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Dale Banham

Student Question: CIA and the Mafia

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: Is there clear evidence that the CIA and the mafia worked together? If so, where, how and why?

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Dale, I would urge some selectivity on using the word Mafia in this question. If you mean the "syndicate" of bosses that loosely controlled the various regional crime organizations the answer would be no. If you get more specific and say did any regional bosses ever participate in CIA projects it would be yes - you can find many details of Giancana and Trafficante's participation in the original Castro project in the Church Committee report. In that particular case the CIA probably didn't realize they were getting involved with Giancana and Trafficante per se as they set out to recurit somebody who could provide access to the old Havana gambling network contacts and picked Roselli - who on his own invited the two bosses to the meetings. Later, in the second round, William Harvey kicked them out of the project - which probably only meant they didn't attend any more meetings with CIA employees.

Beyond that there is a clear pattern that individual CIA officers often turned to the use of local criminals to get things done off shore, for example we have records that CIA tried to use local criminals in Cuba to help blackmail or orthewise arrnange a break to get one of it's teams out of jail without the Cubans becoming aware of how high level the team was - it had been put in to try and bug or steal codes from the Chinese embassy in Havana.

And later on over several decades there is solid evidence the CIA would often contact drug smugglers and gun smugglers and try to use them as intel assets or for other purposes - it got so bad in Latin America that DEA officially protested that as soon as they would give a contact list to CIA, CIA would go recruit them all - that was under William Shackley's tenure among others.

-- Larry

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Most of the negative press about Kennedy came after his assassinaiton. The media up to that time, had been self sensored, and did not relate to the public any sordid details of a president's private life. Examples such as FDR's polio, was kept from the public eye until he himself mentioned it in his last speach to Congress. Also any romantic affairs he and Eisenhower may have had were also kept under wraps.

The fact is that we have learned alot about the Kennedys and JFK in particular in recent years. It is true that he had an affair with a woman who was suspected of being a Nazi spy. It is also true that he had a relationship with a woman who was also the mistress of Sam Giancana. It is also true that he had trists in the White House Pool with secretaries, and there were many other women he had affairs with that could have blackmailed him, the same way tha Bill Clinton could have been blackmailed. Had any of these women been associated with the Soviet Union KGB, it would have been a National Security issue. The fact is that Marilyn Monroe had intended to use her diary to expose her affair with John and Bobby Kennedy. Her death is very mysterious, and one coroner has expressed his doubts about suicide, citing the possiblility that the drugs were administed anally.

Nonetheless, JFK no matter how bad a president, did not deserve to be removed from office by an assassins bullet. There were worse presidents in our history, Harding, Taft, Clinton, Bush etc. however we are supposed to be a democracy, not some third rate dictatorship.

The fact is that the OSS started to use the mob when the Army invaded Sicily during WWII. We used Lucky Luciano's organization to penetrate any resistance to the invasion, and to use his organization to help mobilize civilians to assist. Later the OSS became the CIA. It is interesting to note that the CIA is organized along similar lines as the Cosa Nostra, in that "Omerta" (Silence) is a key directive, as well as compartmentalization (only giving enough directive to the lower echelon in order for them to perform their function without their having the whole picture). No one knows who the "Capo-de-Capi" was that gave the initial order, nor do they know the upprer echelon involved in the operation, other than those they directly report to. This all allows for deniability under interrogation.

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The CIA worked with a group of Sicilians in smuggling drugs into the United States. They were in Virginia where the CIA was and the CIA protected them from law enforcement authorities until 1984. There arrest was in the New York Times and other newspapers in August 1984.

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It became public knowledge in the 1970s, as a result of Congressional investigations, that in 1960 the CIA had recruited certain Mafia bosses...specifically, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli...to assassinate Castro. Either the mob was inept at this, or perhaps they simply took the CIA's money (like good con men) and did nothing on purpose, because nothing came of the effort. (Remember, this was inititated during the tail end of the Eisenhower administration by CIA director Allen Dulles, no doubt with Eisenhower's full concurrence.)

Unfortunately, this compromised the CIA; the mob then "had something" to hang over the head of the government.

This connection has caused some to wonder over the years whether certain very disgruntled CIA Operations Directorate personnel (such as William Harvey) may have recruited Mafia elements to assassinate JFK in 1963, presumably driven by their rage over JFK's refusal to bail out the CIA's failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and JFK's refusal to invade or bomb Cuba during the Missile Crisis in 1962.

In my view this suspicion is mere speculation driven by presumed "motive" only, and not by any real or credible evidence. The Mafia, it seems to me, was more likely to wait out the end of the JFK administration if they felt "betrayed" by the Kennedys' war on organized crime, than to attempt an assassination of the President which could very well have greatly accelerated the government campaign against the Mafia, and brought about their total ruin, even if they had succeeded in killing him.

In my opinion, the theory that "the Mafia killed President Kennedy" on their own, or even at the behest of others, is one of the biggest "red herrings" in the JFK assassination literature.

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In my opinion, the theory that "the Mafia killed President Kennedy" on their own, or even at the behest of others, is one of the biggest "red herrings" in the JFK assassination literature.  END

As is the theory, "the anti-Castro Cubans did it." The Cuban exiles didn't have the money or the power to pull this off.

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Question: Is there clear evidence that the CIA and the mafia worked together? If so, where, how and why?

Yes, the CIA use of the Mafia in assassination plots was exposed during Congressional investigations by the Church Committee of the Senate during the mid-1970s. The Mob was first enlisted under the Eisenhower administration in 1959, involving Jimmy Hoffa as a go-between. Richard Nixon was the White House Action Officer on the project, which was a prelude to the planned invasion of Cuba. When John Kennedy inherited the project, the Castro assassination plots were a part of it. Robert Kennedy became upset when he learned the CIA was using the Mafia, and told them to stop. Mafia figures involved in the second stage included Santos Trafficante of Florida, Johnny Rosselli of Chicago and Los Angeles, and Sam Giancana of Chicago. An Internet search should produce considerable detail on this whole disturbing history.

Martin Shackelford

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As Doug Horne and Martin Shackelford have pointed out, some members of the criminal underworld worked with the CIA in an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. However, I am not convinced that these criminals took this contract very seriously. By 1961 senior members of both groups were admitting that killing Castro would not result in the overthrow of the government. Therefore the strategy became one of trying to persuade JFK to order a United States invasion of Cuba.

The idea of the Mafia being involved in the assassination of JFK only emerged during the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigations. After it was discovered that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK they needed to find someone else to blame.

G. Robert Blakey chief counsel and staff director of the HSCA and long time disinformation agent, Dick Billings, published The Plot to Kill the President (1981). They argued:

(1) Oswald alone did shoot and kill J.F.K., as the Warren Commission deduced.

(2) An unknown confederate of Oswald's, however, also shot at the President, firing from the celebrated "grassy knoll." This shot missed.

(3) Apart from the question of the number of assailants in the attack, Oswald acted as the tool of a much larger conspiracy.

(4) The conspiracy behind Oswald was rooted in organized crime and was specifically provoked by J.F.K. s anti-crime program. Singly or in some combination, prime suspects are Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante, godfathers respectively of the New Orleans and Tampa Mafias, and Teamster racketeer James Hoffa. Each one had the motive, means, and opportunity to kill J.F.K.

Like Doug Horne I believe this Mafia story is a red herring and is an attempt to distract investigators from finding out who really was behind the assassination of JFK.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbillings.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKblakey.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKSinvestigation.htm

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