Washington Post publishes John Dinges’ findings and CIA spokesman responds.
Unpublished: Secret CIA book contradicts Kissinger
July 16, 2010
Chile, many believe that the CIA organized the attack of October 22, 1971 that ended the life of the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, General René Schneider. However, concrete and convincing evidence has always been lacking. Until now. This week, taped conversations came to light in which Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon talked about Chile, joking about an assassination committed by the CIA. ArchivosChile exclusively publishes excerpts from a secret CIA book that explicitly blames Nixon’s entourage for Schneider’s assassination.
In political spheres in the United States, the version of Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s right-hand man and directly in charge at the time of all US secret operations to prevent Salvador Allende from assuming the presidency, is still accepted. Kissinger maintains that Schneider’s assassination was not the work of the CIA, but of a group of civilians and military personnel who had acted autonomously and had broken their operational ties with the CIA a week before.
This week, the Washington Post newspaper reproduced my conclusions about the new evidence in this case. There I stated that the recently disclosed taped conversation between Nixon and Kissinger logically refers to the Schneider assassination and makes it clear that it was a CIA operation.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano rejected my interpretation of the new evidence, saying that “this incident in October 1970 – almost forty years ago – has, as I understand it, been fully dissected, examined and investigated.”
In this first edition of the ArchivosChile Blog, we publish the aforementioned Washington Post column, which contains the text of the conversation between Kissinger and Nixon, my analysis and the CIA spokesman’s full response.
Finally, I add unpublished evidence obtained from the CIA’s secret biography of Richard Helms, which contradicts Kissinger’s official version.
The new evidence casts serious doubts on the conclusions of the 1975 Church Commission of Inquiry, which accepted Kissinger’s alibis. Contrary to the CIA spokesman’s claims, the issue of possible direct U.S. involvement in an assassination in Chile has not been investigated, except for some unofficial attempts by journalists and the unsuccessful judicial effort by the Schneider family. These new leads should be part of a new investigation of this sensitive issue, both in the U.S. and in Chile.–John Dinges, ArchivosChile
Nixon y Kissinger bromearon acerca de un asesinato en ChilePor Jeff Stein, “SpyTalk”
Washington Post, July 2, 2010
tapes reveal.resident Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, joked that an “incompetent” CIA had struggled to successfully carry out an assassination in Chile, newly available Oval Office
At the time, in 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were working to undermine the socialist administration of Chilean President Salvador Allende, who would die during a U.S.-backed military coup two years later.
One of the key figures to stand in the way of Chilean generals plotting to overthrow Allende was the Chilean army commander-in-chief, Rene Schneider, who was killed during a botched kidnapping attempt by military right-wingers in 1970.
The question of the CIA’s role in Schneider’s death has been hotly debated for decades.
The new tapes won’t end the argument, but they add persuasive evidence that the CIA was at least trying to eliminate Schneider, and perhaps with the connivance of Nixon and Kissinger.
The key exchange between the president and his national security adviser occurred on June 11, 1971.
They were discussing another assassination in Chile, this time of one of Allende’s political adversaries, former Christian Democratic party interior minister Edmundo Pérez Zujovic, who was murdered on June 8, 1971, by an extreme leftist group.
On learning that some in the Chilean press had blamed the CIA for the Zujovic killing, Nixon reacted with disbelief. Kissinger joked that the CIA was “too incompetent.”
Kissinger: They’re blaming the CIA.
Nixon: Why the hell would we assassinate him?
Kissinger: Well, a) we couldn’t. We’re—
Kissinger: CIA’s too incompetent to do it. You remember—
Nixon: Sure, but that’s the best thing. [Unclear].
Kissinger: —when they did try to assassinate somebody, it took three attempts—
Kissinger: —and he lived for three weeks afterwards.
“The comments seem to fit the facts of what we know from congressional investigations of CIA covert actions at the time about the Schneider assassination [and] contradict official denials of a CIA role,” says John Dinges, author of two books on Chile, including “The Condor Years.”
“Two Chilean groups, both with ties to the CIA, carried out three attempts to kidnap the general, and on the third attempt shot him. He languished for three days (not three weeks) before dying on October 22, 1970,” Dinges added.
“Kissinger’s denial, in his book and in statements to Congress, alleges that the CIA had broken off contact with the group before it carried out the third and successful attempt against the general. The clear language of Kissinger’s remarks to Nixon, and Nixon’s affirmation of his comments, is that the assassination-kidnapping was a CIA operation,” Dinges said.
“That is a perfectly reasonable inference by an expert on Chile and Latin America,” said Richard Moss, one of the scholars who uncovered this and several other Nixon White House tapes for nixontapes.org. But he added, “We think the tape itself is suggestive but not conclusive.”
For its part, the CIA said there was nothing new in the tape, one of 3,700 hours worth of recordings between mid-February 1971 and July 1973, mostly in the Oval Office. During most of that time, Allende was Chile’s elected president.
Agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano disputed the interpretation offered by Dinges, a former NPR managing editor and now the Godfrey Lowell Cabot Professor of Journalism at Columbia University.
“This incident from October 1970 — almost 40 years ago — has been, as I understand it, thoroughly dissected, examined, and investigated,” Gimigilano said in response to a query. “And now, based on someone’s interpretation of part of a conversation, it’s time for a completely different conclusion? Give me a break.”
- READ MORE: The original post in The Washington Post
Other new evidence about Schneider also points to Kissinger and Nixon’s responsibilityBy John Dinges
ontrary to Kissinger and the CIA spokesman, the few official investigations into possible direct US involvement in the Schneider assassination, such as the Church Commission of the US Congress, leave many questions open. Kissinger’s version, repeated many times, that the assassins acted alone, was accepted by the Church Commission without resolving a number of contradictions in the evidence. Among them are the declassified documents of the CIA itself and the conclusions of the judicial investigation in Chile.
Many years have passed, but new evidence continues to emerge from the secret US archives. These do not exactly support Kissinger’s version of “clean hands”. On the contrary, the new evidence casts more and more doubt on his claims.
I was able to obtain a copy of the official biography of former CIA Director Richard Helms, secretly written by the CIA based on interviews with Helms before his death. It came into my hands as documentation for further investigation of the Schneider case. Helms, head of the CIA during its covert action against Allende, explicitly denies Kissinger. For context, it must be understood that “Track II” refers to the coup operations coordinated by the CIA with the Chilean military and the group of former General Roberto Viaux, who headed the attack that killed Schneider.
“In his memoirs Kissinger has written that he then [October 15, 1970] ordered Track II terminated, and that as far as he and President Nixon were concerned, his order ended all covert activities seeking to prevent Allende’s election. [Kissinger, White House Years, pp 674, 676] If this was Kissinger’s intention, it was not understood by Karamessines [head of operations in Chile] or the CIA.”
Translation: “In his memoirs Kissinger wrote that he then [on October 15, 1970] ordered Track II terminated and as far as he and President Nixon were concerned, his order ended all covert activities aimed at preventing the election of Allende. [Kissinger, White House Years, pp 674, 676] If that was Kissinger’s intention, it was not so understood by either Karamessines (head of Chile operations) or the CIA.”
The CIA text clearly points, in the paragraph that follows, to Nixon’s and Kissinger’s responsibility for Schneider’s death:
“It would, nevertheless, be unfair to assign CIA, as an instrument of American policy, principle responsibility for Schneider’s death. This burden must properly rest on an administration that insisted on sparing no effort to deny Allende the presidency.”
Source: Robert M. Hathaway, Richard Helms: As Director of Central Intelligence (CIA 1993; partially declassified 2006).
- READ MORE: Analysis of the Nixon tapes related to Chile by U.S. researcher Peter Kornbluh, of the National Security Archive and an associate of ArchivosChile.
- READ MORE: www.nixontapes.org
- LISTEN: 60 Minutes de CBS News investigates the Schneider assassination