John Negroponte

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John D. Negroponte

John Dimitri Negroponte (born July 21, 1939) (IPA ) is a career diplomat currently serving as Director of National Intelligence for the United States. Negroponte served in the United States Foreign Service from 1960 to 1997 and was the US ambassador to the United Nations from September of 2001 until June 2004 and as US ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005.

He is considered a controversial figure by many on the left because he was involved in covert funding of the Contras in Nicaragua (see Iran-Contra Affair) and covered up human rights abuses carried out by CIA-trained operatives in Honduras in the 1980s. According to The New York Times, Negroponte carried out "the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinistas government in Nicaragua."



Negroponte was born in London. His father was a Greek shipping magnate. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1956 and Yale University in 1960. He later served at eight different Foreign Service posts in Asia, Europe and Latin America; and he also held important positions at the State Department and the White House. From 1997 until his appointment as ambassador to the UN, Negroponte was an executive with McGraw-Hill. Negroponte speaks five languages (Greek, Spanish, French, English, Vietnamese). He is the brother of Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab.

Ambassador to Honduras (1981 - 1985)

From 1981 to 1985 Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. During his tenure, he oversaw the growth of military aid to Honduras from $4 million to $77.4 million a year. Critics say that during his ambassadorship, human rights violations in Honduras became systematic.

The previous U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Jack Binns, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, made numerous complaints about human rights abuses by the Honduran military and claimed he fully briefed Negroponte on the situation before leaving the post. When the Reagan administration came to power, Binns was replaced by Negroponte, who has consistently denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing. Later, the Honduras Commission on Human Rights accused Negroponte himself of human rights violations.

Negroponte supervised the construction of the El Aguacate air base where Nicaraguan Contras were trained by the U.S., and which some critics say was used as a secret detention and torture center during the 1980s. In August 2001, excavations at the base discovered 185 corpses, including two Americans, who are thought to have been killed and buried at the site.

Records also show that a special intelligence unit (commonly referred to as a "death squad") of the Honduran armed forces, Battalion 3-16, trained by the CIA and the Argentine military, kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people, including U.S. missionaries. Critics charge that Negroponte knew about these human rights violations and yet continued to collaborate with the Honduran military while lying to Congress.

In May 1982, a nun, Sister Laetitia Bordes, who had worked for ten years in El Salvador, went on a fact-finding delegation to Honduras to investigate the whereabouts of thirty Salvadoran nuns and women of faith who fled to Honduras in 1981 after Archbishop Óscar Romero's assassination. Negroponte claimed the embassy knew nothing. However, in a 1996 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Negroponte's predecessor, Jack Binns, said that a group of Salvadorans, among whom were the women Bordes had been looking for, were captured on April 22, 1981, and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran Secret Police, and then later thrown out of helicopters alive.

In early 1984, two American mercenaries, Thomas Posey and Dana Parker, contacted Negroponte, stating they wanted to supply arms to the Contras after the U.S. Congress had banned further military aid. Documents show that Negroponte brought the two together with a contact in the Honduran armed forces. The operation was exposed nine months later, at which point the Reagan administration denied any U.S. involvement, despite Negroponte's introductions of some of the individuals. Other documents detailed a plan of Negroponte and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush to funnel Contra aid money through the Honduran government.

Subsequent investigations

In 1995, The Baltimore Sun published an extensive investigation of U.S. activities in Honduras. Speaking of Negroponte and other senior U.S. officials, an ex-Honduran congressman, Efraín Díaz, was quoted as saying:

Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed.

The Sun's investigation found that the CIA and U.S. embassy knew of numerous abuses but continued to support Battalion 3-16 and ensured that the embassy's annual human rights report did not contain the full story.

Substantial evidence subsequently emerged to support the contention that Negroponte was aware that serious violations of human rights were carried out by the Honduran government, with the support of the CIA, if perhaps not with its direct approval. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, on September 14, 2001, as reported in the Congressional Record, aired his suspicions on the occasion of Negroponte's nomination to the position of UN ambassador:

Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about government perpetuated human rights abuses than he chose to share with the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual State Department Human Rights reports. [1] (

Among other evidence, Dodd cited a cable sent by Negroponte in 1985 that made it clear that Negroponte was aware of the threat of "future human rights abuses" by "secret operating cells" left over by General Alvarez after his deposition in 1984.

In April 2005, as the Senate confirmation hearings for the National Intelligence post took place, hundreds of documents were released by the State Department in response to a FOIA request by the Washington Post. The documents, cables that Negroponte sent to Washington while serving as ambassador to Honduras, indicated that he played a more active role than previously known in managing the US covert war against the Sandinistas. According to Post, the image of Negroponte that emerges from the cables is that of an

exceptionally energetic, action-oriented ambassador whose anti-communist convictions led him to play down human rights abuses in Honduras, the most reliable U.S. ally in the region. There is little in the documents the State Department has released so far to support his assertion that he used "quiet diplomacy" to persuade the Honduran authorities to investigate the most egregious violations, including the mysterious disappearance of dozens of government opponents. [2] (

The New York Times wrote that the documents revealed

a tough cold warrior who enthusiastically carried out President Ronald Reagan's strategy. They show he sent admiring reports to Washington about the Honduran military chief, who was blamed for human rights violations, warned that peace talks with the Nicaraguan regime might be a dangerous "Trojan horse" and pleaded with officials in Washington to impose greater secrecy on the Honduran role in aiding the contras.
The cables show that Mr. Negroponte worked closely with William J. Casey, then director of central intelligence, on the Reagan administration's anti-Communist offensive in Central America. He helped word a secret 1983 presidential "finding" authorizing support for the contras, as the Nicaraguan rebels were known, and met regularly with Honduran military officials to win and retain their backing for the covert action. [3] (

According to investigative journalist Robert Parry ( the cables suggest that Negroponte

was so committed to his mission of making Honduras a base for Nicaraguan contra rebels that he routinely ignored troubling evidence about the Honduran government. At the time, the Reagan administration also had no interest in hearing critical information about key allies, like Honduras.
During his four years in Honduras, Negroponte often cast “a friendly eye” at the Honduran government, insisting that he was unaware of evidence of “death squad” operations that eliminated hundreds of political dissidents. He also turned a blind eye to the military’s role in making Honduras a way station for drug traffickers.[4] (

Ambassador to the UN (2001 - 2004)

When President Bush announced Negroponte's appointment to the UN shortly after coming to office, it was met with scattered protest. Some critics asserted that the administration intentionally arranged the deportation from the United States of several former Honduran death squad members who could have provided damaging testimony against Negroponte in his Senate confirmation hearings.

One of the deportees was General Luis Alonso Discua, founder of Battalion 3-16. In the preceding month, the U.S. government had revoked the visa of Discua, who was Honduras's Deputy Ambassador to the UN. After returning to Honduras, Discua stated that, in 1983, he had been brought to the United States to spend two months organizing Battalion 3-16. [5] (

Ambassador to Iraq (2004 - 2005)

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John D. Negroponte's remarks at swearing in ceremony as new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

On April 19, 2004, Negroponte was nominated by U.S. President George W. Bush to be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq after the June 30 handover of sovereignty. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 2004, by a vote of 95 to 3, and was officially sworn in on June 23, 2004, replacing L. Paul Bremer as the U.S.'s highest ranking American civilian in Iraq.

In the months Negroponte spent as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq he received plaudits, even from Bush administration critics such as Fred Kaplan, for his work tackling corruption in the U.S. administration in Iraq. [2]

National Intelligence Director (2005 - )

On February 17, 2005, President George W. Bush named Negroponte as the first Director of National Intelligence, a position created due to recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission completed late in 2004. On April 21, 2005, Negroponte was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 2 in the Senate, and subsequently sworn in.

External links

Favorable commentary


Preceded by:
Jack Binns
Ambassador to Honduras
Succeeded by:
John Arthur Ferch
Preceded by:
Charles J. Pilliod, Jr.
Ambassador to Mexico
Succeeded by:
Jeffrey S. Davidow
Preceded by:
Richard H. Solomon
Ambassador to the Philippines
Succeeded by:
Thomas C. Hubbard
Preceded by:
Richard Holbrooke
Ambassador to the United Nations
Succeeded by:
John Danforth
Preceded by:
L. Paul Bremer
(head of the Coalition Provisional Authority)
Ambassador to Iraq
Succeeded by:
Zalmay Khalilzad
Preceded by:
Director of National Intelligence
Succeeded by:

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