United States and state-sponsored terrorism
The United States of America has at various times in recent history provided support to terrorist and paramilitary organizations across the world. It has also provided assistance to numerous authoritarian regimes that have used state terrorism as a tool of repression.
United States support to non-state terrorists has been prominent in Latin America, the Middle-East, and Southern Africa. From 1981 to 1991, the United States provided weapons, training, and extensive financial and logistical support to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, who used terror tactics in their fight against the Nicaraguan government. At various points the United States also provided training, arms, and funds to terrorists among the Cuban exiles, such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.
Various reasons have been provided to justify such support. These include destabilizing political movements that might have aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, including popular democratic and socialist movements. Such support has also formed a part of the war on drugs. Support was also geared toward ensuring a conducive environment for American corporate interests abroad, especially when these interests came under threat from democratic regimes.
Kashmir Princess incident
On 11 April 1955 the “Kashmir Princess,” an Air India Constellation passenger airliner, was damaged in midair by a bomb explosion and crashed into the South China Sea while en route from Bombay, India, and Hong Kong to Jakarta, Indonesia. Sixteen of those on board were killed, while three survived. The explosion had been caused by a time bomb placed aboard the aircraft by a Kuomintang secret agent who was attempting to assassinate Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who had been scheduled to board the plane to attend the conference but had changed his travel plans at the last minute. The day after the crash, China's Foreign Ministry issued a statement that described the bombing as "a murder by the special service organizations of the United States and Chiang Kai-shek."
The Hong Kong authorities offered HK$100,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. They questioned 71 people connected with the servicing of the Air India flight. When police began to focus on Chow Tse-ming, a janitor for Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co., he stowed away to Taiwan on a CIA-owned Civil Air Transport aircraft. The Hong Kong police reported that a warrant charging a murder conspiracy was issued, but the man with the name Chow Tse-ming in the warrant had flown to Taiwan on 18 May 1955, and Chow Tse-ming had three aliases.
China had from the outset accused the United States of involvement in the bombing, but while the CIA had considered a plan to assassinate Zhou Enlai at this time, the Church Committee reported that these plans were disapproved of and "strongly censured" by Washington. In a 1971 face-to-face meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Zhou directly asked Henry Kissinger about US involvement in the bombing. Kissinger responded, "As I told the Prime Minister the last time, he vastly overestimates the competence of the CIA."
Years of Lead
The Years of Lead was a period of socio-political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the late 1960s into the early 1980s. This period was marked by a wave of terrorism carried out by both right- and left-wing paramilitary groups. It was concluded that the former were supported by the United States as a strategy of tension.
General Gianadelio Maletti, commander of the counter-intelligence section of the Italian military intelligence service from 1971 to 1975, stated that his men in the region of Venice discovered a right-wing terrorist cell that had been supplied with military explosives from Germany, and he alleged that US intelligence services instigated and abetted right-wing terrorism in Italy during the 1970s.
According to the investigations of the Italian judge Guido Salvini, the neo-fascist organizations involved in the strategy of tension, "La Fenice, Avanguardia nazionale, Ordine nuovo" were the "troops" of "occult armed forces", directed by components of the "state apparatus related to the CIA."
Piazza Fontana bombing
The Piazza Fontana Bombing was a terrorist attack that occurred on December 12, 1969 at 16:37, when a bomb exploded at the headquarters of Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura (National Agrarian Bank) in Piazza Fontana in Milan killing 17 people and wounding 88. The same afternoon, three more bombs were detonated in Rome and Milan, and another was found undetonated.
In 1998, Milan judge Guido Salvini indicted U.S. Navy officer David Carrett on charges of political and military espionage for his participation in the Piazza Fontana bombing et al. Salvini also opened up a case against Sergio Minetto, an Italian official of the U.S.-NATO intelligence network, and "collaboratore di giustizia" Carlo Digilio (Uncle Otto), who served as CIA coordinator in Northeastern Italy in the sixties and seventies. The newspaper la Repubblica reported that Carlo Rocchi, CIA's man in Milan was discovered in 1995 searching for information concerning Operation Gladio.
A 2000 parliamentary report published by the center-left Olive Tree coalition claimed that "U.S. intelligence agents were informed in advance about several right-wing terrorist bombings, including the December 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan and the Piazza della Loggia bombing in Brescia five years later, but did nothing to alert the Italian authorities or to prevent the attacks from taking place." It also alleged that Pino Rauti (current leader of the MSI Fiamma-Tricolore party), a journalist and founder of the far-right Ordine Nuovo (New Order) subversive organization, received regular funding from a press officer at the U.S. embassy in Rome. "So even before the 'stabilising' plans that Atlantic circles had prepared for Italy became operational through the bombings, one of the leading members of the subversive right was literally in the pay of the American embassy in Rome", the report says.
Paolo Emilio Taviani, the Christian Democrat co-founder of Gladio (NATO's stay-behind anti-Communist organization in Italy), told investigators that the SID military intelligence service was about to send a senior officer from Rome to Milan to prevent the bombing, but decided to send a different officer from Padua in order to put the blame on left-wing anarchists. Taviani also alleged in an August 2000 interview to Il Secolo XIX newspaper: "It seems to me certain, however, that agents of the CIA were among those who supplied the materials and who muddied the waters of the investigation."
Kidnapping attempt and assassination of General René Schneider
After leftist Salvador Allende's victory at the polls for presidency in Chile on 4 September 1970, the US Government and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were aware of and agreed with Chilean putschist officers’ assessment that the abduction of General René Schneider, the Chilean Army’s Commander in September 1970, was an essential step in any coup plan to prevent him from coming to power (or unseat him).
In the time between Allende's election and Allende's accession to the presidency on 4 November, the CIA dismissed putschist (retired) General Roberto Viaux's group as incompetent and supported General Camilo Valenzuela. His group was well known by the CIA-Station and was judged to have the capability to carry out a successful coup. CIA provided this group — which also saw the abduction of General Schneider as essential to any coup — with three submachine guns, ammunition, and 8 to 10 tear gas grenades on 22 October (the CIA asserts that these weapons were later returned unused to the Station) for the abduction of Rene Schneider. On October 22, 1970, two days before Allende's confirmation by Congress, the Viaux plotters attempted to kidnap Schneider. His official car was ambushed at a street intersection in Santiago de Chile. Schneider drew a gun to defend himself, and was shot point-blank several times. He was rushed to a military hospital, but the wounds proved fatal and he died three days later, on October 25. Valenzuela’s representative insisted his group had nothing to do with Schneider’s killing and that Viaux acted on his own. In November 1970 a member of the Viaux group who avoided capture recontacted the Agency and requested financial assistance on behalf of the group. The CIA asserts that "although the Agency had no obligation to the group because it acted on its own, in an effort to keep the prior contact secret, maintain the good will of the group, and for humanitarian reasons, $35,000 was passed".
Although contact with the Viaux group was ended, a cable from CIA headquarters to the Santiago station reveals that the CIA did arrange the delivery of submachine guns and ammunition to a group led by General Valenzuela; Schneider was shot later that same day. The weapons, along with $50,000, were later recovered by U.S. military attaché to Chile Colonel Wilmert after he "pistol-whipped" General Valenzuela, who at first refused to hand the money over. Wilmert then drove to Viña del Mar, where he threw the submachine guns into the Pacific Ocean.
From 1979 to 1990, the United States provided financial, logistical and military support to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, who used terrorist tactics in their war against the Nicaraguan government and carried out more than 1300 terrorist attacks. This support persisted despite widespread knowledge of the human rights violations committed by the Contras.
In 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the dictatorial regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and established a revolutionary government in Nicaragua. The Somoza dynasty had been receiving military and financial assistance from the United States since 1936. Following their seizure of power, the Sandinistas ruled the country first as part of a Junta of National Reconstruction, and later as a democratic government following free and fair elections in 1984.
The Sandinistas did not attempt to create a communist economic system; instead, their policy advocated a social democracy and a mixed economy. The government sought the aid of Western Europe, who were opposed to the U.S. embargo against Nicaragua, to escape dependency on the Soviet Union. However, the U.S. administration viewed the leftist Sandinista government as undemocratic and totalitarian under the ties of the Soviet-Cuban model and tried to paint the Contras as freedom fighters.
The Sandinista government headed by Daniel Ortega won decisively in the 1984 Nicaraguan elections. The national elections of 1984 were conducted during a state of emergency officially justified by the war fought against the Contras insurgents and the CIA-orchestrated bombings. Many political prisoners were still held as it took place, and none of the main opposition parties participated due to what they claimed were threats and persecution from the government. The 1984 election was for posts subordinate to the Sandinista Directorate, a body "no more subject to approval by vote than the Central Committee of the Communist Party is in countries of the East Bloc," and there was no secret ballot. The U.S. government explicitly planned to back the Contras, various rebel groups collectively that were formed in response to the rise of the Sandinistas, as a means to damage the Nicaraguan economy and force the Sandinista government to divert its scarce resources toward the army and away from social and economic programs.
The United States began to support Contra activities against the Sandinista government by December 1981, with the CIA at the forefront of operations. The CIA provided the Contras with planning and operational direction and assistance, weapons, food, and training, in what was described as the "most ambitious" covert operation in more than a decade. One of the purposes the CIA hoped to achieve by these operations was an aggressive and violent response from the Sandinista government which in turn could be used as a pretext for proper military actions.
The Contra campaign against the government included frequent and widespread acts of terror. The economic and social reforms enacted by the government enjoyed some popularity; as a result, the Contras attempted to disrupt these programs. This campaign included the destruction of health centers and hospitals that the Sandinista government had established, in order to disrupt their control over the populace. Schools were also destroyed, as the literacy campaign conducted by the government was an important part of its policy. The Contras also committed widespread kidnappings, murder, and rape; several thousand people, mostly civilians, were killed, and many more were "disappeared." The kidnappings and murder were a product of the "Low-Intensity Warfare" that the Reagan Doctrine prescribed as a way to disrupt social structures and gain control over the population. Also known as "unconventional warfare", advocated for and defined by the World Anti-Communist League's (WACL) retired U.S. Army Major General John Singlaub as, "low intensity actions, such as sabotage, terrorism, assassination and guerrilla warfare". In some cases, more indiscriminate killing and destruction also took place. The Contras also carried out a campaign of economic sabotage, and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua's Port of Corinto. The Reagan administration supported this by imposing a full trade embargo.
In the fiscal year 1984, the U.S. Congress approved $24 million in contra aid. However, the Reagan administration lost a lot of support for its Contra policy after CIA involvement in the mining of Nicaraguan ports became public knowledge, and a report of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research commissioned by the State Department found that Reagan had exaggerated claims about Soviet interference in Nicaragua. Congress cut off all funds for the contras in 1985 by the third Boland Amendment. As a result, the Reagan administration sought to provide funds through other sources. Between 1984 and 1986, $34 million was routed through third countries and $2.7 million through private sources. These funds were run through the National Security Council, by Lt. Col. Oliver North, who created an organization called "The Enterprise" which served as the secret arm of the NSC staff and had its own airplanes, pilots, airfield, ship, and operatives. It also received assistance from other government agencies, especially from CIA personnel in Central America. These efforts culminated in the Iran-Contra Affair of 1986–1987, which facilitated funding for the Contras through the proceeds of arms sales to Iran. Money was also raised for the Contras through drug trafficking, which the United States was aware of. Senator John Kerry's 1988 Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concluded that "senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras' funding problems".
Throughout the Nicaraguan civil war, the Reagan government conducted a campaign to shift public opinion in favor of support to the Contras, and to change the vote in Congress in favor of such support. For this purpose, the National Security Council authorized the production and distribution of publications looking favorably at the Contras, also known as "white propaganda," written by paid consultants who did not disclose their connection to the administration. It also arranged for speeches and press conferences conveying the same message. The U.S. government continually discussed the Contras in highly favorable terms; Reagan called them the "moral equivalent of the founding fathers." Another common theme the administration played on was the idea of returning Nicaragua to Democracy, which analysts characterized as "curious," because Nicaragua had been a U.S. supported dictatorship prior to the Sandinista revolution, and had never had a democracy. There were also continued efforts to label the Sandinistas as undemocratic despite the 1984 Nicaraguan elections being generally declared fair by historians. Commentators stated that this was all a part of an attempt to return Nicaragua to the state in which its Central American neighbors were; that is, where traditional social structures remained and U.S. "imperialist" ideas were not threatened. The investigation into the Iran Contra affair revealed information that led to the operation being called a massive exercise in psychological warfare.
The CIA wrote a manual for the Contras, entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerrillas), which focused mainly on how "Armed Propaganda Teams" could build political support in Nicaragua for the Contra cause through deceit, intimidation, and violence. The manual discussed assassinations. The CIA claimed that the purpose of the manual was to "moderate" the extreme violence already being used by the Contras.
Leslie Cockburn writes that the CIA, and therefore indirectly the U.S. government and President Reagan, were encouraging Contra terrorism by issuing the manual to the contras violating Reagan's own Presidential Directive.
The manual, Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, clearly advocated a strategy of terror as the means to victory over the hearts and minds of Nicaraguans. Chapter headings such as ‘Selective Use of Violence for propagandistic Effects' and ‘Implicit and Explicit Terror' made that fact clear enough. ... The little booklet thus violated President Reagan's own Presidential Directive 12333, signed in December 1981, which prohibited any U.S. government employee—including the CIA—from having anything to do with assassinations.
International Court of Justice ruling
In 1984 the Nicaraguan government filed a suit in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States. Nicaragua stated that the contras were completely created and managed by the U.S. Although this claim was rejected, the court found overwhelming and undeniable evidence of a very close relationship between the Contras and the United States. The U.S. was found to have had a very large role in providing financial support, training, weapons, and other logistical support to the Contras over a lengthy period of time, and that this support was essential to the Contras.
In 1984, the ICJ ordered that the United States should stop mining Nicaraguan harbors, and that the U.S. should respect Nicaraguan sovereignty. A few months later the court ruled that it had jurisdiction in the case, contrary to what the U.S. had argued. The ICJ found that the U.S. had encouraged violations of international humanitarian law by assisting paramilitary actions in Nicaragua. The court also criticized the production of a manual on psychological warfare by the U.S. and its dissemination of the Contras. The manual, amongst other things, provided advice on rationalizing the killing of civilians, and on targeted murder. The manual also included an explicit description of the use of "implicit terror."
Having initially argued that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction in the case, the United States withdrew from the proceedings in 1985. The court eventually ruled in favor of Nicaragua, and judged that the United States was required to pay reparations for its violation of International law. The U.S. used its veto on the United Nations Security Council to block the enforcement of the ICJ judgement, and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any compensation.
The United States government provided support to several Cuban exiles after the success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, especially under the administration of George H. W. Bush. Among the most prominent of these were Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who were implicated in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane. Bosch was also held to be responsible for 30 other terrorist acts, while Carriles was a former CIA agent convicted of numerous terrorist acts committed while he was linked to the agency. Other Cuban exiles involved in terrorist acts, Jose Dionisio Suarez and Virgilio Paz Romero, two other Cuban exiles who assassinated the Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976, were also released by the administration of George H.W. Bush.
Bosch was a contemporary of Fidel Castro at the University of Havana, where he was involved with the student cells that eventually became a part of the Cuban revolution. However, Bosch became disillusioned with Castro's regime, and participated in a failed rebellion in 1960. He became the leader of the Insurrectional Movement of Revolutionary Recovery (MIRR), and also joined a CIA effort to assassinate Castro, along with Luis Posada Carriles. The CIA later confirmed that they had backed him as an operative. He was the head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization". Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called Bosch an "unrepentant terrorist".
In 1968, he was convicted of firing a bazooka at a Polish cargo ship bound for Havana that had been docked in Miami. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and released on parole in 1974. He immediately broke parole and traveled around Latin America. He was eventually arrested in Venezuela for planning to bomb the Cuban embassy there. The Venezuelan government offered to extradite him to the United States, but the offer was declined. He was released quickly and moved to Chile, and according to the US government, spent two years attempting postal bombings of Cuban embassies in four countries.
Bosch eventually ended up in the Dominican Republic, where he joined the CIA effort to consolidate Cuban exile groups into the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU). The CORU's operations included the failed assassination of the Cuban ambassador to Argentina, and the bombing of the Mexican Embassy in Guatemala City. Along with Posada, he worked with a CIA agent to plant the assassination of Letelier, which was carried out in September 1976. He was also implicated in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed, although Posada and he were acquitted after a lengthy trial. Documents released subsequently showed that the CIA had advance knowledge of the bombing. He returned to Miami, where he was arrested for violating parole. The Justice department recommended that he be deported. However, Bush overturned this recommendation, and had him released from custody with the stipulation that he "renounce" violence.
Luis Posada Carriles
Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent who has been designated by scholars and journalists as a terrorist, also came into contact with Castro during his student days, but fled Cuba after the 1959 revolution, and helped organize the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Following the invasion, Carriles was trained for a time at the Fort Benning station of the U.S. Army. He then relocated to Venezuela, where he came into contact with Orlando Bosch. Along with Orlando Bosch and others, he founded the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which has been described as an umbrella of anti-Castro terrorist groups. In 1976, Cubana Flight 455 was blown up in mid-air, killing all 78 people on board. Carriles was arrested for masterminding the operation, and later acquitted. He and several CIA-linked anti-Castro Cuban exiles and members of the Venezuelan secret police DISIP were implicated by the evidence. Political complications quickly arose when Cuba accused the US government of being an accomplice to the attack. CIA documents released in 2005 indicate that the agency "had concrete advance intelligence, as early as June 1976, on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner." Carriles denies involvement but provides many details of the incident in his book Los caminos del guerrero (The Warrior's Paths).
After a series of arrests and escapes, Carriles returned to the CIA fold in 1985 by joining their support operations to the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua, who were being run by Oliver North. His job included dropping military supplies, for which he was paid a significant salary, and later he admitted to playing a part in the Iran-Contra affair. In 1997, a series of terrorist bombings occurred in Cuba, in which Carriles was implicated. They were said to be targeted at the growing tourism there. Carriles admitted that the lone convict in the case had been a mercenary under him, and also made a confession (later retracted) that he had planned the incident. Human Rights Watch stated that although Carriles may have stopped receiving active assistance, he benefited from the tolerant attitude that the U.S. government took. In 2000, Carriles was arrested and convicted in Panama of attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro.
In 2005, Posada was held by U.S. authorities in Texas on the charge of illegal presence on national territory before the charges were dismissed on May 8, 2007. On September 28, 2005 a U.S. immigration judge ruled that Posada cannot be deported, finding that he faces the threat of torture in Venezuela. Likewise, the US government has refused to send Posada to Cuba, saying he might face torture. His release on bail on April 19, 2007 elicited angry reactions from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments. The U.S. Justice Department had urged the court to keep him in jail because he was "an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks", a flight risk and a danger to the community. On September 9, 2008 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the District Court's order dismissing the indictment and remanded the case to the District Court. On April 8, 2009 the United States Attorney filed a superseding indictment in the case. Carriles' trial ended on April 8, 2011 with a jury acquitting him on all charges. Peter Kornbluh described him as "one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history" and the "godfather of Cuban exile violence."
- 1985 Beirut car bombing
- American war crimes
- Iran and state-sponsored terrorism
- Israel and state-sponsored terrorism
- Pakistan and state-sponsored terrorism
- Qatar and state-sponsored terrorism
- Saudi Arabia–United States relations#Allegations of funding terrorism
- Terrorism and the Soviet Union
- United States and state terrorism
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