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Did Brezhnev Do It?


Tim Gratz
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In a previous post, I raised a bit of controversy be mentioning the proposition advanced by Joseph Trento in his book The Secret History of the CIA that a faction of the KGB, loyal to Leonid Brezhnev, “sponsored” the assassination of JFK by Cuban intelligence. I did not have access to the book (I’d lent it to someone) but now I do. (Trento says the same KGB faction behind the Kennedy assassination orchestrated, in 1964, the ouster of Nikita Khruschev.)

I’d like to start a discussion of some of the things that Trento says. I only have time for one item now.

At the outset, I want to point out that Mr. Hancock references Trento’s book more than once in the 2004 supplement to Someone Would Have Talked, so Mr. Hancock must have some confidence in Trento’s investigative skills.

In any event, one thing that Trento says is that “CIA and Army [intelligence] phone intercepts were recording the fact that Pavel Yotskov and Valery Kostikov, KGB officers in Mexico City were also in contact with Cubela (in the fall of 1963 while Cubela was meeting with the CIA in Paris).”

Presumably, Trento did not manufacture this out of whole cloth. What was the substance of the conversations? Are there any released CIA documents on these phone calls? What about Trento’s mention of Army intelligence recordation of Mexico City phone calls? Does anyone know what Mr. Yotskov did for the KGB?

Trento is not the only author who mentions the Cubela/Kostikov contacts, by the way. In The Very Best Men, veteran Newsweek Editor Evan Thomas also states that Cubela was in contact with Kostikov.

A Cubela/KGB contact is not dispositive of anything, of course (unless the tape

contains a “smoking gun”) but the contact is certainly troubling.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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In any event, one thing that Trento says is that “CIA and Army [intelligence] phone intercepts were recording the fact that Pavel Yotskov and Valery Kostikov, KGB officers in Mexico City were also in contact with Cubela (in the fall of 1963 while Cubela was meeting with the CIA in Paris).”

In The Very Best Men, veteran Newsweek Editor Evan Thomas also states that Cubela was in contact with Kostikov.

Aren't these Mexico City tapes with Kostikov the same ones that supposedly had the "Mexico City Oswald" on them and were subsequently destroyed?

There is no question that the Cubela (AM/LASH) affair was provocative, much like the attack against the Russian freighter that year, against all of Kennedy's intentions and concerns. There was clearly an effort underway to undermine the movement toward peaceful relations and normalization of relations with Cuba. How would that reveal a Soviet interest in the assassination of the President?

Tim Carroll

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In any event, one thing that Trento says is that “CIA and Army [intelligence] phone intercepts were recording the fact that Pavel Yotskov and Valery Kostikov, KGB officers in Mexico City were also in contact with Cubela (in the fall of 1963 while Cubela was meeting with the CIA in Paris).”

In The Very Best Men, veteran Newsweek Editor Evan Thomas also states that Cubela was in contact with Kostikov.

Aren't these Mexico City tapes with Kostikov the same ones that supposedly had the "Mexico City Oswald" on them and were subsequently destroyed?

There is no question that the Cubela (AM/LASH) affair was provocative, much like the attack against the Russian freighter that year, against all of Kennedy's intentions and concerns. There was clearly an effort underway to undermine the movement toward peaceful relations and normalization of relations with Cuba. How would that reveal a Soviet interest in the assassination of the President?

Tim Carroll

Tim: 1) Yes (presumably) it was the same CIA tape recording system that recorded the "Oswald" calls where, the CIA stated, the tapes were normally re-used after a period of time. That does not necessarily mean, however, that there are no paper records of the calls (transcripts or memos). My point is someone must have been the source for the Trento and Thomas statements, and it is frustrating that more info is not given. Was Cubela telling Kostikov of his contacts with the CIA? Or just telling him about the fancy Paris cafe where he had lunch?

2) Again, I'd encourage you (and everyone else) to read Trento's book (only a few chapters deal with the assassination and the rest of the book has some pretty interesting info re CIA operations). But as I understand the book, it was a "hard-line" KGB faction that did not like the "warming" relationship between Kennedy and Khruschev. Here's another quote: "Each week Kennedy and Khruschevv moved closer to the first significant agreements since the advent of the Cold War [including establishing the "hotline"]. Khruschev had concluded that the Cold War was bankrupting the Soviet Union and that the country could not survive without an end to the arms race." (Page 255.) Events of history, of course, proved Khruschev right. The book goes on to state that Brezhnev and others thought that Khruschev's reforms threatened the very existence of the Soviet Union. That is why, according to the book, this faction schemed to remove both Kennedy and Khruschev from power.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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