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Where the Pentagon trains terrorists

Review by Lance Selfa | May 9, 2003 | Page 9

VIDEO: Hidden in Plain Sight, directed by John H. Smihula, narrated by Martin Sheen, a Raven's Call production. Visit

IN JANUARY 2001, Congress shut down the biggest terrorist training camp in the country--the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. The next day, the camp reopened under a more innocuous name, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

This was the latest ploy to hide what goes on at what activists call the "School of Assassins." But like all of its crimes, this was "hidden in plain sight"--a theme of the new documentary on the School and the struggle to shut it down.

Since founding it in Panama in 1947, the Pentagon has used the School to train thousands of Latin American army officers and police in counterinsurgency tactics. It trained generations of Latin American military officials who organized coups and carried out repression, torture and massacres against activists and trade unionists.

In addition to chronicling this history, Hidden in Plain Sight gives voice to SOA opponents and to the victims of SOA graduates. One of the film's most powerful scenes is U.S.-born nun Sister Diana Ortiz's description of the rape and torture she endured at the hands of Guatemalan officers who attended the SOA.

Hidden in Plain Sight also manages to get its cameras inside the School. These shots show just how much the School emphasizes human rights and democracy. More than 100 uniformed officers attend a military training course in a high-tech auditorium, while about five "students" discuss human rights in a small room with a few chairs.

Commentary from activist intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano and Michael Parenti set the controversy surrounding the School in a broader context of globalization, U.S. imperialism and the Cold War.

If you want to educate and organize opposition to U.S. intervention in Latin America and elsewhere, get a copy of Hidden in Plain Sight.

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