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The U.S. National-Security State's Murder of Two Americans

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Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi

A Chilean court ruled this week that the U.S. national-security state conspired to murder American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi in Chile in 1973. The brutal act occurred during the violent military coup in which the Chilean military, with the full support of the U.S. government, ousted the democratically elected president of the country, Salvador Allende, and replaced him with an unelected brutal military dictatorship headed by Chilean General Augusto Pinochet.

For years, the CIA and the U.S. military falsely denied any complicity in the murders of Horman and Teruggi. After many years of false denials, however, the U.S. State Department released a memorandum confirming that a secret U.S. official investigation had revealed that U.S. intelligence had played a role in the murders of both men.

The Chilean court has now confirmed what the State Department said in that crucial memo.

Why did U.S. national-security state officials murder Horman and Teruggi? Because Horman and Teruggi were leftists — progressives — socialists — whatever label you want to put on people who subscribe to the economic philosophy of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and other people who believe in the welfare-state way of life. In the minds of U.S. national-security state officials, that made them “subversives” or “communists” — i.e., enemies of the state.

Had Horman and Teruggi engaged in any acts of violence? Had they shot at U.S. officials or Chilean officials? Had they kidnapped anyone? Had they engaged in any acts of terrorism?

The answer is “no” to all those questions. Their “crime” was mental — they believed in welfare-statism, just as Roosevelt, Johnson, and Allende did. They believed in the socialist regime of Salvador Allende, whom the Chilean people had democratically elected to be their president, just as the American people had democratically elected Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson to be their presidents.

As the circumstantial evidence has slowly surfaced over the years, the mosaic of the conspiracy has come into better focus.

Keep in mind, first of all, that at the time the execution of these two men was shrouded in official secrecy. The last thing that U.S. national-security state officials wanted the American people to discover was the role that they played both in engendering the coup and in murdering these two Americans.

Thus, CIA and military records relating to the coup and to Horman and Teruggi were classified top secret on the basis of “national security.” The military and the CIA obviously knew that if they could keep things secret long enough, the coup and the murders would ultimately become nothing more than items of historical curiosity. Equally important, over time witnesses would die.  Even the perpetrators might die before the truth came to light.

And in fact, that’s precisely what happened. The U.S. military man the Chilean court points to as the ringleader of the murder conspiracy was named Ray Davis. He was a U.S. Navy Captain in charge of the U.S. Military Group in Chile. After he was indicted for the murders by a Chilean court in 2011, he passed away in 2013, confirming the old adage, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

What happened is that Horman traveled with a family friend to a city on the Chilean coast named Vina del Mar. It just so happened that that’s where the Pinochet coup originated. Horman happened to see American warships offshore and witnessed U.S. military personnel within town, easily passing through Chilean military checkpoints.

Horman and his friend finally were able to get a ride back to Santiago, where Horman lived. Guess who gave them a ride: Ray Davis.

The role that U.S. national-security state officials played in the murders was critical. Since the U.S. government had encouraged and helped to instigate the coup, there was no reasonable possibility that Chilean officials would ever murder two American citizens. At most, they would have deported them.

Therefore, it had to be U.S. officials who fingered Horman and Teruggi and directed that they be included in the thousands of innocent Chilean citizens who were being murdered during the coup.

Why would they do that? Why would U.S. national-security state officials direct their counterparts in the Chilean military and intelligence to murder two American citizens?

Well, for one, Horman and Teruggi were considered leftist subversives owing to their progressive economic views. In fact, the FBI was maintaining a file back in the United States on Teruggi for being a suspected leftist subversive.

Second, remember: Horman had witnessed all those U.S. military personnel in Vina del Mar and those American warships overseas. U.S. officials were determined to keep U.S. involvement in the coup totally secret. Horman was a journalist. He would have blown the whistle on the operation. He had to be silenced if the U.S. supporting role in the coup was to be kept secret.

The U.S. military and the CIA also knew that the chances that anyone would do anything to them for murdering Horman and Teruggi were non-existent.

Certainly, the Pinochet regime wouldn’t do anything. It was grateful for the U.S. government’s help in bringing Pinochet to power, and the U.S. government was now flooding Pinochet’s regime with millions of dollars in foreign aid.

Anyway, Horman and Teruggi were just two of the 3,000 other innocent people who were rounded up, tortured, raped, and murdered by Pinochet’s goons. What’s two more dead Americans stacked up among 3,000 other bodies?

Moreover, don’t forget that the CIA had participated in the murder of Chilean Gen. Rene Schneider, the commander of the Chilean armed forces, for standing in the way of a military coup, as I detailed in my recent article “The CIA’s Murder of Rene Schneider.”

The U.S. Justice Department would never pursue the murderers because President Nixon would never have permitted it. Nixon helped Pinochet come into office. It loved what he was doing. After all, don’t forget that this was 1973, when the U.S. national-security state was being defeated by the communists in Vietnam. Pinochet was killing people who believed in communism and socialism, and Nixon and his goons loved it.

The U.S. military and the CIA also knew that the federal judiciary would never do anything to them. The U.S. judiciary was doing exactly what the Chilean judiciary was doing: showing extreme deference to the national-security state apparatus in their respective countries. The federal judiciary made it clear that no federal judge was going to second-guess the military and the CIA on any matter relating to “national security,” especially given that the power that the military and the CIA had acquired within America’s governmental system.

Thus, when Horman’s widow filed suit for wrongful death against U.S. officials, it wasn’t surprising that the federal courts summarily dismissed her case, saying that she hadn’t produced sufficient evidence of U.S. complicity in her husband’s murder. But they wouldn’t allow her to take depositions of the CIA and the military to acquire such evidence, undoubtedly because the federal judiciary knew that the military and the CIA would never comply with discovery orders issued by federal judges and that federal judges would have no effective means to enforce judicial orders against the most powerful military and intelligence apparatus in history.

Congress? Totally impotent. Notwithstanding persuasive circumstantial evidence that U.S. national-security state officials had conspired to murder two innocent Americans, Congress wasn’t about to touch that with a ten-foot poll. After all, that would mean grappling with the CIA and the Pentagon. Why, even today Congress is too scared of the CIA and the military to order the declassification and release of all their records relating to U.S. complicity in the Chilean coup.

While we are on the subject of assassinations of Americans at the hands of the U.S. national-security state, official false denials, lies, official cover-ups, and longtime secrecy of official documents and records, would it be too much to ask that the CIA and the National Archives finally declassify and release the CIA’s records relating to the John Kennedy assassination? Or are we expected to continue assuming that the release of such records would threaten “national security,” just like in the Horman and Teruggi murders?

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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