[sixties-l] New Files Tie U.S. to Deaths of Latin Leftists in 1970s

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Mar 06 2001 - 15:58:06 EST

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    March 6, 2001

    New Files Tie U.S. to Deaths of Latin Leftists in 1970's



    WASHINGTON, March 5 - A recently declassified State Department document
    shows that Latin
    American officers involved in Operation Condor, the joint effort in the
    1970's by right-wing governments to crush left-wing opposition, used an
    American communications installation to share intelligence.
    A cable to the State Department in 1978 from the United States ambassador
    to Paraguay at the time, Robert E. White, quoted the chief of staff to the
    dictator Alfredo Stroessner as saying an American installation in the Canal
    Zone was "employed to coordinate intelligence information" among South
    America countries. "Obviously," the cable said, "this is the Condor
    network, which all of us have heard about over the last few years."
    Mr. White wrote that he had not independently confirmed the accuracy of the
    Paraguayan's report. But he recommended that Secretary of State Cyrus
    R. Vance "review this arrangement to insure that its continuation is in
    the U.S. interest."
    To Mr. White's knowledge, he said recently, the review was never done.
    But the cable appeared to open new avenues of inquiry about the American
    role in Condor, a shadowy operation to stamp out the Latin American left
    that, among other things, dispatched death squads to kill critics at home
    and overseas.
    Documents already made public have shown that the F.B.I. helped Condor's
    efforts early on by investigating South American leftists who were arrested
    and, in at least one case, tortured.
    The cable was discovered by a Long Island University professor, Patrice
    McSherry, among thousands of documents being declassified on American
    relations with South American dictatorships.
    If Latin American officers did use American facilities to transmit
    intelligence, this would have provided United States officials the
    opportunity to monitor Condor activities closely.
    Lt. Gen. Samuel Wilson, retired, who was director of the Defense
    Intelligence Agency through August 1977, said, "If such an arrangement
    existed on an institutional basis, I would have known about it, and I did
    not then and do not now."
    However, he added, "that such an arrangement could have been made locally
    on an ad hoc basis is not beyond the realm of probability."
    But Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, said
    the cable implied "foreknowledge, cooperation and total access" to the
    plans and operations of Condor.
    "The degree to which the U.S.A. knew about and supported these operations
    has remained secret until now," he said. "The layers of the onion are
    peeling away here."
    Officially, Condor arose as a defense against Communist-inspired terrorism,
    but its victims included government officials ousted in United
    States-supported military coups, trade unionists, rights advocates and
    suspected socialists. By 1978 investigators were tying Condor to the
    killing of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean foreign minister, and Ronni
    Moffitt, an American colleague, in 1976 when the car in which they were
    riding exploded in Washington.
    In his cable, Ambassador White recounted a meeting with a Paraguayan
    general, Alejandro Fretes Davalos, shortly after a Chilean official visited
    Paraguay to discuss the Letelier case. Mr. White surmised that in telling
    him American channels were being used to transmit intelligence for Condor,
    the generals hoped to fend off questions from the United States Justice
    Department about their role in the killings.
    The cable said Condor nations "keep in touch with one another through a
    U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal zone, which covers
    all of Latin America."
    "This U.S. communications facility is used mainly by student officers to
    call home to Latin America," the cable continued, "but it is also employed
    to coordinate intelligence information among the Southern Cone countries.
    They maintain the confidentiality of their communication through the U.S.
    facility in Panama by using bilateral codes."
    Mr. White, who currently runs the Center for International Policy, a
    research organization, sent his message directly to Secretary Vance in
    recognition of its sensitivity and his recommendation. In a recent
    interview, however, he said he had received no response: "Nobody reacted in
    any way, shape or form."
    "What it suggests to me is that people in the U.S. government really
    actively worked not to have this knowledge, this evidence, in play," he
    said. "There are thousands of telegrams that come in each day. It's very
    easy to just drop one down that big memory hole."

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