The Trump Blows

Written by David Corn on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

Bush was
showing that there’s nothing like $56 million to let you say whatever the
hell you like. Congressional Republicans grimaced and bit their tongues. ("I’m
not sure we’ve been on the road to Gomorrah," House Speaker Denny
Hastert muttered.) Like Clinton with the Democrats, Bush showed he doesn’t
care much about the electoral prospects of his fellow party-mates, not even
when the House Republicans are expected to face a tough time retaining their
five-member majority. This was quality entertainment for Democrats, who saw
it as evidence of yet more Republican disarray (added to the House Republican
leadership losing control of the HMO legislation, as a chunk of Republicans
provided the winning majority to a Democrat-favored bill allowing patients to
sue negligent HMOs). But today’s glee can be tomorrow’s gloom. Bush’s
Republican-bashing renders it harder for Dems to attack him as a toadying tool
of the right. There is his opposition to abortion rights, support of the GOP’s
budget-busting tax cuts and affection for the gun-uncontrol positions of the
NRA. But in politics, impression usually supersedes policy stances, and W is
doing a bang-up job of creating an image for general election voters.

the senior Bush’s pitch for a "kinder and gentler" nation, a
timely call that came after the bitter ideological battles of the Reagan years?
W is aiming in the same direction. Right now, "kinder and gentler II"
may discomfit Tom DeLay, a nasty fellow who is the Republican truly in charge
(but not in control) of the House, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, causing
Democrats to titter. The last laugh, though, is a long time off.

CIA Covers
The secret-keepers of the CIA have been busy lately. In February,
President Clinton ordered federal agencies to retrieve and review for declassification
all documents relating to human rights abuses, terrorism and other acts of political
violence in Chile between 1968 and 1978. This move came after Augusto Pinochet,
the former Chilean dictator who overthrew the democratically elected Salvador
Allende in 1973, was arrested in England. Pinochet was apprehended in response
to a Spanish request for his extradition so he could face charges of crimes
against humanity (3000 people were "disappeared" by Pinochet’s
regime). And on Friday a British judge ruled that Pinochet can be extradited,
a decision that will be appealed. Since the CIA had tried to foment a coup against
Allende in 1970 and was involved in all sorts of anti-Allende skullduggery leading
up to the bloody coup led by Pinochet, the agency obviously had a lot of work
to do in response to Clinton’s order.

But on Friday,
when the U.S. government released the second batch of documents collected under
the White House directive, a set of records was missing: those detailing the
CIA’s underhanded involvement in Chile. The CIA has been making public
its reporting on events that occurred in Chile–such as riots, plots and
strikes against Allende–but not material indicating that the CIA helped
stir up these anti-Allende activities. Or that it may have been involved in
the murder of an American journalist.

There is
no question that the CIA possesses papers detailing its shameful interventions
in Chile. For years, Peter Kornbluh, an analyst at the nongovernmental National
Security Archive, has been compiling a list. He has pored over transfer lists
of CIA documents the agency forwarded to the Justice Dept. (which twice conducted
investigations related to CIA misconduct in Chile) and collected the titles
of Chile-related documents. This past summer Kornbluh’s 13-year-old son,
Gabriel, went through the report of the Church Committee, a Senate committee
that probed the CIA in the mid-70s, and extracted dozens of references to specific
CIA documents regarding its ops in Chile. When covert agencies are faced with
requests for information that might be embarrassing, standard operating procedure
is to deny they have relevant records. Thanks to the Kornbluhs, the CIA cannot
do that in this instance.

But that
hasn’t stopped the agency from trying to cover its backside. The agency,
citing a 1984 law, has claimed that the CIA does not have to search its files
for the documents on the Kornbluh list–which Kornbluh graciously shared
with the CIA. That legislation did give the CIA a big pass. It said the agency,
when handling a Freedom of Information Act request, does not have to look through
the files of its operations division, the wing that does the stuff–paramilitary
operations, propaganda, espionage, etc.–that you see in the movies. And
the operations division is where the key Chile documents presumably reside.
(The wily lawyers at the CIA were able to slip into Clinton’s order a provision
stating that the agencies were to retrieve only documents subject to disclosure
under the Freedom of Information Act.) But the 1984 law did establish exceptions
to the no-search clause, such as when the search concerns an operation officially
acknowledged by the U.S. government; when that operation is the subject of an
investigation for impropriety or illegality; and when documents pertaining to
the operation have been taken from the operations division and placed in files
elsewhere. The Chile case meets each of these standards. Still, the agency has
been misciting the law to avoid even locating the documents identified by Kornbluh
and the National Security Archive. In a letter to CIA Chief George Tenet, Thomas
Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, referred to how the
agency, in its first release of Chile-related material, ducked and covered:
"Not a single document was released on known [CIA] operations supporting
the Pinochet regime after the coup; not a single page on programs designed to
bolster the Chilean secret police; not a word of Headquarters’ decision
memoranda relating to Chile… The CIA released only 2000 pages of records dated
between 1973 and 1978. This is but a fraction of what it has in its vast secret
archives. Moreover, the documents that were released were heavily redacted.
So many pages were removed from so many documents and so many sections deleted
that all critical evidence on US activities in Chile appears to have been systematically

It is more
than 25 years since the CIA, on the orders of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger,
declared secret war on Allende, an elected socialist. (Allende died in the coup.)
The Cold War is a subject for history class, and the CIA still will not come
clean about its shenanigans in Chile. One person pissed off by this bureaucratic
intransigence is Joyce Horman, a New Yorker who was married to Charles Horman.
As the movie Missing chronicled, Charles, an American journalist, was
murdered during the 1973 coup. (Sissy Spacek played Joyce in the movie. Jack
Lemmon played Charles’ dad, Ed, who died several years ago.) In a letter
to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last month, Joyce Horman complained
that the CIA in the first release "did not declassify a single document
relating to the death of Charles." She noted that this "constitutes
a betrayal of what I and other families of American victims believed would be
a good faith effort on the part of the Clinton administration to declassify
the record and allow us to lay this painful history to rest. The President’s
tasker [which ordered the declassification review] explicitly states that a
declassification review ‘would respond to the expressed wishes of the families
of American victims of human rights abuses’… [A] review that exempts
the very files most likely to contain evidence relevant to our families will
be viewed as little more than an exercise in hypocrisy and fraud."

When the
new collection of documents was unveiled Friday, Joyce Horman had far more reason
to be outraged. A 1976 State Dept. memo noted there was circumstantial evidence
that the CIA "may have played an unfortunate part" in her husband’s
murder. "At best, [the CIA’s role] was limited to providing or confirming
information that helped motivate his murder [by the Chilean military government],"
the document said. "At worst, U.S. intelligence was aware [Pinochet’s
regime] saw Horman in a rather serious light and U.S. officials did nothing
to discourage the logical outcome of [Chilean] paranoia." (Horman worked
for a left-leaning news service and may have come across information confirming
direct U.S. involvement in the military coup.)

documents included in Friday’s release, however, contained no references
to the Horman case. But after the agency began to receive calls from reporters
regarding the State Dept. memo, the CIA found and made public a 1978 letter
it had sent the Justice Dept. stating that the "CIA had no prior knowledge
of and played no role in either the death of Mr. Horman or in the events surrounding
the subsequent disposition of his remains." That was hardly a ringing denial
of the charges contained in the State Dept. document. Moreover, another State
Dept. record noted that the U.S. embassy official in Chile who handled the Horman
case was actually a CIA officer posted under State Dept. cover. So where are
his reports? Not in any of the material produced so far by the obstructionists
of the agency. Having been embarrassed so thoroughly–and caught in a cover-up–the
CIA said it will review its operations division files. But for all Chile-related
records? For only Horman-related documents? For only those documents it can
use to its advantage? At this point, the agency is not to be trusted.

has taken its lumps for standing in the way of the truth. There was a forceful
editorial in The New York Times, and The Washington Post last
week ran a story headlined "CIA Accused of ‘Whitewash’ on Pinochet."
Both were the result of a marvelous pressure campaign mounted by the National
Security Archive, various human rights groups, Joyce Horman and friends and
relatives of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt (who were killed in Washington,
DC, in 1976 by a car bomb planted by agents of Pinochet’s military regime).
They all have been urging the Clinton administration to come to terms with this
secret past. The question is, will the White House crack the whip against the
CIA? (The National Security Agency, the supersecret, mega-eavesdropping outfit,
too, needs a boot in the rear to release its own material; it has been systematically
withholding documents and may possess the most incriminating records regarding
Pinochet’s involvement in human rights abuses.)

Now, spies
will by spies. You can’t expect them to really believe in openness. Ultimately,
the call belongs to Clinton, who throughout his presidency has treated the covert
operators too gingerly. Clinton, who is obsessed with his own legacy, is not
able to control how he will be recorded in history, but it is within his power
to set the historical record straight about this shameful period. Joyce Horman
and so many others deserve no less.