Coastal Post Online

July 2001


Help From Jimmy Carter?

Jimmy Carter

39th President of the United States

Plains, Georgia

Dear Mr. President:

I recently wrote an article in The Coastal Post, a small newspaper in Marin County on the strange case of Michael Townley, a US citizen, who murdered several people during the early 1970s while employed by Chilean military intelligence and possibly the CIA.

Mr. Townley was expelled from Chile in 1978 after diplomatic pressure was exerted on the Chilean government by your administration. He was returned to the United States because of his role in the murders of Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean Ambassador to the US, and Ronni Moffitt, a US citizen. I'm sure you recall these deaths which occurred when a bomb was detonated inside Letelier's car in 1976 in downtown Washington DC.

A plea bargain in US District Court allowed Townley to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to murder a foreign official (Letelier) in exchange for a promise of a sentence not to exceed ten years, limits on his testimony, and federal protection. He admitted being ordered by the head of Chilean intelligence to kill Letelier, traveling to the US to do so, recruiting several Cubans to kill Letelier, constructing a bomb with others, and personally placing the bomb in Letelier's car. Townley also admitted constructing the remote control device used by one of the Cubans to detonate the bomb.

Townley testified against three of the Cubans he recruited, and received federal protection for himself, his wife (who participated in his activities), his children, his parents and his brother. I believe Mr. Townley served less than five years confinement of some kind. I am not sure of his current court status, his protected witness status, or his whereabouts. I have heard he is no longer under federal protection.

I visited Chile several times over the past ten years because of my interest in the environmental effects of ozone depletion. While in Chile and Argentina last November, I read newspaper accounts of the trial in Argentina of Enrique Arancibia Clavel who was found guilty of participating in the 1974 murder of General Carlos Prats, a former Commander in Chief of the armed forces of Chile, and Prats' wife Sofia. Both Chilean and Argentinean newspapers reported that secret testimony was introduced in this trial obtained from Michael Townley, described as "a former CIA agent", who testified that Arancibia had nothing to do with the murder of Prats and his wife. Townley testified he and his wife killed them. He described in detail how he placed the bomb in Prats car and detonated it.

I do not know how Townley's testimony was taken, or where it was taken, or to what extent our government was involved, but it is difficult to conceive of any possible benefit which might be derived by our country from having Townley provide testimony exculpating Arancibia. It is also difficult to imagine a greater insult to the concept of justice to allow a protected political assassin, the actual murderer in question, to testify in the trial of a suspected accomplice.

Be that as it may, it seems that Townley's public admission in a judicial process in Argentina to having committed the double murder voids, or is beyond whatever federal protection he may still enjoy and therefore exposes him to extradition to Argentina to stand trial for his crimes there.

Townley may have wanted to help Arancibia, a former friend and member of Chilean military intelligence. They both apparently belonged to "Partria y Libertad" an extremist political organization responsible for the 1970 assassination of General René Schneider, yet another commander in chief of the Chilean Armed Forces. It is noteworthy that the judge in the case did not believe Townley's testimony about Arancibia and found him guilty.

As a concerned citizen and a former US Army Paratrooper who served during the Korean War, I am deeply offended by what appears to me to be a miscarriage of justice. I am not against plea bargains that allow the guilty criminals a certain measure of impunity from punishment in exchange for verifiable information concerning other criminals. However, for this process to serve justice, the information and testimony should help convicting higher ups, conspirators above those granted impunity. Those who calculate, plot and plan their crimes, and presumably will continue to do so unless stopped.

The Washington murders have been adjudicated, but the Prats case is still open. I am bringing this to your attention because I know of your commitment to peace and justice and because I thought you might be concerned with something that happened partially within your term as president.

Do you have any suggestions as to whom I might contact within the government to determine if Mr. Townley, by his testimony alluded to above, has not exposed himself to extradition to Argentina? I do not believe this man merits any kind of protection from justice.

Any suggestions you might have will be greatly appreciated.

Finally, you may be interested in knowing that a little article in the Coastal Post by my dear friend, the late Leo Cronin, played a significant role in causing Pat Robertson to drop out of the 1988 presidential election.

Leo was a wonderful man, a lifelong activist in the Democratic Party and a true conservationist. He spoke to me several times about his service during the Korean War and mentioned that First Lieutenant Pat Robertson was in his company and was the Class VI officer-that is, he was in charge of rationing distilled alcohol to officers. Leo himself was a front line combat Marine MP, but his Headquarters was many miles to the rear.

I started writing this story which reflected on Robertson's having sued Congressman Pete McCloskey (I'm sure you remember him) for defamation. McCloskey said that Robertson was not a combat Marine and Robertson was suing him for $35 million.

Leo, had never previously interfered in any of the many stories I wrote, but this time he did, insisting that I write it a certain way. Finally I told him to write it himself---which he did. I sent a copy to McCloskey and the rest is history. It turned out to be key evidence that Robertson had never been in combat. The article "Pat Robertson "No Combat Marine" is reprinted on page 115 of McCloskey' book The Taking of Hill 610", Eaglet Books 1992 "Great oaks from little acorns grow".

Best wishes and very truly yours,

Jim Scanlon

PS I am enclosing a copy of the plea bargain copied from "Assassination on Embassy Row" by Dinges and Landau, 1980 Pantheon Books

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