countries; the State Department, Drug Enforcement Agency, and other federal agencies; civilian professors; visiting Fellows and interns. As with all military schools, uniformed personnel are rotated in and out of the institute.

 

Mission

According to the government, the Institute’s post-Cold-War era mission is national security, based on regional stability and democratic development:

“Congress saw a need in this post Cold-War world for an institute that would provide professional education and training for military, law enforcement and civilian leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere […]There is a strategic need for the institute.  The United States is a partner in preparing Western Hemisphere societies, military forces and their civilian officials for 21st century regional security challenges and in strengthening democracy and protecting human rights…

 

Now more than ever, the institute fills a vital role in building relationships among countries and even within countries; in places where past distrust of the military and police forces have hampered democratic development and sustainment. The professional development of civilian leaders, militaries and law enforcement working together is key to the cooperation envisioned by our leaders as part of our national security strategy. WHINSEC is a strategic tool for international engagement and those civilian-military and civilian-law enforcement relationships are so important to the stability and justice of the democratic governments in our hemisphere.” 

 

Curriculum

“Course offerings are designed to support the strategic objectives of the Commanders, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command in implementing the National Security Strategy in the Western Hemisphere.”

 

According to the course list, classes range from traditional military and paramilitary subjects like Military Operations, Cadet Leadership, Battalion/Brigade Staff Operations, Captains Career, Counter Narco-terrorism analysis to administrative (e.g., defense resource management), human rights, peace, and democracy courses. The institute offers 19 resident courses, each lasting between 3 and 48 weeks long and considered “relevant to the security requirements of our ‘partner nations.’” Nine of the courses are offered in two-week versions, taught in participating countries that request them. One-third to two-fifths of the WHINSEC faculty consists of instructors from the institute’s “partner nations.”

The current resident curriculum includes these courses:

  • Civil Affairs Operations (5 weeks) - Exposes students to emerging U.S. military doctrine regarding the mission of civil affairs operations and forces for active participation and influence in an operational environment.
  • Departmental Resource Management and Logistics (4 weeks) - Instructs personnel in resource and logistics management concepts, principles, methods, techniques, systems analysis, and decision-making skills culminating with a practical, hands-on resource-management case study.
  • Human Rights Instructor (3 weeks, 3 days) - Qualifies students as human rights instructors. Includes the lawful treatment of all personnel encountered during military and security-force operations; lawful use of lethal and non-lethal force; lawful and unlawful orders; international instruments on human rights and humanitarian law; and enforcement of human rights law.
  • Peace and Stability Operations (5 weeks) - Prepares students to serve in management and advisory roles at a strategic and operational level, using material based on United Nations and U.S. peacekeeping operations.
  • Inform and Influence Activities (4 weeks, 4 days) - Educates mid- to senior-level military officers and selected civilian government officials in Information Operations, applicable during both peacetime and conflict.
  • Army Instructor (3 weeks, 1 day) - Consists of performance-oriented training on how to plan, implement and evaluate instruction.
  • Cadet Leadership Development (4 weeks) - Revolves around evaluations that cadets receive in various leadership positions.
  • Cadet Professional Development (2 weeks) - Provides students with hands-on training in the use of computer simulations, night-operations capabilities, and technology demonstrations.
  • Small-Unit Leaders (4 weeks, 1 day) - Trains enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers to plan, organize, and conduct basic infantry combat operations in a rural environment at the small-unit (squad) level.
  • NCO Professional Development (7 weeks, 3 days) - Develops leadership skills required by squad leaders or platoon sergeants. Consists of an intense field-training environment that involves hands-on, performance-oriented training, including warfighting functions.
  • Senior Enlisted Advisor (10 weeks) - Designed to impart professional military training and education to the master sergeants and sergeants major of the Western Hemisphere through the use of decision-making and critical-thinking scenarios.
  • Maneuver Captains Career Course (23 weeks) - Prepares officers to become successful battalion and brigade staff officers,
  • Intermediate-Level Education Course (47 weeks) - Prepares intermediate-level Army, sister-service, and partner-nation officers to operate as field-grade commanders and staff officers. Includes an orientation tour of the U.S., during which students visit major military installations, service schools, and Washington D.C.
  • Joint Operations (8 weeks) - Field-grade officers train to function as officers in joint and multinational operations.
  • Counterdrug Operations (8 weeks) - Provides training in counter-narcotics interdiction operations.
  • Medical Assistance (8 weeks, 1 day) - Develops medical skills.
  • Engineer Operations (5 weeks) - Provides instruction in the use of conventional demolition charges in humanitarian de-mining operations and techniques employed in counterdrug operations.
  • Operational Information Analyst (10 weeks) - Trains security and defense personnel the duties of an intelligence analyst in a multicultural atmosphere.

2012-14 WHINSEC Course List

School of the Americas Watch (SOAW)

 

From the Web Site of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

Academics

Amos Library

Board of Visitors

Command Oversight

Contact Information

Course Catalog

Democracy and Human Rights

Facebook Page

FAQs

Glossary of Terms

History

Incoming Student Information

Leadership

NCO Academy

Photo Gallery

Quick Facts

Student Resources

Students

University Credit

Videos

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The Institute’s fixed costs are paid by the Army’s Operations and Maintenance account, while tuition costs are mostly covered by International Military Education and Training (IMET) and International Narcotics Control (INC) program grants, or purchase through the Foreign Military Sales program.

more
Controversies:

Prison Sentences for Protesting Against WHINSEC

Every year since 1990, protesters have been drawn to the Fort Benning, Georgia, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) facility, notorious for training military personnel, mostly from Latin America, who have been involved in atrocities in their homelands.

 

During the past two decades, more than 180 people have served a cumulative 80 years for acts of disobedience at the gates of WHINSEC, the former School of the Americas (SOA). At least two demonstrators have been arrested and sentenced in recent years for actions taken during protests at WHINSEC. In January 2012, Theresa Cusimano was sentenced to six months in jail for trespassing onto federal property after she entered WHINSEC without authorization.

 

That same year, Robert Norman Chantal was also arrested at the Fort Benning facility for criminal trespass during the 22nd SOA Watch demonstration. Chantal, in clown makeup with the words “study war no more” written repeatedly on his head and clothing, had used a ladder to scale the WHINSEC fence.

 

Chantal was later released on his own recognizance. But in March 2013, a federal judge sentenced him to a six-month prison term for trespassing.

Human Rights Activist Sentenced To Six Months In Federal Prison For Protest At SOA (The Nuclear Register)

A Letter From Theresa Cusimano, Recently Released SOA Watch Prisoner Of Conscience (The Nuclear Register)

Americus, Ga., Man Arrested Crossing Into Fort Benning At SOA Watch Protest (by Tim Chitwood, Ledger-Enquirer)

Sentenced SOA Protester: "Where is the Justice?" (World War 4 Report)

 

Jesuit Priest Massacre in El Salvador

In November 1989, a Salvadoran Army patrol entered the University of Central America in San Salvador and massacred six Jesuit priests who had tried to broker peace between rebels and the government, plus their housekeeper and her teenage daughter.

 

Approximately 20 of the military officers involved in the attack had received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now known as WHINSEC.

 

Two years after the massacre, Salvadoran Army Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno and Lt. Yusshy Rene Mendoza Vallecillos were found guilty of murder and terrorism for their involvement in the raid.

 

Two other lieutenants and five soldiers were found innocent, even though four of the soldiers admitted before the trial that they had been the gunmen in the execution-style slayings.

 

The two convicted were given amnesty in 1993 as part of the peace accords that officially ended the civil war between the rightwing government and leftist rebels.

 

Fifteen years later, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and the Spanish Association for Human Rights filed a criminal suit in Spain against 15 of the former military personnel who allegedly participated in the massacre. Five of the six Jesuits slain were from Spain.

 

On August 7, 2011, nine of the accused were handed over to a Salvadoran civilian criminal court after a Spanish Court issued international arrest warrants.

 

But El Salvador’s Supreme Court blocked efforts to deport the defendants to Spain.

 

The anniversary of the murders has brought protesters to the gates of WHINSEC every year since 1990.

The 1989 University of Central America Massacre (SOA Watch)

El Salvador (Human Rights Watch)

Colonel Guilty in Jesuit Deaths in El Salvador (by Shirley Christian, New York Times)

US must stop funding Salvadorean war (by Barry Klinger, The Tech)

US-Funded War in El Salvador Casts Shadow Over Romney/Ryan Campaign (by Brendan Fischer, PRWatch)

Still No Justice for Priests in Notorious El Salvador Massacre 20 Years Later (by Norman Stockwell, AlterNet)

El Salvador: The Truth Commission and the Jesuit Massacre (by Jennifer Nerby, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

Salvadoran Supreme Court Releases High Commanders Indicted in Spain for 1989 Jesuits Massacre (Center for Justice & Accountability)

 

Colombian Trained by WHINSEC Commits Atrocities

A former Colombian army officer trained at the WHINSEC was convicted and sentenced in 2010 to 44 years in prison for participating in the deaths of more than 245 civilians in the Trujillo Massacres in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

 

Retired major Alirio Antonio Urena received the sentence for killings carried out against residents of the town of Trujillo in western Colombia between 1986 and 1994. Many of those murdered were cut up using a chainsaw and thrown into the Cauca River.

 

Those targeted by Urena and other Colombian military personnel were accused of collaborating with left-wing rebels. Urena was the commander of an army brigade that was linked to right-wing paramilitaries.

Colombian Army Officer Sentenced For Role In Trujillo Massacre (RT.com)

Colombian Officer Trained by U.S. Jailed for Hacking Deaths (Global Report)

Colombian Army Major Alirio Antonio Urena Jailed Over Power Saw Killings (Herald Sun)

 

Honduran Coup

In June 2009, about 100 soldiers in Honduras overran the residence of President Manuel Zelaya as part of a coup to take over the government.

 

It was later revealed that several of the generals involved in the overthrow had been trained at the WHINSEC, formerly the School of the Americas (SOA).

 

These were Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Javier Prince Suazo, Miguel Angel García, and Carlos Cuellar, according to SOA Watch, a human rights group.

 

Zelaya returned in secret to Honduras a few months after the coup, but was unsuccessful in regaining control of the government.

 

The U.S. promised to cut military ties to Honduras following the coup. But it was reported that military officers from the Latin American country were still being trained at WHINSEC.

One Year Later: Honduras Resistance Strong Despite US-Supported Coup (by Laura Raymond and Bill Quigley, Truthout)

US Still Training Honduran Military Against Own Stated Policy (Ten Percent)

Generals Who Led Honduras Military Coup Trained at the School of the Americas (Democracy Now)

Honduras Coup Poses Challenges, Questions for Obama, Congress (by John Nichols, The Nation)

2009 Honduran Constitutional Crisis (Wikipedia)

Four of 6 Generals Tied to the 2009 Honduran Coup Were Trained at the SOA (by SOA Watch)

 

Costa Rica Controversy

In 2007, Costa Rica decided it would no longer send its police to train at the WHINSEC.

 

President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the decision after meeting with a delegation from the School of the Americas Watch, a human rights advocacy group that has campaigned since 1990 for the closure of the WHINSEC.

 

Costa Rica was the fifth country after Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela to sever ties with the school, citing the history of human rights abuses committed by its alumni.

 

Following the decision, the U.S. government launched a months-long campaign to pressure Costa Rica into changing its mind. The U.S. Embassy made the argument that the WHINSEC had the best mix of classes suitable for its police professionalization program and for training its security forces.

 

In January 2009, the Costa Rican government reversed course, announcing it would once again send police officers to the controversial military school.

Costa Rica To Cease Police Training At Controversial U.S. Army School (SOA Watch)

The Military's Role in US Foreign Policy and Torture: Why Is School of the Americas Absent From the National Dialogue? (by Rose Aguilar, Truthout)

Cable 07sanjose1999, Costa Rica: The Whinsec Solution? (WikiLeaks)

Costa Rica: Background and U.S. Relations (by Peter Meyer, Congressional Research Service)

 

Federal Oversight of WHINSEC

Beginning in the early 1990s, Congress considered whether to cut funding for the WHINSEC, then known as the School of the Americas (SOA).

 

Increased congressional scrutiny arose following numerous controversies over SOA graduates being involved in human rights abuses in Latin American countries.

 

Opponents of the school in the U.S. House tried to slash funding four times, in 1993, 1994, 1997, and 1998.

 

Critics tried again in 1999. That same year, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera proposed a plan to restructure and rename the school. The plan succeeded in keeping the SOA open as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

 

But the name change and other reforms implemented did not quell the opposition. Attempts continued during the 2000s in the House to reduce or eliminate WHINSEC’s funding.

U.S. Army School of the Americas: Background and Congressional Concerns (CRS Report)

WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas (by Eliana Monteforte, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

2009 Vigil: Close the SOA/WHINSEC! (Adopt Resistance)

 

Training Manuals

According to SOAW, on September 20, 1996, under intense public pressure, the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals that had been in use at the institute from 1982-1991. A Washington Post article by Dana Priest broke the story, in which the manuals were revealed to advocate torture, extortion, blackmail and other forms of coercion to control insurgents—such as bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of “truth serum.”

 

Material taken from CIA and Army manuals dating to the 1950s and ’60s (training instructions used by the Army's Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, entitled “Project X”) was incorporated in the seven Spanish-language teaching guides, more than a thousand of which were distributed for use in SOA and in 11 South and Central American countries—including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama, where the U.S. military was heavily involved in counterinsurgency.

 

An inquiry was initiated in 1991 when the US Southern Command evaluated the manuals for use in expanding military training/support operations in Columbia. In March 1992 then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney received a classified investigative report on “Improper material in Spanish-Language Intelligence of Training Manuals,” noting that 5 of the 7 manuals “contained language and statements in violation of legal, regulatory or policy prohibitions” and recommending their recall.

 

The manuals indeed promoted techniques that violated human rights and habeas corpus standards as defined by the U.S. military’s own protocol, but the 1992 investigation brushed off the controversy as a matter of bureaucratic oversight: “It is incredible that the use… since 1982… evaded the established system of doctrinal controls.” The office of the assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence oversight who conducted the investigation maintained that, “we could find no evidence that this was a deliberate and orchestrated attempt to violate DoD or Army policies.”  

 

Reports of the 1992 investigation surfaced in 1996 during a congressional inquiry into the CIA’s activities in Guatemala. The spokesman for the school at that time denied the manuals advocated such methods, and since then, rhetoric has turned toward the new human-rights agenda.

U.S. Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture (by Dana Priest, Washington Post) Be All That You Can Be: Your Future as an Extortionist (by Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)

 
Graduates

SOA graduates have been implicated in atrocities committed in almost every Latin American country, including El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, Peru, and Guatemala—especially during the 1980s, when savage military dictatorships controlled the region.

 

Among the most notorious alumni/human rights abusers are: Gen. Manuelo Antonio Noriega, the deposed Panamanian strongman; Roberto Aubuisson, the leader of El Salvador’s right-wing death squads; the 19 Salvadoran soldiers linked to the 1989 assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter; six Peruvian officers linked to killings of students and professor. Most of the military officers responsible for the 2009 coup in Honduras had been trained at the school, as well.

Notorious Salvadoran SOA Graduates

more
Suggested Reforms:

Anti-WHINSEC Lobbying

In 2007 an initiative was launched to draft an amendment attached to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that advocated curtailing funds and shutting down the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) by Congressional Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and John Lewis (D-Georgia). On June 21, 2007, the House of Representatives defeated the McGovern/Lewis Amendment, saving the institute by a slender margin (214 to 203). Only 42 out of 180 Democrats voted in favor of continuing funding for the institute, while 172 Republicans voted against the measure.

 

Reportedly, congressional representatives who had initially committed themselves to cut WHINSEC funding apparently succumbed to pressure from the Pentagon and shifted their votes. According to the School of the Americas Watch, “the WHINSEC PR machine and high ranking Pentagon officials used taxpayer money to put a lot of pressure on members of Congress.”

 

In August 2011, 69 members of Congress sent a letter (pdf) to President Obama requesting that he sign an executive order to close WHINSEC, which, to date, he has not done.

SOA Closure Amendment Almost Succeeds in US House (by Matthew Cardinale, Political Affairs)

Teaching Torture: Congress quietly keeps School of the Americas alive (by Doug Ireland, LA Weekly)

42 House Democrats Back U.S. Terror Academy: Democrats and the School of the Americas (by Dan Bacher, Counterpunch)

 

Participating Countries

According to reports by the SOAW and others, SOA/WHINSEC has been losing support from Latin American countries in recent years. SOAW has convinced a number of Latin American leaders to remove their military and police attendees. In 2005 Venezuela withdrew its troops, followed by Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay during the subsequent seven years.

 

After talks with the SOAW, Costa Rican president Oscar Arias—winner of the Nobel Peace Prize—announced in May 2007 that he would stop sending personnel (even though the country has no army, Costa Rica has sent 2,600 police officers to the institute over the years).

 

In March 2011, confidential US documents released by WikiLeaks revealed that the Pentagon, shocked by Arias’s decision, teamed with the WHINSEC and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica in undertaking a six-month campaign to pressure Arias into reversing his decision to sever ties with WHINSEC. Arias reportedly succumbed to the pressure and reversed himself on the condition that his role in the decision would be kept secret.

WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas (by Eliana Monteforte, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

more
Debate:

Should the WHINSEC be closed down?

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) has been a magnet for criticism from liberals and human rights organizations for decades.

 

During the 2008 presidential race, candidates Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich promised to close down WHINSEC if elected, while then-Senator Barack Obama hedged, praising Congress for having revised the school’s controversial curriculum but making no commitments regarding the school’s future without further evaluation.

 

As president, Obama has remained largely silent on the matter, while the campaign to close down the WHINSEC has continued unabated, with critics coming closer to killing funding in the Senate each year.

 

Online Focus: School of the Americas (PBS NewsHour)

 

Pro (yes, close it down):

Those in favor of shuttering the WHINSEC note its many notorious nicknames, demonstrating the ghoulish history and nature of its work: “School of Assassins,” “School of Dictators,” and “Nursery of Death Squads.”

 

Reports have revealed that the WHINSEC teaches foreign military officers both torture techniques and coup procedures.

 

Since its founding as the School of the Americas (SOA), graduates have been accused of authorizing the raping, torturing, and assassination of thousands of Latin American civilians who have been victimized by death squads.

 

SOA alums have been implicated in atrocities committed in El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, Peru, and Guatemala.

School of the Americas: A Black Eye to Democracy (by Eliana Monteforte, Political Affairs)

WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas (Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

Groups Demand WHINSEC Closes Its Doors (by Mackenzie Zaragoza, WTVM)

 

Con (no, keep it open):

Supporters of the WHINSEC insist the school is a dedicated military and academic institution, which seeks to promote peace, democratic values, and respect for human rights through inter-American cooperation.

 

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), whose district includes the school, said the institute was unfairly attacked over the years. He also points out that the WHINSEC “is of vital importance to our national security interests and is a unique, creative, and powerful tool in preserving democracy and fighting the Global War on Terror.”

 

A spokesperson for the school, Lee Rials, argued that there has never been any accusation directed at a specific instructor or course at the WHINSEC.

 

“Not one example has ever been shown of anyone using what he learned at the school to commit a crime—not even one,” Rials wrote in a letter to the editor of The Journal in St. Louis. “Saying so with no evidence is morally a libel of the people who worked there, falsely accusing them of illegal, immoral or unethical teaching.”

Statement in Support of WHINSEC (Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.)

Bishop Helps Keep WHINSEC Running (Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.)

WHINSEC has weak connection to SOA (by Lee A. Rials, The Journal)

Behind the Gates, a Clash of Views (by Paul Winner, National Catholic Reporter)

more
Former Directors:

Colonel Gilberto R. Pérez

An immigrant from Cuba, Col. Gilberto R. Pérez was appointed commandant of WHINSEC in 2004 and served for four years before retiring from the Army in July 2008.

School of Americas aka Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (by Clare Hanrahan, ZNet)

WHINSEC Commandant Departure Reveals Controversy (School of the Americas Watch)

 

Current Members of the Board of Visitors

• Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) or his designee.

• Ranking member of the SASC, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) or his designee. McCain designated Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia).

• Chairman, House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-California) or his designee. McKeon designated Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia). 

• Ranking member of the HASC, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington) or his designee. Smith designated Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California).

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kevin Whitaker.

• Commander, U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Douglas Fraser or his designee.

• Commander, U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., or his designee.

• Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Robert W. Cone 

• Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman, Sr Assoc, CSIS Americas program, Chairman

• Dr. Joseph Palacios, Prof of Sociology and Anthropology, Sch of Foreign Svc, Latin American Studies Program, Georgetown University, Vice Chairman

• Dr. Louis Goodman, Dean and Professor of International Relations at American University’s School of International Service

• Amb. Swanee Hunt, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy; a core faculty member at the Center for Public Leadership, former Ambassador to Austria (awaiting final appointment)

• Amb. John F. Maisto, Board of Advisors, North American Center for Transborder Studies, former Ambassador to Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the OAS (awaiting final appointment)

• Amb. Peter Romero, CEO, Experior Advisory, LLC, former Ambassador to Ecuador (awaiting final appointment)

more

Comments

Lee Rials 2 years ago
Didn't mean to stutter! What I wanted to say is come down and make your own assessment of who we are and what we do. We welcome visitors any workday.
Lee Rials 2 years ago
You try to be even handed, but there are several areas that could use a bit of touching up. First, the training. While all of it has been standard U.S. doctrine, most has been administrative, logistical, and combat support subjects to relatively junior individuals. Nothing that has been linked to any misbehavior by anyone, which leads to the 2nd point, 'graduates.' Individuals come to courses that are tailored to the jobs they already have; when the course is over they go home. It is disingenuous to call someone a graduate of the school when his attendance is measured in weeks. Protests have diminished drastically so they are almost invisible to even the local people in Columbus, maybe because anyone can visit the Institute and see that what it is doing is benefitting our own country and our partner countries as well.

Leave a comment

Founded: 2001 (formerly the School of the Americas, named in 1963, and dating back as far as 1949 with the establishment of the Latin American Training Center)
Annual Budget: $10 million of Army Operations and Maintenance funding; plus $3.1 million in Security Assistance (“scholarships” for the international students in Institute Courses plus other reimbursements, such as Foreign Military Sales) (FY 2012)
Employees: 241 total personnel (FY 2012)
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (School of the Americas)
Anthony, Keith
Commander

 

On April 25, 2014, Colonel Keith W. Anthony was named to command the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia. The primary focus of the Institute is the training of soldiers and law enforcement personnel from Latin American countries, so much so that many of the classes are in Spanish. Some reports say the school teaches coup procedures and has taught torture techniques.

 

Anthony was commissioned an Army officer in 1989 after graduating from Austin Peay State University with a B.S. in criminal justice and having completed the ROTC course. His early assignments were as a platoon leader, but he subsequently trained to serve in the Army’s Special Forces and was assigned to one of those units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

 

Other assignments have included being a senior fellow at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany, assignment to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a nuclear weapons inspector in Russia, an instructor at WHINSEC and a tour in Iraq.

 

But much of Anthony’s career has been spent in Latin America. One posting had him serving as special forces and counter-narcotics advisor along the Ecuador-Colombia border. While there, he served as a liaison for an Air Force medical team performing plastic surgery on Ecuadorans with deformities such as cleft palate and burn scars. He was also Army section chief in Guatemala and his last assignment was as the commander of the U.S. Military Group in Nicaragua.

 

Anthony has a knack for languages; in addition to English he speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and German. He holds an M.A. in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School.

-Steve Straehley

 

Official Biography

more
Huber Jr., Glenn
Previous Commandant

Colonel Glenn R. Huber Jr. has served as commandant of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia, since July 29, 2010. He last served with WHINSEC in 2001, when he was a department director and instructor.

 
Huber was born in Madrid, Spain, but is a native of Lititz, Pennsylvania. His father served for nine years in the Air Force and later worked for the federal government as a foreman at a power plant.
 
Huber graduated from the University of Texas, and has a Masters in Management degree from Florida Institute of Technology.
 
Huber initially served with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany, before later commanding the Missile Maintenance Company of the 2nd Infantry Division’s Support Command in South Korea.
 
He has served as brigade logistics officer for the 108th Air Defense Brigade (Airborne) and as a commander of the PATRIOT Training Detachment at Fort Bliss, Texas.
 
Other assignments have included serving as project test officer at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; joint logistics officer with the U.S. Military Group, Colombia, Division;
U.S. Army attaché to Chile; U.S. defense and army attaché to the Dominican Republic; and interim defense attaché to Nicaragua.
 
Before returning to WHINSEC, he served in Iraq as the chief of staff to the Iraq Security Assistance Mission.
 
Huber and his wife, Norma, have a daughter and a son.
 
Official Biography (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) (pdf)
more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is a Defense Department facility at Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia, which provides “professional education and training for civilian, military and law enforcement students from nations throughout the Western Hemisphere.” In other words, it is a combat training center for Latin American soldiers. It is the Defense Department’s principal Spanish-language training facility and, along with the U.S. Air Force’s Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA), attracts the largest number of Latin American military students.

 

Although it is now also open for civilians and others not from Latin America, the institute’s strategic and singular focus remains the military training of Latin American soldiers. About 1,000-1,700 students attend the institute each year, and 90% of classes are taught in Spanish—although since English-language classes were added in 2003 the school has attracted more students from the Caribbean. Estimates of enrollment in 2006 showed the largest contingent was by far that of Colombian students.

 

Through its various incarnations since the original Latin American Training Center in 1949, the institute has trained more than 60,000 troops in counterinsurgency warfare—including anti-narcotic and crisis operations—and, many argue, more questionable tactics such as torture and coup operations handed down directly from Washington. The curriculum is based on standardized U.S. Defense training, tailored to the region’s specific needs, and overseen by an executive “Board of Visitors.”

 

To its critics, the institute is known as the “School of the Assassins,” as its graduates have been implicated in atrocities throughout the region’s last half-century of bloody political warfare. School of the Americas (SOA) trained many military personnel—several of them now notorious — before and during the years of the “National Security Doctrine,” in which Latin American military regimes dominated the political landscape and committed rampant human rights abuses.

 

To supporters, the school is a crucial defense outpost—formerly instrumental in Cold War-era Communist suppression, and now necessary to combat terrorism and protect national security. Defenders of the Institute also contend that it can’t be held accountable for the actions of a few alumni—and that it has since updated its curriculum to include mandatory human rights training.

more
History:

Part of the Defense Department, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) was “created” under the National Defense Authorization Act in 2001, “to provide professional education and training to eligible persons of the nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States.”

 

However, its predecessor, the School of the Americas (SOA) was founded more than 50 years ago. In 1946, the Latin American Training Center (U.S. Ground Forces) was established in Panama at Fort Amador, reportedly to train U.S. troops in jungle environment and as a foreign policy outpost to interface with Latin American militaries established during World War II. In 1949 it was expanded and moved to Fort Gulick (near Colon, Panama) and renamed the U.S. Army Caribbean Training Center. In the early 1960s, under President John F. Kennedy’s direction, a hemispheric security policy aimed at containing Communism led to an expanded role for the school—and an expanded curriculum, including more tactical and operational (combat-oriented) courses in addition to the original technical ones (like radar operation, vehicle maintenance, etc.). The School was renamed the U.S. Army School of the Americas (USARSA) in 1963. In 1984, after the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, the SOA was relocated to Fort Benning (read: was thrown out of Panama after nationalization of the canal).

 

The SOA originally taught military education courses translated into Spanish. Beginning in 1963, it began providing military training for Latin American officers and non-commissioned officers.

 

SOA Closing/Name Change

According to the federal government, the SOA closed because it had “outlived” its mission—because it had “fulfilled its Cold War era mission, because concerned citizens desired change, and because the region’s needs exceeded USARSA’s capabilities and authorizations.” That is, the government could no longer justify a combat training center with the (real or mythical) imminent Communist threat. 

 

The leap from Cold War containment, neoliberal and free-market-based “democratic” development to the new “Engagement Policy” underscoring the current WHINSEC mission is negligible. After the collapse of Communism, U.S. foreign policy in the region is still focused on neoliberal capitalist development and a derivative form of “democratization.” However, after the bloody history of military rule in Latin America, the U.S. has arguably been forced to alter its approach, prioritizing (at least topically) transparency, civil society, and the rule of law within the existing program of military development.

 

Critics argue that the name change was purely a PR stunt, requested by the Pentagon under advisement from private political consultants, to counter the accumulated infamy of the SOA and stave off a congressional reformist initiative to close it down.

 

And according to School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), the Defense Department approved $246,000 for “Strategic Communications Campaign Plan” to manage damage control and counter “negative political rhetoric that detracts from the mission of both WHINSEC and the Army.”

 

The new WHINSEC distinguishes itself from its notorious predecessor by claiming a new human-rights-based curriculum—with a mandatory eight hours of democracy and human rights instruction in every course. Its “new” mission includes “fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation by promoting democratic values; respect for human rights; and an understanding of U.S. customs and traditions,” and a focus on congressionally mandated subjects such as “leadership development; counterdrug; peacekeeping; democratic sustainment; resource management; and disaster preparedness and relief planning.”

 

For more information on the legislative changes behind the transition from SOA to WHINSEC, see the Reform section of this article and Just the Facts: A Civilian’s Guide to U.S. Defense and Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean.

SourceWatch: School of the Americas

School of Assassins: Past and Present of the School of the Americas (by Celina Andreassi, The Argentina Independent)

more
What it Does:

This largely depends on who you talk to.

 

Ask critics, and they will tell you that the institute has trained more than 60,000 soldiers in the counterinsurgency techniques, military intelligence, psychological warfare and interrogation, sniper training, and even torture, that have been the building blocks of the region’s history of bloody oppression and dictatorship. Ask a supporter, and they will tell you that the institute has carried out a mission they consider crucial to national security, under fire of false accusations and Leftist propaganda.

           

Mandate and Oversight

Section 2166 of the [2001 National Defense Authorization] Act establishes the authority for the Secretary of Defense to operate a facility that will provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of Western Hemisphere nations within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of the American States (OAS).”

 

The Secretary of the Army is the executive agent responsible for the institute’s operation, while the Secretary of Defense retains oversight responsibilities. The law that “created” WHINSEC also called for a federal advisory committee, the Board of Visitors (BoV), to conduct independent review of the institution and provide recommendations on areas such as curriculum, academic instruction and fiscal affairs. The 13-member BoV includes members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, representatives from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC, the “architect” of the Army), as well as six members designated by the Secretary of Defense — including representatives from “the human rights, religious, academic and business communities.”

 

TRADOC, responsible for all Army doctrine development and training, together with its subordinate command, the Combined Arms Center (CAC), exercise supervisory command over the institute. Under control of TRADOC, U.S. Army centers and schools provide “training support packages” for military operations taught at WHINSEC.

WHINSEC Charter (pdf)

Rumsfeld Names WHINSEC Representatives (Press Release)

 

Organization

Faculty and staff include members of all U.S. armed services, as well as service members from foreign countries; the State Department, Drug Enforcement Agency, and other federal agencies; civilian professors; visiting Fellows and interns. As with all military schools, uniformed personnel are rotated in and out of the institute.

 

Mission

According to the government, the Institute’s post-Cold-War era mission is national security, based on regional stability and democratic development:

“Congress saw a need in this post Cold-War world for an institute that would provide professional education and training for military, law enforcement and civilian leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere […]There is a strategic need for the institute.  The United States is a partner in preparing Western Hemisphere societies, military forces and their civilian officials for 21st century regional security challenges and in strengthening democracy and protecting human rights…

 

Now more than ever, the institute fills a vital role in building relationships among countries and even within countries; in places where past distrust of the military and police forces have hampered democratic development and sustainment. The professional development of civilian leaders, militaries and law enforcement working together is key to the cooperation envisioned by our leaders as part of our national security strategy. WHINSEC is a strategic tool for international engagement and those civilian-military and civilian-law enforcement relationships are so important to the stability and justice of the democratic governments in our hemisphere.” 

 

Curriculum

“Course offerings are designed to support the strategic objectives of the Commanders, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command in implementing the National Security Strategy in the Western Hemisphere.”

 

According to the course list, classes range from traditional military and paramilitary subjects like Military Operations, Cadet Leadership, Battalion/Brigade Staff Operations, Captains Career, Counter Narco-terrorism analysis to administrative (e.g., defense resource management), human rights, peace, and democracy courses. The institute offers 19 resident courses, each lasting between 3 and 48 weeks long and considered “relevant to the security requirements of our ‘partner nations.’” Nine of the courses are offered in two-week versions, taught in participating countries that request them. One-third to two-fifths of the WHINSEC faculty consists of instructors from the institute’s “partner nations.”

The current resident curriculum includes these courses:

  • Civil Affairs Operations (5 weeks) - Exposes students to emerging U.S. military doctrine regarding the mission of civil affairs operations and forces for active participation and influence in an operational environment.
  • Departmental Resource Management and Logistics (4 weeks) - Instructs personnel in resource and logistics management concepts, principles, methods, techniques, systems analysis, and decision-making skills culminating with a practical, hands-on resource-management case study.
  • Human Rights Instructor (3 weeks, 3 days) - Qualifies students as human rights instructors. Includes the lawful treatment of all personnel encountered during military and security-force operations; lawful use of lethal and non-lethal force; lawful and unlawful orders; international instruments on human rights and humanitarian law; and enforcement of human rights law.
  • Peace and Stability Operations (5 weeks) - Prepares students to serve in management and advisory roles at a strategic and operational level, using material based on United Nations and U.S. peacekeeping operations.
  • Inform and Influence Activities (4 weeks, 4 days) - Educates mid- to senior-level military officers and selected civilian government officials in Information Operations, applicable during both peacetime and conflict.
  • Army Instructor (3 weeks, 1 day) - Consists of performance-oriented training on how to plan, implement and evaluate instruction.
  • Cadet Leadership Development (4 weeks) - Revolves around evaluations that cadets receive in various leadership positions.
  • Cadet Professional Development (2 weeks) - Provides students with hands-on training in the use of computer simulations, night-operations capabilities, and technology demonstrations.
  • Small-Unit Leaders (4 weeks, 1 day) - Trains enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers to plan, organize, and conduct basic infantry combat operations in a rural environment at the small-unit (squad) level.
  • NCO Professional Development (7 weeks, 3 days) - Develops leadership skills required by squad leaders or platoon sergeants. Consists of an intense field-training environment that involves hands-on, performance-oriented training, including warfighting functions.
  • Senior Enlisted Advisor (10 weeks) - Designed to impart professional military training and education to the master sergeants and sergeants major of the Western Hemisphere through the use of decision-making and critical-thinking scenarios.
  • Maneuver Captains Career Course (23 weeks) - Prepares officers to become successful battalion and brigade staff officers,
  • Intermediate-Level Education Course (47 weeks) - Prepares intermediate-level Army, sister-service, and partner-nation officers to operate as field-grade commanders and staff officers. Includes an orientation tour of the U.S., during which students visit major military installations, service schools, and Washington D.C.
  • Joint Operations (8 weeks) - Field-grade officers train to function as officers in joint and multinational operations.
  • Counterdrug Operations (8 weeks) - Provides training in counter-narcotics interdiction operations.
  • Medical Assistance (8 weeks, 1 day) - Develops medical skills.
  • Engineer Operations (5 weeks) - Provides instruction in the use of conventional demolition charges in humanitarian de-mining operations and techniques employed in counterdrug operations.
  • Operational Information Analyst (10 weeks) - Trains security and defense personnel the duties of an intelligence analyst in a multicultural atmosphere.

2012-14 WHINSEC Course List

School of the Americas Watch (SOAW)

 

From the Web Site of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

Academics

Amos Library

Board of Visitors

Command Oversight

Contact Information

Course Catalog

Democracy and Human Rights

Facebook Page

FAQs

Glossary of Terms

History

Incoming Student Information

Leadership

NCO Academy

Photo Gallery

Quick Facts

Student Resources

Students

University Credit

Videos

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The Institute’s fixed costs are paid by the Army’s Operations and Maintenance account, while tuition costs are mostly covered by International Military Education and Training (IMET) and International Narcotics Control (INC) program grants, or purchase through the Foreign Military Sales program.

more
Controversies:

Prison Sentences for Protesting Against WHINSEC

Every year since 1990, protesters have been drawn to the Fort Benning, Georgia, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) facility, notorious for training military personnel, mostly from Latin America, who have been involved in atrocities in their homelands.

 

During the past two decades, more than 180 people have served a cumulative 80 years for acts of disobedience at the gates of WHINSEC, the former School of the Americas (SOA). At least two demonstrators have been arrested and sentenced in recent years for actions taken during protests at WHINSEC. In January 2012, Theresa Cusimano was sentenced to six months in jail for trespassing onto federal property after she entered WHINSEC without authorization.

 

That same year, Robert Norman Chantal was also arrested at the Fort Benning facility for criminal trespass during the 22nd SOA Watch demonstration. Chantal, in clown makeup with the words “study war no more” written repeatedly on his head and clothing, had used a ladder to scale the WHINSEC fence.

 

Chantal was later released on his own recognizance. But in March 2013, a federal judge sentenced him to a six-month prison term for trespassing.

Human Rights Activist Sentenced To Six Months In Federal Prison For Protest At SOA (The Nuclear Register)

A Letter From Theresa Cusimano, Recently Released SOA Watch Prisoner Of Conscience (The Nuclear Register)

Americus, Ga., Man Arrested Crossing Into Fort Benning At SOA Watch Protest (by Tim Chitwood, Ledger-Enquirer)

Sentenced SOA Protester: "Where is the Justice?" (World War 4 Report)

 

Jesuit Priest Massacre in El Salvador

In November 1989, a Salvadoran Army patrol entered the University of Central America in San Salvador and massacred six Jesuit priests who had tried to broker peace between rebels and the government, plus their housekeeper and her teenage daughter.

 

Approximately 20 of the military officers involved in the attack had received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now known as WHINSEC.

 

Two years after the massacre, Salvadoran Army Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno and Lt. Yusshy Rene Mendoza Vallecillos were found guilty of murder and terrorism for their involvement in the raid.

 

Two other lieutenants and five soldiers were found innocent, even though four of the soldiers admitted before the trial that they had been the gunmen in the execution-style slayings.

 

The two convicted were given amnesty in 1993 as part of the peace accords that officially ended the civil war between the rightwing government and leftist rebels.

 

Fifteen years later, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and the Spanish Association for Human Rights filed a criminal suit in Spain against 15 of the former military personnel who allegedly participated in the massacre. Five of the six Jesuits slain were from Spain.

 

On August 7, 2011, nine of the accused were handed over to a Salvadoran civilian criminal court after a Spanish Court issued international arrest warrants.

 

But El Salvador’s Supreme Court blocked efforts to deport the defendants to Spain.

 

The anniversary of the murders has brought protesters to the gates of WHINSEC every year since 1990.

The 1989 University of Central America Massacre (SOA Watch)

El Salvador (Human Rights Watch)

Colonel Guilty in Jesuit Deaths in El Salvador (by Shirley Christian, New York Times)

US must stop funding Salvadorean war (by Barry Klinger, The Tech)

US-Funded War in El Salvador Casts Shadow Over Romney/Ryan Campaign (by Brendan Fischer, PRWatch)

Still No Justice for Priests in Notorious El Salvador Massacre 20 Years Later (by Norman Stockwell, AlterNet)

El Salvador: The Truth Commission and the Jesuit Massacre (by Jennifer Nerby, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

Salvadoran Supreme Court Releases High Commanders Indicted in Spain for 1989 Jesuits Massacre (Center for Justice & Accountability)

 

Colombian Trained by WHINSEC Commits Atrocities

A former Colombian army officer trained at the WHINSEC was convicted and sentenced in 2010 to 44 years in prison for participating in the deaths of more than 245 civilians in the Trujillo Massacres in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

 

Retired major Alirio Antonio Urena received the sentence for killings carried out against residents of the town of Trujillo in western Colombia between 1986 and 1994. Many of those murdered were cut up using a chainsaw and thrown into the Cauca River.

 

Those targeted by Urena and other Colombian military personnel were accused of collaborating with left-wing rebels. Urena was the commander of an army brigade that was linked to right-wing paramilitaries.

Colombian Army Officer Sentenced For Role In Trujillo Massacre (RT.com)

Colombian Officer Trained by U.S. Jailed for Hacking Deaths (Global Report)

Colombian Army Major Alirio Antonio Urena Jailed Over Power Saw Killings (Herald Sun)

 

Honduran Coup

In June 2009, about 100 soldiers in Honduras overran the residence of President Manuel Zelaya as part of a coup to take over the government.

 

It was later revealed that several of the generals involved in the overthrow had been trained at the WHINSEC, formerly the School of the Americas (SOA).

 

These were Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Javier Prince Suazo, Miguel Angel García, and Carlos Cuellar, according to SOA Watch, a human rights group.

 

Zelaya returned in secret to Honduras a few months after the coup, but was unsuccessful in regaining control of the government.

 

The U.S. promised to cut military ties to Honduras following the coup. But it was reported that military officers from the Latin American country were still being trained at WHINSEC.

One Year Later: Honduras Resistance Strong Despite US-Supported Coup (by Laura Raymond and Bill Quigley, Truthout)

US Still Training Honduran Military Against Own Stated Policy (Ten Percent)

Generals Who Led Honduras Military Coup Trained at the School of the Americas (Democracy Now)

Honduras Coup Poses Challenges, Questions for Obama, Congress (by John Nichols, The Nation)

2009 Honduran Constitutional Crisis (Wikipedia)

Four of 6 Generals Tied to the 2009 Honduran Coup Were Trained at the SOA (by SOA Watch)

 

Costa Rica Controversy

In 2007, Costa Rica decided it would no longer send its police to train at the WHINSEC.

 

President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the decision after meeting with a delegation from the School of the Americas Watch, a human rights advocacy group that has campaigned since 1990 for the closure of the WHINSEC.

 

Costa Rica was the fifth country after Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela to sever ties with the school, citing the history of human rights abuses committed by its alumni.

 

Following the decision, the U.S. government launched a months-long campaign to pressure Costa Rica into changing its mind. The U.S. Embassy made the argument that the WHINSEC had the best mix of classes suitable for its police professionalization program and for training its security forces.

 

In January 2009, the Costa Rican government reversed course, announcing it would once again send police officers to the controversial military school.

Costa Rica To Cease Police Training At Controversial U.S. Army School (SOA Watch)

The Military's Role in US Foreign Policy and Torture: Why Is School of the Americas Absent From the National Dialogue? (by Rose Aguilar, Truthout)

Cable 07sanjose1999, Costa Rica: The Whinsec Solution? (WikiLeaks)

Costa Rica: Background and U.S. Relations (by Peter Meyer, Congressional Research Service)

 

Federal Oversight of WHINSEC

Beginning in the early 1990s, Congress considered whether to cut funding for the WHINSEC, then known as the School of the Americas (SOA).

 

Increased congressional scrutiny arose following numerous controversies over SOA graduates being involved in human rights abuses in Latin American countries.

 

Opponents of the school in the U.S. House tried to slash funding four times, in 1993, 1994, 1997, and 1998.

 

Critics tried again in 1999. That same year, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera proposed a plan to restructure and rename the school. The plan succeeded in keeping the SOA open as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

 

But the name change and other reforms implemented did not quell the opposition. Attempts continued during the 2000s in the House to reduce or eliminate WHINSEC’s funding.

U.S. Army School of the Americas: Background and Congressional Concerns (CRS Report)

WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas (by Eliana Monteforte, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

2009 Vigil: Close the SOA/WHINSEC! (Adopt Resistance)

 

Training Manuals

According to SOAW, on September 20, 1996, under intense public pressure, the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals that had been in use at the institute from 1982-1991. A Washington Post article by Dana Priest broke the story, in which the manuals were revealed to advocate torture, extortion, blackmail and other forms of coercion to control insurgents—such as bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of “truth serum.”

 

Material taken from CIA and Army manuals dating to the 1950s and ’60s (training instructions used by the Army's Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, entitled “Project X”) was incorporated in the seven Spanish-language teaching guides, more than a thousand of which were distributed for use in SOA and in 11 South and Central American countries—including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama, where the U.S. military was heavily involved in counterinsurgency.

 

An inquiry was initiated in 1991 when the US Southern Command evaluated the manuals for use in expanding military training/support operations in Columbia. In March 1992 then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney received a classified investigative report on “Improper material in Spanish-Language Intelligence of Training Manuals,” noting that 5 of the 7 manuals “contained language and statements in violation of legal, regulatory or policy prohibitions” and recommending their recall.

 

The manuals indeed promoted techniques that violated human rights and habeas corpus standards as defined by the U.S. military’s own protocol, but the 1992 investigation brushed off the controversy as a matter of bureaucratic oversight: “It is incredible that the use… since 1982… evaded the established system of doctrinal controls.” The office of the assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence oversight who conducted the investigation maintained that, “we could find no evidence that this was a deliberate and orchestrated attempt to violate DoD or Army policies.”  

 

Reports of the 1992 investigation surfaced in 1996 during a congressional inquiry into the CIA’s activities in Guatemala. The spokesman for the school at that time denied the manuals advocated such methods, and since then, rhetoric has turned toward the new human-rights agenda.

U.S. Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture (by Dana Priest, Washington Post) Be All That You Can Be: Your Future as an Extortionist (by Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)

 
Graduates

SOA graduates have been implicated in atrocities committed in almost every Latin American country, including El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, Peru, and Guatemala—especially during the 1980s, when savage military dictatorships controlled the region.

 

Among the most notorious alumni/human rights abusers are: Gen. Manuelo Antonio Noriega, the deposed Panamanian strongman; Roberto Aubuisson, the leader of El Salvador’s right-wing death squads; the 19 Salvadoran soldiers linked to the 1989 assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter; six Peruvian officers linked to killings of students and professor. Most of the military officers responsible for the 2009 coup in Honduras had been trained at the school, as well.

Notorious Salvadoran SOA Graduates

more
Suggested Reforms:

Anti-WHINSEC Lobbying

In 2007 an initiative was launched to draft an amendment attached to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that advocated curtailing funds and shutting down the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) by Congressional Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and John Lewis (D-Georgia). On June 21, 2007, the House of Representatives defeated the McGovern/Lewis Amendment, saving the institute by a slender margin (214 to 203). Only 42 out of 180 Democrats voted in favor of continuing funding for the institute, while 172 Republicans voted against the measure.

 

Reportedly, congressional representatives who had initially committed themselves to cut WHINSEC funding apparently succumbed to pressure from the Pentagon and shifted their votes. According to the School of the Americas Watch, “the WHINSEC PR machine and high ranking Pentagon officials used taxpayer money to put a lot of pressure on members of Congress.”

 

In August 2011, 69 members of Congress sent a letter (pdf) to President Obama requesting that he sign an executive order to close WHINSEC, which, to date, he has not done.

SOA Closure Amendment Almost Succeeds in US House (by Matthew Cardinale, Political Affairs)

Teaching Torture: Congress quietly keeps School of the Americas alive (by Doug Ireland, LA Weekly)

42 House Democrats Back U.S. Terror Academy: Democrats and the School of the Americas (by Dan Bacher, Counterpunch)

 

Participating Countries

According to reports by the SOAW and others, SOA/WHINSEC has been losing support from Latin American countries in recent years. SOAW has convinced a number of Latin American leaders to remove their military and police attendees. In 2005 Venezuela withdrew its troops, followed by Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay during the subsequent seven years.

 

After talks with the SOAW, Costa Rican president Oscar Arias—winner of the Nobel Peace Prize—announced in May 2007 that he would stop sending personnel (even though the country has no army, Costa Rica has sent 2,600 police officers to the institute over the years).

 

In March 2011, confidential US documents released by WikiLeaks revealed that the Pentagon, shocked by Arias’s decision, teamed with the WHINSEC and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica in undertaking a six-month campaign to pressure Arias into reversing his decision to sever ties with WHINSEC. Arias reportedly succumbed to the pressure and reversed himself on the condition that his role in the decision would be kept secret.

WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas (by Eliana Monteforte, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

more
Debate:

Should the WHINSEC be closed down?

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) has been a magnet for criticism from liberals and human rights organizations for decades.

 

During the 2008 presidential race, candidates Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich promised to close down WHINSEC if elected, while then-Senator Barack Obama hedged, praising Congress for having revised the school’s controversial curriculum but making no commitments regarding the school’s future without further evaluation.

 

As president, Obama has remained largely silent on the matter, while the campaign to close down the WHINSEC has continued unabated, with critics coming closer to killing funding in the Senate each year.

 

Online Focus: School of the Americas (PBS NewsHour)

 

Pro (yes, close it down):

Those in favor of shuttering the WHINSEC note its many notorious nicknames, demonstrating the ghoulish history and nature of its work: “School of Assassins,” “School of Dictators,” and “Nursery of Death Squads.”

 

Reports have revealed that the WHINSEC teaches foreign military officers both torture techniques and coup procedures.

 

Since its founding as the School of the Americas (SOA), graduates have been accused of authorizing the raping, torturing, and assassination of thousands of Latin American civilians who have been victimized by death squads.

 

SOA alums have been implicated in atrocities committed in El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, Peru, and Guatemala.

School of the Americas: A Black Eye to Democracy (by Eliana Monteforte, Political Affairs)

WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas (Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

Groups Demand WHINSEC Closes Its Doors (by Mackenzie Zaragoza, WTVM)

 

Con (no, keep it open):

Supporters of the WHINSEC insist the school is a dedicated military and academic institution, which seeks to promote peace, democratic values, and respect for human rights through inter-American cooperation.

 

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), whose district includes the school, said the institute was unfairly attacked over the years. He also points out that the WHINSEC “is of vital importance to our national security interests and is a unique, creative, and powerful tool in preserving democracy and fighting the Global War on Terror.”

 

A spokesperson for the school, Lee Rials, argued that there has never been any accusation directed at a specific instructor or course at the WHINSEC.

 

“Not one example has ever been shown of anyone using what he learned at the school to commit a crime—not even one,” Rials wrote in a letter to the editor of The Journal in St. Louis. “Saying so with no evidence is morally a libel of the people who worked there, falsely accusing them of illegal, immoral or unethical teaching.”

Statement in Support of WHINSEC (Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.)

Bishop Helps Keep WHINSEC Running (Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.)

WHINSEC has weak connection to SOA (by Lee A. Rials, The Journal)

Behind the Gates, a Clash of Views (by Paul Winner, National Catholic Reporter)

more
Former Directors:

Colonel Gilberto R. Pérez

An immigrant from Cuba, Col. Gilberto R. Pérez was appointed commandant of WHINSEC in 2004 and served for four years before retiring from the Army in July 2008.

School of Americas aka Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (by Clare Hanrahan, ZNet)

WHINSEC Commandant Departure Reveals Controversy (School of the Americas Watch)

 

Current Members of the Board of Visitors

• Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) or his designee.

• Ranking member of the SASC, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) or his designee. McCain designated Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia).

• Chairman, House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-California) or his designee. McKeon designated Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia). 

• Ranking member of the HASC, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington) or his designee. Smith designated Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California).

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kevin Whitaker.

• Commander, U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Douglas Fraser or his designee.

• Commander, U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., or his designee.

• Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Robert W. Cone 

• Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman, Sr Assoc, CSIS Americas program, Chairman

• Dr. Joseph Palacios, Prof of Sociology and Anthropology, Sch of Foreign Svc, Latin American Studies Program, Georgetown University, Vice Chairman

• Dr. Louis Goodman, Dean and Professor of International Relations at American University’s School of International Service

• Amb. Swanee Hunt, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy; a core faculty member at the Center for Public Leadership, former Ambassador to Austria (awaiting final appointment)

• Amb. John F. Maisto, Board of Advisors, North American Center for Transborder Studies, former Ambassador to Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the OAS (awaiting final appointment)

• Amb. Peter Romero, CEO, Experior Advisory, LLC, former Ambassador to Ecuador (awaiting final appointment)

more

Comments

Lee Rials 2 years ago
Didn't mean to stutter! What I wanted to say is come down and make your own assessment of who we are and what we do. We welcome visitors any workday.
Lee Rials 2 years ago
You try to be even handed, but there are several areas that could use a bit of touching up. First, the training. While all of it has been standard U.S. doctrine, most has been administrative, logistical, and combat support subjects to relatively junior individuals. Nothing that has been linked to any misbehavior by anyone, which leads to the 2nd point, 'graduates.' Individuals come to courses that are tailored to the jobs they already have; when the course is over they go home. It is disingenuous to call someone a graduate of the school when his attendance is measured in weeks. Protests have diminished drastically so they are almost invisible to even the local people in Columbus, maybe because anyone can visit the Institute and see that what it is doing is benefitting our own country and our partner countries as well.

Leave a comment

Founded: 2001 (formerly the School of the Americas, named in 1963, and dating back as far as 1949 with the establishment of the Latin American Training Center)
Annual Budget: $10 million of Army Operations and Maintenance funding; plus $3.1 million in Security Assistance (“scholarships” for the international students in Institute Courses plus other reimbursements, such as Foreign Military Sales) (FY 2012)
Employees: 241 total personnel (FY 2012)
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (School of the Americas)
Anthony, Keith
Commander

 

On April 25, 2014, Colonel Keith W. Anthony was named to command the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia. The primary focus of the Institute is the training of soldiers and law enforcement personnel from Latin American countries, so much so that many of the classes are in Spanish. Some reports say the school teaches coup procedures and has taught torture techniques.

 

Anthony was commissioned an Army officer in 1989 after graduating from Austin Peay State University with a B.S. in criminal justice and having completed the ROTC course. His early assignments were as a platoon leader, but he subsequently trained to serve in the Army’s Special Forces and was assigned to one of those units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

 

Other assignments have included being a senior fellow at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany, assignment to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a nuclear weapons inspector in Russia, an instructor at WHINSEC and a tour in Iraq.

 

But much of Anthony’s career has been spent in Latin America. One posting had him serving as special forces and counter-narcotics advisor along the Ecuador-Colombia border. While there, he served as a liaison for an Air Force medical team performing plastic surgery on Ecuadorans with deformities such as cleft palate and burn scars. He was also Army section chief in Guatemala and his last assignment was as the commander of the U.S. Military Group in Nicaragua.

 

Anthony has a knack for languages; in addition to English he speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and German. He holds an M.A. in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School.

-Steve Straehley

 

Official Biography

more
Huber Jr., Glenn
Previous Commandant

Colonel Glenn R. Huber Jr. has served as commandant of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia, since July 29, 2010. He last served with WHINSEC in 2001, when he was a department director and instructor.

 
Huber was born in Madrid, Spain, but is a native of Lititz, Pennsylvania. His father served for nine years in the Air Force and later worked for the federal government as a foreman at a power plant.
 
Huber graduated from the University of Texas, and has a Masters in Management degree from Florida Institute of Technology.
 
Huber initially served with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany, before later commanding the Missile Maintenance Company of the 2nd Infantry Division’s Support Command in South Korea.
 
He has served as brigade logistics officer for the 108th Air Defense Brigade (Airborne) and as a commander of the PATRIOT Training Detachment at Fort Bliss, Texas.
 
Other assignments have included serving as project test officer at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; joint logistics officer with the U.S. Military Group, Colombia, Division;
U.S. Army attaché to Chile; U.S. defense and army attaché to the Dominican Republic; and interim defense attaché to Nicaragua.
 
Before returning to WHINSEC, he served in Iraq as the chief of staff to the Iraq Security Assistance Mission.
 
Huber and his wife, Norma, have a daughter and a son.
 
Official Biography (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) (pdf)
more