The vetting begins at the U.S. Embassy, where individuals or units nominated for training or assistance are entered into an internal State Department database, called the International Vetting and Security Tracking system. They check governmental, nongovernmental and media reports on human rights abuses. In some cases the embassy also runs the names through local police and government offices for critical information. Embassies sometimes interview victims when there are indications that government forces have been involved in a gross human rights violation.
Earlier this year, the U.S. began withholding funds from Honduras after reports alleged that a newly appointed national police chief had ties to death squads. U.S. law prohibits assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.
Ebed's death, officials said, is not a new trigger for withholding funds, but instead yet another disturbing incident raising concerns in the U.S. government about support for the current Honduran police and military. Other issues include the killings of human rights activists, journalists and opposition lawyers.
Until now, U.S. officials have not specified how much money is being withheld, but on Wednesday a State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter said the withholding may reach $50 million, including $8.3 million in counter-narcotics aid, and $38 million under the Central America Regional Security Initiative.
That amounts to about half of all U.S. aid to Honduras for 2012, including humanitarian assistance.
"This is one of a number of killings involving members of Honduran security forces that Senator (Patrick) Leahy is asking the State Department about," David Carle, a top aide to Leahy, said in an email.
Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate's State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee, has put a hold on some of the U.S. aid for Honduran military and police forces until his questions are answered.
Three soldiers have been charged in the case, one for murder. It is a violation of Honduran law to shoot at people who do not pose a threat.