Hidden Terrors Part 4

excerpted from the book

Hidden Terrors

the truth about U.S. police operations in Latin America

by A.J. Langguth

Pantheon Books, 1978, paper

Despite later disclaimers, it is clear that Mitrione was heading for Uruguay entirely aware that his main assignment would be to improve the capacity of the nation's police to put down the insurgents. Certainly, Uruguay was no sinecure; in fact, the easy assignments were becoming increasingly rare. As rebellion spread around the world, criticism of the tactics U. S. advisers employed was becoming harder for the Office of Public Safety to shrug off. Ugly reports had come in from Athens, where the Greeks believed the CIA had conspired to bring a military junta to power; from Portugal, where Washington had supported a dictator for generations; and from South Vietnam, where reports of savagery were the most persistent of all.

In Portugal, officers from the intelligence agency called PIDE were boasting to their victims that a grade-school education was no longer sufficient for their work. The new interrogation methods were too complicated. The source of PIDE's improved technical expertise seemed clear enough. U. S. officials from the Lisbon embassy called in regularly at PIDE headquarters; the director of PIDE's investigative branch was the Portuguese representative of Interpol; and in the late sixties, four senior PIDE inspectors toured Brazil.

In Vietnam, although civilian victims were often nameless to the U. S. troops, there were exceptions. Ms. Nguyen Thi Nhan, a widow, was arrested several times in Saigon, the first in 1969, and charged with being a member of the National Liberation Front. At police headquarters, she was given electrical shocks, and an iron rod was forced up her vagina. Three Westerners in U. S. uniforms watched her being tortured, and the police told her that they were CIA officers. One of them ordered a Vietnamese interrogator to ram needles under Mrs. Nhan's fingernails.

Another woman, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Bo, was taken into custody that same year in Danang because she had neither an ID card nor money with which to bribe the police to release her. At the police station, Mrs. Bo had a stick poked into her vagina; then her face was held in a toilet bowl filled with shit. She was next moved to Non Muoc station, where she was questioned by five U. S. agents wearing green fatigues. After they tied her up, three of the men kicked her.

Stories like these were beginning to discredit the U. S. intelligence services, and there were worse to come. Although it was not yet public knowledge, the United States had been running torture camps, which were always passed off as schools for survival. Two such secret installations, in northwest Maine and in California, near San Diego, were run by the navy. One torture technique involved strapping the navy men face up and pouring cold water on towels placed over their faces until they gagged and retched. A navy doctor stood by to prevent them from drowning.

On the army's side, Donald Duncan, a Green Beret, went through training at Fort Bragg, where the sergeant giving a lesson in hostile interrogation described in detail a number of tortures, including the lowering of a man's testicles into a jeweler's vise. Finally a soldier in the class interrupted: "Are you suggesting that we use these methods?"

The class laughed, and the instructor raised a solemn face with mocking eyes. "We can't tell you that, Sergeant Harrison. The mothers of America wouldn't approve." The class burst into more laughter at his cynicism. "Furthermore," the sergeant said with a wink, "we will deny that any such thing is taught or intended."

Torture training was not restricted to North Americans. On the island of Niteroi, across the bay from Rio, the Brazilian military had set up a camp modeled after that of the boinas verdes, the Green Berets. The students were kept awake, starved, and caged. They were hung on beams in mock crucifixions. As a way of breaking a man, it proved too effective. After eighteen hours, the Brazilian soldiers were confessing to crimes they had not committed.

As a result of all this, the Office of Public Safety faced serious problems in 1969. Its connections with the CIA, the war in Vietnam, and the similarities in the accounts of torture turning up around the world were rendering the advisory program politically vulnerable. Worse yet, the rebel movements, especially in Latin America, seemed to be growing. In the eyes of OPS and the U. S. military, the Tupamaros of Uruguay presented a particularly grave threat to established order throughout the hemisphere.


In 1963, Uruguay's newspapers reported an event incomprehensible to most readers. A group of burglars broke into the Swiss Club, a hunting lodge outside Montevideo, and made off with some old and worthless weapons. (Five men were involved. One was Sendic. Another was a medical doctor, a club member nicknamed Loco.)

That was the beginning. Then other brazen criminals held up customs officials at Uruguay's borders and took their weapons away from them. Although the police intelligence unit began to suspect these arms thefts were somehow connected, it was not until 1965 that their scraps of information fit into a pattern.

The final clue was a convention. Those Communists who wanted to stay within the law and work through elections, as Salvador Allende was doing in Chile, agreed to meet with dissident leftists who took recent events in Brazil as a portent for all Latin America. Out of that meeting came the Tupamaros, officially the Movement of National Liberation. Police spies called them "the most intelligent and clever of the group."

In time, the Tupamaros produced their share of revolutionary literature. But at the start, their approach was to put results before theory, and they took as their slogan, "Words divide us; action unites us."

That decision to forego manifestos in favor of guerrilla action was shrewdly calculated to win over Uruguay's liberals. Throughout 1965, the Tupamaros bombed a number of subsidiaries of United States corporations. They did not try to maim or kill. Their bombs were only noisy public-relations devices to introduce themselves, and at each site they left behind leaflets on which the name Tupamaro was printed. The name derived from an Inca Indian chief, Tupac Amara, who had led a rebellion against the Spanish in Peru in 1780. A noble name, a revered cause. Yet that revolt had failed, and Tupac Amara had been drawn and quartered in a public square.

At first, the new band sought to avoid confrontations with the police, a tactic that earned Byron Engle's contempt. Cowardly, he called them, because they did not stand up and fight. Half a world away, General William Westmoreland was making the same complaint about the National Liberation Front.

When the Tupamaros did appear in public, they took the guise of public benefactors. One December, ten young people stole a food truck, drove it into a run-down quarter of Montevideo, and passed out turkeys and wine to the poor. Breaking into armories, the Tupamaros stole police uniforms and wore them to hold up banks around the city. If customers were waiting in line, the Tupamaros insisted that the clerk enter each deposit so that the bank, not the customer, would be liable for the losses. On one occasion, they burst into a gambling casino and scooped up the profits. The next day, when the croupiers complained that the haul had included their tips, the Tupamaros mailed back that percentage of the money.

On August 7, 1968, the Tupamaros tried a new tack. They kidnapped the closest friend of President Jorge Pacheco Areco, Ulises Pereira Reverbel, and held him captive in what they called a people's prison. From a public-relations standpoint, the Tupamaros could hardly have chosen better. Pereira, who once killed a newsboy for selling a paper attacking him, had been denounced as the most hated man in Uruguay.

The Tupamaros held Pereira a mere four days. But it was long enough to set the Uruguayans laughing at him, at their police department, at the president. When Pereira was released, not only unharmed but apparently a few pounds heavier, the poor in Montevideo were quoted as joking, "Attention, Tupamaros! Kidnap me!"

While the Tupamaros were staging this popular guerrilla theater, the government of Uruguay was, in fact, undergoing changes very different from any the Tupamaros were promoting. Since 1950, Uruguay had been a part of the International Monetary Fund. Disregarding Batlle's admonitions, the country had been accepting foreign loans, many from the United States, to see the country through droughts and drops in the price of wool or meat.

Although the Tupamaros were dramatizing the need for reform, more Uruguayans were probably convinced of that need by an inflation rate of 136 percent. To overhaul the government, voters decided to do away with the nine-member executive and return to a single president. In March 1967, they elected as president General Oscar Gestido, whom both supporters and detractors compared to Dwight Eisenhower. Before the year was out, Gestido died.

Almost as soon as he took office, the vice-president, Jorge Pacheco Areco, began to cry "Communist." An Uruguayan joke ran that they had voted for Eisenhower and got Nixon.


Torture was not a total novelty to Uruguay. Even before President Pacheco's war on communism, gangsters and petty thieves had been slapped around in jailhouses. But the use of violence against political prisoners was a barbarity that Uruguayans thought they had put behind them along with the death penalty.

Philip Agee learned otherwise when he went with his CIA station chief, John Horton, to call on Colonel Rodriguez, Montevideo's police chief. The purpose was to involve the chief in a CIA plot that would pressure Uruguay to break diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

The CIA plan was inventive. Dick Conolly, an operations officer, had chosen four Russians from the Soviet embassy and concocted for them a history of subversion within Uruguay's labor movement. Another CIA man, Robert H. Riefe, made up stories about leftist officials in Uruguay's unions to interlock with Conolly's fiction, thereby suggesting a conspiracy. The fabricated report was to be slipped to an Uruguayan politician who would use it to justify severing diplomatic ties with the USSR. First, though, to give it an appearance of authenticity, Horton and Agee took the CIA handiwork to police headquarters.

As Rodriguez leafed through the false report, Agee heard an odd sound, low at first but gradually growing louder. Agee listened more closely. It was a human voice crying out. Probably a vendor on the street, he thought. Rodriguez told his aide to turn up the radio. A soccer match was in progress. By then the moan had become a scream. The chief called again for the radio to be turned up, but the screaming drowned out the broadcast.

Now Agee knew that a man was being tortured in the small room above Rodriguez's office. He suspected that the victim was a leftist named Oscar Bonaudi, whom Agee had recommended to Otero for preventive detention. The screaming continued. Rodriguez finally accepted the CIA report; and with their mission accomplished, Horton and Agee walked out to their Volkswagen for the drive back to the embassy.

To most CIA officers, the Uruguayan police were an unending source of amusement-their ineptness, the hopelessness of ever making them efficient. That was what made a man like Saenz so pathetic, that he was so sincere, so straight, that he could never see the humor of the situation.

John Horton was a prototype of the sardonic CIA operator. Now on the drive back, he referred to what they had heard from upstairs and gave his usual nervous laugh.

Shortly afterward, Otero confirmed that Bonaudi had been the man Agee had heard screaming. Braga, the deputy chief of investigation, had ordered the torture when Bonaudi refused to talk. His beatings had gone on for three days. Agee resolved that he would never turn over another name to the police as long as Braga stayed with them.

This was not the first time Phil Agee found himself troubled by his work. Secrecy no longer seemed so glamorous; and the aliases, with their surnames always capitalized, struck him as less larkish: Daniel N. GABOSKY for Ned Holman; Claude V. KARVANAK for Bob Riefe; Jeremy S. HODAPP for Philip Agee.

Other aspects of the job also disturbed him. In Washington, one training duty had been to run name checks for Standard Oil to reassure the company that it was not employing leftists or subversives at its overseas plants. The lists came in each week from Caracas, where the security officer of a Rockefeller subsidiary, Creole Petroleum, was an ex-FBI agent with close ties to the CIA.

The checks had been only part of the game in those days. Now, in the field, those same security checks went on informally for the local branches of U. S. corporations. A club of seven or eight U. S. businessmen met weekly in Montevideo with the U. S. ambassador and the CIA station chief. The head of the General Electric subsidiary sat in, and the man from Lone Star Cement. (But not the International Harvester representative; he was considered a loud mouth.) The subversive checks were run for them out of the CIA station's local files.

Faced by both the direct and indirect evidence of how his various identifications were being used, Agee could come up with no better solution than not to give the police any more names. What if he had protested the torture? Agee was sure that they would not have listened to him.

To have an impact, any protest would have to come from either the CIA station chief or from the U. S. ambassador. Horton's dismissive laugh suggested that he would not be the one; and safe at the embassy, the ambassador never heard the screams.


Those were the conditions of Dan Mitrione's nice and peaceful new assignment. Once again, as in Rio, the surface of his life seemed agreeable. The Mitriones moved into a two-story house on Pilcomayo, a quiet residential street. As wife of the chief adviser, Hank took Spanish lessons and involved herself in community affairs, particularly a thrift shop run by the women of the U. S. community.

Yet, the Tupamaros allowed the new chief adviser no time at all for settling in before they made another dramatic strike. It had been more than a year since Pereira Reverbel had been released. Now the Tupamaros carried off another wealthy victim, Gaetano Pellegrini Jiampietro, and extorted about $60,000 for his return. Mitrione reported to Washington that they had probably been inspired by the recent kidnapping of Burke Elbrick in Brazil.

The police themselves were vulnerable. When the police chief decided that the children of Jorge Batlle, grandnephew of the great Batlle, should be protected, he sent around two policemen armed with .38 Colt revolvers. Batlle spoke with the men and learned that they had never fired their guns. Policemen had to pay for their own ammunition, and these two could not afford the cost. Batlle bought each of them six bullets.

Mitrione also had to deal with another Uruguayan custom. Confronting a criminal, the policeman was trained to fire in the air. He was justified in returning gunfire but never in initiating it. That restriction had to be removed.

With Mitrione in charge, Montevideo, like Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, experienced a marked increase in U. S. equipment, especially tear gas, gas masks, and police batons for crowd control. More important, however, was the change in attitude.

When a police commissioner named Juan Maria Lucas had studied at the IPA, Mitrione had been one of his teachers. Upon hearing of Mitrione's appointment to Montevideo, he called together his assistants, including Benitez, and told them, "Now we have someone who will support us in our activities."

As it had in Brazil, Mitrione's assignment also led to an increase in the number of Uruguayans sent to the United States for training. But these days all students did not spend their time entirely at the IPA or the CIA's IPSS in Washington. In their fifth week, some were sent to Los Fresnos, Texas, where they were taught to build bombs.

The instruction at Los Fresnos became particularly embarrassing to the Office of Public Safety later on, when the press learned that the CIA had been running those courses. OPS said that it had asked the U. S. Army to give the training but the Pentagon had refused. "Maybe they didn't have room for it at any of their bases" was one OPS official's best explanation.

The obvious answer was more accurate. Intelligence agents at the Pentagon had picked up traces of what the CIA was doing, and they wanted to keep the army uninvolved. The instructors at the Texas school, however, were Green Berets.

Except for one detail, OPS could have had an unassailable explanation for sending students to Los Fresnos. By now the world had entered upon a time of bombs and bomb threats. Public opinion might have readily accepted the argument that any nation's policemen needed training in the defusing and demolition of bombs. The problem for OPS was that the CIA's course at Los Fresnos did not teach men how to destroy bombs, only how to build them.

The instruction was called T.A.I.; in English, Investigation of Terrorist Activities. The students were required to sign oaths of secrecy, and to live at the camp, under permanent guard, in tents on the isolated Texas plain. Their course began with a review of various explosives, including C-3 and C-4 plastic bombs, and a scientific analysis of TNT. The students were instructed in fuses-how to light them, how to time them. To overcome their fears, they were made to put dynamite under their shirts and walk toward the camp with the detonator set.

Next the students had to race the clock, setting a charge against a gas tank or a telephone pole in a specified number of minutes. They learned to catapult bombs. Practicing on the camp fence, they were shown how to cut through steel. In the clear Texas air, they blew up jeeps carrying cans of gasoline.

The students were called guerrillas, and they were told, This is what guerrillas do. Given that instruction, it was not surprising that Byron Engle later denied that IPA students had been shown The Battle of Algiers, with its scenes of policemen excusing themselves from a dinner party to go off to bomb a rebel's house.

Then grenades: ten or so for each student to lob at gasoline cans or old cars. Next: the Clammier anti-personnel mines, a staple of the Vietnam war. Filled with long nails, one mine could wound a dozen men at five hundred yards. Finally, the thirty students of the course, all from Central and South America, were given a major assignment: blow up a convoy of trucks; hit a gas depot surrounded by booby traps; interrupt enemy communications by slipping past sentinels and knocking over telephone poles. The director of the IPA and a cadre of Green Berets sometimes oversaw these commencement exercises.

At the end of the course, one student who asked his hosts why the training had been given was told: "The United States thinks that the moment will come when in each of the friendly countries, they could use a student of confidence-who has become a specialist in explosives; that is why the different governments have chosen their favorite persons."

Mitrione sent at least seven men to take the CIA's course in Los Fresnos. Among them was Inspector Lucas, who had hailed Mitrione's arrival in Montevideo. Another was Subcommissioner Benitez, who hated the Tupamaros from the bottom of his heart and at the top of his lungs.

During this period, the CIA stations of Latin America's Southern Cone entered into a period of even greater cooperation. The Western Hemisphere Division had always been an active liaison office. In 1964, when the CIA's Office of Finance in Washington could not secure enough Chilean escudos for its election campaign against Salvador Allende, it set up regional purchasing offices in Buenos Aires, Rio, Lima, and Montevideo.

Helping out in that emergency, Philip Agee had contacted the assistant manager of the Montevideo branch of the First National City Bank of New York, who was also a CIA agent, and he sent men to Santiago to buy $100,000 in escudos. Those bills were then sent back into Chile via the U. S. embassy's diplomatic pouch.

In the late 1960s, that CIA network began handling matters more sensitive than illegal money. The agency was putting Brazilian, Argentinian, and Uruguayan military and police officers in touch with each other for training in wire tapping and other intelligence procedures, and for supplies of explosives and untraceable guns. Those contacts also led to the surveillance, the harassment, and finally the assassination of political exiles. Between the time Allende was elected president of Chile and his overthrow in 1973, the CIA arranged similar meetings between the Brazilian right wing and Chilean army and police officials opposed to Allende.

Members of Brazil's Death Squads were introduced to the police in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. After he shot Carlos Marighela in November 1969, Sergio Fleury of Sao Paulo became celebrated among Uruguayan police. He met with groups of them, on at least two occasions through CIA contacts.

One Uruguayan police official, proudly nationalistic, resented the way in which U. S. intelligence operators seemed to be melding the intelligence services of the Southern Cone into one interlocking apparatus. He was convinced that given Uruguay's small size and its position between Argentina and Brazil, this surrendering of autonomy would one day prove harmful to his country. If this work was so valuable in stopping communism, he wondered, why did the CIA officers take such care that their role be secret? For example, a high-ranking official from Argentina's Ministry of Justice arrived in Montevideo to discuss ways of monitoring the two countries' political exiles. A CIA man had arranged that particular meeting, then found an excuse for not attending it.

The Uruguayan, who understood the concept of "deniability," wondered why a U. S. intelligence officer should feel his country's reputation was more valuable than Uruguay's. Another point gnawed at him as well. The turning over of Uruguayan intelligence to the CIA was treason. Despite the motive, despite its expressed goal of allowing the CIA to help protect Uruguay against subversion, it was still treason.

But the official, until he retired, never spoke out. When he did, many years later, it was nervously and after exacting repeated promises of anonymity. Had he complained earlier, he could never have been sure whether a colleague agreed with him or pretended to agree and immediately picked up the phone to call his CIA contact.


... Mitrione brought a new spirit of dedication and expertise to police work. In the land of manana, he never postponed today's work to tomorrow.

That much had been true of Mitrione ten years ago, but he was different in 1969, heavier, tougher than he had been

in Belo Horizonte, very knowing about the ways of U. S. intelligence overseas, and totally committed to the policeman, his miseries, his poor pay, his war on subversives.

Over the years, Mitrione had raised his sights. Measuring himself against the average police adviser had given him considerable confidence, and in Brazil he had learned to cooperate with those CIA officials who he felt were the real leaders in the fight against communism. He could believe that in Rio he had earned their respect, as in Montevideo Adolph Saenz had not.

Was it far-fetched to speculate that when J. Edgar Hoover finally retired from the FBI, his successor might be a former Midwestern police chief with international experience? Mitrione's loyal family saw nothing impossible about that vision. Naturally, any such extraordinary promotion would depend on Mitrione's success in quelling the Tupamaros. He was now forty-nine. This assignment could be the best, the last, chance of his life.

Mitrione had been chief police adviser only nine months when a respected Uruguayan weekly ran an issue with one word on the cover: Torturada. The magazine, Marcha, was reporting the results of an investigation by liberal members of the Uruguayan Senate who had found that the police were systematically torturing suspected Tupamaros. The methods would not have surprised a Brazilian prisoner- electric needles under the fingernails; electric shocks along the body, particularly on the captive's sexual organs.

Mitrione filed a report of the Senate's findings to the Office of Public Safety in Washington without explanation or elaboration. But in the EVALUATION section, he wrote: "One major problem seems to be that the general public considers the fight one between the police and the extremists, and are not too concerned about it. Until they realize that the activities of the extremists threaten their pursuit of social, political, and economic betterment and assist the police by providing information and stop playing ostrich, the situation will not improve in the foreseeable future."

Under RECOMMENDATIONS, Mitrione wrote: 'None.

One day a story about Mitrione's toughness passed through the ranks at the jefatura, and Benitez noted it. Mitrione had watched a trade-union official, the head of the bank workers, come to the jefatura during a strike and observed the man in his dealings with the police clerks. Then Mitrione offered his ideas on how to break a man like that.

He had always emphasized finding out as much as possible about a prisoner before the interrogation began. Learn the suspect's breaking point and reach it quickly, he told the interrogating officers. Like them, he was not a brute. He wanted the questioning over as soon as possible.

In the case of the labor leader, Mitrione said: Undress him completely and force him to stand facing the wall. Then have one of the youngest policemen goose him. Afterward, put him into a cell and hold him for three days with nothing to drink. On the third day, pass through to him a pot of water mixed with urine.

In Richmond, Indiana, it was hardly credible that Dan Mitrione would advocate that kind of behavior, particularly with its sexual overtones. But Mitrione had been out of the United States for most of ten years, and the police forces of Latin America were filled with youngsters barely out of their teens. Sexual joking was endemic, along with what sergeants in the U. S. Army called grab-assing. Standing guard duty at the jefatura, a young Montevideo policeman could expect his colleagues to make false passes at his genitals, to tease him about being attracted to men, to pat his buttocks mockingly. It went on all the time. So when Mitrione urged a method for breaking the control of an arrogant suspect, he was only talking to his students in the terms they knew best.

For all his curiosity about Mitrione, Benitez never saw him torture a prisoner. He knew, though, that Mitrione directed certain interrogations; and as the equipment for torture became more sophisticated, he gave credit for the change to the chief U. S. police adviser.

According to the notes Benitez was keeping, when Mitrione arrived in Montevideo, the police were torturing prisoners with a rudimentary electric needle that had come from Argentina. Mitrione arranged for the police to get newer electric needles of varying thickness. Some needles were so thin they could be slipped between the teeth. Benitez understood that this equipment came to Montevideo inside the U. S. embassy's diplomatic pouch. 4=

Philip Agee could have informed Benitez that the CIA routinely sent its equipment through the pouch. Even a lie detector, large as a suitcase, came to a CIA station trussed up and sacrosanct from Uruguayan inspection within the pouch. Audio and bugging equipment came the same way.

The Technical Services Division made ingenious use of the abundant technological skills in the United States, giving support to every agency division and supplying experts in listening devices, lock-picking, and photography. It also supplied containers with hidden compartments, methods for secretly opening and closing letters, tools for invisible writing. It provided disguises, as the world found out when a former CIA officer named Howard Hunt wore a red wig supplied by the agency to call on an ailing female ITT executive.

Under the direction of psychologist James Keehner, TSD had devised personality tests with geometric designs to merge with other data and form psychological profiles. The CIA maintained 30,000 of those dossiers. (The one on Fidel Castro noted that he kept his pants on while having sex.) The tests could establish a good deal more about a person: whether or not he was moral; whether he would be more loyal to a person than to a cause; what sort of torture would be the most effective against him. TSD also tested hallucinogenic drugs; the news of those experiments, and the death that resulted from them, was revealed only after two decades of secrecy.

Keehner observed that most CIA employees were the type of people who could compartmentalize their work in their minds. "They can do horrible things all day," he told a reporter, but only after he had left TSD, "and then go home and forget about it."

In the Montevideo jefatura, it was a badly kept secret that TSD maintained a support office in Panama, which supplied emergency riot guns and tear gas to Latin American armies and police forces. Under Pacheco, Montevideo's Metropolitan Guard was shooting so much gas that its leaders were constantly badgering their U. S. contacts for more from the Panama depot. The weaponry was secretly stowed aboard the military aircraft that flew to Montevideo, flights that often also carried groceries-eggs and bread-for U. S. officials who refused to eat the local products.

It was less well known that the Technical Services Division operated another office in Buenos Aires. Only a few Uruguayan police officers learned that the improved torture equipment, the wires and the generators, as well as such explosives as Bardesio's gelignite, passed through that TSD office in Argentina.

When it came to the interrogation of Tupamaros, Mitrione conveyed his instructions through a few such high-ranking Uruguayans as Lucas. But if Benitez never saw Mitrione actually inside the torture room at the jeiatura, others did. After Mitrione's murder, male and female prisoners at Uruguay's jails traded stories about his participation in the torture. Usually those were secondhand accounts repeated to convince a doubter that the Tupamaros had been justified in killing Mitrione.

The more reliable information about his activities came from Uruguayan policemen themselves. One officer later recalled Mitrione coming into the third-floor room, probably inadvertently, while the police were administering electric shocks to a Tupamaro suspect. Mitrione had come in only for a minute, to ask for other information. The prisoner heard Mitrione's voice and shouted a vile insult against all Yankees.

The officer who observed the incident said that Mitrione did not seem angry. It was for that reason that his behavior was talked about, as evidence of his admirable control. He simply glanced over at the man getting the picana applied under his fingernails. The Uruguayan police officer took that look to mean: They can say what they like, but we have our own ways of answering them.

Another time, the Montevideo police unwittingly brought in a young woman who, while in fact a Tupamaro sympathizer, was also a friend of Alejandro Otero's. In the course of the interrogation, she was tortured severely. Upon her release, she contacted Otero and told him that Mitrione had watched and assisted in her torture. For Otero, that was the breaking point. For four years, he had known of intermittent torture; but with Mitrione's arrival, it had intensified. Otero rejected torture on pragmatic grounds: it only radicalized both the police and the Tupamaros. Some of the police supported that reasoning; others, the chief of police among them, sided with the norte-amencano.

After all, Otero's methods had not worked. Once, as he was standing beside Secretary of State Dean Rusk on a ceremonial occasion in Montevideo, his squad had allowed a young man to dash up to Rusk and spit in his face. The Tupamaros had been spitting in the face of Uruguay's police long enough.

All the same, Otero, who was vain, who was troublesome, who could be lax and indolent, was not a torturer. Philip Agee had never heard of him torturing a prisoner, nor had anyone else. He was no hero, and sometimes he had turned his back while other policemen beat a prisoner. But torture seemed to offend Otero, and he was doubly affronted when he went to Mitrione to complain about the abuse of this woman, his amiga.

Mitrione heard him out impassively. He had the weight of his own government, and Otero's, on his side. Soon after their meeting, Otero-in his words-was put on ice.

Only a few months later, Otero gambled his career on one reckless attempt at vindication. He told a man, a reporter, about the torture of his amiga, and that indiscretion began an unraveling that would shut down the entire U. S. police advisory program.


For the last six years, Uruguayan liberals, even those with no admiration for the Tupamaros, had apprehensively watched the developments in Brazil. Arriving in Montevideo, their Brazilian friends would step from the plane and breathe deeply. "It's wonderful," they would say, "to be in a democracy again." But with the Tupamaros as his excuse, President Pacheco had been using the police and the army to tighten his control over Uruguay, until these days the air in Montevideo was not so free. Moreover, looming above the Uruguayans was the constant threat of Brazil's powerful military apparatus. Already Brazilian agents disguised as shepherds and farmers had crossed the northern border on scouting raids. The Uruguayans knew that if one morning Brazil were to invade them, their country could be subdued before lunch.

Yet that same harsh Brazilian government had shown on four separate occasions that it was willing to trade political prisoners to save a diplomat's life. If Pacheco balked at this trade, surely Brazil could bring enough force to change his mind.

The Tupamaros also expected that when Mitrione's activities with the police were exposed, even apolitical Uruguayans would concede that he was as natural a target as Moran Charquero or Inspector Juan Maria Lucas, who had been badly wounded by a Tupamaro bullet.

After the exchange of prisoners, Mitrione would be sent back to the United States in disgrace, and U. S. assistance to Uruguay's police would be at an end.

The case of Gordon Jones was different. A young man of considerable self-confidence, he had stirred himself out of the embassy's closed society to meet with a range of Uruguayans. Given Montevideo's temper at the time, many of his acquaintances were either Tupamaros or their friends, who expected that Jones, so knowledgeable and opinionated, would have a great deal to tell them during his days of captivity. Also, Jones had just become the father of twins. The Tupamaro cell, which did not foresee a bloody ending any more than Elbrick's abductors had, thought that the large families of two of their victims, and this new family of Jones, would be another reason for the Uruguayan government to yield to their condition.

Left to himself, Jorge Pacheco Areco probably would not have agreed to release the 150 prisoners the Tupamaros were demanding. Even his political backers did not claim that he was a compassionate man. Consequently, he announced that his government regarded the Tupamaro prisoners as common thieves and killers. Constitutionally, he said, he could not release them. However, better lawyers than Pacheco pointed out that since the president had the power of pardon, the 1 SO prisoners could be on the next flight to Algiers.

But the decision was not entirely Pacheco's. At the time that Elbrick was kidnapped, Richard Nixon's administration was less than a year old, and it had not formulated a policy for dealing with this new guerrilla tactic. In urging the prisoner exchange for the ambassador's release, the U. S. embassy in Rio had acted largely on its own. Its pressures were taken as representing Washington's policy when Washington had no policy.

Now the seizing of Dan A. Mitrione set off a great deal of discussion at the State Department about establishing one standard line for these cases. At first, Secretary Rogers and his chief aides considered this criterion: If the host country had carried out normal responsibilities for protection, then Washington would discourage the payment of any ransom.

But that still left the U. S. government judging each kidnapping separately. What Washington needed was an iron-clad rule, especially since individual victims were likely to be well known to the top echelon at State-or, rather, the ambassadors and the CIA station chiefs would be known. As Alexis Johnson said afterward, there would never have been occasion for him to meet Dan Mitrione.

The dilemma was resolved when word came down from the White House that President Nixon adamantly opposed any trade or deal with the rebels of any nation.

The United States now had a policy. Held beneath the earth in a basement prison in Montevideo, Dan Mitrione did not know that he would be the first sacrifice to Richard I Nixon's show of strength.

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