Why Did The United States Government Prosecute Leteliers And Moffitts Assassins? By Jacob G. Hornberger
(2017-05-31 at 17:21:25 )

Why Did the United States Government Prosecute Leteliers and Moffitts Assassins? by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the most interesting aspects of the Cold War was the Justice Departments decision to prosecute the men who assassinated former Chilean official Orlando Letelier and his young American assistant Ronni Moffitt on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1976. After all, the assassinations of Letelier and Moffitt were no different from assassinations and other criminal offenses that the United States government was committing throughout the Cold War. Why prosecute one set of malefactors and not another set of malefactors?

Letelier, a Chilean citizen, had served in various high offices in the presidential regime of Salvador Allende, the Chilean physician who had been democratically elected president of Chile in 1970. Because Allende was a believer in socialism and communism and, also, reached out to the Soviet Union in a spirit of peace and friendship, the executive branch of the United States government targeted him for a regime-change operation, one that employed the national-security sector of the government, specifically the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

As part of the effort to prevent Allende from becoming president, Central Intelligence Agency officials conspired to kidnap and remove Gen. Rene Schneider, the overall commander of Chiles armed forces because he was opposed to the United States-desired military coup against the democratically elected president. While the Central Intelligence Agency has long denied that its kidnapping conspiracy extended to assassinating Schneider, the denials ring hollow because what else could they have done once they kidnapped Schneider and removed him from the scene? In any event, Schneider was assassinated in the kidnapping attempt, which made the Central Intelligence Agency complicit in the assassination under the felony-murder rule of criminal jurisprudence.

By the time of the Schneider assassination in 1970, the position of the United States national-security sector of the government was that it wielded the power to assassinate people who it deemed posed a threat to "national security," notwithstanding the obvious fact that the Constitution did not enumerate assassination among the limited powers delegated to the federal government and notwithstanding the fact that the Bill of Rights expressly prohibited the federal government from depriving anyone, including foreigners, of life without due process of law.

The national-security establishments notion was that because the United States supposedly now faced an extremely dangerous threat to its existence from communists and communism, and especially the communist-controlled Soviet Union, which had been Americas World War II partner and ally, the Central Intelligence Agency needed to wield the power to assassinate communists as threats to national security.

Why communists? Because, United States officials claimed, communists were engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to take over America and the world, with the supposed conspiracy supposedly based in Moscow. Since this was a war for Americas very survival, it was necessary, United States officials maintained, to be able to kill the enemy.

Thus, after Fidel Castro took power, declared Cubas independence from United States control, announced his allegiance to socialism and communism, adopted socialist programs, and befriended the Soviet Union, the Central Intelligence Agency targeted him for assassination. Hardly any American questioned or challenged the national-security establishments power to assassinate people who were deemed threats to "national security."

Castro was not the first communist that the Central Intelligence Agency targeted for assassination. Before Castro, there was Jacobo Arbenz, the socialist-communist who the voters of Guatemala elected to be their president in 1950. Once Arbenz began nationalizing land belonging to the big and influential United States corporation United Fruit and giving it to the poor, permitting communists to serve in his administration, and reaching out to the Soviet Union in peace and friendship, United States officials targeted him for a Central Intelligence Agency regime-change operation, one that involved a top-secret Central Intelligence Agency list of Guatemalan officials to be assassinated.

It is worth noting that Guatemala, like Cuba, never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. It was simply that these two countries were headed by people who believed in communism or socialism that made them, United States officials maintained, legitimate targets for assassination, especially when they reached out to Moscow in a spirt of peace and friendship.

After the Central Intelligence Agency-inspired coup in Chile in 1973, Allende was replaced by one of the most brutal military dictatorships in history. Headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean national-security establishment rounded up, kidnapped, incarcerated, tortured, raped, executed, assassinated, abused, or disappeared tens of thousands of innocent people, including two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, who, according to a secret State Department investigation, were killed with the complicity of United States intelligence officials. Meanwhile, United States foreign aid was flooding into the Pinochet regimes coffers, aid that was designed to maintain Pinochets unelected dictatorial hold on power.

Now, I say "innocent" but in the eyes of Pinochet and the United States and Chilean national security establishments, none of the victims was innocent. That is because they were all suspected of being socialists, communists, or supporters of the socialist-communist president, Salvador Allende. Since there was a Cold War on communism and against communists going on, it was considered perfectly acceptable for Pinochets forces to kill the enemy, especially since communists in Vietnam were killing United States forces there.

Pinochet, however, did not stop with killing, raping, jailing, torturing, or disappearing suspected communists in Chile. He took his anti-communist crusade to other countries as well, with the support and cooperation of the United States national-security establishment.

That is what the infamous Operation Condor was all about. It was an international kidnapping, torture, and assassination enterprise consisting of several South American right-wing dictatorships that were working together in their cold war on communism and communists. It is estimated that Operation Condor ended up killing tens of thousands of suspected communists and socialists.

Most of the victims were in Latin America but Operation Condor assassinations also extended to Europe and even the United States. That is what the Letelier and Moffitt assassinations were about. Letelier, the socialist-communist who had loyally served in the administration of the socialist-communist Allende, was deemed to be a threat to national security, and so Operation Condor designated him to be assassinated.

When the Operation Condor assassins triggered the car bomb that they had planted in Leteliers car, they knew that Moffitt and her husband were also in the car. But the fact is that both Moffitts were leftists who, along with Letelier, were employed by a left-wing think tank in Washington, which, in the eyes of the national security establishment, made them socialists and communists. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had the organization under surveillance as a potential threat to national security at the very time that the Letelier-Moffitt assassinations took place.

No one has ever come up with direct evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency was directly involved in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination. However, over the years, as some of the top-secret records have been revealed, it has become clear that the Central Intelligence Agency was a partner in Operation Condor, which would, as a matter of law, make it complicit in any assassinations or other criminal activity in which Operation Condor was involved. While we are still not permitted to know the full extent of the Central Intelligence Agencys participation in Operation Condor, we do know that it provided communications and technological equipment for the operation. We also know that the leader of Operation Condor, Chilean Manuel Contreras, who was Pinochets right-hand man, turned out to be also on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In principle, the assassinations of Letelier and Moffitt were no different from the Central Intelligence Agencys assassination efforts against Castro, Che Guevara, and other communist-socialists.

So, the $64,000 question is: Since Pinochet and Operation Condor were doing what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing - assassinating communists - why did the Justice Department prosecute the people who assassinated Letelier and Moffit for murder?

Or to ask the question another way, given that Operation Condor agents were indicted and prosecuted for murdering Letelier and Moffitt, why were Central Intelligence Agency and other United States officials also not indicted and prosecuted for conspiracy to murder Castro, Arbenz, Schneider, and even Letelier and Moffitt as well?

Printed here with permission from Mr. Jacob G. Hornberger of The Future of Freedom Foundation!! Their Great Website!!