In 1982, in an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Abrams was asked by Senator Paul Tsongas whether he thought Roberto D’Aubuisson “would fit the extreme on the right.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Abrams replied.
“So, you’d have to be to the right of D’Aubuisson to be considered extremist?” Tsongas asked.
“You’d have to be engaged in murder,” Abrams responded.
D’Aubuisson was engaged in murder, as Abrams should have known.
A few months after the Romero killing, a Salvadoran soldier had gone to the American embassy and told a young political officer, Carl Gettinger, that D’Aubuisson had presided over a meeting at which the assassination was plotted and soldiers had drawn straws to see who would carry it out.
This had been duly reported to Washington, and other intelligence placed D’Aubuisson “at the center” of death-squad activity, as a senior diplomat in El Salvador put it at the time. In this period, El Salvador was the top foreign-policy issue, and Abrams was a senior State Department official.