William Broe, former high-level CIA official, dies at 97

By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 6:01 PM

William V. Broe, 97, a CIA officer who rose to become chief of operations in the Western Hemisphere and oversaw the agency's covert missions to destabilize the government of Salvador Allende, Chile's Marxist president, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 28 at a nursing home in Hingham, Mass. He was a resident of North Scituate, Mass.

Mr. Broe was an FBI special agent before joining the fledgling CIA in 1948. He held many assignments in the Far East as he worked his way up the organizational ranks. He was station chief in Toyko before becoming chief of the Western Hemisphere division in 1965.

He held that job for seven years, during which time the division conducted clandestine operations in South America. Many of its efforts were a response to government concerns about the possible spread of communism and Soviet influence.

In March 1973, Mr. Broe made headlines after his "unprecedented" appearance before Senate investigators looking into CIA activities in South America. Specifically, the investigators were interested in the agency's alleged collaboration with International Telephone and Telegraph to interfere in Chilean political affairs.

ITT had worked actively against Allende's election in 1970, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund political opposition. Once Allende was in power, the conglomerate feared its business interests in Chile would be nationalized.

Mr. Broe's testimony marked the first time an active clandestine agent of the CIA spoke on the record for a Senate investigation.

In his testimony, Mr. Broe said that he had met multiple times with ITT Chief Executive Harold Geneen and Senior Vice President Edward Gerrity under direct orders from CIA Director Richard Helms.

Mr. Broe, Geneen and Gerrity discussed employing a coordinated plan between the telecommunications conglomerate and the spy agency to create fiscal instability in Chile.

"There was a thesis," Mr. Broe told the Senate investigators, "that additional deterioration in the economic situation could influence a large number" of voters to push Allende out of office.

The ITT executives also offered to provide the CIA with funding to support an Allende presidential opponent, but Mr. Broe reportedly turned them down.

Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive at George Washington University and author of a 2003 book on Chile called "The Pinochet File," said in an interview that Mr. Broe was deeply "involved in operations to thwart" Allende's presidency.

Kornbluh said the CIA's connection and collaboration with ITT was one of the spy agency's biggest blunders because it set in motion the use of corporate money to fund covert U.S. foreign policy.

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