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Sheffield Edwards

Wim Dankbaar

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Sheffield Edwards joined the United States Army and by the end of the Second World War had reached the rank of colonel. He joined the CIA and was appointed head of the Office of Security. His main task was to protect Agency personnel and facilities from enemy penetration.

In April, 1950 Edwards set up Project Bluebird. This was the creation of teams to check out agents and defectors for the whole CIA. Each team consisted of a psychiatrist, a polygraph (lie detector), an expert trained in hypnosis, and a technician.

In 1953 Allen W. Dulles asked Edwards to investigate CIA officers who had been named by Joseph McCarthy as security risks. This included Cord Meyer and William Bundy, who had been supporters of left-wing causes during the 1930s. Allegations were also made against Frank Wisner, head of Directorate of Plans (DPP). Another CIA agent who was investigated, James Kronthal, committed suicide after being interviewed by Edwards and Dulles. Kronthal, a former Nazi Party member and close friend of Herman Goering, had during the war been caught by the German authorities in a homosexual act with an underage German boy.

In 1960 Richard Bissell and Allen W. Dulles decided to work with the Mafia in a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. According to Bissell, it was Edwards who first suggested the idea. Edwards argued that the advantage of employing the Mafia for this work is that it provided CIA with a credible cover story. The Mafia were known to be angry with Castro for closing down their profitable brothels and casinos in Cuba. If the assassins were killed or captured the media would accept that the Mafia were working on their own.

Edwards suggested that Robert Maheu should be approached to organize the assassination. Jack Anderson (Peace, War and Politics: An Eyewitness Account) later claimed that Maheu offered the contract to Johnny Roselli. He in turn arranged for a meeting on 11th October, 1960, between Maheu and two leading mobsters, Santo Trafficante and Sam Giancana. As Maheu pointed out, "both were among the ten most powerful Mafia members" in America. Maheu told the mobsters that the CIA was willing to pay $150,000 to have Castro killed.

On 12th March, 1961, Maheu, and Edwards' assistant, Jim O'Connell, met Roselli, Trafficante and Giancana at the Fontainebleau Hotel. During the meeting O'Connell gave poison pills and $10,000 to Rosselli to be used against Fidel Castro.

Sheffield Edwards died on 15th July, 1975.



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Cuba 1960-1962

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Documents show that in August 1960, a senior CIA official, Richard Bissell, asked another agency veteran, Sheffield Edwards, if he "had assets that may assist in a sensitive mission requiring gangster-type action," according to the documents.

"The mission target was Fidel Castro," one memo said.

Edwards suggested the CIA could recruit mobsters by contacting Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent who'd become a top aide to billionaire Howard Hughes.

Maheu, who had previous CIA contacts, agreed to work as a middleman, the memos show. He proposed the agency recruit Las Vegas mobster Johnny Roselli, whom he described as a "high-ranking member of the syndicate" and who "controlled all the ice-making machines on the Strip."

The documents describe how Maheu approached Roselli at the Hilton Plaza Hotel in New York in September 1960.

Maheu had been told to disguise his interest in the matter. "It was to be made clear to Roselli that the United States government was not, and should not, become aware of this operation," one memo said.

Instead, Maheu told Roselli he represented businessman who had lost fortunes thanks to Castro's seizure of power in Havana in 1959 - and who were willing to pay $150,000 to have the Cuban dictator killed.

Roselli was initially cool to the idea of a contract on Castro, but he arranged for Maheu to meet two other men, whom he called "Sam Gold" and "Joe."

"Sam Gold" was actually Sam Giancana, the Al Capone-trained head of the Chicago mob, and "Joe" was Santo Trafficante, another mob boss.

The plot took a new twist when, at a meeting in a Miami Beach hotel, Giancana offered his professional advice: Getting close enough to Castro with a gun would be a problem, but he might be poisoned.

The CIA took the hint and provided "Joe" with six pills of "high lethal content."

Giancana passed them on to Juan Orta, a Cuban official who was close to Castro and having money problems.

"After several weeks of reported attempts, Orta apparently got cold feet and asked out of the assignment," one document said. "He suggested another candidate who made several attempts without success."

Eventually, the plan was dropped because of the disastrous CIA-run Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, in the early weeks of John F. Kennedy's presidency.

The documents were compiled in the early 1970s when then-CIA Director James Schlesinger was angered to learn that the agency had provided help to former agents involved in the Watergate break-in.

Schlesinger ordered "all senior operating officials of this agency to report to me immediately" on any possibly illegal activity they were involved in - but the results were not made public until yesterday.

"These are the top CIA officers all going into the confessional and saying, 'Forgive me, father, for I have sinned,' " said Thomas Blanton, director of the private National Security Archive, which had requested release of the documents.

Some of the "Family Jewels" secrets had surfaced before - during the White House and congressional investigations of the CIA in the 1970s and in press reports.

One of the most infamous cases involved the CIA testing hallucinogens on unwitting subjects. Agency germ-warfare expert Frank Olson died in a fall from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after a CIA doctor spiked Olson's drink with LSD. President Gerald Ford apologized to the family in 1975; the government also paid $750,000 to his relatives.

The anti-Castro plot was first reported thanks to Roselli, the documents show.

The mobster eventually realized he had been dealing with the CIA and not with disgruntled businessmen.

After he was convicted in the 1960s of cheating members of the Friars Club "in a rigged gin rummy game," he wanted the government to ensure he wouldn't be deported, the documents show.

Roselli renewed his concern, passed on through Maheu, in 1970 after exhausting appeals of his conviction. The CIA decided not to intervene.

In 1971, columnist Jack Anderson revealed the CIA-Maheu-Roselli-Giancana connection - the biggest black eye for the agency up until that time. Anderson and three of his "leg men" aides were later put under CIA surveillance to detect their sources for other stories, the files show.

In one of the bizarre footnotes to the Castro contract, Giancana asked Maheu for help with a personal matter during their negotiations. He suspected his girlfriend, singer Phyllis McGuire, had been romantically involved with comedian Dan Rowan while both were starring at a Las Vegas club, the documents show.

Giancana wanted Maheu to bug the hotel room of Rowan, later the star of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In."

But the surveillance expert assigned to the job was caught and arrested. The Justice Department brought charges against both the expert and Maheu.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy - one of Giancana's bitter enemies during his mob-busting days - was asked for help.

"At our request, prosecution was dropped," according to an internal CIA memo.

The dirty-laundry documents unveiled yesterday add other footnotes to the history of the 1960s and 1970s.

In other memos, CIA officials express concern about money from the agency being used by the Nixon administration to answer letters and telegrams from Americans who approved of President Richard Nixon's controversial May 1970 speech defending the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.

The documents indicate the CIA was reimbursed by the White House for the quarter of a million letters sent out.

Also, documents from December 1970 show that the head of the new Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Robert Ingersoll, asked CIA Director Richard Helms for "some assistance in shoring up the internal integrity" of his agency.

Ingersoll said the old Bureau of Narcotics "had been heavily infiltrated by dishonest and corrupt elements who were believed to have ties with the narcotics smuggling industry," one memo said.

The documents indicated CIA trained narcotics agents, including some who served informants about misdeeds by co-workers.

There are also occasional references in the files to former CIA agents, such as Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt.

In the spring of 1972, weeks before the Watergate burglary, Hunt called a CIA official and asked if he knew of an agency "retiree or resignee who was accomplished at picking locks."

Last week, CIA Director Michael Hayden commented that "the documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency."

With Post Wire Services



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Mr. Kennedy further advised that because of this matter it would be very difficult to initiate any prosecution against Giancana .............

It appears Roselli has since that time, nevertheless, used his prior connections with CIA to his best advantage. For example, in May 1966, when contacted by Agents of this Bureau in connection with our current investigation of his activities, he refused to talk and immediately flew to Washington DC, and consulted with Colonel Sheffield Edwards, who is now retired from CIA. Colonel Edwards in turn advised CIA, which told us.

Mr. Howard J. Osborn, the present Director of Security, CIA, freely has admitted to us that Roselli has CIA in an unusually vulnerable position and that he would have no qualms about embarrassing CIA if it served his own interests. In furnishing this information, Mr. Osborn asked that it be held within this Bureau on a strictly need-to-know basis.


(page 54/55)

Edited by Wim Dankbaar
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