Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 1999 /5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE SECRET-KEEPERS of the CIA have been busy lately. In February, President Clinton ordered federal agencies to retrieve and review for declassification all documents relating to human rights abuses, terrorism and other acts of political violence in Chile between 1968 and 1978.
This move came after Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator who overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende in 1973, was arrested in England. Pinochet was apprehended in response to a Spanish request for his extradition so he could face charges of crimes against humanity (3000 people were “disappeared” by Pinochet’s regime). And last week a British judge ruled that Pinochet can be extradited, a decision that will be appealed. Since the CIA had tried to foment a coup against Allende in 1970 and was involved in all sorts of anti-Allende skullduggery leading up to the bloody coup led by Pinochet, the agency obviously had a lot of work to do in response to Clinton’s order.
But on Friday, when the U.S. government released the second batch of documents collected under the White House directive, a set of records was missing: those detailing the CIA’s underhanded involvement in Chile. The CIA has been making public its reporting on events that occurred in Chile—such as riots, plots and strikes against Allende—but not material indicating that the CIA helped stir up these anti-Allende activities. Or that it may have been involved in the murder of an American journalist.
There is no question that the CIA possesses papers detailing its shameful interventions in Chile. For years, Peter Kornbluh, an analyst at the nongovernmental National Security Archive, has been compiling a list. He has pored over transfer lists of CIA documents the agency forwarded to the Justice Dept. (which twice conducted investigations related to CIA misconduct in Chile) and collected the titles of Chile-related documents. This past summer Kornbluh’s 13-year-old son, Gabriel, went through the report of the Church Committee, a Senate committee that probed the CIA in the mid-70s, and extracted dozens of references to specific CIA documents regarding its ops in Chile. When covert agencies are faced with requests for information that might be embarrassing, standard operating procedure is to deny they have relevant records. Thanks to the Kornbluhs, the CIA cannot do that in this instance.
But that hasn’t stopped the agency from trying to cover its backside.
The agency, citing a 1984 law, has claimed that the CIA does not have to search its files for the documents on the Kornbluh list—which Kornbluh graciously shared with the CIA. That legislation did give the CIA a big pass. It said the agency, when handling a Freedom of Information Act request, does not have to look through the files of its operations division, the wing that does the stuff—paramilitary operations, propaganda, espionage, etc.—that you see in the movies. And the operations division is where the key Chile documents presumably reside.
(The wily lawyers at the CIA were able to slip into Clinton’s order a provision stating that the agencies were to retrieve only documents subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.)
But the 1984 law did establish exceptions to the no-search clause, such as when the search concerns an operation officially acknowledged by the U.S. government; when that operation is the subject of an investigation for impropriety or illegality; and when documents pertaining to the operation have been taken from the operations division and placed in files elsewhere. The Chile case meets each of these standards. Still, the agency has been misciting the law to avoid even locating the documents identified by Kornbluh and the National Security Archive.
It is more than 25 years since the CIA, on the orders of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, declared secret war on Allende, an elected socialist. (Allende died in the coup.) The Cold War is a subject for history class, and the CIA still will not come clean about its shenanigans in Chile. One person pissed off by this bureaucratic intransigence is Joyce Horman, a New Yorker who was married to Charles Horman. As the movie Missing chronicled, Charles, an American journalist, was murdered during the 1973 coup.
(Sissy Spacek played Joyce in the movie. Jack Lemmon played Charles’ dad, Ed, who died several years ago.)
She noted that this “constitutes a betrayal of what I and other families of American victims believed would be a good faith effort on the part of the Clinton administration to declassify the record and allow us to lay this painful history to rest. The President’s tasker [which ordered the declassification review] explicitly states that a declassification review ‘would respond to the expressed wishes of the families of American victims of human rights abuses’... [A] review that exempts the very files most likely to contain evidence relevant to our families will be viewed as little more than an exercise in hypocrisy and fraud.”
When the new collection of documents was unveiled Friday, Joyce Horman had far more reason to be outraged. A 1976 State Dept. memo noted there was circumstantial evidence that the CIA “may have played an unfortunate part” in her husband’s murder. “At best, [the CIA’s role] was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder [by the Chilean military government],” the document said. “At worst, U.S. intelligence was aware [Pinochet’s regime] saw Horman in a rather serious light and U.S. officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of [Chilean] paranoia.”
(Horman worked for a left-leaning news service and may have come across information confirming direct U.S. involvement in the military coup.)
The CIA has taken its lumps for standing in the way of the truth. There was a forceful editorial in The New York Times, and The Washington Post last week ran a story headlined “CIA Accused of ‘Whitewash’ on Pinochet.” Both were the result of a marvelous pressure campaign mounted by the National Security Archive, various human rights groups, Joyce Horman and friends and relatives of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt (who were killed in Washington, DC, in 1976 by a car bomb planted by agents of Pinochet’s military regime). They all have been urging the Clinton administration to come to terms with this secret past. The question is, will the White House crack the whip against the CIA?
(The National Security Agency, the supersecret, mega-eavesdropping outfit, too, needs a boot in the rear to release its own material; it has been systematically withholding documents and may possess the most incriminating records regarding Pinochet’s involvement in human rights abuses.)
Now, spies will by spies. You can’t expect them to really believe in
openness. Ultimately, the call belongs to Clinton, who throughout his
presidency has treated the covert operators too gingerly. Clinton, who
is obsessed with his own legacy, is not able to control how he will be
recorded in history, but it is within his power to set the historical
record straight about this shameful period. Joyce Horman and so many
others deserve no