excerpts from the book
Operation Condor and Covert War
in Latin America
by J. Patrice McSherry
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers,
During the Cold war, highly politicized and ruthless militaries
in Latin America, aided and abetted by Washington, used the methods
of terror to wage their anticommunist wars in secrecy. Counterinsurgent
forces created a vast parallel infrastructure of clandestine detention
centers and killing machinery to avoid national and international
law and scrutiny, and utilized disappearance, torture, and assassination
to defeat "internal enemies."
... Six military states in South America
extended ... parastatal structures and extralegal methods across
borders - with a "green light" from the U.S. government
- in a transnational repressive program known as Operation Condor
(or Plan Condor). The militaries in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil,
Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay were the key protagonists of Condor,
spreading dirty war throughout the region and beyond. For them,
the ends justified the means; torture, extrajudicial executions,
and abductions were considered legitimate if employed against
"subversives." During the Cold War, tens of thousands
of Latin American men, women, and children were tortured and murdered
as a result of such methods, hundreds of them killed within the
framework of Operation Condor.
The 1992 discovery of the police files known as the Archives of
Terror in Paraguay provided new documentation of [Operation] Condor,
confirming earlier testimonies of victims and hitherto fragmentary
evidence. The investigation of Condor initiated by the Spanish
judge Baltasar Garzón, whose extradition request led to
the 1998 arrest of Pinochet in London, produced new revelations.
U.S. sanctioning of extralegal and aberrant methods during the
Cold War led to widespread human rights violations and crimes
against humanity in Latin America and elsewhere.
The lessons of the Cold War have been forgotten - if, indeed,
they were ever learned by those in power. The methods and strategies
of terror, once they are approved by political leaders and adopted
by armed, security, and intelligence forces, are not easily unlearned
or controlled. Unless governments and militaries, particularly
those that profess to be democratic, explicitly repudiate the
use of terror (or counterterror) in the name of a higher cause,
the world's people will be threatened by the specter of new [Operation]
Condor-like organizations and new dirty wars.
Operation Condor was a secret intelligence and operations system
created in the 1970s through which the South American military
states shared intelligence and seized, tortured, and executed
political opponents in one another's territory. Inspired by a
continental security doctrine that targeted ideological enemies,
the military states in the Condor system engaged in terrorist
practices to destroy the "subversive threat" from the
left and defend "Western, Christian civilization." The
Condor apparatus was a secret component of a larger, U.S.-led
counterinsurgency strategy to preempt or reverse social movements
demanding political or socioeconomic change.
"Subversives" were defined as those with dangerous ideas
that challenged the traditional order, whether they were peaceful
dissenters, social activists, or armed revolutionaries.
Argentine general Jorge Rafael Videla, 1976
A terrorist is not just someone with a
gun or a bomb, but also someone who spreads ideas that are contrary
to Western and Christian civilization.
Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms"- freedom of speech,
freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
The legacies of the [Latin American] colonial hacienda system,
with its tiny land-owning elites and vast rural worker and peasant
sectors, contributed to persisting inequality. So did traditions
in many countries of autocratic and elitist governments that remained
indifferent to the plight of their poor.
Movements for change [in Latin America] were often met with repression.
Foreign governments also played a role, especially the United
States, which had supported "friendly" dictators in
the region and often sent in the Marines to secure U.S. economic
and political interests.
U.S. national security strategists (who feared "another Cuba")
and their Latin American counterparts began to regard large sectors
of [Latin American] societies as potentially or actually subversive.
They especially feared leftist or nationalist leaders who were
popularly elected, thus giving their ideas legitimacy. Washington
responded to the Cuban revolution by strengthening Latin American
military-security forces and honing a security doctrine that targeted
"internal enemies." National security doctrine - a politicized
doctrine of internal war and counterrevolution that targeted the
enemy within-gave the militaries a messianic mission: to remake
their states and societies and eliminate "subversion".
In the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s, U.S.-backed armed forces carried
out military coups throughout Latin America, moving to obliterate
leftist forces and extirpate leftist ideas. The militaries installed
a new form of rule - the national security state.
Operation Condor, formed in the 1970s, extended the dirty wars
across borders. The system's key members were the military regimes
of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil, later
joined by Ecuador and Peru in less central roles. Condor also
enjoyed organizational, intelligence, financial, and technological
sustenance from the United States, acting as a secret partner
and sponsor... in 1980 Condor operations and methods appeared
in Central America. Condor was a secret strike force of the military
regimes, and it signified an unprecedented level of coordinated
repression in Latin America.
The Condor system consisted of three levels. The first was mutual
cooperation among military intelligence services, to coordinate
political surveillance of targeted dissidents and exchange intelligence
information. The second was covert action, a form of offensive
unconventional warfare in which the role of the perpetrator remains
concealed. Multinational Condor squadrons carried out covert cross-border
operations to detain-disappear exiles and transfer them to their
countries of origin, where most disappeared permanently. The third
and most secret level was Condor's assassination capability, known
as "Phase III." Under Phase III, special teams of assassins
from member countries were formed to travel worldwide to eliminate
"subversive enemies." Phase III was aimed at political
leaders especially feared for their potential to mobilize world
opinion or organize broad opposition to the military states.
In his landmark study, E. V. Walter argued that state elites manipulate
fear as a mean of controlling society and maintaining power. Terror
is used to engineer compliant behavior not only among victims,
but also among larger target populations. While victims suffer
direct consequences, broad sectors of society are the principal
target. The underlying goal of state terrorism is to eliminate
potential power contenders and to impose silence and political
paralysis, thereby consolidating existing power relations. The
proximate end is to instill terror in society, the ultimate end
is control. [Operation] Condor's targets were persons who espoused
political, economic, and social programs at odds with the ideologies
and plans of the military dictatorships, their elite allies, and
their sponsors in Washington. Through the use of terror, the military
states sought to extinguish the aspirations for social justice
and deeper democracy held by millions of people during the 1960s
and 70s. The evidence suggests that Operation Condor, and the
generalized repression of the Cold War years in Latin America,
represented a military "solution" to an age-old problem:
the distribution of power and wealth in human
Under Operation Condor, military intelligence organizations created
special clandestine detention centers for foreign prisoners outside
of the normal prison system, hidden in military bases or abandoned
buildings. Torture and execution were rife in such centers. Exiles
and refugees who were legally arrested could be passed into the
covert Condor system, at which point all information available
to the outside world about the person ceased. Prisoners were transferred
across borders without passports, on unregistered flights, and
like the other disappeared, their detention and imprisonment were
denied by the state. To avoid detection, Condor disposed of victims
by burning their bodies or throwing them into the sea. The pervading
sense of ambiguity, unreality, and dread created by the parallel
state was a key element of the terror used by the militaries to
consolidate power over society.
[Operation] Condor employed a computerized database of thousands
of individuals considered politically suspect and had archives
of photos, microfilms, surveillance reports, psychological profiles,
reports on membership in organizations, personal and political
histories, and lists of friends and family members, as well as
files on all manner of organizations. Several sources indicate
that the CIA provided powerful computers to the Condor system
(and, in fact, no other country in the region was technologically
capable of doing so). An Argentine military source told a U.S.
Embassy contact in 1976 that the CIA had played a key role in
setting up computerized links among the intelligence and operations
units of the six Condor states. A former Bolivian agent of Condor,
Juan Carlos Fortün, told a Bolivian journalist in the early
1990s that an advanced system of communications was installed
in the Ministry of the Interior in La Paz, along with a telex
system interlinked with the five other Condor countries. He said
that a special machine to encode and decode messages was made
especially for the Condor system by the Logistics Department of
The Condor network's secure communications
system, Condortel, enabled Condor controllers to exchange data
on suspects, track the movement of individuals across borders
on various forms of transport, and transmit orders to operations
teams, as well as share and receive intelligence information across
a large geographical area. Condortel allowed Condor operations
centers in member countries to communicate with one another and
with the parent station in a U.S. facility in the Panama Canal
Zone. This link to the U.S. military-intelligence complex in Panama
is a key piece of evidence regarding secret U.S. sponsorship of
Concurrent with the rise of the Cold War was the eruption of nationalist
sentiment in the Third World... While the USSR and Cuba were sympathetic
to indigenous revolutionary movements, they did not create them.
Most scholars concur that social protest and revolutionary movements
in the Americas were the product of indigenous conditions coupled
with a crisis of state legitimacy. Unequal socioeconomic structures
and skewed distribution of wealth, poverty and economic hardship,
lack of democracy, repression, and truncated freedoms for the
vast majority of the populace: these conditions reflected excessive
and undemocratic concentrations of political and economic power.
The appeal of radical change to many people in Latin America was
based not on terror by insurgents (as counterinsurgents supposed),
but on the dream of social justice and better lives for their
children. For those living in intolerable conditions, the realization
that change was possible was deeply liberating.
The U.S. government launched counterinsurgency programs throughout
the developing world in the 1960s. Counterinsurgency warfare,
directed against insurgents and broad civilian sectors of society,
was, above all, a mechanism to secure social control and "stability,"
protecting the interests of the counterinsurgent forces and the
political-economic system that fostered them against a real or
potential challenge from below. As the mechanization and depersonalization
of combat resulted in industrial killing in the two world wars
... so counterinsurgency warfare, in practice, produced "industrial
repression. Counterinsurgency militaries organized massive new
state and parastatal apparatuses for intelligence, surveillance,
and social control, including secret torture-disappearance-killing
systems and new technologies of violence to terrorize whole populations.
U.S. military trainers taught techniques of assassination as early
as the 1950s in Guatemala and elsewhere. U.S. national security
doctrine, especially after the 1959 Cuban revolution, increasingly
encouraged a concept of unconventional war subject to no rules
or ethics, a "dirty war" to be won at all costs.
... The Latin American militaries, many
of which had long occupied a dominant role in their societies
and some of which had used torture before, began to characterize
domestic conflicts as international communist conspiracies and
portray themselves as the front lines in a global holy war. Over
time, important sectors of the armed forces throughout the region
were converted from conventional to unconventional forces that
adopted counterinsurgency warfare and covert operations to combat
"internal subversion." Covert paramilitary actions were
a proactive tool allowing the counterinsurgents to prevent (or
cause in other situations) the overthrow of a government in power.
Even in peaceful Third World societies, it was U.S. policy to
develop military counterinsurgency forces and add to their capabilities
by creating paramilitary auxiliaries. Clearly, targeting people
who might become insurgents was a strategy with deeply authoritarian
and repressive implications. The assumption was that civilian
populations were potentially subversive, even in the absence of
lawless behavior... civilian sectors were weakened and progressive
social change halted or reversed in numerous countries. The repressive
forces of the state exponentially expanded in Latin America and
elsewhere in the developing world, in many cases deployed against
all forms of political opposition. US. doctrine and training deeply
shaped the strategic perspectives, organization, logistics, operations,
intelligence, and deployment of the Latin American armed forces.
It was a policy that contributed to new of mass repression in
The [Operation] Condor system enabled the military states to camouflage
international acts of terror. Such aggressive actions by U.S.-backed
militaries would have been very difficult to carry out without
the support or consent of Washington. In fact, evidence demonstrates
that top U.S. leaders and national security officials considered
Condor to be an effective weapon in the hemispheric anticommunist
crusade. Key branches of the U.S. state, namely the executive,
the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA, were
not only closely informed of Condor operations but also supplied
significant assistance and sustenance to the Condor system, and,
indeed, actively collaborated with some of Condor's hunts for
exiled political activists.
Counterinsurgency was applied in countries where power seemed
likely to shift to non-elite sectors associated with leftist,
nationalist, or populist agendas, and away from traditional ruling
elites. Such a shift was clearly unacceptable to the elites in
question and, usually, to U.S. political leaders. Washington identified
a series of nationalist, populist, and progressive movements and
leaders in the developing world as "communist" and targeted
them for neutralization of destruction.
... U.S. policy in Latin America was not
simply a series of mistakes based on misperceptions but was the
continuation of a historical pattern of intervention and expansionism
in the region aimed at protecting growing economic, political,
and military interests.
In the first half of the twentieth century, U.S. leaders looked
to right-wing autocrats worldwide as the best guarantors of stability,
order, antii-Bolshivism, and openness to U.S. capitalist expansion.
U.S. investors increasingly sought raw
materials and markets in Latin America, the U.S. government expanded
its military reach to the Panama Canal and beyond, setting up
military bases across the region. The early part of the twentieth
century was marked by U.S. intervention in much of Central America
and the Caribbean (Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Puerto Rico, the
Dominican Republic, and elsewhere). In many cases, the marines
created proxy forces, such as the national guards in Nicaragua
and the Dominican Republic to maintain "order" after
their departure, and a series of pro-U.S. autocrats ruled for
decades. The pattern of U.S. interventionism in Central America
and the Caribbean in the twentieth century illuminated Washington's
urge to control these regions and incorporate them within the
U.S. political economy. Even during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's
"Good Neighbor" period the U.S. government maintained
supportive relations with such dictators as Anastasio Somoza in
Nicaragua and Jorge Ubico in Guatemala, ruthless men who willingly
protected U.S. investments and generally accepted U.S. political
With the close of World War II and the
establishment of the UN, U.S. policymakers increasingly shifted
their foreign policy strategy in the developing world: from overt
to covert intervention. By the 1960s, U.S. covert operations reached
Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, among other South American countries.
The Cold War ideological focus on the evils of communism was a
useful strategy for justifying U.S. support for anticommunist
(and antidemocratic dictators; it also provided a rationale for
the pursuit of U.S. economic interests in the developing world.
U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was more than an anti-Soviet
project. It was an expansionist effort to globalize the U.S. sphere
of influence and expand U.S. hegemony, spreading free market capitalism
and U.S.-style liberalism under "a military shield"
The broad U.S. interests in the underdeveloped world are as follows:
1. A political and ideological interest in assuring that developing
nations evolve in a way that affords a congenial world environment
for international cooperation and the growth of free institutions.
2. A military interest in assuring that strategic areas and the
manpower and natural resources of developing nations do not fall
under communist control .... 3. An economic interest in assuring
that the resources and markets of the less developed world remain
available to us and to other Free World countries.
The class nature of the national security doctrine and its definition
of the internal enemy ... hard-line military institutions acted,
with local and U.S. support, when control of the state was contested
by social sectors and political leaders seeking structural change
in political or socioeconomic arenas. Washington's interests in
maintaining pro-U.S., pro-capitalist governments [in Latin America]
merged with the interests of economic and political elites in
these countries who were anxious o retain their privileges. During
the turbulent 1960s and '70s, poor and working-class movements
and their allies among intellectuals, students, teachers, and
other sectors stood to gain important influence over national
policy and socioeconomic resources. In response, the military
states, with the support of traditional elites in the region,
employed harsh methods of social control. Terror was used to diminish
society's expectations for social change and the pursuit of alternatives
to the existing socioeconomic and political systems. As noted
by Tulio Halpern Donghi, the military regimes [in Latin America]
tended to represent the interests of three very specific groups:
the military hierarchy, the national economic elite, and the transnational
corporations... the subordinate classes lost many of the rights
of citizenship. In short, the militaries acted to bolster or install
systems that lacked the support of a majority of their people.
The trigger for military coups [in Latin America] was less the
elite fear of Soviet encroachment or guerrilla threats (the stated
rationales) than fears of popular demands for social reform and
democratic change. U.S. intelligence analyses from the 1970s acknowledged
that no guerrilla force in Latin America had the strength to seriously
endanger any government. As one 1970 CIA report stated, "Cooperation
among Latin American revolutionary groups across national boundaries
is not extensive .... Insurgency movements thus far have remained
essentially national in scope .... Most revolutionary groups in
Latin America have struggled merely to survive." A 1976 CIA
memo similarly acknowledged that "guerrilla groups in South
America have never posed a direct challenge to any government.
Most of the groups have been too small and weak to engage security
As [Richard] Nixon put it in a National Security Council meeting
of November 6,1970
Latin America is not gone and we want
to keep it .... If there is any way we can hurt him [Allende]
whether by government or private business - I want them to know
our policy is negative .... No impression should be permitted
in Latin America that they can get away with this, that it's safe
to go this way.
Clearly, the prospect of elected progressive
and socialist leaders was unacceptable to Nixon and Kissinger
- not only the specter of communist guerrillas.
In the Americas, Washington and its regional allies moved to counter
populist and revolutionary forces and secure the politico-economic
status quo. The U.S. government led the restructuring of the inter-American
system, particularly in the 1960s, in order to build a continental
counter-subversive movement of the region's militaries. The U.S.
government strengthened military, intelligence, and police forces,
trained them in counterinsurgency warfare and joint operations,
urged the formation of clandestine counterterror squads, and encouraged
anticommunist allies to actively interfere in neighboring countries.
The Brazilian and Argentine militaries-the most powerful in the
Southern Cone region-intervened in Uruguay, Bolivia, and Chile
to assist counterrevolutionary forces and undermine democratic
systems, aided indirectly by the U.S. national security apparatus.
The CIA introduced members of Brazilian death squads to military
and police officers in Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, establishing
links among them and diffusing the methods of terror, and encouraged
them to track political opponents across borders. Brazil, acting
in alliance with Washington, offered training in repressive methods
to its neighbors.
On March 24, 1976, the Argentine armed forces staged a coordinated
nationwide coup, deposing President Isabel Perón and taking
over the national government as well as all provincial and municipal
governments throughout the country. Now the entire Southern Cone,
and most of South America, was under military rule. The Argentine
junta imposed the bloodiest dictatorship the country had ever
known; according to human rights organizations, some 30,000 persons
"disappeared," the highest number in South America.
The conflicts of the 1960s-1980s in Central America were rooted
in the exclusionary, unequal, antidemocratic, and repressive structures
that dominated the region, supported by the oligarchy, the military,
and almost always, by U.S. policy. Long-standing U.S. economic
interests were obscured during the Cold War, especially during
the Reagan administration, as social unrest in Central America
was portrayed in terms of the East-West struggle. Throughout most
of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers argued that revolutionary and
reformist forces in the Third World were Soviet agents rather
than indigenous movements fighting to transform unjust conditions.
In the 1980s ... four of the five Central
America countries reflected the legacies of the colonial era in
terms of their economic and social structures: small, powerful
land-owning classes, praetorian militaries, and large, poor peasant
After the Carter interlude (1977-81), the Reagan administration
reintroduced Cold War categories to U.S. foreign policy and adopted
a hostile and coercive attitude toward the struggles for change
in Central America. The administration sent a delegation, led
by hard-liner Jeanne Kirkpatrick, to Latin American capitals to
meet with military leaders and essentially apologize for Carter's
human rights policy. U.S. diplomats who had favored the policy
were replaced or exiled from the State Department.'° The Reagan
administration devoted millions of dollars in resources to finance
the counterinsurgency armies in El Salvador and Guatemala and
the contras in Nicaragua, utilizing a "low-intensity conflict"
strategy that maximized destruction while avoiding extensive use
of U.S. troops. In diplomatic arenas, the Reagan administration
rejected strategies of negotiation or compromise with revolutionary
and progressive forces in Central America and viewed the conflicts
in strictly zero-sum terms. Washington actively worked to prevent
or weaken United Nations resolutions that denounced human rights
atrocities by its client armies.
Operation Condor was a top-secret component of a larger inter-American
counterinsurgency strategy - led, financed, and overseen by Washington
- to prevent and reverse social and political movements in Latin
America in favor of structural change... the Condor system was
a criminal operation that used terrorist practices to eliminate
political adversaries, and extinguish their ideas, outside the
rule of law.
During the Cold War, military, intelligence,
and police commanders built and worked within parallel, or parastatal,
structures to carry out counterterrorist campaigns in the shadows,
concealed from domestic and international view ... secret forces
and infrastructure developed as a hidden part of the state to
carry out covert counterinsurgency wars. A vast parallel infrastructure
of secret detention centers and clandestine killing machinery
enabled the military states to avoid national and international
law and scrutiny, and facilitated their use of disappearance,
torture, and assassination out of the public eye. Anticommunist
officials adopted extreme "black world" measures to
solidify or reorient the existing political and socioeconomic
systems in the hemisphere and to advance the power and privilege
of anticommunist, pro-U.S. elites.
The crimes of Operation Condor in the terrifying 1970s have continued
to haunt the region long after the end of the Cold War. The counterinsurgents
reshaped and transformed conventional armies into lethal killing
machines that respected no laws or limits, with commanders who
deliberately chose to their political opponents, secretly and
without due process.
... Many Condor commanders and operatives,
and other veterans of the region's dirty wars, continued to wield
power in their societies and block democratizing measures long
after transitions from military rule. Others became common criminals,
engaged in kidnapping-extortion, theft and larceny, and drug trafficking.
The legacy of Operation Condor was also reflected in the still-unsolved
cases of thousands of disappeared persons in Latin America, including
children, whose families still mourn. The emergence of court cases
in Latin America, Europe, and the United States in recent years,
seeking to hold Condor officers accountable, is evocative of previous
efforts to track down and prosecute Nazi criminals from the World
War II era, efforts that continue to this day. Such trials have
been condemned by conservative forces in the world, which counsel
immunity from prosecution for crimes committed on the Western
side during the Cold War. But the evidence suggests that the monumental
terror and trauma visited upon Latin American societies during
that epoch can only be healed through process of truth and justice.
... Powerful forces within the U.S. government
apparently believe that the full historical record is too revealing,
too shocking, or too incriminating to allow public disclosure.
When President Bill Clinton ordered the declassification of government
documents relevant to Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón's inquiries
in 1998, the Pentagon and especially the CIA ferociously resisted
compliance, and the declassification on Argentina in 2002 contained
no documents from these two branches of the U.S. security apparatus.
The impression left by such secrecy is that the CIA and the Pentagon
have the most to hide. Yet like Condor itself, U.S. clandestine
warfare and covert operations left a trail behind.
The United States, combined forces with national elites and military-security
institutions in Latin America to carry out the anticommunist crusade.
The U.S. government was the predominant designer of the continental
security agenda, and Washington exerted heavy influence in its
As leftist and nationalist leaders won elections throughout Latin
America in the 1960s and 1970s, and new revolutionary and progressive
movements emerged, U.S. security strategists feared that the informal
U.S. economic and political empire in the hemisphere was threatened.
Localized elites similarly feared the threat to their traditional
dominance. U.S. policy served, in most cases, to strengthen traditional
elites and military-security forces, while leftist and progressive
social movements and individuals were crushed.
Why [did] the worlds most powerful liberal democracy (U.S.] sponsor
and collaborate with repressive dictatorships that brutalized
their own societies [in Latin America]? Seeking to protect and
expand U.S. economic, political, and security interests, Washington
turned to reactionary forces worldwide whose most important asset
As Washington sought to preserve its hegemony in the hemisphere,
local elites and military forces in Latin America sought to strengthen
themselves and weaken the social forces that challenged them.
The anti-left campaign swept through the region, and beginning
in the 1960s, repressive, right-wing military governments seized
power and established national security states in almost all of
Counterinsurgency war [in Latin America] was a means to demobilize
popular movements, terrorize society, and solidify military power
in these countries. Social change in the interest of disadvantaged
sectors of society was halted, the economic power of traditional
elite classes reasserted, and inequitable class divisions reinforced.
In many cases, military institutions became autonomous actors
with their own interests in advancing their power.
U.S. promotion of clandestine warfare, "unofficial"
military and intelligence units, and covert operations [in the
1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s] - including the use of terror - in the
world deeply damaged not only the target societies, but also the
U.S. democratic process itself, as officials maneuvered to avoid
constitutional oversight, deceived and manipulated Congress and
the U.S. public, and degraded constitutional rights and freedoms
through obsessive secrecy. Most seriously, the complicity of the
U.S. government in crimes against humanity in Latin America was
a perversion of the principles and values broadly supported by
the U.S. public.
Operation Condor, the transnational arm of the parallel state,
and its operations were consistent with U.S. counterinsurgency
and counterterror doctrine and training. Indeed, U.S. post-September
11 military and intelligence strategies and tactics in Afghanistan
and Iraq included the methods of disappearance, torture, extrajudicial
transfer across borders, incommunicado detention, extrajudicial
execution, and military to achieve counterterror objectives. In
the United States, government agencies rounded up and imprisoned
thousands of immigrants, and several U.S. citizens, without the
right to counsel; set up vast new domestic surveillance programs;
and planned the use of military tribunals." These are not
measures normally associated with democratic governments. After
9/11, key [U.S.] political and military leaders were willing to
jettison observance of the rule of law and human rights; the ends
justified the means.
In late 2003, news reports revealed the existence of a secret
commando team of U.S. Special Forces and CIA paramilitaries, possibly
including foreigners as well, called Task Force 121. The hunter-killer
squadron was engaged in a cross-border, regional mission to pursue,
and kill, "high-value targets" in the Middle East. While
officials stated that details about the force were classified,
it clearly evoked the Condor model. 16 Indeed, the George W. Bush
administration presided over the construction of vast, worldwide
parallel structures, including secret prisons in Iraq, Qatar,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the "war on terror." Suspects
were transported across borders on covert aircraft and essentially
"disappeared." A former CIA officer insisted that such
extrajudicial kidnappings were not illegal, arguing, "There
is a long history of this. It has been done for decades."
Similarly, a State Department officer testified that if "a
terrorist suspect is outside of the United States, the CIA helps
to catch and send him to the United States or a third country."
When "rendered" to third countries, U.S. specialists
developed interrogation questions with their counterparts and
then watched the interrogation through a two-way mirror."
The use of such practices in the present, again, added significance
to the evidence of U.S. collaboration with Operation Condor in
Philip Agee, a former CIA officer, about the methods of the CIA
in Latin America
[The CIA] contracted Brazilians in Brazil,
Chileans in Chile. They weren't U.S. citizens, under the protection
of the State Department, but local people who worked for the CIA.
The CIA was behind the repressive operations.