Australia spies helped CIA in Allende's Chile, intel records show

Washington (AFP) –


Australia carried out espionage operations in Chile in the 1970s in support of the US intervention against the socialist government of Salvador Allende, according to intelligence documents released Friday.

The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) installed a "station" in Santiago from 1971 to 1973 at the request of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to declassified Australian records published by the National Security Archive (NSA) a Washington-based research center.

"After 50 years, the hidden history of concerted, covert U.S. efforts, with other proxies, to destabilize the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende continues to unfold," NSA historian Peter Kornbluh told AFP.

"The verdict of history for countries like Australia and Brazil which also intervened in Chile, depends on this dark past being understood in its totality," he said.

Allende, elected president of Chile in 1970 by the Popular Unity coalition of left-wing parties, was overthrown on September 11, 1973 in a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.

Surrounded by troops in the presidential palace at La Moneda, Allende committed suicide.

Three years earlier, the CIA had requested assistance from ASIS to carry out covert operations in Chile.

According to memoranda and reports cited by the NSA, in December 1970, Australian Foreign Minister William McMahon authorized the opening of a secret cell in the Chilean capital, whose teams and agents arrived in mid-1971.

The operations, which involved recruiting Chilean assets and submitting intelligence reports directly to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, lasted 18 months.

By early 1973, the new Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, ordered the director of ASIS to end the operation in Chile, concerned at the possibility that Australian participation would be "extremely difficult" to justify if made public, according to the records.

The Australian spy cell was apparently closed in July 1973, although an ASIS agent remained in Santiago until after the military coup of September 11.

Australia declassified the documents following requests from Clinton Fernandes, a former Australian Army intelligence analyst and professor of international studies at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, who had filed freedom of information petitions.

The Australian government provided Fernandes with files in June.