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McGeorge Bundy and the Secret Meeting in Havana with Castro.


John Simkin
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National Security Archive posted this announcement on 24th November, 2003:

On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the eve of the broadcast of a new documentary film on Kennedy and Castro, the National Security Archive today posted an audio tape of the President and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, discussing the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Castro. The tape, dated only seventeen days before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, records a briefing from Bundy on Castro's invitation to a US official at the United Nations, William Attwood, to come to Havana for secret talks on improving relations with Washington. The tape captures President Kennedy's approval if official US involvement could be plausibly denied.

The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President's thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called "an accommodation with Castro" in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from Bundy's office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing "the sweet approach…enticing Castro over to us," as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime. Top Secret White House memos record Kennedy's position that "we should start thinking along more flexible lines" and that "the president, himself, is very interested in (the prospect for negotiations)." Castro, too, appeared interested. In a May 1963 ABC News special on Cuba, Castro told correspondent Lisa Howard that he considered a rapprochement with Washington "possible if the United States government wishes it. In that case," he said, "we would be agreed to seek and find a basis" for improved relations.

I believe this is a very significant document and helps explain the assassination of JFK:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKhowardL2.htm

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

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National Security Archive posted this announcement on 24th November, 2003:

On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the eve of the broadcast of a new documentary film on Kennedy and Castro, the National Security Archive today posted an audio tape of the President and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, discussing the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Castro. The tape, dated only seventeen days before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, records a briefing from Bundy on Castro's invitation to a US official at the United Nations, William Attwood, to come to Havana for secret talks on improving relations with Washington. The tape captures President Kennedy's approval if official US involvement could be plausibly denied.

The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President's thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called "an accommodation with Castro" in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from Bundy's office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing "the sweet approach…enticing Castro over to us," as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime. Top Secret White House memos record Kennedy's position that "we should start thinking along more flexible lines" and that "the president, himself, is very interested in (the prospect for negotiations)." Castro, too, appeared interested. In a May 1963 ABC News special on Cuba, Castro told correspondent Lisa Howard that he considered a rapprochement with Washington "possible if the United States government wishes it. In that case," he said, "we would be agreed to seek and find a basis" for improved relations.

But these backchannel talks were supposed to be secret. Who blew their cover? Who told the Cubans in USA - Florida, La. and Texas about them?

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But these backchannel talks were supposed to be secret. Who blew their cover? Who told the Cubans in USA - Florida, La. and Texas about them?

To answer that question it is worth examining the events in detail. In April, 1963, McGeorge Bundy suggested to JFK that there should be a "gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro". In an interview given in 1995, Bundy, said JFK needed "a target of opportunity" to talk to Fidel Castro.

In April 1963 Lisa Howard arrived in Cuba to make a documentary on the country for ABC's noontime news broadcast, "The News Hour with Lisa Howard". In an interview with Howard, Fidel Castro agreed that a rapprochement with Washington was desirable. On her return Howard met with the Central Intelligence Agency. Deputy Director Richard Helms reported to JFK on Howard's view that "Fidel Castro is looking for a way to reach a rapprochement with the United States." After detailing her observations about Castro's political power, disagreements with his colleagues and Soviet troops in Cuba, the memo concluded that "Howard definitely wants to impress the U.S. Government with two facts: Castro is ready to discuss rapprochement and she herself is ready to discuss it with him if asked to do so by the US Government."

CIA Director John McCone was strongly opposed to Howard being involved with these negotiations with Castro. He argued that it might "leak and compromise a number of CIA operations against Castro". In a memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, McCone commented that the "Lisa Howard report be handled in the most limited and sensitive manner," and "that no active steps be taken on the rapprochement matter at this time."

Arthur Schlesinger explained to Anthony Summers in 1978 why the CIA did not want John F. Kennedy to negotiate with Fidel Castro during the summer of 1963: "The CIA was reviving the assassination plots at the very time President Kennedy was considering the possibility of normalization of relations with Cuba - an extraordinary action. If it was not total incompetence - which in the case of the CIA cannot be excluded - it was a studied attempt to subvert national policy."

Howard now decided to bypass the CIA and in May, 1963, published an article in the journal, War and Peace Report, Howard wrote that in eight hours of private conversations Castro had shown that he had a strong desire for negotiations with the United States: "In our conversations he made it quite clear that he was ready to discuss: the Soviet personnel and military hardware on Cuban soil; compensation for expropriated American lands and investments; the question of Cuba as a base for Communist subversion throughout the Hemisphere." Howard went on to urge the Kennedy administration to "send an American government official on a quiet mission to Havana to hear what Castro has to say." A country as powerful as the United States, she concluded, "has nothing to lose at a bargaining table with Fidel Castro."

William Attwood, an adviser to the US mission to the United Nations, read Howard's article and on 12th September, 1963, he had a long conversation with her on the phone. This apparently set in motion a plan to initiate secret talks between the United States and Cuba. Six days later Attwood sent a memorandum to Under Secretary of State Averell Harriman and U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. Attwood asked for permission to establish discreet, indirect contact with Fidel Castro.

On September 20, JFK gave permission to authorize Attwood's direct contacts with Carlos Lechuga, the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations. According to Attwood: "I then told Miss Howard to set up the contact, that is to have a small reception at her house so that it could be done very casually, not as a formal approach by us." Howard met Lechuga at the UN on 23rd September 23. Howard invited Lechuga to come to a party at her Park Avenue apartment that night to meet Attwood.

The next day Attwood met with Robert Kennedy in Washington and reported on the talks with Lechuga. According to Attwood the attorney general believed that a trip to Cuba would be "rather risky." It was "bound to leak and... might result in some kind of Congressional investigation." Nevertheless, he thought the matter was "worth pursuing."

On 5th November 5, McGeorge Bundy recorded that "the President was more in favor of pushing towards an opening toward Cuba than was the State Department, the idea being - well, getting them out of the Soviet fold and perhaps wiping out the Bay of Pigs and maybe getting back into normal." Bundy designated his assistant, Gordon Chase, to be Attwood's direct contact at the White House.

Attwood continued to use Howard as his contact with Fidel Castro. In October 1963, Castro told Howard that he was very keen to open negotiations with Kennedy. Castro even offered to send a plane to Mexico to pick up Kennedy's representative and fly him to a private airport near Veradero where Castro would talk to him alone.

John F. Kennedy now decided to send Attwood to meet Castro. On 14th November, 1963, Lisa Howard conveyed this message to her Cuban contact. In an attempt to show his good will, Kennedy sent a coded message to Castro in a speech delivered on 19th November. The speech included the following passage: "Cuba had become a weapon in an effort dictated by external powers to subvert the other American republics. This and this alone divides us. As long as this is true, nothing is possible. Without it, everything is possible."

Kennedy also sent a message to Fidel Castro via the French journalist Jean Daniel. According to Daniel: "Kennedy expressed some empathy for Castro's anti-Americanism, acknowledging that the United States had committed a number of sins in pre-revolutionary Cuba." Kennedy told Daniel that the trade embargo against Cuba could be lifted if Castro ended his support for left-wing movements in the Americas.

Daniel delivered this message on 19th November. Castro told Daniel that Kennedy could become "the greatest president of the United States, the leader who may at last understand that there can be coexistence between capitalists and socialists, even in the Americas." Daniel was with Castro when news arrived that Kennedy had been assassinated Castro turned to Daniel and said: "This is an end to your mission of peace. Everything is changed."

As one can see, the CIA were aware that Howard was involved in the original discussions with Castro. It is highly likely that she continued to be monitored after she was officially removed from the talks. However, we now know that the CIA had the UN building bugged and would have been kept fully informed of the activities of Attwood.

The other possibility is that Jean Daniel (real name Jean Daniel Bensaid) was really working for the CIA. JFK actually went to Ben Bradlee to ask him for a person who could begin secret negotiations with Castro. JFK did not know that Bradlee had been working for the CIA since the late 1940s when he was based in Europe. It was Bradlee who recruited Daniel to negotiate with Castro.

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

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKhowardL2.htm

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

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

Daniel at a meeting with Castro on 19th November, 1963:

post-7-030019900 1315477000_thumb.jpg

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National Security Archive posted this announcement on 24th November, 2003:

On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the eve of the broadcast of a new documentary film on Kennedy and Castro, the National Security Archive today posted an audio tape of the President and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, discussing the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Castro. The tape, dated only seventeen days before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, records a briefing from Bundy on Castro's invitation to a US official at the United Nations, William Attwood, to come to Havana for secret talks on improving relations with Washington. The tape captures President Kennedy's approval if official US involvement could be plausibly denied.

The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President's thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called "an accommodation with Castro" in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from Bundy's office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing "the sweet approach…enticing Castro over to us," as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime. Top Secret White House memos record Kennedy's position that "we should start thinking along more flexible lines" and that "the president, himself, is very interested in (the prospect for negotiations)." Castro, too, appeared interested. In a May 1963 ABC News special on Cuba, Castro told correspondent Lisa Howard that he considered a rapprochement with Washington "possible if the United States government wishes it. In that case," he said, "we would be agreed to seek and find a basis" for improved relations.

I believe this is a very significant document and helps explain the assassination of JFK:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKhowardL2.htm

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

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/02-01.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/10-01.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/03-01.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/05-01.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/07-01.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/09-01.htm

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB18/08-02.htm

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Did W. Averell Harriman meet Fidel Castro in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1963?

Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics 3, Chapter 5: "The Kennedy-CIA Divergence Over Cuba"

http://www.history-matters.com/pds/DP3_Chapter5.htm#_ftn41

On April 3 and April 11 Khrushchev and Kennedy had exchanged secret letters that in part concerned Cuba. At the same time a highly-publicized meeting of eight Presidium members without Khrushchev prompted rumors that Khrushchev would soon be ousted. Then on April 11 the leading hard-liner, Frol Kozlov, suffered a near-fatal seizure; and disappeared forever from Soviet politics. Khrushchev met the next day with Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, and passed the informal message that he was ready for a "fresh start" with Kennedy. Kennedy received Cousins at the White House on April 22, and [under Secretary of State for Political Affairs W. Averell] Harriman left for Moscow soon after to meet Khrushchev. Fidel Castro also left on April 26 for the Soviet Union at Khrushchev's invitation...

...The simultaneous convergence on Moscow of Harriman and Castro was thus preceded by signals that progress in accommodation between them could be brokered by Khrushchev (who had every motive vis-a-vis his own hard-liners to be successful in this respect). But what looked hopeful to some evoked paranoia in others. Soon the right-wing journalists Robert Allen and Paul Scott, who wrote from sources in military intelligence, wrote a column under the provocative title, "Did Harriman Meet Castro in Russia?" They reported that the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee, chaired by the pro-military Senator John Stennis, was investigating the allegation that the two men had met "around April 28, in either Moscow or Murmansk" (where both were visiting). Castro allegedly was seeking diplomatic recognition in exchange for a reduction in Soviet troop levels. The article was placed in the Congressional Record by Bruce Alger, a right-wing Congressman from Dallas.

Though inadequate to demonstrate that such a face-to-face meeting occurred, the article (together with the reprinting of it in the Congressional Record) is an important symptom of the political opposition developing in Washington to the process of accommodation.

Who pulled McGeorge Bundy's chain?

Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA, pgs 334-5:

Having served as ambassador to Moscow and governor of New York, W. Averell Harriman was in the middle of a long public career. In 1960, President-elect Kennedy appointed him ambassador-at-large, to operate “with the full confidence of the president and an intimate knowledge of all aspects of United States policy.” By 1963, according to [Pentagon aide William R.] Corson, Harriman was running “Vietnam without consulting the president or the attorney general.”

The president had begun to suspect that not everyone on his national security team was loyal. As Corson put it, “Kenny O’Donnell (JFK’s appointments secretary) was convinced that McGeorge Bundy, the national security advisor, was taking orders from Ambassador Averell Harriman and not the president. He was especially worried about Michael Forrestal, a young man on the White House staff who handled liaison on Vietnam with Harriman.

Looks like Harriman may have been running his own Cuba policy, as well.

From Scott, ibid, emphasis added

As early as January 4, 1963, Bundy proposed to President Kennedy that the possibility of communicating with Castro be explored. (Memorandum, Bundy to the President, 1/4/63). Bundy's memorandum on "Cuba Alternatives" of April 23 [sic, i.e. April 21], 1963, also listed the "gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro" among policy alternatives. (Bundy memorandum, 4/21/63) At a meeting on June 3, 1963, the Special Group agreed it would be a "useful endeavour" to explore "various possibilities of establishing channels of communication to Castro." (Memorandum of Special Group meeting, 6/6/63).

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As early as January 4, 1963, Bundy proposed to President Kennedy that the possibility of communicating with Castro be explored. (Memorandum, Bundy to the President, 1/4/63). Bundy's memorandum on "Cuba Alternatives" of April 23 [sic, i.e. April 21], 1963, also listed the "gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro" among policy alternatives. (Bundy memorandum, 4/21/63) At a meeting on June 3, 1963, the Special Group agreed it would be a "useful endeavour" to explore "various possibilities of establishing channels of communication to Castro." (Memorandum of Special Group meeting, 6/6/63).

Some of those documents (and others) are linked to in the preceding post.

Here's a more complete list: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB103/index.htm

Edited by Michael Hogan
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