Case Against Pinochet
Indicted for Condor Crimes
Case of the Missing Letter in Foreign Affairs: Kissinger,
Pinochet and Operation Condor (.pdf)
by Kenneth Maxwell, The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American
Studies, Harvard University
Other 9/11: The United States and Chile, 1973"
by Kenneth Maxwell, Foreign Affairs, November/December
the Chilean Coup: The Debate Over U.S. Complicity"
by William D. Rogers & Kenneth Maxwell, Foreign Affairs,
by William D. Rogers, Foreign Affairs, March/April
by Scott Sherman, The Nation, June 21, 2004
10 June 2004
OF PINOCHET'S IMMUNITY RENEWS FOCUS ON OPERATION CONDOR
CONDOR DOCUMENTS INDICATE 1976 TERRORIST ATTACK IN WASHINGTON MIGHT
HAVE BEEN PREVENTED
DOCUMENTS FILL IN CENSORED DEBATE
IN LEADING JOURNAL FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AT COUNCIL on FOREIGN RELATIONS LEADS TO RESIGNATION
Washington D.C. June 10: Despite denials by the office
of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the argument advanced
by Council on Foreign Relations Latin American specialist Kenneth
Maxwell that the September 1976 car-bombing in Washington D.C. might
have been prevented is bolstered by declassified
documents posted today by the National Security Archive.
The declassified State Department records chart U.S. foreknowledge
of Operation Condor, a network of Southern Cone secret police agencies
that coordinated terrorist attacks against political opponents of
their regimes around the world in the mid and late 1970s.
Operation Condor has received renewed international attention over
the last several weeks. On May 28 a Chilean court stripped Gen.
Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution for Condor-related
The documents are among the evidence that Maxwell, the director
of the Council's Latin American program and senior reviewer for
its journal, Foreign Affairs, used in a rebuttal to a letter
from Henry Kissinger's former assistant secretary of State, William
D. Rogers, which appeared in the March/April issue of Foreign
Affairs. As reported in the New York Times on June
5 ("Kissinger Assailed In Debate on Chile"), and in The
Nation magazine ("The
Maxwell Affair") the prestigious journal has refused
to publish Maxwell's response and he has resigned in protest.
The censored debate in Foreign Affairs centers on Operation
Condor and what actions U.S. officials took in response to CIA
intelligence that the Pinochet regime, along with other
military governments in the region, had "plans for the assassination
of subversives, politicians, and prominent figures both within the
national borders of certain Southern Cone countries and abroad,"
according to agency sources. The progression of documentation shows
that the CIA withheld information from the State Department on Condor
plotting for weeks in the summer of 1976. In late August Henry Kissinger's
office belatedly sent out a diplomatic
warning to the Southern Cone military governments that
was not, in the end, actually delivered. A September
20th cable from Kissinger's top deputy on Latin America,
discovered by Archive analyst Carlos Osorio, instructed U.S. ambassadors
in the region to "take no further action" on deterring
Condor plots because "there have been no reports in some weeks
indicating an intention to activate the Condor scheme."
The next day, a bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police
exploded under the car of Pinochet's leading critic in the United
States, Orlando Letelier, killing him and his American colleague
Ronni Moffitt. Until the attacks on 9/11, the Letelier-Moffitt assassination
was considered the most egregious act of international terrorism
ever committed in Washington D.C.
The documents were used in two recently published books, The
Condor Years, by Columbia University professor
John Dinges, and The
Pinochet File, by Archive senior analyst Peter
Kornbluh, both published by The
Kornbluh's request to submit a rebuttal to Rogers in Foreign
Affairs was also denied. The unpublished
letter written by him and Dinges is posted below, along
with the declassified documents.
/ Dinges Letter to Foreign Affairs
refusal by Foreign Affairs to print Kenneth Maxwell's response
to William D. Rogers' letter ("Crisis
Prevention," March/April 2004 issue) is not only
unjust to Maxwell but, more importantly, to the truth regarding
an egregious act of international terrorism that took place on the
streets of Washington D.C. As the authors of two books that document
what Henry Kissinger's office knew and what it did and didn't do
about the network of Southern Cone secret police operatives known
as Operation Condor, we believe that the Rogers letter should not
be allowed to stand uncorrected.
focus of the Rogers letter is on the September 21, 1976, car-bombing
on Massachusetts Avenue, carried out by agents of Gen. Pinochet's
DINA, that took the lives of former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier
and his American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Rogers dismisses
Maxwell's assertion that "this was a tragedy that might have
been prevented" and scoffs: "by whom, one might ask?"
answer is that it could have been prevented by Secretary of State
Kissinger's office and by the CIA, both of which had advance intelligence
on Operation Condor assassination plots. The declassified CIA and
State Department records are absolutely clear on this point. The
CIA obtained concrete
intelligence in early June 1976--months before the
Letelier-Moffitt assassination took place, that Southern Cone military
intelligence officials were coordinating their repression against
perceived enemies in Latin America and abroad, and that their operations
included international assassinations. The documents show that on
July 30, 1976, a CIA
briefer told Assistant Secretary Harry Shlaudeman about
"disturbing developments" in the "operational attitudes"
of an organization codenamed Operation Condor.
intelligence reports cited by Shlaudeman did not indicate the Condor
plans involved the United States. But we now know that such reports
existed: both the CIA and the State Department received reports
from the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay that two Chilean
agents, using false passports and false identities, had requested
visas to travel from Asuncion to Washington D.C. in late July. In
addition, the CIA has acknowledged
in a letter that it learned of a threat by Uruguay
to kill U.S. Congressman Edward Koch in reprisal for his legislative
efforts to cut off military aid to that country. The threat, made
by an officer now known to have been a Condor operative, was also
received in late July, around the same time the CIA was developing
its intelligence conclusions about Condor.
The declassified record shows that Secretary Kissinger was briefed
on Condor and its "murder operations" on August 5, 1976,
in a 14-page report
from Shlaudeman. "Internationally, the Latin generals
look like our guys," Shlaudeman cautioned. "We are especially
identified with Chile. It cannot do us any good."
and his two deputies, William Luers and Hewson Ryan, recommended
action. Over the course of three weeks, they drafted a cautiously
worded demarche, approved by Kissinger, in which he
instructed the U.S. ambassadors in the Southern Cone countries to
meet with the respective heads of state about Condor. He instructed
them to express "our deep concern" about "rumors"
of "plans for the assassination of subversives, politicians
and prominent figures both within the national borders of certain
Southern Cone countries and abroad."
cable was dated August 23, 1976--four full weeks prior to the bombing
that killed Letelier and Moffitt. In effect, Kissinger's warning
placed the Condor regimes on notice that the United States had detected
their assassination plans and wanted them stopped. It is reasonable
to conclude that if the demarche had been delivered to Chile, the
Pinochet regime would have aborted the assassination mission that
was already underway.
letter published in the January/February issue of Foreign
Affairs, Mr. Rogers asserts that "Kissinger's warning
was delivered in robust fashion to the Argentine president--there
are cables to prove it…and probably to Pinochet's underlings
in Santiago." That is incorrect. In fact, there are no such
the all-important case of the Pinochet regime, which sponsored the
plot to kill Letelier, we have a cable
dated August 24 from U.S. Ambassador Popper advising
against talking to Pinochet because he "might well take as
an insult any inference that he was connected with such assassination
plots." Popper requested approval for an alternative plan:
to send the CIA station chief to talk to the head of the Chilean
secret police. Although there is an August
30 document indicating that Shlaudeman favored Popper's
approach, Popper received no reply, at least not until after the
assassination. This lack of reply is confirmed by available documents
and by interviews with those involved. One official, Deputy Chief
of Mission Thomas Boyatt, said he has a distinct memory that no
reply was received.
had no explanation for this failure of communication: "This
says Shlaudeman has decided by August 30 not to go to Pinochet.
So what's the big secret? Why couldn't we be put into action [the
next day]. And I don't know the answer to that….But going
to [DINA chief] Contreras [the next day] would have made a difference,
I think. Or at least it might have."
the case of Argentina, there are two memoranda [Document
10 and Document
11] chronicling a conversation that occurred on September
21, between Ambassador Robert Hill and General Jorge Videla. These
cables indicate a general discussion of human rights took place
but make no mention of Condor or of the serious U.S. concerns about
reports of international assassination plans. How could it be that
the ambassador ignored specific instructions from Secretary of State
answer seems to lie in a secret
cable sent by Shlaudeman from Costa Rica to his deputy
in D.C. William Luers, on September 20--the day before the Hill/Videla
meeting and the car-bombing. The one-paragraph cable is titled "Operation
Condor" and is marked for relevance to Chile, Argentina and
Uruguay. Shlaudeman states: "You can simply instruct the Ambassadors
to take no further action, noting that there have been no reports
in some weeks indicating an intention to activate the Condor scheme."
suggests that the timing of this cable, sent only eighteen hours
before Letelier's car was blown up in downtown Washington, was "a
cruel coincidence." No one argues that the cable indicates
complicity by any U.S. official in Letelier's death; Rogers' inference
to that effect is absurd and a red herring. The point is not that
the assassination might have been prevented at that late hour. The
importance of the cable is that it is documented evidence that an
initiative to counter terrorism had been aborted before it was ever
carried out. Thirteen days after the assassination Shlaudeman belatedly
sent his approval
to Ambassador Popper's suggestion that the CIA station chief present
the Condor demarche directly to DINA's Contreras instead of to Pinochet.
We believe that this cable raises the question of whether those
involved may have been attempting to cover up their failure to act
on the Condor threat prior to the assassination.
paper trail is clear: the State Department and the CIA had enough
intelligence to take concrete steps to thwart Condor assassination
planning. Those steps were initiated but never implemented. Shlaudeman's
deputy, Hewson Ryan, would later acknowledge in an oral
history interview that the State Department was "remiss"
in its handling of the case. "We knew fairly early on that
the governments of the Southern Cone countries were planning, or
at least talking about, some assassinations abroad in the summer
of 1976. … Whether if we had gone in, we might have prevented
this, I don't know," he stated in reference to the Letelier-Moffitt
bombing. "But we didn't."
a time when our nation is once again examining whether there was
enough intelligence to detect and deter the 9/11 terrorist attacks,
it is imperative that this earlier act of terrorism be understood
for the lessons it holds, rather than distorted by commission or
omission. To do anything less would be to dishonor two people whose
deaths might have been prevented.
Author-The Pinochet File
Author-The Condor Years
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe
Acrobat Reader to view.
1: State 137156, June 4, 1976
This "immediate action" cable is the State Department
reaction to a succession of violent deaths of major exile leaders
in Argentina following the military coup on March 24, 1976. It instructs
ambassadors to report any evidence that the governments of Chile,
Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil are making "international
arrangements" to carry out assassinations of exile leaders.
The assassination victims up to this point include: Edgardo Enriquez,
leader of the Chilean MIR (Movement of the Revolutionary Left) and
the leftist coalition, the Junta de Coordinacion Revolucionaria
(JCR); Zelmar Michelini, Uruguayan senator; Hector Gutierrez, president
of Uruguay's house of deputies; and Juan Jose Torres, former president
2: CIA "Weekly Summary" July 2, 1976
This is the first document, of those that have been declassified,
to mention "Operation Condor." The CIA reports that the
six governments (listed above) met in Santiago in June and agreed
to coordinate operations in Argentina. It also mentions a joint
operation involving security officers from Chile and Uruguay to
raid a human rights office in Buenos Aires and steal records of
refugees. The arrest of Edgardo Enriquez is mentioned, and the summary
reports that the leftist leader was "subsequently turned over
to the Chileans and is now dead."
3: Montevideo 2702, July 20, 1976 [Obtained by John Dinges]
In a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, Ambassador Ernest
Siracusa argues that the military governments' "increasingly
coordinated approach to terrorism" is understandable in light
of the coordination of the leftist organizations in the JCR. He
adds: "The U.S. has long urged these countries to increase
their cooperation for security. Now that they are doing so our reaction
should not be one of opprobrium. We must condemn abhorrent methods,
but we cannot condemn their coordinated approach to common perceived
threats or we could well be effectively alienated from this part
of the world."
4: ARA - CIA Weekly Meeting - 30 July 1976, "Operation Condor"
CIA officials meet with their counterparts at the State Department
and inform them for what is believed to be the first time that Operation
Condor is more than a mere exchange of intelligence: It is now involved
in "locating and 'hitting' guerrilla leaders." Other documents
specify that "hits" are being planned in Paris and London.
This report, in its firm conclusion that Condor is an international
assassination organization, goes considerably beyond previous speculations
about a link between the countries and the series of assassinations
carried out in Argentina.
5: ARA Monthly Report (July) "The 'Third World War' and South
America" August 3, 1976
This 14-page memo was written by Assistant Secretary for Latin
America Harry Shlaudeman, who had been following the reporting on
intelligence coordination in recent months and had several times
solicited reports on the subject from the ambassadors. He combines
the information on Condor and other disturbing trends in a report
addressed directly to Secretary of State Kissinger. Shlaudeman states
that the Southern Cone governments see themselves as engaged in
a Third World War against terrorism and that they "have established
Operation Condor to find and kill terrorists … in their own
countries and in Europe." Their definition of terrorist, however,
is so broad as to include "nearly anyone who opposes government
6: State 209192, "Operation Condor", drafted August 18,
1976 and sent August 23 to the embassies of all the countries known
to be members of Condor
This is an action cable signed by Secretary of State Kissinger.
It reflects a decision by the Latin American bureau in the State
Department to try to stop the Condor plans known to be underway,
especially those outside of Latin America. Kissinger instructs the
ambassadors of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay to meet as soon as possible
with the chief of state or the highest appropriate official of their
respective countries and to convey a direct message, known in diplomatic
language as a "demarche." The ambassadors are instructed
to tell the officials the U.S. government has received information
that Operation Condor goes beyond information exchange and may "include
plans for the assassination of subversives, politicians and prominent
figures both within the national borders of certain Southern Cone
countries and abroad." Further, the ambassadors are to express
the U.S. government's "deep concern," about the reports
and to warn that, if true, they would "create a most serious
moral and political problem."
7: Santiago 8210, August 24, 1976, Ambassador David Popper to the
U.S. ambassador to Chile David Popper answered the Kissinger Condor
cable immediately. He has met with the CIA station chief Stewart
Burton and deputy chief of mission Thomas Boyatt and they have decided
that Pinochet would be "insulted" if the Ambassador raised
the issue of assassinations with him. Popper offers an alternative:
that Burton present the warning to DINA chief Manuel Contreras.
Popper than writes: "Please advise." (The names of Burton
and Contreras are blanked out in the cable, but have been confirmed
in interviews with former officials.)
8: ARA/CIA weekly Meeting, 27 August 1976, "Operation Condor"
This heavily redacted memo concerns the CIA-State Department meeting
on Condor which followed Kissinger's cable instructing the ambassadors
to take action. Most of the substance of this important discussion
is redacted, but two points are clear: Shlaudeman reports on the
concerns that led to the drafting of the Kissinger cable and the
strategy of "making representations concerning Operation Condor"
which, according to interviews, was a strategy originally advocated
by Undersecretary of State Philip Habib. The second point is that
Shlaudeman announces that "we are not making a representation
to Pinochet as it would be futile to do so." There appears
also to be discussion of alternatives to confronting Pinochet.
9: San Jose 4526, September 20, 1976, "Operation Condor",
addressed "For ARA-Luers from Shlaudeman" [Obtained
by Carlos Osorio]
Writing to his deputy, William Luers, Shlaudeman orders him to
"instruct the ambassadors to take no further action."
The title and filing "tags" identifying Chile, Argentina
and Uruguay as the countries of relevance make clear that the "action"
Shlaudeman refers to is the August 23 demarche to those countries'
heads of states that the United States knows about Condor assassination
plans and opposes them. This key document was sent from San Jose,
Costa Rica, where Assistant Secretary Shlaudeman was visiting at
the time. The crucial cable to which Shlaudeman is responding, referenced
as "State 231654," has been somehow "lost" from
the State Department filing system.
10: Buenos Aires, 6177, "My Call on President Videla,"
Document 11: Buenos Aires 6276,
"Ambassador discusses US-Argentine Relations with President Videla"
These documents are the reports by Ambassador Robert Hill of his
first meeting with military ruler, General Videla, on September
21, 1976. It would have been Hill's opportunity to present the demarche
warning about Operation Condor, if that instruction had been still
in force. But these cables provide no evidence that such a representation
was made. The discussion on human rights is notable for another
reason. In the second cable, Hill presents strong criticism of the
recent murder of a priest and what appeared to be mass killings
at a nearby town and reminds Videla that the US Congress is taking
a strong stand against governments perceived to be human rights
violators. Videla dismissed the criticism by pointing to the recent
visit by his foreign minister to Washington: "President said
he had been gratified when Fonmin Guzzetti reported to him that
Secretary of State Kissinger understood their problem and had said
he hoped they could get terrorism under control as quickly as possible.
Videla said he had impression senior officers of USG understood
situation his govt faces but junior bureaucrats do not."
12: State 246107, October 4, 1976, "Operation Condor"
Dated 13 days after the Letelier assassination, this cable from
Assistant Secretary Shlaudeman to ambassador Popper is the long
belated reply to Popper's "Please advise" cable of August
24. Shlaudeman, over Kissinger's signature, approves Popper's proposed
plan to bypass Pinochet with the Condor warning and go directly
to DINA chief Contreras. The six week delay in replying to Popper
is unexplained. And it is further mystifying that this cable, concerning
a warning about Chile's reported plans to kill dissidents abroad,
would make no reference to the actual assassination of Letelier
only a few days before. (Other cables make clear that the two redactions
refer to CIA station chief Stewart Burton.)
Two additional documents establish that there were other channels
of intelligence indicating that Condor countries Chile and Uruguay
may have been planning operations in the United States.
13: "Condor One" cable to Paraguay, July 17, 1976 [Obtained
by John Dinges]
Around the time the CIA was detecting the assassination plans of
Operation Condor, Chile's chief of intelligence, Col. Manuel Contreras,
made use of the new Condor system to prepare for the planned assassination
of Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC. This document is an FBI transcript
in English of a telex message sent by Contreras, identified as "Condor
One," to his counterparts in Paraguay, seeking their assistance.
The Paraguayans provided false passports to two Chilean agents who
intended to use them to travel to the United States. The mission
was leaked to the US ambassador, who reported the planned Chilean
mission (whose actual purpose he did not know) to the CIA.
14: CIA letter to Koch declassifying information about a death threat
against Koch in late July 1976 [Obtained by John Dinges]
In late July 1976, amidst the other intelligence about Condor's
assassination plans, the CIA station chief in Uruguay learns that
two Uruguayan officers have threatened to kill U.S. Congressman
Edward Koch, a prominent human rights critic. The information is
reported to CIA headquarters but no action is taken because the
treats were delivered while the men were drinking, and because the
CIA did not believe the Southern Cone governments were capable of
such a mission in the United States. Only after the Letelier assassination
did the CIA reconsider and inform Koch of the threat made two months
15: Oral History Interview with former deputy assistant secretary
for Latin American Affairs Hewson Ryan, conducted by the Association
for Diplomatic Studies and Training, April 27, 1988
Ryan, one of Assistant Secretary Shlaudeman's deputies, participated
in many of the meetings at which Operation Condor was discovered.
In this interview several years before his death, he expresses regret
that the warnings on Condor were never delivered to the heads of
state of the Condor countries and raises the possibility that "we
might have prevented this [the Letelier assassination]. There are
some differences in his recollections of the events, compared to
the cable record. He recalls that he tried unsuccessfully to get
a cable cleared to warn the countries on Condor. In fact, the cable
was drafted by another deputy assistant secretary (William Luers)
and sent to the ambassadors. The end result was the same as Ryan
recalled: the Condor demarche was never delivered to the three countries