By 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.
When Kissinger returned to Washington on October 5, he could not have been surprised to learn that the “Rube Goldberg” plan was dead. A 40 Committee meeting was set up for October 6, and Kissinger once again was dominant. Minutes of that meeting, as published in part by the Senate Intelligence Committee, quote Kissinger as caustically criticizing those who “presumed total acceptance of a fait accompli”—that is, the election of Allende—and warning that “higher authority had no intention of conceding before the 24th; on the contrary, he wanted no stone left unturned.“ Karamessines later told the Senate committee that the pressure to prevent an Allende presidency was still intense, and Kissinger, in their meetings, “left no doubt in my mind that he was under the heaviest of pressure to get this accomplished, and he in turn was placing us under the heaviest of pressures to get it accomplished.”
By the second week in October, the CIA—with the aid of Wimert—had made contact with a military faction inside Chile that, along with the Viaux group, was considered to be the most likely to take the necessary violent steps. The group, headed by General Camilo Valenzuela, commander of the main army garrison in Santiago, was composed of moderate conservatives on active duty in the army and navy. CIA officials, in their testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, sought to make a distinction between the Valenzuela and Viaux factions; many senior officers on active duty in the Chilean army and navy were known to be opposed to Viaux’s extremism and his terrorist activities. The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded, however, that there was close contact and coordination between the two groups.
All the anti-Allende plotting throughout the pre-election period was made riskier by reports of clandestine CIA operations which repeatedly surged through Santiago; most of the rumors accurately linked Valenzuela and Viaux to coup plotting and to the CIA. Another source of tension inside the Agency was Hecksher’s view that Viaux was too much out of control to be trusted. One of Viaux’s first demands, rejected by the CIA, was for the Agency to deliver—via an airdrop—several hundred paralyzing gas grenades for use in a coup attempt. Hecksher warned headquarters not to convey the impression to the White House that he had a “surefire method of halting, let alone triggering, coup attempts.“ He was recalled to Washington and warned, as he later testified, that his superiors were “not too interested in continuously being told by me that certain proposals which had been made could not be executed, or would be counterproductive.” If Nixon and Kissinger wanted it to be done, it was to be done—even if the best intelligence minds in Chile reported that dealing with Viaux, in the longrun, would be inimical to the interests of the United States.
On October 13, the CIA station was authorized to pass $20,000 to Viaux—through a false-flagger—and to promise him a $250,000 life-insurance policy in support of his efforts to lead a coup. Such large sums of money were kept on hand inside the CIA station in the American Embassy, and disbursed with no receipts given or questions asked. Wimert, who was later authorized to pay out $100,000 to anti-Allende groups, says that the cash was too bulky to carry: “I kept it in my riding boots in the trunk of my car.”
The complaints about Viaux from Hecksher and others in Santiago were not the only sources of anxiety for Washington: Korry also posed problems. Nervous about the constant rumors of CIA involvement in Chile, he filed an eyes-only warning to Kissinger and Alexis Johnson, at the State Department, on September 25, the day before Kissinger left Washington on the Nixon European trip. “Aside from the merits of a coup and its implications for the United States,“ Korry reported, “I am convinced we cannot provoke one and that we should not run any risks simply to have another Bay of Pigs.“ Accordingly, Korry said, he had instructed the CIA station in Santiago “not to engage in … encouragement of any kind.“ What Korry did not report is that a few days earlier, he and Hecksher had engaged in a brief shouting match over Hecksher’s complaint that Korry was not doing all he could to urge Frei to involve himself in the Allende crisis. “Why the hell don’t you twist Frei’s arm?“ Korry recalls Hecksher shouting. “You’re telling Washington you’re doing it and you’re not.“ Korry followed the cable with a request that he be permitted to return to Washington to brief the administration and members of Congress about events in Chile. He was told to stay in Santiago because his presence there was “too valuable.”
By early October, Korry was suspicious that something was going on behind his back. There were few he could turn to. Interviews with former Korry associates and aides in the Santiago embassy revealed that he was widely disliked for his arrogance, and was therefore totally isolated from the corridor gossip in the embassy—a basic source of information. In a second private message to Kissinger and Johnson, dated October 9, he again warned: “I think any attempt on our part actively to encourage a coup could lead us to a Bay of Pigs failure. I am appalled to discover that there is liaison for terrorists and coup plotting…. I have never been consulted or informed of what, if any, role the United States may have….“ Korry told Kissinger that he and his senior Foreign Service aides in the embassy in Santiago had reason to suspect that an anti-Allende coup was being plotted by the CIA with the Patria y Libertad, an extreme right-wing civilian group—in contact with Viaux—that advocated violent action against Allende and his coalition. If this was true, Korry added, such efforts would not be successful and “would be an unrelieved disaster for the United States and for the President. Its consequences would be to strongly reinforce Allende now and in the future, and do the gravest harm to U.S. interests throughout Latin America, if not beyond.” (Once again, Korry’s insistence that he did not know that anything untoward was going on in his embassy seemingly defies belief. Yet he was able to establish beyond question the integrity of his October 9 cable, and even testified about it in his 1975 appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee without challenge.)
This time, there was an immediate reaction. Johnson filed an urgent cable ordering Korry to report for a meeting with Kissinger at the opening of business on Monday, October 12. Korry says that he arrived at Kissinger’s office at the appointed hour: “Henry greeted me and kept blaming ‘those idiots at the State Department’” for not providing earlier warning about the possibility of an Allende election. Korry realized that he was in the difficult position—as an ambitious Democrat working for the Nixon administration—of having to prove his loyalty while at the same time trying to persuade the White House to do nothing militarily in Chile. After a few moments of talk, Korry says, he told Kissinger that “only an insane person deal with a man like Viaux.“ Korry recalls describing Viaux as “a totally dangerous man” whose political faction had been penetrated by socialists close to Allende, which compounded the risk of American exposure. At this point, Kissinger asked Korry if he “would like to see the President”—an audience that had obviously been prearranged.
The two men marched to the Oval Office. “When the door opened,“ Korry says, “Nixon was standing right inside. He smacked his fist into his hand and said, ’That s.o.b., that s.o.b.,′ I looked surprised, and he said, ‘Not you, Mr. Ambassador. I know this isn’t your fault and you’ve always told it like it is. It’s that son-of-a-bitch Allende.’”
Nixon, obviously aware of how careful he had to be with Korry, who was not to know of the White House coup planning, began to explain lucidly how his administration would apply economic pressure to bring down the Allende government. When he concluded, Korry says, Nixon “turned to me, looking rather pleased—as if I were going to say, ’Yes, sir.’” But Korry saw no reason to be a yes-man. He had met Nixon in 1967, when he was ambassador to Ethiopia and Nixon was out of office and on one of his many worldwide trips; the two had spoken frankly. Korry, meeting Nixon for the first time since then, felt he could continue to speak his mind, and did so: “Mr. President, I know you won’t take it amiss if I tell you that you’re dead wrong.“ Not many people talked to Nixon that way. “I saw Henry’s eyes bulge,“ Korry says. The Ambassador proceeded to tell the President that he wanted authority to begin a wide-ranging series of discussions with Allende and his entourage as soon as his election was confirmed. “Which,“ he said, “is an absolutely foregone conclusion. Nothing on God’s green earth can stop it.“ At that point, Korry again brought up Viaux, warning the President that “of course, there are madmen running around dealing with Viaux.”
At the end of his monologue, Korry says, “the one who was steaming—quite obviously—was Henry. He looked daggers at me. When I left the office, Nixon was very nice. He got up and walked me to the door, asking about my children.” Kissinger stayed behind with the President, undoubtedly to join in the savaging of Korry that would take place.
What Korry did not realize was that Kissinger was merely reflecting Nixon’s real feelings, the rage that the President suppressed. In his memoirs, Kissinger tries to minimize the Nixon-Korry meeting, casually saying, “I gave Korry an opportunity to present his views to Nixon.” Kissinger also writes that the meeting took place three days later, on October 15, though Korry says that his cables and travel documents show that he was summoned to an early-morning meeting on October 12.
Korry, by his direct warning to Kissinger and Nixon, had thrown a monkey wrench into Track II; no longer could the President and his top adviser deny any knowledge of the CIA’s activities in case something went wrong. Track II’s secrecy cut two ways: not only would the White House be able to operate inside Chile without fear of exposure but only a few key CIA officials—whose loyalty was unquestioned—would know that the two top men in the government were personally involved.
In Korry’s view, some carefully orchestrated moves were made over the next few days to convince him and other senior administration officials that no secret CIA coup plotting was under way. On the thirteenth, if the White House logs for that day are correct, Karamessines was summoned to the White House for a late-morning meeting with Nixon, Kissinger, Alexis Johnson, and Laird. Laird had not been filled in on Track II; no coup plotting would be discussed in front of him—a fact Laird could testify to, if need be, in later inquiries. Karamessines, in his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, recalled being taken aside by Nixon as the meeting ended and being told again (Nixon had made a similar statement during the meeting) that “it was absolutely essential that the election of Mr. Allende to the presidency be thwarted.” Karamessines understood the message, as he later told the Senate committee: the Track II pressure was still on.
On the next day, Wednesday, October 14, the 40 Committee met again. Also at the meeting were Korry and Charles Meyer, who were invited by Johnson, obviously with the prior approval of Kissinger, and Karamessines, filling in for Helms. Korry recalls that much of the session, held in the White House Situation Room, dealt with how to handle Chile in the post-Allende period. Characteristically, Korry was the first speaker to raise the subject of a military coup. Speaking after Karamessines provided a generally discouraging intelligence assessment, Korry referred to rumors about Viaux “only in passing,“ he says, and once again said, as he had done two days earlier with the President, that “there was no chance for a military uprising.“ Kissinger said little during the forty-five-minute meeting. Korry later concluded that Kissinger had staged the meeting and invited Korry because “he wanted me to take responsibility for saying there’s going to be no coup—so he wouldn’t be the one accused of getting cold feet.“ Two days earlier, at their brief meeting before Korry met with Nixon, Korry says, Kissinger had asked him to write an eyes-only memorandum documenting how the State Department had dragged its feet in the opposition to Allende. At the time, Kissinger claimed that it was Nixon who had wanted such a memo, but Korry knew better: Kissinger, afraid that Allende’s election could not be averted, was seeking ammunition to justify his actions to his President. Korry was later very bitter about Kissinger’s role: “His interest was not in Chile but in who was going to be blamed for what. He wanted me to be the one who took the heat. Henry didn’t want to be associated with a failure and he was setting up a record to blame the State Department. He brought me in to the President because he wanted me to say what I had to say about Viaux; he wanted me to be the soft man. He didn’t have the moral courage to say to the President—‘Look, we’re in over our heads. Let’s get out of there.’”
The official minutes of that October 14 meeting, provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, quote Karamessines as naming Viaux “the only individual seemingly ready to attempt a coup and…. his chances of mounting a successful one were slight.“ Viaux was “unpredictable,“ Karamessines said. The official minutes also quote Kissinger as observing that “there presently appeared to be little the United States can do to influence the Chilean situation one way or another.”
The need for so much duplicity apparently did have some impact; the evidence is clear that Kissinger and Nixon suddenly began to have grave second thoughts. Any violent action by Viaux carried the considerable risk of exposing CIA involvement with the anti-Allende plotting; now there was a second, much more serious issue—the possible exposure of high-level White House involvement.
From all available evidence, the decision to turn primary efforts from Viaux to the Valenzuela group was made the next day, October 15, at a critical White House meeting on Chile. Wimert had been reporting for days that his contacts with Valenzuela and the other plotters were substantial, and he was convinced, as he reported to the Agency (and, he thought, to his superiors in the Pentagon), that they were ready to mount a coup—one that would have a far greater chance of success than any operation proposed by Viaux. On the fourteenth, Wimert had received a dramatic order, ostensibly signed by General Bennett: “High authority in Washington has authorized you to offer material support short of armed intervention to Chilean Armed Forces in any endeavors they may undertake to prevent the election of Allende on October 24.“ Karamessines later told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the “high authority” could only have been Kissinger or Nixon; Bennett had no authority to issue such orders. He also testified that the message must have been drafted in the White House—or at least cleared by Kissinger’s office—before being routed to Wimert.
On October 15, a Thursday, Karamessines again met with Kissinger and Haig at the White House. According to Karamessines’s memorandum of that meeting, as supplied to the Senate, the senior officials closely reviewed the possibility of a military coup, focusing on Viaux and Valenzuela. In a decision clearly linked to the orders provided to Wimert the day before, Kissinger ordered Karamessines to stall Viaux, to persuade him to stand down. But the other plotters—the more reliable group, headed by Valenzuela—were to be encouraged to proceed. Kissinger closed the meeting by urging the Agency to “continue keeping the pressure on every Allende weak spot in sight—now, after the 24th of October, after 3 November [when Allende was to be inaugurated], and into the future until such time as new marching orders are given.”
One day later, CIA headquarters cabled Hecksher its understanding of the new White House orders: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup…. We are to continue to generate maximum pressure toward this end utilizing every appropriate resource.“ Hecksher was told to warn Viaux not to move, since a “coup attempt carried out by him alone with the forces now at his disposal would fail.“ Hecksher further was to “continue to encourage” Viaux to join forces with other coup planners. “There is great and continuing interest in the activities of Valenzuela et al. and we wish them optimum good fortune.”
The White House decision to turn to Valenzuela was, without question, triggered by Korry’s meeting with Kissinger and Nixon on October 12 and his articulation of the dangers inherent in dealing with Viaux. But the basic American policy remained the same: a coup to prevent Allende’s presidency. Over the next eight days, the CIA continued to report to Kissinger and Haig about contacts with Valenzuela and other plotters, and they, in turn, continued to pressure the Agency to get something done.
And yet Kissinger and Haig insisted in their testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975 that they had “turned off” the CIA’s coup planning against Allende in the October 15 meeting with Karamessines. After the fifteenth, Kissinger testified, “There was no separate channel by the CIA to the White House and … all actions with respect to Chile were taken in the 40 Committee framework. There was no 40 Committee that authorized an approach to or contact with military people, no plots which I am familiar with … and if there was any further contact with military plotting, it was totally unauthorized and this is the first that I have heard of it.“ Haig corroborated the testimony: “The conclusions of that meeting [on October 15] were that we had better not do anything rather than something that was not going to succeed…. My general feeling was, I left that meeting with the impression that there was nothing authorized.“ Nixon, in a subsequent written response in 1976 to a series of interrogatories from the committee, went even further: he was not aware of any coup planning at all, not even Track II. “I do not presently recall being personally consulted with regard to CIA activities in Chile at any time during the period September 15, 1970, through October 24, 1970,“ he stated. One exception, Nixon added, came in mid-October, when Kissinger “informed me that the CIA had reported to him that their efforts to enlist the support of various factions in attempts by Mr. Allende’s opponents to prevent Allende from becoming president had not been successful and likely would not be.” Nixon then agreed, he said, with Kissinger’s recommendation that the CIA be ordered to abandon its efforts. Thus, the basic thrust of the Nixon, Kissinger, and Haig testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was that the CIA had been operating on its own in continuing to move against Allende after October 15. The Senate committee made no effort to investigate the obvious contradiction between the Nixon-Kissinger and the CIA versions.
Kissinger was given very gingerly treatment by the Intelligence Committee members, who did not directly raise the possibility that he was not telling the truth in his testimony. “The senators rolled over and played dead,“ says one committee staffer who investigated the Chile incident. “It was his celebrity status. When Kissinger came to testify [in the closed hearings], all of a sudden we let in the press and all the senators stood up and had photographs taken with him.” Most of the staff members investigating Chile had no doubts about who was lying and who was not, but were unable to do more in the published reports than to note the various discrepancies—most of which pitted the CIA against the White House.
In his memoirs, Kissinger, freed from the burden of sworn testimony, takes the White House cover story a step further: “When I ordered coup plotting turned off on October 15, 1970, Nixon, Haig, and I considered it the end of both Track I and Track II. The CIA personnel in Chile apparently thought that the order applied only to Viaux: they felt they were free to continue with the second group of plotters [led by Valenzuela], of whom the White House was unaware.“ The Agency’s efforts in Chile were “amateurish, being improvised in panic and executed in confusion. ” What Kissinger could add, of course, is that much of the panic originated with Nixon on September 15, and much of the confusion with White House fears of exposure that grew out of Korry’s warnings. Blood was going to be shed in Santiago that October, and the White House wanted no part of the responsibility.
In later interviews, CIA officials were amused and almost philosophical about the subsequent Nixon and Kissinger lies: “We’re there as the whipping boy,“ said one senior operative who was directly involved in Track II. “Kissinger and Nixon left us holding the bag, but that’s what we’re in business for. And if you don’t like it, don’t join up.”
One of the problems in dealing with fanatics is their fanaticism. On October 17, the CIA station in Santiago informed headquarters that the White House’s words of caution had been passed to Viaux by one of the false-flaggers. Viaux couldn’t have cared less. He informed his contact that it did not matter what the CIA did, since he and his cohorts had decided to proceed with the coup with or without American support. During these last few days before the election, the CIA, desperately trying to induce Valenzuela to act—and thus ease the pressure from the White House—sweetened its offer to him. Late on October 17, Valenzuela was promised three machine guns stripped of all identifying markings, six tear-gas grenades, and 500 rounds of ammunition, in support of a plan to kidnap General René Schneider, commander in chief of the Chilean army and a strong constitutionalist, who was believed by the CIA and the Valenzuela plotters to stand between the armed forces and a military coup.
The plan was to grab Schneider as he left a military dinner on October 19, and fly him to Argentina. Frei would resign; one of Valenzuela’s aides would be placed in charge of a military government and would dissolve the Congress. Thus, Allende could not be elected. Without Schneider’s presence, it was argued, the chances of military backing for a take-over were significantly increased.
One constant goal of the CIA station that fall was to “create a coup climate” in Chile. A headquarters cable, dated October 19—only five days before the election—provided guidance: “It still appears that [the proposed] coup has no pretext or justification that it can offer to make it acceptable in Chile or Latin America. It therefore would seem necessary to create one to bolster what will probably be their claim to a coup to save Chile from Communism. ” The cable, reprinted in part in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, makes clear that the CIA was aware that the citizens of Chile were prepared to accept peaceably an Allende presidency.
On the afternoon of the nineteenth, Karamessines met with Haig in the White House and, as he testified to the Senate, reported the new Valenzuela plan “very promptly, if for no other reason than that we didn’t have all that much promising news to report to the White House.“ Haig, of course, denied hearing anything about the ambitious, last-minute scheming, and Kissinger continued to maintain that he “was informed of nothing after October 15.” Kissinger went so far as to tell the senators that according to his daily calendar—which he did not turn over to the committee—he held no conversation with Karamessines or Helms between October 15 and October 19, a statement that did not rule out the obvious possibility that Karamessines met with Haig, as Karamessines testified, and Haig filled in Kissinger later. Haig and Kissinger also specifically denied hearing anything about the kidnapping plot against General Schneider.
On the evening of the nineteenth, the Valenzuela group, bolstered by some of Viaux’s thugs as well as by the six tear-gas grenades delivered by Wimert, failed in an attempt to kidnap Schneider when the General left the dinner by private means instead of in his official car. With this overt act, the pressure from the White House became even more acute. Early on October 20, Hecksher received an urgent cable asking him to report anything he could, because, the cable said, “Headquarters must respond during morning 20 October to queries from high levels.” After the failure became known, Wimert was authorized to promise Valenzuela and his chief associate, an admiral, $50,000 each in CIA funds if the two men would try again. That second attempt, on the evening of the twentieth, also failed. More extreme steps were taken as the constant White House pressure and the failure of the Chilean conspirators induced what must have been near panic inside the CIA station in Santiago. On October 22, the sterile machine guns—shipped by diplomatic pouch—were delivered to Valenzuela. General Schneider was assassinated that day by a group of military officers and thugs, who did not use the American-supplied machine guns. Neither Valenzuela nor his senior associates were at the scene, but Chilean military courts later determined that the men who participated in the October 22 assassination, which was planned by Viaux, also participated in the Valenzuela kidnapping attempts on October 19 and 20. The military courts eventually convicted Viaux of kidnapping and conspiring to cause a military coup for his role in the Schneider slaying; Valenzuela was convicted of the single charge of conspiring to cause a coup.
Just who was respomsible for what in the Schneider assassination is impossible to determine; contradictions abound between the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the statements made by participants in later interviews with me. For example, the Senate Intelligence Committee reprinted numerous CIA cables stating that no actual funds were passed to Valenzuela in the days before the October 24 election. Yet Wimert stated in an interview that he did indeed pass Valenzuela and the admiral $50,000 each. After the failed kidnapping, Wimert recalls, he was determined to get back the $100,000 and thus shield, if possible, his direct role in the plotting. The admiral returned the funds without comment, but Valenzuela resisted, Wimert says. Wimert recalls that he felt compelled to pull out his revolver, which he always carried with him in Santiago, and to wave it in front of Valenzuela and say, “I’ll beat the shit out of you with this if you don’t get me the money.“ Valenzuela still hesitated, Wimert says, “and so I just hit him once and he went and got it.” The exchange took place in Valenzuela’s house. There is no apparent record in the CIA file of these transactions, which Wimert insists he reported to Hecksher.
Valenzuela’s role was minimized in all of the subsequent reporting, both in CIA cables and by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The underlying assumption was that Viaux and the other plotters failed in a kidnapping attempt and were compelled to shoot Schneider when he resisted. The slain general was said to have pulled out a handgun when first confronted. Yet the official report, on file in Santiago, of the military police officer who investigated the slaying depicts an execution; there is no mention of Schneider’s alleged resistance. The report notes that Schneider’s car was struck and stopped by a second vehicle. The car then “was surrounded by five individuals, one of whom, making use of a blunt instrument similar to a sledgehammer, broke the rear window and then fired at General Schneider, striking him in the region of the spleen, in the left shoulder, and in the left wrist. ”
The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that since none of the machine guns supplied to Valenzuela had been used in the assassination, and since the CIA had withdrawn direct support to Viaux, there was “no evidence of a plan to kill Schneider or that United States officials specifically anticipated that Schneider would be shot during the abduction. ”
Some of the CIA agents inside Chile knew better. In the months following, at least one of those men who saw the most—the false-flaggers—feared that his action against Schneider would come to haunt him. The worried operative was Bruce MacMaster, a career CIA officer who had served throughout Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s under cover as a Foreign Service officer. MacMaster had a series of complaints about what he had seen and done in Chile and about the activities of Henry J. Sloman. On February 16, 1971, he walked into the office of John Charles Murray, the branch chief for Mexico, at Agency headquarters. in Washington. Murray was a career operations officer with a reputation for integrity—a straight shooter. MacMaster proceeded to unravel the story of his involvement in Chile, acknowledging that he, Sloman, and others were ordered into Santiago in an effort to mobilize a coup. As Murray reported in a “Secret-Eyes Only” memorandum to his superior two days later, MacMaster “stated [while in Chile] he ostensibly was representing American business interests such as the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and other unidentified business groups.” The Agency had agreed in 1967, after wide-spread scandals about the use of philanthropic and educational foundations as CIA conduits, not to utilize the credentials of the Ford, Rockefeller, and similar foundations to shield their agents on overseas assignments.
MacMaster, who was born of American parents in Columbia, told Murray that he had traveled on a falsified Colombian passport to Chile to meet with coup plotters, and had reassured them that, as Murray reported, “as a representative of American business interests he was most anxious to see the continuance of democratic institutions in Chile.“ MacMaster said that he and Sloman had also met with Viaux, and were involved in the plotting against Schneider. They learned that Viaux was also working closely with a group of right-wing students. It was the student group, MacMaster told Murray, that “was responsible for the machine-gun attack on General Schneider.”
The main goal of Murray’s memorandum, which was sent to Broe, the chief of Latin American clandestine operations, was to warn of MacMaster’s fear that some members of the Viaux group, many of whom were jailed following the Schneider assassination, “will possibly implicate CIA in the action taken against Schneider.“ MacMaster told Murray that he had privately met—outside of Chile—with one of Viaux’s associates and had been informed, as Murray wrote, that the men jailed were “seeking a large amount of money—somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000—for the purpose of providing support for the families of the members of the group jailed…. Mr. MacMaster said that we could probably get away with paying around $10,000 for the support of each family”
MacMaster had another complaint—about Sloman’s black-market activities while in Santiago. He accused his colleague of smuggling clothing and jewelry out of Santiago for his personal profit, and reported that Sloman had been using diplomatic pouches to bring pornography into Mexico from the United States. The two men had been friends, but when MacMaster lost a bitter fistfight with him weeks before at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico City, he retaliated by informing Mexican internal-security officials of Sloman’s status as a long-standing CIA operative.
All these seamy doings, as reported by Murray were hushed up by the Agency over the next few months and later kept from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sloman, in a later interview, casually acknowledged that he was involved in smuggling while in Santiago, but described it as part of his CIA cover. “I’ve always been an outside man,“ he said. “I lived my cover in every place I’ve ever been. I was also known as a professional gambler—or as Mafia.“ Sloman confirmed that he had been reported to the police in Mexico City after a fistfight with MacMaster, but called his action justified. “He made a pass at my oldest daughter, and so I hit him in the mouth and knocked his teeth out.”
Senior officials of the CIA were kept aware of the MacMaster-Sloman dispute in a series of highly classified official reports and communiques, in early 1971. Somehow, the Mexican authorities were soothed, and Sloman was routinely promoted—despite the serious questions raised about his activities, and the fact that his feud with MacMaster led to the blowing of his cover in Mexico and, more important, compromised the security of the Agency’s plotting against Allende. In deciding not to reprimand or dismiss the two men, the CIA perhaps concluded that the character defects that got MacMaster and Sloman into hot water in Mexico City also made them good agents. The official memoranda detailing the incident reveal much, inadvertently, about the kind of men recruited to serve as undercover operatives. MacMaster was reported in official documents to be a heavy drinker; Sloman had been admonished for having violated Agency rules about the purchase of duty-free liquor from American Embassy commissaries and the use of diplomatic pouches for the shipment of personal—and obviously contraband—goods. Sloman also told a senior Agency official in Mexico City who queried him about some of the MacMaster charges that—as a subsequent internal report noted—“he knew a great deal about the people in the Station and threatened to blow the Station out of the water.”
Yet the only one to suffer was John Murray, who had forwarded official reports to his superiors. Murray, who died in 1979, began to investigate on his own, and was told by one senior CIA operative that there were at least a few members of the CIA station in Santiago who realized that Schneider would never escape from the kidnapping attempt with his life. Murray was told that there had been a “panic” inside the CIA station in Santiago after General Schneider rebuffed the suggestion that he lead a military coup to prevent Allende’s election. The fear was that Schneider might—as a patriotic gesture—tell Allende of the CIA-inspired plotting against him. For his efforts, Murray was stunned to find himself categorized as a “squealer,” and was subsequently dumped into the bottom 5 percent of his rank in terms of future promotions. He retired in 1976, without receiving another promotion and after refusing a transfer to a position in Haiti. By then he was fatally ill, bitter, and no longer willing or able to fight the bureaucracy.
Murray knew that his inquiries were bringing him to the brink of the most secret area of CIA activity: political assassinations. No document will ever be found, nor will there be an eyewitness, to describe CIA plans or White House directions to murder Allende. In interviews with me, nearly everybody involved, including the false-flaggers, denied knowledge of any such planning. A few CIA operatives did acknowledge hearing talk of assassination from Chilean officers hostile to Allende, but they said that was all they heard: loose talk. That the plans and pressures did exist was confirmed by a senior member of the intelligence community, whose information on other sensitive activities—provided to me when I worked for The New York Times in Washington—has been unfailingly accurate. This official, while on a visit to Chile in 1971, learned of intense pressure even then to update contingency plans for the assassination of Allende. In subsequent conversations, in Washington, he was flatly told by the men at the top of the CIA that such planning was initiated in the fall of 1970 because “Henry wanted it.”
The only involved American to state directly that CIA may have been under instructions to assassinate Allende in the fall of 1970 was Wimert, who, as an Army officer, was perhaps not as steeped in the ways of secrecy as his CIA associates. Wimert, in a conversation in 1980, said he did not know of the existence of the false-flaggers inside Santiago until 1975, when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He told me what he would never have said in 1975: that he had “figured” the false-flaggers were in Santiago to arrange for Allende’s death. “Why else would they be there?“ The assassination of Allende, Wimert said, “was always something everybody hoped would happen. It would have been the ideal thing.”
The key contact with the most extreme anti-Allende elements was made by a false-flagger we shall call Robert F. He was a career CIA operative who had retired by 1970 but was persuaded after appeals to his sense of patriotism to return for one last mission. The more he knew about Chile, the less he liked; he told some colleagues that it was corporate security and not national security that was involved in the anti-Allende operation. After testifying less than candidly before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Robert F. had second thoughts and later tried—without success—to warn a committee staff member that “you guys didn’t get the real story”
Robert F. was ordered to spend two weeks in Santiago, make contact with Viaux and his group, and pass them money. He met Marshal late one night in the National Cathedral, a few blocks from the presidential palace, in the center of Santiago. Marshal struck Robert F. as insane, but orders were orders. He gave him the money. A few days later, around October 19, Marshal was arrested by the Chilean police; he spent the next two years in jail. Sloman acknowledges that men such as Marshal were provided with funds, and talked about assassinations with him and the other false-flaggers. But Sloman insists that the Chileans were always told not to get involved in bloodshed: “Our answer to them was no—by no means.“ Yet, he says, “There is no way you can stop a Chilean from doing anything.”
After the Schneider killing, fear gripped the CIA station. Wimert recalls that he collected not only the $100,000 he had paid to Valenzuela but also the three sterile machine guns that had been provided to the would-be kidnappers. He and Hecksher then jumped into a car, drove seventy miles west to the resort town of Viña del Mar, and threw the weapons into the Pacific Ocean. “You can say we really deep-sixed them,” Wimert says, with a laugh.
Hecksher must have realized that in the likely event of a full-scale investigation, Viaux and the other conspirators would be able to testify that the concept of Schneider’s kidnapping had originated with the CIA. A little-noted exchange of CIA cables published by the Senate Intelligence Committee shows that on October 13, Hecksher was queried by CIA headquarters about possible plans to prevent Schneider from exerting his influence to disrupt a coup. The response, filed within hours, according to the committee report, was that the coup leaders—Viaux and Valenzuela—would first eliminate Schneider by kidnapping him, and then proceed with the coup.
The Schneider assassination, far from easing the way for a successful coup in the days before Allende’s election, made it impossible. The Chilean military and citizenry, angered at the attempt to disrupt the constitutional process, rallied around Allende; he easily won the congressional election on October 24, and was inaugurated on November 3 without incident.
Within a few days, Hecksher was summoned back to Washington and replaced—the first victim of the CIA’s failure to do what the President wanted. Nixon and Kissinger were also enraged with Helms, who had failed them. Korry was in his last ambassadorial post, although he would not learn as much for another year.
None of this is described by Kissinger in his memoirs. In his version, he and Nixon had sought to stop the CIA excesses on October 15, and were determined to adopt a “cool but correct” stance to the new Allende administration. But Allende, writes Kissinger, was not in the mood to accept the good wishes of the Nixon administration; in greeting a Nixon envoy at his inauguration, he “gave no evidence of a conciliatory approach.” The possibility that Allende might be aware of the White House’s planning against him is not even suggested by Kissinger.
After the failure to stop Allende’s election, the next step was economic: the administration would stop the flow of financial aid and loans from many sources as possible in an effort to cripple Chile’s economy and force Allende out of office. On November 9, the White House issued National Security Decision Memorandum 93, “Policy toward Chile,“ a top-secret paper, never published in full, that outlined what amounted to economic warfare. “Within the context of a publicly cool and correct posture toward Chile,“ it said, the administration woould undertake “vigorous efforts…. to assure that other governments in Latin America understand fully that United States opposes consolidation of a Communist state in Chile hostile to the interests of the United State and other hemisphere nations, and to the extent possible encourages them to adopt a similar posture.”
The President ordered steps taken to:
“A. Exclude, to the extent possible, further financing assistance or guarantees for United States private investments in Chile, including those related to the investment guarantee program or the operations of the Export-Import Bank;
“B. Determine the extent to which existing guarantees and financing arrangements can be terminated or reduced;
“C. Bring a maximum feasible influence to bear in international financial institutions to limit credit or other financing assistance to Chile;
“D. Assure that United States private business interests having investments or operations in Chile are made aware of the concern with which the United States Government views the Government of Chile and the restrictive nature of the policies which the United States Government intends to follow.”
The document also called for a review of possible steps that could be taken to affect adversely the world price of copper, and ordered a ban on all new bilateral economic-aid commitments. “Existing commitments will be fulfilled,“ NSDM 93 stated, “but ways in which, if the United States desires to do so, they could be reduced, delayed or terminated should be examined.”
In essence, Nixon had authorized an economic death knell for Chile. In the next few weeks, Kissinger took charge of a series of interagency meetings, mandated by NSDM 93, to work out the policy of economic retaliation. The goal was to make sure that the State Department bureaucracy carried out orders and cut Chile off without a dollar. “It stuck in my mind because Kissinger, in effect, became a Chilean desk officer,“ says one senior State Department official. “He made sure that policy was made in the way he and the President wanted it. Henry was showing the President that he was on top of it.” The cutoff was a success: no agency in the government and none of the multilateral lending banks dared cross Nixon or Kissinger. Prior to Allende’s election, for example, the World Bank had lent Chile more than $234 million; afterward, not one loan was approved. Severe shutdowns also took place at the Export-Import Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. American AID assistance to Chile, which averaged nearly $70 million annually during much of the 1960s, totaled just $3.3 million in the three years of the Allende presidency.
In his memoirs, Kissinger calls NSDM 93, which he does not reproduce, “stern but less drastic and decisive than it sounded.“ Whatever policy the United States pursued between 1970 and 1973, Kissinger argues, “the credit-worthiness of Chile would have dropped drastically….” The cutbacks were ordered, of course, before Chile’s credit rating began to fall.
The CIA believed after Allende’s inauguration that it still had a presidential mission to accomplish: the ouster of Allende. Track II was reduced in scope and in intensity over the next few years, but it continued—for there had been no cancellation. Karamessines was explicit about it in his Senate testimony: “As far as I was concerned, Track II was really never ended. What we were told to do … was to continue our efforts, stay alert, and to do what we could to contribute to the eventual achievement of the objectives and purposes of Track II. That being the case, I don’t think it is proper to say that Track II was ended.”
Within months, a new chief of station and a new network of agents were in place. By late 1971, there were almost daily contacts with the Chilean military and almost daily reports of coup plotting. By then, too, the station in Santiago was collecting the kind of information that would be essential for a military dictatorship in the days following a coup—lists of civilians to be arrested, those to be provided with protection, and government installations to be oecupied immediately. The CIA, aware that its men and activities were being closely monitored by the new Allende government, turned to its allies. Two operatives from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) were stationed in Chile after a formal request; the Australians were told that outsiders were needed because of the government’s close surveillance. By 1972, the Australians had agreed to monitor and control three agents on behalf of the .CIA and to relay their information to Washington. The bare fact of such involvement became known after an internal inquiry by the Australian government in 1977; just what the ASIS operatives were doing in Chile on behalf of the United States was not made public.
In its published report on covert action in Chile, the Senate Intelligence Committee acceded to the Agency’s request to permit details of the post-1970 operations to be censored. The eliminated material included the fact that a major disinformation and propaganda program was initiated in 1971 by the CIA, in an effort “to stimulate the military coup groups into a strong unified move against the government.“ In addition, the censored material included information on a “long-term effort” to collect operational data that would be necessary for a military coup—such as illicitly obtaining the Allende government’s contingency plans to be put into effect in case of a military uprising. More than $3.5 million was authorized by Nixon and Kissinger for CIA activities in Chile in 1971; by September of 1973, when Allende was assassinated—or committed suicide—during a successful military coup, the CIA had spent $8 million, or at least had officially reported spending that much, on anti-Allende plotting. There is no evidence that the CIA played a direct role in the Allende coup, nor is there evidence that the Nixon administration was involved through third parties in Allende’s death. There were few in Chile, however, who did not understand what kind of regime would find favor in Washington.
Elsewhere on the Web
Links to related material on other Web sites. National security, in terms of a threat to the well-being of the United States and its citizens, played no significant role in Chile in 1970. And yet the election of Allende, with his open support for Cuba and other revolutionary countries, did pose a major problem for the National Security Agency, the elite group responsible for communications intelligence. There were at least two top-secret NSA facilities operating “in the black”—that is, under cover—in Chile. One facility, disguised as an Air Force atmospheric testing station on Easter Island, in the Pacific Ocean, was responsible for monitoring and tracking Soviet and French nuclear tests and ballistic-missile firings in the southern Pacific. Easter Island’s significance was in its location: any Soviet missile strike at the United States from submarines in the South Pacific would have to pass within its radar range. In addition, Chile—with its narrow coast and high mountain ranges—provided the perfect topography for the successful monitoring and interception of low-frequency Soviet submarine communications, and at least one NSA facility, under cover at an offshore island, was operating round-the-clock to help keep track of the Soviet submarine fleet. Both bases were evacuated overnight—and their equipment flown to a U.S. base in Panama—when Allende was elected by the Chilean Congress. The loss of such facilities, coming on the heels of the Cienfuegos crisis, in which Kissinger believed—or said he believed—that the Russians were seeking to expand their submarine operations in the Caribbean, could have helped explain or make more rational the White House’s hostility to Allende. And yet not one of the participants in the Chile crisis—including CIA men who attended meetings in the White House—can recall hearing any expressions of concern from Kissinger or Nixon about the bases. “The NSA played no part at all,“ says one senior official. “The bases were never mentioned in any meetings I heard or saw notes of. They weren’t a reason for Nixon’s and Kissinger’s concern about Allende. There was genuine concern over his policies.”
The White House collaborators had differing motives for their high-risk attempts to prevent Allende’s election. Richard Nixon was primarily protecting the interests of his corporate benefactors, Jay Parkinson, Donald Kendall, and Harold Geneen. For Henry Kissinger, the issue was more complicated, linked not only to his need to please the President and dominate the bureaucracy but also to his world view and his belief that no action to stop the spread of communism was immoral.
But Chile was also an interlude, an opportunity for the men who did not understand the limits of their power to make something happen, to get it done, to solve a problem with the appropriate blend of political, military, and economic force, applied in secrecy. It did not work that fall in Chile, just as it did not work in the most pressing issue before Nixon’s administration—the war in Vietnam.