Skip to main content

Full text of "QUESTIONS ABOUT PLANE'S ORIGINS GROW"

See other formats


Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/02/23 : CIA-RDP90-00965R000504870015-5 

• t*fP|FAPPfi)K9 'ft 

, I A\ ' A WASHINGTON POST 

U H UW . Ml . a 9 October 1986 


Questions About Plane’s Origins Grow 

Hill Units Probe Nicaragua’s Charge of U.S. Connection 


5 


^ By Joanne Omang 
and George C. Wilson 

W i'lnit«C"ii p.-r st. lit Writers 


New questions and conflicting 
information yesterday increased the 
uncertainty over the origins and 
sponsorship of a' cargo plane loaded 
with weapons that was shot down in 
Nicaragua, as two congressional 
probes began focusing on possible 
U.S. links to the plane. 

The top military commander of 
the Nicaraguan rebel force known 
as contras said the flight had been 
bringing in supplies for his troops in 
southern Nicaragua, but echoed 
Reagan administration officials in 
saying that the U.S. government 
had “nothing to do” with the event. 
[Details, Page A29.| 

The State Department com- 
plained that Nicaragua’s leftist San- 
dimsta government had refused to 
receive consular representatives 
trying to see Eugene Hasenfus. 45, 
a U.S. citizen and the sole survivor 
of the crash. State Department 
hpokesman Charles E. Redman said 
the incident “raises the questiorvmf 
whether a U.S. embassy can func- 
tion normally in Nicaragua.” 

Yesterday evening, Nicaragua’s 
U.N. ambassador, Nora Astorga, 
said on PBS' “Mac Neil/ Lehrer 
NewsHour" that U.S. Embassy of- 
ficials would be allowed to visit Ha- 
senfus in the next day or two. 


Intelligence officials told mem- 
bers of Congress in a closed brief- 
ing that two Americans killed in the 
^ crash, pilot William J. Cooper and 
X copilot 'Wallace Btame Sawyer Jr. , 
^ 4 1, of frlagnolia. Ark., had worked 

for the Central Intelligence Agency 
“ years ago ,T but were rio" longer on 
t he payroll, according to congres - 
s ional sources. A t hird person killed 
in the crash was identified only as a 
Latin American. 

The sources said that mem bers 
vC of Congress were told that Hasen - 
f us was not a former lIa employe . 
But in Marinette, Wis., an old friend 
of Hasenfus recalled that he “was 



SOLTH£RN AIR TRANSPORT 

Nicaragua says identity card of pilot William Cooper was found at crash site. 


always talking about what he’d done 
when he worked for them” 20 years 


ago, Washington Post correspon- 
dent Kevin Klose reported. 

Hasenfus' cousin, Jack, said Sally 
Hasenfus, the wife of the captured 
American, flew to Miami yesterday 
to meet State Department officials. 
He said he understood that the de- 
partment was trying to arrange a 
reunion between Hasenfus and his 
wife. 

The congressional sources 
quoted the intelligence officials as 
saying the airplane had flown into 
Nicaragua from llopango Air Base 
in El Salvador, a tightly guarded 
Salvadoran military facility. But the 
intelligence officials told members 
of Congress they had not yet sorted 
out the sponsor or sponsors of the 
operation,' according to those who 
heard the briefing. 

Although the House panel spans 
the political spectrum, "nobody got 
excited about the mission,” accord- 
ing to one source. “We all know this 
has been going on for years. This 
time they just got caught.” 

Another source at the meeting 
said the incident is not likely to af- 
fect Congress’ attitude toward the 
contras or toward the $100 million 
in aid awaiting final approval. Those 
who support the aid think that ear- 
lier approval would have allowed 
professionals to take over the con- 
fr*b’ effort to overthrow the San- 
dmtatas and saved these three lives, 
thd source said. 


-The day’s developments cast new 
doqbt on the kind of plane involved 
m the crash. The Nicaraguan gov- 
ernment has identified it as a U.S.- 
bodt C123 Provider, a big military 
transport used extensively in the 
Vietnam war, but Defense Depart- 
ment spokesmen said televised pic- 
tures from the crash site appeared 
to show a Canadian-built C7 trans- 
port, which has short takeoff and 
landing capability. 

In Miami, William Kress, a 
spokesman for Southern Air Trans- 
port Co., who had previously denied 
all knowledge of the flight, said a 
search of company records had 
found that Cooper was issued a 
Southern Air identity card last April 
to allow him access to company 
grounds to do repair work on the 
plane that crashed. "We did main- 
tenance on the aircraft that 
crashed," he said, and identified it 
as a C123, adding that it was not 
owned by Southern Air. 

Kress also said that Sawyer had 
once worked for the company but 
left last year. 

FBI officials said yesterday that 
two of their agents visited Southern 
Air offices as part of a probe into 
possible violations of the U.S. Neu- 
trality Act, which prohibits Amer- 
icans from engaging in hostile acts 
against countries not at war with 
the United States. 


STAT 


Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/02/23 : CIA-RDP90-00965R000504870015-5 


Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/02/23 : CIA-RDP90-00965R000504870015-5 


Senate Foreign Relations Commit- 
tee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R- 
Ind. ) said his committee will inves- 
ti gate the crash. And Sen. David F. 
Dur enberger (R-MinaJ. chairman of 
th e Select Committee on Intelli- 
gence. said “there will he many im 
vestigations” into the incident. 

The was confusion over the 
plane's registration number and the 
history of the crew members. 

Initial Nicaraguan government 
reports gave the registration num- 
ber as C-824, which appears to be a 
military classification type used by 

the Salvadoran armed forces. Sal- 
vadoran government spokesmen 
refused to comment on the num- 
bers or on similar numbers that the 
Nicaraguans said Hasenfus had giv- 
en them for other planes allegedly 
parked at Ilopango. 

A registration number published 
in Sandinista newspapers yester- 
day, N-44-10F, was traced by the 
Federal Aviation Administration as 


oL . 


belonging as of Aug. 2 to a C123K 
owned by Doan Helicopters Inc. of 
Daytona Beach, Fla. No one at 
Doan returned calls. 

In Magnolia, Ark., Sawyer’s fa- 
ther, Wallace Blaine Sawyer Sr., 
told Washington Post special cor- 
respondent T. James Munoz that 
his son was graduated from the Air 
Force Academy in 1968 and had 
served six years in the Air Force as 
a cargo plane pilot, part of the time 
in Vietnam. Afterward he flew con- 
tract missions In Thailand, Sawyer 
said, and has been a contract pilot 
“all over the world” since 1975. 

I am satisfied that my son was 
not a military adviser,” Sawyer said. 
“As far as I know, this is not a U.S. 
government plane. I satisfied my- 
self with talking to him that he does 
not work for the CIA. But if in fact 
he is involved In this situation, I 
have admiration for him.” 

A Defense Department spokes- 
man, however, said military records 
do not show that Sawyer spent time 
in Vietnam. 

Pentagon officials also said “sev- 
eral hundred" William Coopers had 
served in the U.S, armed forces and 
that they could not be certain 
whether one of them was the dead 
pilot. 

In Marinette, Richard C. Johnson 


quoted Hasenfus as having said that 
“an old buddy from 20 years ago” 
had recruited him. “My country has 
called me and I’m going to go,” Ha- 
senfus reportedly said. 

"I k ? ew he was wit h the CIA 20 
year s^back Eauae h» u, Jg always: 
talking about what he'd done when 
D- e worke< ^ t° r them." ionns d n~said .~ 
Hasenfus l oved to tell" anecdo tes 
, from the years when he was a high- 
gaid employe of Air America, the 
clandestine airline the CIA operated 
in southeast Asia during the Viet- 
nam war, fohnson said 
President Reagan, asked yester- 
day whether he approved of private 
supply efforts for the contras, told 
reporters, “Well, were in a free 
country where private citizens have 
a great many freedoms.” 

He later responded to questions 
shouted to him about the resignation 
of State Department spokesman Ber- 
nard Kalb and the plane. “No one on 
our side has been lying to anyone,” 
he said. To the reporters who asked 
the questions, it was unclear which 
one he was answering or what “our l 
side” meant. White House spokes- * 
man Larry Speakes said the answer 
referred to “both questions.” 

5- itf writer Joe Pichirallo 
contributed to this report. 


Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/02/23 : CIA-RDP90-00965R000504870015-5