From its outset the Spanish investigation sought documentary evidence of Pinochet's relation to and control over the functioning of the Chilean security apparatus. Chile's refusal to cooperate with the investigation made this a difficult task. The departing military government never turned over to the elected authorities classified military or intelligence files such as those of the DINA and the CNI. Most of the information available in Chile, apart from direct testimony, consisted of public documents such as legal decrees, court decisions, and reports by human rights NGOs and the press. The United States, on the other hand, had acquired mountains of intelligence on Chilean military agencies, on the formation, growth, and activities of the DINA, and of its relation to Pinochet, information that could be critical to proving Pinochet's guilt.
The U.S. had increasingly engaged in covert action in Chile from the 1960s onwards. Revelations of Central Intelligence Agency attempts under the Nixon administration to thwart the election of President Salvador Allende in 1970, and its controversial role in his 1973 overthrow, led to one of the most thorough congressional investigations of the CIA's activities ever conducted, chaired by Senator Frank Church. 137 A year later the Letelier assassination in Washington set off a major murder hunt which gave U.S. investigators valuable evidence about the workings of Operation Condor. U.S. agencies are also believed to possess crucial information about human rights violations inside the country from 1973 to 1975, when U.S. officials maintained close contact with the DINA's director, Manuel Contreras.
In February 1997, Spain invoked a bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States to request that the Clinton administration make available its files on human rights violations in Chile. Although Clinton promised support in response to congressional questions in April 1998, that support was extremely slow to materialize. The White House said little at Pinochet's arrest, and when pressure in Europe for his extradition mounted, State Department spokesman James Rubin rushed to Chile's defense, asking that Chile's efforts to harmonize reconciliation and justice be respected.138 After some positive initial signals, the Justice Department decided not to proceed with a request for Pinochet's extradition to the United States to stand trial in the U.S. for the Letelier-Moffitt assassination.
The Clinton administration's nervousness arose from the same concerns it had expressed in voting against the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court in June 1998: that former U.S. government officials and soldiers on foreign duty could be subjected to prosecutions. The administration sympathized with Chile's predicament. As the New York Times put it:
Suppose Cambodians decide to indict Henry Kissinger of charges of ordering the bombing of their country during the Vietnam war. Chances are that the United States would be quick to take a line of defense not unlike Chile's, saying that history has rendered its judgment on that war, people on the whole do not get tried for policies and American courts have dealt with those individuals who had committed offenses.139
The United States' role in Chile during the 1970s, moreover, was highly controversial. Documents declassified in 1998 indicated that the U.S. had not only paved the way for Pinochet to seize power but helped him keep it. A briefing prepared in November 1973 for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on summary executions and killings in the three weeks that followed the military coup revealed that Washington was giving Chile economic and military aid whilethese abuses were at their height.140 Other documents indicated that FBI agents cooperated with the Chilean police, providing them information about Chilean dissidents detained in other countries.141 A damning "memcon" (conversational record ) revealed the details of a conversation between Kissinger and Pinochet in June 1976, in which Kissinger reassured the dictator that the speech he (Kissinger) was due to make in the OAS General Assembly criticizing Chile's human rights record was to be interpreted as an unavoidable concession to liberal opinon in the United States and was not aimed at Chile. 142
On February 1, 1999, finally bowing to international pressure, requests from Congress, and calls from some of Pinochet's most famous victims, the White House requested U.S. national security agencies to declassify and release documents that shed light on human rights abuses, terrorism, and other acts of political violence in Chile. In April 1999 Attorney General Janet Reno allowed access to declassified documents to Judge Maria Servini de Cubría, who was investigating the 1974 assassination of former Chilean Army Commander Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires. She also gave permission to the Argentinian judge, as well as to Judge Garzón, to interview Michael Townley, the former DINA agent convicted in the United States for the Letelier-Moffitt murder and released under a witness protection program.143
On June 30, 1999, the Clinton administration made public an estimated 5,300 documents, totalling more than 20,000 pages, most of them related to the period 1973-1978. Thousands more documents were promised later in the year. The State Department, which had sent advance copies to the Chilean Foreign Ministry and Chile's Washington embassy two days before the launch, posted the documents on its website, and they were available for inspection by the public in Santiago's National Library. United States Amb. John O'Leary told the Chilean press that the release was due to congressional and public interest and entirely unrelated to Pinochet's arrest.144
Among the declassified documents was a Department of Defense memo dated February 2, 1974, which stated that the DINA was "directly subordinate to the President of the military junta, General Pinochet" and was estimated already to have 700 active agents, even though its official date of creation was not until November 1974. The memo also noted that DINA operatives "are not properly trained for their jobs,"especially in interrogation techniques: "source said that their methods are straight out of the Spanish inquisition and often leave the person interrogated with visible bodily damage."
Human Rights Watch welcomed the release as a significant step in the search for truth and accountability for both Chilean and U.S. actions. Along with the National Security Archive,145 we expressed serious concern that the CIA had declassified only a fraction of its vault of files. What had been made public amply showed the detailed knowledge the CIA, FBI, and State Department had of the savage human rights abuses taking place in Chile and their continuing cooperation with their Chilean counterparts notwithstanding.
But there are glaring gaps that leave many questions unanswered. What were the circumstances of the execution of U.S. citizens Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi in the aftermath of the coup? Did U.S. intelligence haveenough information on Operation Condor to have prevented Letelier's and Moffitt's murder? Did the CIA play a role in training or assisting the DINA? 146 As for Pinochet's actions, current Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdés emphasized that after a detailed perusal of the entire file, a ministry team had found nothing likely to affect the proceedings against him. This was a surprising conclusion, since some documents provided hirtherto unknown details on crucial questions such as the relationship among DINA, Pinochet and the rest of the armed forces.147
Both the U.S. decision to disclose details of its clandestine involvement in Chile as well as the Spanish prosecution itself bear witness to an essential fact about this tragic quarter-century of Chilean history: its roots and its repercussions extend far beyond Chile's frontiers. Neither the Cold War context in which the drama was played out, nor the clandestine meddling by a foreign power in Chilean political affairs, nor the forced diaspora of Chilean exiles, nor the violent reprisals taken againt them by Pinochet's agents respected the boundaries or rights of nationhood. The enormous value of the Spanish case is to re-affirm a principle easily overlooked in controversies about sovereignty and jurisdiction: human rights belong not to nations but to humankind, and for this very reason have always depended crucially for their protection on international cooperation.