INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE Paris, Saturday, August 12, 2000 http://www.iht.com/IHT/TODAY/SAT/IN/cia.2.html By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post Service
WASHINGTON - After promising for months to make public a wealth of information about covert operations by the Central Intelligence Agency in Chile, senior CIA officials are refusing to give up hundreds of documents compiled under a declassification process ordered by President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Clinton announced the effort after General Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, was placed under house arrest in England in 1998. Mr. Clinton ordered agencies throughout the federal government to review and broadly make public secret U.S. documents relating to political violence and human rights abuses in Chile from 1968 to 1991.
But the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, decided this week against declassifying hundreds of documents culled from files and databases inside the agency's secretive Directorate of Operations. He based his decision on grounds that making them public them would reveal too much about CIA sources and methods.
An agency spokesman, Bill Harlow, said hundreds of other CIA documents would be released as scheduled Sept. 14, including some pertaining to covert operations in 1970 that were aimed at keeping Salvador Allende, a socialist, from taking the presidency. But agency officials have determined that hundreds of others, Mr. Harlow said, cannot be made public without damaging intelligence sources and operational methods.
Another senior intelligence official said that ''a compelling case has been made with regard to how methods would be affected'' if certain documents related to later covert activities in Chile were made public.
''No one is hiding a human rights abuse in what's left,'' the official said. ''This was not a frivolous decision. At the end of the day, we could only go so far.''
But the CIA's last-minute reluctance to make public the documents compiled by its own personnel has triggered criticism inside and outside the Clinton administration.
''We have built an inter-agency process to declassify as many documents as possible, consistent with protecting sources and methods,'' said P. J. Crowley, a spokesman for the National Security Council. ''Between now and next month, we will be pushing everyone involved to make sure we declassify as much as we can.''
Another administration official, demanding anonymity, offered a harsher assessment. ''The credibility of the whole project has been hurt by the way the CIA has handled it,'' the official said.
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