The Price of Power - Page 2
1 | 2 | 3
TT's money did not help. The boom fell on September 4. Allende defied the public-opinion polls and won the Chilean election by 39,000 votes out of the 3 million cast, forcing a runoff election with Alessandri in the Congress on October 24—an election that, if history repeated itself, Allende, as the winner of the popular election, was destined to win. The reaction in Washington was more than just despair; there was rage at Allende for having defied the wishes of American policy-makers. At 6:30 on the morning of September 5, a Saturday, Richard Helms and a group of key CIA officials rushed into the Agency's operations center to look at the election results. One official on duty at the time recalls the attitude that morning of Helms and his colleagues: "The CIA had had its nose rubbed in the dirt in Chile. We had staked our reputation on keeping Allende out. Alessandri's loss hurt the CIA's standing [in the White House] and its pride." The situation-room official, who monitored highly secret traffic from Santiago to Washington over the next few months, adds that Helms and his deputies "just couldn't put up with Allende. He became part of a personal vendetta. They'd gone so far and got out on a limb."
Korry was also upset. He filed a cable saying, allegorically, that he could "hear the tanks rumbling under my window" as Allende's socialism began to take over Chile. "We have suffered a grievous defeat," he wrote. "The consequences will be domestic and international. In his memoirs, Kissinger describes that sentence as being among those underlined by Nixon as he read the Korry report. But in a sentence left unmarked by Nixon, the cable also said: "There is no reason to believe that the Chilean armed forces will unleash a civil war or that any intervening miracle will undo his victory" in the October 24 election.
That was not what Nixon and Kissinger wanted to hear. "Nixon was beside himself," Kissinger writes, adding that he blamed the State Department and Korry "for the existing state of affairs." In future planning in the Chilean crisis, Kissinger says, Nixon "sought as much as possible to circumvent the bureaucracy." Kissinger neglects to note that he, too, was beside himself, and as eager as Nixon to circumvent the bureaucracy.
There is compelling evidence that Nixon's tough stance against Allende in 1970 was predominantly shaped by his concern for the future of the American corporations whose assets, he believed, would be seized by the Allende government. His intelligence agencies, while quick to condemn the spread of Marxism in Latin America, reported that Allende posed no threat to national security. Three days after the election, the CIA told the White House in a formal Intelligence Memorandum that, as summarized by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the United States "had no vital interests within Chile, the world military balance of power would not be significantly altered by an Allende regime, and an Allende victory in Chile would not pose any likely threat to the peace of the region."
Nixon's anger at failing his corporate benefactors—Jay Parkinson, Harold Geneen, and Donald Kendall—was directly passed on to Kissinger. Kissinger, many on his staff recall, seemed to be less interested in corporate well-being than in pleasing Nixon. "While he was their servant ideologically," Roger Morris, who worked at the National Security Council until mid-1970, says, "Henry's attitude toward the business community was contemptuous." But, Morris says, Kissinger also seemed to be truly concerned about Allende's election: "I don't think anybody in the government understood how ideological Kissinger was about Chile. I don't think anybody ever fully grasped that Henry saw Allende as being a far more serious threat than Castro. If Latin America ever became unraveled, it never would happen with a Castro. Allende was a living example of democratic social reform in Latin America. All kinds of cataclysmic events rolled around, but Chile scared him. He talked about Eurocommunism [in later years] the same way he talked about Chile early on. Chile scared him." Another NSC aide recalls a Kissinger discussion of the Allende election in terms of Italy, where the Communist Party was growing in political strength. The fear was not only that Allende would be voted into office but that—after six years—the political process would work and he would be voted out in the next election. The notion that Communists could participate in the electoral process and peacefully accept the results was seen by Kissinger as the wrong message to send Italian voters. On September 16, Kissinger spoke privately with a group of reporters to discuss, among other issues, the Chilean election. He told the newsmen, with seeming conviction, "I have yet to meet somebody who firmly believes that if Allende wins there is likely to be another free election in Chile." His real fear, of course, was precisely the opposite: that Allende would work within the democratic process.
His other fears about Allende were expressed more candidly. Convinced that the domino theory was alive and well in Latin America, he went on to say that "in a major Latin American country you would have a communist government, joining, for example, Argentina, which is already deeply divided, along a long frontier; joining Peru, which has already been heading in directions that have been difficult to deal with; and joining Bolivia, which has also gone in a more leftist, anti-U.S. direction.... So I do not think we should delude ourselves that an Allende takeover in Chile would not present massive problems for us, and for democratic forces and for pro-U.S. forces in Latin America, and indeed to the whole Western Hemisphere."
The initial White House reaction to Allende's election was muted, because so much else was going on. On September 6, two days after the Chilean election, PLO terrorists began hijacking commercial airliners in Europe and the Middle East, triggering what would become a brief war in Jordan within weeks. On September 8, Kissinger chaired a meeting of the 40 Committee at which he, Helms, and Mitchell agreed "that a military [coup] against Allende would have very little chance of success unless undertaken soon." According to a summary published later by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Korry was ordered by Kissinger to prepare a "cold-blooded assessment" of "the pros and cons and problems and prospects involved should a Chilean military coup be organized now with U S. assistance...." Korry's answer came back hot and anxious on September 12: the possibilities for such an event were "nonexistent." On September 14, with the crisis in Jordan in temporary hiatus, Kissinger summoned another 40 Committee meeting.
The meeting was dominated by serious discussion of what became known in the intelligence community as the "Rube Goldberg" gambit. Alessandri had announced that if elected by the Chilean Congress on October 24, he would resign the presidency. If he waited until after his inauguration, on November 3, his resignation would force yet another election. Eduardo Frei, having been out of office—even briefly—would legally be able to run again. The men in Washington somehow considered the scheme to be a constitutional solution to the Allende problem, but it hinged, obviously, on cooperation from Frei, as well as on Frei's ability to get renominated by the Christian Democratic Party.
The scheme had begun well before Allende's surprise victory on September 4. Korry had been approached by some senior members of the Christian Democratic Party, who relayed Frei's willingness to run again if Allende won the popular election and if a constitutional solution could be arranged. Korry reported the proposal to Washington, and after Allende's surprise election, the Nixon administration—desperate for viable ideas—debated and approved it at the 40 Committee meeting on September 14. Korry was told, in a top-secret dispatch on the next day, that he was authorized to offer Frei and his supporters $250,000, and more, if necessary, for "covert support of projects which Frei or his trusted team deem important" to ensure Frei's eventual election—such as buying votes the Chilean Congress. Korry rejected the money out hand, telling the State Department in essence that under no circumstances should the United States do "Chile's dirty work for it. " By that time, Korry says, he already knew what Washington did not: the "Rube Goldberg" scheme was unworkable. It was clear that Frei could not win the nomination of his own party—even if Alessandri won the runoff election and withdrew, as planned. "I also suspected Frei wasn't going to try to win [his party's nomination]," Korry says, "so why should I go running around trying to buy up Chilean congressmen if Frei couldn't control his own party?" The American Embassy had learned, Korry says, that Allende and Radomiro Tomic, the liberal Christian Democratic candidate, who finished third in the September 4 elections, had secretly agreed before the election to pool their forces in case of a runoff. That agreement made any chance for Alessandri's election virtually impossible, Korry says, and Alessandri could not resign the presidency if he could not win it.
Korry remained hostile to Allende's candidacy during this period, but he asserts that he repeatedly sought to prevent any direct United States intervention in the Chilean elections. "If Frei could win his party's nomination in an open, democratic way," Korry explains, "and then use the system constitutionally in an open way to become president, that was his business." During those hectic weeks, Korry was enthusiastic in his support of a series of anti-Allende propaganda steps taken by some of Frei's more ardent supporters. When some of those supporters came to him, Korry says, and reported that they planned to help disrupt the economy, "I endorsed this in a cable to Washington." Korry's concern, he says, was to show Washington that he could be as tough as anyone else; his goal, he insists, was solely to prevent what he suspected was being considered—direct American support for a military coup. For a few weeks, then, in mid-September, if Korry's account is accurate, his world became as devious as Henry Kissinger's: he sent a stream of tough-sounding cables to Washington strenuously supporting a gambit that he knew had no chance of success. In one such cable, he told of a stern warning he had given to Frei's defense minister about the problems Chile would face if Frei did not act: "Frei should know that not a nut or bolt, will be allowed to reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty, a policy designed for a long time to come...." Korry insisted later, in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee and in interviews, that he had deliberately "overstated the message ... in order to prevent and halt this damn pressure on me to go to the military." He did not know at the time he wrote the cable, he said, that an economic boycott of Chile was, in fact, being advocated by Nixon and Kissinger.
The unworkable "Rube Goldberg" plan was not the only issue before the 40 Committee at the September 14 meeting. Approval was granted for a last-minute increase of the propaganda activities designed to convince the Chilean Congress that an Allende election would mean financial chaos. Within two weeks, twenty-three journalists from at least ten countries were brought into Chile by the CIA and combined with CIA propaganda "assets" already in place to produce more than 700 articles and broadcasts both in and out of Chile before the congressional election—a staggering total whose ultimate influence cannot be measured. By late September, a full-fledged bank panic had broken out in Santiago, and vast amounts of funds were being transferred abroad. Sales of durable goods, such as automobiles and household goods, fell precipitously; industrial production also dropped. Black-market activities soared as citizens sought to sell their valuables at discounted prices.
The pressure was on. The screws had started turning in earnest on September 14, when the 40 Committee signaled that the Nixon administration was willing to go to great lengths to keep Allende out of the presidency. Just how far the President would go was not yet fully clear. Ten days had passed since Allende's election, and Nixon had managed to control his rage. There had been no outbursts. In a Nixon reaction familiar to Kissinger, the explosion came on the next day, the fifteenth, and the spark was alarm from Nixon's friends and benefactors in the corporate world.
he corporate path to Nixon actually began in Santiago, on the day before Allende's election, when Agustín Edwards made his first and only visit to Korry's embassy. Edwards had been on friendly terms with Korry's predecessor, Ralph A. Dungan, a Democrat who served in Chile from 1964 to 1967, but had not developed a similar relationship with Korry. Korry says that during their ten-minute talk he assured Edwards that the latest polls still predicted that Alessandri would win. "Edwards seemed pleased and left," Korry says. "[He told me] he had plowed all his profits for years into new industries and modernization, and would be ruined if Allende won." Three or four days after the election, Hecksher told Korry that Edwards wished to meet again with him, only this time at the home of one of his employees on the outskirts of Santiago. At the meeting, Korry says, he informed Edwards that he did not believe that Chilean armed forces would move to prevent Allende's election by the Congress; he also acknowledged that the current CIA programs, primarily geared to propaganda, had little chance of accomplishing their goal. Edwards agreed that Allende's election by the Congress seemed assured, and surprised Korry by announcing that he was leaving Chile immediately. He explained that he had been told by Allende's associates that he would be "crushed" by the new regime. He flew within days to see Kendall in Washington, who immediately hired him as a PepsiCo vice president and invited him to be a houseguest. On September 14, according to Kissinger's memoirs, Kendall met privately with Richard Nixon, a meeting that, like many others, did not appear in Nixon's daily log as maintained by the Secret Service. On the next morning, John Mitchell and Kissinger, at Nixon's direction, had breakfast with Kendall and Edwards; hours later, Kissinger asked Helms to meet Edwards for, as Kissinger writes, "whatever insight he might have." Helms later told an interviewer that Kendall was with Edwards when they met in a Washington hotel. The two men appealed passionately for CIA help in blocking Allende—an argument, Helms realized, they must have made to Nixon. In the early afternoon, Nixon summoned Helms, Mitchell, and Kissinger to his office, and, in essence, gave Helms a blank check to move against Allende without informing anyone—even Korry—what he was doing.
The newspapers and networks would later, make much of the fact, as published in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Chile, that Helms provided the committee with his handwritten notes of the September 15 meeting with Nixon. The notes included such remarks as "not concerned risks involved"; "full-time job—best men we have"; "make the economy scream"; "$10,000,000 available, more if necessary"; and "no involvement of Embassy." But those CIA men who served closely with Richard Helms knew that Helms had much more than mere notes to turn over, if he chose to do so. "You don't take notes" in such meetings, one senior CIA man explained, "but as soon as you're in your car, you dictate a memo for the record." This official said that Helms was extremely careful about keeping in his private files such memoranda, which were never put into the official CIA record-keeping system.
In his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Helms said he came away from the Oval Office meeting with the "impression ... that the President came down very hard that he wanted something done, and he did't much care how and that he was prepared to make money available.... This was a pretty all-inclusive order... If I ever carried a marshall's baton in my knapsack out of the Oval Office, it was that day" (emphasis added). Asked specifically whether assassination was included, Helms responded carefully: "Well, not in my mind ... I had already made up my mind that we weren't going to have any of that business when I was director."
Helms's response was nonsense. In a later conversation with a close associate, Helms provided a much more credible description of what took place on September 15: Nixon had specifically ordered the CIA to get rid of Allende. Helms told the associate that there was no doubt in his mind at the time what Nixon meant. In the weeks following the meeting, Helms added, he was pressured again on the subject at least one time by Kissinger. He further revealed that he had made and kept in his personal possession detailed memoranda of his talks with Nixon and Kissinger about Allende. It should be emphasized that the close associate cited above, who requested that his identity not be hinted at, was in a position to know the truth. The close associate also reported that Helms had provided his attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, with similar information after being charged by the Justice Department with perjury in connection with the Allende matter. Williams, contacted by me, refused to comment.
Helms was no innocent about CIA assassinations, having been one of the few high-level Agency officials to be fully aware of the efforts, beginning in 1960, to have Castro assassinated. Helms told the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975, according to its published report on assassinations, that he fully believed that in those attempts—some involving Mafia leaders—the CIA, as the committee put it, was "acting within the scope of its authority and that Castro's assassination came within the bounds of the Kennedy administration." Asked whether an explicit presidential order to assassinate Castro was necessary, Helms was quoted as responding: "I think that any of us would have found it very difficult to discuss assassinations with a President of the United States. I just think we all had the feeling that we're hired out to keep those things out of the Oval Office."
In a second appearance before the committee a month later, the issue arose again. Asked whether Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general, had ever ordered him to kill Castro, Helms responded: "Not in those words, no." Were less direct phrases used to make the same points? "Sir," replied the obviously discomfited Helms, "the last time I was here, I did the best I could about what I believed to be the parameters under which we were working, and that was to get rid of Castro. I can't imagine any Cabinet officer wanting to sign off on something like that. I can't imagine anybody wanting something in writing saying I have just charged Mr. Jones to go out and shoot Mr. Smith."
Another senior CIA official, who spent years dealing with Cuba and Latin America, explained the technique more directly in an interview: "All a President would have to say is something innocuous—"We wish he wasn't there." That much of a message, even if it were to appear on the famous [Nixon White House] tapes, would get no one in trouble. But when it gets down to our shop, it means, to about six people, 'Don't ever come back and tell what happened.'"
Talking about assassination was not as traumatic inside the White House in 1969 and 1970 as it would become five years later, at the height of the domestic uproar over revelations of the CIA's assassination attempts against Castro, Patrice Lumumba, of the Congo, and Rafael Trujillo, of the Dominican Republic. Roger Morris recalls at least two casual conversations with fellow Kissinger aides about the killing of Nguyen Van Thieu, South Vietnam's president, who was seen as a key stumbling block to the success of the Paris peace talks. In one case, Morris says, he mentioned plaintively to a colleague that Thieu's "assassination is one that the American government ought to look at with interest." To his amazement, his colleague, who worked in Kissinger's personal office in the White House, responded seriously: "They have." Morris later wrote, with another aide, a top-secret memorandum on the Vietnam negotiations that specifically advocated "imposing [a] settlement over Saigon's opposition. The stakes would warrant steps we have not contemplated since 1963." The memorandum was presented to Kissinger, who, Morris was told, had it retyped and presented to Nixon without change. Boasting about assassination took place. Alexander Haig, Kissinger's chief deputy, once told John C. Court, an NSC staff aide, that, as Court recalls, "if we have to take care of somebody, we could do it." There was talk in Chile, also, about assassination. Korry was directly approached by the ambassador of a West European nation and urged, in all seriousness, to arrange for the murder of Allende. Korry rebuffed the diplomat, he says, and carefully reported the thrust of their conversation to the State Department.
ut of Nixon's meeting on September 15 emerged what the CIA would later call the "two-track" approach. Track I would include the anti-Allende propaganda and political programs voted by the 40 Committee and relayed to Korry and Hecksher for action. Korry was also to continue his support for a solution involving last-minute political chicanery by Frei or Alessandri. Track II was to be kept secret from Korry, the State Department, and even the 40 Committee. The goal of Track II was not only to encourage the Chilean military to initiate a coup but directly to assist the officers in getting one under way. It was in essence to be an American coup carried out by Chileans.
With Track II under way, the White House apparently decided to keep ITT, too, in the dark about the great lengths to which it was willing to go in Chile. One week after Allende's election, John McCone met with Kissinger and Helms and relayed yet another ITT pledge, this one for $1 million, for the purpose of assisting any CIA plan to stop Allende. Viron P, Vaky, Kissinger's aide for Latin American affairs, was separately informed of the $1 million offer by an ITT official in Washington, who added that Harold Geneen was available to fly to the White House to discuss the issue with Kissinger. ITT was taking no chances; its two top men were making pitches in the same week to the White House. The Senate Multinational Subcommittee could not learn whether a Geneen-Kissinger meeting on Chile took place. Nor could it find evidence that ITT passed funds for use in Chile—an inevitable failure, given the less-than-candid testimony in the hearings, enabled the company to slide past the subcommittee in 1973.
If there was apprehension in the White House over the enormity of what the administration was seeking to do to Chilean democracy, Richard Nixon did not share it. September 16, the day after his tumultuous meeting with Helms, he flew to Kansas State University to give a lecture honoring Alfred M. Landon, who was the losing presidential candidate in 1936 as a Republican.
Nixon praised Landon's graceful acceptance of defeat and added: "There are those who protest that if the verdict of democracy goes against them, democracy itself is at fault, the system is at fault—who say that if they don't get their own way the answer is to burn a bus or bomb a building. Yet we can maintain a free society only if we recognize that in a free society no one can win all the time."
Especially Salvador Allende.
In the days that followed Richard Nixon's emotional charge to Richard Helms, the CIA reached deep into its resources to perform what many of its senior officers believed was a real-life "Mission Impossible." Without itself being exposed, and within six weeks of a closely watched runoff election in the Chilean Congress, the Agency had to increase its direct involvement with leading members of opposition groups and provide arms, money, and promises in support of a coup. The goal was to get rid of Allende, as the President demanded.
In his 1980 autobiography, Facing Reality, Cord Meyer, one of Richard Helms's most trusted deputies, recalls attending a small meeting at the Agency on September 15, shortly after Helms's visit with the President. "We were surprised by what we were being ordered to do," Meyer writes, "since, much as we feared an Allende presidency, the idea of a military overthrow had not occurred to us as a feasible solution." Despite the doubts, however, the men at the top of the CIA were determined faithfully to execute Nixon's "aberrational and hysterical decision," Meyer adds. "The pride we might have felt at having been among the select few chosen by the President to execute a secret and important mission was more than counterbalanced by our doubts about the wisdom of this course." Meyer does not say so, but surely there were also doubts about the legality of the President's directive. That a group of mature government officials would enthusiastically carry out such a policy without question provided, in the eyes of many CIA critics, an excellent reason for abolishing the authority of the Agency to conduct covert operations.
Thomas H. Karamessines, the CIA's senior official in charge of clandestine activities, met and spoke with Henry Kissinger six to ten times, by his count, in September and October. Samuel Halpern, a longtime CIA official who was a deputy to Karamessines, also reported to the White House, but his contact was usually Haig; if Haig was not available, Halpern spoke to Thomas K. Latimer, a CIA liaison officer who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. Senior officials of the intelligence agency, in interviews and in testimony in 1975 before the Senate Intelligence Committee, repeatedly described the White House pressure to prevent Allende's election as intense, comparable only to the pressure early in the Kennedy administration to do something about Fidel Castro. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that Richard Helms, a veteran of the Cuban operations, would place responsibility for the operations against Allende in the hands of many of the same men who had worked against Castro.
As the various congressional investigations unfolded during the mid-1970s, the official lying and distortion about Chile reached a point equaled by only one other issue in the Nixon era: the June, 1972, Watergate break-in, with its subsequent cover-up. With Chile, as with Watergate, cover-up payments were sought for CIA contacts and associates who were caught in the act of crime. With Chile, as with Watergate, records were destroyed and documents distorted. With Chile, as with Watergate, much of the official testimony provided to congressional investigating committees was perjury. With Chile, as with Watergate, the White House was in league with unscrupulous and violent men who did not understand the difference between right and wrong.
y mid-September, Kissinger had wrested control of the Middle East from the State Department. In a few days, he would single-handedly run the response to what he perceived to be a Soviet attempt to build a submarine port in Cienfuegos, a Cuban harbor. It was a period in which Kissinger saw himself, and the Presidency, as facing grave challenges from the Soviet Union and rising to meet them head on. If he could mobilizze Army divisions and deploy Navy task forces with a thirty-second telephone call, surely he could change the election result in a not-very-important Latin American country and demonstrate anew to the communist world the authority of the Nixon White House. Kissinger was to be totally in control in Chile. Perhaps it was the totality of his command that prompted his bravado at the background briefing on September 16, at which Kissinger warned of Allende's election, for he proceeded to tell the newsmen essentials of Track I. "According to the Chilean election law," Kissinger said, in a section of the briefing that he did not choose to reprint in his memoirs, "when nobody gets a majority, the two highest candidates go to the Congress. The Congress then votes in a secret ballot and elects the President.... In Chilean history, there is nothing to prevent it, and it would not be at all illogical for the Congress to say, 'Sixty-four percent of the people did not want a communist government. A communist government tends to be irreversible. Therefore, we are going to vote for the No. 2 man.'" Kissinger was describing the "Rube Goldberg" ploy without, of course, revealing that $250,000 had been authorized by the 40 Committee to bribe members of the Congress. The failure of that ploy—because of Eduardo Frei's refusal to act—would not become clear to Washington for another week.
He said nothing, however, about the other half of the White House operation, Track II. In his memoirs, Kissinger goes to great lengths to minimize the importance of Track II—repeatedly suggesting, as he did in his 1975 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Tracks I and II had quietly merged. In Track II, Kissinger writes, despite Nixon's promise to Helms of a fund totaling $10 million or more, "The expenditures, if any, could not have amounted to more than a few thousand dollars. It was never more than a probe and an exploration of possibilities, even in Helms's perception." He adds, "There was always less to Track II than met the eye. As I have shown many times ... Nixon was given to grandiloquent statements on which he did not insist once their implications became clear to him. The fear that unwary visitors would take the President literally was, indeed, one of the reasons why Haldeman controlled access to him so solicitously. " It is not clear from his memoirs whether Kissinger considered Richard Helms to be one of those "unwary" visitors who took the President at his word.
Kissinger's eagerness to diminish Track II is understandable, for the true extent of the Agency's activities inside Chile has never been told, and may never be fully known. (It is worth noting that Kissinger's most trusted biographers, Marvin and Bernard Kalb, did not mention either Chile or Salvador Allende in their book, published in 1974. Not even Allende's downfall in 1973 was noted. The point is not that the Kalbs suppressed any information but that Kissinger did.) Helms certainly knew that it was more than an exploratory probe: within weeks, he approved the assignment of some of the Agency's most experienced agents to Santiago. One such man, known in CIA dispatches only by his cover name, Henry J. Sloman, had by 1970 spent more than twenty years operating in disguise throughout Latin America, Europe, and Asia. His cover was impeccable: he was considered by his associates to be a professional gambler and a high-risk smuggler who was directly linked to the Mafia. When Sloman retired, in 1975, he had been inside CIA headquarters in Washington fewer than a dozen times in his career, occasionally meeting high-level officials there on Sunday to avoid the possibility of chance observation by other CIA operatives. He was a fabled figure inside the Agency: there was repeated talk of his participation in "wet ops"—those involving the shedding of blood. He was well known to Helms, who awarded him at least two CIA medals for his undercover exploits, which included other operations—mostly in Southeast Asia—that, Sloman says, were staged expressly on Kissinger's orders.
He was not alone. At least three other senior CIA operatives who, like Sloman, could pass for Latin American natives were carefully rotated into Santiago before the October 24 election. The mission of the operatives—known inside the CIA as "false-flaggers," a reference to their phony Latin American passports—was not to help facilitate a constitutional solution to the Allende problem but to pass money and instructions to those men inside Chile who wanted to stage a coup.
In their briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee, senior CIA officials said the false-flaggers were necessary in order to maintain security and minimize the possible linkage of the United States government to the anti-Allende plotting. There was a much more important reason for their assignment, however: the false-flaggers were men who were trained to do what they were told, and who would not flinch, as many intelligence operatives inside Chile would, at having to deal with the men known throughout Chile as the most vitriolic haters of Allendean assortment of extreme right-wing terrorists led by General Roberto Viaux. To the American operatives stationed in Chile, Viaux and his associate, former captain Arturo Marshal, were unstable and impossible to control: their fanatic group was also believed to have been infiltrated by Allende's forces. In 1969, Viaux was relieved of command and Marshal was cashiered from the Chilean army for leading an unsuccessful anti-Frei coup; ever since, they had been escalating their call for violence against the left. Marshal had gone so far as to tell supporters privately that he would assassinate Allende if given a chance—threats that prompted Allende's advisers to urge him, unsuccessfully, to wear a bulletproof vest. Opposition to any dealings with Viaux and Marshal was rife inside the CIA station in Santiago. The Agency's main contact with the Chilean military, Colonel Paul M. Wimert, Jr., the American Army attache in Santiago, who had served in military intelligence in Latin America since the 1950s, was adamant in his contempt for Viaux. "I always operated on the assumption that there's no substitution for brains, and Viaux didn't have any," Wimert says. Wimert was as anxious as anyone in the embassy to provoke a military coup that fall, but not with Viaux.
The false-flaggers were ordered to have no contact with other Americans inside Chile. They were to get in, hide out in a hotel, pass money and instructions to Viaux, Marshal, and their men, and get out. Their only contact with the American Embassy and its CIA station was to be through Hecksher, who would relay their instructions and their cables to CIA headquarters in Washington. All scheming was routinely reported to the White House, as was anything of significance inside Chile after September 15. The heat was on, and the CIA was letting the White House know that it was doing its best.
Kissinger was out of Washington from September 26 to October 5, traveling with the President on his electioneering visit to Europe and the Mediterranean. There is evidence, however, that even before he left the White House he knew that the "Rube Goldberg" ploy was not going to work. On September 23, according to documents published by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Hecksher reported that there were "strong reasons" for thinking that Frei would not act. Hecksher urged that the CIA station in Santiago be authorized to begin approaching anti-Allende officers in the Chilean army and navy and inducing them to lead a military coup. The contact was to be Wimert, an expert horseman with many close friends among the senior-officer corps, many of whom shared his love for horses and competitive riding. Wimert had been granted the privilege of stabling his horses at the Chilean Military Academy in Santiago, and his access to and influence with the military in Chile were unmatched by those of any other CIA operative. But Wimert had also been ordered by Korry not to discuss politics with the Chilean officers—an order that, despite Wimert's intense dislike for Korry, he had obeyed.
In late September, Wimert was quietly approached by Hecksher and told that he had been assigned by "high authority" to work directly with the CIA in contacting senior Chilean military men and urging them to lead a coup. Korry was not to be told of Wimert's new mission. Wimert asked for, and received, a highly classified cable from his direct superiors in the Defense Intelligence Agency, in the Pentagon, confirming the arrangement. The cable was so sensitive, Wimert was told, that he could not keep it in his files. He was to report until further notice to Hecksher and the CIA and do what they said. Weeks later, when the danger of his mission became clear to him, Wimert was given a confidential assurance from Helms—in another cable that Wimert was shown but not permitted to keep—that his family and horses would be provided for in case he was killed while at work for the Agency. Over the next three months, Wimert filed his reports and his assessments—for the CIA and also, he thought, for his superiors in the Pentagon—through Hecksher. It was not until 1975, at the time of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, that he learned that not one of his reports had made its way to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Chile was to be his last assignment for the DIA; when he returned to Washington, he was treated coldly by his superiors, who, Wimert learned later, had been distressed by his failure to file from Santiago during the Allende election period. "Nothing I sent went to the DIA; it went to Haig and Kissinger directly," Wimert says. "I was filing for three months and I thought everything I sent over there was going to the DIA and it wasn't—it was going over to the White House." While in Santiago, Wimert received a cable of congratulations signed by Admiral Moorer and General Donald V. Bennett, who was in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency Often, Heeksher would present Wimert with orders that were signed by Bennett, and the CIA would relay Wimert's responses, so Wimert thought, to the General. All of those cables had been created somewhere outside the Pentagon, Wimert learned later. The Senate Intelligence Committee was unable to decide who was to blame for Wimert's duping; CIA officials testified that they had not tampered with Wimert's cables. In an interview this year, however, a senior CIA official who was directly involved in the Chilean operation acknowledged that Wimert's reports to the Pentagon had been derailed because officials there had no "need to know" of the intense plotting in Santiago. Such manipulation was routine, the official added, when an outsider such as Wimert was called upon to aid the intelligence agency in a clandestine operation. "There isn't a military attache I know of who isn't an amateur," the official said, adding that Wimert's participation was necessitated by the intense White House pressure. Wimert managed to obtain an appointment to the Inter-American Defense College, in Washington, in 1971, before retiring to a horse farm in Virginia in 1973.
Copyright © 1982 by Seymour Hersh. All rights reserved. This article was later included in Seymour Hersh's book, The Price of Power: Kissinger in Nixon's White House, currently published by Simon & Schuster.
The Atlantic Monthly; December 1982; The Price of Power - 12.82; Volume 250, No. 6; page 31-58.