242. Telegram 8210 From the Embassy in Chile to the Department of State1
8210. Subject: Operation Condor. Ref: State 209192.
1. While I appreciate importance of objective sought in reftel, I seriously doubt that an approach to President Pinochet is the best way to achieve it.
2. In my judgment, given Pinochet’s sensitivity regarding pressures by USG, he might well take as an insult any inference that he was connected with such assassination plots. Furthermore, cooperation among Southern Cone National Intelligence Agencies is handled by [Page 657]the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA). Apparently without much reference to any one else. It is quite possible, even probable, that Pinochet has no knowledge whatever of Operation Condor. Particularly of its more questionable aspects.
3. [less than 1 line not declassified], we have agreed that purpose of instruction will be best achieved if he conveys the message to Colonel Manuel Contreras, the head of DINA. He can do it in the context of having heard a rumor which he cannot believe, but which if substantiated would be disastrous for the perpetrators. [less than 1 line not declassified] I believe this would be the most effective way of getting the message across without undesirable complications.
4. I note that the instruction is cast in urgent terms. Has Department received any word that would indicate that assassination activities are imminent? The only such info we have seen is one report from Uruguay unconfirmed by other sources.
5. Please advise.
Summary: Given Pinochet’s sensitivities regarding pressure by the U.S. Government, Popper suggested approaching DINA Director Contreras, rather than Pinochet, to express the Department’s concerns about Operation Condor and rumors of assassination plotting.
Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Box 16, Santiago, 1963–1979. Secret; Immediate. Roger Channel. In telegram 3123 from Montevideo, August 24, Ambassador Siracusa suggested that the Department consider making “parallel representations” to the Embassies of the Condor countries in Washington, adding that he would defer action pending further instructions. Given recent indications that Condor operations had been shelved, Siracusa wrote that “time for consultation on this grave matter seems affordable.” (Ibid., Box 16, Montevideo) On August 27, Shlaudeman, in a meeting with CIA officials, stated a démarche of Pinochet would be futile, but that representations to the Chilean Government would be made [text not declassified]. (Memorandum for the Record, August 30; ibid., ARA–CIA Weekly Meetings, 1976–1977) In telegram 8223 from Santiago, August 24, Popper characterized the U.S. Government’s relations with DINA as “formal, correct, and cool,” and described DINA Chief Contreras as “far from a conservative, reliable intelligence operative. His credibility with us . . . is low.” (Ibid., INR/IL Historical Files, Box 16, Santiago, 1963–1979) Telegram 209192 is Document 241.↩