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[update - US, Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting by Allan Nairn]

Adm. Blair Poor Choice as Director of National Intelligence, Says Rights Group

Blair’s History with Indonesia and East Timor Raises Questions about Likely Nominee

Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391
Ed McWilliams, +1-703-899-5285

January 7 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called Adm. Dennis Blair “a poor choice for intelligence director." The group urged President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and make a break from past policies that have undermined human rights worldwide.

"During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

"Admiral Blair undermined U.S. policy in the months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999," said Ed McWilliams, a senior U.S. embassy official in Jakarta at the time. "While senior State Department officials were pressing the Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a distinctly different line with his military counterparts. As Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese."


"The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press U.S. Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general," said McWilliams.

"Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day,” added Miller.

"The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press U.S. Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general," said McWilliams.

In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory.


As Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command from February 1999 to May 2002, Blair was the highest ranking U.S. military official in the region during the final period of Indonesia’s violent occupation of East Timor. During that time he undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit military assistance.

In April 1999, Blair met in Jakarta with General Wiranto, then the Defense Minister and the commander of Indonesian forces, just two day after dozens of refugees in a Catholic church in the town of Liquica, East Timor were hacked to death with machetes by militia members backed by the military (including Kopassus) and Brimob troops.

Instead of pressuring Wiranto to shut down the militias, Blair promised new military assistance, which the Indonesian military "took as a green light to proceed with the militia operation," according to Allan Nairn, writing in the Nation magazine. In fact just weeks later, refugees from the attack in Liquicia were again attacked and killed in the capital in Dili.

Nairn reported that a classified cable summarizing the meeting said that Admiral Blair "told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest... [Blair] expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to... selected TNI [Indonesian military] personnel on crowd control measures." Nairn writes that the last offer was "quite significant, because it would be the first new U.S. training program for the Indonesian military since 1992."

Princeton University's Bradley Simpson writes "According to top secret CIA intelligence summary issued after the [Liquica] massacre, however (and recently declassified by the author through a Freedom of Information Act request), 'Indonesian military had colluded with pro-Jakarta militia forces in events preceding the attack and were present in some numbers at the time of the killings.'"

In the bloody aftermath of East Timor's independence vote, "Blair and other U.S. military officials took a forgiving view of the violence surrounding the referendum in East Timor. Given the country's history, they argued, it could have been worse," reported the Washington Post's Dana Priest.

U.S.-trained Indonesian military officers were among those allegedly involved in crimes against humanity in East Timor. "But at no point, Blair acknowledges, did he or his subordinates reach out to the Indonesian contacts trained through IMET or JCET [U.S.-funded programs] to try to stop the brewing crisis," wrote Priest. "It is fairly rare that the personal relations made through an IMET course can come into play in resolving a future crisis," he told her.

Despite Blair's repeated overtures and forgiving attitude to Indonesia's military elite, they were of no help in his post-military role as chair of the Indonesia Commission at the influential Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, Blair headed a delegation of observers who intended to visit West Papua. The government refused to let them in, with the Foreign Minister declaring that "there is no need for them to come to Papua."

The reason was clear: West Papua has become the new focus of Indonesian military and militia brutality and outside observers are not welcome. Though Blair's dream of renewed military engagement with Indonesia has been realized under the Bush administration, the Indonesian military's human rights violations continue, as does impunity for its senior officers.

General Wiranto was indicted in February 2003 by a UN-backed court in East Timor for his command role in the 1999 violence. The attack on the Liquica church is among the crimes against humanity cited in the indictment. He is currently a leading candidate for President of Indonesia in elections to take place next year.

ETAN was formed in 1991. The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. ETAN was a major participant in the International Federation for East Timor's (IFET) observer mission for the 1999 referendum. For more information see ETAN's web site:


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

US, Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting.

By Allan Nairn

On the eve of his Senate confirmation hearing (due for 10am, Thurs. Jan. 22), new information has emerged showing that Adm. Dennis Blair -- President Obama's nominee for US Director of National Intelligence -- lied about his knowledge of a terrorist massacre that occurred before a pivotal meeting in which Blair offered support and US aid to the commander of the massacre forces.

The massacre took place on at the Liquica Catholic church in Indonesian-occupied East Timor two days before Blair met face-to-face with the Indonesian armed forces commander, Gen. Wiranto (the massacre occurred on April 6, 1999; Blair and Wiranto met April 8).

A classified US cable shows that rather than telling Wiranto to stop the killing, Blair invited Wiranto to be his guest in Hawaii, offered him new US military aid, and told the Indonesian general that he was "working hard" on his behalf, lobbying the US government to restore US military training aid for Indonesia. (That training had been cut off by Congress after the 1991 Dili, Timor massacre; for an account of the US cable and the April 8, '99 Blair-Wiranto meeting see News and Comment posting of Jan. 6, 2009 at

Blair's support at that crucial April 8 meeting buoyed Wiranto, and his forces increased the Timor killings, which came to include new attacks on churches and clergy, mass arsons, and political rapes. (For a detailed chronology based on a UN report, see News and Comment posting of Jan. 9, 2009 at

Since I disclosed the contents of that Blair-Wiranto meeting in a report filed in 1999 (see Allan Nairn, "US Complicity in Timor," The Nation [US], Sept. 27, 1999, reprinted in the Jan. 6 '09 News and Comment posting referenced above), Blair has defended himself by claiming that he went into the meeting with Wiranto not yet knowing of the Liquica massacre.

The Associated Press reported this month, in a January 9 dispatch: "Blair has said he only learned of the massacre a few days after the meeting." (Pamela Hess, "Obama to finalize national security team Friday," Associated Press, Friday Jan. 9, 2009, 4:22 am ET; Blair made the same claim to the Washington Post: Dana Priest, "Standing Up to State and Congress," September 30, 2000).

But now, contemporaneous records have emerged -- from the US Embassy in Jakarta, and from the Catholic Church -- showing that the massacre was publicly described by Timor's Bishop one day before the Blair-Wiranto meeting, and that while Blair was in Jakarta preparing for the meeting, US officials who were there with him were discussing the massacre in graphic detail.

One written message from a US official even noted: "In the face of the scores of horrible slash wounds at Liquica, there are no surgeons to treat them."

The US official was referring to the fact that, as had been disclosed at the Timor Bishop's April 7 press conference, dozens of refugees sheltering in the church had been hacked to death with machetes, but as Blair and Wiranto prepared to meet, some those slashed were still living.

Another Jakarta dispatch by senior US personnel written prior to the Blair-Wiranto sitdown refers explicitly to Blair's presence, to his impending meeting with Wiranto, and, crucially, to the detail and rough death toll of the already-known Liquica massacre.

"[W]e have the CINCPAC here today (Command[e]r in Chief of the Pacific]," the message said, referring to Blair by title; and it stated, in regard to what Wiranto's men had done: "Now we may have 40 people -- who were cowering in a church -- dead."

Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, had made the key facts of the massacre clear in his April 7, 1999 press conference, which took place the day before the Blair-Wiranto meeting.

Belo was accompanied by Father Rafael Dos Santos, the Liquica pastor who survived the massacre. Their authoritative accounts received same-day coverage in the Western and local press and were also recounted in church bulletins and in US intelligence and diplomatic traffic.

For Blair to claim that he did not know of these materials or his US colleagues' discussions taking place all around him is to strain credulity to the breaking point, especially since he's being nominated as intelligence chief, and since his meeting with Wiranto was cleared by Washington precisely to address the Timor crisis.

Bishop Belo and Father Dos Santos said the following in their publicly broadcast remarks. This account is excerpted from "Timorese Bishop says more than 25 killed in church massacre," DILI, East Timor, April 7 [1999], (AFP):

"Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo accused Indonesian-backed militia on Wednesday [April 7] of massacring more than 25 people in East Timor outside a church. Belo was speaking at a press conference with Father Rafael Dos Santos who described how refugees sheltering in his church and home at Liquisa [an alternate spelling of Liquica], 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the Timorese capital Dili, were hacked down with machetes. Dos Santos said Indonesian mobile brigade police stood behind the militia during the attack, and fired into the air. When the attack began 'people ran for cover wherever they could,' he said. Some ran into his house and some into the church before being forced out when troops fired teargas into the buildings. 'When they came out of the church, their eyes streaming, they were mown down, hacked to death with machetes, by the Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron militia),' he said ... Belo travelled to Liquisa earlier Wednesday to visit the site of the attack with Indonesia's East Timor military commander Colonel Tono Suratman. 'I have a paper from the military commander that there were 25 bodies inside the priest's house,' he said, 'but according to other witnesses outside around the church there were other bodies. I don't know exactly how many.' Belo had been quoted by the Portugese news agency Lusa on Tuesday [April 6] as saying he had first been informed by the Indonesian military of the deaths of 40 people in the church and five in the priest's house... 'Firstly I am sad, for what happened in Liquisa ... secondly I am ashamed to be a citizen of the (Indonesian) republic. It has taken us back to the middle ages,' Belo said."

We shall now see where the Senate takes us.

(For another contemporaneous -- April 7, pre - Blair/Wiranto meeting -- public report of the massacre see the report of Yayasan HAK, the leading independent East Timorese human rights group, summarized at







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