I know, the scan is a little freaky, but we were trying not to crease the pages. Machines and me don’t always see eye to eye. The point though, which is relevant to the 15 or so people who share my obsessions, is that I got my hands on this rare document: Dialogue Before Death: Transcript of a Tape-Recording of an English Conversation between Dan Mitrione and an Unidentified Uruguayan Tupamaro, August 1970. Catchy title, no? Dan Mitrione, in case you didn’t know, was a former FBI agent who worked with the US Agency for International Development’s Office of Public Safety, training police officers in Brazil from 1960 to 1967, and later in Uruguay, where he directed the OPS office from 1969 until his death in 1970. OPS postings, in case you didn’t know, frequently provided cover for CIA operatives in Latin America in the years before the OPS was dissolved by act of Congress in 1974. On July 31, 1970, Mitrione was kidnapped by Tupamaro guerrillas. As ransom, they demanded the freedom of 150 political prisoners. The Nixon administration offered the Venezuelan government its full support in securing Mitrione’s release, which apparently extended to torturing Tupamaro prisoners and murdering their relatives, but not to actually negotiating with the guerrillas. (“I am confident,” Nixon wrote in a personal message to the Uruguayan president, “that … you will not foreclose any actions which could bring about the safe return of Mr. Mitrione.”) On August 10, one day after the Tupamaro's deadline had passed, Mitrione’s body was found in the trunk of a stolen Buick. He had been shot twice in the head. His body showed no signs of torture. In the weeks that followed, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis would perform in a benefit concert for Mitrione’s family and a White House spokesman would call him “an example for free men everywhere.” Before the year was up, the former head of the Uruguayan intelligence service, himself a CIA asset, told a Brazilian newspaper that Mitrione had instituted torture as a routine measure and escalated its use in the interrogation of Tupamaro prisoners. A few years later, a Cuban CIA operative who had worked under Mitrione in Uruguay alleged that Mitrione had taught torture methods to local police in the basement of a Montevideo home, demonstrating the effects of electrocution on live subjects, including beggars kidnapped off the city’s streets. He recalled Mitrione advising that, "You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist." It is safe to assume that Mitrione’s Tupamaro interlocutors did not survive the decade.
I can’t tell you much about the provenance of this document, except that the original is unbound, printed on heavy paper fastened with staples. An unsigned "Editor’s Note" claims that portions of the transcript were published in the English-language press and that Spanish-language newspapers published the full transcript in translation. It says nothing, however, about the original source of the full English transcript, except that unnamed "official U.S. sources" believe it to be authentic. As far as I can gather from some reasonably intrepid googling, the publisher, Squirrel Publications, was responsible for printing only one other text, also in the summer of 1970, a bilingual edition of Peru’s General Law on Industries.