United States: New Kissinger transcripts declassified

October 31, 2008

Former US diplomat Henry Kissinger's recorded telephone conversations ("telecons") relating to Chile in the early 1970s permit us to "eavesdrop on the most candid conversations of ... US officials as they plotted covert intervention against a democratically elected government", according to National Security Archive (NSA) scholar and The Pinochet File author Peter Kornbluh.

Four previously secret transcripts of Kissinger telcons have recently come to light, adding to an already irrefutable sequence of documentary evidence linking the highest levels of the US government to the destabilisation of the elected, left-wing Chilean government of Salvador Allende, and to the brutal 1973 coup by general Augusto Pinochet.

During his 1969-1977 tenure as national security advisor, Kissinger covertly recorded all incoming and outgoing telephone conversations.

The tapes were later destroyed, but not before Kissinger's staff had methodically transcribed thousands of hours of dialogue with senior political figures, powerful corporate identities and leading players in the intelligence community.

Kissinger departed office with over 30,000 pages of transcripts intended for his eyes only. He later drew on the transcripts with self-serving regard for his memoirs.

In 1999, the NSA, an independent non-governmental research institute, resorted to litigation in an attempt to secure full public access to the telcons. Kissinger claimed that the transcripts were personal papers and therefore private, but the court ruled against him.

Since then, thousands of transcript pages have been progressively released. On June 25, 2007, at the request of the NSA, four hitherto unknown telcons regarding the Allende government were declassified by the Nixon Presidential Library.

In the first of these telcons, recorded on September 12, 1970, Kissinger and CIA director Richard Helms respond to the recent election of the socialist Allende as president. "We live in trying times", opened Helms.

"We will not let Chile go down the drain", replied Kissinger, "I am calling a 40 Committee meeting for Monday".

The "40 Committee" was an extrajudicial body that authorised covert intelligence operations designed to bring down foreign governments deemed incompatible with US interests.

Half an hour later, a second conversation was recorded between Kissinger and then-president Richard Nixon.

"The big problem today is Chile", asserted Kissinger. "It's going to hell so fast", replied an agitated Nixon, who called for immediate covert intervention against Allende.

Softer response options were to be entertained, but only for show. "We don't want a big story leaking out that we are trying to overthrow [Allende]".

Kissinger agrees that such an approach is "essential".

On September 14, 1970, Kissinger spoke with then-state secretary William Rogers, whose chief concern is how to scupper Allende's formal accession to power without getting caught.

"After all we've said about elections", he admits, "if ... the US tries to prevent the constitutional process from coming into play we will look very bad".

Kissinger reassures Rogers that discretion is the name of the game. The "maximum possible" will be done to "prevent an [Allende] takeover, but through Chilean sources and with a low posture".

The fourth telcon, between Nixon and Kissinger, was recorded on July 4, 1973. The president and his chief foreign policy advisor indulge in a gangster-like venom session about Allende's deteriorating position.

Although the US was unable to prevent the democratically-elected socialist leader from assuming office in 1970, the subsequent program of economic sabotage is now paying a dividend.

"I think that Chilean guy might have some problems", mused a smug Nixon. "Oh, he has massive problems", agreed Kissinger.

Nine weeks later, thousands had been killed by the newly installed Pinochet dictatorship and Chilean democracy had been extinguished, opening the way for US-backed extreme neoliberalism.

On November 30, a comprehensive collection of more than 15,000 declassified Kissinger telcons (and 158 White House tapes) will be published online by the NSA. These promise to provide a uniquely detailed insight into the machinations of a criminal foreign policy.

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