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Tipping Point

Part 4: Context for Conspiracy

by Larry Hancock, December 2020

Context for Conspiracy

They Talked

As mentioned in the introduction, over a number of years I examined a number of individuals who have come to researchers' attention, primarily due to the work of the various official inquiries into the Kennedy assassination. In the end I've been left with a handful of primary and secondary sources which appear to me to be credible. In no instance did those individuals "go public" with their information; what little they had to say was disclosed only to family or to other individuals or in a fashion that would not allow it to be attributed to them personally or publicly. In some instances their information was offered to investigative bodies under the assumption that it would be kept confidential – only to become known due to records releases or investigative work by private researchers.

The following material provides a brief introduction to sources I find credible, as well as a synopsis of how they came to be known. Citations are given for their backgrounds, as developed both in my own works (which contain document sources and available links to online materials) as well other sources. Most importantly it describes the limited information which they did provide. In no instances did they elaborate or claim extensive knowledge of the conspiracy or the names of those involved; the information they did provide is strictly consistent with the manner in which it was reportedly obtained.

John Martino

John Martino’s Confessions, Mary Ferrell Foundation
"John Martino’s Confessions",
Mary Ferrell Foundation
see also Martino’s FBI Subject Files

Martino had been arrested by Cuban authorities in 1959, while working as a technician in gaming operations at a Havana casino. He had worked in the Havana casinos for some time, becoming familiar with and known to several of the Americans working there. At the time of his arrest he was working to smuggle certain Cubans out of the country. Upon his release he immediately began a personal crusade against Castro's regime both in the media and with certain Cuban exiles.

Martino became something of a public figure in anti-Castro activities, both in Miami and in certain right-wing political circles. Immediately following the assassination he was active in offering purported leads to both the FBI and the media, leads which associated the president's murder with a conspiracy initiated and enabled by Fidel Castro and Cuban intelligence. Only years later, shortly before his death, did he reveal information that pointed towards a much different conspiracy, one involving his close personal friends within the anti-Castro community in Miami.

Martino provided limited detail, based in his admission that he did have foreknowledge of the attack in Dallas and that he himself had played a support role, as a courier traveling to Dallas under the cover of his book speaking tours. [ 165 ]

According to both Martino's wife and his son, Martino was very much aware of what was about to happen to the president, remarking on it both to his wife and in front of the family during a newscast about JFK's trip to Texas.

Edward R. Martino, PhD., Events I witnessed July 1959 through November 1963
Edward R. Martino, PhD.,
"Events I witnessed July 1959 through
November 1963"

"Flo, they're going to kill him. They're going to kill him when he gets to Texas." [ 166 ]

Martino even ordered his teenage son Edward to remain home from school on November 22, instructing him to stay in front of the television rather than leaving the house. [ 167 ]

Beyond remarks to his wife and family, Martino's knowledge of the conspiracy was also provided confidentially to two of his longtime friends shortly before his death. [ 168 ] Those friends, first anonymously and then under their true names, provided his remarks to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. [ 169 ] That committee conducted a limited inquiry but at that point in time his wife remained silent – only later did his wife and son confirm his involvement to researchers. [ 170 ]

Belford Lawson, HSCA memo Fred Claasen to Cliff Fenton, August 29, 1977
Belford Lawson [longtime friend and
business partner of John Martino]
contact, HSCA memo Fred Claasen
to Cliff Fenton, August 29, 1977

Martino described anti-Castro Cuban exiles as being involved with Lee Oswald, manipulating Oswald to enhance his image as a Castro supporter. The exiles had knowledge of the fact that Oswald was in contact with the FBI - and might well have been used in some fashion by the CIA as well. Martino was told that Oswald was not the shooter; the actual shooters in Dallas were two Cuban exiles, committed anti-Castro fighters. [ 171 ]

Oswald was to be killed as part of the overall plan to point the assassination towards Castro. Oswald was in contact with the anti-Castro Cubans and had been expected to meet a contact at the Texas Theater the afternoon of November 22, 1963.

Martino was told that the overall plan for Dallas aborted when Oswald was taken into custody at the theatre. He also understood that Jack Ruby had been involved in a minor fashion but his role was changed once Oswald was taken into custody. The attack itself was planned at a basic level prior to the arrival of the tactical team in Dallas.

John Roselli

Roselli Describes his Role in A CIA Plot on Castro”, New York Times
Nicholas M. Horrock,
"Roselli Describes his
Role in A CIA Plot on
Special Report to
The New York Times,
June 25, 1975

Roselli first came to public attention in regard to his role in multiple CIA efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro. [ 172 ] He was interviewed at considerable length about those activities by a Senate inquiry, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (known as the Church Committee) during 1975. [ 173 ] However Roselli had confidentially tried to plant an assassination conspiracy story well before that – similar to what Martino had done immediately after the assassination. During the winter of 1966/67 he had used his contacts in Washington D.C. to float a Castro plot to Earl Warren, to the FBI, and Secret Service - and ultimately to President Johnson. When he got no real response, he carried the story to Jack Anderson, who publicized it as a "political H-Bomb" – suggesting that the Kennedy administration efforts (specifically led by RFK) to kill Castro had backfired, resulting in the retaliation by Fidel Castro and the president's murder. [ 174 ]

At the time Roselli's name was withheld from this "blowback" story, however in later years Anderson did reveal him as the source. Roselli's "Castro did it" rumor was circulated in Washington as the Garrison investigation was underway in New Orleans. While Garrison's investigation of the president's assassination had not yet become public, Roselli's behind the scenes activities in Washington D.C. focused renewed attention on the assassination of JFK and led to an early interest in, and concerns about, Garrison's investigation. In the end Roselli offered no real details or sources, but his effort did sensitize the highest levels in Washington D.C. to the possibility (and risk) that the Garrison investigation might indeed reveal challenges to the official story of Lee Oswald as a "lone nut", and trigger calls for a new, open inquiry into the assassination.

Jack Anderson, Did Bobby’s Plot Backfire?
Jack Anderson, "Did Bobby’s Plot
Backfire?", March 3, 1967,
California Digital Newspaper Collection

In a dramatic contrast to the Castro-did-it scenario, Roselli himself privately expressed to one of his own lawyers (Tom Warden) that he had been personally involved in the conspiracy which killed JFK. Warden shared Roselli's remarks with his law partner William Hundley, who had formerly been head of the Justice Department's Organized Crime Division. [ 175 ] Warden served as an attorney for Roselli and also for Fred Black, a Washington super lobbyist (deeply involved in the Baker/Levinson/LBJ Serve-U Corp scandal). [ 176 ] Hundley had served as a special assistant to Robert Kennedy within the Justice Department, but later became John Mitchell's lawyer during the Watergate scandal.

The conspiracy scenario that Roselli did float in Washington was that of a CIA assassination team, composed of anti-Castro exiles, which had failed in an attack on Castro inside Cuba. In some fashion they had been "turned" by Castro, and directed against President Kennedy. In essence a CIA shooter team had killed JFK, but they had been under the control of Fidel Castro. [ 177 ] Versions of this same meme have appeared in following decades, turning up in books and cable television programs as recently as within the past decade. [ 178 ]

Roselli himself certainly did have knowledge of CIA Castro assassination activities. He worked under Shackley and with Varona during the first Cuba project, then with William Harvey and David Morales under Mongoose. Poison and sniper teams had been used in efforts to kill Castro during both the original Cuba Project and during the Mongoose/Task Force W activities. Roselli's connections to Harvey, JMWAVE and the CIA were inarguable, as were his broad connections to major crime figures not only as part of the Castro assassination efforts but because of his long career and his financial contacts on the east coast, his social network in Los Angeles, and his business dealings in Las Vegas. In terms of Cuban affairs his connections went back to Meyer Lansky, his time in the Havana casinos and his ongoing involvement with certain of those individuals in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. [ 179 ]

Yet despite Roselli's inherent credibility, his outreach in 1967 met with no response at all other than from President Johnson, who did order the FBI to conduct what once again turned out to be a minimal investigation. Later, when he was called to testify to the Church Committee on assassinations, he did begin to share information on the poison plots. He was recalled to answer additional questions, but before he appeared to testify further he was brutally murdered – by parties unknown.

David Morales

David Morales first came to attention through the work of Gaeton Fonzi during the HSCA inquiry. Fonzi developed a lead towards someone referred to as "El Indio" who was a key player in JMWAVE operations. Eventually Fonzi was able to connect that nickname to someone named David Morales. However, the CIA totally stonewalled all inquiries on Morales, refusing to acknowledge his employment or any connection with the agency. Only years later did Fonzi happen to mention the name to independent researcher Robert Doff – who in turn recalled a mention of David Morales in a book by an Army officer, Bradley Ayers, who had been detailed to do paramilitary training for JMWAVE. [ 180 ]

Dorff worked with Ayers, who had known Morales during his assignment to Miami Station, and was eventually able to confirm information about Morales as well as locate two personal associates who agreed to speak about him – his best friend in Arizona and his personal lawyer. In later years, with new records releases it has been possible to fully detail Morales' career including his assignment history with the CIA, his personal relationships with individuals such as Tony Sforza, and his contacts with individuals such as John Martino. [ 181 ]

Over the years, extensive interviews with Morales' friend and lawyer produced significant information suggesting that Morales had been personally involved with the Kennedy assassination, perhaps the most suggestive being a simple statement -"Well we took care of that 's'on of a 'b'itch, didn't we!" [ 182 ]

Morales made that statement to both his best friend and his lawyer; later he specifically confirmed to his friend Reuben Carbajal that he had indeed been personally involved with the conspiracy which killed JFK. [ 183 ]

As Chief of JMWAVE operations in 1963, Morales worked with the most proficient of the Cuban exile paramilitary operators including Rip Robertson and Grayston Lynch. Given his lengthy history with CIA paramilitary operations and covert action (in later years he became a consultant in counter insurgency to the Joint Chief's staff), Morales remains a highly credible source. His very personal remarks provide us with no detail, but imply that both he and individuals he worked with were involved with the conspiracy to kill JFK – an implication directly confirmed to his friend Carbajal. [ 184 ] Multiple sources also verify that Morales had a deep personal hatred of President Kennedy, based on failed landings at the Bay of Pigs – Morales himself had been deeply involved in the first Cuba Project. [ 185 ]

Morales named no names to his friends; however documents do reveal a great deal of detail as to exactly who he was working with in the fall of 1963. Given his responsibility for operations, he was in a direct management role over JMWAVE missions, as well as maritime operations (including both the TILT mission and Commando Mambises activities) led by individuals such as Rip Robertson and Grayston Lynch. Beyond that, his role included training support for the new AMWORLD project, as well as operational support for the Cuban Intelligence Group (AMOTs) in its activities both inside Cuba and in Mexico. In 1963 that group was led by a close personal friend of David Morales, Tony Sforza – both men had previously operated under cover inside Cuba.

While those connections are documented and understandable, what seems inexplicable is the fact that career CIA officer David Morales was also personally connected to anti-Castro activist John Martino. That connection cannot be strictly explained by Martino's participation in the TILT mission during the summer of 1963. While Rip Robertson led the CIA element of that effort and other officers participated, there is no indication that Morales would have met Martino as part of that project.

In fact security protocols should have restricted Robertson himself from any contact with Martino other than on the actual boat mission itself. Yet we know from Martino's family that Robertson himself developed a bond with Martino. So much so that they recalled ongoing visits to Martino's family home by "Rip". While the TILT mission provides at least some justification for a social connection between Robertson and Martino, Martino's knowledge about Morales goes back well before the summer of 1963 – revealed in the personal and confidential information in Chapter 4 of Martino's own book, I Was Castro's Prisoner.

In that book Martino identified Morales by name as a CIA officer - something which the CIA itself would never confirm. In fact, the CIA refused to either identify or even acknowledge Morales as a CIA employee, or as associated with JMWAVE, in response to specific inquiries from the HSCA. In later years work by researchers including Robert Dorff and the author as well as by the ARRB revealed the extent of Morales's CIA career and his various covers within the Army, State Department and USAID. [ 186 ]

Martino also wrote of Morales as being under cover in Cuba as a State Department attaché in the American embassy in Havana, and described Morales's repeated warnings to the CIA about Castro going communist. Martino's information on CIA activities in Havana was so detailed that he was able to write about Morales's predecessor in Havana and provide considerable detail as to infighting among the embassy staff.

The fact that Martino was able to identify both Earl Wilson and David Morales as CIA officers working undercover while assigned to the American Embassy in Havana, something which should have driven CIA security officers mad – it certainly was not something Martino would have picked up while working in the Havana casinos. Beyond that, there are also indications that the personal connection between Morales and Martino continued in the years following the assassination of JFK. Both men became involved in Latin American business activities, with Morales making personal introductions for Martino in Guatemala. [ 187 ]

Gene Wheaton

The Wheaton Lead: An Exploration, Larry Hancock and David Boylan
The Wheaton Lead: An Exploration,
Larry Hancock and David Boylan,
Mary Ferrell Foundation, April, 2020

In support of the JFK Records Act of 1992, an independent agency - the Assassination Records Review Board - was formed, with the charter of locating and bringing into the National Archives materials pertinent to the assassination of President John Kennedy. The Board and its staff began work in October 1994 and operated for four years. Due to media visibility over the JFK Records Act and the Board's public meetings and work, a number of individuals privately contacted the Board with information they felt to be relevant to the Kennedy assassination. [ 188 ]

One of those individuals, Gene Wheaton, approached the ARRB with a fax to its chairman John Tunheim on October 20, 1995. Wheaton indicated that he felt he might have information relevant to the Board's work. As part of that contact Wheaton provided a four page biography of himself, as well as a letter of commendation from President Richard Nixon for Wheaton's earlier anti-drug work during an assignment in Iran.

Wheaton's career experience was in law enforcement and security operations, initially with police work and then service with both the Air Force Office of Special (criminal) Investigations and with the Army Counter Intelligence Division (criminal and narcotics investigations). Following military service he had obtained his Bachelor's Degree in law enforcement, and a Master's Degree in Public Administration. After obtaining his Masters he had moved into security consulting in the Middle East, working in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt (security design for the Cairo Airport) and as an advisor on security, police practices and anti-terrorism to the pre-revolutionary government of Iran. His work on counter-drug activities with Iranian law enforcement resulted in a special commendation from President Richard Nixon.

While in Iran he also worked as Director of Security for Rockwell International on its IBEX program, a project involving both photographic and communications intelligence surveillance and intelligence collections. [ 189 ] Following his IBEX assignment, Wheaton did security consulting work with Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; his assignments included working for Bechtel Corporation in the development of the huge Jeddah airport project. Wheaton's biographical data – which has been confirmed – was impressive, not only in respect to law enforcement, but in terms of his experience in intelligence and security practices.

Wheaton followed up his introduction by stating that he wished to refer a potential source of information on the assassination. He noted that the individual in question had worked for him in the mid-1980, and had been a close personal friend at that time. The individual had an earlier career as a senior CIA paramilitary officer (his wife was also a high-level CIA employee). He had worked as an operations officer on the CIA's Cuba project as well as in follow-on anti-Castro activities – his work had involved infiltrations, sabotage and assassination. While working for Wheaton in air transportation/logistics sales related to the Nicaraguan Contra effort, the individual had introduced Wheaton to Cuban and American veterans of the CIA's anti-Castro operations.

The individual Wheaton named to the ARRB as having knowledge related to the Kennedy assassination was CIA officer Carl Jenkins. In addition to Jenkin's name, Wheaton offered a very limited amount of information, which he had heard in private conversations among anti-Castro military personnel who had worked with Jenkins in earlier years. The men had trained under Jenkins and conducted a variety of missions against Castro's regime, including maritime operations into Cuba.

The conversations had occurred during the period when Jenkins was working as a sales manager for Wheaton, soliciting air transportation contracts for the Reagan-era Contra support aimed out ousting the governing regime of Nicaragua. [ 190 ] Known participants in the conversation were CIA military trainer Carl Jenkins and Rafael Quintero, a participant in the original Cuba Project. Quintero had been a member of a special paramilitary leadership cadre trained for maritime infiltration under CIA officer Carl Jenkins, later a JMWAVE asset and ultimately the second in command of the AMWORLD project which began under Manuel Artime in 1963. Quintero was personally associated with several of the most active anti-Communist exile figures including Felix Rodriquez, long time CIA covert operator.

Only recently have we come to understand the full operational importance of the names associated with Carl Jenkins. [ 191 ] That context is especially important given that Wheaton related few details other than the fact that Cuban exiles trained by Jenkins and known to Quintero had participated in the conspiracy which killed President Kennedy.

Due to the document work of David Boylan and Bill Simpich, as well as their related work in identifying the individuals associated with CIA crypts, it is possible to present a full and documented picture of the individuals who worked under Jenkins during the Cuba Project, and later with JMWAVE officers such as Rip Robertson in anti-Castro operations, including missions and activities against Cuba from 1960-1963.

We now can also verify that certain of these same individuals were involved with infiltration missions intended to assassinate Fidel Castro, via well-planned sniper attacks. That becomes especially interesting given that it is an exact match for John Roselli's remarks that CIA-trained Cuban exiles - who had been targeted on Castro - were the individuals who were directly involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. [ 192 ]

Beyond the lead to Carl Jenkins, Wheaton provided one other insight, something he had heard from the CIA operations veterans during their "war story sessions":

"The street level people Cubans felt JFK was a traitor and wanted to kill him'....people' above the Cubans wanted him killed for other reasons" [ 193 ]

Rafael Quintero

Quintero had been an early volunteer for the initial CIA Cuba Project, going through special training and participating in infiltration missions into Cuba prior to the failed landing of the Cuban Expeditionary Force. He had operated covertly inside Cuba, as had others of the special infiltration cadre including Tony Izquierdo and Felix Rodriquez. All three had managed to evade and escape during the Bay of Pigs landings and the following massive roundup of suspected insurgents. Following his return to the United States, he had drafted plans for a new covert operations initiative and presented them to Special Group leaders Robert Kennedy and Maxwell Taylor, who in turn offered the plans to CIA Deputy Director Richard Helms.

Quintero was well respected, both within the CIA community and by senior members of the Kennedy Administration who thought highly of him. Helms was favorably impressed and forwarded Quintero's plans on to the president's military representatives. [ 194 ] As the Artime project evolved into AMWORLD, Quintero was appointed second in command of the new project, working along with Carl Jenkins for some two years.

Quintero is of interest as a source for two reasons, the first being his corroboration that he was personally close to Gene Wheaton, as was Carl Jenkins. Quintero also verified that Wheaton had indeed heard the types of discussions which he described, from long time anti-Castro Cuban paramilitary operators. He refused to comment further, much less elaborate, only cautioning that Wheaton might have "misunderstood" some of the comments which were made during the conversations.

The second reason Quintero remains of interest is literally for what he apparently knew, but did not say – as noted in a quote from his obituary:

"If I were ever granted immunity, and compelled to testify about past actions, about Dallas and the Bay of Pigs, it would be the biggest scandal ever to rock the United States." [ 195 ]

Felipe Vidal Santiago

Felipe Vidal was an independent, but much respected, activist within the Cuban exile community. He had also been an officer in the Cuban Navy. Vidal had no affiliation with the CIA or with JMWAVE; however he was known to be personally close to John Martino (confirmed by Martino in interviews with the FBI) and Roy Hargraves, as well as in routine contact with Frank Sturgis. He and Hargraves had organized several independent missions into Cuba – both men were almost killed by an unexplained boat explosion and fire following the Kennedy assassination.

Vidal's reputation within the exile community is revealed in a March 1963 CIA intelligence report by Frank Sturgis (as reported to CIA case officer Bernard Barker). Sturgis provided details on a major maritime mission to be led by Vidal. The plan was highly ambitious, involving a 185-foot mother ship and several other vessels. It was to involve a diversionary attack at sea as cover for landing two separate fighting groups on the island. Vidal had been chosen to lead the mission because of his maritime experience and commitment to action against Castro.

Funding for the mission was to come from old line Cuban business sources in New York City via Julio Lobo, and both MDC and Unidad groups were to provide personnel. [ 196 ] Yet as with many such missions organized during 1963, the plan was uncovered and the project was interdicted by government agencies. One of the consequences was that Vidal was among those placed under a local area travel restriction by the INS. His previously-noted trips to Dallas in the fall of 1963 were a violation of that restriction.

Following the assassination, Vidal continued to be both independent and active in action against Castro. Ultimately he was captured during an extremely risky attempt to enter Cuba in early 1964 - and executed. Cuban forces were waiting as he came on shore and immediately took him into custody following a fire fight in which he was wounded.

As with Quintero, Vidal did not speak directly about the assassination; however he had remarked that he was one of those in the exile community that was passed the word that President Kennedy had abandoned the exiles and was going to negotiate some sort of relationship between the United Sates and the Castro regime. Vidal described that information as having a dramatic impact on the activist anti-Castro exiles – "it was almost like a bomb". [ 197 ]

Roy Hargraves

Hargraves had been one of the earliest American volunteers to work inside the exile community in Miami, involved early on in training anti-Castro group fighters from some of the smaller, most independent groups. He was deeply embedded inside that community well before his association with Gerry Hemming, or the short lived INTERPEN group. [ 198 ]

Hargraves was an independent anti-Castro activist, not associated with the CIA. [ 199 ] He operated on the periphery, finding limited funds via schemes (and scams) with individuals such as Sam Benton, and old line ultra-conservative Cuban donors. Yet he stands out as one of the only independent Americans to actually organize and conduct military missions into Cuba. In 1963 he obtained the money and support required to carry out a successful (and highly publicized) boat mission in which he captured Cuban fishing vessels. Following the capture he and his team fought a running battle with Cuban patrol boats and ultimately took the Cuban boats to Bermuda - triggering a minor international incident with the British.

The fact that Hargraves had knowledge of and should be considered an actual suspect in the Kennedy assassination was reported to the FBI early in the Warren Commission's inquiry. [ 200 ] That report came from an individual in Miami who had known Hargraves personally, a neighbor of Hargraves. William Blanton Acker stated that he had come to know an individual named "Roy" who lived with his girlfriend in the same trailer park as Acker. Acker had seen rifles, scoped weapons, grenades and dynamite in Roy's possession.

Acker stated that "Roy" lived at the trailer park with a girlfriend only known to Acker as Silvia. Prior to the Kennedy assassination Silvia had told Acker that Roy could get him into the exile fight against Castro and that "somebody is going to die...somebody who hasn't hurt anybody...he doesn't know it but he is going to die". She also told him that "Roy is in something big, the biggest thing this country has ever seen". [ 201 ]

Following the assassination, Acker had attended a party where Hargraves had bitterly blamed JFK as being personally responsible for the death of Roy's friends at the Bay of Pigs. Acker took Hargraves seriously because his friends were discussing the fact that Roy had been to Dallas in late 1963 and had Secret Service credentials in his possession.

As with a number of similar reports offered to the FBI, Blanton's information was investigated in a very superficial fashion. The FBI officially claimed that it could not confirm "Roy" was Roy Hargraves. Beyond that they discounted the report because Acker had been in a veteran's hospital, describing him as having a "diseased mind".

Noel Twyman, Bloody Treason, Roy Hargraves Interview
Noel Twyman, Bloody Treason,
Roy Hargraves Interview, Tape 1, 2001,
Side A, also Someone Would Have
2006 spiral bound edition,
with permission of Noel Twyman

Decades later independent research by both Noel Twyman and this author established that Roy Hargraves was indeed "Roy", that he had been a neighbor to Blanton in the same trailer park and that his girlfriend had been accurately described by Blanton. [ 202 ]

Decades later, in 2001, Noel Twyman personally interviewed Roy Hargraves – Hargraves privately admitted that both he and Felipe Vidal had been in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 in support of the assault on the president. [ 203 ] Hargraves stated that he had been brought into the action to prepare an explosive device - which did not have to be used because of the successful shooting attack on the president. It is a matter of record that Hargraves did specialize in explosive devices, and circa 1968 had been investigated by the FBI for building and detonating bombs targeting political targets (anti-Vietnam war and Black Panther offices) in Los Angeles.

Rolondo Otero

Kennedy Sought Dialogue with Cuba, The National Security Archive
"Kennedy Sought Dialogue with Cuba",
The National Security Archive,
November 24, 2003

Otero was a source for House Select Committee on Assassinations investigator Gaeton Fonzi, expressing to Fonzi his personal knowledge that a CIA officer had been circulating among certain Cuban exiles in the late summer/early fall of 1963 - talking of treasonous activities of JFK in regard to a secret diplomatic outreach to Cuba and Castro. Otero himself was a personal friend of Nestor (Tony) Izquierdo.

Otero also claimed to have heard a similar story to that related in the conversations described by Gene Wheaton – that Cuban exiles had been involved in the attack on JFK, in revenge for his failure to support the Cuban landings with air cover and for his ongoing treachery. Otero provided Fonzi with the name of a local Cuban exile who purportedly had a broader knowledge of those involved – Bernardo de Torres. De Torres was a Bay of Pigs veteran whose brother operated a well-established detective agency in Miami. In 1963 de Torres had been the intelligence officer for the reorganized Brigade 2506 group in Miami. Later de Torres would play a major role in exposing and attempting to divert the Garrison investigation of the Kennedy assassination.

Otero's remarks in regard to a secret JFK/Castro outreach have been confirmed in a variety of sources. [ 204 ] The fact that new Kennedy/Castro secret contacts had begun in the fall 1963 was indeed very real and held extremely closely by the president and select State Department officers. The contacts were being made with deniable State Department assets – entirely outside the purview of the CIA, and even the National Security Council. The first actual meeting between American and Cuban representatives was being scheduled for late November, 1963.

Otero provided no details about the assassination or the conspiracy other than in regard to the motives of those involved:

Cuban exiles were provoked by CIA officers into an action against President Kennedy with information that JFK was acting against their efforts to oust Castro and betraying them in his policies towards Cuba. [ 205 ]

Wayne January

Wayne January operated an aircraft servicing and sales company at Red Bird airport in Dallas. [ 206 ] Following the assassination, he contacted the FBI and reported a suspicious incident with unidentified individuals who had tried to rent an aircraft for a long-distance flight just before the assassination. The FBI showed little interest in that lead, instead questioning January primarily about the fact that he had on occasion visited Jack Ruby's club in Dallas. In later years English researcher Matthew Smith contacted January, and over a number of years developed a significant amount of information about a separate incident that had occurred during the same week of the assassination.

During 1963 January was partnered in the sale of a small number of multi-engine transport aircraft which were being sold to a third-party company with offices at the Houston Air Center. January was responsible for servicing, checking and making any fixes required by the buyers who were accepting the aircraft. The last aircraft being sold was actually a WWII troop carrier which had been heavily modified, having all the seats removed and reconfigured as a cargo carrier. Early in the week of the November 22 assassination, two individuals arrived to take receipt of the last aircraft. One, an American, left immediately after a brief introduction to January. The second was Latino; he essentially accepted the aircraft, overseeing any corrective maintenance work which was required. The Cuban spent the week working alongside January.

While the aircraft was being accepted, the pilot/aircraft mechanic conducting the acceptance identified himself as a Cuban (he spoke English with no particular accent) who had previously flown similar aircraft in Cuba. He had joined the Cuban Expeditionary Force as a pilot and had flown at the Bay of Pigs (both B-26 fighter bombers and parachute troop transports were involved in support of the landings). The Cuban told January that he was familiar with the type of aircraft which was being accepted and had flown similar planes as an officer in the Cuban Air Force.

Later he mentioned that the American who had arrived with him to take possession of the aircraft was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Recent research suggests that the aircraft was being obtained for the AMWORLD project and that the Cuban was a pilot involved in covert CIA air operations; the American Colonel may have been a JMWAVE officer assigned to the project for logistics and security purposes. The American spent no time at the Red Bird airport, and did not appear again until around mid-day on November 22. [ 207 ]

The Cuban became comfortable after talking with January over several days but was outspoken in relating that his friends had died during the Bay of Pigs landings - because JFK had not delivered the promised air cover for them. January felt the man to be quite sincere but that he was simply exaggerating about revenge against President Kennedy. No more was said about the subject until the afternoon of November 22. January talked to the Cuban for a few moments after the assassination and was told that things were happening just as he had been told. In the excitement of that afternoon January did not actually observe the aircraft depart or observe who was in it.

Nothing about the pilot's remarks indicates he was directly involved in the Dallas attack; he had been there working on the aircraft's checking and acceptance since Nov. 18. However, they are quite consistent with other sources on the motive and the individuals actually involved in the attack in Dallas.

My friends lost relatives and comrades who died because your President Kennedy failed to send the planes that were promised for the landings at the Bay of Pigs – they are going to kill Kennedy for that - "They are going to kill your 'p'resident". [ 208 ]

Jack Ruby

Jack Ruby had been directly involved in Cuban affairs since 1959. He was personally associated with the Havana casino crowd through several people including Louis McWillie and Norman Rothman. Ruby also appears to have played a key role as a courier and liaison in a deal that freed Santo Trafficante from a Cuban jail. He was known as a ready and willing volunteer for any deal that came along, especially if it might improve his standing with the sorts of people he respected as successful, people who had made it in the club and gambling circuit.

An examination of his contacts, travels and behavior both before and after the assassination strongly suggests his involvement in a peripheral role – a role which changed dramatically after the original plan came apart with Lee Oswald being taken into custody. Ruby attempted to disclose information to the Warren Commission, however he was denied the protection required to make such disclosures. Still, he offered corroboration of a conspiracy, and of the fact that his role changed to the extent that both he and his family were at risk. [ 209 ]

"I have been used for a purpose"; You can get more out of me", "Unless you take me to Washington you can't get a fair shake out of me....I want to tell the truth...my life is in danger here....my whole family is in jeopardy...would you rather delete what I said and pretend nothing is going on?"

At several points during his polygraph examination in Dallas, Ruby repeatedly expressed to Earl Warren and others that he did not feel comfortable with his testimony being taken in Dallas and requested to be taken to Washington D.C. where he would be able to make his remarks directly to "the people of the highest authority" in regard to why he had acted as he did.

Mr. RUBY. From the moment I started my testimony, have I sounded as though, with the exception of becoming emotional, have I sounded as though I made sense, what I was speaking about? Chief Justice WARREN. You have indeed. I understood everything you have said. If I haven't, it is my fault.

Mr. RUBY. Then I follow this up. I may not live tomorrow to give any further testimony. The reason why I add this to this, since you assure me that I have been speaking sense by then, I might be speaking sense by following what I have said, and the only thing I want to get out to the public, and I can't say it here, is with authenticity, with sincerity of the truth of everything and why my act was committed, but it can't be said here. It can be said, it's got to be said amongst people of the highest authority that would give me the benefit of doubt. And following that, immediately give me the lie detector test after I do make the statement. [ 210 ]

William Patterson

Secret Service Agent Patterson affirmed in an official report that FBI Agent James Hosty – the morning following the assassination – had stated to him that "Oswald had contacted two known subversives about two weeks before the assassination". [ 211 ] That remark appears to confirm that Oswald was under some level of FBI surveillance in Dallas, beyond the routine FBI contacts acknowledged by the Bureau. Hosty made a similar remark to Dallas Police detective Jack Revill, stating that Oswald had been under observation but that information on him had been restricted since it was an espionage/security matter. [ 212 ]

Oswald had been monitored by the FBI following his return from the Soviet Union, mail watches were routinely maintained on him, he had been on the FBI's internal security watch list (mandated as an apparent officer in an officially designated subversive organization such as the FPCC), his employment was checked (a "pretext call" confirmed his employment at the Texas School Book Depository), and his travel was also monitored (according to William Kline, chief of U.S. customs in Laredo Texas). [ 213 ]

One possibility is that Oswald might indeed have been in touch with anti-Castro Cuban activists connected to a house on Harlandale Street, a repeat of his efforts to approach DRE activists in New Orleans. We do know that the FBI had an active sting in play against efforts to buy weapons by Cuban exiles in Dallas. Surveillance of the Harlandale residence might well have been in play along with that sting. Unfortunately we have no information from the Dallas FBI files on what subversive investigations Hosty might have referred to in his remarks. Still, it is now possible to confirm that the FBI was actively monitoring "subversives" in Dallas.

We have a record of the Dallas FBI office being actively involved in at least one suspected Cuban agent investigation, an investigation that had begun in Miami and moved to Dallas. As of November 1963 the FBI was some months into an extended investigation of Osvaldo Pino Pino. Pino Pino was suspected of being a possible Castro agent and FBI documents show that Pino Pino was known to keep company with individuals who frequented the house on Harlandale Street. The Dallas inquiry into Pino Pinio was being carried out by FBI Special Agent Walter Heitman. [ 214 ] However up to this point we have been able to locate no subversive files from the Dallas office other than Heitman's work on the Pino Pino investigation, which only concluded in 1964.

Hosty himself became personally interested in Oswald's associations, including the report of his visit to the Odio family in Dallas. His ultimate conclusion on that incident was that Sylvia Odio had been visited by Cubans associated with William Pawley and opposed to JURE, suggesting a DRE affiliation by her visitors.

William Kent

CIA psychological operations specialist William officer Kent served at JMWAVE through several of the Cuba projects of the early 1960s; he signed off on George Joannides' reports and reviewed his DRE case officer work in 1963. Kent was quite familiar with the activities of the DRE.

He offered no official remarks on the Kennedy assassination. But later, in private remarks to family members, Kent provided two key insights.

When asked about Lee Oswald he simply responded:

"Lee Oswald was a useful idiot." In professional intelligence usage, that term describes a person acting under the influence of others, without fully comprehending the goals and agenda of those manipulating them.

When asked about the Kennedy assassination by a family member, he also gave a simple response:

"It's better you don't know". [ 215 ]

A Witches Brew – Fall 1963

Exclusive: JFK Death Threat Note from Nov. 1963 in Miami Revealed For 1st Time
Jilda Unruh, "Exclusive: JFK Death
Threat Note from Nov. 1963 in Miami
Revealed For 1st Time", CBS 4 Miami,
November 21, 2013

By October, 1963 the talk against President Kennedy within segments of the anti-Castro community had become harsh enough, and common enough, that the FBI reportedly advised the Secret Service office in Chicago that individuals traveling there might pose a threat to the president. Very real threats of hostile demonstrations – and worse - also circulated within the Miami Cuban community, threats which seriously worried the Secret Service about JFK's safety in his scheduled November travel to Florida. We know that worry was justified as there were active threats during his visit to Miami. [ 216 ]

But what was the actual genesis of the conspiracy known to the sources we have cited, a conspiracy which would have drawn individuals who considered themselves to be American and Cuban patriots into an act of treason, the planned murder of an elected president?

Certainly by the early fall of 1963, CIA personnel at JMWAVE were increasingly frustrated with Kennedy administration policies towards Cuba, and by the new Cuban Committee programs such as AMWORLD and AMTRUNK. They had been upset to see the CIA assigned to a strictly support role in the campaign against Castro - first in the interdepartmental MONGOOSE effort under Lansdale and the Special Group Augmented, and then in the new programs being developed under the interdepartmental Cuban Coordinating Committee (with strategy nominally being a responsibility of the State Department).

At CIA headquarters, the new head of Cuban activities (the Special Affairs Staff), Desmond Fitzgerald, appeared positive about the new programs being developed. But the view at JMWAVE was far more negative - neither Shackley nor Morales were personally impressed and made little effort to conceal their attitudes. Chief of Station Shackley was vocal in his opposition to both the new strategies. [ 217 ] He was also extremely skeptical about Manual Artime, designated to play the leading role in the new, highly deniable, autonomous anti-Castro effort. The fact that Artime's selection was largely influenced by Robert Kennedy appears to have been especially annoying to the senior officers in Miami.

Of course under President Kennedy the CIA had not retained the preeminent position that it had held during the Eisenhower administration. That had been a unique situation with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles driving American policy, and Eisenhower turning to John's brother Allen Dulles whenever covert action was needed to enforce the policies. There is no doubt that the failure of the 1960/61 Cuba Project had lessened the strategic influence of the Agency, and of its Director. It had lost its position as a driving force in national policy, and the single resource for clandestine and covert action. The inquiries which followed the disaster at the Bay of Pigs had produced recommendations that the CIA's covert operations be restricted in both scope and size, with the Department of Defense assigned a formal role in clandestine military activities.

JFK had allowed the CIA to continue to share (along with the State Department and the Army, with its White Star personnel) the responsibility for covert paramilitary operations in Laos, as well as to continue small scale military activities in Tibet, and in the Congo. While Laos had been a crisis for the new administration as Kennedy came into office, the military situation had stabilized to some extent during 1962 and Kennedy had authorized additional weapons for the CIA's surrogate forces in the north (the Hmong) - equipping them with 75 mm heavy rifles as well as standard infantry weapons.

During 1963 JFK also agreed to provide the Hmong with heavier artillery (mortars and howitzers), support aircraft and approved increased funding for military activities in Laos (NSAM 256). But in doing so he also expanded the DOD role, authorizing a buildup of covert military support for Laos via the deployment of Air Force units to Thailand and heavy lift helicopters to be used inside Laos (NSAM 249). Kennedy also moved to deploy a similar mix of CIA surrogate forces and American military units to the Congo.

The CIA was allowed to expand and arm a Cuban volunteer unit (the Makasi force) which had been first deployed to the Congo in 1962. With twelve ground attack aircraft and seven B-26 bombers it was proving an effective force, increasingly deployed in strikes against various rebel groups. But that move was also accompanied by the deployment of regular Air Force transports and support troops in a visible display for the Congolese central government.

In a more dramatic shift, with strong support from Secretary of Defense McNamara, President Kennedy had assigned the Department of Defense (though the Army and Navy) to take charge of covert action against North Vietnam. By the summer of 1963 he had also authorized the Joint Chiefs to develop a new proposal for accelerating covert military action against Cuba. Clearly the DOD and the military services were becoming much more involved in covert and clandestine military missions. JFK himself had personally expressed his enthusiasm for Special Forces (such as the Army Green Berets) and covert military action in contrast to large scale conventional combat. [ 218 ]

While JFK was increasingly involving the military in covert operations, following the Bay of Pigs, he had quickly moved to turn strategic planning for covert projects to interdepartmental groups. Increasingly he had allowed the State Department a major role in decision making – while initiating moves involving operational elements of covert action over to the Department of Defense.

Despite their new covert taskings, conventional military action remained the mantra at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chiefs had continually taken the position that conventional action was the only option to oust Castro – in their view the CIA's Cuba Project had only reinforced that attitude. They had maintained that position through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to some extent JFK himself had left open a conventional military option - supporting a major 1962 military exercise under CINCLANT discussed previously. That exercise was clearly designed as nothing less than a conventional invasion of Cuba, intended to put an American supported regime in place.

As of 1963 additional plans and proposals were being developed by the SACSA Joint Chiefs staff, anticipated an expanding series of DOD covert actions against Cuba, actions designed to trigger a revolt that could be supported by conventional American forces.

In the context of global military action (covert, clandestine and conventional), during 1963 JFK continued to demonstrate his fundamental pragmatism – holding all options open. It was a practice that gave him maximum options; his earlier plan for blocking a Soviet advance through Berlin – "Poodle Blanket/Pony Blanket" – was similar, with options from passively but directly blocking Soviet Forces with American units, escalating through divisional combat all the way to the selective use of tactical nuclear weapons. [ 219 ] Kennedy had pursued the same approach during the Cuban Missile Crisis, holding all options open even in the face of virtually unanimous military opposition. It had proved to be an effective practice, but one which created serious frustration and tension among the various groups under his command.

That tension tended to be exacerbated by conflicting views even among the services. That had become clear to JFK in the earliest months of his time in office, when the Joint Chiefs generally supported major conventional action in Laos, and potentially across all SE Asia. However, the more questions the president asked, the more the individual Chiefs' proposals shifted - with a unified plan from the Joint Chiefs never emerging. Following the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, JFK had become much more pointed in his questioning about military options and, in regard to Laos, simply failed to get answers and proposals that were agreed on by all parties (or even all the services).

President Kennedy did authorize preparations to deploy a variety of military assets to SE Asia in response to events in Laos, but he failed to get substantive answers to his questions about the logistics of a major conventional military operation inside Laos. He also received no specific operational plans or recommendations which would have involved both Laos and Vietnam – conflicting and changing views even within the Joint Chiefs made reading a decision on conventional military intervention even more challenging. Conflicting views among the Joint Chiefs would remain a problem even in regard to Cuba. By the summer of 1963 the Air Force was objecting to a DOD plan that would have assigned primary responsibility for new covert military operations against Cuba to Commander in Chief Atlantic (a Navy Admiral).

During the course of 1963 there would also be constant conflict in assessments of progress in Vietnam. During the first quarter of the year Admiral Harry Felt, Commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, was optimistic, stating that the defeat of the Vietcong was inevitable. In contrast Secretary of State Rusk called the situation difficult and dangerous, with no quick victory in sight. JFK struggled to determine which assessments were accurate, forced to weigh the realities between positive military reports from MACV (Military Assistance Command / Vietnam) and the much more negative reports from other sources within the State Department and from the American ambassador to Vietnam in Saigon.

During 1963 even some senior Army staff were beginning to lose faith in the ability of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) to confront anti-government military units in battle. That concern began to solidify after the failed ARVN assault at Ap Bac in January, 1963. President Kennedy faced such a disconnect in opinions about Vietnam that he responded by sending a special fact-finding mission, with one representative (General Victor Krulak) from the Joint Chiefs staff and the other from the State Department (career diplomat Joseph Mendenhall). Krulak met with MACV commanders who were still speaking of impressive progress by the ARVN. Mendenhall focused on his own long time contacts in Hanoi and other urban areas. Upon their return, Krulak assured JFK that the U.S. was winning in Vietnam. Mendenhall described hearing of a reign of terror by the Diem regime – with a ground swell of support for the Viet Cong in cities such as Hue and Danang, simply to remove Diem from power. After hearing from both men the president's response reflected his frustration: "Did you two gentlemen even visit the same country?" [ 220 ]

As 1963 progressed there was a growing feeling that ARNV's failures were largely ones of leadership, of command - and that the Diem government's selection and control of its officer corps was a fundamental problem. It was increasingly obvious that Diem selected and promoted ARVN officers based on political reliability and personal loyalty - rather than military skill. [ 221 ] Yet neither JFK nor his senior advisors showed any sign of moving away from the position that the struggle was one the South Vietnamese themselves had to win.

To give them more time to do that, to pressure North Vietnam not to escalate its involvement in the south, and to allow the Diem regime's much-touted counter insurgency projects time to prove themselves, both JFK and Secretary McNamara endorsed a significantly increased program of military covert action against Ho Chi Minh's regime in the north. The move towards a Department of Defense takeover of action against the North had been set in motion during 1962, with the implementation of the office of Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA) in the Joint Chiefs staff. In January 1963, the Joint Chiefs sent a high ranking fact-finding team to Vietnam, and their report (Military Operations in North Vietnam) proposed a series of ground actions against the north, carried out by South Vietnamese – under overall control of the Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC). [ 222 ] Further plans were developed and presented in June – they were enthusiastically approved by both Secretary of Defense McNamara and President Kennedy. [ 223 ]

Covert action against North Vietnam was viewed as complementary to counter-insurgency in the South Vietnam; up to 1963 the North had been "relatively immune" to any economic or military penalties for aiding and abetting the Viet Cong insurgency. Covert action would send the message that reprisals were available and there would be a price to pay. [ 224 ] Plans for the new effort included military action with hit and run attacks, psychological warfare operations, propaganda warfare, long term agent insertions, and the destruction of key military assets.

The plans for expanding covert action against North Vietnam continued to be an integral part of strategic planning up to the time of President Kennedy's assassination. McGeorge Bundy's draft of what would become NSAM 273 emphasized the use of South Vietnamese forces in the effort:

"Paragraph 7. With respect to action against North Vietnam, there should be a detailed plan for the development of additional Government of Vietnam resources, especially for sea-going activity, and such planning should indicate the time and investment necessary to achieve a wholly new level of effectiveness in this field of action."

However expanding the program and switching from the CIA to the American military was going to take time. As of early fall 1963 even the best-case estimate assumed escalated operations would not begin until February, 1964. The Army and Navy eventually did proceed with the covert operations tasking, and by early spring 1964 began launching successful maritime missions against the North, damaging or destroying a limited number of both military and economic targets. It would be those covert maritime missions which ultimately triggered North Vietnamese retaliation against an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. The destroyer was viewed as supporting the increasingly destructive attacks along the North Vietnamese coast (among other tasks the destroyers had indeed been tasked with ELINT / electronics intelligence collection to support the coastal attacks). [ 225 ]

Still, as of September 1963, the focus on, and faith in counter-insurgency, was largely the only point of agreement among all those involved with the conflict in Vietnam – the Military Assistance Command / Vietnam (MACV), President Kennedy and even the State Department. Certainly JFK was frustrated with the Diem regime's efforts to deal with the Viet Cong insurgency, his comment in a CBS interview that September made that point extremely clear: "It's their war, they are the ones that have to win it or lose it". ARVN would have to win its own war against the Viet Cong, and hopefully the expanded covert action program against the North would discourage Ho Chi Minh from escalating the conflict into conventional force warfare.

Yet the most fundamental issue - whether the Army of Vietnam could ever really be effective, under the type of political command and control that the Diem regime had imposed on it, remained the "elephant in the room" during Kennedy administration strategy discussions on Vietnam. In earlier years ARVN and its generals had demonstrated the will to fight, and fight both brutally and effectively. At the beginning of the Diem regime, those generals had soundly crushed the powerful Binh Xuyen anti-government (gangster) faction in house-to-house fighting across Saigon. Following that vicious series of battles, Diem's military had shown themselves capable of taking terrible punishment and grinding their opponents down while themselves taking heavy losses. [ 226 ]

During 1954-55, Diem had ordered the ARVN to follow the victory in Saigon by moving into the Mekong Delta, against the major guerilla force opposing the central government – the anti-communist, nationalist movement under Ba Cut. Once again the ARVN proved itself, overwhelming the guerillas and capturing Ba Cut, who was ordered guillotined by Diem. Yet in later years under Diem's ongoing rule, the ARVN appeared to have become increasingly a political tool rather than a combat force. Diem had made ARVN promotions a matter of good reports – reports which would keep American political support and American aid.

One of the justifications for American encouragement of an ARVN general's coup against Diem in November, 1963 was the hope with the military in control, they might break from Diem's political micromanagement and show the tenacity and skill they had demonstrated in earlier years. Robert Kennedy later described the basic issue with Diem, in both his policies and his military command:

"Well, I just think he was just, Diem wouldn't make even the slightest concessions. He was difficult to reason with...., but the important thing was to try to get somebody who could replace him and somebody who could keep, continue the war and keep the country united, and that was far more difficult. So that was what was of great concern to all of us during this period of time. Nobody liked Diem particularly, but how to get rid of him and get somebody that would continue the war, not split the country in two, and therefore lose not only the war but the country. That was the great problem.' ' [ 227 ]

The November coup did place the generals in control. They held the power and might well have reasserted effective military control, possibly even organizing an effective campaign against the Viet Cong guerrillas without consideration of political interference (or concern for Diem family priorities). As of November 5, 1963 Ambassador Lodge was still hopeful, "I believe the prospects of victory are much improved if the generals stay united." [ 228 ] The open question of November remained whether or not the new military leaders would be able to stay focused on counter-insurgency military efforts.

Among the various American political and military voices, the preference for counter-insurgency and opposition to conventional military solutions continued in some circles well into 1964, even following President Kennedy's assassination. When President Johnson assigned General Westmoreland to take command in South Vietnam, the commander of the Army Special Warfare Center advised Westmoreland that "the entire conflict in Southeast Asia was 80 percent in the realm of ideas, and only 20 percent in the field of physical conflict".

He elaborated by saying that there were no circumstances which could "twist" the American strategy into any deployment that would require sending U.S. combat divisions. [ 229 ] Major General William Yarbrough went even further, assuring Westmoreland that there were no military targets which would warrant division-sized attacks and that "nothing would be more futile than a large scale sweep though Viet Cong country". [ 230 ]

As of September 1963 – the point in time in which the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy appears to have jelled – the nature of the American military commitment to Vietnam simply remained in flux. Without doubt JFK remained skeptical of using American forces in conventional military action in SE Asia, increasingly cautious about maintaining large numbers of "advisors". Eisenhower had deployed some 700 American military personnel to Vietnam; in May 1961 JFK had approved sending in 500 Special Forces personnel strictly in an advisory role. However in 1962 he had agreed to a request to surge in some 9,000 more personnel (at the end of that year there were something on the order of 11,000 Americans in country and 53 military personnel had been killed).

James K. Galbraith, Exit Strategy
James K. Galbraith, "Exit Strategy in
1963; JFK’s Complete Withdrawal From
Vietnam", Boston Review, September 1,

More personnel were sent in during 1963, hitting a total deployment of over 16,000. But in October, the president reviewed and ultimately accepted proposals to actually reduce the uniformed military presence in-country, with the first phase to be accomplished by the end of the year. [ 231 ] As that was being done, he also directed an escalation in covert military action against the north - using South Vietnamese forces. [ 232 ]

As with the other areas of Cold War confrontation, JFK was acting pragmatically in the fall of 1963. Across Southeast Asia, in Africa, and in regard to Cuba he continued to pursue multiple approaches and solutions – a practice which allowed him to keep his options as open as possible. Objectively, it is clear that he always treated conventional warfare as the last option, to be avoided if at all possible. We know that both from the record of his actions, and directly from his brother. [ 233 ]

One of the things that distinguished President Kennedy was his understanding of the geopolitical realities of anti-colonialism and of nationalism – as well as acceptance of the concept of neutrality as a working tool to block communist advances. He had achieved considerable success with that approach with India and in Indonesia. However neutrality was not a concept which the old line CIA establishment (built around the policies of the Dulles brothers) accepted, nor one which the American military endorsed.

Third Oral History Interview with Robert F. Kennedy
John Bartlow Martin, "Third Oral History
Interview with Robert F. Kennedy",
April 30, 1964, New York, New York

John Kenneth Galbraith gives us the best synopsis of the boldness (and daring) of JFK's emerging geopolitical strategy. He characterized that approach (which might best be described as "deconfliction") as first becoming visible in Laos and Berlin during 1961. It became even more visible in the resolution and non-invasion pledge regarding Cuba in 1962, and finally in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. It was an approach to securing global peace and avoiding nuclear war laid out in a highly public fashion by Kennedy at his American University commencement speech of June 10, 1963.

Kennedy was the first American president with the global experience to appreciate that the forces of nationalism and anti-colonialism were as much of a factor in the contemporary geopolitics as the ideology of communism. And he had demonstrated that he was willing to at least attempt to advance American interest though neutrality, successfully in improved relations with India and with negotiation initiatives ranging from Indonesia to Yugoslavia. [ 234 ]

As Galbraith described it, JFK's goal was to resolve conflicts through negotiations (even including the option of settlements including neutrality agreements) in order to diminish the chance of nuclear Armageddon. But that was neither a goal nor a strategy which could be pursued without the increased domestic political tensions. These tensions revealed themselves throughout the entire year of 1963, in rampant conservative political opposition to Kennedy's initiatives on issues ranging from civil rights and school integration, to the nuclear test ban treaty, and even American wheat sales to Russia.

As the nation entered the fall of 1963, the president faced a variety of domestic political tensions as well as ongoing geopolitical challenges - from Berlin, to the Congo, and across Southeast Asia. The same domestic and international challenges had been in play for years and JFK continued to wrestle with all of them. None of them offered any easy or quick path to resolution. And all of them left certain individuals, in both Washington D.C. and Miami, bitterly questioning the president's priorities and decision-making. Some even questioned his loyalties.

Tipping Point

By October, 1963 some of those individuals moved beyond questioning to action. For them the tipping point, the single issue which demanded immediate action, was not some future decision but a dramatic commitment that Kennedy appeared to be the process of making – a commitment to a negotiated compromise which would have restored American relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba.

To recap, that possibility had been initially raised in January, 1963, following an outreach from Fidel Castro via the American negotiator, William Donovan, who had been involved with negotiating the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners and other Americans who were being held prisoner in Cuba. [ 235 ] That outreach has been mentioned earlier in this work, however it deserves review considering that the timing of its events may well have been critical in the initiation of a conspiracy against President Kennedy.

While the full story of the contacts between Fidel Castro, the Kennedy administration and specifically JFK have only emerged over several decades, we now have a reasonably comprehensive history of that process, supported by documents and even taped conversations. That research is available courtesy of the National Security Archive, and the various articles on the contacts by historian Peter Kornbluh. [ 236 ]

During his final prisoner release follow-up trip to Cuba, Donovan was approached by Castro's personal physician and friend Rene Vallejo. Vallejo expressed Castro's thoughts that some level of diplomatic relations with the United States would be desirable and invited Donovon back to discuss the idea directly with Castro. Upon his return to the U.S., Donovon advised both the State Department (Dean Rusk) and the CIA (John McCone) of Castro's outreach. In March, JFK expressed his own interest and stressed that it was time to begin thinking along more "flexible lines". He also stressed out that no conditions should be imposed on the opening of contacts with Castro.

The following month, Gordon Chase, the Latin American specialist on the National Security Council prepared a detailed options study, recommending a serious look at the Castro approach. CIA Director McCone weighed in with a note to President Kennedy stating that Castro had to know opening relationships would be to Cuba's benefit, and was likely serious about the matter. McCone and Kennedy talked, with McCone offering to send Donovan back to Cuba.

Richard Helms to Director, Interview with U.S. Newswoman with Fidel Castro
Richard Helms to Director, Interview
with U.S. Newswoman with Fidel Castro
Indicating Possible Interest of Fidel Castro
in Rapprochement with the United States,
May 1, 1963

Based on an earlier request of November, 1962 a journalist, Lisa Howard, managed to obtain a personal interview with Castro in late April, 1963. In that interview Castro expressed his interest in improving relations with the United States, confirming the private views that Vallejo had earlier expressed to William Donavan. Howard was privately interviewed by the CIA upon her return to the United States, and before her program could air, Richard Helms wrote a detailed CIA Briefing Paper on her contacts and insights. That paper was forwarded to Director McCone, the National Intelligence Board, the DIA, the National Security Advisor, the Attorney General and others. [ 237 ]

For her part, Howard had written directly to the president, endorsing the outreach and offering her services. [ 238 ] In his memorandum, Helms took the opportunity to offer negative comments on Howard's potential role as an intermediary. Helms and others would continue to frustrate Howard's efforts, even into the Johnson Administration, when Castro attempted to extend an even more interesting offer to LBJ. In later years Helms attempted to minimize JFK's interest in any dialogue with Castro. In 1987 he told historian Michael Beschloss that the president was really only interested in covert action, and that any talk of negotiations were at most a "feint". [ 239 ]

Michael Beschloss, When JFK Secretly Reached Out to Castro
Michael Beschloss, "When JFK Secretly
Reached Out to Castro", The New York
Times, December 17, 2014

The CIA's own internal reaction to any such dialogue with Castro was aggressively negative. Its senior officers pushed back against the idea of any response to either the Donovan or Howard approach. In response to Helm's debriefing report on Howard, Director McCone cautioned that her information should be "handled in a most limited and sensitive manner" and that "no active steps be taken on the rapprochement matter". Beyond that McCone strongly urged only the "most limited Washington discussions" on the idea of any type of accommodation with Castro.

It should also be noted that McCone and Helms were not the only aggressive opponents to any negotiations with Castro. McGeorge Bundy also appears to have been active in blocking the outreach – so much so that in 1964, when Castro made a second and even more dramatic effort to open communications with President Johnson, Bundy directly acted to block Castro's offer from even reaching the president. [ 240 ]

Even Robert Kennedy had cautioned JFK on the potential political repercussions if Congress were to find out that any sort of contacts with Castro were underway. Those early concerns appear to have undermined any further response from the president, although a May Special Group discussion raised the concern that it might be impossible to get rid of Castro. In that meeting the Secretary of Defense raised the possible necessity of bargaining an end to the American trade embargo in exchange for a break between Castro and the Soviet Union. But with the surge of new anti-Castro projects which began during the summer, any sign of interest in the possibility diplomatic contacts with Cuba appears to have faded away, very likely reassuring Helms and many of those who had been copied on his earlier report of Howard's contact with Castro.

It also has to be noted that any new consideration of negotiations with Cuba would have elevated ongoing concerns about JFK's approach to neutrality in Laos. While the military situation had stabilized there during 1963, there was still widespread skepticism about political dealings with any communist faction – the concepts of neutrality and non-alignment solutions remained nothing less than anathema to the hard line cadre of CIA cold warriors such as Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, and James Angleton – individuals who had been covertly fighting communism since 1947. Beyond that, there would have been a highly personal element to many in the CIA. Any diplomatic solution of the Cuba problem which recognized the Castro regime would effectively have repudiated all the work done by the CIA's Plans (Operations) Directorate over the proceeding five years – in particular the work of J.C. King's Western Hemisphere directorate and even the new Special Affairs Staff (SAS) under Desmond Fitzgerald.

As our assassination sources related, the motive for the shooters in Dallas was revenge, an act against perceived betrayal. Those above the shooters had a higher agenda. Perhaps it was simply to ensure there was no accommodation with Castro, perhaps it was an even broader concern than that. Certainly any successful negotiation which moved Cuba out of the Soviet orbit would have encouraged President Kennedy to further break from the Truman/Eisenhower Cold War geopolitics of choosing sides. Those practices had been based on the view that nations were either with the Western Bloc or the Eastern Bloc; there could be no neutrality. Neutral nations were perceived as potential adversaries and constantly designated as targets for CIA political action and regime change. JFK had begun to demonstrate that he was willing to move outside that "box", something quite uncomfortable to the establishment "cold warriors".

Trickle Down

There is no doubt that both Cuban volunteers and some CIA operations officers had come to mistrust JFK, to blame him for the loss of friends and family, and for the failure to free Cuba from Castro. As individuals some of them had actually come to hate him. Those feelings only became stronger during 1963, as the Kennedy administration publicly moved to shut down independent anti-Castro military action, to actually interdict the few missions which groups managed to fund and organize, and to move all of its own anti-Castro efforts under a cloak of secrecy – giving the appearance of having given up any effort to unseat the Castro regime.

Although CIA Director McCone had initially tried to dampen discussions of any accommodation over Cuba, Helm's original briefing paper on Lisa Howard's visit had raised the subject across much of the national intelligence community as well as the State Department, not to mention other agencies. Combined with the airing of Howard's Castro interviews on television, during April and May the possibility of new approaches to Castro was an obvious topic of discussion (and concern) among virtually any group involved with Cuban affairs. The Secretary of Defense even raised the idea of the possibility of negotiating some sort of deal with Castro in the May meeting of the Special Group. All things considered, by early summer the possibility of a change in approach to the Cuba problem very likely had begun to "trickle down" from Washington to those most actively involved in the front lines of the bringing down the Castro regime.

The primary conduit to JMWAVE for gossip about the Castro outreach and JFK's interest may very well have been William Harvey. In the ZRIFLE assassination effort, assigned to Harvey by Helms, Harvey had been involved with JMWAVE, specifically William Shackley and David Morales - as well as Johnny Roselli. According to Roselli's testimony to the Church Committee that project had involved both rifle attacks and poison efforts. [ 241 ] Apparently when poison failed once again in 1962/63, the effort had turned to infiltrating rifle teams. It was one of those teams which Roselli maintained had been turned on JFK, killing him in Dallas (with the misdirection that the Dallas attack had been directed by Castro). [ 242 ]

In April, 1963 William Harvey traveled to Miami between April 13 and April 21, staying for three days at a hotel in Plantation Key, Florida. The trip was officially expensed as part of the ZRIFLE project. [ 243 ] At that time and through the summer, Harvey was still directly involved with Staff D, which itself continued to be involved in intelligence collections activities targeting Cuba – in particular its embassy and consulates in Mexico. Harvey also retained sole management of the ZRIFLE assassination project, which itself was hidden within Staff D, both as a cover for its expenses (personally approved by Richard Helms), and its ongoing use of contract employees for illegal activities both domestically and overseas.

While in Miami Harvey met with and entertained at least two other individuals at hotels in Miami (the Eden Rock and Fontainebleau), one almost certainly being John Roselli and the other most likely JMWAVE Operations Chief David Morales. In addition to the hotel meetings and entertainment in Miami, Harvey and Roselli traveled to the Florida Keys, staying in a Plantation Key motel for at least three days; from there calls were made and a private boat was chartered for travel to Islamorada, further out in the island chain. Islamorada housed a CIA paramilitary facility which supported maritime missions into Cuban waters. [ 244 ]

Given the paucity of information on Phase II of the Castro assassination activities under Harvey and Roselli, the Florida trip, and in particular the travel out to a CIA maritime operations base in the Florida Keys, remains largely a mystery. The official explanation is that the trip was simply to close down the program, something that certainly would not have involved the personal involvement of both Harvey and Roselli. Beyond that point, we now know that Helms had signed ZRRIFLE funding documents for the entire year, and assassination remained an element of almost all the ongoing CIA projects targeting Cuba.

The idea of assassinating Castro was most definitely not taken off the table within the CIA during 1963. Desmond Fitzgerald pursued the subject of assassination with Rolondo Cubela, as part of his new SAS initiative to trigger a domestic coup inside Cuba. A variety of project memoranda discuss Castro's assassination as being mandatory if the AMTRUNK project were to succeed. And assassination was discussed at length in memoranda and proposals related to the Artime AMWORLD project. Rafael Quintero specifically proposed the idea in writing, and Castro assassination missions were among the very first organized and launched once Artime actually got his new group operational in 1964.

Harvey in Miami meeting with Roselli and an undocumented third party. A week in Florida, travel to a paramilitary oprations facility in the Keys, and spending some three days in and around that location – it all seems a bit excessive for the termination of a program involving a handful of people at most. And among the few trip documents that are available, one shows that ZRIFLE "operational phone calls" were still being made as of May 15, 1963. [ 245 ]

This leaves us with reason to question if Helms had indeed suddenly terminated Harvey's assassination project in April, or whether the Harvey/Roselli trip to the keys was actually "operational" for some unstated purpose.

As Bill Simpich notes in State Secret, Harvey remained extremely bitter towards RFK following his experience with Task Force W and Mongoose, and only moderately less vitriolic against President Kennedy. Harvey certainly never forgave Robert Kennedy's chastisement during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when RFK had berated him for continuing to send covert boat missions into Cuba. [ 246 ] He also appears to have been no fan of Richard Helms, feeling Helms had sacrificed him to political concerns and was sending him to Italy simply to keep him out of sight and out of mind - clearly closing out his career.

In later years Harvey admitted that he had detested the Kennedys and strongly resented Richard Helms. There is no doubt that the events of the past months had left Harvey personally infuriated with the Kennedy brothers at the time of his trip to Florida in April, 1963. Whatever the nature of the Florida trip, it's easy to imagine that any conversations with those he met with there would have only fueled existing frustration and skepticism in regard to President Kennedy and his policies – especially given the likelihood of Harvey's knowledge of the spring outreach from Castro and JFK's positive response to it.

Of course there were other channels for "trickle down" from CIA headquarters to JMWAVE as well, channels involving individuals who had worked together for years against Castro and his regime. A number of individuals who had worked at JMWAVE, on projects with David Morales, had been reassigned to headquarters in 1963, as part of the new SAS effort under Fitzgerald. And since JMWAVE provided the intelligence and operational support for SAS, there was ample reason for ongoing communications.

For example, Alfonso Rodriquez had been transferred from JMWAVE in Miami to the SAS team at headquarters. In the spring of 1963 Rodriquez and others at SAS were beginning new projects such as AMTRUNK (an effort to bring about a coup against Castro inside Cuba) and working to establish contacts inside Cuba to support such a coup (Rolando Cubela / AMLASH). [ 247 ]

AMTRUNK Operation, Interim Working Draft
AMTRUNK Operation, Interim Working
Draft, February 14, 1977. It should be
noted that Morales expressed little faith
in the beginning of the project and
JMWAVE supported it simply as a
functional responsibility to SAS and CIA
headquarters. Its failure proved to be
one of several issues which left
Shackley and Morales highly frustrated
with the new Cuba Committee and SAS
project that were launched in 1963.

SAS had begun its new AMTRUNK project in February and routinely communicated with JMWAVE in search of intelligence and as needed for operational support – David Morales attended one of their first project meetings and was their key contact at JMWAVE. [ 248 ] Alfonso Rodriquez and David Morales were involved in a variety of Cuban activities; the two were among the first CIA personnel to be contacted by Manuel Artime upon his return from Cuba, and Morales was the first CIA officer to receive Artime's new proposal to begin working again with the CIA. [ 249 ]

It is certainly reasonable to expect that individuals like Rodriquez would have shared news and issues related to Cuban affairs in their contacts with their counterparts at JMWAVE. In fact we have documents that such conversations did happen (and were security concerns). The nature of the conversations also illustrated the internal discord over the new SAS projects which had begun during 1963. [ 250 ]

In short, during 1963 there was a strong social network in place between CIA Headquarters staff, the SAS team, and JMWAVE. And while those in Washington discussed strategy and launched new projects, Mongoose was cancelled, Task Force W disbanded, and military missions against Cuba put on hold. At JMWAVE in Miami frustration, dissatisfaction – and a certain air of malaise – had become the order of the day.

Still, during the first half of the year, there were signs things might improve. JFK had chosen not to follow up on the Castro advance, and discussions about that faded away in Washington. JMWAVE initiated, organized and began to prepare new Commando Mambises attacks on Cuba. There were even ongoing discussions and proposals for a new round of sabotage mission planning against Cuba – an effort encouraged and approved by the president. At that point it appeared that any chance for a change in the hostile relationship between the United States and Cuba had faded away.

But in September, within a matter of weeks, a dramatically new, and seemingly imminent option, suddenly came into play. It began within the State Department, when Lisa Howard's friend William Attwood (a special advisor to the U.S. Delegation at the United Nations) broached the idea of establishing a back channel to Castro via contacts at the United Nations. The idea was endorsed by Averill Harriman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The initial Cuban contact would be made through Carlos Lechuga, a Cuban UN delegate, with the outreach itself socially facilitated by Lisa Howard.

Attwood and Harriman's concept was to work towards the departure from Cuba of Soviet military personnel and gain a commitment from Castro to cease subversive activities across Latin America. The overall goal being to move Cuba to non-aligned status, and establishing its neutrality in geopolitical affairs - rather than have it acting as a Soviet client state. It was a heady idea, and one clearly consistent with JFK's own neutrality strategy in Laos.

Within weeks, by September 24, Attwood had met personally with President Kennedy and was given the authority to proceed; he had also met socially with Lechuga at a party hosted by Howard, and Lechuga had been quite receptive, inviting him to Cuba. The initiative was to be kept totally confidential, known to only those parties named above, with Lechuga and Rene Vallejo acting as the conduits to Castro. There was to be no initial notification to the CIA or other agencies. Contacts were to be made at the UN and via Howard's apartment, using her personal telephone.

The contacts moved forward swiftly during October and by November 11, Vallejo was on the phone to Howard, informing her that Castro himself had agreed to be present at talks in Cuba and that no one else (specifically Che Guevera) would be involved. He stressed Castro's interest but warned Howard of the need for absolute security in private communications.

At this point it must again be noted that all telephone and telegraphic communications into and out of Cuba were monitored by the NSA and reports submitted to the CIA and other agencies according to specific targeting instructions. We also know that the CIA Office of Security had made arrangements to wiretap selected foreign representatives at the United Nations and at other locations in New York City, including at the diplomat's homes. [ 251 ] Beyond that, Cuban diplomats at the U.N. including Lechuga were specifically being targeted by the CIA in counter intelligence and political action operations.

Research by Bill Simpich has fully documented the fact that during 1963 both Carlos Lechuga and his wife were of special interest to CIA staff who were working on a regime-splitting project which William Harvey had proposed during his Task Force W assignment. The regime splitting activity was continued as an element of AMTRUNK when Desmond Fitzgerald and SAS replaced William Harvey's Task Force W. [ 252 ] One element of the effort targeted specific Castro regime figures within the Cuban diplomatic service, either recruiting them as sources or double agents. If that failed the tactic was to plant information which would raise doubts about their loyalty, increasing security measures and fueling discontent (this project involved some of the dirtiest elements of political action in the CIA's playbook, including the use of sexual blackmail).

Bill Simpich, State Secret, Chapter 3
Bill Simpich, State Secret:
Wiretapping in Mexico City,
Double Agents, and the Framing
of Lee Oswald
, Chapter 3:
"The Cuban Compound in Mexico
City Was Ground Zero"

During 1963 the Cuban diplomatic sexual blackmail targets included UN Ambassador Carlos Lechuga and his wife. [ 253 ] Counter intelligence offices at CIA headquarters had become aware that he had carried out an extended affair with Sylvia Duran (his former secretary). [ 254 ] While Lechuga had moved to New York City and a diplomatic role at the United Nations, Duran remained at the Cuban consulate in Mexico City. The SAS counter intelligence goal was to leverage that affair with Mrs. Lechuga, hopefully obtaining her as an informant while also forcing Mr. Lechuga and the family back inside Cuba - where the wife could potentially become an especially valuable CIA source. In pursuit of that goal, the CIA focused intelligence collection on both Lechuga at the United Nations, and Duran at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. [ 255 ]

Given the routine NSA monitoring of both private and commercial communications with Cuba, and the fact that Lechuga would have certainly have been on the watch list not only as a Cuban diplomat, but also as a special CIA counter intelligence target, it seems very likely conversations relating to the Kennedy/Castro outreach would have been captured – both those made by Lechuga, and the calls made from Howard's apartment. Certainly there is every reason to suspect that individuals within CIA intelligence operations were aware of the highly confidential restart of the rapprochement initially proposed by Castro.

That suspicion is reinforced by the fact that Rene Vallejo suddenly became an object of considerable CIA intelligence interest in the fall of 1963. There is no record that he had been the subject of any particular interest prior to that date, but in October CIA headquarters began communicating with both JMWAVE and its sub office in Mexico City in regard to Vallejo.

Documents reveal that the CIA Director's office was seeking background information on him, soliciting details to be obtained by the Cuban Intelligence Service (the AMOTS, initially organized under David Morales and in 1963 managed by Morales' very close personal friend Tony Sforza). Based on the available documents, there appear to have been ongoing communications (beginning as early as October 9) between Mexico City and the CIA Directors' office, in regard to Vallejo. There was also a special interest in using AMOT contacts to collect information on him. [ 256 ]

The Attwood/Howard contacts with Vallejo continued into November, working towards sending a personal representative of JFK to meet with Castro inside Cuba. As an example, Attwood and Howard called Vallejo in Cuba from her apartment on November 13. When they were unable to reach him, they sent a telegram instead (telegraphic traffic to and from Cuba was also monitored by the NSA). Arrangements were in progress which would have had the American representative traveling to Mexico, picked up there by a private plane and then flown to Cuba for a personal meeting with Castro at his Veradero Beach retreat.

Matters had moved so far by early November that the outreach was finally shared in certain very limited circles. By November 5 the Special Group was briefed and gave its endorsement to a contact via the UN. However the CIA, via Richard Helms, continued to oppose the effort, moving to delay matters by demanding that "all possible angles" be explored before continuing.

Helms proposed "war gaming" the possible consequences of any such talks, something that would no doubt have frozen the matter in place. Instead, JFK decided to act at his own initiative and removed the CIA from further discussion, quickly and personally moving the effort forwards. [ 257 ] He demonstrated his seriousness in discussions with a French journalist, Jean Daniel, whom he asked to deliver his interest personally to Fidel Castro in Havana – the message was being discussed with Castro when news of the president's assassination arrived.

In later years Helms tried to maintain that JFK had never really been serious about the Castro outreach. Unfortunately experience (and Helms' own conviction for perjury) has taught us that it is difficult to accept his word on a great many things, certainly in regard to anything relating to Cuban affairs. [ 258 ] Regardless of Helms' attempts at obfuscation, we know just how serious President Kennedy had become based on both documents and taped conversions. By November he was commenting that Attwood might actually have to leave his position at the U.N. in order to be able to act as a personal representative for Kennedy in the discussions with Castro.

President Kennedy publicly expressed his own interest in changing the nation's relationship with Cuba. He may even have telegraphed his minimal conditions for negotiation in a speech he made on November 18, 1963. In that speech he stated that if only Castro would drop his present relationship with the Soviet Union and cease subversion in Latin America, "everything is possible". Such remarks were not well received by the Cuban exile community; the exiles depended on the actual ouster of the Castro regime in order for them to return home and establish a totally new government inside Cuba.

Both Kennedy and Castro were obviously serious about opening a dialogue. Castro needed some sort of settlement which would improve trade with the United States. He was also quite unhappy with the Soviet Union's behavior in regard to the recent missile crisis and was in the process of suppressing the Cuban Communist party, which he felt to be a Soviet tool. In turn, removing the Soviet military from Cuba and establishing Cuba as a non-aligned nation could have been a major political boost for President Kennedy, not only strengthening his position in the 1964 election but providing much needed impetus to his overall global strategy.

Still, those directly involved in the effort (Attwood, Schlesinger and Harriman) realized the extreme political risk if the effort be revealed to the public while only in its early stages – another reason that talks needed to begin and move quickly. Later it would become clear that they had failed to recognize a second major risk.

In interviews with Anthony Summers decades later, Attwood acknowledged that they had neglected to consider two "glaring loopholes" in regard to the secrecy of their communications. He and Schlesinger admitted that with the NSA monitoring of all communications to and from Cuba, the CIA must have known about the new dialogue at an early stage. Those involved had not considered that calls from Howard's apartment would be monitored, or taken into consideration that the CIA and its Office of Security (as well as James Angleton in counter intelligence) routinely wire-tapped the members of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations. [ 259 ]

Attwood described an even greater risk, given CIA knowledge of the negotiations in their earliest stages:

"If the CIA did find out what we were doing, this would have trickled down to the lower echelon of activists [anti-Castro Cuban exiles] and the more gung ho CIA people who had been involved in the Bay of Pigs....I can understand why they would have reacted violently...this was the end of their dreams of returning to Cuba and they might have been impelled to take violent action." [ 260 ]

Oswald in Play

As a tipping point for a conspiracy to act President Kennedy (and block any new relationship with Castro and Cuba) emerged, there is every reason to believe that Lee Oswald was not only well known to multiple CIA officers at Miami Station, but that his New Orleans persona as a Castro and Fair Play for Cuba Committee advocate was already in play in CIA-supported propaganda and political action efforts.

When Lee Oswald began to pursue his Cuban interests in New Orleans, he had first reached out to the local anti-Castro Cuban community, with an approach to Carlos Bringuier and the DRE. As it turns out, that approach was not strictly coincidence. Before his approach to Bringuier, Oswald had made contact with the head of a local language school, expressing an interest in learning Spanish.

Arnesto Rodriquez, Anti-Castro Cuban, Knew Lee Oswald in New Orleans
CIA Memorandum, "Arnesto Rodriquez,
Anti-Castro Cuban, Knew Lee Oswald
in New Orleans", November 26, 1963

That school was the Modern Language Institute of New Orleans, headed by Arnesto Rodriguez Jr. Rodriquez Jr. later confirmed that Oswald had contacted him during the last week of July or the first week of August 1963. While the two talked about language training they also talked of other things, and in the end Oswald did not enroll for courses. Although Arnesto Rodriquez minimized his contact with Oswald, there is reason to speculate that that Arnesto had become interested in Oswald and his activities in New Orleans. A CIA source in New Orleans later reported that on November 23, 1963 Arnesto's mother-in-law had remarked during a private conversation that Arnesto had been a "friend" of Lee Oswald. She also discussed his tape recording of Oswald's radio appearance. [ 261 ]

While Arnesto became increasingly reticent to discuss his conversation with Oswald in detail, what we do know is that one of Arnesto's closest associates in New Orleans was Carlos Bringuier – and both men acted as sources for the FBI (Arnesto aka Ernesto was assigned FBI source number 1213 S). During the Garrison investigation, District Attorney Garrison determined that Oswald had inquired with Arnesto/Ernesto about Castro activists in New Orleans and very likely referred Oswald towards Bringuier.

Emilio Americo Rodriguez, AMIRE-1
Emilio Americo Rodriguez, AMIRE-1,
CIA Cryptonyms Project,
Mary Ferrell Foundation

The father of the Rodriguez family, Arnesto Napoleon Rodriguez Gonzales had his own intelligence connections, having worked for the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II; he had also served as an on-island source for the CIA before leaving Cuba. [ 262 ] Arnesto Senior carried his own CIA crypt as AMJUTE-1. Basically the entire family was extremely conservative in its political views, strongly anti-Communist, and adamantly anti-Castro.

Arnesto Rodriquez Jr. was himself very much involved in anti-Castro activities, supporting Bringuier and the DRE. It was Arnesto Rodriguez Jr. who on 12/2/63 used a tape of Oswald's radio debate with Bringuier to provide the FBI with both a copy of the broadcast, and an English transcript of the debate. The FBI immediately delivered those items to the airport; an Eastern Airlines flight carried them to Washington DC where they were received by SAIC Robert Bouck of the Protective Research Section of the Secret Service. Arnesto Jr. also appears to have previously prepared transcripts of the taped interview in Spanish as well as English for use in DRE propaganda activities. [ 263 ]

In terms of Lee Oswald's being known to JFK conspirators, the most important point is that Arnesto's father and Arnesto Jr. were both in routine touch with a relative in Miami, a CIA officer deep within JMWAVE intelligence operations. That individual (son to Arnesto Sr; brother to Arnesto Jr.) was Emilio Americo Rodriguez Casanova (crypt AMIRE-1). Emilio was a close friend to both David Morales and Tony Sforza and as well as a number of other SAS and JMWAVE officers. He had also worked with, and appears to have been in contact with, David Phillips in 1963. [ 264 ]

CIA Cover Request File, Emilio Rodriguez
CIA Cover Request File,
Emilio Rodriguez

Following the Castro revolution, Emilio had been a principal CIA deep cover stay-behind agent inside Cuba. He was multi-lingual and had approached the CIA in 1959, volunteering his services in action against the Castro regime. In fact his background (as developed in the research of John Newman) was virtually ideal from the CIA's perspective – he had attended high school and Tulane University in New Orleans, obtained his BS and MA in Psychology, worked for the Civil Service as a military records specialist and Foreign Affairs Officer and had been only a year away from completing his PhD when he returned to Cuba with his family. [ 265 ] There (under the pseudonym Peter D. Gerveno) he managed a sales office which served six different American manufacturing companies. [ 266 ]

By May 1960 he had been cleared and security vetted, employed under contract and assigned to stay in place in Havana. Under the pseudonym Eugenio, he had worked under various business covers as part of CIA officer Tony Sforza's stay- behind network (Sforza operated under cover inside Cuba as gambler Frank Stevens, but with pseudonym Henry Sloman). Emilio's specific case officer inside Cuba was Henry Hecksher, who had been working inside Cuba since 1958, making contacts with anti-Batista revolutionary groups and providing intelligence reports on the rapidly evolving protest and street demonstrations.

John Newman has used a number of documents to place Emilio Rodriguez working inside Cuba during 1960/61. In addition to being a principal agent for a stay-behind network, he appears to also have performed certain of the duties previously carried out by David Phillips (including placing sources inside targeted groups) before Phillips himself had been exposed and forced out of Cuba. [ 267 ] During the latter part of his CIA career, Emilio would be given a similar "penetration and spotting" role (focusing on "leftist and extremist" groups) during an assignment in Venezuela. [ 268 ]

Ultimately when both Sforza and Rodriguez were themselves taken out of Cuba in the summer of 1961, they were moved into foreign intelligence positions at JMWAVE. Rodriguez's personnel file suggests that there was a special need to protect his identity because in addition to JMWAVE office access, he also performed covert activities outside the office. [ 269 ] Both men received CIA intelligence medals for their work inside Cuba, indicating an outstanding level of performance – especially for Rodriguez as he was only a contract employee during that service. [ 270 ]

Given Emilio's family connections to New Orleans, including to individuals actually having been in personal contact with Lee Oswald, it is virtually certain that he was given information about Oswald's sudden appearance in New Orleans and Oswald's very public support of the Castro regime. If true, that would mean that by the end of summer, 1963 Oswald was not only known to JMWAVE though DRE reporting and to DRE case officers, but very likely to foreign intelligence and Cuban Intelligence Service (AMOT) personnel at JMWAVE.

If certain CIA officers in Miami were ultimately brought to the point of conspiracy to act against President Kennedy, and needed a false flag figure to point an attack on the president towards Fidel Castro and Cuba (a standard practice, noted by William Harvey himself in his notes about setting up the assassination project which would be used against Castro) it quite feasible that Lee Oswald's name would have quickly surfaced as a candidate for that role.

A Useful Idiot

While it now seems virtually certain that Lee Oswald was known to and of operational interest to a variety of groups within the CIA, over an extended period of time, it is of particular note that those interests appear to have become much complex during 1963. Groups including Domestic Operations, SAS and JMWAVE were collecting information on Oswald and using his identity for a variety of purposes, including propaganda and intelligence collection.

Although we can identify the CIA groups showing an interest in Oswald, it is more difficult to specify exactly which officers in the groups were using him or his identity, and to what exact ends. It is also extremely difficult to determine if Oswald was personally aware of his use by the CIA. In contrast he can be shown to have offered to provide information to the FBI on "subversives" and did so on one and possibly more occasions.

The following is the author's best effort to lay out the extent of at least certain of the activities in which Oswald (and his identity) crossed the path of actual CIA operations in 1963.

Officers at JMWAVE / SAS could easily have been involved in standard and sanctioned intelligence activities ("dangles", collections, propaganda, and penetrations) using personal information on Lee Oswald, as well as the public image that he had established in New Orleans. At a deeper level, it is also quite possible that individuals associated with JMWAVE and also with the conspiracy would have realized that such activities would have guaranteed that if Oswald was linked to the assassination of the president, it would drive the CIA to distance itself from any subsequent investigation.

During 1963, JMWAVE in Miami, and its subsidiary station in Mexico City, remained deeply involved in intelligence collections and counter intelligence against Cuba. In doing so Miami Station continued as the primary operational tool of the new anti-Castro CIA initiative being carried out by Desmond Fitzgerald's Special Affairs Staff. SAS itself was the major project being carried out by the Western Hemisphere Division under J.C. King. King had remained in place since the original Cuba Project under Eisenhower.

In terms of overall anti-Castro strategies and activities, SAS served as an arm of the Cuban Coordinating Committee (an interdepartmental group, ostensibly led by the State Department, which replaced the interdepartmental Mongoose initiative). JMWAVE functioned as an asset for SAS and its operational intelligence and military missions against Cuba were under the oversight of the Special Group, which was charged with monitoring all American covert action programs. While there was a SAS staff group, it generally turned to JMWAVE for personnel and logistics when field work was needed. JMWAVE officers supported a broad range of activities targeting Cuba and the Castro regime - including intelligence collections, propaganda efforts, counter intelligence and maritime operations.

The station's major intelligence and counter intelligence assets were its foreign intelligence officers and its Cuban Intelligence Group (AMOTs), managed by Tony Sforza in 1963. Sforza supported projects not only involving intelligence collection, but a range of aggressive counter intelligence activities, focused on either compromising or "turning" Cuban diplomatic personnel at the United Nations in New York and in the Cuban consulate and embassy in Mexico City.

One of the foreign intelligence officers assigned to the SAS anti-Castro effort was the previously mentioned Emilio Rodriquez, a veteran of covert intelligence work in Cuba, along with a number of other Cuba veterans. JMWAVE's head of operations – David Morales – had operated in Havana, under U.S. Embassy State Department cover. Officers such as Henry Hecksher, David Phillips and Tony Sforza had all operated more deeply inside Cuba under personal, commercial covers. Hecksher himself had personally recruited Emilio Rodriquez as a deep indigenous agent inside Cuba and served as his original case officer.

While Morales and Phillips had both been outed by Cuban intelligence and forced to leave (lucky to do so), Emilio Rodriquez and Anthony Sforza become part of an extremely high risk "stay behind" network inside Cuba following the revolution. Ultimately both were exposed and David Morales managed to organize their exfiltration from the island.

All those Cuba veterans continued to work together for years, still involved in anti-Castro CIA projects and activities during 1963. In regard to using Lee Oswald as a "useful idiot", Emilio Rodriquez may have been one of the first officers at JMWAVE to learn of Oswald, through his family contacts in New Orleans. Certainly it is significant that one of the veteran foreign intelligence officers at JMWAVE was the brother of the first individual in New Orleans whom Lee Oswald approached about his interest in both Spanish and in Cuban affairs – and who referred Oswald to the DRE and Carlos Bringuier. The question remains as to whether other intelligence officers inside the CIA, particularly those tasked with propaganda involving the FPCC, would have been separately involved with Oswald via the "Hidell identity" at an earlier date. [ 271 ]

Rodriquez was himself active in counter intelligence field work. He was authorized to establish a residential cover in New York City and traveled there frequently during 1962 and 1963, in support of efforts against the Cuban staff at the United Nations. [ 272 ] He was given a cover as a consultant in electronics and electrical systems and due to the nature of his work was granted a Top Secret security clearance. While speculative, it is also possible that he traveled to New Orleans to build a dossier on Oswald and evaluate him from a counter intelligence perspective.

Political Operations in Cuba; The Proenza Case
"Political Action Operations in Cuba -
The Proenza Case", House Select
Committee on Assassinations,
July 26, 1978

One of the primary tasks for both the FBI and the CIA was monitoring staff at the U.N. in New York; with the FBI acting directly under its domestic intelligence charter, and the CIA acting unilaterally as part of its efforts against the Castro regime, by 1963 particularly as part of the ongoing SAS effort to fragment the Cuban regime. For its part the CIA was also aggressively conducting such efforts against a variety of regime members, including diplomatic staff. [ 273 ]

Which leads to the speculation that the knowledge of Oswald, as a highly visible Fair Play for Cuba advocate and self-proclaimed head of an FPCC chapter, might well have played directly into the intelligence activities of JMWAVE in the fall of 1963. Specifically, both Oswald (or simply his "identity") held potential value for tasks being undertaken by Tony Sforza (AMRYE-1) who led the Cuban intelligence effort at JMWAVE, Emilio Rodriquez (AMIRE-1) the foreign intelligence officer assigned to counter intelligence work targeting Cuban diplomats, and David Phillips (newly assigned to SAS and tasked with propaganda efforts against the FPCC across Latin America). The tasks for all three individuals would have included Cuban targets in Mexico City.

Emilio Rodriquez's activities are particularly interesting given that he was targeting U.N. diplomatic staff and might have been one of the earliest CIA officers to gain knowledge of the backchannel exchanges between JFK and Castro. Also, noted earlier, his personal notebook of that period contains an entry for David Phillips. It appears that a variety of counter intelligence and propaganda activities could have brought Oswald/Hidell to the attention of all three men during 1963.

The CIA's use of Oswald in anti-Castro and anti-FPCC propaganda likely began under John Tilton, later supported by propaganda specialists such as Alan Kent, and possibly handed off to Phillips in early fall when he was tasked to support SAS and Fitzgerald as well as the Mexico City station. Planned propaganda activities very possibly extended to the targeted distribution of the Spanish language propaganda record prepared by INCA. INCA, the Information Council of the Americas, was busily preparing the Oswald record, which used Oswald's radio appearances and related materials - the record used tape recordings of Oswald and transcriptions provided by Emilio Rodriquez's brother.

Operation / Eusebio Azcue
CIA Dispatch, Chief Mexico City to Chief
SAS, Operation / Eusebio Azcue

But along with his new SAS propaganda role, Phillips also retained his former assignment in Mexico City – which involved counter intelligence against both the Cuban and Russian embassies. Phillips himself described that role "Each intelligence service in Mexico City plays the cat-and-mouse game of trying to infiltrate the others organization." [ 274 ]

In 1963, JMWAVE, Tony Sforza and the AMOTS were given an expanded role in supporting Phillip's "cat and mouse" game. Based on extensive document research by Bill Simpich, we now know that beginning that summer Mexico City CIA Station Chief Winston Scott was directly pressuring SAS to use its resources - including Sforza and the AMOTS - to get a Cuban Embassy figure, Eusebio Azcue, to "turn". [ 275 ] Based on that request, Jose Casas (AMOT-106), a source on a number of Cuban regime figures, was approached and dispatched to Mexico City and the Cuban embassy. Casas managed to talk directly with Azcue directly for an extended period of time. [ 276 ]

AMOT-106 Visit to Cuban Embassy
Chief of Station JMWAVE to Chief SAS,
AMOT-106 Visit to Cuban Embassy
[Mexico City]

As part of his report on the visit, Casas noted the particularly friendly remarks to visa applicants that were being made by a secretary at the consulate, Sylvia Duran – as well as a somewhat negative remark from her regarding Cuba. Such observations were always given attention due to the interest in recruiting any and all staff as unwitting sources, if not actual assets. In this instance they were especially relevant given that Duran was known to have been the mistress of a Cuban U.N. official (Lechuga) whose family was a major target for compromise.

Given that Azcue was also a recruiting target, Casas's observation that Duran was also quite comfortable with him, enough so to tease him in public, was important - as was other information that Duran had been recommended for the job by Theresa Proenza (another known CIA target) and that Duran was working at the consulate at Azcue's request, filling in for her cousin who had died in a car accident.

Quality research into a number of such "spy games" going on around the Cuban consulate and embassy in Mexico City - as well as with Cuban United Nations diplomats - has become extensive, going far beyond the focus of this work. Of particular interest are a number of anti-FPCC intelligence and propaganda activities including a joint FBI/CIA project (AMSANTA) which was built around using actual FPCC members to collect regime intelligence from inside Cuba. [ 277 ] The FPCC members were to be inserted via visas and travel through Mexico City. FPCC membership and recommendation was a key element in the effort and its first agent insertion in the summer of 1963 proved to be exceptionally productive – yet it appears to have been canceled for no particular reason in the fall of that year.

In regard to the possible CIA use of Lee Oswald (either in person or simply using his identity) for sanctioned CIA operations, the AMSANTA project, the SAS propaganda initiative against the FPCC, and the counter intelligence effort to recruit (or compromise) Cuban diplomatic staff all have to be considered. With that in mind, it's no wonder that even the most basic facts about the official story of Oswald's trip to Mexico City in October, 1963 have come into question.

Issues relating to Lee Oswald's trip to Mexico City have become a constant point of discussion in recent years, especially as new documents have revealed extensive disconnects in both FBI and CIA communications about his presence there in September 1963. With those documents in hand, there is little doubt that the positions of both agencies in regard to his reported visit there changed during the hours and days immediately following the assassination.

In recent years researchers such as John Newman, Bill Simpich and David Josephs have written extensively about issues regarding Oswald's presence in Mexico City. Their research and works are widely available and serve as recommended reading. The author has summarized a few of those issues, most particularly the disconnects in communications and questionable information coming out of the CIA station in Mexico City following the assassination. [ 278 ]

Unfortunately even after extensive research, a host of questions in regard to Oswald in Mexico City remain open. The following is offered as a possible scenario in which Oswald (or simply his identity) may have been used by SAS and JMWAVE in pursuit of political action projects which we now know they were pursuing in the fall of 1963.

According to the Warren Commission, Lee Oswald appeared at the Cuban consulate, and applied for a travel visa to Cuba with the goal of traveling on to the Soviet Union. "Oswald" presented documents at the Cuban consulate in Mexico City – offering materials related to the FPCC, the Communist Party USA, his marriage certificate. [ 279 ] The FBI later verified that Oswald could not have had actual documents such as a Communist Party card (the CPUSA did not issue them) of that nature, but might have used copies of his own correspondence with the FPCC and CPUSA. [ 280 ] Copies of FPCC communications also confirmed that Lee Oswald had not been officially sanctioned as a group leader nor given credentials by the FPCC.

During his appearance at the consulate "Oswald" interacted at some length - in a friendly manner - with both Sylvia Duran and then in a more offensive manner with counsel Azcue when he was told no transit visa could be issued without appropriate documents from the Soviet Union. Following a single visit, telephone calls were purportedly made from the Cuban to the Russian embassy, including a call ostensibly involving Duran and Oswald – a call that Duran denied and which we now know was almost certainly an impersonation of Oswald as well as Duran.

Given the suppression of information and inconsistencies in the official record, there remains extended debate in regard to Oswald and Mexico City, as regards to both the Cuban and Soviet diplomatic facilities. [ 281 ] What appears most probable is the Oswald "persona", originally created around Oswald's FPCC activities as well as in various letters to the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party was used as a "dangle" to Cuban consulate staff. Duran and Azcue, both targets of a broader CIA counter intelligence project involving Carlos Lechuga, would have been particularly interesting targets for just such an approach.

Jefferson Morley, What Jane Roman Said
Jefferson Morley, "What Jane Roman Said",
History Matters

Such a project would have involved or been known to JMWAVE/SAS staff such as Tony Sforza and Emilio Rodriquez, known at SAS, at JMWAVE and in Mexico City; it would also likely have been known to David Phillips, serving in Mexico City but with new SAS responsibilities. Journalist Jefferson Morley uncovered anecdotal evidence of such a SAS operation when he managed to locate Jane Roman, a former senior CIA counter intelligence officer. In reviewing documents relating to Oswald and Mexico City she remarked to Morley that the "phrasing of the cable indicated a keen interest in Oswald, closely held by people in the Special Affairs Staff i.e. anti-Castro operations". [ 282 ] Such an operation would certainly support JMWAVE officer William Kent's private remark that Oswald was simply a "useful idiot" as far as the CIA was concerned.

It is impossible to reverse engineer exactly what such a dangle was specifically meant to accomplish. Most likely, as with any such activity, the outcomes were largely situational, a variety of Cuban responses could have occurred and over time would have been pursued as opportunities presented themselves. At a minimum it would have been a standard "dangle" (much like putting Casas into the Cuban Consulate earlier) with the possibility of both collecting more information for compromise and potentially as a recruiting contact. Depending on the consulate's response it might have generated a story to be used in anti-FPCC propaganda, along the lines of what was already in the process of being developed around Oswald's FPCC activities in New Orleans.

At the time it would have been just one of many such moves in the ongoing intelligence games, relatively minor, but something which would have connected the CIA to Lee Oswald in a sensational fashion following the attack in Dallas. If any such use was made of the Oswald identity, and the fact became known to members of the conspiracy it would have been clear that the CIA had been "contaminated" in terms of conducting any open, in depth investigation of the assassination of the president.

John Newman: Oswald, the CIA and Mexico City
John Newman: Oswald, the CIA
and Mexico City, PBS Frontline,
November 19, 2013

We know that the FBI was so concerned by its own contacts with Oswald that it destroyed and altered evidence of those contacts. There is also good reason to believe that an FBI subversive source file did exist on Oswald and were never offered into evidence. If the FBI was that concerned over simply having received communications from Oswald, the CIA's use of the Oswald/Hidell persona would have surely generated a far more extreme response. That view is strengthened by the fact that Richard Helms went to great lengths to ensure that the Mexico City story was managed, even to the extent of replacing the original staff officer assigned to the assassination inquiry as to Oswald in Mexico City with James Angleton, the director of CIA counter intelligence.

While such actions may have successfully obfuscated matters for the Warren Commission, it appears likely that, in the end, the matters may have become clearer to FBI Director Hoover. If so it would certainly explain the remark he annotated to internal FBI memorandum proposing joint activities with the CIA:

"OK, but I hope you are not being taken in...I can't forget the CIA withholding the French espionage activities in the U.S. or the false story re. Oswald's trip to Mexico, only to mention two cases of their double dealing!" [ 283 ]

See all chaptersNext => Part 5: The Conspiracy


[ 165 ] "John Martino's Confessions", Mary Ferrell Foundation also Martino's FBI Subject Files



[ 166 ] Op Cit

[ 167 ] Author's personal interviews with Edward Martino, also Edward R. Martino, PhD., "Events I witnessed July 1959 through November 1963".


[ 168 ] Belford Lawson [longtime friend and business partner of John Martino] contact, HSCA memo Fred Classen to Cliff Fenton, August 29, 1977


[ 169 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, Chapter 1

[ 170 ] Edward R. Martino, PhD.Events. "Events I witnessed July 1959 through November 1963"


[ 171 ] Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, Chapter 1

[ 172 ] Nicholas M. Horrock, "Roselli Describes his Role in A CIA Plot on Castro", Special Report to The New York Times, June 25, 1975


[ 173 ] Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Church Committee files on John Roselli testimony, Mary Ferrell Foundation


[ 174 ] Jack Anderson, "Did Bobby's Plot Backfire?", March 3, 1967, California Digital Newspaper Collection


TESTIMONY OF JOHN ROSELLI, 22 SEP 1975 RIF#: 157-10002-10387   (09/22/75)   SSCIA#: R-1360

TESTIMONY OF JOHN ROSELLI, 22 SEP 1975 RIF#: 157-10002-10386   (09/22/75)   SSCIA#: R-1359

TESTIMONY OF JOHN ROSELLI, 23 APR 1976 RIF#: 157-10014-10000   (04/23/76)   SSCIA#: 02-H-02

TESTIMONY OF JOHN ROSELLI, 24 JUN 1975 RIF#: 157-10014-10001   (06/24/75)   SSCIA#: 02-H-01

TESTIMONY OF JOHN ROSSELLI, 23 SEP 1975 RIF#: 157-10002-10388   (09/23/75)   SSCIA#: R-1356

[ 175 ] Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, 134

[ 176 ] Fred Black was close enough to Roselli to host him in Washington D.C. while Roselli was giving testimony to the Church committee. He was also a close neighbor to LBJ and Baker, and Black had met with Johnson at his office in the Executive Office Building, a meeting which could well have seriously compromised Johnson had the Congressional Baker influence-peddling inquiry proceeded following President Kennedy's assassination. For details on Fred Black and his connections to Roselli and figures within Roselli's circle see Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, Chapter 16, "Wheeling and Dealing"

[ 177 ] Ibid, 126

[ 178 ] Ibid, 126-132

[ 179 ] Ibid, Chapter 2, John Roselli; Strategist

[ 180 ] Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know about the Assassination of JFK, Google Books excerpt:


[ 181 ] The author worked extensively over a number of years with Robert Dorff, in collecting documents on David Morales and in personal conversations with Ruben Carbajal. That information is compiled and referenced in Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, Chapter 8. Well We Took Care of that SOB, Didn't We?"

[ 182 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, Chapter 8; 115

[ 183 ] Larry Hancock, personal communication with Ruben Carbajal, 2014

[ 184 ] Larry Hancock, personal communications by the author with Robert Dorff, and Reuben Carbajal, 2014

[ 185 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, Chapter 8

[ 186 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, Chapter 8, also Jeremy Gunn Memo, ARRB, March 7, 1996. In later years work by researchers including Robert Dorff and the author as well as by the AARB revealed the extent of Morales's CIA career and his various covers within the Army, State Department and USAID. (end note: Jeremy Gunn, ARRB memo, March 7, 1996. https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=202942

[ 187 ] Ibid, 107-108

[ 188 ] Ibid, Appendix I, "Echoes from Dallas"

[ 189 ] Bob Woodward, "IBEX Deadly Symbol of U.S. Arms Sales Problems", Washington Post, January 2, 1977 also Seymour Hersh, "Iran signs Rockwell Deal for Persian Gulf Spy Base", Seymour Hersh, June 1, 1975 also



[ 190 ] The Wheaton Lead: An Exploration, Larry Hancock and David Boylan, Mary Ferrell Foundation, April, 2020


[ 191 ] Larry Hancock, In Denial: Secret Wars with Air Strikes and Tanks?, Chapter 1, 2020 also The Wheaton Lead: An Exploration, a research paper by David Boylan and Larry Hancock, 2020

[ 192 ] Ibid, Chapter 7, "Hidden Measures"

[ 193 ] Wheaton was unable to offer any specific documents relating to the conspiracy given that he had simply heard conversations among individuals. However he was able to specifically name at least two individuals who could have been contacted for additional details and he did provide various documents and materials corroborating his contacts with Carl Jenkins and Rafael Quintero as well as the business relationship between Wheaton's company and Jenkins.


[ 194 ] RIF 145-10001-10121 and 145-1001-1022, "Operational Plan Submitted to CIA by Quintero"

[ 195 ] Rafael Quintero, "CIA Agent Sent After Castro", Independent, 2006


[ 196 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, 71

[ 197 ] Ibid, 288

[ 198 ] Ibid, 72-73

[ 199 ] Hargraves on occasion volunteered information to the FBI. Actually many of the independent activists, including Gerry Hemming, did serve as voluntary sources – often providing information on each other's activities. The same was true for members of various exile groups, who served as sources for both the FBI and CIA. In some instances this appears to have been as much to undermine competitors as to seek some level of accommodation with the intelligence agencies.

[ 200 ] "JFK Suspect", Noel Twyman, Bloody Treason, 600-689. This document was originally located in the National Archives by Anna Marie Kuhns Walko.

[ 201 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, 73-74

[ 202 ] Op Cit

[ 203 ] Noel Twyman, Bloody Treason, Roy Hargraves Interview, Tape 1, 2001, Side A, also Someone Would Have Talked 2006 spiral bound edition, with permission of Noel Twyman. Copy available online:


[ 204 ] "Kennedy Sought Dialogue with Cuba", The National Security Archive, November 24, 2003


[ 205 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2010 edition, 276

[ 206 ] https://kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/the-mystery-of-red-bird-airport

[ 207 ] Larry Hancock and David Boylan, The Wheaton Lead: An Exploration, April, 2020


[ 208 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, 206 also The Wheaton Lead: An Exploration

[ 209 ] Ibid, Chapter 11 "Cuba, the Guns, New Orleans and Everything" also 186-188

[ 210 ] Testimony of Mr. Jack Ruby, June 7, 1964, Dallas Texas


[ 211 ] Treasury Department Memo, McBrien to Albrecht, "Reopening of Warren Commission"; Someone Would Have Talked, Exhibit 5-6

[ 212 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, 198-199

[ 213 ] Ibid, 199

[ 214 ] The Dallas Police, the FBI and the CIA were all notified of a witness who had observed an individual thought to be Oswald at the Harlandale street house. The FBI did carry out an investigation of the police lead, however it ultimately discounted it based on the statement from an unnamed source who definitely stated Oswald had never been there at the house (strangely the FBI report states that their source stated he himself had never been to the house). In retrospect the dismissal of this particular lead is quite questionable given that the confidential source cited appears to have been an individual who later left the United States for Puerto Rico (complaining bitterly about the lack of American support for actions against Castro). Given that Rodriquez Orcaberrio made a similar move at that time it appears that the FBI accepted a potential suspect as the source used to close out their inquiry – certainly a questionable practice. Also of note is the fact that Orcaberrio himself was separately reported as possibly having been in direct contact with Lee Oswald - and more importantly appears in Secret Service Protective Services files, listed as a potential threat to President Kennedy (unfortunately he only appears on a threat list and we have no further details). Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, 79-80

[ 215 ] Dan Hardway, "An Operational Sketch", 2014, also personal communication with Jefferson Morley, January, 2020

[ 216 ] Jilda Unruh, "Exclusive: JFK Death Threat Note from Nov. 1963 in Miami Revealed For 1st Time", CBS 4 Miami, November 21, 2013


[ 217 ] Larry Hancock, NEXUS, The CIA and Political Assassination, 100

[ 218 ] Kennedy's turn towards covert action with highly trained military Special Forces – with the CIA held to an intelligence collection and analysis support role - anticipated the shift which actually occurred some four decades later following the attacks on America in 2001. Current American clandestine military action is carried out by Special Operations Command task forces similar to those which JFK was beginning to create in 1963.

[ 219 ] William Burr, "Why is Poodle Blanket Classified?", National Security Archive, April 7, 2010


[ 220 ] Seth Jacobs, Cold War Mandarin / Ngo 'Dinh' Diem and the Origins of America's War in Vietnam, 1950-1963, 136

[ 221 ] The Battle of Ap Bac, Military Assistance Advisory Group – Vietnam (1954-1963), 106-107

[ 222 ] Robert M. Gillespie, Black Ops Vietnam / The Operational History of MACVSOG, Naval Institute Press, 2011, 7

[ 223 ] While McNamara and JFK were enthusiastic, Maxwell Taylor (who had become chairman of the Joint Chiefs) was no fan of covert action and delayed approving the plan for some two months. Taylor did not see organizing covert action as a function of the military and gave it no special priority. Beyond that, there were no assets immediately available for the task and a new organizational structure had to be established at MACV. Even after the switch from CIA to the military occurred, the Army encountered the problem that its officers were trained for counter insurgency and counter guerilla operations – countering and defeating them, not organizing and managing them. Richard H. Schultz, Jr, The Secret War Against Hanoi, Harper Collins/Perennial, 1999, 35-37

[ 224 ] Robert M. Gillespie, Black Ops Vietnam / The Operational History of MACVSOG, 7

[ 225 ] Larry Hancock, Surprise Attack, 273-276

[ 226 ] Seth Jacobs, Cold War Mandarin, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006, 76-77

[ 227 ] John Bartlow Martin, Third Oral History Interview with Robert F. Kennedy, April 30, 1964

New York, New York, for the John F. Kennedy Library

[ 228 ] John M. Newman, JFK and Vietnam, Warner Books, 1991, 422

[ 229 ] Lewis Sorley, Westmoreland / The General Who Lost Vietnam, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, 77-78

[ 230 ] Unfortunately, we now know that General Westmoreland had already formed his own opinion – one which was in direct conflict with the strategy in play during 1963, under General Maxwell Taylor and with JFK's endorsement. Westmoreland would later write that Taylor and Kennedy were obsessed with "small wars", with counter insurgency operations to counter national liberation movements. Limited warfare was not something Westmoreland would endorse. And unlike JFK, Lyndon Johnson left the conduct of the war and the American strategy there to Westmoreland, advancing him to four star rank in August, 1964. Westmoreland was determined to justify the new president's faith. In a message to all his senior staff he directed that they assume optimistic outlooks; they were to accentuate the positive and avoid showing any signs of frustration. Negativism would not be tolerated. Not surprisingly from that point on, up to the TET offensive of 1968, the military reporting out of Vietnam would indeed become far more positive.

At the end of 1964, President Johnson expressed a lack of faith in air strikes and bombing and called for the use of more Americans on the ground - Special Forces, Rangers or Marines. In response, Westmoreland would produce a study calling for 34 ground battalions, some 75,000 troops. Having placed his bet on his new general, Johnson was forced to comply – it would be only the first of an ongoing demand for troops as saturation artillery fire and air attacks into "free fire" zones became standard, and the sorts of ground sweeps into Viet Cong territory that Westmoreland had been warned about became standard practice. Ibid, 2011, 68-76

[ 231 ] By the end of 1963 America had suffered 122 casualties in Vietnam.

[ 232 ] Historical research has now made it clear that JFK wished to, and had approved, the process of drawing down the numbers of uniformed, conventional American military forces from Vietnam. The deployment of personnel to Vietnam had in itself been in response to a 1962 request for a major increase (a surge) in training and advisory support for the ARVN. It had not been part of any strategy to deploy conventional ground forces to conduct an American ground campaign against the Viet Cong insurgency – that would have been in direct conflict with the strategy Kennedy was already pursuing in Laos. In Laos and the Congo, JFK supported the concept of Military Assistance Groups (MACV in South Vietnam). American military personnel as advisors, trainers – even small special operations forces in the field (as in the White Star deployment in Laos) allowed to engage in combat if circumstances dictated, yes. Preparation and equipping surrogate military forces, yes. Covert military action using indigenous surrogates or even small clandestine forces operating under cover (as with the CIA's Mikasi group in the Congo or its efforts in Tibet) but with American's restricted to organizing and directing the efforts, yes. Limited clandestine and covert air support for government forces and surrogates, yes. Conventional American military forces going into combat on the ground - most definitely no. Certainly not under the conditions prevailing in the fall of 1963 and very likely not ever.

In early October 1963 JFK – responding to proposals from both Secretary of Defense McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor - approved the beginning of a phased withdrawal of the conventional American forces in-country in Vietnam, beginning with a routine downsizing of the force already there by some 1,000 men. However plans for even that initial drawdown did not actually begin until October and the drawdown was to be completed by the end of the year. The language associated with that directive specified that "The action will now be treated in low key, as the initial increment of U.S. forces whose presence is no longer required because (a) Vietnamese forces have been trained to assume the function involved; or (b) the function for which they came to Vietnam has been completed." In line with that move, on November 12, JFK publicly stated that his goal in Vietnam was to "to intensify the struggle" and "to bring Americans out of there."

Beyond that, both McNamara and Taylor secretly lobbied with the President for a longer term Vietnam exit strategy (and timetable) which would have brought the American military out of South Vietnam by the end of 1965 – if at all possible. There is no doubt that JFK was supportive of that position, putting numbers of uniformed conventional military personnel, much less full military units, into SE Asia, Latin America or Africa was clearly not something he advocated, nor did it fit with his overall geopolitical strategies.

JFK's support for an extended plan to withdraw conventional forces from Vietnam is now quite clear, described and supported in historical works by a number of authors including John Newman, Peter Dale Scott and others. An excellent synopsis of the withdrawal argument can be found in an article by James K. Galbraith in the following citation. However, this author offers the disclaimer that as a confirmed pragmatist and extremely savvy politician, over the next two years events and options would have determined President Kennedy's ultimate actions. As seen in his other decision making, from Angola to Cuban missile crisis, his final actions were often 'compromises', crafted at his direction rather than simply a matter of blessing specific positions advocated by his advisors. To that extent, my own speculation is that his success or failure in the new, highly secret dialogue with Fidel Castro which could have led to a neutral Cuba, would have been a major factor in his ultimate approach to both Vietnam and Laos.

James K. Galbraith, "Exit Strategy in 1963; JFK's Complete Withdrawal From Vietnam", Boston Review, September 1, 2003


[ 233 ] John Bartlow Martin, "Third Oral History Interview with Robert F. Kennedy", April 30, 1964, New York, New York, for the John F. Kennedy Library. The following candid discussion with Robert Kennedy reflect the challenges JFK faced in the fall of 1963; it simply represents his assessment of the dilemma (a blend of national security and political elements) which the Kennedy Administration faced at that point in time. Clearly RFK saw the situation in Vietnam as fluid at the time of his brother's death. We gain a sense of JFK's inclinations from RFK's remarks, but projecting President Kennedy's future actions months or years into the future based strictly on the situation as it was known to him in October/November, 1963, seems to this author an exercise in historical speculation. The exchange which follows is offered simply as context for the reader.


All right. At the beginning we seemed to have our lines crossed. I mean, the majority leader in the Senate, Mansfield, was saying this was not an American war, and he didn't think it was--that our--it should be--not, not--should not be an American war. He didn't think our heavy commitment there was justified. How'd you feel about it; how'd the president feel about it; and at what point did we get our lines straightened out? ......

Yeah, but, you know, he's frequently taken that, those, that line or that position on some of these matters. I don't think that the fact he has an independent view from the executive branch of the government, particularly in Southeast Asia, indicates that the lines aren't straight. I, no, I just, I think every. . . . I, the president felt that the. . . . He had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.

What was the overwhelming reason?

Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.

What if it did?

Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also, it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just, it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of these countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists, particularly as we had made such a fuss in the United States both under President Eisenhower and President Kennedy about the preservation of the integrity of Vietnam.

There was never any consideration given to pulling out?


But the same time, no disposition to go in all . . .

No . . .

. . . in an all out way as we went into Korea. We were trying to avoid a Korea, is that correct?

Yes, because I, everybody including General MacArthur felt that land conflict between our troops, white troops and Asian, would only lead to, end in disaster. So it was. . . . We went in as advisers, but to try to get the Vietnamese to fight themselves, because we couldn't win the war for them. They had to win the war for themselves.

It's generally true all over the world, whether it's in a shooting war or a different kind of a war. But the president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there

. . .


. . . and couldn't lose it.


And if Vietnamese were about to lose it, would he propose to go in on land if he had to?

Well, we'd face that when we came to it.....

[ 234 ] Remarks of Welcome to President Sukarno of Indonesia and President Keita of Mali at Andrews Air Force Base. The American Presidency Project, UC Santa Barbara, September 12, 1961


[ 235 ] Larry Hancock, NEXUS, "Going Nowhere" and "End Run", 97-101

[ 236 ] "Kennedy Sought Dialogue with Cuba", National Security Archive, November 24, 2003 also "Cuba and the U.S. Intimate Diplomacy", National Security Archive, April 20, 2018



[ 237 ] Richard Helms to Director, Interview with U.S. Newswoman on with Fidel Castro Indicating Possible Interest of Fidel Castro in Rapprochement with the United States, May 1, 1963


[ 238 ] Lisa Howard, Draft Letter to John F. Kennedy, ca. May 1963


[ 239 ] Michael Beschloss, "When JFK Secretly Reached Out to Castro", The New York Times, December 17, 2014


[ 240 ] In 1964 Castro once again used Lisa Howard to carry an offer of conciliation, with a personal note from Castro stating that he realized that in order to be elected, Johnson would make strong statements and might even conduct some specific hostile action against Cuba. Castro accepted that and committed to no retaliation. He wished to continue the Attwood contacts and felt that there were issues between the two nations which could not be resolved. He reaffirmed his trust in Howard, the need for secrecy and promised to reveal nothing about the approach.

In response, McGeorge Bundy inserted himself to prevent Lisa Howard from delivering Castro's message, going so far as to distribute a memorandum to all White House aides which described Howard as a persistent and "self-important creature" and that under no circumstances must her message from Castro be allowed to be delivered. Larry Hancock, NEXUS, 100

[ 241 ] Larry Hancock, NEXUS, 68-69

[ 242 ] Ibid, 166-167

[ 243 ] Noel Twyman, "Research Memorandum on William Harvey in 1963", Bloody Treason

[ 244 ] Interview with Ross Crozier, PM Section, Miami Base, June 2, 1961


[ 245 ] Project ZRRIFLE and QJWIN, Rockefeller Commission, May 5, 1975, 10


[ 246 ] Harvey had claimed the missions were intelligence collection efforts, designed to obtain tactical information to support any American military operations into Cuba. But he was unable to point to any specific requests from the military, the Joint Chiefs or DOD. In turn none of those groups stepped in to his defense, confirming any request for missions. We do know the missions occured, at least one led by Rip Robertson. Whether they were actually for intelligence work or were related to something even more covert, such as the ongoing Castro assassination efforts (which had not been sanctioned by the President or RFK), remains a matter of debate.

[ 247 ] Cryptonym, AM-LASH, Mary Ferrell Foundation


[ 248 ] AMTRUNK Operation, Interim Working Draft, February 14, 1977. It should be noted that Morales expressed little faith in the beginning of the project and JMWAVE supported it simply as a functional responsibility to SAS and CIA headquarters. Its failure proved to be one of several issues which left Shackley and Morales highly frustrated with the new Cuba Committee and SAS project that were launched in 1963


[ 249 ] Alfonso Rodriquez SAS/SO, Meeting with AMBIDDY-1 [Artime], April 3, 1963


[ 250 ] Memorandum for Director of Security, Chief Security Research Staff, Project AMWORLD, October 16, 1964


[ 251 ] Larry Hancock, NEXUS, 99-101

[ 252 ] William Harvey had served as head of CIA counter intelligence and several of his former staff, both at Langley and in Mexico City, continued in that function as Harvey moved on to other assignments. Because of his role with Staff D, Harvey continued to receive counter intelligence information relating to potential collections targets, including the Cuban embassy in Mexico City.

[ 253 ] Cryptonym AMLAW-3, Carlos Lechuga, Mary Ferrell Foundation


[ 254 ] The CIA had also obtained information that Lechuga had actually offered to divorce his wife and marry Duran; the information was felt to be especially powerful leverage – although in the end the recruitment of Mrs. Lechuga failed.

[ 255 ] Bill Simpich, State Secret / Wiretapping in Mexico City, Double Agents, and the Framing of Lee Oswald, Chapter 3: "The Cuban Compound in Mexico City Was Ground Zero"


[ 256 ] Chief Western Hemisphere Division to Chief of Station, Mexico City, Background Information on Dr. Rene Vallejo Ortiz also Mexico City Cable Info JMWAVE Subject Rene Vallejo Ortiz, October 9, 1963



[ 257 ] David Talbot, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, 228

[ 258 ] Anthony Marro, "Helms, EX‐C.I.A. Chief pleads No Contest to 2 Misdemeanors", New York Times, November 1, 1977


[ 259 ] Larry Hancock, NEXUS, 100

[ 260 ] Anthony Summers, Not 'In' Your Lifetime, 307

[ 261 ] Citation: CIA Memorandum, "Arnesto Rodriquez, Anti-Castro Cuban, Knew Lee Oswald in New Orleans", November 26, 1963


[ 262 ] Mary Ferrell Foundation, CIA Cryptonym information. Arnesto Rodriguez Sr, AMJUTE-1


[ 263 ] Warren Commission Report, Volume 22, page 189

[ 264 ] Emilio Americo Rodriguez, AMIRE-1, CIA Cryptonym Information, Mary Ferrell Foundation


[ 265 ] CIA Cover Request File, Emilio Rodriguez


[ 266 ] John Newman, Countdown to Darkness, 76-77 also CIA Dispatch JMWAVE Chief of Station to Director, Western Hemisphere,


[ 267 ] John Newman, Into the Storm, 80-81

[ 268 ] CIA Cover Request file, Emilio Rodriquez


[ 269 ] Memorandum to Convert Contract Employee to Career Agent, Emilio Rodriguez, January 21, 1965


[ 270 ] Recommendation for Honor or Merit Award, Emilio Rodriguez, Service from April 1960-June 1961


[ 271 ] Oswald's first use of the Hidell identity occurred while he was still residing in Dallas, in the order for a rifle purchased by Alec Hidell. Active debate remains (and will continue) on the order of the rifle and the use of the Hidell alias. There is also some indication that Oswald was beginning to involve himself in promoting the FPCC prior to leaving Dallas. Oswald's first letter to the FPCC, requesting literature, was postmarked from Dallas on April 18, 1963. The FPCC reply letter notes that 50 pieces of literature were sent to Oswald. Source: Bill Simpich, "Fair Play for Cuba and the Cuban Revolution", Counterpunch, July 4, 2009


The FBI only began to speculate that "Hidell" was an alias being used by Lee Oswald when he became visible in FPCC-related activities in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. The outstanding question is whether or not Oswald could have become involved in a CIA intelligence/propaganda effort against the FPCC well before that point in time. It that were true, the "legend" of Oswald/Hidell as an American serviceman subverted by communist and Cuban propaganda could well have been in play as late as Oswald's "appearance" at the Cuban consulate in Mexico City in October 1963.

[ 272 ] Procurement of Domestic Documentation and Security Clearance Approval



[ 273 ] "Attempts to Locate Bank Accounts for Cuban Permanent Mission to the UN, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interview Report, May 26, 1960


"Political Operations in Cuba; The Proenza Case", House Select Committee on Assassinations, July 26, 1978


[ 274 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, 146-148

[ 275 ] CIA Dispatch, Chief Mexico City to Chief SAS, Operational Esubio Ascue,


[ 276 ] Chief of Station JMWAVE to Chief SAS, AMOT-106 Visit to Cuban Embassy [Mexico City]


[ 277 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked 2010, 99 also AMSANTA Crypt, Mary Ferrell Foundation


[ 278 ] Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, "Oswald, Hot in Mexico City", 215-221

[ 279 ] Sullivan to Brennan, FBI Memorandum, September 4, 1964


[ 280 ] The CIA was unable to produce photographs of Oswald entering or exiting the consulate, photographs which should have been available from the surveillance cameras targeting the facility. The CIA's claim that an equipment failure had precluded such photographs at the time of Oswald's visit is inconsistent with a memorandum by David Phillips to the FBI in which Phillips provided photographs from September 27, which demonstrated that an individual the FBI was investigating had not visited the consulate. Phillips also provided photos of some 20 other individuals visiting the consulate during September and October. Beyond that Phillips seriously embarrassed the CIA by supporting the claims of Gilberto Alvarado, an individual who reported actually observing Oswald discussing killing President Kennedy and accepting money from Cuban diplomatic staff – that story was quickly disproved in an FBI investigation, with the informant himself revealed as an intelligence asset. Gilberto Alvarado Allegation, analysis and documents, Mary Ferrell Foundation


[ 281 ] David Josephs, Kennedy's and King, "Mexico City Parts 1 and 2", October, 2014 and January, 2015



[ 282 ] Jefferson Morley, "What Jane Roman Said", History Matters


[ 283 ] John Newman, Oswald, the CIA and Mexico City, PBS Frontline, November 19, 2013


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