University Human Rights Group Burglarized

     SEATTLE (CN) – Thieves last weekend stole a computer and hard drive with “sensitive details” about a human rights group’s lawsuit against the CIA and a Salvadoran colonel accused of massacring civilians – and CIA Director John Brennan happened to be in town.
     Brennan spoke at the University of Washington law school Friday, but a university vice president warned the Seattle Times about “connecting those dots.”
     The only office burglarized was that of the UW Center for Human Rights director, Angelina Godoy, and there was no sign of forced entry, the center said in a statement. It said the hard drive contained “about 90 percent of the information relating to our research in El Salvador.”
     “While we have backups of this information, what worries us most is not what we have lost but what someone else may have gained: the files include sensitive details of personal testimonies and pending investigations,” the center said in a statement .
     The center did not hesitate to connect the dots: “(T)he timing of this incident – in the wake of the recent publicity around our freedom of information lawsuit against the CIA regarding information on a suspected perpetrator of grave human rights violations in El Salvador – invites doubt as to potential motives.”
     The Center for Human Rights filed a freedom of information lawsuit against the CIA on Oct. 2, for failing to turn over public documents about Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez , who was trained in the United States and commanded Salvadoran troops suspected of several massacres of civilians.
     The Salvadoran Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court for Human Rights have ordered El Salvador to investigate Ochoa’s involvement in the atrocities. He was an army commander in the early 1980s, when death squads and Salvadoran armed forces murdered tens of thousands of civilians.
     The Center for Human Rights’ lawsuit made headlines when it was filed this month.
     “This could, of course, be an act of common crime,” the center said in its statement. “But we are concerned because it is also possible this was an act of retaliation for our work. There are a few elements that make this an unusual incident. First, there was no sign of forcible entry; the office was searched but its contents were treated carefully and the door was locked upon exit, characteristics which do not fit the pattern of opportunistic campus theft. Prof. Godoy’s office was the only one targeted, although it is located midway down a hallway of offices, all containing computers. The hard drive has no real resale value, so there seems no reason to take it unless the intention was to extract information. Lastly, the timing of this incident – in the wake of the recent publicity around our freedom of information lawsuit against the CIA regarding information on a suspected perpetrator of grave human rights violations in El Salvador – invites doubt as to potential motives.”
     The university’s police force is investigating the theft.
     Burglaries and harassment of human rights groups was common during the 1980s, in the United States and El Salvador, during that country’s vicious civil war.

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