On March 6, 2001, The New York Times reported the existence of a recently
declassified State Department document revealing that the United States
facilitated communications among South American intelligence chiefs who
were working together to eliminate left-wing opposition groups in their
countries as part of a covert program known as Operation Condor.
The document, a 1978 cable from Robert E. White,
the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, was discovered by Professor J.
Patrice McSherry of Long Island University, who has published several
articles on Condor. She called the cable "another piece of increasingly
weighty evidence suggesting that U.S. military and intelligence officials
supported and collaborated with Condor as a secret partner or sponsor."
In the cable, Ambassador White relates a conversation with General Alejandro
Fretes Davalos, chief of staff of Paraguay's armed forces, who told him
that the South American intelligence chiefs involved in Condor "keep in
touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the
Panama Canal Zone which covers all of Latin America." This installation
is "employed to co-ordinate intelligence information among the southern
cone countries." White, whose message was sent to Secretary of State
Cyrus Vance, is concerned that the U.S. connection to Condor might be revealed
during the then ongoing investigation into the deaths of former Chilean
foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt
who were killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. "It would seem
advisable," he suggests, "to review this arrangement to insure that its
continuation is in U.S. interest."
The document was found among 16,000
State, CIA, White House, Defense and Justice Department records released
last November on the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and Washington’s
role in the violent coup that brought his military regime to power.
The release was the fourth and final "tranche" of records released under
the Clinton Administration's special Chile Declassification Project.
"This document opens a pandora's box of questions on the U.S. knowledge
of, and role in, Operation Condor," said Senior Analyst Peter Kornbluh,
director of the National
Security Archive's Chile Documentation Project.
The Archive published a second document - a
page from a CIA cable regarding Brazil's role in Operation Condor -
that Kornbluh said contained information that could shed light on this
issue. The undated page refers to "CondorTel" - the "communications
network established by the Condor countries." Kornbluh pointed out
that the entire next line has been censored by the CIA.
The National Security Archive called on the U.S. Intelligence Community
- NSA, CIA, DIA and other Defense Department bureaus at the U.S. Southern
Command - to fully divulge their files on communications assistance to
the military regimes in the southern cone.