William Broe, 97; oversaw CIA efforts to oust Allende

Washington Post / October 31, 2010

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WASHINGTON — 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.

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 probe.

In his testimony, Mr. Broe said that he had met several times with ITT chief executive Harold Geneen and senior vice president Edward Gerrity under direct orders from Central Intelligence 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 aid covert US foreign policy.

Mr. Broe spent his last year at the CIA as inspector general and helped prepare and review documents during the Watergate investigation. He retired in 1973.

William Vincent Broe was born in Amesbury, Mass. He was a 1939 biology and chemistry graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine. In 1942, he joined the FBI, where he specialized in counterintelligence.

In retirement, Mr. Broe was a treasurer of his church in Cohasset, Mass., and planted roses in his garden.

His wife of 45 years, Jean Causer Broe, died in 1988. He leaves four daughters, Barbara Burk of Marshall, Va., Kristine Broe of North Scituate, Susan Parmelee of Solon, Ohio, and Bonnie Broe of Scituate Harbor; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.