George H.W. Bush, the CIA and a Case of State-Sponsored Terrorism

Hits: 707

“If the American people ever find out what we have done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us”

George H.W. Bush, 1992

In early fall of 1976, after a Chilean government assassin had killed a Chilean dissident and an American woman with a car bomb in Washington, D.C., George H.W. Bush’s CIA leaked a false report clearing Chile’s military dictatorship and pointing the FBI in the wrong direction.

The bogus CIA assessment, spread through Newsweek magazine and other U.S. media outlets, was planted despite CIA’s now admitted awareness at the time that Chile was participating in Operation Condor, a cross-border campaign targeting political dissidents, and the CIA’s own suspicions that the Chilean junta was behind the terrorist bombing in Washington.

In a 21-page report to Congress on Sept. 18, 2000, the CIA officially acknowledged for the first time that the mastermind of the terrorist attack, Chilean intelligence chief Manuel Contreras, was a paid asset of the CIA.

The CIA report was issued almost 24 years to the day after the murders of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and American co-worker Ronni Moffitt, who died on Sept. 21, 1976, when a remote-controlled bomb ripped apart Letelier’s car as they drove down Massachusetts Avenue, a stately section of Washington known as Embassy Row.

In the report, the CIA also acknowledged publicly for the first time that it consulted Contreras in October 1976 about the Letelier assassination. The report added that the CIA was aware of the alleged Chilean government role in the murders and included that suspicion in an internal cable the same month.

“CIA’s first intelligence report containing this allegation was dated 6 October 1976,” a little more than two weeks after the bombing, the CIA disclosed.

Nevertheless, the CIA – then under CIA Director George H.W. Bush – leaked for public consumption an assessment clearing the Chilean government’s feared intelligence service, DINA, which was then run by Contreras.

Relying on the word of Bush’s CIA, Newsweek reported that “the Chilean secret police were not involved” in the Letelier assassination. “The [Central Intelligence] agency reached its decision because the bomb was too crude to be the work of experts and because the murder, coming while Chile’s rulers were wooing U.S. support, could only damage the Santiago regime.” [Newsweek, Oct. 11, 1976]

Bush, who later became the 41st president of the United States (and is the father of the 43rd president), has never explained his role in putting out the false cover story that diverted attention away from the real terrorists. Nor has Bush explained what he knew about the Chilean intelligence operation in the weeks before Letelier and Moffitt were killed.

Dodging Disclosure

As a Newsweek correspondent in 1988, a dozen years after the Letelier bombing, when the elder Bush was running for president, I prepared a detailed story about Bush’s handling of the Letelier case.

The draft story included the first account from U.S. intelligence sources that Contreras was a CIA asset in the mid-1970s. I also learned that the CIA had consulted Contreras about the Letelier assassination, information that the CIA then would not confirm.

The sources told me that the CIA sent its Santiago station chief, Wiley Gilstrap, to talk with Contreras after the bombing. Gilstrap then cabled back to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Contreras’s assurances that the Chilean government was not involved. Contreras told Gilstrap that the most likely killers were communists who wanted to make a martyr out of Letelier.

My story draft also described how Bush’s CIA had been forewarned in 1976 about DINA’s secret plans to send agents, including the assassin Michael Townley, into the United States on false passports.

Upon learning of this strange mission, the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, George Landau, cabled Bush about Chile’s claim that Townley and another agent were traveling to CIA headquarters for a meeting with Bush’s deputy, Vernon Walters. Landau also forwarded copies of the false passports to the CIA.

Walters cabled back that he was unaware of any scheduled appointment with these Chilean agents. Landau immediately canceled the visas, but Townley simply altered his plans and continued on his way to the United States. After arriving, he enlisted some right-wing Cuban-Americans in the Letelier plot and went to Washington to plant the bomb under Letelier’s car.

The CIA has never explained what action it took, if any, after receiving Landau’s warning. A natural follow-up would have been to contact DINA and ask what was afoot or whether a message about the trip had been misdirected. The CIA report in 2000 made no mention of these aspects of the case.

After the assassination, Bush promised the CIA’s full cooperation in tracking down the Letelier-Moffitt killers. But instead the CIA took contrary actions, such as planting the false exoneration and withholding evidence that would have implicated the Chilean junta.

“Nothing the agency gave us helped us to break this case,” said federal prosecutor Eugene Propper in a 1988 interview for the story I was drafting for Newsweek. The CIA never volunteered Ambassador Landau’s cable about the suspicious DINA mission nor copies of the fake passports that included a photo of Townley, the chief assassin. Nor did Bush’s CIA divulge its knowledge of the existence of Operation Condor.

FBI agents in Washington and Latin America broke the case two years later. They discovered Operation Condor on their own and tracked the assassination back to Townley and his accomplices in the United States.

In 1988, as then-Vice President Bush was citing his CIA work as an important part of his government experience, I submitted questions to him asking about his actions in the days before and after the Letelier bombing. Bush’s chief of staff, Craig Fuller, wrote back, saying Bush “will have no comment on the specific issues raised in your letter.”

As it turned out, the Bush campaign had little to fear from my discoveries. When I submitted my story draft – with its exclusive account of Contreras’s role as a CIA asset – Newsweek’s editors refused to run the story. Washington bureau chief Evan Thomas told me that Editor Maynard Parker even had accused me of being “out to get Bush.”

The CIA’s Admission

Twenty-four years after the Letelier assassination and 12 years after Newsweek killed the first account of the Contreras-CIA relationship, the CIA admitted that it had paid Contreras as an intelligence asset and consulted with him about the Letelier assassination.

Still, in the sketchy report in 2000, the spy agency sought to portray itself as more victim than accomplice. According to the report, the CIA was internally critical of Contreras’s human rights abuses and skeptical about his credibility. The CIA said its skepticism predates the spy agency’s contact with him about the Letelier-Moffitt murders.

“The relationship, while correct, was not cordial and smooth, particularly as evidence of Contreras’ role in human rights abuses emerged,” the CIA reported. “In December 1974, the CIA concluded that Contreras was not going to improve his human rights performance. …

“By April 1975, intelligence reporting showed that Contreras was the principal obstacle to a reasonable human rights policy within the Junta, but an interagency committee [within the Ford administration] directed the CIA to continue its relationship with Contreras.”

The CIA report added that “a one-time payment was given to Contreras” in 1975, a time frame when the CIA was first hearing about Operation Condor, a cross-border program run by South America’s military dictatorships to hunt down dissidents living in other countries.

“CIA sought from Contreras information regarding evidence that emerged in 1975 of a formal Southern Cone cooperative intelligence effort – ‘Operation Condor’ – building on informal cooperation in tracking and, in at least a few cases, killing political opponents. By October 1976, there was sufficient information that the CIA decided to approach Contreras on the matter. Contreras confirmed Condor’s existence as an intelligence-sharing network but denied that it had a role in extra-judicial killings.”

Also, in October 1976, the CIA said it “worked out” how it would assist the FBI in its investigation of the Letelier assassination, which had occurred the previous month. The spy agency’s report offered no details of what it did, however. The report added only that Contreras was already a murder suspect by fall 1976.

“At that time, Contreras’ possible role in the Letelier assassination became an issue,” the CIA’s report said. “By the end of 1976, contacts with Contreras were very infrequent.”

Even though the CIA came to recognize the likelihood that DINA was behind the Letelier assassination, there never was any indication that Bush’s CIA sought to correct the false impression created by its leaks to the news media asserting DINA’s innocence.

After Bush left the CIA with Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977, the spy agency distanced itself from Contreras, the new report said. “During 1977, CIA met with Contreras about half a dozen times; three of those contacts were to request information on the Letelier assassination,” the CIA report said.

“On 3 November 1977, Contreras was transferred to a function unrelated to intelligence so the CIA severed all contact with him,” the report added. “After a short struggle to retain power, Contreras resigned from the Army in 1978. In the interim, CIA gathered specific, detailed intelligence reporting concerning Contreras’ involvement in ordering the Letelier assassination.”

Remaining Mysteries

Though the CIA report in 2000 contained the first official admission of a relationship with Contreras, it shed no light on the actions of Bush and his deputy, Walters, in the days before and after the Letelier assassination. It also offered no explanation why Bush’s CIA planted false information in the American press clearing Chile’s military dictatorship.

While providing the 21-page summary on its relationship with Chile’s military dictatorship, the CIA refused to release documents from a quarter century earlier on the grounds that the disclosures might jeopardize the CIA’s “sources and methods.” The refusal came in the face of President Bill Clinton’s specific order to release as much information as possible.

Perhaps the CIA was playing for time. With CIA headquarters officially named the George Bush Center for Intelligence and with veterans of the Reagan-Bush years still dominating the CIA’s hierarchy, the spy agency might have hoped that the election of Texas Gov. George W. Bush would free it from demands to open up records to the American people.

For his part, former President George H.W. Bush declared his intent to take a more active role in campaigning for his son’s election. In Florida on Sept. 22, 2000, Bush said he was “absolutely convinced” that if his son is elected president, “we will restore the respect, honor and decency that the White House deserves.”


Originally published on 2018-12-01

About the author: The late investigative reporter Robert Parry, the founding editor of Consortium News, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, can be obtained in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Source: Consortium News

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

READ MORE!
Incompetent Espionage and Wikileaks
The entire sand-castle (a product of Obama CIA Director John Brennan’s imagination) the “Russians hacked the election” is finally washing away with an incoming tide. How this plays out is anyone’s guess. The open question is, how the new information will be leveraged, if it were to actually break into the open widely, with the bad boy Trump essentially captured by the surreal evil that surrounds him. Other than pure evil (e.g. Mike Pence), only a narcissist or a fool would ever desire to be president of this particular USA republic. In ‘The Donald’, we have both. 1 August 2017 an audio ...
READ MORE
The NATO-Aggression Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999
Was Serbia attacked in 1999? To answer that question, Milica-Hänsel Radojkovic draws on period documents (including Willy Wimmer’s letter to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder). He highlights the unacceptability of the Rambouillet proposals, designed to justify a war that had already started. Fourteen years ago, after the negotiation conferences in Rambouillet and Paris between 6th and 23rd February 1999, the global media informed the general public that “the Serbian delegation did not accept the offered agreement and rather qualified it as null and void”, while indicating that allegedly the so-called Contact Group for Yugoslavia stood behind the agreement. This body consisted of ...
READ MORE
NATO’s Role in the Recruitment of Islamic Terrorists
According to Israeli Intelligence News Source This article was first published in September 2014. Can we believe Hollande and Cameron? Evidence confirms that NATO is behind the recruitment of “jihadist terrorists  While NATO leaders in Newport Wales [September 2014] debate the Atlantic Alliance’s role “in containing a mounting militant threat in the Middle East”, it is worth recalling that in 2011 at the outset of the war in Syria,  NATO became actively involved in the recruitment of Islamic fighters. Reminiscent of the enlistment of the Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war, NATO headquarters ...
READ MORE
** FILE ** President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday, May 1, 2007 sent Iraq legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals to President George W. Bush and a certain veto.  On the fourth anniversary of the president's "Mission Accomplished" speech, Senate Majority Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Bush "has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. A change of course is needed."  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In George W. Bush’s home state of Texas, if you are an ordinary citizen found guilty of capital murder, the mandatory sentence is either life in prison or the death penalty. If, however, you are a former president of the United States responsible for initiating two illegal wars of aggression, which killed 7,000 U.S. servicemen and at least 210,000 civilians, displaced more than 10 million people from their homes, condoned torture, initiated a global drone assassination campaign, and imprisoned people for years without substantive evidence or trial in Guantanamo Bay, the punishment evidently is to be given the Thayer Award ...
READ MORE
The Lie of the 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
The mainstream media (MSM) has declared war on alternative media websites labeling them “Fake News” ever since Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump. The New York Times editorial board expressed their frustration in an article calling for the censorship of alternative and social media Facebook and the Digital Virus Called Fake News’ which claimed both social media platforms (Facebook and Google) has not been aggressive enough in blocking fake news sites:Most of the fake news stories are produced by scammers looking to make a quick buck. The vast majority of them take far-right positions. But a big part ...
READ MORE
Terrorist al-Nusra Front is blamed for massacre and abduction of Syrian civilians.
President Obama’s final foreign policy speech at MacDill air force base in Tampa, betrayed its purpose through the venue.  The Tampa, Florida, base is home to Special Operations Command and Central Command — Special Operations playing an ever increasing role in counter terrorism. The gist of the speech seemed to assert that the US is and should stay true to its values when fighting terrorism.  An assertion when at the same time Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, has written a letter to Secretary John Kerry warning him the US could be charged with war crimes in aiding Saudi Arabia’s bombing ...
READ MORE
Parents of Albanian ISIS ‘Martyrs’ Abandoned to Grief
Selim Demolli gripped the table with his hands, and his lip trembled with anger as he spoke. The previous day he had talked to an imam about his son, who was killed three years ago in Syria. He asked the imam for a religious explanation about what happens to a dead person whose parents have not forgiven him. The answer was hard to take. “He is not a shahid [martyr]. Those who did not get a blessing from their father cannot rest in peace. The imam even told me so. They are called ‘cursed’,” Demolli said. Demolli’s son Burim was killed in October ...
READ MORE
The Untold History of U.S. War Crimes
In this exclusive interview, Prof Peter Kuznick speaks of: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagazaki; US crimes and lies behind the Vietnam war, and what was really behind that inhumane invasion; why the US engaged a Cold War with the Soviet Union, and how that war and the mainstream media influences the world today; the interests behind the assassinations of President Kennedy; US imperialism towards Latin America, during the Cold War and today, under the false premise of War on Terror and War on Drugs.Edu Montesanti: Professor Peter Kuznick, thank you so very much for granting me this interview. In ...
READ MORE
Crimea, Kosovo, Catalonia, Corsica and Kurdistan
Just three years after a citizens’ referendum returned Crimea to Russia, from which it had been separated for sixty years, the people of Catalonia, Spain’s largest province, will vote to leave that country.And just as the international community has decreed that the Crimean referendum was a fake, Spain’s Prime Minister felt compelled to declare that the vote could’t possibly take place, that it would be illegal, that independence, in his words, could only be ‘a pipe dream’ for the country’s richest province.Clearly, national governments don’t like losing land and people, however when it suits the international community, some communities are ...
READ MORE
Journey to Aleppo: Exposing the Truth Buried under NATO Propaganda
Aleppo has become synonymous with destruction and “Syrian state-generated” violence among those whose perception of the situation in the war-torn nation is contained within the prism of mainstream media narratives.The NATO-aligned media maintains a tight grip on information coming out of this beleaguered city, ensuring that whatever comes out is tailored to meet State Department requirements and advocacy for regime change. The propaganda mill churns out familiar tales of chemical weapons, siege, starvation, and bombs targeting civilians–all of which are attributed to the Syrian government and military, with little variation on this theme.The purpose of this photo essay and my ...
READ MORE
New Freedom of Speech in the United States
For a long time, the bipartisan political system was the backbone of American democracy. Thanks to freedom of speech, the media, and open hearings in the US Congress, the opposition was always able to control the party in power. However, it took just a few years of active work and a year of mass-scale, illegal protests for this system to fall apart, and the thinking of many Americans to change so dramatically as to support this new reality.  Ira Glasser, a veteran public figure and the longtime leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, became one of the first to ...
READ MORE
Mosul, Iraq and Obama’s Legacy of War
Barack Obama is the first two-term American president to have presided over war every day of his tenure in office. He bequeaths to a Trump administration ongoing operations in Afghanistan, continuing drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, the consequences of the 2011 destruction of Libya, the instigation of civil war in Syria, US sponsorship of the brutal Saudi interventions in Yemen, and the civil conflicts in Ukraine, the Caucuses and across Africa. Obama’s blood-soaked legacy, however, is most graphic in Iraq. There is a bitter irony in this, given the fact that he was elected in 2008 largely on the basis of ...
READ MORE
An Isolated Tyrannical Regime – Not Pyongyang, It’s Washington
If Pentagon chief James Mattis was seeking to reassure the world of American restraint in the North Korea crisis, he clumsily did the opposite. The US Defense Secretary was speaking after intense discussions with President Trump and other senior military officials in the White House Situation Room following the sixth nuclear test carried out by North Korea on Sunday.Mattis emerged from the meeting to say that any threat from North Korea to the United States and its allies would be met with an «overwhelming military response». He then added – with a weirdly presumed ethical tone – that the US «was not looking to ...
READ MORE
Why the U.S. Must Be Prosecuted for Its War Crimes Against Iraq
The reason why the U.S. Government must be prosecuted for its war-crimes against Iraq is that they are so horrific and there are so many of them, and international law crumbles until they become prosecuted and severely punished for what they did. We therefore now have internationally a lawless world (or “World Order”) in which “Might makes right,” and in which there is really no effective international law, at all. This is merely gangster “law,” ruling on an international level. It is what Hitler and his Axis of fascist imperialists had imposed upon the world until the Allies — U.S. ...
READ MORE
Brexit: A Challenge to America’s Domination of Europe
A Unified Europe: Born In the USAWhile Brexit versus the continuation of the European Union is a hot news topic, few know the secret who and why of the EU’s creation.The lead financial writer at the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, wrote in 2000:Declassified American government documents show that the US intelligence community ran a campaign in the Fifties and Sixties to build momentum for a united Europe.***The head of the Ford Foundation, ex-OSS officer Paul Hoffman, doubled as head of ACUE [below, we’ll explain who these players are] in the late Fifties. The State Department also played a role. A memo ...
READ MORE
The Hidden Structure of U.S. Empire
My father was a doctor in the British Royal Navy, and I grew up traveling by troop-ship between the last outposts of the British Empire – Trincomalee, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Aden, Singapore – and living in and around naval dockyards in England and Scotland.The British naval bases where I grew up and the fading empire they supported are now part of history. Chatham Dockyard. a working dockyard for over 400 years, is now a museum and tourist attraction.  Trincomalee Dockyard, where I was born, has been in the news as a site where the Sri Lankan Navy is accused of torturing and ...
READ MORE
Impeachment in American Political System
What is impeachment?Linguistically, the noun impeachment is a synonym for charging and it comes from the verb to impeach meaning to charge someone. In political science, the verb to impeach has two meanings: Formerly, to charge a person with treason or other very serious crime against the state or/and nation before the Parliament or National Assembly. Contemporary, to charge head of state (the President or similar) or minister with treason or with crimes against the state.As a noun with political meaning, impeachment means the charging of treason or other very serious crime which is brought against a head of state ...
READ MORE
French Documentary Exposes Ukraine’s Far-Right: “Ukraine – The Masks of the Revolution”
The activities of aggressive nationalist and neo-Nazi armed movements in present-day Ukraine are the focal point of Moreira’s documentary.  Their existence is not denied by any of his leading critics in France — even as they try to find excuses to justify their actions. On Wednesday, 3 February, as I was about to start assembling this article on the very important documentary about the Maidan broadcast by the French independent television channel Canal + on Monday evening, 1 February, I was headed off by breaking news on Russia Insider, carrying links to the first half of the documentary in English voice-over ...
READ MORE
The State of Emergency and the Collapse of French Democracy
The measures being taken by the government of President François Hollande in response to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris constitute an unprecedented attack on democratic rights.The Socialist Party (PS) government has declared a state of emergency and mobilized more than 100,000 security personnel throughout the country, including regular police, gendarmes, paramilitary riot police and military forces. It is impossible to walk the streets of any major city without running into individuals decked out in camouflage or dressed in black, toting automatic rifles. These paramilitary forces have been given the power to raid any home and arrest or kill anyone declared ...
READ MORE
Waffen-SS Im Einsatz: Hitler’s Soviet Muslim Legions
During World War II, hundreds of thousands of foreign peoples joined with Hitler's legions to bring theirs people into special status in Hitler's New Order. Tens of thousands among them were Muslims, where the majority of them came from Soviet Union. Under the banner of the crescent and the swastika, these Soviet Muslims believe to become holy warriors to liberated theirs land. But the end of this unholy alliance was a disaster for them.The Pro-Nazi Soviet Muslims When the German Army invaded Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941 they saw many of their opponent inhabitants welcomed them as liberators. One ...
READ MORE
Incompetent Espionage and Wikileaks
The NATO-Aggression Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999
NATO’s Role in the Recruitment of Islamic Terrorists
Duty, Honor, Atrocity: George W. Bush Receives a Character Award at West Point
The Lie of the 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
Is the U.S Fighting Terrorism or Manufacturing It?
Parents of Albanian ISIS ‘Martyrs’ Abandoned to Grief
The Untold History of U.S. War Crimes
Crimea, Kosovo, Catalonia, Corsica and Kurdistan
Journey to Aleppo: Exposing the Truth Buried under NATO Propaganda
New Freedom of Speech in the United States
Mosul, Iraq and Obama’s Legacy of War
An Isolated Tyrannical Regime – Not Pyongyang, It’s Washington
Why the U.S. Must Be Prosecuted for Its War Crimes Against Iraq
Brexit: A Challenge to America’s Domination of Europe
The Hidden Structure of U.S. Empire
Impeachment in American Political System
French Documentary Exposes Ukraine’s Far-Right: “Ukraine – The Masks of the Revolution”
The State of Emergency and the Collapse of French Democracy
Waffen-SS Im Einsatz: Hitler’s Soviet Muslim Legions
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share