Deep Politics III   by Peter Dale Scott



“It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government”

                                                                      -- James Angleton[1]

Two recent books on the tribulations of the Kennedy presidency have attributed the brothers’ aggressiveness towards Cuba in 1963 to (in the words of Alexander Haig, a junior observer) “the impatient prodding of Robert Kennedy.”[2] Both books argue further (though in different ways) that Bobby’s dabbling in these murderous operations “somehow contributed to his brother’s murder.”[3]

I shall suggest in this chapter that in 1963, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedys’ Cuban operations were carefully thought out, and not just attributable as Mahoney suggests to Bobby’s “violent antipathy to Castro.”[4] On the contrary, we shall see that their timing corroborates what JFK himself spoke of in 1963, the targeting of Cuba as part of an elaborate tit-for-tat chess game with the Soviet Union, to retaliate against what were perceived to be Soviet aggressions elsewhere:

As he had explained to the National Security Council on January 22, 1963…”…We can use Cuba to limit Soviet actions in the way the Russians use Berlin to limit our actions.” Now, on April 19, faced with Communist moves in Southeast Asia, the President remarked at least twice that he wanted to link the continued Soviet presence in Cuba with Communist activities in Laos. The Soviets, he commented, were “continuing the type of harassment effort that we had stopped by the Cuban exiles,” and they were not moving out of Cuba as we wished.”[5]

It does not appear that the Kennedys shared this higher rationale for their Cuban tactics with either the CIA or the Joint Chiefs. Both the CIA and the Pentagon had been at odds with the White House following the Kennedys’ failure to bail out the disastrous Bay of Pigs fiasco. In addition the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been excluded from Ex Comm meetings after their recommendations of an invasion to remove Castro from power.[6] It is clear that the Kennedys’ tight control over Cuban ops, for purposes which were either not understood or not shared by subordinates, contributed to further tensions within an already divided administration. Above all, as CIA officer Walter Elder told Seymour Hersh, “There was an intense dislike in CIA for Bobby.”[7]

In all the discussions about the John F. Kennedy assassination, there have been major disagreements about the full range of Kennedy's policies in 1963 towards Cuba. It is clear however that he was simultaneously pursuing more than one "track" in 1963, and that in one of these tracks -- the exploration of a possible accommodation with Castro through direct contacts -- the President pointedly excluded the CIA.

The carrot of accommodation was not the only track. We shall see that by June the Kennedys were also applying the stick of sabotage operations (in conjunction with the CIA). But there were powerful reasons prompting the Kennedys towards accommodation and even direct contacts with Castro representatives, reasons pointing beyond Cuba to the President's larger hopes for accommodation and improved relations with the Soviet Union.

In 1963 both strategies of accommodation, with Cuba and with the Soviet Union, developed increasingly hostile opposition, in the country, in Congress, and even within the Administration. Particularly within the CIA, those elements still smarting from the Bay of Pigs defeat went beyond their policy directives to frustrate the accommodation track.

I shall argue that senior officials within the CIA, notably Richard Helms and Desmond FitzGerald, knew of the Kennedy brothers' secret moves to initiate direct communications with Castro, disapproved of them, and took steps to poison them. Their most flagrant action was to initiate a new series of secret meetings with a known assassin and suspected double agent, Rolando Cubela Secades (code-named AMLASH), at which a major topic of discussion was the assassination of Fidel Castro. Helms, without consulting the Attorney General, authorized a contact plan whereby in October 1963 (and possibly again on November 22) FitzGerald met with Cubela, and promised him material assistance in assassinating Castro, while posing (falsely) as a "personal representative of Robert F. Kennedy."[8]

This meeting seems to have been designed to poison the informal Kennedy-Castro contacts already under way. For there was already anxiety within the Agency that Cubela, who had refused to be polygraphed in 1962, was reporting the substance of these contacts to Castro. We shall see that FitzGerald's own Counterintelligence Chief, Harold Swenson (“Joseph Langosch”), recommended with another CIA officer that FitzGerald not meet with Cubela.[9]

There were good reasons for their advice. On September 7, 1963, within hours of the first new CIA meeting with Cubela in Brazil, Castro had turned up at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana, and warned "U.S. leaders" that "if they are aiding U.S. terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe."[10] At the time, and thereafter, "nervous CIA men wondered whether Castro had chosen the Brazilian Embassy to make his threat in order to signal his knowledge of the Sao Paolo meeting."[11]

It cannot be conclusively proven that these secret assassination rendez-vous with Cubela from September to November 1963 were designed to frustrate the President's accommodation track. (One clear factor here is that once again there has been much lying in high places; we can name some of those who have engaged in possibly felonious cover-up.) But even to entertain this hypothesis of a perverse design is to raise a serious question about the recurring stories we shall consider in Chapter VIII, that Oswald either offered information about a CIA plot to kill Castro, or alternatively offered, within the Cuban Consulate, to kill Kennedy (a move allegedly interpreted by the Cubans as a crude but official CIA provocation). Either of these two initiatives, while too clumsy and indeed bizarre to gain Cuban interest and "assistance," could nonetheless have had the immediate effect of further poisoning any trust that was beginning to develop, outside the CIA, between representatives of Castro and the President.

It is not gratuitous to link Oswald's provocative talk of assassination with FitzGerald's. For as we shall see, Oswald in Mexico was being watched and reported on by Ann Goodpasture, a member of the same small conspiratorial FI/D Staff (or Staff D), which at the same time was engaged on the tightly held secret task of preparing exotic poison devices for delivery to Cubela, possibly by FitzGerald himself, on November 22, 1963.[12]

Cuban Exile Attacks Against Soviet and Cuban Targets

On March 30, 1963, the U.S. State and Justice Departments (the latter of course headed by Robert Kennedy) jointly announced that they would take "every step necessary" to ensure that raids by Cuban exiles against Cuba were "not launched, manned, or equipped from U.S. territory." Surveillance of the exiles and their bases was immediately intensified.[13] This was one day after CIA Director McCone had recommended that the U.S. not prevent the raiders from using the U.S. as a base.[14]

The primary concern behind this policy shift was not Cuba but the Soviet Union. In March the Cuban exile group Alpha 66, and its spin-off, Comandos L, had been targeting Soviet ships in Cuban waters, hoping to wreck the U.S.-Soviet agreement over Cuba that had been reached after the Cuban Missile Crisis. (The terms of that agreement had not been fully disclosed, but were generally understood to include a U.S. promise not to invade Cuba if the Soviet Union proceeded to withdraw its missiles and most of its troops.)[15] On March 18 Alpha attacked the Russian freighter Lvov at Isabela de Sagua in Cuba; nine days later Comandos L blew up the Soviet freighter Baku in Caibarién, ruining 10,000 bags of sugar.[16]

Not everyone accepted the decision to end the US-based raids.

Captain Bradley Earl Ayers, a paratrooper assigned to CIA, recalled General Victor Krulak, the JCS counterinsurgency specialist, telling him in the spring of 1963 that the operations attributed to exile groups were mostly “planned and conducted under the supervision of the CIA…from bases in southern Florida.”…Despite the death of [anti-Castro Opertion] Mongoose and the lack of Special Group authorization, CIA/Miami evidently continued, under exile cover, to wage its private war against Castro.[17]

These anti-Soviet raids also had the blessing and financial backing of Henry Luce and his Time-Life empire, which allegedly “spent close to a quarter of a million dollars during 1963-1964 on the renegade Cuban exile commandos.”[18] Life magazine dispatched a correspondent, Andrew St. George, to take part in the March 27 attack on the Soviet freighter Baku.[19] (Such arrangements usually meant that Life helped underwrite the costs of the raid.)

Some authors allege that the Soviet-targeted raids were masterminded by a CIA officer, possibly David Phillips, operating under the pseudonym "Maurice Bishop."[20] If so, CIA Director McCone dissembled at the March 29 Ex Comm meeting, claiming only that the plans of these groups “are discussed openly” in the exile Cuban colony, whence they “are picked up by CIA.”[21]

Recently the claim of CIA non-involvement has been told in a different way by former CIA officers in the Special Affairs Staff responsible for anti-Castro activities. Samuel Halpern, Executive Assistant to SAS Chief Desmond FitzGerald, claimed to Seymour Hersh that the raiders “were getting different orders from Bobby. We [in CIA] never knew what was going on.”[22]

Halpern has been one of the most vociferous anti-Kennedy voices among CIA veterans, and some statements of his to Gus Russo can only be called disinformation:

Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel….We all knew he [Fidel] couldn’t hurt us. Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy? One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns. It was a personal thing.[23]

Russo fails to point out it was the CIA, not Kennedy, who dreamed up the Bay of Pigs. In fact it is clear from the Foreign Relations of the United States that if anyone in the government had an obsession about getting rid of Castro in 1963, it was CIA Director McCone.[24] (This is not to mention the attitudes of military men like Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay, who considered the compromise resolution of the Missile Crisis “the greatest defeat in our history.”)[25]

Hersh develops Halpern’s theme in a close reading of the March 29 record that is outrageous. He writes that “There was an immediate consensus among the Ex Comm members…that the United States should do all it could to stop the exile raids.” But they were “out of the loop,” unlike the “Kennedy brothers, who knew better than anyone else that the exiles in question had likely been `shooting at the Russians.’”[26]

In fact the record shows very clearly that McCone argued against terminating the raids, both orally and in a written memorandum. He “said the continuance of the raids would cause trouble inside Cuba and would discredit Castro in Latin America.” His written memo added his “personal view that a concerted and publicized effort to `stand down’ these operations would probably draw more public and press criticism” than would result from tolerating them. The record is unambiguous that the clearest support for “a complete stand down” came from “the AG” – Bobby Kennedy.[27]

Not mentioned at all by Hersh is that the stand down was (as noted above) publicly announced by State and Justice the next day, and immediately put into effect. Instead Hersh jumps to June 1963, when “Jack Kennedy, fully aware of all the negatives involved [i.e., expressed at the March 29 meeting], formally approved the CIA’s covert support for the ad hoc raids.”[28] But this is a confusion of two different stories: the raids against Soviet targets in March, which were launched from the US and promptly terminated, and the raids authorized in June, which were to be launched from outside the United States and specified Cuban targets only.

The latter story can be traced through various stages of development in the State Department official history. The dates are important, because at every stage the President was clearly thinking about Cuba in the context of the Soviet Union.

1)       Memo from Sterling Cottrell, Coordinator of Cuban Affairs, for Ex Comm meeting of January 25, 1963: Actions recommend “support for Cuban exiles who are seeking to return the 26 of July Movement to its original aims.”[29] 

This was three days after the President, on January 22, “had designated Cuba as the Soviets’ vulnerable spot: `The President pointed out that we must always be in a position to threaten Cuba as a possible riposte to Russian pressure….’”[30]

2)       Memo from Cottrell for April 18 meeting of the Special Group: “Proposed New Covert Policy” asking whether the US should move beyond the above policy “to a program of sabotage, harassment and resistance activities.”[31]According to HSCA testimony, Bobby Kennedy at this meeting “pushed hard for more sabotage and harassment, plus support of exile groups.’”[32]

The context here was Laos. At an NSC meeting on Laos April 20, “The President stated his belief that it was necessary to raise the pressure somewhat in Cuba. He felt that we could hardly carry out a mild policy in Cuba at a time when the Communists are carrying out an aggressive policy in Laos.”[33] When the conversation turned briefly to Cuba, “The President commented that with the prisoners out of Cuba, we might be in a position to act against Cuba if Khrushchev made no move to halt the deterioration in Laos. He asked what action we could take against Cuba.”[34]

3)       On June 19 [the meeting to which Hersh refers] the President approved an integrated program, including sabotage, harassment, and support for autonomous anti-Castro Cuban groups, that had been approved the previous day by the Standing Group of the NSC.[35] According to the memo, the President “showed a particular interest in proposed external sabotage operations,” and “asked how soon we could get into action with the external sabotage program.”[36]

June 19 was again a date on which the President was being asked to consider how to deal with a deteriorating situation in Indochina, particularly in Laos. On this same day he discussed a major State-Defense paper which among other options contemplated a possible move “to air action against North Vietnam and the mining of North Vietnamese ports.”[37] Once again the unattractiveness of a major escalation in Asia designated Cuba as a more vulnerable spot for retaliation.

                The record shows that some in the Kennedy entourage saw the Indochina-Cuba equation as an opportunity for peaceful as well as hostile initiatives:

The President’s Office Files at the Kennedy Library include a memorandum written in the late summer or early fall of 1963 that raises another interesting possibility. Entitles “Observations on Vietnam and Cuba,” it suggested that the USSR and United States were bogged down, respectively, in unprofitable Cuban and Vietnamese predicaments from which they would probably like to escape. It suggested enlisting de Gaulle’s help to combine Soviet withdrawal from Cuba with American withdrawal from Vietnam, while working for the neutralization of Vietnam under French auspices. The memo, however, is unsigned and undated, and nothing is known about the reaction it provoked.[38]

I have suggested elsewhere that this explains why Kennedy in 1963, a year in which the Vietnam War was reported to be going well militarily, surprisingly almost doubled the number of US troops in Vietnam, to almost 17,000.[39] McCone had repeatedly warned both the President and Congress about the threat of 17,000 Soviet troops in Cuba.[40]

The "Separate Track" of Accommodation and Direct Contacts with Castro

In truth 1963 was a year of hopeful developments for peaceful coexistence, primarily with the Soviet Union, but also (a necessarily related topic) with Cuba. This favored Kennedy's Cuba policy of what McGeorge Bundy called the "separate track" of accommodation with Castro, as documented by the Assassination Report of the Church Committee:

As early as January 4, 1963, Bundy proposed to President Kennedy that the possibility of communicating with Castro be explored. (Memorandum, Bundy to the President, 1/4/63). Bundy's memorandum on "Cuba Alternatives" of April 23 [sic, i.e. April 21], 1963, also listed the "gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro" among policy alternatives. (Bundy memorandum, 4/21/63) At a meeting on June 3, 1963, the Special Group agreed it would be a "useful endeavour" to explore "various possibilities of establishing channels of communication to Castro." (Memorandum of Special Group meeting, 6/6/63)[41]

The date of the April memo, April 21, is an interesting one. That very morning the New York Times had reported Castro's charge that the U.S. had abandoned a plan for a second invasion of Cuba in favor of a plot to assassinate Cuban leaders. The charge, as reported, may have been in error. Bundy's memo actually called for the National Security Council's Standing Group (successor to the Ex Com of the Cuban Missile crisis) to assess the consequences to the U.S. of Castro's dying independently. As might have been expected, in May the Group agreed with the CIA's Board of National Estimates that the consequences would probably be unfavorable. Castro's probable successors, Raul Castro and Che Guevara, were long-time overt Marxist-Leninists, deemed to be even more anti-U.S. than Fidel.[42]

Soon after the Bundy memo and NSC Group meeting of April 23, Averell Harriman made a quick trip to Khrushchev in Moscow as the President's personal emissary. Harriman's view was that Khrushchev and his bureaucracy were divided over the issue of a hard line or accommodation towards America, much as Kennedy and the CIA were rumored to be.[43] Harriman had three major agenda items to discuss which threatened to block an improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations: violations of the 1962 Laotian Accords, the problem of Cuba, and continued atomic testing.[44]

On April 3 and April 11 Khrushchev and Kennedy had exchanged secret letters that in part concerned Cuba.[45] At the same time a highly-publicized meeting of eight Presidium members without Khrushchev prompted rumors that Khrushchev would soon be ousted. Then on April 11 the leading hard-liner, Frol Kozlov, suffered a near-fatal seizure; and disappeared forever from Soviet politics. Khrushchev met the next day with Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, and passed the informal message that he was ready for a "fresh start" with Kennedy.[46] Kennedy received Cousins at the White House on April 22, and Harriman left for Moscow soon after to meet Khrushchev. Fidel Castro also left on April 26 for the Soviet Union at Khrushchev's invitation.

On April 21 and again on April 24, shortly before he left, Castro told Lisa Howard of ABC that the "U.S. limitations on exile raids" were "a proper step toward accommodation."[47] On her return to the United States, Lisa Howard told CIA officials that Castro

was "looking for a way to reach a rapprochement," probably for economic reasons. She thought Guevara and Raul Castro would oppose an accommodation, but both [René] Vallejo [Castro's doctor] and [Raul] Roa [the Foreign Minister] favored negotiations. Castro gave her the impression that he was ready to talk with "proper progressive spokesmen," though Kennedy would probably have to make the first move.[48]

An edited version of Howard's report appeared on ABC on May 10.

The simultaneous convergence on Moscow of Harriman and Castro was thus preceded by signals that progress in accommodation between them could be brokered by Khrushchev (who had every motive vis-a-vis his own hard-liners to be successful in this respect). But what looked hopeful to some evoked paranoia in others. Soon the right-wing journalists Robert Allen and Paul Scott, who wrote from sources in military intelligence, wrote a column under the provocative title, "Did Harriman Meet Castro in Russia?" They reported that the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee, chaired by the pro-military Senator John Stennis, was investigating the allegation that the two men had met "around April 28, in either Moscow or Murmansk" (where both were visiting). Castro allegedly was seeking diplomatic recognition in exchange for a reduction in Soviet troop levels. The article was placed in the Congressional Record by Bruce Alger, a right-wing Congressman from Dallas.[49]

Though inadequate to demonstrate that such a face-to-face meeting occurred, the article (together with the reprinting of it in the Congressional Record) is an important symptom of the political opposition developing in Washington to the process of accommodation.

The Track of Overthrow From Within

In fact, though not all of the Kennedys' opponents knew it, the accommodation track was not the only one being explored by the Kennedy brothers. On March 14, Robert had sent his brother a memo urging a combined program to stop Cuban subversion abroad and to appeal within Cuba to elements of the Cuban military:

John McCone spoke at the meeting today about revolt amongst the Cuban military. He described the possibilities in rather optimistic terms....Do we have evidence of any break amongst the top Cuban leaders and if so, is the CIA or USIA attempting to cultivate that feeling? I would not like it said a year from now that we could have had this internal breakup in Cuba but we just did not set the stage for it.[50]

The Bundy memo of April 21 envisaged a total of three possible options: a) forcing "a non-Communist solution in Cuba by all necessary means," b) insisting on "major but limited ends," c) moving "in the direction of a gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro."[51]

There are abundant indications in the newly released CIA documents that the CIA, along with other agencies, became part of a new U.S. strategy aimed at promoting revolt from within Cuba, particularly among the Cuban military. This inter-agency plan was called AMTRUNK inside the CIA, and "Operation Leonardo" by its original authors, George Volsky of USIA, the Cuban exile Nestor Moreno, and Tad Szulc of the New York Times. Szulc, who had excellent connections inside the Kennedy White House, presented the plan in early 1963 to Robert Hurwitch, the State Department Cuban Coordinator, when the State Department and the White House pressured the CIA "to consider a proposal for an on-island operation to split the Castro regime."[52] Among the CIA representatives at the meeting was Dave Morales, the chief of covert operations in JMWAVE, the CIA’s Miami station.[53]

The CIA's own documents make it abundantly clear how distasteful this White House-backed plan was to them. Old disagreements from the Bay of Pigs operation were revived: the White House wished to use participants in the original Castro revolution, notably men close to Manolo Ray and Huber Matos; and such men were anathema to the more right-wing Cubans who had defected earlier and been championed by the CIA. By 1963 Ray and Nestor Moreno, both close to Szulc, had formed the anti-CIA and anti-Castro group JURE, which not only rejected CIA influence but was suspected by CIA of trying to penetrate its JMWAVE operations. The links of Moreno and Volsky to JURE became key arguments in the CIA's case for disliking AMTRUNK.[54]

By April 5, 1963, JMWAVE Station Chief Theodore Shackley was ready to recommend that the whole AMTRUNK operation "be terminated at the earliest possible moment:"

The AMTRUNKers admit to being anti-KUBARK [CIA] and to be working "with" KUBARK now only because there was no alternative if they were to accomplish their mission....[Redacted, a key AMTRUNK member] believes he is receiving special attention because of his [Washington] connections, and he will not hesitate to go behind KUBARK's back to AMTRUNK-1 [Volsky]...or higher authority, if the operation or KUBARK handling of AMTRUNK does not progress to his liking.[55]

This recommendation to terminate was supported at Headquarters, whose return cable to JMWAVE on April 10 "concurred that the AMTRUNK operation should be terminated for a number of reasons, including the fact that CIA could not at that time be certain that hostile elements [these, in CIA's view, included Volsky and Szulc] were unaware of the plan."[56]

Nevertheless, after the decision recorded in the April 21 Bundy memo, the CIA continued to support the AMTRUNK operation until March 1964.[57] In the Johnson era, however, the purpose of AMTRUNK appears to have changed completely. Instead of infiltrating agents to woo Cuban military leaders, AMTRUNK operations in early 1964 had become the depositing inside Cuba of Belgian FAL rifles for the assassination of Castro.[58] Along with this change in AMTRUNK's purpose, the CIA JMWAVE Station terminated the involvement of Nestor Moreno, the plan's original author, "in the sensitive aspects of AMTRUNK in November 1963."[59] AMTRUNK in other words was by this time subordinated to the Rolando Cubela/AMLASH operation, which had become similarly diverted from politics to assassination (see Chapter VI).

The CIA's continued support of AMTRUNK appears to have been unwilling; and Headquarters soon implemented Shackley's alternative recommendation of giving AMTRUNKers cash to mount their own independent operations.[60] As noted above, on June 18 the Standing Group approved a sabotage program of raids by exiles, "to nourish a spirit of resistance and disaffection which could lead to significant defections and other byproducts of unrest."[61] It was hoped that the pressures on the economy would contribute to "internal discontent that would take appropriate political and military forms."[62] This "track two" concept of "autonomous operations," as distinguished to the "track one" of CIA's support of Artime, was proposed by Walt Rostow of the State Department (a political ally of Lyndon Johnson). One principal beneficiary proved to be JURE, the group which CIA suspected of being behind AMTRUNK.[63] Because "track two" supplied resources to JURE for military operations, it had the effect of de-emphasizing the political objectives of the original Plan Leonardo.

Both the plans for an internal military-based coup and the supporting infiltration and sabotage missions were hereafter known to the CIA as AMTRUNK. The renewed CIA sabotage operations became operational in August 1963. As part of this program, a new exile group, with U.S. Army training and advisers, launched raids on August 18 and October 21 as "Comandos Mambises," from the CIA ship "Rex," a former subchaser.[64]

Rolando Cubela, himself an Army Major, was by CIA accounts approached in 1963 because of his contacts in the Cuban military. His case officers were also part of an operation (which can only be AMTRUNK)

to penetrate the Cuban military to encourage either defections or an attempt to produce information from dissidents, or perhaps even to forming a group which would be capable of replacing the then government in Cuba.[65]

As mentioned above, in 1964 AMTRUNK teams were used by the CIA to supply assassination rifles with long-distance scopes to Cubela (AMLASH).[66]

The CIA's redirection of AMTRUNK exemplified their long-term disagreement with the Kennedy White House over policy objectives. Arthur Schlesinger has argued that, since 1961:

The CIA wished to organize Castro's overthrow from outside Cuba, as against the White House, the Attorney General's office and State who wished to support an anti-Castro movement inside Cuba. The CIA's idea was to fight a war; the others hoped to promote a revolution. Any successful anti-Castro movement inside Cuba would have to draw on disenchanted Castroites and aim to rescue the revolution from the Communists. This approach, stigmatized as Fidelismo sin Fidel, was opposed by businessmen, both Cuban and American, who dreamed of the restoration of nationalized properties. But the CIA alternative was probably dictated less by business interests than by the agency's preference for operations it could completely control -- especially strong in this case because of the Cuban reputation for total inability to keep anything secret.[67]

To this preference for control can be added another one. The CIA, despite its fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, was still hoping to reassert itself as the preferred agency for paramilitary operations, which had accounted for the biggest item in its annual budget. In this respect AMTRUNK, an inter-agency operation, may have been distasteful to it, because by all accounts the key co-ordinating role was given, not to the CIA, but to the Department of the Army under Cyrus Vance and his aides Joseph Califano and Alexander Haig.[68]

Given the normal CIA penchant for secrecy, it is the more remarkable that the CIA, at the Brazil meeting in September, took the suspected blabbermouth Cubela into its AMTRUNK planning. According to the CIA's IG Report of 1967,

Cubela discussed a group of Cuban military officers known to him, and possible ways of approaching them. The problem was, he explained, that although many of them were anti-Communist, they were either loyal to Fidel or so afraid of him that they were reluctant to discuss any conspiracies for fear they might be provocations. Cubela said that he thought highly of [redacted, apparently Major Ramon Guin Diaz] (AMTRUNK-[short redaction]) who was hiding [redacted, identified by the Cubans as the infiltrated CIA agent "Miguel Diaz"]. ["Diaz"] had been sent to Cuba to recruit [Guin] in place, and had done so. Cubela said he planned to use [Guin] but was concerned about [Guin's] "nervous condition" and the fact that he drank heavily. Cubela was told to assist [Guin] in [Guin's] intelligence assignments, but not to help [Guin] leave Cuba -- as Cubela proposed.[69]

According to a later memo from Helms to Rusk, Ramon Guin "was recruited by a CIA agent in August 1963 inside Cuba as a Principal Agent to recruit high-level military leaders."[70] By all accounts the October 29 meeting of FitzGerald with Cubela continued to focus on what Richard Helms, the senior CIA official cognizant of the AMLASH meetings, later called in testimony "the political action part of it...have a group to replace Castro."[71]

Excluding the CIA: The Secret Attwood Initiative

Robert Kennedy's penchant for pro-active operations, even if rationalized as a "stick" to encourage Castro to behave reasonably, was clearly unhelpful to unblocking the accommodation track. Sabotage missions in particular had been denounced in September, not only by Castro, but also the Soviet Union.[72]

Nevertheless the accommodations track, even if interrupted from time to time, seems never to have died under Kennedy. On June 3 the Special Group agreed that it would be a "useful endeavor" to explore "various possibilities of establishing channels of communication to Castro."[73]

Shortly afterwards a public suggestion by Castro that Cuba might consider normalization of relations was rebuffed by John Kennedy at a press conference. The President attacked Cuba as a Soviet satellite. It is possible however that another cause for concern was the fear of some experts, apparently unfounded at this time, that Castro might be tilting towards Beijing in the increasingly evident Sino-Soviet split.[74]

Despite this public rebuff, in September the President approved secret contacts at the UN in New York between a Special Advisor to the U.S. Delegation, William Attwood, and the Cuban Ambassador to the U.N., Carlos Lechuga. On September 5 Lisa Howard told Attwood she was convinced that Castro wanted to restore communications with the United States, and she offered to arrange a social gathering in her apartment so that Attwood could meet informally with Lechuga. (It is not clear if Howard was simply reacting to her Castro interview, or whether the Cubans had proposed talks on September 5, as suggested by the Schweiker-Hart Report.)[75] (Note that September 5 was two days before the CIA resumed contact with Cubela in Brazil; Attwood comments laconically that "the CIA must have had an inkling of what was happening from phone taps and surveillance of Lechuga.")[76]

A week later Attwood went to Washington and saw Harriman, a man with whom he had traveled to India in 1959. Harriman was interested in the proposed approach to Lechuga; and he requested a memo which Attwood submitted to him on September 19. Attwood's memo transmitted information from Guinea's U.N. Ambassador that Castro was unhappy about his dependence on the Soviet Union "and would go to some length to obtain normalization of relations" with the U.S. It proposed a discreet inquiry to achieve three objectives: "a. The evacuation of all Soviet bloc military personnel. b. An end to subversive activities by Cuba in Latin America. c. Adoption by Cuba of a policy of non-alignment."[77] The President gave his approval via Ambassador Adlai Stevenson at the U.N., but it was understood that Attwood would report directly to McGeorge Bundy in the White House. The CIA and the State Department were to be excluded. (Stevenson's response to Attwood's memo was that "Unfortunately the CIA is still in charge of Cuba.")[78]

In addition to knowing Harriman, Attwood had interviewed Castro in 1959 as an editor of Look magazine.[79] On becoming Kennedy's Ambassador to Guinea, he was exposed to the neutralist initiatives of Guinea's President Sekou Touré and Ghana's President Kwame Nkrumah, both of whom were on good terms with Castro. Attwood monitored Cuba as an Advisor to the U.S. Delegation at the 1962 Session of the UN General Assembly.[80] It was the Ghanaian Ambassador to the UN who in March of 1963 had obtained a Cuban visa for Lisa Howard; and it was the Guinean Ambassador to Cuba who in September told Attwood that Castro, dissatisfied with his Soviet relationship, was looking for a way to escape.[81]

The first meeting between Attwood and Lechuga took place on September 23, 1963, at a cocktail party hosted for this very purpose by Lisa Howard.[82] (Note that this meeting occurred just four days before Oswald, in Mexico City, is supposed to have made contact with Silvia Durán, whom the CIA had reported in early 1963 to be Carlos Lechuga's mistress.)[83] The meeting was productive, and produced a series of informal contacts broken only by Kennedy's death on November 22.

Attwood saw Robert Kennedy the day after his rendezvous with Lechuga. Robert told Attwood that a Havana visit would be too risky. It was bound to leak....But the general idea was worth pursuing. He told Attwood to stay in touch with Bundy and his staff man on Cuban affairs, Gordon Chase. The Attorney General consulted his brother, who declared himself willing to normalize relations if Castro ended the Soviet bloc military presence on his island, broke ties with the Cuban Communists, and stopped the subversion of Latin America.[84]

Robert Kennedy proposed that direct U.S. contacts with a special Castro emissary, as proposed by Attwood, should take place at a neutral site in Mexico, with Lisa Howard serving as a go-between.[85] We do not yet know if Thomas Mann, the U.S. Ambassador in Mexico, or Win Scott, the CIA Station Chief, were in any way consulted about, or alerted to, the projected meeting.

UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson contributed to Attwood's initiative with a speech  suggesting "that if Castro wanted peace with his neighbors, he could have it if he stopped trying to subvert other nations, stopped taking orders from Moscow and started carrying out the original democratic pledges of his revolution.”[86]

Framing the Kennedys: The Conflict Between the AMLASH and Attwood Initiatives

On October 24, at Attwood's urging, the President saw the French journalist Jean Daniel, who was about to interview Castro in Havana. (Note that this is just five days before the meeting with AMLASH in which FitzGerald presented himself, falsely, as a representative of Robert Kennedy.)

The President is not known to have mentioned the problem of the Cuban Communists to Daniel, but complained that Castro had "agreed to be a Soviet agent in Latin America." "`The continuation of the blockade,' Kennedy said, `depends on the continuation of subversive activities.' Then: `Come and see me on your return from Cuba. Castro's reactions interest me.'"[87] Daniel went on to wait three frustrating weeks in Havana before seeing Castro.

On October 11, and again six days later, Cubela in Europe had asked to meet a high-level U.S. government official, "preferably Robert F. Kennedy," for "assurances that the U.S. Government would support him if his enterprise were successful."[88] On October 29, five days after the President's meeting with Daniel, Desmond FitzGerald met with Cubela in Paris, using the AMLASH case officer Nestor Sanchez as an interpreter.[89] According to the CIA's I.G. Report, the contact plan for the meeting, a copy of which was in the AMLASH file, had this to say on its cover: "Fitzgerald will present self as personal representative of Robert F. Kennedy who traveled Paris for specific purpose meeting Cubela and giving him assurances of full U.S. support if there is change of the present government in Cuba." FitzGerald claimed he discussed the planned meeting with the DD/P (Helms) who decided it was not necessary to seek approval from Robert Kennedy for FitzGerald to speak in his name.[90] Helms, for whom the I.G. Report was prepared, later confirmed that he had not consulted the Attorney General.[91]

Sanchez' report of the meeting does not mention assassination. It says that FitzGerald told Cubela U.S. support "will be forthcoming only after a real coup has been effected and the group involved is in a position to request U.S....recognition and support."[92] Nevertheless both FitzGerald and Cubela agree that assassination was discussed. FitzGerald recalled that Cubela wanted "a high-powered rifle with telescopic sights."[93] Cubela, conversely, told his interviewer Tony Summers that "it was the CIA who brought up the idea of assassination in the first place -- and he who resisted."[94]

Even if assassination was not the purpose, this meeting between a high-level CIA official and Cubela, a well-known assassin, was extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented.[95] Normally the CIA uses covers and (when assassins are involved) intermediaries or cut-outs. In the well-studied case of the Giancana- Roselli-CIA plots against Castro, the CIA even used one cut-out (Maheu) to contact another (Giancana). Cubela's inability to keep a secret had become known to the CIA a year earlier; and two CIA officials (Shackley and Swenson alias Langosch) later testified that they had warned FitzGerald against this meeting.[96] Their fears were well-grounded. Earlier that same month the FBI had learned of the renewed CIA-Cubela contact (in a report that was not transmitted to the CIA).[97]

There is perhaps one other case where the CIA in 1963 prepared to abandon its normal guidelines of plausible deniability, and it too raises questions of the CIA's loyalty to the Kennedys. In 1962 Robert Kennedy's representative James Donovan, a New York attorney, along with John Nolan of Kennedy's staff, had negotiated the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners. In April 1963 Donovan and Nolan returned to Cuba, to conclude their negotiations with Castro personally. Their mission concerned a few prisoners, including some CIA men, who remained to be released. But the occasion led predictably to the possibility of normalizing the relations between the two countries. Arthur Schlesinger links the success of the Donovan-Nolan mission to the important interview given by Castro to Lisa Howard in late April.[98]

Desmond FitzGerald of the SAS staff does not appear to have looked favorably towards this step on the accommodation track. In early 1963 the staff arranged for the CIA's Technical Services Division to purchase a wet suit, and contaminate it with tuberculosis bacilli and the spores for a disabling skin disease. The plan was for Donovan (who was not informed of the plot) to give the suit to Castro, his companion in scuba diving.[99]

FitzGerald's assistant Samuel Halpern, an important witness to whom we shall return, later told the authors of the I.G. Report that the plan was abandoned as "impracticable" and "overtaken by events."[100] Significantly he did not apparently mention to them what critics called

the most elementary considerations -- for example that it [i.e. the suit] was in effect a gift from the United States, while the idea was to keep it secret; or, then again, Donovan's feelings about being the gift-giver in this plot. If he wasn't let in on the plot, after all, he might try on the suit himself.[101]

We can see the same CIA antipathy to the accommodation track in October 1963: Helms and FitzGerald offered FitzGerald as a personal representative of Robert Kennedy, at a time when Robert had authorized an accommodation initiative from which the CIA was being excluded. More crudely put, they chose unilaterally to represent him, precisely at a time when they could not know what he wanted, or was up to; a time when there was a distinction and potential divergence between CIA and Kennedy interests.

That the CIA was well aware of this distinction is unconsciously revealed in 1976 by Samuel Halpern. In testimony to the Schweiker-Hart Subcommittee, Halpern discounted the danger that the Fitzgerald-Cubela meeting "exposed the CIA to possible embarrassment, because Fitzgerald had not used his real name and, therefore, AMLASH would have been unable to identify Fitzgerald as a CIA officer."[102]

Only Robert Kennedy would be embarrassed, in other words. This indeed would seem to be the most rational intention of such an unprofessional and disloyal meeting. Both Kennedys were lending support to explorations which promised (or alternatively, threatened) to lead to an accommodation with Castro. Those initiatives could only be harmed by FitzGerald's discussion of assassinating Castro with a suspected leaker or double-agent, while pretending, falsely, to be a representative of Robert Kennedy.

The same Samuel Halpern has argued that the CIA, far from being disloyal to Robert Kennedy in this operation, had in fact gained his explicit approval informally. In the words of John Davis,

Since Kennedy and FitzGerald often met socially and at work, there was no need for formal authorization. The attorney general's approval could just as easily have been conveyed informally and be far less risky for all concerned. This opinion was confirmed by former CIA official, Samuel Halpern, who in 1963 had been executive assistant to the Task Force on Cuba and one of the four men directly involved in the AM/LASH operation. In an interview on November 18, 1983, Mr. Halpern told me that he was absolutely certain that "Des" FitzGerald "had full authorization from Attorney General Kennedy and President Kennedy to proceed with the AM/LASH plot against Castro," adding that he always felt that since they often met socially, Bobby Kennedy and "Des" FitzGerald conducted most of their business together at Washington cocktail parties and receptions, rather than in their respective offices.[103]

But Halpern and Davis seem to have missed the point. It is indeed clear that the CIA had authorization to proceed with the political initiative. But that it had authorization to involve Robert Kennedy's name and authority in an assassination plot, at a time when the Kennedys were attempting to open discussions with Castro, is virtually unimaginable. Both FitzGerald and Helms later denied that the AMLASH operation contemplated assassination.[104] In this case Kennedy's authorization for AMLASH would have been limited to what they described it as, an attempt to find a group to replace Castro.

From this point on the AMLASH initiative had the looks of an anti-Kennedy provocation. This was Attwood's retrospective evaluation of the FitzGerald/AMLASH meetings: "One thing was clear: Stevenson was right when he told me back in September that `the CIA is in charge of Cuba'; or anyway, acted as if it thought it was, and to hell with the president it was pledged to serve."[105]

What is even more significant is that under FitzGerald a Kennedy-sanctioned political operation had become, by October 29 at the latest, an operation discussing a rifle with a telescopic sight. The importance of this deviation is underlined by a curious affidavit which in effect denies it. The affidavit submitted by a CIA officer, “Kent L. Pollock” (CIA pseudonym), the Executive Officer for FitzGerald at SAS. It was transmitted to the HSCA by CIA Officer S.D. Breckinridge, in support of his claim that “The overwhelming evidence is that the relationship with AMLASH did not include any agreement to undertake an assassination during the life of President Kennedy.”[106]

In the affidavit, “Pollock” testified under oath that, “To the best of my knowledge, Mr. FitzGerald considered the AMLASH operation to be a political action activity with the objective of organizing a group within Cuba to overthrow Castro.” “Pollock,” who almost certainly is Halpern,[107] conceded that “The AMLASH operation could have been characterized as an assassination operation” when the lethal pen was offered to AMLASH on November 22, 1963, and rejected by him. But “Pollock” does not mention the meeting of October 29 (not authorized by RFK), when FitzGerald, Cubela, and Halpern have all agreed that assassination was discussed.[108] (In the I.G. Report, Sam Halpern confirmed FitzGerald’s recollection that at the October 29 meeting with Cubela, there was discussion of “a high-powered rifle with telescopic sights”.)[109] Thus, if “Pollock” is Halpern, his affidavit is highly misleading if not perjurious.

What was so sensitive about this meeting that “Pollock” would lie about it? I would suggest that it was part of a false trail linking real CIA plots to assassinate Castro (among which I would not include the hapless and unreliable Cubela) to the CIA-hated AMTRUNK operation authorized by the Kennedys. For this purpose Cubela’s associates were just right. He was close to Juan Orta, the key figure in the unsuccessful CIA-mafia plot to poison Castro in 1961; after which Orta and Cubela had briefly planned to leave Cuba together.[110] He also knew Santo Trafficante, who had put the CIA in touch with Orta; and had worked with Trafficante’s atttorney, Rafael Garcia-Bango Dirube, to secure Trafficante’s release from prison in Cuba.[111]

It is not known whether anyone in the CIA ever brought the possible AMLASH-mafia plot connection to Bobby Kennedy’s attention. It did however surface inside the government in 1965, when a Cuban exile, Victor Dominador Espinosa Hernandez (known as “A” in the Schweiker-Hart Report), gave information to the FBI and CIA, which “suggested a link between the AMLASH operation and the 1960-62 CIA plots to assassinate Castro using underworld contacts.”[112] What was particularly arresting was that the same man (“A”) had in July 1963 transported dynamite to a house near the training camp on Lake Pontchartrain, which Lee Harvey Oswald had tried to penetrate. Known mob figures were involved in this arms cache as well.[113]

The pressure on Bobby Kennedy became more overt in 1967, when Jack Anderson, using some of this material, wrote of “an unconfirmed report that Senator Robert Kennedy…may have approved an assassination plot which then backfired against his late brother.”[114] This column, one of the most significant events in the complex history of the case since 1963, will be discussed in the next chapter.

Economics Versus the Larger Agenda of Accommodation

If in truth the CIA was taking steps to frustrate the Attwood-Harriman initiative, the CIA was not necessarily acting as a rogue elephant. In these diverging paths of accommodation and provocation, Attwood, the Kennedys, and Harriman may have been much more isolated than the CIA. Bundy told Attwood on November 5 that the President was more interested than the State Department in exploring the Cuban overtures.[115] A State Department memo two days later seemed to confirm this: in contrast to the President's three conditions for accommodation, it called on Cuba to "renounce Marxism-Leninism as its ideology, remove Communists from positions of influence, provide compensation for expropriated properties and restore private enterprise in manufacturing, mining, oil and distribution."[116] This detailed list made it clear that at least the oil and mining interests in Cuba (Exxon, Freeport Sulphur, etc.) continued to enjoy their usual influence on the formation of State Department foreign policy.

They were of course powerful in Congress as well. In 1963 the President, according to Ted Sorensen, "opposed an effort in the Congress to impose as the first condition to our dealing with a new Cuba its compensation of those Americans whose property had been expropriated by Castro."[117]

The President's policy was dictated by geopolitics, not economics. A White House memo from Bundy for Attwood on November 12 reiterated that the only "flatly unacceptable" points in Castro's policy were Cuba's submission to external Communist influence and his subversion directed at the rest of Latin America.[118] It is obvious that, in this inattention to economic compensation, it was the White House that threatened to diverge from traditional foreign policy priorities.

As noted above, it is possible that the President, and Harriman, had a larger agenda that dictated this divergence. They sought accommodation, not just with Cuba, but above all with the Soviet Union; and a possible formula for achieving this was a reduction of troop levels, not just by the Soviet Union in Cuba, but also by the Americans in Vietnam.[119]

It is not clear to what extent Khrushchev had agreed to his part in such an agenda. In October Joseph Alsop reported that Khrushchev had assured Harriman in Moscow all Soviet troops would eventually leave Cuba. On October 8 DIA reported to McNamara that “the total Soviet military strength is now estimated to be between 5,000 and 8,000 – representing a reduction to date of at least two-thirds of the number originally estimated to be on the island.”[120] At his October 31 press conference, Kennedy said that "the numbers have steadily been reduced." A week later he reportedly said that he expected "nearly all of them to be out by the end of the year."[121]

As noted above, McCone’s original estimate of  17,000 Soviet troops in Cuba roughly equaled the number of troops (16,732) eventually introduced by Kennedy into Vietnam. (Half of them arrived in 1963, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, at a time when the Vietnam War was officially said to be going well.)[122] The makings of a quid-pro-quo were certainly there.

The President’s pursuit of this larger agenda of accommodation was inhibited by his continuing authorization of anti-Castro covert operations. Schlesinger's generally insightful account of these final months of the Kennedy Presidency has one striking omission: it fails to note the October escalation of sabotage operations:

On October 3, 1963, the Special Group approved nine operations in Cuba, several of which involved sabotage. On October 24, 1963, thirteen major sabotage operations, including the sabotage of an electric power plant, an oil refinery, and a sugar mill, were approved for the period from November 1963 through January 1964. (Memorandum, 7/11/75, CIA Review Staff to Select Committee, on "Approved CIA Covert Operations into Cuba")[123]

If the aim of these raids was to balance carrots with sticks, the results were counterproductive. The Comandos Mambises raid of October 21, 1963, almost certainly contributed to Castro's long delay in meeting Jean Daniel.[124]

The President's IAPA Speech and Its Twofold Consequences

After three weeks of impasse on both the Attwood and Daniel fronts, the President went public with his conditions for accommodation. Flying to Miami on November 18, he delivered to the Inter-American Press Association a speech that, in the Kennedy style, offered something to both the hawks and doves in his audience. As such, it divided aides then, as it still continues to divide scholars. Thomas G. Paterson has recently characterized it as a "tough-minded speech:" "The president, according to his aide McGeorge Bundy, sought to `encourage anti-Castro elements within Cuba to revolt' and to `indicate that we would not permit another Cuba in the hemisphere.’"[125] Michael Beschloss, citing Kennedy's top speech-writer Ted Sorensen, presents it as "a speech that would open a door to the Cuban leader."[126]

The speech itself seems to have been carefully drafted to justify both of these conflicting contentions. Its appeal to reject forces from outside the hemisphere could be responded to by either Castro or his CIA-supported opposition. Thus the language was deliberately ambiguous to the point of duplicity. The President noted that the Alliance for Progress did "not dictate to any nation how to organize its economic life." But

It is important to restate what now divides Cuba from my country and from the other countries of the hemisphere. It is the fact that a small band of conspirators has stripped the Cuban people of their freedom and handed over the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban nation to forces beyond the hemisphere. They have made Cuba a victim of foreign imperialism, an instrument of the policy of others, a weapon in an effort dictated by external powers to subvert the other American republics. This, and this alone, divides us. As long as this is true, nothing is possible. Without it, everything is possible....Once Cuban sovereignty has been restored we will extend the hand of friendship and assistance to a Cuba whose political and economic institutions have been shaped by the whole Cuban people.[127]

Quite clearly the President, unlike his own State Department, required no economic concessions for normalization. Instead "Cuban sovereignty" had to be "restored." This agenda could be accomplished by Castro himself, as the President had indicated to Daniel. Alternatively, Castro and the other "conspirators" could be ousted by the non-Communist AMTRUNK opposition.

The speech's double message immediately energized both conflicting policy initiatives, the Attwood-Daniel accommodation track and the AMLASH provocation track. On November 19, the day after the President's speech, Castro finally talked to Daniel, from 10 PM at night until four in the morning. He expressed great interest in what Daniel reported of his meeting with Kennedy, and asked for key phrases to be repeated. While refusing to retract past criticisms of Kennedy, Castro said that the Cubans could live with him, and that "anyone else would be worse." Castro added that he found "positive elements" in what Daniel had reported, and asked Daniel to prolong his stay so they could continue their discussions.[128] Meanwhile, on November 18, Bundy told Attwood by telephone that the President wanted to see him, and instruct him on what to say to Castro, as soon as he returned from a "brief trip" to Texas.[129]

The CIA, at the same time, used the speech to urge on AMLASH, in a manner which, although unclear, seems quite conspiratorial.

The IAPA Speech, AMLASH, and Assassination

In 1975 Nestor Sanchez, the AMLASH case officer, told the Schweiker-Hart Subcommittee that he

met with AMLASH on November 22, 1963. At that meeting, the case officer referred to the President's November 18 speech in Miami as an indication that the President supported a coup. That speech described the Castro government as a "small band of conspirators" which formed a "barrier" which "once removed" would ensure United States support for progressive goals in Cuba. The case officer told AMLASH that Fitzgerald had helped write the speech. The case officer also told AMLASH that explosives and rifles with telescopic sights would be provided. The case officer showed AMLASH [a] a poison pen and suggested he use the commercial poison, Black-Leaf 40 in it....As AMLASH and the case officer broke up their meeting, they were told the President had been assassinated.[130]

Arthur M. Schlesinger, who himself had a hand in writing the speech, strongly denies that it was a green light for a coup, and doubts that FitzGerald helped write it. He writes that the speech "was meant in short as assistance to Attwood, not to FitzGerald;" but he fails to consider the very Kennedyesque probability that the speech was meant to assist both.[131]

The I.G. Report of 1967, discussing FitzGerald and the AMLASH operation, says nothing about the IAPA speech or FitzGerald's alleged role in writing it. Richard N. Goodwin, the alleged principal author, is likewise silent in his memoir, Remembering America, which sums up Kennedy's Cuba policy by referring to the Attwood initiative.[132]

On the other hand, FitzGerald's interpretation of the speech was not only reasonable, it was the prevailing one at the time. The Associated Press called the speech "an appeal to the Cuban people to overthrow the Castro regime." The Ithaca Journal ran the story under the front-page banner headline, "KENNEDY URGES OVERTHROW OF CASTRO."[133] Particularly significant, though less objective, was the informed comment of Hal Hendrix, a journalist whose CIA connections, later admitted to, have drawn critics' attention for his suppressed role in the Oswald story.[134] Inspired no doubt by his usual sources in the JM/WAVE station, Hendrix wrote that the crucial paragraph of the IAPA Speech "may have been meant for potential dissident elements in Castro's armed forces [i.e. Cubela's contacts] as well as for resistance groups in Cuba."[135]

In short those books are wrong which treat the IAPA Speech unilaterally as an olive branch to aid Attwood and Daniel.[136] Equally wrong are those who see it as evidence of a unified Kennedy-CIA advocacy of rebellion.[137] Like other speeches from late 1963, especially on Cuba, the Soviet Union and Vietnam, the speech is an example of calculated Kennedy doubletalk.

The Kennedy habit of speaking out of both sides of the mouth at once, like the larger Kennedy habit of trying to please both hawks and doves simultaneously, can be criticized as a defect of leadership, even of character.[138] The weakness that led to such ambiguity may well have contributed to the Kennedys' downfall, for it maximized frustration and mistrust within a divided Administration.

But the political schizophrenia expressed by such doubletalk was not just personal, it was national. If the Kennedys failed to speak or to pursue a single policy on Cuba, we must take into account the hurricane of dissenting voices in Congress, and manipulators inside the Administration, that made it virtually impossible to do so.

The CIA, reinforced by powerful forces in the media and corporate world, was becoming particularly manipulative in its massaging of the AMLASH operation into an assassination initiative. As we shall see in the next chapter, there is a deep CIA secret surrounding the November 22 meeting with AMLASH, which the I.G. Report of 1967 does more to conceal than reveal.

We must also consider the claim that the Kennedys had their own conspiratorial connection to the Giancana-Roselli-CIA plots against Castro, a connection the family and their friends still strive to conceal.[139] We must look at E. Howard Hunt, a man whose known role in the AMLASH story may have played a key role in the Watergate intrigue.[140] And above all we must look at a man whose behavior, and whose CIA watchers, were intertwined with the already complex Attwood-AMLASH-Hunt story. This man was Lee Harvey Oswald.

[1] James Angleton, in executive session testimony to the Church Committee, as repeated to Angleton by Sen. Schweiker; Church Committee, Hearings, Vol. II, “Huston Plan,” 72-73; Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA’s Master Spy Hunter (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), 351.

[2] Gus Russo, Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998) 163. Cf. Richard D. Mahoney, Sons & Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy (New York: Arcade Publishing, 199), 264-67, etc.

[3] Mahoney, xvii; cf. Russo, xii. Russo gathers indications that Castro was behind the murder; Mahoney points to disgruntled CIA officers.

[4] Mahoney, 267. About Bobby’s earlier predilection for anti-Castro counterinsurgency there is no question. David Corn and Gus Russo, whose books both associate Bobby Kennedy with assassination plots, have collaborated on an article showing that Bobby Kennedy discussed in a small White House meeting a plot to kill Castro while visiting the Hemingway residence in Mexico (David Corn and Gus Russo, “The Old Man and the CIA: A Kennedy Plot to Kill Castro?” available on line at What is important here is the date of the meeting, March 16, 1962. The authors concede that so far there is no later document linking either Kennedy directly to murder plots.

[5]  Kennedy’s remarks in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, VII, #125; quoted in David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000), 199.

[6] H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 26.

[7] Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (Boston: Little, Brown, 1997), 278; cf. 377, 378, etc.

[8]  Assassination Report, 87; I.G. Report, 89.

[10]  Michael Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 639-40.

[11]  Beschloss, 640; citing Baltimore Sun, September 9, 1963.

[12]  Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 374-75.

[13]  U.S. Department of State, Bulletin, April 22, 1963; Richard P. Stebbins, The United States in World Affairs, 1963 (New York: Harper and Row, for the Council on Foreign Relations, 1964), 279-80; and sources therein cited. Although the New York Times did not immediately carry this announcement, it reported on April 1 that fifteen exiles had been curbed by the Justice Department.

[14] U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, XI, Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath (available on line at; henceforward cited as FRUS), #303-04; 740, 746. On March 28, Secretary of State Rusk had written to the President that such hit and run raids could work “to the disadvantage of our national interest” (FRUS, #302; 738).

[15]  Arthur M. Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 582; Gaetan Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 121-22; Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 135, 155-56. Behind the Kennedy decision to curb the exile raids may have been the desire to bolster Khrushchev's waning status in Moscow against the rising hardliners, headed by Frol Kozlov, who sought reconciliation with Beijing at the expense of U.S.-Soviet reconciliation (Beschloss, 583-84).

[16] Hinckle and Turner, Deadly Secrets, 174-75.

[17] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 586.

[18]  Hinckle and Turner, Deadly Secrets, 186-88.

[19]  Hinckle and Turner, Deadly Secrets, 174-75.

[20]  Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 136, 409; Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 154-56; Deadly Secrets, 174. Cf. Mahoney, Sons & Brothers, 266. The allegations that “Bishop” oversaw the raids against Soviet freighters derive from Gaiton Fonzi’s interviews of  Antonio Veciana, Alpha-66’s founder and chief executive officer. Veciana’s statements to Fonzi included the provocative claim that he had met “Bishop” in Dallas in the Fall of 1963, along with a third person whom he later identified as Lee Harvey Oswald. Veciana himself was shot through the head during his interviews with Fonzi. I spoke to Veciana by telephone in that period; he impressed me as intelligent and well educated. What he said to me was, “You can’t expect me to talk to you about anything. I was shot through the head.” Some readers may be reminded of Warren Reynolds, a Dallas witness who failed to positively identify Oswald as the man fleeing from the Tippit murder. Two days later he was shot through the head. When he was interviewed by the Warren Commission six months later, he had no question about identifying the man as Oswald (11 WH 435; cf. Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact [New York: Vintage, 1967], 293-95). I regard Veciana as an important witness who poisoned his own testimony under similar pressure. His CIA status I regard as unproven. However the House Committee on Assassinations reported that “Army intelligence had an operational interest in Veciana as a source of information on Alpha 66 activities, and that Veciana complied, hoping to be supplied in turn with funds and weapons” (AR 136). A document released by the ARRB shows that someone representing Alpha-66 did have contact with Army Intelligence in 1962 (Newsday, 11/27/97).

[21] Memo for Ex Comm meeting prepared by DCI McCone, March 29, 1963, in FRUS, #304, 745; cf. 744.

[22] Hersh, 379; cf. Russo, 47.

[23] Interview with Gus Russo; Russo, 37. Halpern made similar remarks to Hersh: “I don’t know of any senior officer that I talked to who felt, aside from the Kennedys, that Castro had to go” (Hersh, 268).

[24] FRUS, #303, 304, 311, 315, 323, 348, 350, 375, etc.; 739, 746, 758, 764, 783, 838, 843, 884-85, etc. When McCone expressed reservations about sabotage, it was for anything less than an “integrated and continuing” program “to remove the Soviets from Cuba and to take care of Castro” (#350, 843; #315, 764). It should not be “on a stop and go basis” – i.e. not responsively to Soviet excesses, as the Kennedys were proceeding (#350, 843). In a written note McCone “emphasized to the President `the importance and necessity for continuous operations,’” with “a high noise level” that “must be absorbed and not create a change in policy” (#348, 838n).

[25] McMaster, 29.

[26] Hersh, 380-81, emphasis added.

[27] FRUS, #303-304; 739, 745, 746.

[28] Hersh, 381.

[29] FRUS, #273; 678, cf. 679.

[30] Kaiser, American Tragedy, citing Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, VII, #125.

[31] FRUS, #318; 770.

[32] Mahoney, 265.

[33] Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, XXIV, Laos Crisis, #460; 987.

[34] FRUS, #319, 733. Kennedy’s comments show how ill informed he was as to the state of affairs in Laos, where the resumed fighting in April 1963 “was chiefly, if not entirely between the two neutralist factions, rather than with the [Communist] Pathet Lao” (Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy [New York: Bobbs Merrill, 1972], 36). The grotesque notion that this fighting could have been halted by Moscow is symptomatic of the ideological distortion fostered at the time by bad intelligence reporting.

[35] FRUS, #346, 829 (CIA Paper for Standing Group); #348; 837 (Memo for Record of President’s approval).

[36] FRUS, #348; 837. These comments refute the account of Mahoney, who is unaware of the Laotian context for the President’s interest: “On June 19, the president, against his better judgment, acceded to the wishes of Bobby and CIA director John McCone and approved a major program of sabotage….It was a fateful decision for which Bobby must bear most of the responsibility.”

[37] Kaiser, 211.

[38] Kaiser, 258; citing John F. Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, box 128, 1.

[39] Peter Dale Scott, Colombia as Vietnam: The Deep Politics of Drugs and Oil, forthcoming.

[40] FRUS, #265, 657; #274, 682-83; Hersh, 380 (cf. 391).

[41]  Assassinations Report, 173. Cf. FRUS, #320; 777 (Bundy memo of April 21, 1963). The other two documents are not in FRUS.

[43]  Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 584-88 (Khrushchev); Summers, 421 (Kennedy).

[44]  Beschloss, 592-93; Rudy Abramson, Spanning the Century: The Life of W. Averell Harriman, 1891-1986 (New York: William Morrow, 1992), 594.

[45]  Beschloss, 584-85, 777. The April 11 message is in FRUS, #312; 759. It has been suggested that Kennedy's "Peace Speech" at American University on June 10, 1963, was based partly on ideas agreed to in this secret correspondence (U.S. News and World Report, July 22, 1963).

[46]  Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 586-87.

[47]  CIA debriefing of Lisa Howard, May 1, 1963; in RFK Papers; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Robert Kennedy and His Times (New York: Ballantine, 1978), 584; Robert E. Quirk, Fidel Castro (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), 458; Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 594-95.

[48]  Quirk, 458. Cf. FRUS, #332, 798n.

[49]  Washington World; Congressional Record, June 12, 1963, A3785-86.

[50]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 580.

[51] FRUS, #320; 777; William Attwood, The Twilight Struggle (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), 254.

[52]  CIA Memo of 14 Feb 1977, "AMTRUNK Operation, Interim Working Draft," 1. Also Russell Holmes file, NARA #104-10400-10123, CIA memo of  25 April 1977. Szulc is given the CIA cryptonym AMCAPE-1 in at least one JMWAVE dispatch of 12 Oct 1963, NARA #104-10400-10128.

[53] Russell Holmes file, NARA #104-10400-10133, CIA Chronology of AMTRUNK documents (meeting); David Corn, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994) 85 (chief of covert operations).

[54]  CIA Memo of 14 Feb 1977, "Tadeusz (Tad) Witold Szulc," 6; WAVE Dispatch 17410 of 20 Aug 1964, 9-11.

[55]  WAVE Dispatch 8351 of 5 April 1963.

[56]  CIA Memo of 14 Feb 1977, "AMTRUNK Operation, Interim Working Draft," 2, 4; cf. NARA #104-10400-10133, 1.

[57]  CIA Memo of 14 Feb 1977.

[58]  CIA Inspector General's Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro, 23 May 1967, 95, 96; cf. 79, 101. Cables reveal that the JMWAVE station did this on orders from Langley (Corn, 113).

[59]  CIA Memo of 14 Feb 1977, "Nestor Antonio Moreno Lopez," 3; NARA ID number 1993.07.21.18:28:44:840470, Box JFK36, F16.

[60]  David Corn, Blond Ghost, 102. David Corn, a Nation editor, volunteers that "Shackley's instincts were right" about AMTRUNK and "other harebrained projects."

[61]  Assassination Report, 173; FRUS #346; 829.

[62]  Morris Morley, Imperial State and Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987), 153.

[64]  Morley, 153; Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 137-44.

[65]  Assassination Report, 86n; citing AM/LASH Case Officer #1 [Nestor Sanchez], 8/11/75.

[66]  I.G. Report, 95, 96; cf. 101.

[67]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 510-11; cf. 514. Fidelismo sin Fidel was originally Manolo Ray's phrase to describe his own political program (Hugh Thomas, Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom [New York: Da Capo Press, 1998], 1286). See Chapter VI.

[68]  Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 153, 342. (Haig was appointed to his position under Vance on June 28, 1963.) The CIA lost this bureaucratic battle to the U.S. Army, which in 1964 took over the CIA's Special Operations Group (SOG) in Vietnam, along with its Green Berets.

[70]  Memo of Richard Helms, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, for Secretary of State Dean Rusk, "CIA Involvement in Counter-Revolutionary Activities," 7 Mar 1966, para. 2.

[71]  Assassination Report, 173; quoting Helms testimony to Church Committee, 6/13/75, 131, 117.

[72]  New York Times, September 9, 1963; Quirk, 480.

[74]  Quirk, 473-75, 477. In 1965 Guevara traveled to China. He then returned to Latin America, where he outflanked Soviet-line Communist parties in Latin America by developing guerrilla groups using Maoist tactics (Quirk, 518, 523).

[75]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 258; Schweiker-Hart Report, 20; citing William Attwood testimony, 7/10/75.

[76]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 264.

[77]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 258-59. The full Attwood memo of September 18 is reproduced in FRUS, #367, 868-70.

[78]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 258-59; Assassinations Report, 173-74; Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 196.

[79]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 248-51.

[80]  Quirk, 445.

[81]  Quirk, 457 (Howard); Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 594 (Attwood).

[82]  Beschloss, 638.

[83]  John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 279-82; cf. Chapter III.

[84]  Beschloss, 638-39. These three conditions were roughly those outlined as policy objectives in Attwood's original memo submitted to Harriman on September 18. Gordon Chase’s memo of discussion with Attwood October 21 is in FRUS, #372, 877. A second Attwood memo to Chase on November 8 summarizes his meetings with Howard, Harriman, RFK, Lechuga, etc. (FRUS, #374, 879-83).

[85]  Quirk, 481; William Attwood, The Reds and the Blacks (New York: 1967), 142-43.

[86]  Attwood, The Reds and the Blacks, 143. In his second book Attwood revealed that "Stevenson had asked me for a draft of a reply" (Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 260). He did not mention that in the speech Stevenson demanded that Castro let the people "exercise the right of self-determination through free elections" (Quirk, 480).

[87]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 596-97.

[91]  Assassination Report, 87. This does not deter Gus Russo from saying that FitzGerald was present at the Cubela meeting as “Bobby Kennedy’s emissary” (Russo, 177).

[94]  Summers, 351.

[95]  In 1956 Cubela had achieved political notoriety by assassinating Batista’s chief of military intelligence, Col. Blanco Rico, as he and his wife left a night club (Hugh Thomas, Cuba, 889-90).

[96]  I.G. Report, 84 (inability); Schweiker-Hart Report, 17n (warnings).

[97]  Ibid.

[98]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 583-84.

[99]  Assassination Report, 85-86; I.G. Report, 75. FitzGerald told the I.G. Report authors that the plot began after he took over the SAS staff in January 1963. The Church Committee considered it "likely that the activity took place earlier, since Donovan had completed his negotiations by the middle of January 1963" (Assassination Report, 86). But the premise for this conclusion was obviously incorrect.

[101]  Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets (New York: Knopf, 1979), 150. The fact that Donovan and Castro planned to dive together may possibly have inspired FitzGerald's famous plan to kill Castro with an exploding sea-shell (Assassination Report, 87, I.G. Report, 77). Samuel Halpern told Thomas Powers that he "protested the seashell plan....Castro blowing up on the ocean floor would point a finger directly at the United States" (Powers, 150). Once again, there is no trace of such protest in the I.G. Report, which has this to say: "FitzGerald states that he, Sam Halpern, and [redacted] had several sessions at which they explored this possibility, but that no one else was ever brought in on the talks. Halpern believes that he had conversations with TSD on feasibility...." (I.G. Report, 77). Halpern's protest was first recorded after FitzGerald had died in July 1967.

[102]  Schweiker-Hart Report, 17n; citing Executive Officer testimony, 4/22/76, 55); emphasis added.

[103]  John Davis, The Kennedys (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985), 495.

[105]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 263.

[106] I suspect this claim is true, at least on the official level. But if so it gives the lie to the alleged claim of FitzGerald’s Deputy, Seymour Bolton, that Kennedy’s IAPA speech (discussed below), contained language drafted by the CIA, “as a message (in Seymour Hersh’s words) of presidential support for a skittish Cuban operative code-named AMLASH. The operative, Rolando Cubela, was the agency’s best hope in the fall of 1963 in its continuing effort to assassinate Castro. The CIA was finally going to get done what Jack Kennedy had wanted since the Bay of Pigs” (Hersh, 440). Hersh heard this from a Church Committee lawyer, James Johnston, who told him that Bolton, who served as CIA liaison to the Church Committee, “`went into orbit over the implication that the CIA was a rogue elephant.’ It was at that point that Bolton told Johnston that in 1963 he had `carried a paragraph…to be inserted into Kennedy’s November 18 speech”…At their meeting, Johnston told me, Bolton (who died in 1985) was incensed at the implication that there was `any difference between Kennedy’s policy and the CIA policy.’” Someone has to be lying (see next footnote).

[107]  Both the I.G. Report (p. 94) and the “Pollock” affidavit make much of the fact that only four men knew of the poison pen offered to Cubela. The four were Nestor Sanchez, who served as AMLASH’s case officer, Fitzgerald (the SAS Chief), Samuel Halpern (usually described as Fitzgerald’s executive assistant), and Edward Gunn, the Medical Services Officer who supplied poisons first for the CIA-Mafia plots and then for Cubela. “Pollock” has to be one of these four. “Pollock” further testified that FitzGerald’s Deputy (i.e. Seymour Bolton) knew nothing of the assassination aspects of AMLASH. It is clear that someone, whether “Pollock,” or Bolton, or Johnston, or Hersh, has lied energetically. See below at footnote 123.

[108] Breckinridge Letter with attachment of 6 October 1978; NARA #104-10400-10090.

[110] I.G. Report, 80. The I.G. Report found this to be the only significant link between Cubela and the CIA-Mafia plots, ignoring the fact that the same CIA Medical Officer, Edward Gunn, supplied poisons for both.

[112] Schweiker-Hart Report, 78; citing I.G. Report, 103. Discussion in Peter Dale Scott, Crime and Cover-Up, 17-19; Deep Politics, 88, 120.

[113] Schweiker-Hart Report, 78; see Scott, Crime and Cover-Up, 17.

[114] San Francisco Chronicle, March 3, 1967, 41; Scott, Crime and Cover-Up, 23-27, etc.

[115]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 261; Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 597.

[116]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 597.

[117]  Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 723.

[118]  FRUS, #377, 888-89; Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 597.

[119]  Cf. Scott, Deep Politics, 225.

[120] FRUS, #370, 874.

[121]  Beschloss, 657.

[122]  Scott (1972), 227-28.

[123]  Assassinations Report, 173. (Note however the late date and addressee of the cited memo.) Sabotage actions had been recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the NSC Standing Group on October 1 (FRUS, #368, 871).

[124]  Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 139 (raid).

[125]  Thomas G. Paterson, Containing Castro (New York: Oxford UP, 1994), 261; citing Bundy, "Meeting With the President," Dec. 19, 1963 (FRUS, #388, 908). (Bundy used the IAPA speech to develop the case that new new President “could make a public statement…taking a more vigorous line than we have in the past.”) An internal CIA memo of December 9 appears to have interpreted the President's speech the same way (Schweiker-Hart Report, 20n). Cf. discussion of Seymour Bolton claim above at footnote 105.

[126]  Beschloss, 659; citing Sorensen, Kennedy, 723. Sorensen's actual characterization of the speech, though balanced and ambiguous like the speech itself, seems to tilt rather towards the Bundy reading. According to Sorensen, the speech reminded the "Cuban people" of "the freedoms...and the American aid which would be forthcoming once they broke with Moscow."

[127]  Public Papers of the Presidents, Kennedy, 1963, 876.

[128]  The two men met again on November 22, and heard together of the President's murder. Es una mala noticia, Castro muttered over and over: "This is bad news." Jean Daniel, New Republic, December 7,14, 1963; Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 598-99; Quirk, 482-83.

[129]  Attwood, The Twilight Struggle, 262; Beschloss, 659, Quirk, 183.

[130]  Schweiker-Hart Report, 19-20. Nestor Sanchez' name, generally redacted out of the declassified I.G. Report, was allowed to remain on pages 77a and 100.

[131]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 598n: "On its face the passage was obviously directed against Castro's extracontinental ties and signaled that, if these were ended, normalization was possible; it was meant in short as assistance to Attwood, not to FitzGerald. This was the signal that Richard Goodwin, the chief author of the speech, meant to convey. A search of the JFK Papers shows that Goodwin, Ralph Dungan, Bundy, Gordon Chase of Bundy's staff and I were involved in discussions about the speech. No evidence was uncovered of any contribution from FitzGerald and the CIA (W.W. Moss to author, March 30, 1978)."

[132]  Richard N. Goodwin, Remembering America ZZ: "By the end of 1963, Kennedy would begin secret discussions with officials of the Cuban government, hoping to lay the foundation for a meeting with Castro and a peaceful solution to the `Cuban problem.'" It is surprising that Goodwin should be recorded as the principal author of the IAPA Speech, since by his own account he moved after the 1962 Missile Crisis from State to the Peace Corps.

[133]  Ithaca Journal, November 19, 1963; Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, 343.

[134]  For Hendrix and Oswald, see Seth Kantor, The Ruby Cover-Up (New York: Zebra, 1978), 373-82. Hendrix himself played a part in what may have been the key 1963 assassination plot against Castro, the AMTILT Bayo-Pawley raid (Scott, Deep Politics, 114-17; cf. Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 169).

[135]  Hal Hendrix, Miami Herald, November 20, 1963; reprinted by Cong. Bob Wilson in Congressional Record, November 20, 1963, A7190.

[136]  Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, 598n; Beschloss, 659. Cf. Daniel Schorr, 166: "At the November 22 meeting Fitzgerald [i.e. Sanchez] called attention to [the IAPA speech]. That, he told Cubela, was the signal of the President's support for a coup. It was a gross distortion of a speech in which Kennedy had actually extended a hand of friendship to Castro on condition the Cuban regime cease subversive efforts in other West Hemisphere countries."

[137]  Paterson, 261; Hurt, 343.

[138]  Richard Reeves, A Question of Character (Rocklin, CA: Prima, 1992), 278.

[139]  Davis, The Kennedys, 348-53; Reeves, 262.

[140]  Hinckle and Turner, The Fish Is Red, 240, 299-306.