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Needed: A U.S. Truth Commission on Horman and Teruggi


For the past several years, the Chilean and Argentine people have been confronting their dark pasts under military dictatorships during the 1970s. They have been conducting official investigations into the dirty wars the dictatorships waged under the guise of a “war on communism” and a “war on terrorism,” including disappearances, kidnappings, incarcerations, torture, rapes, executions, secret prisons, and assassinations.

Among the primary means they have been conducting such investigations is with truth commissions.

The American people should do the same, especially since the U.S. national-security state was an important partner in the Chilean and Argentine horrors, not only by instigating and encouraging the Chilean coup in 1973 but also by providing Chile’s military dictatorship with millions of dollars in post-coup foreign aid, along with major technological and communication support that it provided DINA, the top-secret assassination organization in which Argentina, Chile, and other South American dictatorships were involved.

A good place for such a truth commission to start would be with a full investigation into the U.S. national-security state’s murders of American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi in Chile in 1973, which I wrote about in my blog post yesterday.

Horman and Teruggi were Americans whose only “crime” was to believe in leftist economic philosophy, along the lines of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. They supported the leftist regime of Salvador Allende, who the U.S. government illegally decided to have removed from office and replaced with an unelected military dictator, notwithstanding the fact that Allende was the democratically elected president of the country.

Horman had also discovered evidence of U.S. involvement in the coup, something that the Pentagon and CIA officials were determined to keep secret, which furthered sealed his fate.

There is no statute of limitations on murder. Murder charges — and conspiracy to murder charges — can be brought many years after the fact — and should be. While a key co-conspirator in the Horman and Teruggi murders, U.S. Navy Captain Ray Davis, died in 2013, there is still the possibility that other U.S. national-security state conspirators are still alive. In fact, the same Chilean court that confirmed this week that Davis was in fact involved in the murder conspiracy just indicted two still-living Chilean officials in the murders.

The chance that Davis acted on his own initiative is virtually nil. After all, we’re talking about the murders of two American citizens who did nothing more than believe in socialism and inadvertently acquire evidence of U.S. involvement in a coup. It’s a virtual certainty that Davis would have secured authorization from higher ups before he authorized and directed his Chilean counterparts to take out Horman and Teruggi.

What’s wrong with determining how high the murder authorization went? Who were Davis’s immediate superiors, and did they okay the murders? What about their superiors? Did the authorization go all the way to President Nixon, who authorized the Chilean coup in the first place? Unless the U.S. military and the CIA have destroyed all their records relating to the Horman and Teruggi murders, the issue of authorization might well have been placed into memos that still exist.

What were the factors that went into the decision to take out two innocent American citizens? How much weight was given to the fact that Horman and Teruggi held progressive economic beliefs? How much weight was given to the fact that Horman, a journalist, had inadvertently discovered evidence of U.S. involvement in the coup? Did Horman and Teruggi oppose U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and, if so, did that play a role in the decision to eliminate them?

Why shouldn’t Congress conduct such an investigation? Congress has had 40 years to investigate the matter. It has steadfastly refused to do so. The fact is that the Pentagon and the CIA have too much control and influence over Congress. There is no way that Congress could ever conduct a truly independent and truthful investigation into the Horman and Teruggi murders or into the extent to which the Pentagon and CIA participated in the South American dirty-war horrors.

What about the federal courts? Forget about it. Ever since the rise of the national-security state apparatus, the federal courts have bent over backwards to defer to the authority of the Pentagon and the CIA, just as the federal courts in Chile did under the Pinochet regime. In fact, when Joyce Horman, Charles Horman’s widow, filed suit for wrongful death here in the United States, the federal judiciary summarily dismissed her suit, without even permitting her to take depositions. If there’s anything we’ve learned about the national-security state over the decades, it’s that the federal courts are not going to interfere with any operation, no matter how illegal, that goes under the rubric of “national security.”

Of course, there is no guarantee that a Truth Commission will be independent of the massive power and influence of the Pentagon and the CIA and the entire military-industrial complex. But at least it’s worth a try. Such a commission would have full subpoena power over both the Pentagon and the CIA and would have the power to take sworn testimony from any military or CIA official, under penalty of perjury.

The Chilean and Argentine people have been demonstrating tremendous courage in facing the dark side of their national-security state forces. Why should the American people do any less? We owe a full and truthful accounting of the U.S. national-security state’s murders of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi to ourselves, to the people of Latin America, and especially to the families of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. (See Missing Charles, 40 Years Later [2013] by Joyce Horman and Did US Intelligence Help Pinochet’s Junta Murder My Brother? [2013] by Janis Teruggi Page.)

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This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.