CIA Accused of "Whitewash" on Pinochet

7 October 1999
Vernon Loeb

Researchers and relatives of victims of human rights abuses in Chile charged yesterday that the CIA is withholding information about its covert operations in that country, contrary to a White House directive.

TNI and the Pinochet precedent

Researchers and relatives of victims of human rights abuses in Chile charged yesterday that the CIA is withholding information about its covert operations in that country, contrary to a White House directive. The National Archives is expected to make public on Friday hundreds of documents from the State Department, Pentagon and CIA relating to the military rule of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But activists said they have been told that the documents will not include any information about the CIA's involvement in a 1973 coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende or its support for Pinochet.

Peter Kornbluh, a researcher at the nonprofit National Security Archive, said the CIA seems to have adopted a narrow interpretation of the administration's declassification directive in an initial release of information June 30 and again this week. "Not a single word about CIA operations in support of the Pinochet regime" has been released, Kornbluh said. "This is a whitewash of history, pure and simple." Moreover, the CIA recently succeeded in pulling back hundreds of documents on Chile that were discovered in the files of the Nixon White House during the declassification initiative, he said. "These are the best documents," Kornbluh said. "These are the documents which detail the history of US covert operations to foment chaos and violence in Chile. And there's only one reason to withhold them - to continue to cover up this history." Joyce Horman, the wife of an American journalist murdered in Chile in 1973, raised similar concerns in a letter last week to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. She wrote that the CIA has yet to release a single document about her husband, Charles Horman, even though such documents are known to exist. "Twenty-five years later - come on, this is ridiculous," Horman said in an interview yesterday.

The Clinton administration agreed to declassify selected documents about human rights abuses in Chile from 1968 to 1991 after Pinochet was arrested last October in London. The arrest resulted from a Spanish request for Pinochet's extradition to face charges of human rights violations during his 17 years in power. A judge in London is expected to rule Friday on the extradition case. A senior administration official overseeing the declassification process said yesterday he has a written commitment from CIA officials that such documents will be reviewed and released. "They agree with Peter Kornbluh that covert action files from this period will be searched," the official said.

A senior State Department official called the CIA's commitment "progress" but said, "There's concern, absolutely, within this building about the CIA's performance thus far... and its narrow reading of the directive." Mark Mansfield, a CIA spokesman, said the agency recognizes its obligation to release documents about covert actions in Chile. "Declassification review is a time-consuming process," Mansfield said. "It requires a page-by-page review. By the time this process is completed, the documents I've mentioned will be released, consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods."

Copyright 1999 The Washington Post