The Obama administration has been declassifying state secrets and sharing them with selected Latin American governments, The Washington Post disclosed Sunday (Sept. 18.)
According to the story, the purpose is “to mend fences with other countries, advance the cause of human rights and even redress the dark history of Washington’s support for repression abroad.”
The article was written by Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, an institution that in the past has brought to light many unreported activities by the U.S. government in the Americas, availing itself of the Freedom of Information Act.
The latest revelation involves CIA involvement in the Sept. 11, 1973 coup d’état in Chile that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power.
“Allies are grateful and historians are delighted,” writes Kornbluh. “And given the depth and range of still-secret U.S. Cold War records, declassified diplomacy has the potential to go much, much further.”
Already, the State Department has made available secret information to Brazil and Chile regarding the crimes against humanity committed by past military regimes in those countries. Although those regimes destroyed much evidence before abandoning power, “the dark role the United States often played in the repressive histories of these and other nations [can be found in] the detailed paper trail residing in the vaults of the CIA, the FBI, and the Defense and State departments,” the article says.
Kornbluh cites U.S. involvement in military atrocities in El Salvador and Guatemala.
When Vice President Joseph Biden traveled to Brazil in 2014, he gave then-President Dilma Rousseff a disk of declassified documents on repression in Brazil in the 1970s. “I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past, we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future,” Kornbluh quotes Biden as saying.
Early last year, the White House provided Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with secret records relating to Gen. Pinochet’s role in the September 1976 car bombing in Washington that killed former Chilean official Orlando Letelier and an aide, Ronni Moffitt.
In the administration of President Salvador Allende, Letelier had served successively as minister of Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Interior. From exile in the United States, he was a vocal opponent of the Pinochet regime.
The CIA documents handed to Bachelet contained “convincing evidence that President Pinochet personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murders” in a “blatant example of a chief of state’s direct involvement in an act of state terrorism.”
Still in progress is a “major declassification review of hundreds of intelligence-community and Defense Department records relating to the massive human rights violations committed by the Argentine military between 1976 and 1983,” writes Kornbluh.
The documents “are likely to shed light on U.S. policy toward the coup and the repression that followed,” the article says. “Their declassification will provide not only the ‘honesty and transparency’ Obama advocates but also a modicum of historical atonement for the support his predecessors gave to the Argentine military in the days and months after the coup.”
To read Kornbluh’s article in full, click here.
Photo at top of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (on left) and Chilean President Salvador Allende.