Kissinger and Operation Condor

The question of whether Henry Kissinger was involved in the “Operation Condor” assassination campaign that led to the Chilean government killing a former ambassador on the streets of Washington, DC has long been the subject of controversy. Now thanks to the work of the National Security Archive we know the answer:

As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976, a newly released State Department cable shows. […]

Discovered in recent weeks by the National Security Archive, a non-profit research organization, the Sept. 16, 1976 cable is among tens of thousands of declassified State Department documents recently made available to the public. […]

In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that “secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo” Uruguay “and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter.”

The fact that this stayed classified for so long is yet another data point for the principle that we have far too much formal government secrecy in the United States. Recently there’s been a lot of emphasis on “transparency” in things like fundraising, earmarks, etc. And that’s all to the good. But the most important powers of the government are the life-and-death powers wielded by the national security establishment and they remain largely shrouded in secrecy. What operational danger would revealing the truth about this cable have created for the United States? It was just a decades-long effort to help Kissinger and the Ford administration evade democratic accountability for their policies.