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The U.S. Executions of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, Part 1


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In 1999, in response to an order issued by Bill Clinton to U.S. departments and agencies to release long-secret records of the U.S. national-security state relating to the 1973 military coup in Chile, the U.S. State Department released a memo that stated that during the coup, U.S. intelligence “may have played an unfortunate role” in the killings of two American citizens, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi Jr. “At best, it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the government of Chile.”

The memorandum was an amazing revelation, not only because it revealed that an official U.S. investigation had secretly concluded that the U.S. national-security state had very likely participated in the murder of two U.S. citizens, but also because it challenged long-stated denials by officials in the U.S. national-security establishment that they had played any role in the murders of Horman and Teruggi.

It wasn’t the first time that that particular memo had been released to the public. Some two decades before, in 1980, it had been released in response to a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, only U.S. officials in that version of the memo had intentionally blacked out the pertinent part — that is, the part that stated that U.S. intelligence had played a role in the executions of Horman and Teruggi. (See this link for the two versions of the memo: https://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/ 19991008/index.html.)

While it might be tempting to think that the U.S. executions of Horman and Teruggi now constitute nothing more than an item of historical curiosity some 40 years after they were killed, nothing could be further from the truth. Those two murders and the political milieu in which they took place, both here in the United States and in Chile, continue to serve as an ongoing reminder of the dark and horrific consequences that have come with the national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto America’s governmental system after World War II.

The executions of Horman and Teruggi certainly still matter to the Chilean people. In 2011 Chilean Judge Jorge Zepeda issued a criminal indictment against a former U.S. military official, Capt. Ray E. Davis, and a former Chilean army colonel, Pedro Espinoza, who was already serving time for human-rights offenses in Chile, for the murders of Horman and Teruggi.

Last June 30 Judge Zepeda formally ruled that Davis, who had been in charge of what was called the U.S. Military Group in Chile and who had had a personal encounter with Horman just days before his execution, had in fact participated in Horman’s murder as well as that of Teruggi.

Davis, however, will never have to face justice. In a classic example of the old adage that justice delayed is justice denied, after the judge issued his ruling it was disclosed that Davis had died more than a year earlier, at the age of 88, in a Santiago, Chile, nursing home.

The murders of Horman and Teruggi also still matter to their surviving loved ones. While Horman’s father and mother have gone to their graves still wondering exactly how and why their son was killed, Horman’s wife, Joyce, continues fighting for the complete truth and for justice for what was done to her husband more than four decades ago. Read her moving article “Missing Charlie, 40 Years Later,” which was published in September 2013 in the Huffington Post (https://huff.to/1nNvjw4). It details the long, never-ceasing struggle by Joyce Horman and by so many others to finally learn all the facts and circumstances of her husband’s execution at the hands of his own government. She writes, “Forty years ago in Santiago, Chile, my dear, smart, Harvard-educated, independent-thinking, loving, trying-to-figure-it-all-out-and-do-the-right-thing journalist/documentary-filmmaker husband was stolen from my life, from the lives of his loving parents, and all his friends.”

Teruggi’s sister, Janis Teruggi Page, still cares about the unresolved murder of her brother. Read her equally moving piece, “Did US Intelligence Help Pinochet’s Junta Murder My Brother?” which was published last September by Mother Jones (https://bit.ly/1nNvNCe). Page writes, “My family has waited for four long decades to learn how and why he was killed in the days following the coup. Our ability to accept the unacceptable, and find some semblance of closure, depends on finally knowing.”

To this day, the official position of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the rest of the national-security establishment is that the U.S. government played no role in the murders of Horman and Teruggi. Interesting to note, the same official denial was consistently issued by the Chilean national-security state during the coup regime.

This multi-part series will examine the U.S. executions of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi and marshal the circumstantial evidence that belies what are almost certainly false denials and cover-ups by U.S. officials relating to those two murders.

The article will also analyze why the U.S. military and CIA decided to execute those two American men, especially within the context of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, anti-communist fervor, and, most important, the concept of “national security” that has become the central force within America’s governmental structure for more than 50 years.

This series will show why the unresolved murders of Horman and Teruggi continue to serve as an open sore on the American body politic, especially within the context of such dark-side policies and practices as state kidnapping, detention, torture, assassination, surveillance, lies, and cover-ups, all of which surround these murders and all of which became official policies and practices of the U.S. national-security state as part of its “war on terror” after September 11, 2001, the same day of the month, ironically, on which the Chilean coup was initiated in 1973.

Horman’s background

The life and death of Charles Horman are detailed in a gripping book originally published in 1978 entitled Missing: The Execution of Charles Horman, by Thomas Hauser, a book on which much of this series is based, and in a fantastic 1982 movie, Missing, directed by the noted Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. I cannot recommend both the book and the movie too highly. The Washington Post called Hauser’s book “cataclysmic history.” Publisher’s Weekly described it as “a shocking story.” Richard Threlkeld of ABC News labeled it “an American tragedy.” Costa-Gavras’s movie received an Academy Award for Best Writing and Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

Charles Horman was born in New York City and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Robert Kessler, the dean at Exeter, said, “He was an outstanding student, thoroughly responsible and reliable, respected by both his peers and his teachers.” Charles later graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Harvard, where he received a Fulbright Scholarship. He also served six years in the National Guard, in which he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal.

He met Joyce Marie Hamren while both were visiting Europe in 1964. They were married four years later. According to an engagement announcement that appeared in the May 12, 1968, issue of the New York Times, Joyce graduated from the University of Minnesota and was working as a systems analyst in New York City at the time the couple became engaged. Charles was working as a news writer with New York City television station WNDT.

Like many other young people of the 1960s and today, Charles and Joyce were “liberals” or “progressives.” They believed that a proper role of government in society was to help the poor and needy, as exemplified by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and, before it, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Charles even left his job as a television news journalist to work as a historian for a federal anti-poverty program.

Teruggi and the FBI

The Hormans, as well as Frank Teruggi, were also part of the ever-growing number of young people who were turning against the U.S. government’s war in Vietnam, a war that many people were concluding was senselessly taking the lives of tens of thousands of American men and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese in the name of the “war on communism.”

In fact, Teruggi’s antiwar activities had garnered the attention of the FBI several months before the Chilean coup. In a November 30, 2011, article titled “Chilean Judge Requests Extradition of U.S. Military Official in ‘Missing’ Case,” which referred to Judge Zepeda’s indictment of Ray Davis, the National Security Archive, a nationally renowned research group that has played a leading role in securing the release of official documents and records relating to the Horman and Teruggi killings as well as the Chilean coup, stated that a secret FBI report dated October 25, 1972,

cites information provided by “another U.S. government agency” on Frank Teruggi’s contacts with an anti-war activist who lives in West Germany. The report also contains his address in Santiago. The document was generated by surveillance of a U.S. military intelligence unit in Munich on an American anti-war dissident who was in contact with Teruggi. [Emphasis added.]

In that same article, the National Security Archive pointed out that another FBI memorandum of that same date “requests investigation of Frank Teruggi and the Chicago Area Group for the Liberation of the Americas of which he was a member nearly a year prior to his death following the Chilean coup.”

The article also notes that another secret FBI memorandum, dated November 28, 1972, “again requests investigation on Teruggi based on his contact with a political activist in West Germany. The document mentions that Teruggi is living in Chile editing a newsletter ‘FIN’ of Chilean information for the American left, and that he is closely affiliated with the Chicago Area Group for the Liberation of Americas.”

The National Security Archive article concludes with a December 14, 1972, FBI memorandum that “demonstrates ongoing efforts to gather information on Frank Teruggi in the year preceding the Chilean coup. Here the FBI reports on his attendance at a conference of returned Peace Corps volunteers and his membership in political organizations supporting socialism and national liberation movements in Latin America.”

In an article dated July 1, 2000, “F.B.I. Watched an American Who Was Killed in Chile Coup,” the New York Times reported that the December 1972 FBI memorandum observed that Teruggi “had attended a ‘Conference on Anti-Imperialist Strategy and Action’ held by former Peace Corps volunteers, who, the F.B.I. said, ‘espouse support of Cuba and all third world revolutionaries.’”

In 1971 Charles and Joyce gathered up their savings and embarked on a trip by camper through Latin America. She was 27 and he was 29. Making their way south, they ended up in Santiago, Chile, during one of the most tumultuous periods in that country’s history. Charles went to work for a small Chilean newspaper named FIN, which focused on the activities of the U.S. government in Chile. As the FBI reported in its secret memos, 24-year-old Teruggi, who was a student and journalist, was working there too.

In August 1973 Charles made a trip back to New York to visit with his parents. During that visit, he encountered an old friend of his and Joyce’s, a woman named Terry Simon. Charles invited Terry to return with him to Santiago for vacation, an invitation that she accepted.

After a few days in Santiago, Charles and Joyce decided to take Terry to the Chilean coastal city of Vina del Mar for sightseeing and shopping. At the last minute, however, Joyce had to back out because her resident’s visa needed to be renewed. On Monday, September 10, Charles and Terry went on to Vina del Mar. It turned out to be a fateful decision, given that the Chilean coup, which just happened to have originated in that city, was launched on Tuesday, September 11, while they were still there.

This article was originally published in the October 2014 edition of Future of Freedom.

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    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.