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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Chile and the United States: U.S. Policy toward Democracy, Dictatorship, and Human Rights, 1970–1990

About this Collection

Few countries carry as much significance in the controversial history of U.S. foreign policy as Chile. This collection presents 2,842 once-secret, U.S. records--among them hundreds of declassified Top Secret CIA operational memos, cables, and reports--as well as records from the archives and courts of other nations.

Tracing the U.S. role in Chile from the Nixon administration's covert efforts to block the election and inauguration of Salvador Allende, through the military takeover of September 11, 1973, to the end of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship and his eventual arrest in London, this set chronicles CIA covert operations, the coup d'état, Pinochet’s repression, international terrorism, diplomacy leading to a return to democracy, and the pursuit of justice for human rights victims of the military regime.

This compilation is an invaluable go-to resource for the next generation of scholars concerned not only with Chile and Latin America but with a broader debate over U.S. policy toward democracy and dictatorship, and the moral and strategic dilemmas of Washington's global posture.

Research Value of the Collection

Chile has become one of the most internationally renowned case studies of U.S. policy toward democracy and dictatorship, as well as of U.S. intervention in Latin America during the Cold War. It is the country that generated the first major national debate over the propriety of covert operations, as well as over human rights as a criterion for U.S. foreign policy. It is a country that sent agents to the United States to commit the most egregious act of international terrorism in our nation's capital prior to 9/11. It is a nation whose citizens successfully drove one of the world's most infamous dictators from power through the leverage of the ballot, and then eventually put him and his top military officials on trial for human rights crimes. The records in this collection should serve the multifaceted interests of a wide variety of students and scholars, as well as policymakers. The documents represent a history that remains demonstrably relevant to many hotly debated foreign policy issues of the present, among them the conduct of the United States in the Third World, covert operations, regime change, and the pursuit of human rights, justice, and democracy.

Students of covert operations will be interested in the 300 CIA operational memoranda and cables--the most detailed ever released on a clandestine program of regime change. Analysts of international terrorism, rendition, and secret police collaboration will make use of the 69 documents on Operation Condor, the network of Southern Cone secret-police agencies that targeted political opponents of their regimes around the world in the latter 1970s, as well as the 480 documents on the car-bomb assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt. Users who have seen the Oscar-award winning movie, Missing, will be intrigued by the 168 declassified records on the case of Charles Horman. Those interested in the still unresolved fate of another "missing" U.S. citizen, Boris Weisfeiler, will turn to the 104 records related to his mysterious disappearance.

This collection is also invaluable for the study of foreign policy decision making. The documents--particularly the many memoranda of conversation, transcripts of telephone calls, and the two-dozen audio tapes capturing discussions within the Oval Office--allow users to be a fly on the wall as presidents and their top national security advisers deliberated, then made crucial decisions to alter Chile's future, or to deflect a congressional inquiry, or to circumvent restrictions on assistance to the military regime. Summaries of NSC meetings during the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations also provide unparalleled detail on how executive decisions were formulated vis-à-vis Chile over a twenty-year period.

The decision-making records are particularly revealing for users interested in Henry Kissinger, arguably the most famous U.S. foreign policy actor in the latter half of the twentieth century. Kissinger was the chief architect of U.S. strategy toward both Allende and Pinochet. For the first time the multitude of records on Kissinger's pivotal role in Chile policy have been centralized: his many memos to presidents Nixon and Ford; the "telcons" (transcripts of his telephone calls); the minutes of the top secret 40 Committee he chaired that determined covert operations; and the summaries of NSC meetings he controlled first as national security adviser and later as a powerful secretary of state. The set contains 156 records that Kissinger wrote, read, or helped generate. Students of Kissinger's brand ofRealpolitik will find these documents compelling; they also provide a body of empirical evidence to weigh against the public account Kissinger has provided in his voluminous memoirs.

The set also contains some extremely important and revealing records from outside the executive branch: the prison letters of Chilean secret-police hit man, Michael Townley, sent to his handlers in Santiago, containing all manner of detail about Chilean assassination operations; the cables from the Chilean secret-police station in Buenos Aires; diplomatic memos and cables from the Chilean embassy in Washington during the Allende government; internal memoranda of the U.S. Senate investigators examining CIA covert operations in Chile; and the legal papers generated by lawsuits filed by former U.S. officials against the makers of the movie Missing, and by the family of a slain Chilean general against Henry Kissinger. The collection is rounded out by a unique set of bank records, uncovered by a Senate subcommittee investigating money laundering and terrorism, which connect the now defunct Riggs Bank to dozens of General Pinochet's secret offshore accounts that hid some $28 million in illicit funds.

In sum, the documents will be of great relevance to students and scholars interested in a variety of fields and subjects, including:

  • U.S.- Chilean relations
  • CIA covert operations
  • U.S. human rights policy
  • Regime change
  • International terrorism
  • The Pinochet dictatorship
  • Operation Condor
  • Henry Kissinger
  • U.S. intervention in Latin America
  • The Cold War and Latin America
  • Andean regional studies
  • U.S. policy-making process
  • The Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan presidencies

1970-1973

1978-1999