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An Assassination, A Failure to Act, A Painful Parallel
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: National security; Covert operations; Investigations; Intelligence gathering; Terrorism; Assassinations & assassination attempts; History
Author: John Dinges and Peter Kornbluh
Date: Sep 22, 2002
Start Page: B.01
Section: OUTLOOK

What to do? Too much U.S. pressure on Chile and the other Condor countries might lead them to unite "into formation of a political bloc," less responsive to U.S. influence, [Harry Shlaudeman] warned. But the United States had an image problem. "Internationally, the Latin generals look like our guys. We are especially identified with Chile," Shlaudeman noted. "It cannot do us any good."

On Aug. 23, [Henry Kissinger] sent a Roger Channel (urgent consideration, very limited distribution) cable -- "Subject: Operation Condor" -- to U.S. ambassadors in all Condor nations. "You are aware of a series of CIA reports on 'Operation Condor,' " the cable began. The cable instructed the U.S. ambassadors in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay to approach "the highest appropriate official, preferably the chief of state" and issue a carefully worded demarche along the following lines: The United States is aware of "information exchange and coordination . . . with regard to subversive activities. This we consider useful. There are in addition, however, rumors that this cooperation may extend beyond information exchange to include plans for the assassination of subversives, politicians and prominent figures both within the national borders of certain Southern Cone countries and abroad. While we cannot substantiate the assassination rumors, we feel impelled to bring to your attention our deep concern. If these rumors were to have any shred of truth, they would create a most serious moral and political problem."

The [Orlando Letelier]-Moffitt bombing provides a case study of forfeited opportunities to prevent terrorism from reaching U.S. shores. Official actions that could -- and should -- have deterred this murderous attack were not taken. As in the Sept. 11 terrorism, an official congressional inquiry is warranted to fully explain this failure. After 26 years, the Letelier and Moffitt families deserve to know what exactly the U.S. government knew -- and why it failed to act on that knowledge. We hope the families of Sept. 11's victims won't have to wait so long.John Dinges is the author of the forthcoming "The Condor Years: How [Augusto Pinochet] and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents" (The New Press). Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, is author of the forthcoming "The Pinochet File" (The New Press). Archive analyst Carlos Osorio contributed to this article.

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