CIA officials caused the deaths of an American mother and child in a tragic plane shootdown above Peru, according to a blistering new report, by operating a counter-drug program outside the rules for six years and then lying about it to their superiors.
The report also says that after Roni Bowers and her daughter Charity died, the officials tried to cover up how it happened by "repeatedly" lying to Congress. Details from the report, and footage from the 2001 shootdown, are featured in this week's edition of "Brian Ross Investigates."
The CIA inspector general's report details "an environment of negligence" in which nearly two dozen officials knowingly participated in the shootdown of the Bowers plane and 14 other aircraft over the Peruvian jungle between 1996 and 2001 without following the established rules. While the program was in operation, according to the report, the officials misled their superiors and the National Security Council about the procedures being followed, and assured them that no planes were being shot down until it was certain they were drug planes.
After the Bowers shoot down in April 2001, according to the report, the officials tried to cover up their mistakes by "misrepresent[ing] the Agency's performance [in]almost a dozen Congressional briefings and hearings." The report cites numerous violations, omissions, and falsehoods, and even suggests that the CIA's general counsel interfered with a Department of Justice investigation into the shootdown. The Department of Justice said it would prosecute the officials for lying and the deaths of Roni and Charity Bowers, according to the report, if the CIA did not work out an "administrative" plan to discipline them.
On April 20, 2001, Jim and Veronica "Roni" Bowers and their two children, six-year-old son Cory and infant daughter Charity, were returning to their home in Peru from a trip to Brazil in a small airplane piloted by Kevin Donaldson.
The Bowers' worked as Christian missionaries along a stretch of the Amazon River near Iquitos, Peru, a remote jungle region near the Brazilian and Colombian borders heavily traveled by drug traffickers.
The CIA and the Peruvian Air Force were working in the same area, trying to interdict drug smugglers. Starting in 1995, they'd operated a joint program to intercept civilian aircraft suspected of smuggling drugs from South America to the U.S., shooting them down if necessary.
A CIA spotter plane saw the Cessna in which the Bowers family was flying and alerted the Peruvian Air Force, which shot them down, killing Roni and Charity. Jim Bowers, Cory and pilot Kevin Donaldson survived after their plane crash-landed .