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Oct. 26--The Dayton Daily News waged a 20-month legal battle with the Peace Corps and interviewed more than 500 people in 11 countries to obtain the information for "Casualties of Peace," the seven-part series that begins today.
Since February 2002, reporters filed more than 75 requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act with the Peace Corps, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of State. The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to provide the public with access to government records.
Initially, the Peace Corps refused to acknowledge several of the newspaper's written requests and appeals. When it did send records, the agency removed the dates when attacks occurred, the names of countries, the names of some Peace Corps officials, the names of volunteers who died, and the identities of attackers, even those who had been arrested or convicted.
The Peace Corps also initially refused to answer specific questions about assaults.
While the Peace Corps denied reporters information on assaults against volunteers, authorities in other countries provided access to the same information.
Reporters traveled to Russia, Ukraine, Bolivia, El Salvador, Cape Verde, Gabon, South Africa, Lesotho, Spain and Guatemala, obtaining records or other information from police, prosecutors and government officials.
After the Daily News filed suit against the Peace Corps on Nov. 1, 2002, the agency became more cooperative, releasing much of its databases on assaults, deaths and illnesses.
After more than a year, the agency also began to respond to the newspaper's questions, but would do so in most cases only in writing.
PEACE CORPS STORIES SPARK RESPONSE
Concerns about 'inaccuracies and misleading information'
A letter from Peace Corps Associate General Counsel H. David Kotz
In anticipation of the series of articles on the Peace Corps that begins in today's editions, Peace Corps Associate General Counsel H. David Kotz wrote Dayton Daily News editor Jeff Bruce with his "concerns." The letter appears here. Bruce's response appears in the adjacent column.
Dear Mr. Bruce:
On behalf of the Peace Corps, we are bringing to your attention significant concerns we have about inaccuracies and misleading information that may be included in an upcoming story that Dayton Daily News reporter Russell Carollo is preparing about the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps has had extensive communications and interactions with Mr. Carollo and his associates for the past year and a half while this story was being investigated. Through these communications, we have become aware of inaccuracies. We bring these matters to your attention before the story has been finalized in an effort to ensure that a fair and accurate story will be published.
The following are examples of statements and assertions made to the Peace Corps by Mr. Carollo and his associates that are false and misleading.
In mid-May 2003, Mr. Carollo submitted several graphic charts purportedly showing adverse trends in safety conditions for Peace Corps volunteers. In a four-page letter dated June 12, 2003, the Peace Corps explained to Mr. Carollo that his graphics presented incorrect numbers and percentages throughout and frequently provided data out of its proper context.
As of this date, the Peace Corps has received no response to this letter and no assurances that the graphics and analysis prepared by Mr. Carollo and his associates would be modified to provide an accurate statistical profile of the volunteers' safety conditions. In a meeting on Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Carollo stated that he was aware of our "philosophical differences" with his graphics, but indicated that he would …