University break-in may have compromised sensitive info in lawsuit vs. CIA

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Police at the University of Washington in Seattle are looking into a campus break-in that reportedly resulted in a hard-drive being stolen that contained sensitive information involving a lawsuit against the CIA, The Seattle Times reported.

Authorities could not pinpoint when exactly the burglary occurred, but estimated that the crime occurred sometime between Thursday and Sunday. The paper reported that the burglary occurred in the office of Dr. Angelina Godoy in the school’s Center for Human Rights.

The stolen hard drive reportedly contained “about 90 percent of the information” in a freedom of information lawsuit that alleges that the CIA illegally withheld information about an El Salvador army officer during its 1980s civil war. Godoy said in a statement that the center has backups of the stolen data.

There was no sign of forced entry and it appeared that the office was carefully searched and not ransacked.

To possibly add a new element to the break-in, it occurred sometime around the time that CIA Director John Brennan spoke at the school’s law school.  Godoy said it could be a "common crime" and the school’s vice president played down Brennan's visit.

The lawsuit alleges the CIA has withheld documents regarding retired Salvadoran Army Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Perez, who is under criminal investigation in his own country for alleged involvement in the killings of civilians during the civil war in the 1980s.

It also challenges the CIA's denial of records relating to UCLA professor Philippe Bourgois, who survived a massacre in Santa Cruz, El Salvador.

The lawsuit alleges there is ample evidence that Ochoa Perez led the troops who opened fire on unarmed civilians at Santa Cruz on Nov. 14, 1981, and again in the town of El Calabozo in August 1981.

"What worries us most is not what we have lost, but what someone else may have gained," the center wrote in a news release obtained by the paper. "The files include sensitive details of personal testimonies and pending investigations.

The UW Center for Human Rights claims that numerous CIA records discussing the colonel are publicly available in the Library of Congress.

However, the CIA — in response to a FOIA request by third-year law student Mina Manuchehri filed in 2013 — has said it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of records regarding Ochoa Perez's service as a military commander during the alleged massacres.

"The CIA has wrongfully withheld the records," the lawsuit alleges. "There is a substantial strong public interest in the disclosure of the documents requested."

The Associated Press contributed to this report