In 1979 Joyce Horman filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against federal officials for the wrongful death of her husband, Charles. The case undoubtedly caused no small amount of consternation for the U.S. national-security state because a lawsuit ordinarily entitles the plaintiff wide latitude to take oral depositions of people under oath who have some knowledge of the facts of the case.
But U.S. officials need not have been concerned. Deferring to the national-security state, the federal judiciary summarily dismissed Horman’s case without permitting her to take a single deposition. They said that she had not produced sufficient evidence to support her claims. That was clearly sham reasoning, given that any evidence of how and why Horman was murdered would be exclusively within the control of the U.S. and Chilean national-security apparatuses. The only way that Horman could have pierced the wall of secrecy and deception that surrounded the U.S. and Chilean military and intelligence world would have been to take depositions.
Not surprising is that the same thing was occurring in Chile after the coup. The Chilean federal judiciary became submissive and deferential to the Chilean national-security state, refusing for example to require Chilean officials to produce people in custody whom they were torturing or raping in response to petitions for writ of habeas corpus brought by family members.
Horman’s lawsuit, however, did result in the release of some federal documents relating to the coup, including a State Department memorandum that showed that an internal investigation had been conducted into the Horman and Frank Teruggi murders. When the document was initially released in 1980, a blacked-out section of the memo included the following language:
Based on we what have, we are persuaded that:
—The GOC [Government of Chile] sought Horman and felt threatened enough to order his immediate execution. The GOC might have believed this American could be killed without negative fall-out from the USG [U.S. government]. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest: U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate role in Horman’s death. [For two versions of the memo, see https://bit.ly/1yaZjlw.]
Obviously, that language would have been important in Horman’s lawsuit. Someone clearly didn’t want either her or federal judges to see it. I don’t see how anyone can reasonably arrive at any other conclusion than cover-up.
An important question naturally arises: Why would U.S. national-security officials have authorized, directed, or knowingly acquiesced in the execution of Horman and Teruggi?
In his book Missing: The Execution of Charles Horman, Thomas Hauser states that when Charles Horman and his friend Terry Simon were staying at a hotel in Vina del Mar after the coup began, they encountered an American man named Arthur Creter and a businesslike woman, who was not his wife, traveling with him, with whom they struck up a conversation.
Obviously exuberant over what was happening in Chile, Creter shared his sentiments with fellow Americans Horman and Simon. He told them that he had to come to Chile from his base in Panama. Panama, of course, was where the U.S. military’s School of the Americas was located and where U.S. military officials had been teaching that military officials have a moral duty to oust their nation’s democratically elected president from office when he or his policies pose a grave threat to national security.
Creter said to Horman and Simon, “I’m here with the United States Navy. We came down to do a job and it’s done.” (Emphasis added.)
Attempting to ease concerns of Horman and Simon about the coup, Creter showed detailed knowledge of it:
I’ve been in situations like this before, and all you can do is wait it out. Don’t worry, though; the coup went very smoothly. You’re completely safe. It never goes this smoothly unless it’s planned in advance. About four-thirty on Tuesday morning, the military mobilized and placed soldiers across the country. Half an hour later, the whole country was under military control. I talked to the U.S. military in Panama within hours of the coup, and the news had already gotten there. It spread like wildfire…. Don’t worry about me though. My friends in the Milgroup will take care of me…. The United States Military Group. Its naval headquarters are in Valparaiso.
When Horman asked about U.S. ships that were in the Vina del Mar harbor, Creter responded, “Well, there are two destroyers, a cruiser, and a submarine offshore. As for the harbor …”
That was when Creter’s female companion, obviously feeling uncomfortable about Creter’s loose lips, cut him off and ushered him away.
One big problem was that the U.S. government, which was headed by Richard Nixon of Watergate fame, was steadfastly determined to keep U.S involvement in the Chilean coup secret. Recall that CIA Director Richard Helms even perjured himself before Congress when asked about CIA involvement in the Chilean election that Salvador Allende had won in 1970.
Yet here was Horman, not only a left-wing American enamored with Allende’s socialist experiment but also a journalist who worked for a newspaper that focused on U.S. involvement in Chilean affairs. Compounding the problem was that Horman was investigating potential CIA involvement in the assassination of Gen. Rene Schneider, the commander of the Chilean armed forces under Allende who had stood in the way of a coup. The CIA’s involvement in that assassination would not come out until years after Horman was murdered and the CIA had repeatedly (and falsely) denied complicity.
The entity to which Creter referred — U.S. Milgroup — was a U.S. military unit stationed in Chile whose mission was to cooperate with the Chilean military. In his book, Hauser writes that after their encounter with Creter, Horman and Simon came into contact with Marine Lt. Col. Patrick Ryan, the second-in-command of Milgroup. His mindset — which undoubtedly was the mindset of the entire U.S. national-security state — was reflected in his praise of the coup some years later:
Chile is the only country in history to have defeated Communism. We tried to do it for ten years in Vietnam and lost, ran away with a bloody nose. Chile stands out like a black eye for the World Communist movement. Chile beat ’em.
Never mind that the tens of thousands of Chileans who were rounded up, tortured, raped, or murdered never took up arms against the Pinochet regime. In the eyes of both the Chilean and U.S. national-security states, that the victims believed in socialism or communism automatically made them enemies of the state — people who could legitimately be killed as part of the Cold War and the “war on communism.”
That anti-communist mindset, you will recall, was the driving force behind the U.S. national-security state’s policies and practices during the Cold War, as reflected by such federal programs as COINTELPRO and secret surveillance of Martin Luther King and other people involved in the civil rights movement.
Consider what happened to Victor Jara, a nationally renowned leftist protest singer in Chile. He was among the tens of thousands of people who were rounded up and taken to the national stadium in Santiago. After complying with a military order to sing a protest song to his fellow prisoners, Pinochet’s goons smashed both his wrists and then ordered him to sing another song. And then they proceeded to brutally torture him and then kill him. The worst thing that Jara had ever done was to believe in socialism and sing songs of protest.
Hauser writes that Charles Horman and Terry Simon were given a ride back to Santiago by the head of U.S. Milgroup, Capt. Ray Davis, who would later be indicted by a Chilean judge for complicity in the murders of Horman and Teruggi. During the ride back, Davis’s vehicle encountered a Chilean military checkpoint. Davis simply produced his Armada de Chile card, which identified him as a member of the Chilean armed forces, and was waived through.
During the ride back it was obvious that Davis didn’t think too highly of Horman and that Horman didn’t trust Davis. That wasn’t too surprising, given that Horman represented a worldview that Davis held in contempt. In fact, think back to the secret FBI investigative reports on Teruggi, in which U.S. national-security state officials viewed him as an enemy of the state, given his opposition to the Vietnam War and to U.S. imperialism around the world. The way they viewed Teruggi and the way that Davis viewed Horman was the way that Pinochet and his goons viewed the tens of thousands of innocent Chileans who were being rounded up, disappeared, tortured, raped, or murdered.
Add to that the fact that documents later revealed that Chilean military officials viewed Horman as a “political extremist” who was working for a “subversive” film company that was producing a film about the Allende regime at the time of the coup.
After Horman returned home, Chilean officials raided his home, dragged him away, and killed him. They did the same to Teruggi.
The coup’s partner
It would not be unreasonable to conclude that U.S. Milgroup Commander Captain Davis, whom, again, a Chilean judge indicted for complicity in the murders of Horman and Teruggi and who is now deceased, gave an okay to Chilean officials to execute the Americans. After all, it is simply inconceivable that Chilean military officials would have killed two American citizens without receiving an okay from their partner, the U.S. government, especially since they were hoping that large amounts of U.S. taxpayer money would begin flowing immediately into the Pinochet regime’s coffers. It stands to reason that Chilean military officials would have checked with Davis before ordering the executions, especially given that Davis’s Milgroup office was located in the same building and on the same floor as the high Chilean military officials who are believed to have issued the execution order.
But there is one caveat here. Recall the precise language of the blacked-out portion of that State Department memo: “While the fo-cus of this memo is on Horman, the same applies to the case of Frank Teruggi…. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest: U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate role in Horman’s death.” (Emphasis added.)
Davis was ostensibly military. That, of course, brings up the CIA, the U.S. supersecret national-security agency that arguably wields more power than any other part of the federal government, especially with respect to matters relating to “national security.”
Obviously hoping to shield themselves from the horrors that accompanied the coup, U.S. military and CIA officials have long maintained they played no role in the coup. That, however, is fallacious reasoning. For one thing, the circumstantial evidence shows that, at the very least, U.S. officials played a consultative role in the coup. However, it’s still impossible to say what the CIA was doing during the coup, given that the CIA continues to steadfastly keep its records relating to the Chilean coup secret, on the grounds, of course, of “national security.”
But there is a much more fundamental point here, one that imposes responsibility for all the round-ups, disappearances, torture, rapes, and murders, including the murders of Horman and Teruggi, squarely on the U.S. government. As the partner in the overall enterprise, stretching back to when Allende was elected in 1970 and continuing after the coup, the U.S. government was as responsible for the horrors as its partner who actually performed the dirty deeds.
Indeed, after the coup, not only did U.S. officials flood Pinochet’s coffers with millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money, thereby enabling him to fortify his reign of terror, the U.S. government, operating through the CIA, continued operating as a partner in Pinochet’s postcoup, supersecret international torture and assassination ring, known as DINA, which proceeded to kidnap, disappear, torture, maim, and murder countless more people as part of Operation Condor. The assassination victims included former commander in chief of the Chilean army Carlos Prats and his wife in Argentina, and former Allende Defense Minister Orlando Letelier and his young American assistant, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington, D.C. In fact, after the coup the CIA even put the head of DINA, Manuel Contreras, who is now serving time in a Chilean jail for torture, forced disappearances, and assassination, on its payroll.
In 1976 — three years after the Pinochet coup — national security adviser Henry Kissinger, who had said back in 1970, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people,” told Pinochet, “We want to help you, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”
To this day, despite the large amount of circumstantial evidence pointing in the direction of a U.S. national-security-state complicity in the execution of two innocent American citizens and the subsequent cover-up, there has not been a congressional investigation or a Justice Department investigation specifically targeting U.S. national-security officials, subpoenaing their still-secret records, and forcing them to testify under oath. Such failure is a testament to the power that the national-security apparatus has come to have within America’s federal governmental structure.
But the problem will not go away, as much as U.S. national-security officials undoubtedly would like it to. As long as the executions of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi remain swept under the carpet of the U.S. national-security state they serve as an open sore on the American body politic.
Despite the passage of more than 40 years, Joyce Horman and Janis Teruggi Page are still entitled to a full and truthful accounting of what U.S. officials did to their husband and brother. So are the American people.