W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 20, 2000 -- The CIA is acknowledging for the first timethe extent of its deep involvement in Chile, where it dealt withcoup-plotters, false propagandists and assassins.
The agency planned to post a declassified report required byCongress on its Web site today that admits CIAsupport for the 1970 kidnapping of Chile’s top general for refusingto use the Army to prevent the country’s congress from confirmingthe election of socialist Salvador Allende as president. Thekidnapping failed, but Gen. Rene Schneider was shot and died twodays later, the day Allende’s election was confirmed.
The CIA admits prior knowledge of the plot that overthrewAllende three years later but denies direct involvement. The reportsays the agency had no idea that Allende would refuse safe passagewith his palace under bombardment and apparently kill himself. Hewas found dead of gunshot wounds.
There is no evidence the CIA wanted Schneider killed forrefusing to join the coup attempt in 1970, the report said,although the agency later paid $35,000 to the group that botchedhis capture.
CIA Payment to Secret Police Chief
The report also disclosed a CIA payment to Gen. Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, head of the Chilean secret police, whom it knew to be involved in post-Allende human rights abuses. In 1993, Contreras was sentenced to prison for a rare act of foreign-sponsored terrorism on American soil — the 1976 car-bomb killing of a Chilean diplomat and an American associate on Embassy Row in Washington.
The report does not reveal how much Contreras received in aone-time payment for his CIA services and says the payment was made by mistake after it had been overruled by high officials. Thereport says, however, that the CIA had contact with Contreras onseveral occasions before and after the bombing.
Payment to remnants of the group that kidnapped Schneider wasmade for “humanitarian reasons,” to maintain their good will andto avoid disclosure of prior CIA contacts, the report said. It saidin those contacts the agency withheld support for the Schneiderkidnapping, because agents believed the group could not pull itoff.
The report also describes efforts to influence news media inChile against Allende and to augment anti-leftist propagandaactivities by the coup-maker who toppled and succeeded Allende,Augusto Pinochet.
It spoke of CIA activities “including supportfor news media committed to creating a positive image for themilitary junta,” which is now accused of an array of abuses duringPinochet’s 17-year rule including more than 3,000 killings.
Civilians collaborating with the CIA, but not acting on CIAdirection, produced the “White Book” intended to justifyAllende’s overthrow with allegations of plans to murder the highcommand in the months before the coup, the report said. It said theCIA knew at the time this was “probably disinformation.”
CIA Denies Human Rights Abuses
Despite the disclosures, the CIA report admits to no abuses orcover-ups by CIA agents.
“A review of CIA’s files has uncovered no evidence that CIAofficers and employees were engaged in human rights abuses or incovering up any human rights abuses in Chile,” the report says.
But it chronicles clandestine contacts authorized by PresidentNixon and other top U.S. officials that it said would violatestandards now followed by the agency.
The agency now carefully reviews all contacts for potentialinvolvement with human rights abuses, the report said. It “makes adeliberate decision balancing the nature and severity of the humanrights abuse against the potential intelligence value of continuingthe relationship.”
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., who sponsored the law thatrequired the report, said he takes the CIA at its word on today’sstandards. But he pushed for full disclosure of past acts toprevent U.S. support for such injustices in the future.
“I think the environment has changed, and I’m prepared tobelieve the agency has changed,” Hinchey said in an interview. “Ithink that in today’s atmosphere, this would not happen. That doesnot mean it would not happen in tomorrow’s atmosphere.”
Nixon Worried About Allende
The CIA report points to the worries of Nixon and other top U.S.officials about Allende’s leftist ties and their fears of risingSoviet influence in Latin America.
“This very sordid chapter in American history needs to be heldup to the bright light so that everyone can see what went on underorders from the president of the United States, the secretary ofstate and the attorney general,” Hinchey said.
CIA spokeswoman Anya Guilsher said the report addresses keyquestions Congress has had concerning CIA activities in Chile inboth the 1970 coup planning and the 1973 coup.
“We were aware of coup plotting in 1973, but we did notinstigate it,” she said.
More CIA files and other documents on Chile are to be releasedin a few weeks.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said last week that releaseof the documents on human rights abuse and terrorism during theregime of Allende successor Gen. Augusto Pinochet was delayed by Sandy Berger, president Clinton’s national security adviser, toreview more documents.
“Basically, we want to make sure we get this done right, and weare as responsive as we are able to, as far as the fullest-possibledisclosure of documents,” Lockhart said.