The Secretary of State to the Colombian Minister ( López Pumarejo )

Sir: On the morning of April 4, 1936, I received your note No. 919, in which you informed me that during the afternoon of the preceding day three officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, without previous consultation or notice, entered the Legation of Colombia and arrested, in one of the rooms assigned to the servants, a [Page 369] Mr. … an American citizen occasionally employed by you as chauffeur of the Legation. You stated that, although you did not claim diplomatic immunity for … and do not desire to intervene in the matter pending in the courts in respect to him, you were bringing the case to my attention because of the unusual manner in which it was handled, and in order to ascertain my Government’s views regarding the immunity to which foreign Legations are entitled and the steps that might be taken to avoid any repetition of such an unfortunate incident.

The violation of the immunity of your Legation caused me grave concern. I at once advised an Assistant Attorney General of what had occurred, the Attorney General himself being out of town, and after expressing my surprise and chagrin that such an incident had occurred, requested that a thorough investigation be made immediately in order that appropriate action might be taken at once.

I have now received a letter from the Attorney General dated April 8, 1936, a copy of which is enclosed herewith.2 After reciting the facts in the matter as known to his Department it will be noted that the Attorney General states as follows:

“Mr. Joséph B. Keenan, the Assistant to the Attorney General, promptly called on the Colombian Minister and expressed to him the profound regret of the Department of Justice that its agents had violated the immunity of the Legation. This action of agents of the Department is, of course, inexcusable. I desire to make it clear that no responsible officers of my Department had any reason to believe that the agents would presume to enter the Legation improperly, and had they known that any such action was contemplated or was likely, would immediately have given instructions which would have prevented the unfortunate incident. Far from any instructions having been issued to arrest … regardless of diplomatic propriety, the standing instructions to agents do not permit such intrusions.

Upon learning to my amazement and chagrin of the indefensible action of these agents contrary to standing instructions, I immediately suspended them from duty for an indefinite period, pending the determination of suitable disciplinary action and gave strict instructions to prevent a recurrence of any such an incident in the future.

I shall be glad if you will be good enough to bring the foregoing information to the attention of the Minister and to convey to him my personal regret for the unfortunate violation of the immunity of his Legation.”

The Department of Justice has readily offered to restore the status quo by returning Mr. … to the Legation and I am informed that this has been done.3 I have every confidence that the measures which [Page 370] have been taken by the Department of Justice will be effective in preventing the recurrence of any similar incident.

For my part I wish to express to you my profound regret over the violation of the immunity of your Legation and the consequent annoyance occcasioned you. Under the leadership of the present Presidents of our two countries, relations between Colombia and the United States have been firmly established upon a cordial and friendly basis. Into this favorable atmosphere of friendship and goodwill, I was shocked to learn of the intrusion of an incident in which officers of this Government, contrary to international practice, so consistently observed by this Government, violated the immunity of your Legation. I sincerely hope that the incident will be regarded as the result of over-zealousness on the part of the subordinate officers concerned rather than of any disrespect on their part for the dignity and immunity of the Legation premises. The action was wholly inconsistent with the high respect with which the Government and people of Colombia are regarded by the Government and people of the United States and cannot be viewed with other than the most sincere regret and disapprobation by both the Attorney General and by me.

In expressing my appreciation for the friendly manner in which you have acted in this case, I am hopeful that this regrettable incident will in no way prejudice the continuance of the cordial relations existing between the two countries, which are based upon mutual respect for each other’s rights and interests and the fullest measure of friendship and cooperation.

Accept [etc.]

Cordell Hull
  1. Not printed.
  2. The employee after his return to the Colombian Embassy voluntarily submitted to arrest.