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What Castro Knew About Lee Harvey Oswald


Douglas Caddy
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What Castro Knew About Lee Harvey Oswald

The official narrative skips tantalizing signs of a Cuban connection.

By Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Nov. 17, 2013 5:53 p.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304243904579200281204381194

In November 1963, Cuban intelligence officer Florentino Aspillaga was posted in a little hut near a Cuban beach where he operated listening equipment trained on Miami and CIA headquarters in Virginia. On the morning of Nov. 22, Mr. Aspillaga—who would defect to the U.S. in 1987—said that he was ordered "to stop all your CIA work, all your CIA work." He was instructed to "put all of my equipment to listen to any small detail from Texas. They told me Texas."

Did Castro know that Lee Harvey Oswald was about to assassinate President Kennedy? Brian Latell, a veteran CIA Cuba analyst who spent 15 hours interviewing Mr. Aspillaga for his newly revised "Castro's Secrets," (Palgrave MacMillan), makes a strong case that he did.

Mr. Latell takes readers through a half-century of Cuban espionage by interviewing a dozen high-ranking Cuban defectors and numerous former CIA officers. He calls Mr. Aspillaga "the most knowledgeable Cuban defector ever to change sides." He also pored over thousands of pages of declassified CIA documents and gained access to the unpublished memoir of Thomas Mann, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1963, who had reason to suspect an Oswald-Cuba connection.

Mr. Latell set out to tell the story of Cuba's "intelligence machine," which outmaneuvered the U.S. for many years. In the process he uncovers startling details that suggest that Cuba fueled Oswald's maniacal desire to prove himself worthy of Castro's revolution during the American's visit to Mexico City in the fall of 1963. Mr. Latell also presents strong evidence that the Johnson administration and higher-ups in the FBI and the CIA ensured those details were kept from the Warren Commission.

Related Video

WSJ's Mary Anastasia O'Grady explains the relationship that JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had with the Cubans along with a trip he took to Mexico City in late September 1963 to try to secure a visa to Cuba.

The Kennedy administration was desperate to eliminate Castro. The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion had failed and by August 1963, according to Edward Jay Epstein —a renowned expert on the killing of the president and author of the recently released book "The JFK Assassination Diary"— Richard Helms, though not yet CIA director, was "receiving almost daily phone calls from [Attorney General Robert Kennedy ] demanding to know what actions he was [taking] to remove Castro from power." The agency recruited Rolando Cubela, a revolutionary insider, to do the job.

But Cubela was a double agent. And on Sept. 7, just after Cubela agreed to help the Americans, Castro gave an interview to an AP reporter in which he put the U.S. on notice that "aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders" would mean that "they themselves will not be safe."

Castro didn't need to look far for a willing partner to back up those words. It is "known with near certainty," writes Mr. Latell, that Cuba had "opened a dossier" on Oswald in 1959, while he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, in Southern California. Oswald was enamored of the Cuban Revolution, and he had made contact with the Cuban consulate in Los Angeles.

On Sept. 27, 1963, Oswald checked into the Hotel Comercio in Mexico City for a five-night stay. He tried to get a visa from the Cuban embassy to travel to Havana. He had a fling with an embassy employee and probably spent time with others who were intelligence agents. When his visa was not forthcoming, witnesses said he went on a rant at the embassy, slammed the door and stormed off.

According to Mr. Latell, during his Mexico City stay Oswald twice visited the Soviet consulate where he met with "an officer of the notorious Department 13, responsible for assassination and sabotage operations." The KGB was training Cuban intelligence at the time, and "it seems certain that [Oswald's] intelligence file in Havana was thickening."

Castro's claim about Oswald—in a speech 30 hours after Kennedy was shot—that "we never in our life heard of him" was a lie. Indeed, in a 1964 conversation with Jack Childs —an American communist who had secretly been working for the FBI—Castro let it slip that he knew of Oswald's outburst while at the embassy in Mexico City and said that the ex-Marine had threatened to kill the U.S. president.

When Warren Commission staff asked Ambassador Mann about the Hotel Comercio's reputation as "a headquarters for pro-Castro activities," Mann answered: "it was not known generally at all . . . [but] only in intelligence circles."

For Mann, it was too convenient that Oswald landed at that hotel. He pushed for more information about Oswald's Mexico City sojourn. In his memoir, however, he wrote: "The Embassy received instructions to cease our investigation of Oswald's visit to Mexico and to request that the Mexican government do the same." Mann asked for reconsideration and was denied. The Warren Commission was never told of the CIA plan to take out Castro.

All of this leaves a giant hole in the official narrative about the assassination. Mr. Latell concludes that "Castro and a small number of Cuban intelligence officers were complicit in Kennedy's death but that their involvement fell short of an organized assassination plot." Instead they "exhorted Oswald," and "encouraged his feral militance."

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com

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I'll certainly read this book but ...

"Brian Latell, a veteran CIA Cuba analyst who spent 15 hours interviewing Mr. Aspillaga"

...tells me this book has obviously been through the Publications Review Board and my initial impression is that it is pure CIA propaganda. 50 years later and still trying to hammer home the "Castro did it" theory? The CIA et al, are still the masters of hypocrisy. "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." How did Mockingbird fit into that quote I wonder?

More likely scenario: The CIA sponsored anti-Castro Cubans in Florida were still heavily penetrated by Cuban Intelligence and their almost laughable disregard for operational security meant that Cuban Intelligence became aware of "something" going down in Texas during Kennedy's visit from the same sources compromised before the Bay of Pigs.

Edited by Chris Newton
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I agree with you, Chris.

Without a doubt, Castro’s intelligence agents had infiltrated the anti-Castro Cuban-American community in Miami and had picked up intelligence information about the plans of a few key members of that community to assassinate JFK in Dallas. So, yes, it is likely that Castro knew ahead of time of the possibility of JFK being killed.

Edited by Douglas Caddy
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An issue that should be explored here is the US newspapers' printing of Castro's statement that, if US officials were subsidizing assassination plots against Castro, then US officials had better watch out for the same. This seems to have been established as a verified Castro quotation - from a speech in Havana in 1963, yes?

This was an unfortunate and untimely utterance for Castro to have made. Would he have made it if he had known that JFK assassination plots were more than pro-Castro grumblings overheard in Cuban or Florida barrooms?

Would he have made it if he had known that US right-wingers and anti-Castro Cuban exiles were operating on assassination workings in the US at a level above grumbling?

Did Castro not believe that a presidential assassination could happen, even given the high-stakes, high-tempered climate of 1963? Was he really willing to assume any imputed responsibility if it did happen, just for the sake of braggadocio? Could he count that much on the Soviets for indemnity?

Edited by David Andrews
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An issue that should be explored here is the US newspapers' printing of Castro's statement that, if US officials were subsidizing assassination plots against Castro, then US officials had better watch out for the same. This seems to have been established as a verified Castro quotation - from a speech in Havana in 1963, yes?

The website Marxists.org has list of Castro speeches. Two speeches in 1963 are transcribed in this website: http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/

One is dated January 2, 1963; (Fourth Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution ) and the other is January 16, 1963.(At the Closing of the Congress of Women of the Americans ).

Can you find in any of those speeches a quote by Fidel Castro to the effect that USA better watch out if they are trying to kill him?

If you believe the website has omitted any of his 1963 speeches, can you point to a transcript on the internet (or to a book with such transcript) of the speech you believe was omitted?

Edited by Andric Perez
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An issue that should be explored here is the US newspapers' printing of Castro's statement that, if US officials were subsidizing assassination plots against Castro, then US officials had better watch out for the same. This seems to have been established as a verified Castro quotation - from a speech in Havana in 1963, yes?

The website Marxists.org has list of Castro speeches. Two speeches in 1963 are transcribed in this website: http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/

One is dated January 2, 1963; (Fourth Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution ) and the other is January 16, 1963.(At the Closing of the Congress of Women of the Americans ).

Can you find in any of those speeches a quote by Fidel Castro to the effect that USA better watch out if they are trying to kill him?

If you believe the website has omitted any of his 1963 speeches, can you point to a transcript on the internet (or to a book with such transcript) of the speech you believe was omitted?

I just found this interesting website of Carlos Bringuier's, in which he says something about Castro's impromptu speech on September 7, 1963, at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana:

JFK’S ASSASSINATION-FIDEL CASTRO’S TRAIL

By Carlos J. Bringuier

As we reach another anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy I believe that it is important to show the facts surrounding the tragic events that culminated on November 22, 1963.

1) 1959. Mafia boss Santos Trafficante is arrested in Havana and is released due to the intervention of Major Rolando Cubela Secades and Trafficante is allowed to leave Cuba with his money and start working with Castro’s Secret Service as an informant.

2) 1959. During his time in prison Mafia boss Santos Trafficante received the visit of Jack Ruby.

3) March 1961. Cuban Major Rolando Cubela established contact in Mexico City with the CIA. Contacts continued until 1965.

4) June 1962. Lee Harvey Oswald leaves the Soviet Union to return to the USA.

5) July 18, 1962. The KGB sends a secret telegram to Ramiro Valdés, chief of the Cuban secret services informing him of Oswald’s return to the USA and identifying Oswald as a sympathizer.

6) November 1962. Cuban G2 established contact with Lee Harvey Oswald and assigned as his case officer Major Rolando Cubela Secades.

7) April 10, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald carried out his first test as "sleeper" for the communists by attempting to kill General Edwin Walker in Dallas, Texas.

8) August 5, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald tried to infiltrate the Delegation of the Cuban Student Directorate (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil) DRE in New Orleans, Louisiana.

9) August 9, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested on Canal Street after a disturbance when he was passing out pro-Castro literature.

10) August 12, 1963. At the Second Municipal Court in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lee Harvey Oswald is sentenced to a $10.00 fine for disturbing the peace.

11) August 21, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald is confronted in a debate at Radio Station WDSU in New Orleans, Louisiana where he defended the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

12) September 7, 1963. Fidel Castro at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana, in an extemporaneous speech to the press Fidel Castro stated: "Kennedy is the Batista of his times...and the most opportunistic American President of all times. He is fighting a battle against us they cannot win. Kennedy is a hypocrite, and a member of an oligarchic family that controls several important posts in the government. For instance, one brother is a Senator and another Attorney General...and there are not more kennedys officials because there are not more brothers." Later on in his speech he went so far to threaten the leaders of the United States: "We are prepared to fight them and answer in kind. United States leaders should think that if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe."

13) September 27, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald established contact with intelligence agents of the Cuban government in Mexico City among them the chief of Cuban secret service General Fabián Escalante. Oswald attended a party organized by the Cuban Embassy in Mexico and met the daughter of Octavio Paz, winner author of a Nobel prize, and Ms. Paz was told: "Stay away from him, he’s a dangerous man."

14) September 1963. Néstor Sánchez, became CIA Case Officer of Cuban Major Rolando Cubela and using and assumed name met with Cubela at the Pan American Games in Porto Alegre, Brasil.

15) October 29, 1963. Desmond FitzGerald, in charge of the CIA Special Affairs Staff and close friend of Robert F. Kennedy, using an alias, met with Cubela in Paris. During the meeting Cubela requested a "high powered rifle with a telescopic sight that could be used to kill Castro from a distance".

16) November 18, 1963. In an speech delivered at the Assembly of the Inter-American Press association in Miami, Fl., president Kennedy stated: "It is important to restate what now divides Cuba from my country and from all the American countries: it is the fact that a small band of conspirators has stripped the Cuban people of their freedom and handed over the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban nation to forces beyond the hemisphere. They have made Cuba a victim of foreign imperialism, an instrument of the policy of others, a weapon in an effort dictated by external powers to subvert the other American Republics.

"This and this alone divide us.

"As long as this is true nothing is possible.

"Without it everything is possible.

"Once this barrier is removed we will be ready and anxious to work with the Cuban people in pursuit of those progressive goals which, a few short years ago, stirred their hopes and the sympathy of many people throughout the entire hemisphere.

"No Cuban need feel trapped between dependence on the broken promises of foreign Communism and the hostility of the rest of the hemisphere. For once Cuban sovereignty has been restored we will extend the hand of friendship and assistance to a Cuba whose political and economic institutions have been shaped by the will of the Cuban people."

This speech was intended as a "message" from President Kennedy to the group headed by Rolando Cubela.

17) November 22, 1963. In the morning a small plane from Mexico landed at the private Redbird airport in Dallas carrying as a passenger the chief of Cuban secret services General Fabián Escalante. Meanwhile in Paris a new meeting is going on by the CIA attended by Desmond FitzGerald and Rolando Cubela which meeting is interrupted by the news that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested after, trying to escape, he killed Officer J. D. Tippit. At night time, after Oswald had been arrested the small plane left Redbird airport in Dallas carrying General Fabián Escalante back to Mexico City as documented in a secret memo by Marty Underwood, assistant of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

18) November 1963. President Johnson send FBI Supervisor Laurence Keenan to investigate Oswald’s clandestine contacts there. Less than 72 hours later when everything was pointing to Castro, Laurence Keenan was called back, ordered to stop his investigation and forget everything that he had learn. Now Mr. Kennan has said: "I had the chance to solve the case of our President’s murder, and I screwed up. I’m still ashamed of that to this day." Recently General Alexander Haig, who in 1963 was Robert Kennedy’s right hand man in carrying out military sabotage activities against Cuba, stated: "Bobby Kennedy is personally responsible for at least 8 assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. Kennedy wanted to get rid of Castro, but Castro got him first."

19) November 24, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald is assassinated by Jack Ruby. Oswald was not allowed to have his day in court or to give away his connection with the Castro government.

20) December 30, 1964. Manuel Artime, ex Chief of the 2506 Brigade and close friend of Robert F. Kennedy have another meeting with Rolando Cubela who is again trying to infiltrate the CIA. At the meeting Cubela stated that is coming a coup de E’tat in Cuba by a group of which he is the leader. According to Cubela the other involved were: Efigenio Ameijeiras, Juan Almeida y Comandante Guillermo García Frías. Artime reported to the CIA that Cubela could not be trusted and on June 23, 1965 in a cable to stations the CIA stated: "Convincing prove that entire AMLASH (Cubela) group insecure and that further contact with key members of group constitute menace to CIA operations against Cuba as well as to the security of CIA staff personnel in Western Europe." The CIA ordered all contact broken and warned Artime that he was right in that Cubela was not to be trusted.

21) March 1, 1966. The Cuban government announced the arrest of Maj. Rolando Cubela and Maj. Ramón Guin for counterrevolutionary activities involving the CIA. Cubela was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in jail. Eventually, after a few years, he was "released" and allowed to leave Cuba. Years later Comandantes Arnaldo Ochoa y Antonio de la Guardia were not awarded the same leniency and were executed for crimes less grave that working with the CIA to assassinate Comandante Fidel Castro.

22) Two vigorous opponents of Fidel Castro: Manuel Artime and Jorge Más Canosa died, at young age, of "natural" causes.

November 22, 2006

Author’s note: A day like today in 1967, 78 years old Andrés Sar Alvarez was executed in La Cabaña prison. In 1982 Roberto Rosales Jústiz was murdered at Juraguá Beach in Santiago de Cuba. In 1963, at Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a Castro agent.

Recommended bibliography:

Live by the Sword, by Gus Russo.

Operación Judas, by Carlos J. Bringuier

The Castro Obsession, by Doh Bohning

Red Friday, by Carlos J. Bringuier

Rendezvous with death, (Documental) by Wilfried Huismann.

[...]

[emphasis added by T. Graves]

--Tommy :sun

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That is the often-bruited quotation I was referring to, Tommy - Thanks. It was an item in the US press - I have seen an image of a clipping describing Castro's remarks. It has been discussed on EdForum in the past

Why would Castro make a statement like that? I'm not accusing, just asking in the terms of my original post above.

Edited by David Andrews
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That is the often-bruited quotation I was referring to, Tommy - Thanks. It was an item in the US press - I have seen an image of a clipping describing Castro's remarks. It has been discussed on EdForum in the past

Why would Castro make a statement like that? I'm not accusing, just asking in the terms of my original post above.

Fidel Castro made it clear to Kennedy (via Kennedy's messengers in their secret talks) that he (Fidel) would said tough, hawkish things in public while pursuing normalization of US-Cuba relations in private. See this, for example, from a memo written by William Attwood, JFK's secret liaison in his communications with Fidel.:

""Meanwhile, he "(Lechuga) informed me that he would be making "hard" anti-US speech in the United Nations on October 7th. I remarked that it wouldn't help reduce tensions; he replied he couldn't help making it because of the "blockade"."

Fidel was wary of the more radical and hawkish Che Guevara, who would have tried to toppled Fidel if necessary: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB103/631108.pdf

Edited by Andric Perez
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"by August 1963, according to Edward Jay Epstein —a renowned expert on the killing of the president and author of the recently released book "The JFK Assassination Diary"— Richard Helms, though not yet CIA director, was "receiving almost daily phone calls from [Attorney General Robert Kennedy ] demanding to know what actions he was [taking] to remove Castro from power." The agency recruited Rolando Cubela, a revolutionary insider, to do the job. "

How does this fly when JFK is known to have been seeking normalization of relations with Cuba? His brother is accused of working behind his brother's back? It is as hard to believe this bit of "history" as it is to believe the rest of the crap written about these two. In my humble opinion, of course. So Epstein is privy to CIA insider information...

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That is the often-bruited quotation I was referring to, Tommy - Thanks. It was an item in the US press - I have seen an image of a clipping describing Castro's remarks. It has been discussed on EdForum in the past

Why would Castro make a statement like that? I'm not accusing, just asking in the terms of my original post above.

Fidel Castro made it clear to Kennedy (via Kennedy's messengers in their secret talks) that he (Fidel) would said tough, hawkish things in public while pursuing normalization of US-Cuba relations in private. See this, for example, from a memo written by William Attwood, JFK's secret liaison in his communications with Fidel.:

""Meanwhile, he "(Lechuga) informed me that he would be making "hard" anti-US speech in the United Nations on October 7th. I remarked that it wouldn't help reduce tensions; he replied he couldn't help making it because of the "blockade"."

Fidel was wary of the more radical and hawkish Che Guevara, who would have tried to toppled Fidel if necessary: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB103/631108.pdf

Still seems damned dangerous to have tempted fate in that year. Castro may not have known that RFK told Dobrynin that the Kennedys feared they would not be able to control their Joint Chiefs.

As Castro said to Jean Daniel when JFK's death was announced, "Es una mala noticia."

Edited by David Andrews
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