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The Letelier-Moffitt Assassination: New Evidence

The Guardian reports that Chilean President Augusto Pinochet personally ordered the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, in Washington, D.C. in September 1976.

So, you may say, what’s new?  After all, my partner Sam Buffone and I sued Chile for these murders and won a judgment.  At the trial, our expert witness said that such a killing would not have taken place without Pinochet’s knowledge.  But now it appears from declassified documents that the CIA knew this was the case.

Just days after the assassination, I met with then-Attorney General Edward Levi.  He said he would talk to then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush to see what could be learned.  We never found out about that meeting.

For long decades, the CIA, and the State Department, and the Department that calls itself “Justice” have known about Pinochet’s involvement and have kept this information from us.  They have continued to protect the assassin, Michael Townley.

Pinochet and Kissinger
Thinking About Terrorism: the Threat to Civil Liberties in a Time of National Emergency

In a related matter, Henry Kissinger and CIA Director Richard Helms were involved in 1970 in a plan to kidnap General Rene Schneider, head of the Chilean armed forces.  This crazy plan was designed to destabilize Chilean politics and prevent Salvador Allende from becoming President.  A far right group carried out the kidnapping and killed General Schneider.  Previously declassified documents, and our lawsuit on behalf of General Schneider’s children, exposed this story.  That case is now pending before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, because US courts refused to do anything about it.

Does all this sound a little like one of those weird little newspapers?  Well, folks, it’s all true.  See my book Thinking About Terrorism.

Our government proclaims it is in a war against terrorism, and enlists military force and a vast network of surveillance.  They should take for themselves the words of Herzen: “We are not the doctors, we are the disease.”


Michael E. Tigar is Emeritus Professor of Law at Duke University and Emeritus Professor of Law at Washington College of Law.  He has been a lawyer working on social change issues for many years.  His books include Law and the Rise of Capitalism (Monthly Review Press, second edition, 2000), Fighting Injustice (ABA Press, 2002), and Thinking About Terrorism: The Threat to Civil Liberties in Times of National Emergency (ABA Press, 2007).




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