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How Thousands of Clandestine Operatives Are Fueling a Shadow War

There are now many thousands of clandestine operatives, nearly all of them armed and equipped with a license to kidnap, torture and kill, working overseas or domestically with little or no oversight and virtually no transparency.

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I was in El Salvador in May 1984 when Pastora offered to hold a meeting with journalists in La Penca. It was a long way to travel for one story. I decided in the end not to make the trip with my colleagues. It was a decision that may have saved my life.

What none of us knew until Torbiornsson’s admission is that he had been approached by Sandinista intelligence officials and asked to take along a Sandinista spy whose name was supposedly Per Anker Hansen. When the bombing was first investigated, Torbiornsson lied. He told investigators that he had met Hansen, who passed himself off as a Danish photographer, six weeks before the bombing, when they stayed in the same hotel in Costa Rica. Now Torbiornsson concedes he was introduced to Hansen in Managua. He said that though he knew Hansen was a spy, he had no inkling he was an assassin.

“It took me a long time to understand that it was my friends who put the bomb,” Torbiornsson told the BBC in speaking of the Sandinistas. “It has been like a wound in my soul. … I cannot emphasize how sorry I am.”

Hansen was, according to an investigation carried out by reporters Juan Tamayo and Doug Vaughn at The Miami Herald, in fact a man named Vital Roberto Gaguine. He worked clandestinely with the Sandinistas in the 1980s and was a member of the Argentine People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP). He brought and ignited the bomb. He reportedly died in 1989 while carrying out an armed assault with 18 others on army barracks outside Buenos Aires. Enrique Haraldo Gorrioran, who was the commander of the ERP cell in Managua and who ordered the barracks attack, but who did not take part, is reputed to have been a double agent, sending Gaguine and his companions to assured slaughter. He is reportedly living in Brazil from the earnings the revolutionary group made from kidnappings and bank robberies. Trust is exiled in this world. Those who willingly sacrifice others are often themselves sacrificed.

The Newsweek correspondent Susan Morgan, standing in the front, shielded Torbiornsson from the full force of the blast. Morgan suffered serious injuries in one arm, her legs and face. The BBC recently ran a video clip of  Morgan confronting the hapless Torbiornsson, who seems still unable to fully understand his culpability.

The killers and the paymasters, the spies and gangsters, the terrorists and jihadists, on all sides of the divide, have grown in numbers to carry out a vast war in the shadows. They are determined to perpetuate the senseless violence and mayhem that are the currency of their profession. And they make peace and diplomacy impossible. That is their goal. Sen. Frank Church in 1975, after chairing a Senate committee investigation into U.S. intelligence activities, defined “covert action” as a “semantic disguise for murder, coercion, blackmail, bribery, the spreading of lies, and consorting with known torturers and international terrorists.”

The multitudes of crimes these killers, torturers, kidnappers, propagandists, special operations units and spies have carried out in our name are well known to those outside our gates. There are hundreds of millions of people who have a tragic intimacy with the twisted and brutal soul of American imperialism. Okinawans. Guatemalans. Cubans. Congolese. Brazilians. Argentines. Indonesians. Iranians. Palestinians. Panamanians. Vietnamese. Cambodians. Filipinos. South Koreans. Taiwanese. Nicaraguans. Salvadorans. Afghans. Iraqis. Yemenis. Somalis. They can all tell us who we are, if we can listen. But we do not. We are as ignorant, gullible and naive as children. We celebrate fictitious red-white-and-blue virtues while our clandestine armies, which at times achieve short-term objectives but always finally plunge us deeper into violence, have steadily weakened and discredited the nation as well as the purported values for which it stands. These clandestine armies travel the globe, awash in hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, sowing dragon’s teeth that rise up later, like the warriors in the myth of the Golden Fleece, to become mirror images of our own monstrosities.

 
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