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Castro Assassination Plots


President Kennedy shaking hands with outgoing CIA Director Allen Dulles, 29 Nov 1961. Incoming DCI John McCone is at center. Dulles was head of CIA when assassination plots were first begun.

In 1975, a Senate Committee headed by Frank Church documented what had been rumored for several years, that the CIA had pursued assassination as an instrument of foreign policy. The Church Committee issued the first of 14 reports, entitled "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders."

Prime among the intended victims was Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro. Although there is some evidence for plots beginning as soon as 1959, the Church Committee's first documented plots began in the late summer of 1960. That is when the CIA contacted Johnny Roselli, and through him other organized crime leaders eager to return to the "good old days" in Cuba.

Some of the plots and ideas were of the James Bond variety - poisoned pills, an exploding seashell, and a planned gift of a diving suit contaminated with toxins. This, plus the failure to actually kill Castro, has sometimes allowed journalist and historians to view these as almost harmless Keystone Kops affairs. But there was deadly seriousness at work - other assassination attempts involved high-powered rifles outfitted with telescopic sights.

A particularly interesting assassination plot involved a Cuban revolutionary hero named Rolando Cubela, code-named AMLASH. The contact began as an attempt to recruit someone close to Castro to lead a coup, but then turned into an assassination operation. Strangely, this episode occurred in the fall of 1963, at the same time that the Kennedy administration was initiating secret peace overtures to Castro. Stranger still, a high-level CIA official named Desmond Fitzgerald met Cubela and represented himself as a personal representative of Robert Kennedy, apparently without RFK's knowledge. Some resolve this conflict by seeing it as a Kennedy "carrot and stick" approach. Another view is that the CIA was actively undermining the Kennedy peace initiative, by talking up assassination with a Cuban who was known to be loose-lipped.

A few revisionist historians have tried to claim that the attempts to kill Castro were part of a "Kennedy obsession" unshared by the rest of the government. This notion is easily dispelled by a few simple facts. For one thing, Castro was not the only person targeted for elimination. Perhaps more to the point, CIA plots to kill Castro began before John Kennedy won the Presidency, and they continued after he was dead.

RESOURCES:

Essays


The Inspector General's Report: An Introduction, by Peter Dale Scott.

The Plots to Kill Castro, by Edward Jay Epstein.

The Kennedy-CIA Divergence Over Cuba, by Peter Dale Scott.

The Old Man and the CIA: A Kennedy Plot to Kill Castro?, by David Corn and Gus Russo.


Other Links

Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro. The 1967 CIA Inspector General's report on the Castro plots, at History Matters.

US-CUBA RELATIONS, CASTRO ASSASSINATION PLOTS. Debra Conway's detailed timeline is a rich resource of information on the assassination plots against Castro.

Cuban Documentary on Castro Assassination Plots. www.cuban-exile.com contains the transcript of a 1993 Cuban-produced documentary entitled "ZR RIFLE".

Edward Jay Epstein's Question of the Day: "To what extent, if at all, were the Kennedy Brothers involved in the plot to assassinate Fidel Castro that was to receive its final sanction in the form of a murder weapon on November 22, 1963?"

 
Documents


Inspector General's Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro. The "I.G. Report" was CIA's own reporting on the Castro plots, created in response to a request from President Lyndon Johnson.

Assassination Planning and the Plots: Cuba. This is section III.B of the Church Committee's Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders.

Church Committee: Book V - The Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Performance of the Intelligence Agencies. See particularly:

The Evolution and Implications of the CIA-Sponsored Assassination Conspiracies Against Fidel Castro. HSCA Staff Report in Volume X of HSCA report appendices.

Lansdale Memo of 16 Mar 1962. This memo of a high-level meeting in the White House, which took place 3 days after McNamara was presented with Operation Northwoods, records on page 3 an obliquely-phrased suggestion from RFK that Castro could be assassinated at the "shrine" of Ernest Hemingway.


Books of Interest

    Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders
Church Committee
Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 2007
 
    Crime and Cover-Up
Peter Dale Scott
Westworks, 1977
 
    And We Are All Mortal
George Michael Evica
University of Hartford, 1978
 
    All American Mafioso: The Johnny Rosselli Story
Charles Rappleye and Ed Becker
Doubleday, 1991
 
    The Cuba Project: CIA Covert Operations 1959-62
Fabian Escalante
Ocean Press, 2004

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