[WATCH] D.E.A. Says Hondurans Opened Fire During a Drug Raid. A Video Suggests Otherwise.

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration has for five years steadfastly defended the behavior of its agents in a late-night drug seizure carried out with Honduran forces on the remote Mosquito Coast, a mission that resulted in the deaths of four Honduran civilians.

In the D.E.A.’s view, the dead — one man, two women and a 14-year-old boy — were among those on a boat that shot at a canoe carrying a joint D.E.A.-Honduran antidrug team. The D.E.A. said it had evidence in the form of night-vision video taken from a surveillance plane showing an “exchange of gunfire” between the two vessels after the larger boat collided with the canoe carrying the agents.

Now, for the first time, the three-hour video has been released to the public. It strongly suggests that the D.E.A.’s account of crossfire in the May 2012 mission was not accurate. The release of the video, under a Freedom of Information Act request, follows a scathing report published by the inspectors general of the departments of Justice and State earlier this year that challenged the D.E.A.’s version of events.

The video shows numerous flashes of light consistent with gunshots originating from the antidrug unit, according to Bruce Koenig, a forensic expert hired by ProPublica and The New York Times to analyze the images.

Mr. Koenig, who formerly was supervisor of the F.B.I.’s forensic audio/video group, examined the video frame by frame and concluded that only one flash originates from the passenger boat. In Mr. Koenig’s view, that flash could have been caused by a bullet striking the engine, which was later found to have a bullet hole. Infrared cameras detect heat and turn it into bright spots on video, so a muzzle flash from a gunshot and a spark from a bullet ricocheting off a metal surface can create similar flares.

The controversy over the actions of the agents has had an impact: As the D.E.A. braced for the May release of the inspectors general report on the episode, the agency disbanded the program that had run the interdiction operation, named the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Teams, or FAST. The FAST program provided military-style training to law enforcement officers in other countries to counter drug traffickers.

The inspectors general report, which found no evidence to support the D.E.A.’s account that its agents were fired upon, has also drawn attention from lawmakers. A bipartisan group of four senators asserted that the D.E.A. and State Department “repeatedly and knowingly misled members of Congress and congressional staff.”

“The D.E.A. convinced themselves of a false version of events due to arrogance, false assumptions, and ignorance,” said Tim Rieser, an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy and one of the staff members who has spent years delving into the shooting. “They rushed to judgment and then stuck to their story.”

Mary Brandenberger, a D.E.A. spokeswoman, declined to comment on whether the agency still believed that an exchange of gunfire had taken place, because the episode was still under internal review. The agency has never retracted its view that the agents were fired upon and acted in self-defense.

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