A document suggests the secretary of State rejected warning South American governments against international terrorism. Five days later, a bombing linked to Chile killed 2 in Washington.
The document, a set of instructions cabled from Kissinger to his top Latin American deputy, ended efforts by U.S. diplomats to warn the governments of Chile, Uruguay and Argentina against involvement in the covert plan known as Operation Condor, according to Peter Kornbluh, an analyst with the National Security Archive, a private research organization that uncovered the document and made it public Saturday.
In the cable, dated Sept. 16, 1976, Kissinger rejected delivering a proposed warning to the government of Uruguay about Condor operations and ordered that “no further action be taken on this matter” by the State Department.
Five days after Kissinger’s message, Chilean exile Orlando Letelier and an American colleague were killed in Washington’s Embassy Row in a car bombing later tied to Chilean secret police working through the Condor network. The killings are considered one of the most brazen attacks ever carried out in the capital.
“The document confirms that it’s Kissinger’s complete responsibility for having rescinded a cease-and-desist order to Condor killers,” said Kornbluh, author of a 2004 book on Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
In a statement, Kissinger said Kornbluh “distorted” the meaning of the cable and said it was intended only to disapprove a specific approach to the Uruguayan government, not to cancel the plan to issue warnings to other nations in the Condor network.
Former State Department officials who worked under Kissinger during that period now say that his cable did interrupt the U.S. effort to rein in Operation Condor, not just with Uruguay but with other countries in the region.
After being told of the existence of Condor by the CIA in mid-1976, Kissinger initially ordered U.S. ambassadors in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and other countries involved in the network to issue demarches, or formal diplomatic presentations, warning leaders that “Condor activities would undermine relations with the United States.”
“The instructions were never rescinded,” Kissinger said in his statement.