Published: Sep 20, 20 – Briefing Book #685 – Edited by Peter Kornbluh and Santiago Mendoza
‘Dissent Channel’ Memorandum Called for U.S. Policy to Force Pinochet From Power
43 Years after State-Sponsored Terrorist Act in Washington, New Details Emerge on Effort to Hold General Pinochet Accountable
Washington D.C., September 20, 2019 — In the aftermath of the September 21, 1976, car-bombing that killed former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington D.C., four State Department officers began pressing for a policy to force General Augusto Pinochet from power, according to a declassified “Dissent Channel” memorandum published today by the National Security Archive. “It is probable that President Pinochet ordered the assassination of Letelier and others,” the authors wrote in their appeal for an aggressive policy of ending normal relations with Chile until Pinochet was removed. “Our only hope for justice is for the U.S. to take action that will bring it about.”
The “Dissent Channel” is a special–and carefully used–mechanism for State Department officials to provide constructive opposition to established policies. Department procedural regulations define it as“a serious policy channel reserved only for consideration of responsible dissenting and alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues that cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels and procedures.”
The National Security Archive obtained the Dissent Channel memorandum on the Letelier-Moffitt assassination through a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
The secret memorandum, titled “The Letelier/Moffitt Assassinations: Policy toward Chile,” was filed on October 1, 1979, shortly after the Chilean Supreme Court rejected a U.S. Justice Department petition to extradite the top two officials of the Chilean secret police, DINA, for their role in the terrorist attack in Washington D.C. CIA intelligence reports revealed that Gen. Pinochet had personally interceded with the chief justice on the court to assure that the extradition request was denied (…)