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Document Friday: The National Security Archive is Named in a wikileaks Cable!

December 17, 2010

Carlos Osorio, "one of the most important declasifiers of the State Department's private documents."

(So is Southern Cone Analyst Carlos Osorio!)

I often read the newspapers and smile when I see “…documents obtained by the National Security Archive show…”  My smile beamed even larger when I saw “The National Security Archive” mentioned in a classified 2006 wikileaked cable sent to the US Secretary of State and signed by the US Ambassador to Uruguay, Frank E. Baxter.

It beamed larger still when I saw my coworker Carlos Osorio described as “one of the most important declassifiers of the State Department’s private documents.” But then, my smile turned to a frown as I read deeper into the cable, and realized that the US Ambassador considered our work as merely “dredging up the past” and linked my organization to an “assault on US credibility and intentions.” 

Don't read this if you study International Relations at Columbia University.

The Ambassador’s cable essentially warned that “Uruguay’s leftist groups increasingly resort to human rights as an anti-US rallying cry.”  He worried that the trial of former Uruguayan President Juan Bordaberry –who was charged for his role in a 1972 auto-coup, two political assassinations, and nine disappearances– was unfortunate because it could make the situation “more uncomfortable for the US.”

Baxter also wrote with an almost reverent tone about former Chilean Dictator Agusto Pinochet (who died the day before the cable was written).   Baxter bemoaned that Uruguayan criticism of Pinochet –who instigated a 1973 coup and led a government that killed thousands and tortured and jailed tens of thousands— was simply evidence of “the anti-U.S. propaganda machine… rumbling more loudly.”

Victims of Operation Condor. "More uncomfortable for the US."

He noted that “Chile’s economic success [and] the very real threat posed by international Communism during the Cold War are seldom, if ever, mentioned.”  The Ambassador did not note that tens of thousands of South Americans had died because of brutal dictatorships under Pinochet in Chile, Bordaberry in Uruguay, Videla in Argentina, Banzer in Bolivia and Stroessner in Paraguay, and counterinsurgency offensives like  Operation Condor, a Pinochet-backed agreement between South American intelligence agencies to collude in the assassination of people considered leftist, ranging from militants to nuns.

He pinned anti-Pinochet sentiment largely on Telesur, a Venezuelan backed broadcaster.  According to Baxter, Telesur had been “running a steady stream of high-quality, anti-American propaganda pieces.”  In the Ambassador’s view, Uruguayan contempt for Pinochet, Bordaberry, Operation Condor, and America could stem only from “propaganda,” not the thousands of deaths that they caused.

The Ambassador was also mistaken in his criticism that those who alleged US complicity in Operation Condor did so “sloppily.”  In fact, the historical record clearly shows that the CIA was aware of Operation Condor.  Communication between the Southern Cone intelligence agencies was routed through “a  US communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which cover[ed] all of Latin America.”

In 2010, Bordaberry was convicted for his murders and for an “attack against the Constitution.”  Documents provided by Analyst Carlos Osorio showed  that Bordaberry justified his seizure of extra-constitutional powers by telling the U.S. Ambassador that “Uruguay’s democratic traditions and institutions…were themselves the real threat to democracy.” Other documents, also presented by Osorio, were used to prove that Bordaberry was complicit in the killings, which were described as “intelligence gathering and operations of a ‘special’ nature.”

I only wish that this cable had been leaked (or officially declassified) while Baxter was still Ambassador.  Had the National Security Archive known that the US Ambassador to Uruguay thought that anger over Pinochet, Bordaberry, the death squads, and Operation Condor, was simply an “anti-US rallying cry,” we would have kindly explained to him the difference between human rights accountability and “dredging up the past.”

  1. Emily W. permalink
    December 20, 2010 12:25 pm

    I wonder, had this document been subject to FOIA review as a part of an NSArchive request, would this information been redacted? Would the Archive have even gotten the document at all? I think that the information would almost certainly have been redacted, and the document may have even been withheld in full, probably under exemption (b)(1) because of the strong, and generally controversial opinions in this cable.

    It is interesting to see how many US officials are still in the “cold-war mentality”. Hopefully new generations will have a better understanding of accountability and justice.


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