Things you* didn't know until you read The Condor Years:
(*even if you are an expert on Latin America and U.S. intelligence.)
The underground story
During the "Condor Years", from 1973 to 1980, military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil worked together in a secret "antiterrorist" alliance never before seen in South America. During this period all of the countries used torture, kidnapping, secret prisons and "disappearances" to hide the crimes they were committing against their own citizens. Some of the countries, notably Chile and Argentina, carried out intentional policies of mass murder. The military secretly executed between 15,000 and 30,000 people and disposed of their corpses at sea or in still undiscovered mass graves.
The Condor alliance went even further: The countries began to track down their opponents who had fled to other countries. Assassinations and planned assassinations of prominent exile politicians and military leaders took place not only in the countries of Latin America, but also in Italy, France, and the United States. The international crimes constituted "the final, worst departure from the rules of law and civilized society" in Cold War Latin America.
In the end, these same international crimes left behind the trail of evidence that has finally begun to bring the military leaders like Pinochet of Chile and Videla of Argentina to the bar of justice.
Major revelations in The Condor Years
1. Details of a massive intelligence failure and a preventable terrorist act in Washington DC.
Chile's military government was one of the United States' closest allies in Latin America. Yet in September 1976 its agents, operating in part through Operation Condor, carried out a car bomb assassination on the streets of Washington DC. The victims were a prominent Chilean dissident, Orlando Letelier, who had served as foreign minister and ambassador to the United States, and an American woman who happened to be riding with him. Had available CIA intelligence been acted on, the assassination could have been prevented.
What did the U.S. officials know? That Chile and other Latin American security forces, acting in the "Operation Condor" alliance, were planning assassinations in Europe, had threatened to assassinate a U.S. Congressman, and that Chilean secret agents were traveling to Washington.
When did they know it? More than two months before the assassination. (Chapter 10)
2. A Quarter Century Cover-up of a tragic intelligence fairure.
At the time, US officials said they received the intelligence about Condor's assassination plans only after the assassination--too late to have prevented it. Documents released finally in 1999 and 2000 prove that is untrue. My investigation has turned up more than 30 declassified documents establishing that the CIA had inside intelligence about the assassination alliance at least two months before Letelier was killed but failed to act to stop the plans. The State Department began, then cut short an effort to warn the Condor countries that the U.S. was aware of their plans. The US officials debated taking measures to stop the assassinations, but rescinded the instructions. For almost 25 years the cover of secrecy and misleading official statements have concealed the evidence of this failure to act and the devastating possibility that an assassination might have been prevented. (Chapter 11)
3. Condor member Uruguay threatened to kill U.S. Congressman Edward Koch.
CIA intelligence report described plans for a Condor-type operation involving two countries: Uruguay targeted Koch for assassination in reprisal for Koch's efforts to cut off military aid. Chile, also a Condor country, was named as putting out a contract for the actual killing. The CIA learned of the threat just after it learned about Operation Condor, in July 1976, but chose to ignore it. Only after the Letelier assassination, when the threat was more than two months old, did then-CIA director George H.W. Bush warn Koch and bring in the FBI for protection. (Chapter 13) (See "Book: CIA Slow to Advise Koch of Hit List," NY Daily News, February 17, 2004, http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/165257p-144709c.html
4. CIA and FBI officials obtained interrogation reports of Condor captives while the prisoners were being tortured.
The Latin American intelligence services considered U.S. intelligence agencies their allies and provided timely and intimate details of their repressive activities. I have obtained three documents establishing that information obtained under torture, from prisoners who later were executed and disappeared, were provided to the CIA, the FBI and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). There is no question that the U.S. officials were aware of the torture. (Chapters 6, 12, 13)
5. Condor intelligence document puts number of killed in Argentina at 22,000
The document provides dramatic new evidence that the number of disappeared and executed in Argentina, according to the military's own count at the time, far exceeds previous documented totals compiled by human rights organizations. The new total is contained in a report provided by Argentina Army intelligence (SIE-Batallon 601) to its counterpart Condor agency, DINA, in Chile. The Condor Years contains a timeline of deaths in Argentina, based on the SIE total and other evidence, that indicates that in 1976 an average of more than 800 persons were being killed each month, both before and after the March 24, 1976 military coup. See page 139: "Mass Killings in Argentina: CONADEP and Battalion 601 Calculations, 1973-1983." Spanish translation.
6. Evidence of CIA and Pentagon encouragement and technical support of Operation Condor
*CIA trainers sent to Chile to build up secret police (DINA) capacity "to combat subversion and terrorism from abroad." (p. 69)
* Four personal meetings in Washington at CIA headquarters between Condor architect Colonel Manuel Contreras and CIA deputy director Vernon Walters. An August 1975 meeting took place several days before Contreras extended the first formal invitation to another country, Venezuela, to join the forthcoming Condor organization. (pp. 69-70; 101-108; 178 and note.)
* CIA payment to DINA chief Contreras at the time he was creating Operation Condor. (page 70-71).
* Technical assistance and equipment: CIA provision of computers for use in Condor data bank; CIA provision of Telex encoding machines for all Condor stations; Pentagon provision of FM radio network for Condor stations. (pp. 121-123)
Note: The Condor Years makes no allegation of CIA complicity in the Letelier murder.
7. A bungled leftist plot in Paraguay leads to discovery of documents.
The book tells the never before told story of three attempts in 1974 to assassinate General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay. Details include how Argentine revolutionaries provided the bombs, how Paraguayan secret police mistakenly arrested an innocent teacher, Martin Almada, in connection with the plot, and how Almada's persistance ultimately led to the discovery of the largest cache of secret police documents ever found in Latin America. (Chapters 6, 14)
8. Henry Kissinger's "red light, green light" policy, according to which the U.S. secretary of state's secret meetings with Latin American leaders, such as Pinochet and Argentina's foreign minister, undercut the often sincere efforts of U.S. ambassadors to advocate protections of human rights. Documents first establishing Kissinger's meetings, giving an encouraging green light to the Argentine war on terrorism that cost more than 20,000 lives, were revealed by the author in an article (with Martin E. Andersen) in Insight on the News, January 7, 2002, Kissinger Had a Hand in Argentina's 'Dirty War'
9. Condor operations in Europe twice targeted the infamous terrorist "Carlos the Jackal" (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez). (pp. 93-95, 220-221, and 296-297 notes.)
10. The secret story of the JCR, the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta.
Four revolutionary groups from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia, formed an alliance --financed with a $20 million war chest from kidnappings-- to carry out a continent wide guerrilla war to overturn military rule. The JCR alliance was a failed counteroffensive against the military governments, but it provided a pretext for the military's own international alliance, Condor.
And more exclusive stories...
--The Argentine hotel owner who was helping both the leftist guerrilla groups and the rightist military launder millions of dollars obtained from extortion and kidnappings.
-- The still secret confession of the American assassin, Michael Townley, of his mission to kill General Carlos Prats, General Pinochet's most important military rival.
-- And the stories of "The Pursuers," the Quixotic crusaders and investigators who have never ceased trying to break down the wall of impunity protecting the Condor leaders. Men like Juan Garcés, the Spanish lawyer whose legal strategy put General Pinochet under arrest in London; reporters like Mónica González, whose dogged persistance uncovered secret Condor documents in inaccessible Argentine court archives; and the judges who are revolutionizing international human rights laws by opening cases against the Condor criminals in Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires and Santiago.
|Order The Condor Years directly from The New Press by mail, or On Line. Order other books by John Dinges|