Top U.S. generals warned years ago that Peru's "you fly, you die" anti-drug smuggling program could lead "to the death of innocent persons."
Newly declassified documents revealed that Pentagon officials voiced objections in May 1994 to the kind of counter-narcotics operations that led to last Friday's shooting down of a suspected drug plane that was instead carrying American missionaries.
Baptist missionary Veronica "Roni" Blowers and her 7-month-old daughter Charity were killed when a Peruvian air-force jet -- guided by a CIA surveillance aircraft -- shot down their group's small Cessna plane.
The documents were obtained by the National Security Archive, a nongovernment research group.
"I think these documents are significant because they show that there were people in the Pentagon who were warning seven years ago that something like this week's tragedy in Peru was likely going to happen," said the NSA's Michael Evans.
The papers reveal a massive debate inside the Clinton administration over whether to continue to provide "real time" radar tracking data to the Peruvian and Colombian governments, which had just announced the get-tough policy of shooting down suspected drug planes whose pilots refused to land.
According to State Department memos, the Pentagon heatedly objected to the change in the South American countries' policies.
The Pentagon also believed that the use of force against civilian aircraft is "inconsistent with international law."