Global Warning

Go-ahead on Pinochet extradition sends shot across multinational bow as key U.S. files remain hidden

While presidential records automatically go to the National Archives after each administration, an official's personal papers may be retained. And Kissinger, says Jeanne Schauble, director of the Initial Processing and Declassification Division at the National Archives and Records Administration, "interpreted that rather liberally, I'm afraid." According to Schauble, after Kissinger left government, he managed to have his calendars and memos of phone conversations legally certified as "personal" and then donated them to the Library of Congress with the proviso that they remain sealed until five years after his death. "We have no authority to deal with declassification of records beyond what authority is granted to us by the agencies that originated them, and as these are personal papers, I don't believe they're covered," she says.

Although it's unlikely that the government departments affected by the new declassification directive have gone to such lengths to shield dicey documents, one State Department official involved in the Pinochet case says that ever since Spanish investigators made their initial request for material last year, the intelligence community's pertinacity has been appalling. "The Spanish don't even have access to all our unclassified documents, because all we were required to do was give them previously released documents," says the official. "There's plenty of stuff still out there. But there's been resistance from the CIA, DIA, and NSA."

Most obstinate, some intelligence watchers believe, is the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). When the Church Committee undertook its landmark 1975 investigation of dubious activities by U.S. intelligence agencies, it stopped short of probing the role military intelligence personnel played in the 1973 coup— which is exactly what U.S. journalist Charles Horman was investigating when he disappeared days after Pinochet seized power.

Mothers of the disappeared examine photographs in Chile following coup in the late '70s.
Sygma
Mothers of the disappeared examine photographs in Chile following coup in the late '70s.

"On the day of the coup, he was in Vina del Mar, where he found himself among a group of American military personnel who seemed quite pleased with themselves and were talking about how they had come to do a job," says Joyce Horman of her late husband, whose disappearance became the basis for the 1982 film Missing. "I think that was a very big element in why Charlie disappeared."

Horman isn't alone in her desire to see relevant documents released. Two celebrities with keen personal interests in the unfolding developments are Constantin Costa-Gavras, the director of Missing, and presidential lawyer David Kendall, who successfully defended Costa-Gavras in a libel suit brought by three U.S. Embassy officials posted to Santiago, who claimed that Costa-Gavras portrayed them as having somehow taken part in Horman's murder. "We never did that in the movie, because that wasn't the reality," says Costa-Gavras, who holds that what American officials did indirectly— enabling the coup and its subsequent carnage— was far worse. Even over a rough line from Paris, the pique in his voice is unmistakable. "What I'm sure they did to Charles Horman was do nothing to save him. Of that I'm absolutely sure. They didn't give a shit about saving his life, for absolute sure. And this is why there must be a trial. Not so much to punish Pinochet— he's too old for punishment to be effective— but so we can all finally get the truth about that period, to understand better why and how what happened, happened."

Though Kendall's client's administration has yet to take a unclouded position on the matter, the attorney says he's all for declassification: "There are others better suited to address certain specifics," Kendall told the Voice, "but I'm quite interested in the Pinochet case. There are still a lot of unanswered questions."

However, any definitive U.S. action isn't likely to be swift. According to an investigator involved in the government's Pinochet discussions, some State Department officials believe "there's no evidence linking Pinochet to the [1976 Washington, D.C.] Letelier-Moffitt assassination," and only "tangential" evidence linking Pinochet to other American deaths like Horman's. Part of the reason for this novel interpretation is that the State Department's legal office has forbidden officials at State to have any contact with officials at Justice so as not to appear to be tampering with a potential Justice Department prosecution. "It's like saying you can't be involved in the case because there is, technically, no case, but you can't have any contact because you're not allowed to interfere with the case," says the investigator.

According to this source and others at the State Department, no clear policy stance on Pinochet has been articulated, due in part to feuding between State's pro­human rights and pro­international trade factions (merely the latest manifestation of policy schizophrenia in an administration that professes human rights support, yet continues to back militaristic regimes with multinational corporate ties). Even though a recent poll showed that a clear majority of Chileans would like to see Pinochet tried, the Justice Department has failed to do what ex­ assistant U.S. attorney Larry Barcella— who sent some of Pinochet's agents to jail for blowing up Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt six blocks from the White House in 1976— says it should do: indict Pinochet for murder.

Research: Lauren Reynolds

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