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John Simkin

The History of Operation Condor

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http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/022108a.html

Robert Parry, Consortium News (22nd February, 2008)

In 1976, when George H.W. Bush was CIA director, the U.S. government tolerated right-wing terrorist cells inside the United States and mostly looked the other way when these killers topped even Palestinian terrorists in spilling blood, including a lethal car bombing in Washington, D.C., according to newly obtained internal government documents.

That car bombing on Sept. 21, 1976, on Washington’s Embassy Row, killed Chile’s former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker Ronni Moffitt, while wounding Moffitt’s husband.

It soon became clear to the FBI and other federal investigators that the attack likely was a joint operation of DINA, the fearsome Chilean intelligence agency of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and U.S.-based right-wing Cuban exiles.

But Bush’s CIA steered attention away from the real assassins toward leftists who supposedly killed Letelier to create a martyr for their cause. Eventually, the CIA’s cover story collapsed and – during the Carter administration – at least some of the lower-level conspirators were prosecuted, though the full story was never told.

Recently obtained internal FBI records and notes of a U.S. prosecutor involved in counter-terrorism cases make clear that the connections among Bush’s CIA, DINA and the Cuban Nationalist Movement (CNM) – which supplied the trigger men for the Letelier bombing – were closer than was understood at the time.

DINA provided intelligence training for CNM terrorists who acted like a “sleeper cell” inside the United States; federal prosecutions of right-wing Cuban terrorists were routinely frustrated; and the CIA did all it could to cover for its anticommunist allies who were part of a broader international terror campaign called Operation Condor.

Beginning in late 1975, Operation Condor -- named after Chile's national bird -- was a joint operation of right-wing South American military dictatorships, working closely with U.S.-based Cuban and other anticommunist extremists on cross-border assassinations of political dissidents as far away as Europe.

This meant that during George H.W. Bush’s year at the CIA’s helm, the United States both harbored domestic terrorist cells and served as a base for international terrorism. Yet no U.S. official was ever held accountable -- and in many cases, just the opposite....

Regarding the DINA-CNM alliance, Chile’s star assassin Michael Townley told FBI interrogators after his arrest in 1978 that Cuban exiles involved in the Letelier murder had received DINA training, including CNM member Virgilio Paz, who “attended a one-month ‘quickie’ intelligence course sponsored by DINA,” the internal FBI report said.

Townley, a fiercely anticommunist American expatriate who had emerged as DINA’s chief overseas assassin, told the FBI that Paz’s training was personally approved by DINA’s director, Col. Manuel Contreras, who – the CIA later acknowledged – was an asset of the U.S. spy agency.

Paz lived at Townley’s residence during his three-month stay in Chile and DINA paid for Paz’s frequent calls back home to the United States, Townley said, recalling that Paz left Chile close to his son Brian’s birthday on June 6, 1976.

About a month later, Colonel Pedro Espinoza, DINA’s director of operations, summoned Townley to a meeting near St. Georges School in suburban Santiago. Townley recalled driving his DINA-supplied Fiat 125 sedan to the early-morning meeting and taking a thermos of coffee.

Espinoza asked Townley if he’d be available for a special operation outside Chile. Townley complained “that he had spent a majority of 1975 in Europe on DINA missions and that he felt he was neglecting his family with constant travel on behalf of DINA,” according to the FBI report...

When I tracked down former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Sanford, who was assigned to the Cuban terrorism cases in the mid-1970s, he still sounded frustrated at the lack of support he got from Washington to pursue these killers who inflicted death both inside and outside the United States.

“My blood starts to boil when I think of how much we could have done but how badly we were kept in the dark,” said Sanford, now 66, living in northern Florida. “I asked for stuff and never got it.”

Sanford recalled that when CIA Director Bush visited Miami at the end of the bloody year 1976, FBI agents “asked him for information from the CIA on where explosives [for the Cuban exiles] were stashed.” The response from Bush, according to Sanford, was “forget about it.”

Referring to the umbrella organization CORU, Sanford said, “it was the only terrorist group that ever exported terrorism from the United States.”

Ironically, the CIA’s analytical division reached a similar, troubling conclusion in an annual report entitled “International Terrorism in 1976” that was published in July 1977, after CIA Director Bush had left office.

“Cuban exile groups operating under the aegis of a new alliance called the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations [CORU] were particularly active during the second half of the year,” the CIA reported. “They were responsible for no less than 17 acts of international terrorism (at least three of which took place in the US).

“Statistically, this matches the record compiled by the various Palestinian terrorist groups during the same period. But largely because the Cuban exile operations included the October bombing of a Cubana Airlines passenger aircraft, their consequences were far more bloody.”

In other words, Cuban exiles based in the United States – during George H.W. Bush’s year in charge of the CIA – outpaced Palestinian terrorists in terms of a total body count.

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When I tracked down former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Sanford, who was assigned to the Cuban terrorism cases in the mid-1970s, he still sounded frustrated at the lack of support he got from Washington to pursue these killers who inflicted death both inside and outside the United States.

I can answer that question. They were stashed in the Falcondo Mining Company in Bonao, Dominican Republic.

Wim

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Back to the other point that I want to clear up. Bob Vernon had all of my papers, including the original manuscript and my notes for "To Kill A Country," and he gave them to at that time, "warden Godinez" who is now the D.D. for the D.O.C. And in writing, I had it plainly stated the Orlando Letelier was killed by a bomb, that had the explosives transported by me, to Buckley, and Michael Townley put the bomb in his car, a Chevy Nova, if my memory is correct and the car exploded in front of the Chilean Embassy on Sheridan Circle, better known as Embassy Row. The explosives came from the Falcondo Mining Co. and they were 60 per-cent strength dynamite, that is referred to as "engineering explosives." The man that I shot was sitting in the back seat of the limo when I pulled my .45 and shot the S.O.B. and yes, I ticked off a lot of people. But he was Russian, he was not a Chilean. Bob had all of the paperwork on all of this. Bob knows what I had down in writing and I even had the route that he, Orlando Letelier, took to work that morning. Ronnie Moffit and Michael Moffit were in the car with him. She was killed, but Michael survived it. Please tell them to get their facts straight. I know what I said.

James Files

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