President Clinton has approved a secret $5 million plan authorizing the CIA to open a propaganda campaign to help ease the return of Haiti's exiled president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and to use covert means to protect American forces there from hostile military groups, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
In addition, the plan allows the administration to undertake unspecified "political actions" to counter possible efforts by Aristide's opponents to sabotage Haitian politics, the officials said.To avoid charges that the United States is interfering, the CIA does not have the authority to undertake political activities on its own, the officials added. But the vague nature of the term "political actions" has alarmed some lawmakers who fear that money could be used to corrupt politics in Haiti.
Administration officials briefed lawmakers last Wednesday about Clinton's order, known as a finding, as required by law.
Since then, the CIA has begun to use some of the $1 million earmarked for propaganda for covert radio broadcasts and to infiltrate military groups that might seek to harm American troops.
A number of lawmakers said they were convinced that under the covert operation, pro-military legislators elected under disputed circumstances could be paid off to step aside.
"I cannot discuss intelligence matters, but it would not be uncommon for the United States to get involved in some manner in promoting free and fair elections," said Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz.