The United States was involved in covert activities in Chile since the 1950's. As was mentioned, the CIA gave money and arms to groups in order to discredit Allende and later to overthrow him. CIA activities in Chile did not end when Pinochet took office. The CIA remained in Chile to monitor the situation. The information they gathered also concerned human rights' abuses.
The CIA was aware of violations in 1973, but in January of 1974, they gave contacts and agents in Chile orders to obtain information concerning suspected violations of human rights and attempt to influence the government to end all "repressive measures," especially torture. The US discovered that some of these contacts and agents were "involved in, knew about or covered up" human rights' abuses. The CIA "admonished" those involved and reported them according to procedure, but admitted that if their standards had been what they are today, many of these individuals would have been fired.
One of the contacts of the CIA was none other than Colonel Contreras. They intended to pay him, but due to an existing policy they discovered that they could not. However, there was a one-time payment that went through due to "miscommunications." The CIA wanted information about "Operation Condor," a coalition of anti-communist groups in Europe and other South American countries that arrested known leftists for repatriation and also monitored the movements of leftist guerillas. In 1976, the CIA approached Contreras and asked about "Operation Condor." The Colonel confirmed its existence but denied its involvement in the terrorism and assassinations abroad. They remained in contact with him even after they determined that he stood in the way of a fair human rights' policy in Chile. CIA contact with Contreras dwindled until his removal from the DINA in 1977.
On January 17, 1974, the Chilean government released a circular regarding policies for the capture and care of prisoners as dictated by th e 1949 Geneva Convention. The United States urged Contreras to get his agents to comply with the policies stated. It was later determined that this circular was a "public relations ruse."
There is some confusion as to what exactly the CIA knew in conjunction with the death of American Charles Horman Jr. Prior to his arrest, Horman went to the American embassy for assistance. They were not sure whether his request was sincere or whether it was part of a left-wing plot that he was involved in. Later, the CIA would claim that they did not know that Horman's life was in danger. Horman was captured in a routine military sweep and was found to be in possession of "extremist" papers. He was detained at the National Stadium in Santiago where he was interrogated and eventually shot. Horman did not have any papers on him and the Chilean officials involved in his kidnapping and death claimed they did not know that he was American even though he spoke poor Spanish and could not answer their questions. Some of the declassified CIA documents mention Colonel Rafael Augustin Gonzalez-Verdugo. Gonzalez claimed to have been present at Horman's sentencing. He mentioned another man who he believed to be American because of his "dress." The plaintiffs, Horman's family, deduced that this man was a CIA agent.
After the murders
of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit in Washington DC, the FBI launched
an investigation. They discovered that the man who had built the bomb was
an American born man who had moved to Chile in the 1960's. Townley, always
interested in the right-wing organizations that had started under Allende's
presidency, was quick to join the DINA and shortly became one of its prized
and most dedicated agents. He had attempted to get a job with the CIA in
Chile, "which initially considered using him as an operative, but never
pursued the contact." He did work, on occasion, as an informant for the
CIA. Of his role in the explosion Townley said, "He was a soldier, and
I was a soldier." I received an order, and I carried out the order to the
best of my ability." Eventually, he was convicted in the United States
and served three years in prison.