Saturday, October 10, 2015

Daily Mail: SAS vs SS: The untold story of how a tiny band of our elite troops parachuted into Occupied Franc...

SAS vs SS: The untold story of how a tiny band of our elite troops parachuted into Occupied Franc...
Daily Mail

In the autumn of 1944, the SAS parachuted into a remote region of Occupied France. Yet Operation Loyton, its codename, has remained little known. It is revealed here in detail for the first time. Read the full story
Sitting in their stripped-down jeeps, ready for action, the SAS raiders could not believe their luck. Behind enemy lines in the remote mountainous Vosges region of France, they were hidden in thick undergrowth by the side of a twisting valley road.
Suddenly into view came the slender and stylish bonnet of a German army staff car — a welcome target.
One of their missions in their two-month undercover operation was to devastate the enemy’s command structure and reduce its fighting potential. Here was the perfect opportunity.
A British soldier from No. 1 Commando in 1941
A troop of Waffen-SS soldiers in the combat zone
Mission: One of their missions in SAS's two-month undercover operation was to devastate the enemy’s command structure and reduce its fighting potential. Left, a British soldier in 1941 and right, an SS soldier
And it only got better because close behind the first car was a second, and then a third, all stuffed full of German officers and just asking to be hit as they slowed for a junction.
In the front of each jeep, the machine-gunners let fly. Two thousand bullets tore through bodywork from bonnet to boot until not a figure could be seen moving in the stricken vehicles. A pall of oily smoke rose above the road.
In the deafening silence that followed, the SAS heard more vehicles approaching — a convoy of 20 trucks carrying enemy troops. This would be too big to take on. The jeeps scooted away, back to their mountain-top hideout, job done. It was the autumn of 1944. The SAS had parachuted in weeks earlier to this remote region in Occupied France, close to the German border, and ever since had been harassing Nazi forces, blowing up trains and generally creating mayhem.
It was as daring and dangerous an operation as any the SAS had taken part in since its formation three years earlier, well worthy of its ‘Who Dares Wins’ motto.
Yet Operation Loyton, its codename, has remained little known, passed over in the official histories in just a few lines. It is revealed here in detail for the first time.
It proved a costly mission. Nearly half of those who parachuted into France never came home — a horrific attrition rate. Some died horrible deaths at the hands of the Nazis.
The SAS parachuted in to a remote region in Occupied France, close to the German border (seen in file image)
The SAS parachuted in to a remote region in Occupied France, close to the German border (seen in file image)
Local French people took a terrible beating too, thousands of them killed or sent to concentration camps for sheltering the raiders.
The operation became important for another reason, too, as we will see later in this series. Without it, the SAS might well have disappeared completely.
In the immediate post-war years, it was officially disbanded in an act of petty spite by a British military establishment that hated its maverick ways. But it was the men of Operation Loyton who defied the top brass and secretly kept ‘The Regiment’ going, ensuring its survival as the unrivalled military strike force it still is today.
One of the many extraordinary things about Loyton was how long it lasted. It was only ever meant to be a quick in-and-out mission, a fortnight at the most. In the end it went on for two months.
In the aftermath of the D-Day landings, the Allies were advancing through France, with General Patton’s U.S. Third Army smashing its way towards the German border. It was believed the enemy might well dig their last-ditch defensive line in the Vosges. It made sense for the SAS to drop in, boost and arm the local Resistance forces there and ‘make merry hell’ for the enemy.
In the autumn of 1944, SAS troops parachuted into a remote region of Occupied France (file image)
In the autumn of 1944, SAS troops parachuted into a remote region of Occupied France (file image)
Commanded by 23-year-old Captain Henry Druce, a small advance party parachuted in at night to establish a secure ‘bandit base’ and a drop zone for more men and supplies to follow. The plan was that as many as 120 SAS troopers would eventually be on the ground to wage shoot ’n’ scoot warfare, the SAS’s speciality.
They might even seize one of the mountain passes leading into Germany and hold it until the Allied army arrived — in which case the war could well be over by Christmas.
There were two miscalculations. The first was that the Allied forces were advancing much more slowly than anticipated, thereby prolonging the operation indefinitely.
The second was that the area was not sparsely defended, as had been thought. On the contrary, a division of 5,000 German soldiers — including battle-hardened veterans from the eastern front — was firmly in place to meet them.
 Was it possible that the missing men from Operation Loyton were not prisoners of war but had ended their lives there — murdered in cold blood?
The moment Druce landed, he found he was up against the vicious Colonel Erich Isselhorst, an experienced killer who had cut his teeth liquidating partisans in Russia. Now the Gestapo chief in the Vosges, his response to reports of parachutists landing on his patch was to launch Operation Waldfest (which translates as ‘party in the forest’) to hunt them down.
By his side was Major Hans Ernst, who had recently sent 800 French Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz. A sadistic man, he was a past master at forcing captives to break under extreme interrogation and torture.
Suddenly the forests and foothills were flooded with heavily armed German troops, forcing Druce and his men to flee from their first base, trekking through the mountains, pursued by the enemy.
The miracle was that they were never betrayed by the locals, despite the Nazis taking extreme punitive measures. In the village of Moussey, an SS punishment squad rolled in at dawn one Sunday and dragged 200 men, women and children from their homes.
A jack-booted officer harangued them with just one question: where are the English parachutists hiding? There was an inducement. ‘Any one who steps forward with information about these terrorists will go free.’ The deadly consequences if no one spoke up did not need to be spelt out.
Yet not a soul stirred, even though every single one of them knew that the secret camp of the SAS was just a few miles away in the forest.
None of the vile threats moved the Moussey villagers, even when the men were marched away, most never to be seen or heard of again. No one informed, not even under torture.
Locals such as the buxom Madame Rossi, who lived on the outskirts of the village, took huge risks to protect the band of raiders. On one occasion the Gestapo searched her home from top to bottom, while six SAS men lay hidden there, lying beneath a huge water wheel at the rear.
One of the many extraordinary things about Loyton was how long it lasted. It was only ever meant to be a quick in-and-out mission, a fortnight at the most. In the end it went on for two months. Above, an gate with SS insignia
One of the many extraordinary things about Loyton was how long it lasted. It was only ever meant to be a quick in-and-out mission, a fortnight at the most. In the end it went on for two months. Above, an gate with SS insignia
Another redoubtable Moussey woman was Mlle Bergeron, who ran messages between the SAS and the French Resistance. The Germans beat her and turned her farmhouse into a brothel and, when she still would not crack, they dragged her 80-year-old mother out of bed and forced her to dance in her nightgown until she collapsed and died.
Still, Mlle Bergeron would not talk. Another woman was marched into the forest at gunpoint and passed so close to the SAS base that the men there could see her through the trees. She, too, said nothing.
But the iron fist of Operation Waldfest made life very hard for Druce and his men. With German tanks and troops on every road, the villagers had fewer opportunities to take food to them. ‘We were really boxed in,’ he noted — and beginning to starve.
A lesser man might have called off the mission at this point. They had bitten off more than they could chew and should get out fast. Conditions on the ground got even tougher as bad weather set in and the men lived and fought in clothes sodden by non-stop rain.
 Would this be the fate of those fighters who fell into enemy hands — as well as the men of Moussey and other Vosges villages who had been rounded up in retaliation?
It was dirty work in other ways, too. Druce captured two agents of the Milice, the French pro-Nazi militia, and shot them out of hand — something that was originally censored in the official SAS diary of the mission.
To add to the discomfort and danger, it was increasingly clear that the Allied armies would not be arriving any time soon.
But instead of packing it in, Druce gave the go-ahead for the next batch of SAS fighters to come in and launch hit-and-run attacks. They sneaked into a military depot and blew up ammunition trucks in a conflagration that killed and injured 80 Germans.
Then more reinforcements parachuted in, two dozen of them this time, led by the brigade commander himself, Colonel Brian Franks, leaving his desk in England for front-line action.
When he saw what it was like on the ground he, too, would have been within his rights to call off the entire operation. He didn’t. Rather, he stepped it up, urging his men to strike hard at the ‘grey lice’, as he nicknamed the enemy because that was how they appeared from his mountaintop vantage point as they moved along the valley floor.
They did so with deadly new gadgets devised by the boffins back home — plastic explosives shaped like horse droppings. Scattered on a road, they appeared to be innocent, until a truck passed over them, detonating the powerful charge.
But the real game-changer was the arrival of the jeeps. The whole of Moussey turned out to light the drop zone with torches as six floated down in special cradles strung from enormous parachutes at each corner.
One of their missions in their two-month undercover operation was to devastate the enemy’s command structure and reduce its fighting potential. Above, troops in a jeep similar to the ones used at the time
One of their missions in their two-month undercover operation was to devastate the enemy’s command structure and reduce its fighting potential. Above, troops in a jeep similar to the ones used at the time
Fast and furious had always been the SAS way. Now they could sow even more panic among the ‘grey lice’, dashing in with all guns blazing and then making a clean getaway.
Not everything went to plan. On his way back to ‘bandit base’ from one mission, Druce cruised into the square at Moussey to see SS troopers lined up opposite frightened villagers, rounded up for yet another round of brutal reprisals.
For a split second SAS and SS eyed each other. But Druce was the first to react, accelerating his jeep at the SS ranks as his gunner fired from close range. SS soldiers were blown off their feet as Druce steered for the exit, leaving 20 dead and wounded soldiers in his wake. As he sped away, all he could hope for the villagers was that, in the chaos, they had managed to escape. In reality, they were all being herded away for deportation.
Furious at their fate, Franks stepped up the raids so that no German officer could sleep soundly in his bed or travel the roads of the Vosges in comfort. Soon Operation Loyton had destroyed eight German staff cars and their high-ranking occupants. The final tally would be 13.
A key part of their mission had been to decapitate the Nazi serpent in the area and they succeeded, making a significant dent in the SS command structure as well as spreading fear among the occupiers. It was as much as any group of raiders like this could expect, if not more.
In truth, the Germans had exaggerated the numbers of SAS on the ground and the danger they posed. There were never more than 50 of them at large at any one point and they could only cause so much havoc. But it was the myth of the winged-dagger-wearing avengers that did most damage.
The operation was well worthy of the SAS's 'Who Dares Wins' motto
The operation was well worthy of the SAS's 'Who Dares Wins' motto
Not that the SAS had it all their own way, not by a long way. They took casualties from the very start when Sergeant Kenneth Seymour was injured on landing and quickly taken captive.
He was fiercely interrogated, as was radio operator Corporal Gerald Davis, who had sought refuge in a church and been turned in to the Gestapo by a priest. Both men were presented with the same ultimatum: tell us all you know, or darkness, pain and bitter death will follow.
Among the later reinforcements, Sergeant Fitzpatrick and Troopers Conway and Elliot drifted off in fog and went missing. A French woman — one of the handful of locals not to help the SAS contingent — betrayed them to the Nazis.
Five further SAS men were caught in an ambush and held, along with the others in subterranean cells at a security camp in the garrison town of Schirmek, the nerve centre for Isselhorst’s anti-guerilla operation.
A few miles away was Natzweiler, a former ski resort that had been transformed into a concentration camp, the only one ever built on French soil. Within its confines, tens of thousands of inmates would be starved, beaten, tortured and gassed to death.
Would this be the fate of those fighters who fell into enemy hands — as well as the men of Moussey and other Vosges villages who had been rounded up in retaliation? It seemed all too likely.
As time went on, the SAS operation inevitably ran out of steam. October came and still the American army had not arrived.
Franks’s men were increasingly isolated and under pressure. He radioed a desperate message back to England that the latest re- supply from the air had dropped bazookas and bombs when ‘food was the main item I asked for’.
By now the weather had switched, autumn into winter. Snow fell in the mountains, leaving exhausted and hungry men shivering in the cold. They were approaching a state in which they would no longer be able to fight.
Isselhorst was as merciless as ever, launching fresh purges. Some 1,000 villagers were seized and shipped off to concentration camps.
At some stage during this round-up, the location of the SAS base was given away. On their mountain top, the SAS heard the tell-tale metal-upon-metal clink of troops filtering up through the thick woodland towards them. There was the spine-chilling whine of dogs.
Nearly half of those who parachuted into France never came home — a horrific attrition rate. Some died horrible deaths at the hands of the Nazis. Above, Waffen-SS unit combing an area of forest in Germany in 1941
Nearly half of those who parachuted into France never came home — a horrific attrition rate. Some died horrible deaths at the hands of the Nazis. Above, Waffen-SS unit combing an area of forest in Germany in 1941
Completely surrounded, they waited, fearing the worst. Captain John Hislop couldn’t bear the thought of torture and was determined to go down fighting. He would keep the last bullet for himself.
But the attack never came. The Germans retreated, biding their time. But the prospect that they would be back, and in even greater numbers, was not in doubt. Franks ordered his men to abandon the base immediately. They would leave behind their much-loved jeeps and travel light and fast by foot on narrow mountain tracks.
Next morning the Germans came in force, blasting the SAS base with tanks and field guns. They were met by a rearguard, seven brave men, commanded by the baby-faced Lt David Dill — a veteran from the first drop all those weeks before.
In a ferocious fight, they held out for four hours before the last of their ammunition was exhausted and they surrendered. Their rightful claim to be prisoners of war was ignored as they were handed over to the Gestapo. They joined their other captured comrades in Schirmek.
But at least the main body of the Operation Loyton force was still free, though with little ammo, explosives, food or shelter, their position was desperate. With no real alternative, Franks ordered an end to the mission.
He split his 40 remaining troops into four-man and six-man units and sent them off to find their own way through the German defences to Allied lines.
The journeys were arduous and dangerous. Franks and his own unit tried to cross a bridge but were chased away by a salvo of grenades and forced to swim the river. They ducked away from enemy patrols just in time, weaving one way as bullets thundered over them, then the other as shots came at them from in front, too.
Three of them went to ground as search parties drew closer. Bayonets jabbed into bushes around their hiding place. Just when it seemed the enemy must discover them, a massive barrage of incoming Allied fire slammed in and the Germans fled.
The next day they stumbled on a road with soldiers patrolling it — Americans! They were safe at last.
Back home, it was time for Franks to draw up the tally sheet. On the plus side, the mission had delivered against seemingly impossible odds, spreading chaos and havoc across the Vosges.
Roads and railway lines had been knocked out and supplies disrupted. Dozens of German officers had been killed. An entire enemy division had been diverted to hunt the SAS, pinning down thousands of German troops who would have been better deployed fighting the Allies on the actual front line.
But there had been a terrible cost. There were the countless French men and women who had been brutally tortured, deported and slaughtered. And then his own casualties.
All in all, 82 SAS fighters had been deployed and only 46 came out alive. Five were recorded as definitely dead, ‘killed in action’. But 31 were listed as ‘Missing, believed prisoners of war’ or simply ‘Missing’.
Would they ever be seen alive again?
From a source in Special Operations, Franks heard spine-chilling details of the brutality and mass extermination that had gone on at the concentration camp at Natzweiler. Was it possible that the missing men from Operation Loyton were not prisoners of war but had ended their lives there — murdered in cold blood?
Answering that riddle would now become the SAS’s next mission. Come hell or high water, Franks decided, the killers of his men must be hunted down.
A new game was on, to be fought with as much bravery and determination as the one that had just ended.
And this time the enemy would not be in Nazi grey but in British khaki. To get at the truth, he would have to take on his own side.
  • Adapted from The Nazi Hunters: The Ultra Secret SAS Unit And The Quest For Hitler’s War Criminals by Damien Lewis, published by Quercus at £20. © Damien Lewis 2015. To order a copy at the special price of £15 (valid until October 17, p&p free), call 0808 272 0808 or visit

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WWI Nurse Edith Cavell Executed, 100 Years Ago By Evan Andrews

At dawn on October 12, 1915, World War I nurse Edith Cavell was shot by a German firing squad on the outskirts of Brussels, Belgium. The 49-year-old Englishwoman had been condemned to death for helping run an underground network that spirited some 200 Allied soldiers out of German-occupied territory. Her execution caused an outrage both in Britain and abroad, and became a recurring motif in Allied propaganda for the rest of the war. A century after Edith Cavell faced the firing squad, learn the story of one of the most celebrated female heroes of World War I.
When World War I erupted in August 1914, Edith Cavell was in her seventh year as the head matron of the Berkendael Medical Institute, a nurse training school in Brussels, Belgium. The grey-haired nurse was visiting family in England on the eve of Germany’s invasion of Belgium, but she immediately packed her bags and rushed back to her students. “At a time like this I am more needed than ever,” she told her worried mother. Cavell’s school was converted into a Red Cross hospital, and as the wounded began pouring in from the front, she treated all soldiers regardless of nationality. “Each man is a father, husband or son,” she reminded her nurses. “The profession of nursing knows no frontiers.”

A pre-war photo of Edith Cavell. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)
A pre-war photo of Edith Cavell. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

Brussels fell to the Germans in late August, but the stern-faced Cavell ignored a call to return to England and remained at her post. That same month, the 150,000-strong British Expeditionary Force retreated from Belgium following the Battle of Mons, leaving scores of wounded Englishmen stranded behind enemy lines. Many were reduced to hiding out in the countryside to avoid being captured or shot as spies. Some even donned disguises or pretended to be deaf-mutes to cover up their nationality.
Cavell knew the penalties for helping Allied troops could be severe—the Germans had papered Brussels with warning posters—but when a pair of refugee British soldiers showed up at Berkendael in November 1914, her conscience wouldn’t allow her to turn them away. She took the two men in, nursed them back to health and sheltered them in her hospital until a guide was found to lead them out of occupied territory. The act of defiance marked the beginning of Cavell’s transformation from strait-laced nurse to resistance member. When word of her actions reached Prince Reginald de Croy, himself a resistance member and cousin of the Belgian king, she was enlisted into a clandestine group of Allied patriots. Her hospital soon became a vital way station on an underground network used to shepherd British, French and Belgian soldiers to the neutral Netherlands. Cavell carried out her role in secret, determined not to incriminate her fellow nurses.
As the months passed, the stoic matron became adept in the cloak and dagger tactics needed to avoid detection by the German secret police. Most of the men she sheltered were signed in as fake patients and provided with phony identity cards. If the Germans arrived to conduct inspections of her hospital, she would usher the soldiers out the back door or cover them up in sickbeds. During one surprise search, Cavell hid a British private in a barrel and covered him with apples. When the time came to hand her refugees over to their border guides, she would personally lead them to the drop-off point by pretending to take her dog on a walk through the city—all the while watching for spies in the reflections of shop windows. Her soldiers would trail behind at a safe distance, often disguised as beggars or even monks.

An Anti-German propaganda poster that references Cavell.
An Anti-German propaganda poster that references Cavell.

Despite Cavell’s precautions, her British nationality made her an obvious target for the Germans. By the summer of 1915, she began to notice suspicious men conducting surveillance on Berkendael, and searches by the secret police became more frequent. Even more troubling were the potential spies who started showing up at her door posing as Allied troops. Most were turned away for not knowing the password (“yorc”), yet unbeknownst to Cavell, a French collaborator got through and began funneling information to the Germans.
It was clear that the enemy was closing in, but rather than flee the country, Cavell stayed put and continued aiding Allied soldiers as best she could. “We shall be punished in any case, whether we have done much or little,” she told her accomplices. “So let us go ahead and save as many as possible of these unfortunate men.” She managed to assist several more refugees before August 5, when she was finally arrested and placed in solitary confinement in Brussels’ St. Gilles prison. The German secret police also rounded up dozens of other members of the escape organization, including many of Cavell’s closest allies. Nearly all of them were charged with “conducting soldiers to the enemy”—an offense that carried the death penalty under German martial law.

British officers using a picture of Cavell to recruit soldiers.
British officers using a picture of Cavell to recruit soldiers.

Cavell had told countless lies to protect her soldiers from being discovered, but when it came to her own fate she adopted a policy of unflinching honesty. During a group trial in October 1915, she admitted to her role in the resistance ring, and estimated that she had assisted as many as 200 soldiers in their escape from occupied Belgium. “My aim was not to help your enemy but to help those men who asked for my help to reach the frontier,” she said during her testimony. “Once across the frontier they were free.” The argument fell on deaf ears. When the Germans issued their verdict, Cavell and four others were found guilty of aiding the Allies and sentenced to death. Diplomats from the neutral United States and Spain immediately scrambled to win her a stay of execution, to no avail. Brussels’ German governor ordered that Cavell and a fellow resistance member named Philippe Baucq would face the firing squad on the morning of October 12.
Cavell spent the night before her execution writing goodbye letters in her cell. Shortly before 10 p.m. she was visited by the Reverend Stirling Gahan, who was astonished to find her looking “calm and resigned.” Cavell told Gahan that she hoped to be remembered as a nurse who had done her duty. “They have all been very kind to me here,” she said. “But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity: I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”
The following morning, Cavell and Baucq were driven to a rifle range and shot by a German firing squad. A chaplain who witnessed the execution later said the nurse “was brave and bright to the last. She professed her Christian faith and that she was glad to die for her country. She died like a heroine.”

Nurses marching in Cavell’s funeral procession in Britain.  (Credit: A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Nurses marching in Cavell’s funeral procession in Britain. (Credit: A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The Germans had intended for Cavell’s execution to deter others from aiding the enemy, but it proved to be a massive misstep. The British press condemned the killing as an act of barbarism and held Cavell up as a martyr to the Allied cause. “Let Cavell be the battle cry,” wrote one newspaper. Seizing on the public outrage, the British government issued reams of propaganda incorporating her story. Cavell’s name and picture were used to win other nations over to the Allied cause, sell war bonds and convince young men to enlist. By all accounts, the media blitz worked. Anti-German sentiment soared to new heights in the neutral United States, and in the eight weeks after Cavell’s death was made public, the British army experienced an astonishing 50 percent spike in new recruits. “Emperor Wilhelm would have done better to lose an entire army corps than to butcher Miss Cavell,” novelist Rider Haggard observed. Tributes to Edith Cavell’s heroism continued after World War I came to a close. In 1919, her body was exhumed and returned to England. Before it was reburied at Norwich Cathedral, it made a brief stopover in London, where thousands attended a state funeral at Westminster Abbey. A statue of Cavell was later unveiled near Trafalgar Square in 1920, and dozens of landmarks have since been named after her including streets, hospitals, schools and even a mountain in Canada. The most recent tribute came earlier this year, when the U.K.’s Royal Mint struck a special five pound coin to honor the centennial of her death.
    Bust of Cavell in Norwich, England. (Credit: RDImages/Epics/Getty Images)
    Bust of Cavell in Norwich, England. (Credit: RDImages/Epics/Getty Images)

    Friday, October 9, 2015


    Washington D.C., October 8, 2015 -- Chile's intelligence service assassinated exiled critic Orlando Letelier with a car bomb in 1976 on "direct orders" from Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, according to newly declassified documents personally delivered this week by Secretary of State John Kerry to Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.
    The 282 documents posted online today by the State Department, total over 1,000 pages; they include a 1987 cable drafted by the State Department's intelligence bureau summarizing a series of informants' reports from years earlier in 1978, including the assertion by the head of Chile's intelligence agency, Manuel Contreras, that "he authorized the assassination of Letelier on orders from Pinochet," on "direct orders from Pinochet." Among the dozens of records released today were multiple witness interview transcripts by FBI agents working with Chilean detectives during a unique investigation undertaken in 1999/2000 by the Clinton Justice Department into General Pinochet’s personal role in ordering and covering up an act of international terrorism in Washington D.C. on September 21, 1976.
    On that day, agents of the Chilean secret police planted a bomb under the car of former Chilean foreign minister, Orlando Letelier, killing him and his colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Her husband, Michael Moffitt, was the sole survivor of the terrorist attack. Until 9/11, the car-bombing was the most significant act of international terrorism ever committed in the U.S. capital.
    Archive senior analyst Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier of Atrocity and Accountability (New York: New Press, 2003, 2013), described today's release as “a triumph for declassified diplomacy.” Kornbluh's essay posted today on the National Security Archive web site,, explains the background of the Letelier case documents, and the lengthy behind-the-scenes effort to obtain their declassifcation and release.
    The Archive also posted the January 22, 1987, cable summarizing intelligence on Pinochet and DINA’s role in the assassination which quotes Contreras as telling a confidant “he authorized the assassination of Letelier on orders from Pinochet.” Contreras is also quoted as telling Chilean military investigators that “all foreign operations had been approved by Pinochet and that [Contreras] had left sealed documents in several places in the event of his, Contreras’ death.”

    Read the Document

    DOS, “Letelier Case,” SECRET/ROGER CHANNEL, drafted by INR officer Frank McNeil, January 22, 1987. This cable is sent to Brazil under the name of Secretary of State George Schultz (the Secretary's name is on all outgoing cables when he or she is in Washington, but it is doubtful that Shultz ever saw this document). At the time one of the DINA officials involved in the Letelier assassination, Armando Fernandez Larios, has asked the FBI to give him sanctuary in return for his testimony against Pinochet in the Letelier/Moffitt assassination. McNeil has reviewed CIA intelligence reports from years earlier on Pinochet, DINA and Fernandez’s role in the assassination and is reporting on what they say. The intelligence, he writes, is “sourced to extremely sensitive informants.” One of them has stated that Manuel Contreras said in confidence that “he authorized the assassination of Letelier on orders from Pinochet.”

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    The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability
    By Peter Kornbluh, New Press (September 11, 2013)


    By Peter Kornbluh
    When the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Bachelet on Monday, October 5, he engaged in an important act of what I call “declassified diplomacy.” He gave her a pen drive on which was stored 1000 pages of once TOP SECRET U.S. national security documents relating to Pinochet’s role in an act of terrorism in the capital city of the United States—the 1976 assassination by car bomb of Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt.
    In a rather extraordinary act of diplomatic collaboration both the Chilean foreign ministry and the U.S. Department of State are posting them on their websites today for all U.S. and Chilean citizens, and indeed the entire world community, to read and evaluate.
    These records are among the most sensitive and secret in the holdings of the CIA, FBI, Defense and State Departments, because they shed light on the worst pre-9/11 act of international terrorism in Washington D.C. Had these documents been declassified at the time they were written in the aftermath of the car-bombing, they might have resulted in the indictment of the dictator himself. One document, for example, refers to a CIA informant’s report that Pinochet personally ordered his intelligence chieftain to undertake the assassination plot. The same document stated that Pinochet had ordered the release of secret police agents arrested in Chile and “suspended the investigation” into their role in the Washington D.C. bombing.
    Pinochet managed to escape legal accountability as an international terrorist. But almost 40 years after that heinous crime, the evidence remains vital for the verdict of history on his role.
    The genesis of this unique collection dates back to the time of General Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1998, when key people in Washington, including my organization--the National Security Archive--pressed the Clinton Administration to re-open a formal investigation into Pinochet’s personal role in the car-bombing assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, and his efforts to hide his regime’s culpability. Our argument to the Clinton White House was that the United States had stronger legal reason to prosecute Pinochet than did Spain, and that he should be extradited to Washington to stand trial for the murders of Letelier and Moffitt.

    The Defense Intelligence Agency biographic documents on General Augusto Pinochet, censored different ways by different declassification officers.
    U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno actually approved an FBI/Justice Department inquiry; indeed, in April/May 2000 a team of U.S. government investigators were in Santiago working with the Chilean PDI on this case. They eventually concluded, in a still secret report, that Pinochet should be indicted. But by that time, Clinton had come to the end of his tenure and George W. Bush had been elected. The Bush administration refused to pursue the prosecution of Pinochet, even after a major terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, made the fight against terrorism the President’s number one priority.
    The investigation into Pinochet’s role had one unforeseen consequence: it resulted in important documents being withheld from the Clinton Administration’s special declassification project on Chile. That project resulted in the centralization, review, and declassification of 23,000 CIA, State Department, Defense Department, White House and FBI records. Among those documents were hundreds of records implicating Pinochet personally in the Letelier-Moffitt assassinations. But instead of being released along with the thousands of other records, these documents were withheld as potential evidence for the investigation. An internal report on the special declassification obtained by my office states: “some 250 documents related to the Letelier/Moffitt case will be withheld for further review by DOJ prosecutors as part of a renewed effort to investigate the case.”
    For the sake of truth and justice, these 250 documents tying Pinochet to an act of international terrorism in Washington D.C. were among the most important in the secret archives of the United States. After Pinochet died, my organization, the National Security Archive, attempted to obtain the declassification of these records, without success.
    It has taken until now for all the stars to align to make this important declassification possible. With the reelection of Michelle Bachelet, Chile had key diplomats, among them Canciller Heraldo Munoz, and Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes (who was working with Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C. at the time of his assassination) who had a personal commitment to this advancing the cause of justice in this atrocity. Inside the Obama administration were key policy makers who understood the value of “declassified diplomacy”—for the families of the victims, for the appropriate use of U.S. documentation to advance the cause of human rights, and for the simple sake of history. They proved to be very receptive to a formal initiative earlier this year (with the strategic support of the National Security Archive) to obtain this documentation.
    Secretary Kerry’s trip to Santiago this week provided an opportunity to turn over the records that have been recovered so far to the Chilean government and make them public.
    More documents relating to Augusto Pinochet that will be made available to Chile in the near future. Moreover, this positive and successful effort at “declassified diplomacy” also creates a useful and important precedent for the future release of still-secret U.S. documents relating to cases that remain judicially unresolved: among them the case of disappeared U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler, the death of former president Eduardo Frei, as well as the origins and activities of Operation Condor which facilitated the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt.
    Pinochet will never stand trial for this atrocity and the thousands of others he committed. But this special declassification on the Letelier-Moffitt case dramatically demonstrates how important U.S. government documents can be—in the court of history where the ultimate public verdict can be rendered.

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