CASE AGAINST PINOCHET
INDICTED FOR CONDOR CRIMES
Washington, D.C., December 14: With the decision by
Chilean judge Juan Guzmán to indict Augusto Pinochet for
ten crimes relating to Operation Condor, the National Security Archive
reposted a series of declassified U.S. documents relating to Condor's
acts of international terrorism--including the September 1976 carbombing
assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington
D.C. The documents record the progression of U.S. intelligence gathering
on Condor and U.S. foreign policy actions.
According to Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive's
Chile Documentation Project and is the author of the book The
Pinochet File, the judicial decision in Chile
represents a strong statement on international terrorism. "With
the new indictment of Pinochet, Chile has sent a message to the
world that there is no statute of limitations on terrorist crimes."
Operation Condor is the subject of a book by Archive Advisory
board member John Dinges, The
Condor Years. Dinges commented to The New
York Times, "If there were ever a case that shows that
a head of state had to be involved in these atrocities, it is Condor.
I have evidence that Pinochet was actually at the meeting when Condor
was formed, and it is impossible to believe that subordinates would
create something as elaborate as Condor without the explicit approval
of the head of state."
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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 of Bolivia.
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 policy."
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
10: Buenos Aires, 6177, "My Call on President Videla,"
Document 11: Buenos Aires
6276, "Ambassador discusses US-Argentine Relations with President
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
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 earlier.
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 planning assassinations.