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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
US revisits Pinochet 'secrets'
1973 portrait of Gen Pinochet
In the mid-1970s Pinochet was said to be charming and mild-mannered
To classify or not to classify, that is a question seemingly vexing US agents.

Nearly 30 years ago, US spies decided Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was a charming, attractive and devoted husband who liked to drink pisco sours.

Five years ago, the Clinton White House thought the biography mundane enough to be made public in its entirety.

But now the verdict on the man accused of human rights abuses is back among 14 million secrets classified last year, according to an independent watchdog.

Earlier this year, the US government's Information Security Oversight Office reported to the White House that 14,228,020 items had been classified during 2003, up from 11 million the previous year and eight million in 2001.

But the non-governmental National Security Archive watchdog says one of those documents was the 1975 biography of Gen Pinochet which had already been released in its entirety.

It has now published what is says is the original report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the document as it is now considered fit for public consumption - complete with extensive blacked-out passages.

'Dedicated' dictator

Among the deleted words are the DIA's assertion that the then Chilean president who took power in a military coup aided by the Americans was "charming, attractive [and] socially at ease".

The occupations of his five children are excised from the latest version of the biography as are the assertions that Gen Pinochet was: "Very honest, hard working, dedicated. A devoted, tolerant husband and father; lives very modestly."

Enjoys discussing world military problems and would respond to a frank, man-to-man approach
Declassified, then reclassified, US assessment of Gen Pinochet
After seizing power, Gen Pinochet established what correspondents say was a brutal dictatorship. He ordered purges in which more than 3,000 opposition supporters were killed and many more were tortured, forced into exile or simply joined the ranks of those missing, the "disappeared".

The president said he was saving Chile from communism and chaos and he had supporters both among citizens and, apparently, US foreign agents.

The DIA report said Gen Pinochet only "reluctantly" joined the coup and noted that he "has always spoken favourably of, and desires to keep close ties with, the United States". It added that he wanted to buy US equipment and train Chilean soldiers in US academies.

Among the other "secrets" released then reclassified are personal attributes such as his penchant for scotch, pisco sours, cigarettes and parties.

What the US government would apparently not want the public to know any more is that it once thought Gen Pinochet "enjoys discussing world military problems and would respond to a frank, man-to-man approach".

The National Security Archive, run out of George Washington University in the US capital, said it suspected there were other "dubious" secrets in the newly classified documents.

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23 Dec 03  |  Americas
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22 Oct 03  |  Americas
Pinochet trial move blocked
27 Aug 03  |  Americas
Pinochet generals admit exhumations
03 Jul 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
26 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Special report: The Pinochet file
09 Jul 01  |  The Pinochet file

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