The Other 9/11: A CIA Agent Remembers Chile's Coup

What role did the U.S. play in the overthrow of Salvador Allende?

Chilean soldiers guard the presidential palace the day after the coup against Allende. (Reuters)

Forty-one years ago—on September 11, 1973—Chile's socialist president, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a coup. He committed suicide under mysterious circumstances as troops surrounded his palace, ushering in more than 15 years of military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet. Since that time, the CIA has acknowledged knowledge of—but not involvement in—the plot. The agency "was aware of coup-plotting by the military, had ongoing intelligence collection relationships with some plotters, and—because CIA did not discourage the takeover and had sought to instigate a coup in 1970—probably appeared to condone it," the CIA writes in a history of its operations in the South American country. (Declassified documents reveal how the Nixon administration instructed the agency to undermine Allende's government and "make the economy scream.")

Jack Devine was a CIA agent in Chile at the time of the coup. In an interview with Atlantic contributing editor and Efecto Naim host Moisés Naím, he discusses the CIA's role in the insurrection and in supporting the opposition to Allende. Of the decision not to stop the coup, Devine claims the agency's instructions came from the White House, which was occupied at the time by Richard Nixon. "That is a Washington policy decision, that is not a CIA decision," he says.

Video courtesy of Efecto Naim