Dinner at the White House, in the Lion’s Den

14 March, 2021
40 years after the assassination, artist Francisco Letelier paints a mural that goes on display at American University (photo courtesy American University Museum, Washington, DC).
40 years after the assas­si­na­tion, artist Fran­cis­co Lete­lier paints a mur­al that goes on dis­play at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty (pho­to cour­tesy Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty Muse­um, Wash­ing­ton, DC).


The fol­low­ing essay derives from artist Fran­cis­co Lete­lier’s Paso del Con­dor Project, which exam­ines the lega­cy of Oper­a­tion Con­dor through text and art instal­la­tions. Iron­i­cal­ly, the project was par­tial­ly fund­ed by Michael Ver­non Town­ley, the arch vil­lain in this story—lawyers for the Soria law­suit, men­tioned below, have chan­neled some of the resti­tu­tion pay­ments Town­ley makes towards Lete­lier’s work. “I have been col­lect­ing infor­ma­tion about Chile and the mur­ders for over four decades now,” Lete­lier notes. “It is dif­fi­cult to reach back that far.” —Ed.


Fran­cis­co Letelier


On Sep­tem­ber 21, 1976, I am pulled out of my home room at Walt Whit­man High School in Bethes­da, Mary­land, just out­side of Wash­ing­ton DC. Our aunt Cecil­ia is wait­ing to dri­ve my broth­er and me to George Wash­ing­ton Hos­pi­tal. “There has been an acci­dent” is all she will say. On the way we nav­i­gate snarled traf­fic, I hear the sound of sirens and emer­gency vehi­cles. We pass Sheri­dan Cir­cle and the Chilean Embassy (Ambas­sador’s Res­i­dence), where fire­men are hos­ing off the asphalt. At the hos­pi­tal we learn that a car bomb has end­ed the life of my father, Orlan­do Lete­lier, and the life of Ron­ni Karpen Mof­fitt, a 23-year-old colleague.

The day after the mur­ders, we are all in shock, bare­ly able to talk, weighed down by a crush­ing dark­ness. The FBI wants to ques­tion us and one by one we are escort­ed over to the house next door. Our neigh­bor on a qui­et cul de sac hap­pens to be an FBI agent, and the inter­ro­ga­tions are held in his liv­ing room.

I was sleep­ing in my bed­room with an open win­dow, when yards away, Michael Town­ley, who will soon become famous as an assas­sin, crawls under the light blue Mal­ibu sedan parked in our dri­ve­way and secures the bomb.

The agent and his co-con­spir­a­tors hide in plain sight, sit­ting in a car on the street cas­ing our home, not­ing the com­ings and goings of fam­i­ly mem­bers. I bor­row the car when I can wres­tle it away from my par­ents and dri­ve it with the C2 explo­sive attached to its under­car­riage in the days before it is detonated.

The 1976 assassination of former Chilean ambassador and dissident Orlando Letelier along Embassy Row shocked the nation (photo Washington Post).
The 1976 assas­si­na­tion of for­mer Chilean ambas­sador and dis­si­dent Orlan­do Lete­lier along Embassy Row shocked the nation (pho­to Wash­ing­ton Post).


The bomb sev­ers my father’s legs. As he bleeds to death, Ron­ni makes it out of the car to the side­walk, but soon drowns in her own blood from a piece of shrap­nel in her throat. They set up the ques­tion­ing in my neigh­bor’s liv­ing room. I can hear the metal­lic swish of the bas­ket­ball hoop set at the end of the cul de sac. When I’m called over, the men know a lot about my father, his trav­els and friendships.

Sev­er­al years lat­er the US gov­ern­ment hands over the file they have kept on my father since he trav­eled to an eco­nom­ic sum­mit in Havana with Sal­vador Allende. Opened in 1960, the file is thick with infor­ma­tion about him and the rest of the fam­i­ly, includ­ing the names of my child­hood friends, the places I would walk our dog, my first girl­friend, our games and pastimes.

In 1960, Vice Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon took charge of Oper­a­tion 40, the code name for a counter-intel­li­gence unit com­prised of Cuban exiles.  Mem­bers of this oper­a­tion will lat­er con­spire in the mur­der of my father.

In the FBI file there are also details about our life at the Chilean Embassy in Wash­ing­ton DC. My father was Ambas­sador of Chile to the US from 1970 to 1973 dur­ing the gov­ern­ment of Sal­vador Allende. He was called back to San­ti­a­go to serve as Min­is­ter of For­eign Rela­tions and then Min­is­ter of Defense just months before the Sep­tem­ber 11, 1973 coup that put Gen­er­al Augus­to Pinochet in pow­er and result­ed in the death of Pres­i­dent Allende and thou­sands of others.

The Embassy is a short dis­tance from the Water­gate apart­ments. Declas­si­fied doc­u­ments show that the same gang of men who twice break into Chilean embassy offices on two occa­sions are the “plumbers”—the same agents who break into Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Offices at Water­gate. They work for Richard Nixon.

Lat­er, the world learns that Hen­ry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and Richard Helms, the head of the CIA, have reg­u­lar talks about ways they can sub­vert the goals of the Chilean gov­ern­ment. Declas­si­fied doc­u­ments and “tele­cons” (tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions) doc­u­ment how the coup was planned. A memo dat­ed Octo­ber 15, 1970, works out the details, “We will not let Chile go down the drain,” Kissinger declares. “I am with you,” responds Helms. Nixon orders the CIA to “make the econ­o­my scream.” 

We have long known that the Chilean secret police/intelligence ser­vice was behind this bru­tal act, per­haps the only clear case of state-sup­port­ed ter­ror­ism that has occurred in Wash­ing­ton DC. — George Schultz

Michael Ver­non Town­ley, son of a Ford exec­u­tive, grew up in San­ti­a­go. Now work­ing for the Chilean secret police as a hit man, he con­spires with exiled Cubans, men trained through Oper­a­tion 40, to car­ry out the mur­ders in DC. Guiller­mo Novo Sam­pol, along with his broth­er, Igna­cio Novo Sam­pol, and Alvin Ross Diaz, are recruit­ed by Town­ley. All three belong to the mil­i­tant anti-Cas­tro group known as the Cuban Nation­al­ist Movement.

In 1978, the Chilean regime, con­front­ed with evi­dence by the FBI and US Jus­tice Depart­ment, gives him up, but Town­ley becomes a wit­ness for the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice, and enters the FBI wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gram after serv­ing only 62 months in jail. Town­ley is an inter­na­tion­al assas­sin, sent to silence Pinochet’s oppo­nents in Chile, Rome, Buenos Aires, and oth­er places. His mis­sion is part of Oper­a­tion Con­dor, a coali­tion of mil­i­tary regimes sup­port­ed by the Unit­ed States that coop­er­ate in silenc­ing their oppo­nents across nation­al bound­aries through­out the globe. Even under FBI pro­tec­tion, Town­ley is impli­cat­ed in oth­er mur­ders, and ques­tioned con­cern­ing the mur­der of for­mer Swedish Prime Min­is­ter Oscar Palme.

On Tuesday April 6th, 1971, during my father’s post as ambassador, my parents attend a state dinner at the White House.

It’s a fan­cy affair, an event for the Latin Amer­i­can ambas­sadors in Wash­ing­ton DC, as well as the ambas­sadors of Mex­i­co and Cana­da. In 1902, Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt had expand­ed the State Din­ing Room and increased its capac­i­ty to 140 seat­ed guests. On the evening of April 6th, the room sparkles, filled with for­eign dig­ni­taries and their spous­es, most­ly speak­ing Span­ish. Menus are placed at each set­ting, embossed in gold with a Pres­i­den­tial seal and metal­lic trim, indi­cat­ing the food and alco­hol served as well as the date and location.

Dur­ing his speech, Pres­i­dent Nixon declares his long admi­ra­tion for the coun­tries of the South. He assures the din­ner guests that although present-day cir­cum­stances draw the US to high­light its rela­tion­ships with the Mid­dle East, Asia and the Sovi­et Union, the US rela­tion­ship with its Amer­i­can neigh­bors is different.

“What I am try­ing to say is that we have a spe­cial rela­tion­ship, you are clos­est to us, very impor­tant to us, the rela­tion­ship is per­son­al over many years, per­son­al going back over so many mem­o­ries…”— Richard Nixon, April 6, 1971

Nixon is per­haps try­ing to keep track of his mem­o­ries when two months pre­vi­ous­ly he installs a record­ing sys­tem in the White House. The new sys­tem is approved by the pres­i­dent as a way of pre­serv­ing a his­tor­i­cal record of deci­sions and dis­cus­sions. It is a close­ly held secret—only the Secret Ser­vice and three aides know about the micro­phones. Oth­er men with whom the Pres­i­dent makes plans do not know they are record­ed and archived day after day. No one sus­pects that the sys­tem will play a large role in the unrav­el­ing of the Nixon presidency.

On the same after­noon of April 6, 1971, before the fes­tiv­i­ties of the evening, in record­ed con­ver­sa­tions with Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor Hen­ry Kissinger, Nixon is impa­tient with the Viet­nam peace talks being con­duct­ed in Paris:

Nixon: Well, things bet­ter start to hap­pen or—you know, I’m—you prob­a­bly don’t believe me, but I can per­fect­ly turn, I’m capa­ble, that is—even my own, even Halde­man would­n’t know—I’m per­fect­ly capa­ble of turn­ing right awful hard. I nev­er have in my life. But if I found that there’s no oth­er way—in oth­er words, hell, if you think Cam­bo­dia had flower chil­dren fight­ing, we’ll bomb the god­damn North like it’s nev­er been bombed…

Kissinger: Well, I will—

Nixon: We’ll start doing it, and we’ll bomb those bas­tards, and then let the Amer­i­can people—let this coun­try go up in flames.

Many are those who under­es­ti­mate how far Nixon and Kissinger will go, the forces they will mar­shal in order to thwart not only Sal­vador Allende, but to cre­ate a world accord­ing to their per­son­al designs. Almost 50 years lat­er we are still uncov­er­ing infor­ma­tion about how utter­ly mis­tak­en it was to believe that fair play could rule the day.

Michael Town­ley, Pinochet’s assassin.

Declas­si­fied doc­u­ments from 1970 reveal Richard Nixon, Hen­ry Kissinger and the CIA plan to pre­vent Allen­de’s rat­i­fi­ca­tion as pres­i­dent. A team of covert oper­a­tives is insert­ed into Chile to push out­go­ing pres­i­dent Eduar­do Frei to sup­port a mil­i­tary coup that will pre­vent Allende from tak­ing office. The Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Hen­ry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and Richard Helms lay out pol­i­cy toward Chile, decid­ing that oth­er Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries have to be pre­vent­ed from fol­low­ing Chile “as a mod­el.” Kissinger push­es for close rela­tions with mil­i­tary lead­ers through­out Latin Amer­i­ca in order to con­trol oppo­si­tion and coor­di­nate pres­sure. At this time the Unit­ed States trains the armed forces through­out Latin Amer­i­ca and sells weapons to every­one. The mil­i­tary regimes that will be the death squads of the future in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, Colom­bia, Mex­i­co and Chile aspire to receive spe­cial train­ing at The School of the Amer­i­c­as in the Pana­ma Canal Zone (Pana­ma expelled The School of the Amer­i­c­as in 1984, where­upon the US Army moved it to Fort Ben­ning in Colum­bus, Georgia).

As Allende takes pow­er, they under­mine his gov­ern­ment through eco­nom­ic pres­sure and diplo­mat­ic iso­la­tion while the CIA car­ries out pro­pa­gan­da efforts to cre­ate a sense of pan­ic in the country.

When Nixon resigns in dis­grace, the pub­lic knows very lit­tle com­pared to what is known today. Nixon’s inner cir­cle orches­trates a cov­er-up to hide their role in the 1972 scheme to install micro­phones in the offices of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee at the Water­gate Apart­ments and offices along the Potomac Riv­er. Using his human assets, anti-Cas­tro counter insur­gents trained through Oper­a­tion 40, Nixon devis­es a scheme to assure his re-elec­tion and keep tabs on his opponents.

Iron­i­cal­ly the best evi­dence of Nixon’s crimes comes from the clan­des­tine audio­tapes he him­self keeps so assiduously.

In 1976, Michael Town­ley runs a chem­i­cal lab at his home in San­ti­a­go with the aid of bio­chemist Euge­nio Berrios. On a night ear­ly in Sep­tem­ber 1976, a LAN air­craft bound for Wash­ing­ton DC takes off from San­ti­a­go, Chile in fair weath­er. Amongst the pas­sen­gers is Town­ley, a tall man with blue eyes and dirty blonde hair. Care­ful­ly wrapped in his car­ry-on lug­gage is a bot­tle of Chanel No 5. Sub­ject to tur­bu­lence, the con­tents could have caused the death of all pas­sen­gers aboard, for the bot­tle con­tains not per­fume, but a refor­mu­la­tion of sarin nerve agent that is to be sprayed on a pil­low in order to elim­i­nate my father. The nerve agent sarin was first devel­oped in Nazi-era Ger­many as a pes­ti­cide; it evap­o­rates almost instant­ly into a gas that seeps into the body through the skin and eyes and inter­feres with the body’s elec­tri­cal sig­nal­ing. Vic­tims die because impor­tant mus­cles, includ­ing the lungs, become par­a­lyzed. For unknown rea­sons, Town­ley decides that using sarin is not the way to go and con­tin­ues to plan the mur­der with the Cubans, using a bomb lat­er the same year. As for Euge­nio Berrios, want­ed by Chilean author­i­ties for involve­ment in the Lete­lier case, he escaped to Uruguay in 1991 and was found behead­ed in 1995 in Montevideo.

The Grand Theft Auto villain is Michael DeSanta, inspired by Townley.
The Grand Theft Auto vil­lain is Michael DeSan­ta, inspired by Townley.

Grand Theft Auto is a video game I have nev­er cared to play, but it is loved and hat­ed by mil­lions the world over. It is a vio­lent and sex­ist world where a play­er can cross town at high speed with a beau­ti­ful woman at their side. One of the char­ac­ters, Michael DeSan­ta, is a for­mer bank rob­ber who is now under the FIB (homo­logue) wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gram. His real name is Michael Town­ley, and he stealth-ful­ly plants a bomb in a cel­lu­lar phone. The phone will blow up the founder of Life Invad­er, a social media net­work much like Facebook. 

The FBI men who inter­ro­gate us after my father’s mur­der in 1976 sug­gest many things could have caused his death—lovers, jeal­ousy, arms run­ning, sui­cide, but each mem­ber of the fam­i­ly repeats with cer­tain­ty, “Pinochet killed him.” “DINA killed him” (DINA, Chile’s Direc­ción de Inteligen­cia Nacional).

In the months before the mur­ders in 1976, Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford brings George H.W. Bush to Wash­ing­ton and appoints him Direc­tor of Cen­tral Intel­li­gence (DCI). At that time the Agency is being inves­ti­gat­ed by the Church Com­mit­tee regard­ing ille­gal and unau­tho­rized activ­i­ties by the CIA, these include their role in Chile.

Rely­ing on Bush’s CIA, on Oct. 11, 1976, Newsweek reports that “the Chilean secret police were not involved” in the Lete­lier assas­si­na­tion. “The [Cen­tral Intel­li­gence] agency reach­es its deci­sion because the bomb is ‘too crude to be the work of experts and because the mur­ders, com­ing while Chile’s rulers are woo­ing U.S. sup­port, can only dam­age the San­ti­a­go regime.’ ” The sto­ry also appears in the New York Times and oth­er US news outlets.

Pat Nixon’s card.

Almost a year after the 1973 coup in Chile, my father and oth­er men who worked with Sal­vador Allende are trans­ferred from Daw­son Island and its con­cen­tra­tion camp across the water from the south­ern­most city in the world at the time, Pun­ta Are­nas. We are allowed to vis­it them at the Ritoque Con­cen­tra­tion Camp, a cou­ple of hours away from San­ti­a­go. My father has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly; I don’t rec­og­nize him when I see him. He has lost 50 pounds, his fin­gers have been bro­ken and he has skin cancer.

At the White House din­ner in 1971, my moth­er, Isabel, sits with Patri­cia Nixon. At my moth­er’s request, Mrs. Nixon signs one of the exquis­ite menu cards cre­at­ed for the occa­sion, embossed in gold and exe­cut­ed in ele­gant cal­lig­ra­phy, ded­i­cat­ing it to me and my brothers.

Over the next cou­ple of years, Pat’s hus­band will lay down the foun­da­tions for the vio­lent over­throw of the gov­ern­ment in Chile.

On the evening of the White House din­ner, I wait for a bus to Sheri­dan Cir­cle. I am accus­tomed to the wait at the bot­tom of a hill in a stretch of wood that con­nects to Rock Creek Park, swat­ting gnats and read­ing in the dis­ap­pear­ing light. The bus races through the com­ing evening and jerks to a stop only long enough for me to hit the pave­ment near the spot, just right there, where my father will lat­er be murdered.

In 1991, I receive a call from the TV show Amer­i­ca’s Most Want­ed. They want to do an episode about the last remain­ing fugi­tive in the mur­ders, Vir­gilio Paz y Romero. The man who pro­vid­ed the explo­sives and parts for the remote con­trol is rec­og­nized by a view­er and after 15 years on their most want­ed list, fed­er­al agents nab him liv­ing as a land­scap­er in West Palm Beach. 

The Cryp­toAG machine pro­duced by a Swiss com­pa­ny, co-owned by the CIA.

In 1992, Paraguayan human rights lawyer, Mar­tin Alma­da, act­ing on a tip, dis­cov­ers a moun­tain of papers in a small build­ing behind an aban­doned police sta­tion in Asun­cion, Paraguay. The 700,000 doc­u­ments known as the Archive of Ter­ror, reveal that the found­ing mem­bers of Oper­a­tion Con­dor are Argenti­na, Paraguay, Chile, Argenti­na and Uruguay, with Bolivia and Brazil join­ing lat­er. The archive shows that with the help of the CIA, Colom­bia, Peru and Venezuela also coop­er­ate, pro­vid­ing intel­li­gence in order to mur­der 50,000, dis­ap­pear 30,000 and imprison anoth­er 400,000. The oper­a­tion has an encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem, rout­ed through US mil­i­tary bases in the Pana­ma Canal, which enables mem­bers to build up a data­base of sus­pects and respond quickly. 

Much of the case against Chilean Gen­er­al Augus­to Pinochet by Span­ish Judge, Bal­tasar Garzón, is built upon these archives, as are oth­er cas­es against human rights vio­la­tors in oth­er Con­dor Nations. 

In 1995, I sit in the Supreme Court of Chile with my fam­i­ly when retired Gen­er­al Manuel Con­tr­eras (Pinochet’s head of Secret Police and right-hand man) and Brigadier Gen­er­al Pedro Espinoza are found guilty as intel­lec­tu­al authors of the murders. 

In Lon­don in 1998, after a pub­li­cized arrest dur­ing a vis­it with his friend Mar­garet Thatch­er, Pinochet is held under house arrest for a year and a half, but is released, and returned to Chile where a Supreme Court appoint­ed by the for­mer dic­ta­tor, pro­nounces Pinochet too infirm to stand trial.

The declassified memo obtained by the author reveals that George Schultz knew of US government complicity in the assassination of Orlando Letelier, long before revealed to the public.
The declas­si­fied memo obtained by the author reveals that George Schultz knew of US gov­ern­ment com­plic­i­ty in the assas­si­na­tion of Orlan­do Lete­lier, long before revealed to the public.


In Feb­ru­ary 2020, George Shultz, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State under Ronald Rea­gan, dies. He is 100 years old. In a memo writ­ten by Shultz to Pres­i­dent Rea­gan in 1987, he refers to a CIA report that shows “what we regard as con­vinc­ing evi­dence that Pres­i­dent Pinochet per­son­al­ly ordered his intel­li­gence chief to car­ry out the murders.” 

In 2015, the memo is declas­si­fied, show­ing that in 1998 dur­ing his Lon­don arrest the State Depart­ment knows that Pinochet ordered the mur­ders. By the time Pinochet dies in 2006, five US Pres­i­dents have declined to reveal that as ear­ly as 1978, the US has evi­dence that Pinochet ordered the mur­ders in DC. 

In 2016, Chile’s Supreme Court asks the Unit­ed States to extra­dite three for­mer agents who worked for Augus­to Pinochet’s 1973–90 mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, and are sus­pect­ed of the mur­der of a Unit­ed Nations diplo­mat 40 years ear­li­er. The court asks that the US hand over Chilean Arman­do Fer­nán­dez Lar­ios, Amer­i­can Michael Town­ley and Cuban Vir­gilio Paz. All three co-con­spir­a­tors in the mur­der of my father are want­ed in Chile for the deten­tion, tor­ture, and killing of Span­ish-Chilean cit­i­zen Carme­lo Soria on July 14, 1976.  Before the extra­di­tion request, Sori­a’s wid­ow, Lau­ra Gon­za­lez-Vera sues Town­ley for dam­ages in a US court. Town­ley defaults on the suit and the dis­trict court enters a $7 mil­lion judg­ment against him. He is com­pelled to make $75-dol­lar week­ly pay­ments, under the legal pos­si­bil­i­ty that his new name and where­abouts can be made avail­able to plain­tiffs if he does not comply.

The extra­di­tion request still stands.

For more than forty years, every year we gath­er at the cir­cle to hon­or Orlan­do and Ron­ni and pledge our com­mit­ment to jus­tice and human rights. The case helps top­ple Pinochet and steer the way for improved inter­na­tion­al jus­tice, show­ing per­haps, that the arc of the moral uni­verse might tend towards, at least, mea­sures of jus­tice. Sheri­dan Cir­cle also become a sym­bol for oth­er nations and communities.

After a May 16, 2017 state vis­it with Pres­i­dent Trump, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrives at the Turk­ish Ambas­sador’s res­i­dence at Sheri­dan Cir­cle across the street from the Chilean Embassy. He is met by Armen­ian and Kur­dish pro­test­ers, the major­i­ty of whom are US cit­i­zens. They gath­er at the cir­cle, 100 yards from the embassy, denounc­ing Erdoğan’s human rights record. Video record­ings of the event show Turk­ish embassy per­son­al and pres­i­den­tial body­guards, evad­ing Wash­ing­ton DC embassy police offi­cers and bru­tal­ly attack­ing the protesters.

It would be yet anoth­er attack by for­eign agents on dis­si­dents and US cit­i­zens on the streets of DC.

Pres­i­dent Trump calls Pres­i­dent Erdoğan to apol­o­gize for the actions of demon­stra­tors. Although the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives pass­es a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for “per­pe­tra­tors to be brought to jus­tice,” only two men are arrest­ed and charges dropped one year lat­er, before meet­ings with Erdoğan and US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son. Vic­tims of the attack file a civ­il suit seek­ing mil­lions in dam­ages, while the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment claims to be pro­tect­ed by sov­er­eign immu­ni­ty. In Feb­ru­ary 2020, a fed­er­al court in DC denies a request by Turkey to dis­miss the civ­il suit. 

At a Unite the Right ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, a few months after the Turk­ish embassy beat­down, White nation­al­ists, Klans­men and neo-Nazis gath­er to let the world know that Chile is not the only place with Nazis who dream of res­ur­rec­tion. Amidst the chaos of the grow­ing pan­dem­ic and final months of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, White suprema­cist Proud Boys appear at gath­er­ings wear­ing tee-shirts that say, “Pinochet Did Noth­ing Wrong.”

Proud Boys Jay Thaxton and Jeremy Bertino, who showed up at a rally in a Pinochet tee-shirt w/ the acronym for  Right Wing Death Squad  on his sleeve.
Proud Boys Jay Thax­ton and Jere­my Berti­no, who showed up at a ral­ly in a Pinochet tee-shirt w/ the acronym for Right Wing Death Squad on his sleeve.

In March 2020, a rev­e­la­tion chal­lenges even the trove of the Archives of Ter­ror. Cryp­to AG, a Swiss man­u­fac­tur­er of encryp­tion machines, sold them to more than 102 nations world­wide. It is revealed that the com­pa­ny is secret­ly owned by the CIA and the Ger­man intel­li­gence agency, BND.  Declas­si­fied records show that a back door built into the machines allows the US and oth­ers to mon­i­tor com­mu­ni­ca­tions of all clients, whether allies or foes. Oper­a­tion Con­dor nations use the encryp­tion machines as they con­duct inter­nal and cross bor­der ter­ror­ism. A memo from for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Schultz is just the tip of a large and unwieldy ice­berg that sur­pass­es the cloak and dag­ger used for my father’s mur­der and points to the like­li­hood that the Unit­ed States has eaves­dropped on oper­a­tions lead­ing to deaths and impris­on­ment, tor­ture and human rights vio­la­tions, not only Chile, Latin Amer­i­ca and the USA, but through­out the world.

“… the rela­tion­ship is per­son­al over many years, per­son­al going back over so many mem­o­ries, per­son­al in the sense that when some­thing hap­pens, a tragedy in your house, it also hap­pens in our house. You feel it in your hearts. We feel it in ours. When there is hap­pi­ness in your house or in your coun­try, we feel hap­pi­ness in ours.”— Richard Nixon, April 6, 1971

How do we mea­sure com­plic­i­ty? All the killers and con­spir­a­tors involved in the mur­ders are free today. The inves­ti­ga­tion into Ron­ni Karpen Mof­fit­t’s mur­der remains open in Chile. The assas­sins are want­ed for ques­tion­ing in many oth­er coun­tries, but the US con­tin­ues to pro­tect its wit­ness­es and allies. Town­ley is want­ed by gov­ern­ments oth­er than Chile, con­vict­ed in absen­tia for attempt­ed mur­der in Italy and ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty in Venezuela. Grand Theft Auto con­tin­ues to enjoy huge sales — in the game ver­sion of Town­ley he is con­sid­ered “a man of extreme cun­ning, think­ing his motions and actions through care­ful­ly and pre­cise­ly while being sure to keep his actu­al moti­va­tions a secret.”

But hey, it’s only a game, not real life.

Dur­ing the last days of Feb­ru­ary 2021, in an unprece­dent­ed action, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion releas­es an intel­li­gence report that states that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the assas­si­na­tion of Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­u­tor Jamal Khashog­gi, killed inside a Sau­di con­sulate in Istan­bul on Oct. 2, 2018, while com­plet­ing paper­work for his upcom­ing wed­ding. A Sau­di hit team kills, then dis­mem­bers Mr. Khashog­gi. His body has nev­er been found.

Penal­ties are announced by the US, includ­ing a trav­el ban, and freez­ing of assets of the for­mer Sau­di intel­li­gence chief as well as sanc­tions against the para­mil­i­tary unit that took part in the assas­si­na­tion. But the risk of dam­ag­ing Amer­i­can inter­ests is too great and offi­cials say they real­ly don’t want to “rup­ture” rela­tion­ships with Sau­di Ara­bia, instead want to “re-cal­i­brate to be in more in line with our inter­ests and values.”

Mean­while, Hat­ice Cen­giz, Khashog­gi’s fiancée, seeks a more tan­gi­ble route towards legal jus­tice and accus­es the Crown Prince of mur­der and dis­mem­ber­ment in a law­suit filed in late 2020. The law­suit is also going after oth­er high­ly-placed Saud­is. Evi­dence in civ­il law suits can be used in crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions as well. Her actions are pos­si­ble under the 1991 Tor­ture Vic­tim Pro­tec­tion Act.

Arman­do Fer­nán­dez Lar­ios assist­ed Michael Town­ley in my father’s assas­si­na­tion. He reached a plea agree­ment with US fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors and came to the Unit­ed States in 1987 after plead­ing guilty.

After a five-month fed­er­al prison term, he moved to Mia­mi, Flori­da where he remained out­side the reach of Chilean courts. Named by Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán in his inves­ti­ga­tion of the Car­a­van of Death squad, Fer­nán­dez Lar­ios is also want­ed in both Chile and Argenti­na for oth­er murders.

On March 14, 2005, the Eleventh Cir­cuit Court of Appeals upheld a ver­dict find­ing Fer­nán­dez Lar­ios liable for tor­ture, crimes against human­i­ty, and extra­ju­di­cial killing in the case of Win­ston Cabel­lo in Copi­apo, Chile in 1973. The suit was brought by the Cabel­lo fam­i­ly through The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Tor­ture Vic­tim Pro­tec­tion Act (TVPA), allow­ing for civ­il suits in U.S. courts to rem­e­dy a lim­it­ed set of human rights vio­la­tions. Fer­nán­dez Lar­ios’s appeal claimed the 10-year statute of lim­i­ta­tions had passed, but judges took into account the fact that Win­ston Cabel­lo was dis­ap­peared and that the fam­i­ly did not have direct evi­dence of his death until his remains were found in a mass grave in 1990.

The 2005 ver­dict was the first ver­dict hand­ed down by a U.S. jury for crimes against human­i­ty and the first time a U.S. court heard claims of atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Chilean mil­i­tary fol­low­ing the Sep­tem­ber 11, 1973 coup. 

In the weeks before my father’s mur­der, Hen­ry Kissinger approves a State Depart­ment diplo­mat­ic démarche aimed towards the heads of Con­dor states, Chile, Argenti­na and Uruguay, to express “our deep con­cern” over “plans for the assas­si­na­tion of sub­ver­sives, politi­cians, and promi­nent fig­ures both with­in the nation­al bor­ders of cer­tain South­ern Cone coun­tries and abroad.”

Five days before the bomb is det­o­nat­ed, Kissinger orders the State Depart­ment to can­cel the warn­ing. Today, we know that US agen­cies at the time have wide access to Con­dor oper­a­tions con­cern­ing the mur­ders, includ­ing the Cryp­to AG encryp­tion machines in use at the time. 

My fam­i­ly and oth­ers will con­tin­ue to push, both for a Chilean gov­ern­ment with the resolve to pur­sue jus­tice and a Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment brave and trans­par­ent enough to pros­e­cute state terrorists.

We con­tin­ue to seek the release of the remain­ing doc­u­ments con­cern­ing the mur­der of my father and Ron­ni in order to clar­i­fy the com­plic­i­ty indi­vid­u­als and US agen­cies bear for the unfold­ing tragedies that have fol­lowed in the wake of its inter­ven­tions in Latin America. 

It is nev­er too late to uncov­er truths that will make a difference. 



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