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William Kelly

David Kaiser on the DRE

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Those who dismiss David Kaiser's TRTD as just another mob did it book fail to see some of the gems that he has unearthed.

David Kaiser on the DRE (From The Road to Dallas The Assassination of John F. Kennedy (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England, 2008).

p. 109: "…It is not clear whether Harvey, Roselli, and Varona had anything to do with this particular plot. In late August the Cuban government broke up another plot, this one hatched by the Armed Forces of Liberation (FAL) and designed to assassinate several regime leaders on August 30. One captured man linked the plot to the DRE 33…"

Footnotes 32-33: JMWAVE to Director, July 1992, CIA, LA WF, Box 5/2. A brief AP item describing the confession appeared in the Chicago Tribune, July 18, p. 8. Sites Escalante, The Secret War, pp. 125-6

p. 113: "In July 1962 the CIA made an important breakthrough in its assassination plans when it re established contact with Rolando Cubela, the former DRE assassin from the Batista era was now a high Cuban government official and evidently had been involved in the late 1960 poisoning plots against Castro. Since March 1961, when Cubela met a CIA man in Mexico City, the agency had received several indirect reports of his intention to defect because of unhappiness with Fidel's turn to Communism…."

p. 116: "…the very active and determined DRE,….."

p. 120: "…Another organization that eclipsed Alpha 66 with its determined mix of sabotage and wide ranging propaganda was the Revolutionary Student Directorate, or DRE. It was an indirect descendent of the Batista era DR, one of Castro's most important allies in his 1959 revolution. In 1960, after Rolando Cubela of the old DR became head of Castro's new Student Federation (FE), several independent student leaders fled to the United States and created the DRE. Two of them, Alberto Muller and Manuel Sabvat Rogue, infiltrated into Cuba late in 1960, and a third, Isidro Borja, got back inside by swimming to Mexico, his birthplace, and traveling to Cuba as a tourist."

p. 121: "In his 2004 book on the assassination, El Complot, retired Cuban intelligence chief Fabian Escalante claimed that David Atlee Phillips recruited Salvat for the CIA in 1959-60. Phillips confirmed that he worked with 'student groups' around that time, including DRE leaders in Florida during the run-up to the Bay of Pigs, and referred to the group as a very important student organization both in Cuba and the United States. After some narrow escapes following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Salvat managed to return to Florida, but Muller was eventually captured in Cuba. The DRE's CIA case officer, Ron Crozier, described Salvat as 'organizer and action type. Driver perserverant, headstrong but fearless. Cool operator in spite of temper…In support matters, is demanding and insistent.' By mid 1962 he seemed to personify the organization itself."

"By late summer 1962 Crozier was involved in a bitter argument with DRE leaders over their skimming from the monthly support payments to build a war chest, and their refusal to stick to propaganda alone. On August 24 two DRE vessels sailed to within sight of Havana and shelled the Sierra Maestra Hotel, home to numerous Soviets and Czechs, and the Blanquita Theater, where Castro was thought to be speaking. A communiqué announced that the attack was responding to the Soviet buildup about which the DRE was the best informed organization in America and called into question President Kennedy's promise not to abandon Cuba. They missed assassinating Fidel but put themselves on the map in the United States…"

p. 191 "In early August Oswald appeared at the store of Carlos Bringuier, head of the New Orleans branch of the militant anti-Castro student organization DRE, and a day or two later he became involved in a street altercation with Bringuier and two other Cuban exiles over the FPCC handbills, which outraged them. Arrested for disturbing the peace, he spent one night and part of a day in jail. While there, he asked to see an FBI agent and gave him a fanciful account of the extent of his FPCC activities. Later that month he participated in a broadcast debate over Castro, Cuba, and the FPCC organized by New Orleans journalist William Stuckey.....

"….New Orleans was also the center of Cuban exile activity, and Louisiana in the summer of 1963 was the scene of two new operations mounted against Castro by the DRE, organized crime elements, and a coalition of other Cuban organizations. Just as these operations fell into a broader pattern of anti-Castro activity headquartered in Miami, Oswald's key moves that summer, including his altercation with the DRE, his radio appearance in support of Castro, and his attempt to enter Cuba via Mexico, also fell squarely into a larger pattern of FBI and private right-wing attempts to discredit Communist fronts and continuing plots to assassinate Fidel Castro…"

p. 192 "….Leaders of the Miami headquarters of the DRE wanted to strike directly against Castro. But the CIA – its covert financial sponsor – insisted that it confine its activities to propaganda. Having scored a public relations and financial coup with its shelling of Havana on August 25, 1962, the Cuban student organization was determined to preserve a military role, and was using Miami Mafia contacts to procure arms. The DRE's New Orleans delegate, Bringuier, was a young, very anti-American Cuban who had settled in New Orleans in 1961, joined the Cuban Revolutionary Council in early 1962, and became head of the DRE's New Orleans branch in July of that year. Twelve months later, during the third week of July 1963, the FBI discovered a plan to bomb Cuba from a staging area near New Orleans. The operation involved both DRE members and organized crime elements with connections to Havana and the New Orleans area."

"In late July 1963 the FBI received a tip from a Miami Cuban named Orlando Pedroso Armores. Pedroso claimed to have inspected some practice bombs filled with sand at a house in Louisiana. The Cubans who took Pedroso there were expecting fo find two B-26 aircraft, along with dynamite and fuses to make real bombs. Pedroso said the DRE was behind to plan to attack Cuba from an airstrip located some miles from the house. The CIA immediately denied any connection to the operation, and the Justice Department ordered the FBI to investigate it. Pedroso further described three Cubans who had driven him to the site, two from Miami and one from New Orleans, and the FBI discovered that the station wagon he had traveled in had been rented in Miami by a DRE member named John Koch Gene. Koch, as he preferred to be called, appeared on a CIA list of DRE infiltrators for a November 1961 operation and had attended the World Youth Festival in Helsinki with other DRE members in July 1962."

"The case broke wide open on July 23, when U.S. Customs agent Wallace Shanley informed the FBI that the rented Chevrolet had been sighted with three prominent DRE members – Victor Espinosa Hernandez, Carlos Hernandez Sanchez, and Jose Basulto Leon – inside. The last two had taken part in the notorious DRE raid on Havana in August 1962, and in early June 1963 Espinosa and Hernandez had been arrested in Florida as they were about to launch a bombing raid on a Havana oil refinery. This new operation was clearly an independent raid of the sort the CIA had ordered the DRE not to conduct."

"Nevertheless, the New Orleans FBI office showed a notable lack of interest in the case…By late July the FBI had discovered that the property was co-owned by William Julius McLaney of New Orleans, who had worked at the casino of the Hotel National in Havana before Castro came to power. His brother Mike McLaney was part owner of the casino. But the key man in the latest plot to bomb Cuba turned out to be Victor Espinosa Hernandez, who had a long history as a revolutionary. He had worked with Rolando Cubela and Jose Luis Echeverria of the original DRE in 1957-58, acquiring arms for assassination attempts on Batista officials….He had also met Carlos Tepedino, who owned a jewelry store at the Nacional and whom he correctly identified as a CIA contact…..He did not acknowledge belonging to DRE, but in April 1961 the CIA assigned him the cryptonym AMHINT-25, using the standard designation for DRE members. His CIA operational approval had lapsed in May 1963, just two months before the plot was discovered..."

p. 194 "….His confederates Koch and Henandez denied that the DRE had anything to do with the discoveries on the property, and the FBI, accepting this, dropped the DRE from the caption on the case….the bureau's conclusion was mistaken. Backed by the McLaneys and assisted by other right-wing elements, the DRE was continuing its war against Castro….Mike McLaney calaimed numerous famous acquaintances in the world of sports, including Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who in 1958 put up more than a quarter of McLaney's $800,000 interest in the Hotel Nacional and apparently took a financial bath himself when Castro shut the casinos down…"

p. 195 "….The DRE backed bombing plot was only one of two elaborate exile operations in Louisiana during the summer before President Kennedy's assassination. The second was a training camp in Lacombe, Louisiana, led by Victor Paneque Batista. Known as Commandante Diego, Paneque had been a Castro revolutionary and high police official in Cuba before defecting in November 1959…"

p. 200 "Carlos Bringuier told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Ferrie had also worked with the New Orleans DRE, but the organization dropped him because of his homosexuality."

p. 214 Re: Rafael Aznarez Costea, wrote letter to FBI/Hover about FPCC leaflet he was handed on street in New Orleans in July, 1963. "…But Carlos Bringuier of the DRE, whose store was not far away, claimed later that he had not heard of Oswald before late July – even though several years later he mentioned having discussed Oswald with Aznarez in a letter to Hover of his own…."

p. 215 – 216 "…On Ausust 5 Oswald presented himself at a clothing store run by Bringuier. The head of the DRE was talking to a young American by the name of Philip Geraci and his friend, Vance Blaylock, both fifteen years old. Geraci had raised $10 for the organization and Balylock came with him to turn it in…"

p. 224 "…radio debates were a preferred tactic of the DRE, which had staged one between a pro and anti Castro student in Guatemala in December 1961, and apparently planned another one in New York in April 1962. Just two weeks after Oswald's appearance in New Orleans, the Miami DRE headquarters was busily arranging a radio and television debate with some American students who had just made a visit to Cuba…"

p. 230 "…The episode of Oswald's FPCC 'chapter' bears all the marks of a COINTELPRO operation carried out by or with the witting or unwitting help of two private organizations, INCA and the DRE….."

p. 249 "….in early September….Hall traveled to New York in connection with it, stopped in Washington, and saw Senator Kenneth Keating, an important critic of Kennedy's Cuba policy who was in contact with the DRE via Clare Booth Luce and Pawley…." [bK note: Keating was close to Lisa Howard, who supported Keating against RFK when RFK ran for the Senate seat from NY).

p. 251 "…Meanwhile, the DRE, through its Dallas chapter, was attempting to acquire some weapons through a gun dealer named John Thomas Masen, who belonged to the Minutemen. Masen had apparently developed a source of stolen arms at a nearby Army base with the help of a Colonel George Nonte…."

p. 260 "…On September 12, 1963, the CIA Station in Miami reported that the November issue of a magazine called See, already on the newsstands, featured a wanted poster for Fidel Castro on the cover. 'The CIA needs men, can you qualify?' a headline inside asked, and the DRE offered a $10 million reward 'to the person or persons who with the help of the DRE will assassinate Fidel Castro.' It was signed by DRE leader Luis Fernandez Rocha. As we shall see, a disinterested witness placed Oswald at a DRE meeting in Dallas in October. And in early November Oswald claimed that he expected shortly to come into a considerable sum of money. By late September, Lee Harvey Oswald was evidently involved in a plot to kill either Fidel Castro or John F. Kennedy. Which one it would turn out to be would depend on what happened in Mexico."

p. 311 "…On June 8 Veciana, Tony Cuesta, and Luis Fernandez Rocha of the DRE were all featured in a long, Saturday Evening Post article on exiles, and all of them spoke frankly about the connection between spectacular, well-publized attacks and fundraising."

p. 313 "…The DRE remained the most troublesome anti-Castro organization in the United States. It had concluded 1962 by publishing verbal attacks on President Kennedy and securing the replacement of its case officer Ross Crozier, with George Joannides, who went by the name of Walter Newby. The change did not improve the DRE's relationship with the U.S. government however.

"…In late August the CIA received a tip from its Chicago informant, sheriff's office investigator and Mafia man Richard Cain, that a local Cuban had been approached by the DRE and asked to join a guerrilla force that would operate somewhere in Latin America. When the Cuban replied that he would do nothing not authorized by the U.S. government, the DRE man telephoned Miami, where Manual Salvat Roque, the organization's military chief, claimed that they were backed not by the CIA but by the Pentagon….."

p. 314 "…The climax of the long and difficult relationship between the DRE and the CIA began on October 22, when the DRE gave Joannides its plan for a military base on a Caribbean island (The island name is redacted in the document). In a long cable on November 8, Joannides reviewed the history of the last year. Although the agency had cut out its support for DRE military operations in March and threatened that any new raids would cost the group all its support, the organization's leaders remained restive and now, with the emergence of Ray's bases in Central America, wanted to make sure they did not lose their role…JMWAVE, Joannides explained, opposed this plan. The DRE lacked the skill or personnel for unconventional warfare along these lines, the base was too far from the target,…"

p. 315 "…On Sunday evening, October 13, 1963 the DRE held a fundraising meeting at a bank at a North Dallas shopping center. The featured speakers were Manuel Salvat, the DRE's military chief, known to the CIA for his violent temper, and Anna Silveira, another DRE representative from Miami. They were accompanied by a third leading DRE figure, Joaquin Martinex de Pinillo, publisher of the DREs bi-weekly Cuban Report. The Dallas Morning News gave the meeting a warm preview on the morning of October 13, and General Edwin Walker also attended…During his stay in Dallas, which lasted several days, Salvat introdued Martinez to a local exile and Bay of Pigs veteran named Fermin de Goicochea Sanchez. He told Goicochea that he wanted to buy enough arms to outfit several PT boats, and introduced him to a young Dallas gun dealer, John Thomas Masen….."

p. 317 "…On December 19, 1963, FBI agent Hosty interviewed a civil engineer named Edward Stieg, who must have contacted the FBI. Stieg told Hosty he had attended a public DRE meeting at the North Dallas Shopping Center in October at which Salvat had spoken. He sat at the back, and he thought that he saw Lee Harvey Oswald sitting there quietly as well. Hosty following up, met with Sara Castillo, the Dallas DRE leader…She said she did not remember Oswald but that most of the guests had signed a register that Anna Silveira and Manuel Salvat had taken back to Miami….Silveira and located the register, but found neither Oswald's nor Stieg's name on it. Dallas apparently made no attempt to contact everyone on the list…"

p. 321 "…Calvin Thomas, who had worked with the DRE in Miami for more than two years, from the spring of 1961 to the late summer of 1963, heard enough to write an extraordinary memo for the record on March 8, 1967, when Jim Garrison's New Orleans investigation was making the news. Noting that Garrison had already touched on the

'Cuban Student Directorate' and Carlos Bringuier's contacts with Oswald, Thomas continued:

I have assumed that, since the time I was transferred from Miami and scheduled for my next assignment as [redacted], officers better and more recently informed than myself have probably examined in detail all aspects of the DRE involvement with OSWALD, in order to rule out any slight possibility that compromise of the CIA sponsorship of this organization might in any way embarrass the Agency. Recent news reports of investigations centering in New Orleans on the assassination have once again brought to mind the concern I felt in November 1963, by which time, however, I was far removed from current knowledge of the operation.

I do retain a distinct recollection that the DRE leadership, specifically Luis FERNANDEZ Rocha, whom I met several times, did hold sentiments of chagrin and embitterment that President Kennedy had not more forcefully pursued a 'liberation' of Cuba. Whether or not this animus, which could be discerned as occasional signs of anger or of contempt o of discouragement, might have been translated into a wish for revenge, may be better known to other officers, who dealt with this group after the summer of 1963.

"By November 1963, the DRE's principal case officer, Joannides, shared the low opinion of the organization's reliability that had cost his predecessor his job a year earlier. Certainly the record gives no indication that Joannides was cooperating with the DRE in any nefarious scheme, as Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley has speculated. Yet it is quite extraordinary, as Morley discovered, that the CIA in 1977-78 chose Joannides as its liaison with the HSCA, and that Joannides was commended by his superiors for resisting the importunate demands for documentation of the committee staff..."

Edited by William Kelly

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Bill, thanks for distilling the DRE portions of David Kaiser's The Road to Dallas for us.

Interesting quote from Kaiser:

"Certainly the record gives no indication that Joannides was cooperating with the DRE in any nefarious scheme, as Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley has speculated. "

Kaiser's failure to mention Morley vs. the CIA aside, that's a very poor summation of what Jeff Morley has been doing (if the above is the extent of Kaiser's discussion of Morley's work). I don't recall reading or hearing Morley speculate of any "nefarious scheme" between Joannides and the DRE.

In fact, his reporting (and book Our Man in Mexico) have been very measured in raising the important questions: What did George Joannides and his superiors at the CIA know of the DRE's encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald, and when did they know it? Was Oswald involved in an authorized CIA intelligence operation? If so, how did this operation overlap with the DRE, a CIA-funded organization?

These pressing questions need forthright answers from the CIA.

Steve

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Bill, thanks for distilling the DRE portions of David Kaiser's The Road to Dallas for us.

Interesting quote from Kaiser:

"Certainly the record gives no indication that Joannides was cooperating with the DRE in any nefarious scheme, as Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley has speculated. "

Kaiser's failure to mention Morley vs. the CIA aside, that's a very poor summation of what Jeff Morley has been doing (if the above is the extent of Kaiser's discussion of Morley's work). I don't recall reading or hearing Morley speculate of any "nefarious scheme" between Joannides and the DRE.

In fact, his reporting (and book Our Man in Mexico) have been very measured in raising the important questions: What did George Joannides and his superiors at the CIA know of the DRE's encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald, and when did they know it? Was Oswald involved in an authorized CIA intelligence operation? If so, how did this operation overlap with the DRE, a CIA-funded organization?

These pressing questions need forthright answers from the CIA.

Steve

Hi Steve,

There's a lot more to Kaiser and his book than meets the eye, and Joannides is only an example.

I thought I was keeping up with the latest on what's available on Joannides, but Kaiser brings in a half dozen new characters that I didn't know about before and adds a few tidbits that may pan out. For instance, the line about the Pentagon taking over the DRE military ops from the CIA. Maybe the Joannides/DRE file isn't at CIA afterall, but over at the Pentagon.

BK

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Bill, thanks for distilling the DRE portions of David Kaiser's The Road to Dallas for us.

Interesting quote from Kaiser:

"Certainly the record gives no indication that Joannides was cooperating with the DRE in any nefarious scheme, as Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley has speculated. "

Kaiser's failure to mention Morley vs. the CIA aside, that's a very poor summation of what Jeff Morley has been doing (if the above is the extent of Kaiser's discussion of Morley's work). I don't recall reading or hearing Morley speculate of any "nefarious scheme" between Joannides and the DRE.

In fact, his reporting (and book Our Man in Mexico) have been very measured in raising the important questions: What did George Joannides and his superiors at the CIA know of the DRE's encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald, and when did they know it? Was Oswald involved in an authorized CIA intelligence operation? If so, how did this operation overlap with the DRE, a CIA-funded organization?

These pressing questions need forthright answers from the CIA.

Steve

Hi Steve,

There's a lot more to Kaiser and his book than meets the eye, and Joannides is only an example.

I thought I was keeping up with the latest on what's available on Joannides, but Kaiser brings in a half dozen new characters that I didn't know about before and adds a few tidbits that may pan out. For instance, the line about the Pentagon taking over the DRE military ops from the CIA. Maybe the Joannides/DRE file isn't at CIA afterall, but over at the Pentagon.

BK

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