Documents Released On Chilean Slayings
By Vernon Loeb and George Lardner Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thirteen years ago, a Chilean intelligence officer fingered a notorious
Chilean police official as having ordered the murder of American journalist
shortly after a 1973 coup brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power, according to newly declassified documents.
While officials at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago thought the Chilean
informant might be a plant and did not pursue his allegation, the incident
provides a tantalizing new
lead in the murder case that inspired the 1982 Jack Lemmon-Sissy Spacek movie "Missing."
State Department cables on the informant's detailed report about Horman's
interrogation and execution are among 505 U.S. government documents released
yesterday, the long-delayed fruit of a declassification effort ordered by President Clinton after Pinochet was arrested in London in October 1998. The aging
ex-dictator has since returned to Chile; it is uncertain whether he will be tried there for human rights abuses.
The documents concern the fate of Horman and two other U.S. citizens,
Frank Teruggi and Boris Weisfeiler, who were killed during Pinochet's rule.
little information about Teruggi, who, like Horman, was a journalist arrested for suspected "extremism" by Chilean authorities. But they provide a wealth of new
details about Weisfeiler, including a CIA memo indicating the Russian emigre and mathematics professor was detained by a military patrol in southern Chile and
Olga Weisfeiler, the professor's sister, said the documents show the U.S. government has done little to find out what happened to him.
"Nothing has changed, nobody did anything, nobody discovered anything,"
Weisfeiler said in a telephone interview from her home in Newton, Mass.
She added that
a lawyer she hired in Chile a year ago recently uncovered enough evidence to persuade Chilean courts to reopen a criminal investigation.
Joyce Horman, Charles Horman's widow, expressed similar dissatisfaction
with the CIA and the Defense Department, saying she could not believe that
the handful of
documents released by those agencies represented their entire files on her husband's case.
"I think we all understand that justice heals, it heals all of the pain
of injustice," she told reporters at the National Press Club. "But to get
to justice, you have to get to
truth, and our road to truth has been excruciatingly long."
Though the papers made public yesterday dealt only with the Horman,
Teruggi and Weisfeiler cases, their release was part of a broad review
requested by the White
House of all secret U.S. documents relating to political violence and human rights abuses in Chile from 1968 to 1991. A fourth and final batch of Chile-related
documents is scheduled for release Sept. 15.
Peter Kornbluh, director of the Chile Declassification Project at the
nonprofit National Security Archive, said the CIA still has provided relatively
little information on
its activities in Chile. "Perhaps more significant than what has been released today is what continues to be withheld," he said.
The Horman family has long suspected U.S. intelligence agencies of playing
some role in Charles Horman's murder--a belief buttressed by a declassified
Department cable released last fall, which said the CIA "may have played an unfortunate part" in Horman's death. CIA officials have for years denied any
Following yesterday's document release, a U.S. official denied Kornbluh's
claim that the CIA was withholding operational cables from its Santiago
station. The CIA
has withheld fewer than 10 documents on the Horman case, and only one relating to the Teruggi case, because of "legitimate sources and methods concerns," the
The State Department records released yesterday show that in 1987 a
Chilean intelligence officer identified Pedro Espinoza as the official
who ordered Horman's
execution. Espinoza went on to become deputy director of DINA, the Chilean secret police, and was convicted and imprisoned in Chile for participating in the 1976
car-bomb murder of former diplomat Orlando Letelier on Washington's Embassy Row.
The bulk of the declassified State Department records, however, deal
with Weisfeiler. Although his body was never found, Chilean authorities
concluded that he
drowned at the confluence of two rivers in southern Chile, about 10 miles from Colonia Dignidad, a secretive enclave founded by German immigrants. His backpack
was found at the edge of the water.
State Department officials in Chile, however, thought there might be
"another, more sinister explanation," and an April 15, 1986, memo to Ambassador
Barnes Jr. suggested Weisfeiler could be in captivity "somewhere in Chile (probably Colonia Dignidad)."
A year later, a former Chilean army conscript was reported as saying
he was part of a patrol that detained an American fitting Weisfeiler's
description and turned him
over to the colony's security guards. Amnesty International and the United Nations charged in the mid-1970s that the settlement was actually a torture center for
political prisoners--an accusation its founders denied.
Another theory, set out by a CIA source in a November 1987 report, is
that a Chilean army patrol interrogated and fatally beat Weisfeiler, perhaps
thinking he was a
"subversive" who had sneaked across the Argentine border. A CIA memo called this account "more plausible" and suggested that the earlier story may have been
fabricated by Chilean military intelligence to mislead the embassy.
The most interesting new document on Teruggi--who was arrested nine
days after the coup, then tortured and murdered--is an FBI record showing
he had come
under surveillance when he attended a 1971 Colorado conference of the Committee of Returned Volunteers. The FBI said the CRV was composed primarily of
former Peace Corps volunteers "who espouse support of Cuba and all Third World revolutionaries."
The newly released CIA records on Teruggi deal largely with the agency's
refusal to provide his father with a document mentioning the 24-year-old's
name. The CIA
said its release would identify the foreign intelligence service that furnished the information.
Teruggi had arrived in Chile in January 1972 and was a student at the
University of Chile in Santiago. According to his father, he was arrested
in his house during a
curfew on Sept. 20, 1973, and killed two days later, his throat slashed and his machine-gunned body riddled with 17 bullet wounds. A fellow prisoner at the Chile
stadium said in an affidavit that he was told Teruggi had been beaten so badly that he had to be shot.