The CIA’s Continued Secrecy on Chile and JFK

On August 31, the Nation magazine published an article entitled “Chile: The Secrets the US Government Continues to Hide,” which details the CIA’s continued steadfast insistence on keeping its records secret that relate to the agency’s 1970-1973 efforts to bring regime change to Chile.

The CIA’s continued secrecy, of course, brings to mind the agency’s equally steadfast insistence on keeping its JFK-assassination related records secret into perpetuity.

The CIA, needless to say, cites the two magic words — “national security” — to justify its continued secrecy in both events.

I suggest that two other words are the real reason for the CIA’s continued secrecy in both events: “criminal cover-up.”

After all, the JFK assassination took place 60 years ago and the Chilean coup took place 50 years ago. The notion that the release of CIA assassination-related and coup-related records would threaten “national security,” no matter what definition is used for that ridiculous, meaningless term, is laughable to the extreme.

Actually, the Chilean coup bears a relationship to the JFK assassination. That’s because the national-security establishment’s mindset toward its regime-change operation in Chile reflected its mindset toward its regime-change operation in Dallas. My hunch is that those still-secret records relating to Chile would provide further circumstantial evidence pointing toward the reasons for the operation in Dallas.

In 1970, Chilean voters delivered a plurality of vote to Salvador Allende in the presidential election. Since Allende had not received a majority of votes, the election was thrown into the hands of the Chilean congress.

U.S. officials deemed Allende a grave threat to U.S. national security, on two grounds: that he was a socialist but, more important, that he was befriending the communist world, including Cuba and the Soviet Union, something that Kennedy had done as well in his famous Peace Speech at American University a few months before he was assassinated.

The CIA embarked on a campaign of bribing the members of the Chilean congress to vote against Allende (which, of course, is somewhat ironic given the fierce U.S. reaction to supposed Russian involvement in U.S. elections).

At the same time, the U.S. national-security establishment made plans for a Chilean military takeover. What’s interesting is that the CIA did not assassinate Allende. Instead, it convinced the Chilean national-security establishment that Allende posed a grave threat to Chilean national security and, therefore, that the Chilean national-security establishment had a moral duty to violently prevent Allende from assuming the presidency.

That’s a very important and very revealing point, one that undoubtedly comes across loud and clear in those still-secret CIA records relating to the Chile coup. The point reveals the U.S. national-security establishment’s conviction that it had the moral duty to violently remove JFK from power in order to protect America from a president whose policies, they concluded, posed a grave risk to “national security.” (See FFF’s book JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.)

Much to the chagrin of the U.S. national-security establishment, however, the commanding general of Chile’s armed forces, Gen. Rene Schneider, opposed the idea of a coup. His position was that the Chilean constitution did not permit a coup as a way to remove a democratically elected president from office. He said that Chileans would have to wait until the next election.

Therefore, the CIA simply orchestrated a violent kidnapping of Schneider which left him dead from gunshot wounds on the streets of Santiago. Ironically, the CIA’s kidnapping and assassination of this innocent man boomeranged because the Chilean congress, faced with tremendous anger over Schneider’s murder among the Chilean citizenry, rejected the CIA’s bribes and installed Allende into power.

Three years later, however, the U.S. national-security establishment prevailed in its efforts and helped military strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet violently take over the reins of power. By the end of the war between the executive and national-security branches of the government, Allende was dead, just as Kennedy was ten years before.

With the full support of the Pentagon and the CIA, Pinochet’s henchmen rounded up some 60,000 innocent people and proceeded to torture and/or rape most of them. They also killed or disappeared around 3,000 of them.

Among those rounded up was Orlando Letelier, a highly respected man who had served in the Allende administration as ambassador to the United States, minister of foreign affairs, minister of the interior, and minister of defense. After being tortured in captivity, world pressure forced Pinochet to release him.

Letelier moved to Washington, D.C., where he joined a leftist think tank and began lobbying against the Pinochet regime. Pinochet and his national-security establishment deemed Letelier to be a grave threat to Chilean “national security.”

On September 21, 1976, Letelier was killed by a car bomb on the streets of Washington, D.C., along with his young assistant Ronni Moffitt.

It was determined that Pinochet’s secret Gestapo-like internal police force, which was called DINA and which worked with the CIA, had orchestrated and carried out the Letelier assassination. Among those convicted of the crime was a DINA agent named Michael Townley, who was a U.S. citizen.

As part of what was clearly a sweetheart deal, Townley pled guilty in U.S. District Court as part of a plea bargain with U.S. officials. Get this: He was sentenced to only ten years in jail for what amounted to the cold-blooded murder of two innocent people. To put that in perspective, compare it to the 22-year jail sentence that a U.S. District Judge recently meted out to a man convicted of simply participating in the January 6 protests. Townley was also given immunity from prosecution in Chile for another national-security assassination in which he had allegedly been involved.

But that’s not all. After serving only 62 months in jail, get this: He was admitted into the federal witness protection program! That meant that the feds gave him a secret identity and let him live a normal life somewhere in the world.

The Letelier assassination has always been blamed on Pinochet. Is it possible that the CIA, working with DINA, was also embroiled in that assassination, on grounds of “national security”? My hunch is that those records relating to Chile that the CIA steadfastly continues to keep secret would help provide an answer to that question, which, needless to say, would be a good reason for wanting them to kept secret.

For more, see the following Wikipedia entries:

Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.