Subject: Interview with FBI CISPES infiltrator Frank Varelli (Reproduced with the permissi

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Subject: Interview with FBI CISPES infiltrator Frank Varelli (Reproduced with the permission of the FUND FOR OPEN INFORMATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY, Inc). EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW WITH FRANK VARELLI FORMER FBI INFORMER, AND INFILTRATOR OF CISPES. Q: Did you know of this guideline from the Attorney General that said that investigations are only permitted when there's a reasonable indication that a crime is being committed or may be committed? A: No. I know that a guideline that existed but like I said before, foreign counter intelligence unit of the FBI doesn't wait for a crime to be committed before they will go into a group-infiltrate a group and determine if that group is violent or what. They will go first and later, they will give an explanation. In every case, all over the country that I was able to recall, investigations were opened based just on the fact that CISPES was a left-wing liberal group opposing the Reagan administration. Nobody had at that time, any reasonable doubt that any crimes were being committed. The groups of CISPES were penetrated...Were infiltrated just on the assumption that these people were going to do something in the near future...Mr. Ron Davenport, the head of the terrorism unit of El Salvador once told me, I don't care what you do but go and get those guns. And-he was talking that I should go to CISPES and find guns. Q: Did you tell him there were no guns? A: I told him and that was really hard for me. I told him how in the world, I was going to see guns when there were none... Q: In 1983, you said that the investigation took a turn to be more aggressive? Why did they decide they needed to become more aggressive? A: Because CISPES was speaking at that time in a more aggressive way too. And-CISPES was bringing out a lot of facts.You know, a lot of the reality of El Salvador and they were not very happy with that. There were many teletypes coming from headquarters and guidelines indicating which way to go. And based on those guidelines and based on those demands that were being put on the Dallas office...pressure was put on me. Q: What kind of pressure? A: Well we moved from a kind of observant position into a position and I was told that the Bureau wanted to get an apartment. So I could start seducing this nun that is the head of the CISPES group. Her name is Linda Hay and they wanted to- Q: They wanted you to seduce a nun? A: Yes. Yeah. Because she was the head of CISPES and one of the most outspoken persons that I've known. Q: What did they tell you? What did they ask you to do? How did they say that? A: Well, I explained to them that in one of the meetings, that I've had - at the beginning of 1983, one of the nuns in an affectionate play, had kissed me on the cheek...a very innocent brotherly type of you know gesture that I appreciated very much at that time. And-of course, I told them what happened and I explained to them the circumstances under which those things-I explained the circumstances under which those things have happened. Because it was there in a public gathering in front of everyone and there was no malice involved in it. But I was reprimanded by special agent, Dan Flanagan and I was told that I should never forget who my friends are and where my loyalties are supposed to be and I should always remember who my enemies are. And I was told that since they liked me so much...Why I didn't start trying to seduce this nun. Q: And all because she had given you a peck on the cheek? A: Yes. Yeah. And-and that the Bureau was going to provide an apartment with cameras and you know...With sound equipment and everything. So we could film the nun in very compromising position because as Dan Flannigan put it, "Once we do it, we have her in our hand."... Q: Did you consider her a dangerous enemy and a terrorist when you wrote this? A: No. I didn't consider her my enemy nor a terrorist but this was the job that was set for me. If I would have not presented this report this way, they would have not received it. They would not have accepted that report. If I wrote a different report like saying, "Well, according to my standards, she's not dangerous but according to the Bureau's standards, yes she is." That would have been thrown out. See, there are two standards. One for outside people and one for inside according to inside...According to the inside attitude. According to the frame of mind of the FBI. Yes. This nun is dangerous. According to the law, of the United States of America, she is not dangerous. She is only an outspoken person...That it has very deep-rooted convictions of what she's doing, of what she believes in-and everyone in this country has the right to say what they want to... Q: Were you under pressure to make your reports conform to those guidelines? A: Yes. Because it was assumed from the beginning, they were Communist, they were terrorist...and that's it. If not, there would have not been any purpose in me going there. And I have to add, I was never you know, any volunteer whatsoever to the Bureau. They came after me. They sought my services because they said that I had all the qualities to be a good spy. And I had knowledge of the Salvadoran culture...religion, traditions, language. And that's what they needed. And they needed a person who would speak English too, that would know theology, that would know a lot of Marxism, Leninism things. Like in this particular case that I've pointed out, Sister Linda was knowledgeable about Marxism-Leninism. Well I've known thousands of people in the United States that can give you a lecture, entire lecture on Marxism-Leninism. But never Communists or anything like that. Q: I want to talk about your activities with the Salvadoran National Guard. What was your relationship with the Salvadoran National Guard and how did you get involved with them? A: My father and the National Guard come a long way. My father was director of the National Police of El Salvador. He was ambassador of El Salvador to Guatemala. And of course he had a very successful career in the army of El Salvador. He holds the rank of colonel. I knew everyone in the National Guard. And the officers in 1981 were old friends of mine. The Bureau knew this and they brought it up and we would discuss how close I was, and Special Agent Dan Flanagan proposed that I should go to the National Guard and try to establish a direct link with the Bureau and the National Guard. The FBI wanted to avoid, wanted to circumvent the normal channels of intelligence. They wanted to make sure that the information that was being sent through the CIA and the state department from El Salvador will get here because they described to me that there was a lot of trouble with the CIA of not trusting each other. So I flew to El Salvador in 1981 in April and went directly to the office of the Colonel. I gave him a business card from a special agent Dan Flanagan and I told Colonel Cassanovo that I had been authorized by the FBI and the Justice Department to go and talk to him, that we needed to establish here in the United States a direct link with their intelligence unit because the program that the FBI wanted to implement and the Justice Department wanted to implement and the Reagan administration wanted to implement was to squeeze Communists from both sides. Get them in El Salvador if possible and get them here. Either way. Q: In 1981, there was a lot of death squad activity in El Salvador, right? A: Yes. Q: And what was the role of the National Guard at the time in the death squads? A: The National Guard did play and has played a major role in the death squad activity of El Salvador. Q: Did the FBI know that when they sent you down there to establish contact? A: If they did not know at that time, they sure knew it after I returned. Because I brought death squad lists that had been provided to me by the National Guard and some that had been prepared right there at the National Guard just for me to bring. Q: What do you mean prepared? A: Well they were typed, you know? There were names, a list of individuals that were sentenced to death by the right-wing death squad. That supposedly was made by this group but I actually saw, at least the last page being prepared there by members of the National Guard. Q: Well Mr. Varelli, couldn't it have been that the National Guard was preparing this list of people that they needed to protect because they knew that they had been targeted by death squads? I mean why do you assume that the National Guard was preparing this list of people that they were going to kill? A: Because contrary to what a lot of people have said, the National Guard of El Salvador...like from the national police of El Salvador... There were death squads operating you know...Out of... Q: Inside the National Guard? A: Yes. Q: You knew that? A: Yes. Q: And you told that FBI that? A: Yes, I told them. Q: You came back to the United States and went to the FBI and what happened? A: I made my report about my meeting with Cassanovo and how he had approved that we could call straight to the National Guard Intelligence Unit and that they were going to provide the FBI with any kind of information that was needed. And also that we could request, we can exchange services, with them. I presented the different lists of individuals that were included in those death squad lists and I told them that I believed that there were many innocent people included in that list because of some personal problem or somebody that was in charge of preparing the list. Q: What people? A: The people in the death squads were very serious and they had already started killing people. And I told them that they were going to make sure that they would finish the list. I expressed to them also my desire to clean the list of all the names of people that I felt were innocent. But I was never given opportunity to clear the list of all those names of innocent people. But also, I made a recommendation that people included in that list that were traveling to the United States, should be warned or if possible, protected because if elements of the right-wing death squads of El Salvador were living here in the United States, they were going to make sure that they would finish that list even here in the United States. So, Flanagan received and passed along to the entire unit, up to headquarters, to Washington. But the list was never clear of the people that were killed. Q: You had an ongoing relationship from that point on with the National Guard? A: Yes. Q: What kinds of things would you talk to them about? What would you tell them? A: We would exchange information. We would provide them with names of individuals that will be traveling to El Salvador... Q: Americans? A: Americans, people that were just traveling to visit, religious members, members of religious orders...Another thing that we would do is in case people were deported, Salvadoran citizens were being deported, yes, we did call ahead of time, and we confirm to the Guard that people were being deported from the United States and that we thought they were terrorists. Sometimes they were able to get to the airport on time and get some. Sometimes they were not so successful. Now, I do not know if they ever killed anybody as a result of those calls, but I wouldn't be surprised either. Q: You called the National Guard when Salvadoran citizens were being deported from this country back to El Salvador? A: Yes. Q: And told them that these people were- A: Communists Members of the F.D.R. or F.M.L.N. Q: Isn't that dangerous to tell the National Guard in the early eighties? A: Yes. It was. And it still is. It is. But I was-I was only obeying orders. My orders- Q: From? A: From the FBI that came directly from the Attorney General. And even though I am a citizen-well, I was born in El Salvador, and that is my people, I am an American citizen above all. And I felt that my responsibilities, you know, were to my government that had requested my service in a time of need, of danger, because that's how they present it. So, you know, I was convinced that I was doing right. Q: Now, they called you from time to time and asked you for information? A: Yes, Q: What kind of information did they ask you? A: Sometimes if we knew of demonstrations. Remember, there was a big demonstration on June 12th in New York, and there was a other one in Washington, if I'm not wrong. And also-of groups involved in - like CISPES, that were opposing the Reagan Administration. Those names of those individuals were reported there to El Salvador first so they could put them on file, second, because they will make that official statement to the press indicating that there were communists in the United States influencing the United States Congress and opposing the good policy of President Reagan. Therefore, since they are even doing that in the United States, then let's kill them here. Q: Did the National Guard ever ask you for information about specific people? A: Yes, they did. Q: Do you remember who? A: Well, like when Father Roy, I guess you pronounce it [unintelligible]- Q: Bourgeois? A: Bourgeois. A member of the Maryknoll order came down to El Salvador and disappeared. And there was a problem if he had-if he had actually been kidnapped or killed, or what was going on. He later showed up in the American Embassy... Q: Did the National Guard call you up a lot? A: Yes, they did. Q: What types of things did they ask you? A: Background information we had about groups. You see, if for example an American had traveled to El Salvador, and he was from an organization called NACLA, North American Council on Latin America, or American Friend Service Committee, or the Institute for Policy Studies, I will go back to the Bureau and request background information on those groups. Immediately it will show up that yes, they've been active in a left wing, and even with communists, since the sixties, seventies, and all that. There was all that kind of background information. I would relay that information to the National Guard so by the time that people arrive in El Salvador they already knew. Q: Where would you get the information? A: From the FBI. Of course, there's files there. They're computerized. Q: Why did you give the National Guard the name of the Coalition for New Foreign and Military Policy? A: Because they are also in the files of the FBI, and that's where the information was obtained from. And the Bureau has it there because the Coalition for New Foreign and Military Policy has been very outspoken, and according to FBI records, they are even supported by the Soviets. They claim to have information that the Soviets are handing money to this organization. Q: And were Coalition members going to El Salvador? A: At a certain point in time, people travel from all these organizations, and from the Coalition, yes. Somebody traveled there. I don't recall at this very moment who did. Q: But the Guard called you up or you called them up? A: Well, if we had knowledge, previous knowledge of the trip, we will call... Q: Did you always give addresses and phone numbers for organizations that they were interested in? A: No, only the ones that we were more interested that they will keep an eye on. I mean, if I gave a name following the orders from my superior officers there in the FBI, that meant that if they will take care of anybody belonging to that organization down there in El Salvador everyone will be happier here. When I say "to take care," that is any name or any organization, they belong to any organization that we had provided the names-if they would take care in the sense of killing them, it will be better. Q: Was this the Bureau's attitude? A: Yes, sir. Through Flanagan, and there are many others that I came in contact with, said that if the death squads in El Salvador will kill the communists it will be much better for the United States, because that way it will save time and headaches, and in a cynical way the taxpayer's money. Q: Mr. Varelli, excuse me, but it's difficult to believe that agents of the FBI would say that it would be okay and in fact better than okay if Salvadoran death squads would kill Americans in El Salvador. That's hard to believe. A: You see, in that field, in this operation, remember, keep in mind that it's not Americans, you know, it's not the FBI protecting the country. It's the FBI protecting themselves and what they believe that they are by law to protect. They don't care if it's American, Soviet, Africa, whatever. The basic principle, and I was taught that constantly, is us against them. "Them" meaning everyone out of the FBI. "Us," everyone inside. And they don't care color, they don't care about nationality, religious position. And they just care about, you know, protecting, you know, or carrying out the orders that they are given. So it doesn't surprise me a bit. Q: What possible good would it do for the National Guard to have an address in Washington of this group? A: Well, we learned that the Guard, National Police, or the death squads from El Salvador were interested in gathering intelligence, gathering information on where or who was opposing the aid to El Salvador so they can also carry on activities here. Q: What type of activities? A: Well, bombing, arson, or just plain- Q: In the United States? A: In the United States, yes sir. Because there's a large Latin American community and there's a lot of money, also from the people, you know, that are willing to pay at this time- Q: Did anybody from the National Guard or from any organization in El Salvador tell you that they were prepared to commit arson or break-ins or any kind of criminal acts inside the United States? A: Yes sir. Q: Who told you that? A: Well, a number of people that I knew live in the Miami area. Q: Did any officers in the National Guard in El Salvador tell you that? A: Yes. Q: How common was it for you to give the National Guard in these phone calls that you had with them fairly frequently addresses in the United states of organizations that were opposed to the Reagan administration policy? A: They received every single organization that might be left-wing or against the Reagan Administration policies. All the organizations, their names, addresses, and phone numbers, all of those names were sent to El Salvador. We gave them to them because it was a reciprocal type of operation that we were having. ----------- Subscriptions to OUR RIGHT TO KNOW, a special double issue, where you can read this, and much more, can be gotten from: FOIA, Inc, 145 West 4th St. NY NY 10012. A year's subscription is $10, and is tax deductible. Enquire about bulk orders. Also, check out COVERT ACTION INFORMATION BULLETIN, the latest issue is on the "Religious Right". Obtainable from: P.O. BOX 50272,

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