mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


Operation Condor


Hello, I’m Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco, and welcome to Spotlight,
Link TV’s investigative news show, featuring documentaries from around the
world, reporting stories usually missed by American television.


This week, our spotlight is on US-funded assassination squads in
South America.

In the name of fighting terrorism in the 1970s, military
dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia
secretly collaborated to hunt down and eliminate each other’s political
opponents. Tens of thousands of suspected leftists were kidnapped,
tortured and killed, including attacks in Europe and the United States.

In 1978, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Argentina “had
done an outstanding job of wiping out terrorist forces.” Which hints at
why American television may have avoided the story: this cross-border
operation, code-named Condor, was funded and applauded by the US

We’ll be back afterwards with an update. For now, from French
Television’s Channel 5 , here is “Investigating Operation Condor,” on
Link TV, your connection to the world.


Welcome back. You’re watching “Spotlight” on Link TV.

I’m Mark Hertsgaard.

The definitive book on Operation Condor was published by journalist
John Dinges in 2003. Titled The Condor Years, it draws on hundreds of
declassified U.S. government documents to prove that the CIA was in fact,
deeply involved in Operation Condor from the very beginning.

In 1975, just before Condor began, the CIA’s number two official,
Vernon Walters, met four times at CIA headquarters with Chile’s secret
police chief, Manuel Contreras. Contreras later received CIA funding. In
1976, the CIA learned months in advance about Condor’s plan to assassinate
former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier. But the CIA took no
action and Letelier was murdered in a car bombing on the streets of
Washington, D.C.

Dinges further reports that Condor also plotted to assassinate a U.S.
Congressman, Ed Koch, who later became Mayor of New York. But CIA director
George Bush the first did warn Koch, who was unharmed.

By 2005, an unrepentant Contreras was awaiting trial in Chile on human
rights charges. His old boss, 88 year old former dictator Augusto
Pinochet, had recently dodged similar trials by claiming to suffer
dementia. But in interviews, a remarkedly lucid Pinochet blamed any human
rights violations on his subordinates.

Determined not to take the fall, Contreras issued a report detailing
how Pinochet had ordered the deaths of Letelier and hundreds of others.
Meanwhile, a court in Chile lifted the former dictator’s immunity from
prosecution, clearing the way for a trial over a multimillion dollar secret
bank account of Pinochet’s that appalled even his right-wing supporters.

If you want to find out more about these issues, check out the
resources listed at the end of this program. You can also find those
resources at our website,

Following those listings you’ll see a clip from next week’s program.
Until then, this is Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco for
” Link TV Spotlight.” Thanks for joining us.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Book


By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did: leak top secret documents revealing that the US government was spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. But if you want to know why Snowden did it, the way he did it, you need to know the stories of two other men.

The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same surveillance ten years before Snowden did and got crushed. The other is The Third Man, a former senior Pentagon official who comes forward in this book for the first time to describe how his superiors repeatedly broke the law to punish Drakeā€”and unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches.

Pick up your copy at: | Barnes & Noble

About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.