Kissinger hindered U.S. effort to end mass killings in Argentina, according to files

The Guardian reports: Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger jeopardized US efforts to stop mass killings by Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship by congratulating the country’s military leaders for “wiping out” terrorism, according to a large trove of newly declassified state department files.

The documents, which were released on Monday night, show how Kissinger’s close relationship to Argentina’s military rulers hindered Jimmy Carter’s carrot-and-stick attempts to influence the regime during his 1977-81 presidency.

Carter officials were infuriated by Kissinger’s attendance at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina as the personal guest of dictator Jorge Videla, the general who oversaw the forced disappearance of up to 30,000 opponents of the military regime.

At the time, Kissinger was no longer in office after Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election, but the documents reveal that US diplomats feared his praise for Argentina’s crackdown would encourage further bloodshed. [Continue reading…]

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Former Argentine president on trial for bombing cover-up

The Associated Press reports: On the home page of Argentina’s largest Jewish community center is a counter that keeps track of the “days of impunity” since a bomb ripped through the organization’s central building, causing it to collapse and leaving 85 dead amid the rubble.

On Thursday, 7,689 days since the 1994 attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, former President Carlos Menem, a former top judge and several others will go on trial for allegedly derailing the investigation.

Prosecutors have accused Iranian officials of being behind the bombing. But no one has been convicted in this South American country’s worst terrorist attack, which many Argentines believe has come to symbolize an inept and corrupt justice system that operates at the whims of politicians and can be bought off.

“After 21 years of no justice, deception and defrauding the families (of victims), we hope that the truth will emerge about everyone who plotted to cover up and derail the investigation,” said Olga Degtiar, whose son was killed in the blast.

The 13 facing charges include two former prosecutors, a former top intelligence official, former police officers, a Jewish community leader and a mechanic who owned the truck carrying the explosives. The charges carry between three and 15 years.

The trial, expected to go on for months, will focus on how and why Menem and the others might have wanted to bury the initial investigation. Testimony will likely delve into geopolitics of the 1990s, and even into Menem’s Syrian ancestry and how that might have influenced him. [Continue reading…]

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Argentina’s president formally charged over alleged terrorist attack cover-up

The Guardian reports: Formal charges were brought against Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on Friday, in connection with her alleged role in covering up the country’s worst terrorist attack.

The charges against Fernández, brought by prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita, are the latest developments in the political earthquake set off by the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Pollicita acted on the 289-page criminal complaint against the president that Nisman made public on 14 January, four days before he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in his Buenos Aires apartment.

Nisman had been scheduled to present his findings to Congress the next day, accusing Fernández of secretly conspiring with Iran in trying to derail a criminal investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires which killed 85 people.

Nisman had alleged that Fernández entered into “an alliance with terrorists” starting in 2011 to exonerate five Iranian suspects from responsibility in the Amia Jewish community centre bombing. [Continue reading…]

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Draft of arrest warrant for Argentine president found at dead prosecutor’s home

The New York Times reports: Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor whose mysterious death has gripped Argentina, had drafted a request for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accusing her of trying to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here, the lead investigator into his death said Tuesday.

The 26-page document, which was found in the garbage at Mr. Nisman’s apartment, also sought the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. Both Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman have repeatedly denied Mr. Nisman’s accusation that they tried to reach a secret deal with Iran to lift international arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the bombing.

The new revelation that Mr. Nisman had drafted documents seeking the arrest of the president and the foreign minister illustrates the heightened tensions between the prosecutor and the government before he was found dead on Jan. 18 at his apartment with a gunshot wound to his head. He had been scheduled the next day to provide details before Congress about his accusations against Mrs. Kirchner. [Continue reading…]

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Argentinian prosecutor feared pro-government fanatics, says employee

The Guardian reports: The Argentinian prosecutor who was found dead after accusing the country’s president of conspiring to cover up the country’s deadliest terror attack was more afraid of fanatical government sympathisers than foreign terrorists, according to the last person known to have spoken to him before his death.

Alberto Nisman was found lying in a pool of blood in his bathroom on 18 January – the day before he was due to formally present to Congress his allegation that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had plotted to cover up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre that killed 85 people.

Diego Lagomarsino, who lent Nisman the gun which killed him, said the lawyer confided his fears in an emotional encounter in which he also expressed his suspicions of his own security detail and fears for the safety of his two daughters.

“He wasn’t afraid of terrorists. He was afraid of fanatics who might attack his car with sticks while he was driving his daughters,” the 38-year-old told The Guardian.

In his first media interview since he handed himself in to the courts for questioning, Lagomarsino – an IT specialist at Nisman’s office – gave a detailed account of his relationship with the late prosecutor and their last meeting. [Continue reading…]

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Fear and loathing: Argentina’s infamous spy agency

BBC News reports: The death in Argentina of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found with a bullet in his head hours before presenting evidence before Congress against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has led to plans to overhaul Argentina’s infamous intelligence service.

Days after Mr Nisman’s body was found on 18 January, Ms Fernandez said his death was part of an intelligence “operation” to harm her government.

On Monday, Ms Fernandez announced the creation of a new body to replace the Intelligence Secretariat (SI), more widely known by its previous initials, Side.

She said the leadership of the new Federal Intelligence Agency would be chosen by the government but would be subject to senate approval.

“We must work to reform the Argentine intelligence system because the one we have has not served the interests of the nation,” she announced in a national address.

The SI is one of Argentina’s most feared and hated state agencies. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Argentina’s government on Wednesday cast greater suspicion on an aide to Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor whose mysterious death this month has shaken the country, by describing the aide as an intelligence operative — adding to its assertions that rogue spies were involved in the events around Mr. Nisman’s death.

“This kid’s situation is starting to look worrisome,” Aníbal Fernández, the president’s chief of staff, told reporters here Wednesday morning, referring to the aide, Diego Lagomarsino, 35.

Mr. Lagomarsino worked in the prosecutor’s investigative unit as an information technology consultant and lent Mr. Nisman the .22-caliber Bersa pistol used in his death, investigators say. [Continue reading…]

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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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Journalist who broke news of prosecutor’s death flees Argentina

Reuters reports: The first journalist to report on the death of a Argentine state prosecutor, who was investigating the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, said on Saturday that he had fled Argentina fearing for his life.

“I’m leaving because my life is in danger. My phones are tapped,” Damian Pachter, a journalist with the Buenos Aires Herald, told the website Infobae.

The website carried a photograph of Pachter, wearing a cap and carrying sunglasses, at the airport before he boarded an Aerolineas Argentinas flight.

Telam, an Argentine state-run news agency, reported that the flight was bound for neighboring Uruguay.

“I’m going to come back to this country when my sources tell me the conditions have changed. I don’t think that will be during this government,” Patcher told Infobae. [Continue reading…]

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Argentina’s government claims former spy was involved in prosecutor’s death

The New York Times reports: Argentina’s government asserted on Friday that an ousted spymaster was involved in the murky events around the death of the prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s chief of staff claiming that the prosecutor did not even write a complaint accusing her and top aides of subverting his inquiry.

“It contains horrors that are impossible to commit from a legal point of view,” Aníbal Fernández, the president’s chief of staff, said in a telephone interview referring to the 289-page complaint filed by Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor found dead here from a gunshot wound to the head on Sunday, the day before he was to testify before lawmakers about his accusations.

The death of Mr. Nisman, 51, who had been investigating for a decade the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in which 85 people were killed, has upended Argentina’s political establishment, exposing Mrs. Kirchner to a barrage of criticism over the prosecutor’s accusations while revealing upheaval in Argentina’s main intelligence agency. [Continue reading…]

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Prosecutor’s death was not suicide, says Argentina’s president

Reuters reports: Alberto Nisman was working hard preparing for a congressional hearing on his claim that Argentina’s president tried to whitewash Iran’s involvement in a bombing attack that killed 85 people, a make-or-break day in his career as prosecutor.

In the spotlight since leveling his hefty accusations last week, Nisman needed to make a convincing case, based on a decade of work with spy agencies around the world.

So he put in the extra hours at his Buenos Aires apartment on Saturday. Friends described him as upbeat and determined ahead of his appearance and he was scheduling interviews with journalists for the coming days. He also reportedly wrote up a list of groceries he would ask his maid to buy on Monday.

But Nisman, 51, never made it to Monday. He was killed by a bullet to the head and his body found on the floor of his bathroom on Sunday night.

Officials initially said he apparently committed suicide with a 22 caliber gun borrowed from a distant colleague, and a source close to the judicial investigation who visited the scene told Reuters there was so much blood that no one could have left it without leaving a trace.

But from day one, most Argentines, including his family and friends, refused to believe Nisman committed suicide. The timing was too suspicious, the circumstances of his death too mysterious, and they say he was simply not that kind of man.

“No one believes the suicide hypothesis,” said one person on Nisman’s investigative team, who declined to be named for fear of repercussions and preferred not to use his cellphone, believing it was tapped.

“He was very convinced of his ideas and prepared to see them through. He had received threats all his life and it never intimidated him,” he told Reuters.

Even President Cristina Fernandez [de Kirchner] has come around to that view, saying on Thursday that she was “convinced” it was not a suicide. People had led him astray in his investigation in order to smear her name and then “needed him dead”, she said.

She did not, however, say who ordered his death and no arrests have been made. [Continue reading…]

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Phone calls detail Argentina’s efforts to shield Iran

The New York Times reports: Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994.

The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack. Mr. Nisman was found dead in his luxury apartment on Sunday, the night before he was to present his findings to Congress.

But the intercepted telephone conversations he described before his death outline an elaborate effort to reward Argentina for shipping food to Iran — and for seeking to derail the investigation into a terrorist attack in the Argentine capital that killed 85 people.

The deal never materialized, the complaint says, in part because Argentine officials failed to persuade Interpol to lift the arrest warrants against Iranian officials wanted in Argentina in connection with the attack.

The phone conversations are believed to have been intercepted by Argentine intelligence officials. If proved accurate, the transcripts would show a concerted effort by representatives of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government to shift suspicions away from Iran in order to gain access to Iranian markets and to ease Argentina’s energy troubles. [Continue reading…]

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Before ‘suicide,’ Argentine prosecutor left a note — not a suicide note, but a shopping list

There is still a lot of skepticism being voiced about whether the Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, committed suicide or was murdered. Although his body was found inside and blocking the bathroom in which he died, there are no reports of him leaving a suicide note which might have explained what happened. Instead, he apparently left his maid a shopping list for groceries. Why would a man contemplating his own death, be concerned about running out of food?

The Guardian reports: Few believe it was suicide, although that is the version the government immediately espoused. “How can we know what went through the prosecutor’s head at that moment?”, asked the presidential secretary, Aníbal Fernández, on Monday morning speaking to the press.

Those with longer memories recall a tradition of political “suicides” in Argentina going back decades, including the mysterious death of Juan Duarte, the brother of the legendary Evita Perón, who was “suicided” in 1953, less than a year after his sister had died of cancer, a death that some versions say was related to the post-war transfer of Nazi funds to Argentina.

Nisman’s death has reverberated through the country. News coverage has been round the clock and the two top trending topics on Twitter in Argentina are #MuerteDeNisman (Death of Nisman) and #CFKAsesina (CFK Murderer).

Journalists who had spoken with Nisman in the past few days found him anything but suicidal. The prosecutor was due to speak to a special committee of congress on Monday to reveal more details of his intercepts.

To one journalist, Nisman said he had revealed only 5% so far of what he had discovered.

The New York Times reports: Facing a public outcry over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor leading the investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center here, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her allies lashed out at the dead man on Tuesday, questioning whether he had allied himself with forces seeking to weaken her government.

In a rambling 2,100-word letter posted on her Facebook page, Mrs. Kirchner, whom Mr. Nisman had accused of orchestrating a cover-up to protect Iranian officials implicated in the bombing in exchange for Iranian oil, said that Mr. Nisman had been part of an effort to “sidetrack, lie, cover up and confuse” attempts to finally resolve the case.

The attacks on Mr. Nisman after his death, including assertions in the state-controlled news media that he had been manipulated by Antonio Stiusso, a former intelligence official ousted last month by Mrs. Kirchner, raised questions here on whether her government was supporting efforts to determine the cause of his death. [Continue reading…]

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Did Iran murder Argentina’s crusading prosecutor Alberto Nisman?

Christopher Dickey reports: Since 2005 Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has been crusading for his vision of justice in the horrific 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. He claimed that Iran was behind it and, more recently, that the Argentine government was trying to block his efforts to prove that.

On Sunday night, Nisman was found dead in his apartment, only hours before he was set to testify before an Argentine parliamentary commission about his allegations.

The circumstances revealed thus far by the police suggest a suicide. The history of Iran’s operations overseas inevitably suggest otherwise. And there are disturbing echoes of the world 20 or 30 years ago when Tehran, often in league with its clients in Hezbollah, waged a global war on the enemies of the Islamic Republic, deploying hit teams second only to the Israelis in their skill at assassination. [Continue reading…]

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