Reining in Argentina’s spymasters

Horacio Verbitsky writes: On Jan. 14, a prosecutor named Alberto Nisman accused Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, of covering up Iran’s alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack.

Mr. Nisman was found dead four days later, just hours before he was scheduled to present his findings to Argentina’s Congress. Newspaper headlines around the world suggest that the government is somehow responsible for one of these tragedies or both. I don’t buy it.

Before he was found with a bullet in his head, Mr. Nisman had spent almost a decade investigating the worst terrorist attack in Argentina’s history — the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people in July 1994. His death shocked the country and deflected attention from his 290-page accusatory affidavit. The opposition saw the congressional hearing as a weapon against the government; the ruling party, meanwhile, was preparing to poke holes in the affidavit.

The media is now leaking fragments of 5,000 hours of intelligence wiretaps, in which neither the president nor the foreign minister make an appearance. Also, rumors abound about whether Mr. Nisman was murdered or killed himself.

Mrs. Kirchner has flip-flopped between assuming it was a suicide and, later, suggesting it was not. It is an election year and although she cannot run for another term, her vacillating has not helped her party.

Speculation aside, it is important to question the accuracy of the charges made in the affidavit itself, which points a finger at Iran. The document, which has been published online in Spanish, is self-contradictory. [Continue reading…]

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