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Did JFK know about the plots to kill Castro?


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I believe that JFK knew about the CIA plots to kill Castro. In fact, there is evidence that suggests that JFK knew about them before he became president.

JFK was a long-term friend of Allen Dulles. In an interview he gave to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1964 Dulles admitted that he and JFK had “fairly continuous” contact throughout the 1950s. They two men met at JFK’s home in Palm Beach. (Dulles stayed with Charles B. Wrightsman, one of JFK’s neighbour).

Another JFK neighbour in Palm Beach was Earl Smith, the US ambassador to Cuba (1957-59). JFK had been having an affair with Earl’s wife, Florence Smith, since 1944 (it was JFK’s longest relationship and lasted until his death). Earl Smith knew about the plots against Castro. So did Dorothy Kilgallen who wrote about the Mafia/CIA plots as early as 1959 (New York Journal American – 15th September, 1959). Kilgallen was friendly with JFK (they were introduced by Florence – the two women worked together on the New York Journal American in the early 1940s).

Dulles had a meeting with JFK at Hyannis Port on 23rd July, 1960. According to released CIA files the two men talked about “Cold War hotspots”. Another meeting took place on 19th September, when Dulles gave JFK an update of recent events. Charles P. Cabell, deputy CIA director, provided JFK with a third briefing on 2nd November.

According to CIA agent Clarence B. Sprouse, he arranged for a secret meeting to take place between JFK and Richard Bissell during the summer of 1960. Sprouse recalled having to prepare material about a plot against Castro.

In his book, Reflections of a Cold War (1996), Bissell claims that a meeting with JFK was arranged by Joe Alsop (a journalist who was a member of Operation Mockingbird). However, he claims he never told him anything about any secret plans because he was “still working for Eisenhower”.

In an interview he gave to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1967, Bissell admits that he had a meeting “at a fairly early stage in the campaign.” Amazingly, JFK asked Bissell if he could help him with his campaign strategy”. Bissell said he was eager to do this but unfortunately he never “got round to supplying anything in writing”.

Grayston Lynch claimed in an interview in 1997 that Bissell told him that he had a personal relationship with JFK since well before he entered the White House. Biseel also told CIA analyst, R. Harris Smith, that he had a meeting with JFK in February, 1960.

Of course, we do not know for certain what Dulles and Bissell told JFK. However, we have several clues. John M. Patterson was the Democratic governor of Alabama. Patterson had been friends with JFK since 1955.

In the summer of 1960 the CIA approached Patterson and asked if they could use the Alabama Air National Guard to train Cuban exile pilots in Nicaragua for an attack on Cuba. Patterson passed this information onto JFK. Patterson told this story to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1967. Patterson claimed in the interview that JFK responded as if he already knew about the planned invasion. However, when he later viewed the transcript of this interview, he discovered this section on Cuba had been removed. As he told Seymour Hersh in October, 1982, “they classified my own stuff”.

Nixon also knew that JFK had been briefed by the CIA about the plots against Castro. He later accused the CIA of betrayal. JFK was able to use this information to embarrass Nixon. On 19th October, 1960, JFK issued a press release calling for the US government to provide help to Cubans fighting against Castro within and without Cuba. The following day newspapers reported that JFK was calling for the overthrow of Castro. In his memoirs (published in 1978) Nixon claims that it was clear that JFK had been briefed by Dulles. Although he knew about the Bay of Pigs operation, he could not admit to it. Instead he claimed that JFK was being irresponsible calling for illegal action to be taken against Castro. Nixon was much praised by the liberal press but it enabled JFK to position himself to the right of Nixon. As Nixon said in his Memoirs: “For the first time in the campaign, I got mad at Kennedy personally. I thought that Kennedy, with full knowledge of the facts, was jeopardizing the security of a United States foreign policy operation. And my rage was greater because I could do nothing about it.”

What appears to be clear is that the CIA wanted JFK to be elected in 1960. Had JFK made them promises? If so, one can understand them being very upset with JFK over the Bay of Pigs and his refusal to sanction an invasion of Cuba.

Supporters of the JFK myth continue to claim that he was unaware of Executive Action. There is several pieces of information to suggest that this was not the case. The CIA’s inspector general wrote in 1967 that when interviewed, William Harvey claimed that Bissell told him when he recruited him to head ZR/RIFLE that JFK had twice urged him “to create such a capability” (to kill Castro).

David Berlin, executive director of the Rockefeller Commission that investigated the illegal activities of the CIA said in an interview in 1997 that JFK knew about the CIA plot to assassinate Castro. He added: “Bobby also knew about it. The Kennedys were out to get Castro.” Berlin admitted that some witnesses did attempt to cover this information up but several admitted that JFK knew about the plot to assassinate Castro.

McGeorge Bundy admitted before the Church Committee in July, 1975, that there had been talk of murder in the White House, and the men of the CIA had not been on their own in the assassination plotting.

Samuel Halpern, the executive officer of Task Force W, admitted in an interview with Seymour Hersh that “Kennedy asked Bissell to create a capacity for political assassination.” This, he claims, was the reason why ZR/RIFLE was set up.

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I believe that JFK knew about the CIA plots to kill Castro. In fact, there is evidence that suggests that JFK knew about them before he became president.

Before his election, likely not.  Before his inauguration, surely.

JFK was a long-term friend of Allen Dulles. In an interview he gave to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1964 Dulles admitted that he and JFK had “fairly continuous” contact throughout the 1950s. They two men met at JFK’s home in Palm Beach. (Dulles stayed with Charles B. Wrightsman, one of JFK’s neighbour).

Another JFK neighbour in Palm Beach was Earl Smith, the US ambassador to Cuba (1957-59). JFK had been having an affair with Earl’s wife, Florence Smith, since 1944 (it was JFK’s longest relationship and lasted until his death). Earl Smith knew about the plots against Castro. So did Dorothy Kilgallen who wrote about the Mafia/CIA plots as early as 1959 (New York Journal American – 15th September, 1959). Kilgallen was friendly with JFK (they were introduced by Florence – the two women worked together on the New York Journal American in the early 1940s).

Dulles had a meeting with JFK at Hyannis Port on 23rd July, 1960. According to released CIA files the two men talked about “Cold War hotspots”. Another meeting took place on 19th September, when Dulles gave JFK an update of recent events. Charles P. Cabell, deputy CIA director, provided JFK with a third briefing on 2nd November.

Though I cannot recall the source at present, I do remember reading an exquisitely simple solution to this issue.  While trying to determine how much to reveal to candidate Kennedy about the Bay of Pigs invasion plans, Dulles sought the counsel of President Eisenhower.  Dulles was told that he should give Kennedy the very same briefing he would give to Vice President Nixon.  On its face, this was sporting and even-handed advice.

However, as Nixon had been the White House action officer to the National Security Council - and in the process knew all about the invasion plans, including the assassination component - Nixon needed precious little data from Dulles.  Which is what I presume Dulles gave to Kennedy, precious little.  The result was much confusion, which is elaborated upon below. 

According to CIA agent Clarence B. Sprouse, he arranged for a secret meeting to take place between JFK and Richard Bissell during the summer of 1960. Sprouse recalled having to prepare material about a plot against Castro.

Can or did Sprouse know for certain whether the information he compiled was provided to candidate Kennedy?

In his book, Reflections of a Cold War (1996), Bissell claims that a meeting with JFK was arranged by Joe Alsop (a journalist who was a member of Operation Mockingbird). However, he claims he never told him anything about any secret plans because he was “still working for Eisenhower”.

So Bissell sat on the data compiled by Sprouse?  Bissell certainly wouldn't have told Kennedy anything that Dulles hadn't.  If Dulles had told Kennedy about the assassination plots, it was unnecessary for Bissell to tell him anything.

In an interview he gave to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1967, Bissell admits that he had a meeting “at a fairly early stage in the campaign.” Amazingly, JFK asked Bissell if he could help him with his campaign strategy”. Bissell said he was eager to do this but unfortunately he never “got round to supplying anything in writing”.

Grayston Lynch claimed in an interview in 1997 that Bissell told him that he had a personal relationship with JFK since well before he entered the White House. Biseel also told CIA analyst, R. Harris Smith, that he had a meeting with JFK in February, 1960. 

Of course, we do not know for certain what Dulles and Bissell told JFK. However, we have several clues. John M. Patterson was the Democratic governor of Alabama. Patterson had been friends with JFK since 1955.

In the summer of 1960 the CIA approached Patterson and asked if they could use the Alabama Air National Guard to train Cuban exile pilots in Nicaragua for an attack on Cuba. Patterson passed this information onto JFK. Patterson told this story to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1967. Patterson claimed in the interview that JFK responded as if he already knew about the planned invasion. However, when he later viewed the transcript of this interview, he discovered this section on Cuba had been removed. As he told Seymour Hersh in October, 1982, “they classified my own stuff”.

Again, Kennedy knew about the invasion plans.  Patterson couldn't vouch for whether Kennedy knew of assassination plans, because Patterson didn't know about them.

Nixon also knew that JFK had been briefed by the CIA about the plots against Castro.

If the selective briefing of Kennedy by Dulles, described above, is correct, then Nixon was wrong, though he would have had no way of knowing it.

During the campaign, Nixon struck a moderate course on the topic of Cuba, in order to preserve the security of the pending invasion.  Nixon knew all about the assassination component that was a central part of the plan.

That Kennedy didn't know is suggested by the bellicose and hawkish stand he took, outflanking Nixon by appearing to the right of him.  Sure, Nixon thought Kennedy was a rankly crass political opportunist, unable to understand how his rival could be so cavalier about so important a pending plan.  The simple answer is that Kennedy didn't know nearly so much as Nixon assumed he did.

He later accused the CIA of betrayal. JFK was able to use this information to embarrass Nixon. On 19th October, 1960, JFK issued a press release calling for the US government to provide help to Cubans fighting against Castro within and without Cuba. The following day newspapers reported that JFK was calling for the overthrow of Castro. In his memoirs (published in 1978) Nixon claims that it was clear that JFK had been briefed by Dulles.

Briefed, yes.  But to what extent? 

Although he knew about the Bay of Pigs operation, he could not admit to it. Instead he claimed that JFK was being irresponsible calling for illegal action to be taken against Castro. Nixon was much praised by the liberal press but it enabled JFK to position himself to the right of Nixon. As Nixon said in his Memoirs: “For the first time in the campaign, I got mad at Kennedy personally. I thought that Kennedy, with full knowledge of the facts, was jeopardizing the security of a United States foreign policy operation. And my rage was greater because I could do nothing about it.”

CIA assured Kennedy the Bay of Pigs invasion would be a success, even without the assassination component, even without US military intervention.  In the aftermath of its failure, the Maxwell Taylor forensic audit of the invasion's deficiencies made plain that CIA had grossly oversold the prospects for success.

But then, a cynical CIA didn't care whether it was a success.  If the invasion foundered on the beach, as it was sure to do, it was assumed inside Langley that Kennedy would be boxed into a corner, and have no option but to authorize the use of US military force, what CIA had wanted from the outset.  When JFK refused to dance to their tune, CIA personnel were furious, as were the Cuban exile invaders CIA had so casually abandoned to their fate, sure that Kennedy would come to their rescue.

So was Kennedy, railing at the Agency's duplicity in playing such brinksmanship games with a sitting President.  That is why Kennedy vowed he would smash the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind.  That is why Kennedy ordered that all future paramilitary adventurism abroad would be undertaken by the Pentagon, not CIA.  That is why Kennedy sought to replace many of CIA's functions by establishing the Defense Intelligence Agency.

What appears to be clear is that the CIA wanted JFK to be elected in 1960.

If Kennedy received the above-described selective briefing from Dulles, one could argue the opposite was true, with equal force.

Had JFK made them promises? If so, one can understand them being very upset with JFK over the Bay of Pigs and his refusal to sanction an invasion of Cuba.

Clearly, Kennedy did authorize the invasion of Cuba, but not before tweaking it with a couple of major changes.  First and foremost, Kennedy forbade the assassination component.  Second, he insisted that the invasion not be attributed in world opinion to the US, requiring all planes and ships to be stripped of all US identifiers, all weapons to be sterile and untraceable to US suppliers. 

Supporters of the JFK myth continue to claim that he was unaware of Executive Action.

John, with all due respect, I think it's important to eschew terms like "myth" about matters that have never been definitively proven.

There is several pieces of information to suggest that this was not the case. The CIA’s inspector general wrote in 1967 that when interviewed, William Harvey claimed that Bissell told him when he recruited him to head ZR/RIFLE that JFK had twice urged him “to create such a capability” (to kill Castro).

Since the President was dead and no longer available to rebut that assertion, and since Robert Kennedy was never asked by the Inspector General if he cared to contradict that assertion - in a report that was, after all, never intended for use outside CIA - Harvey and others no doubt felt safe in trafficking in any and all self-serving, second-hand hearsay they cared to indulge.  Who could refute something they never had the chance to read?

David Berlin, executive director of the Rockefeller Commission that investigated the illegal activities of the CIA said in an interview in 1997 that JFK knew about the CIA plot to assassinate Castro. He added: “Bobby also knew about it. The Kennedys were out to get Castro.” Berlin admitted that some witnesses did attempt to cover this information up but several admitted that JFK knew about the plot to assassinate Castro.

Belin's underwhelming performance on the Warren Commission and the Rockefeller panel is the best judge of his agenda.  Anyone incapable of gleaning that for themselves need only read the books written by Belin, which indicate what biased and shallow thinking produced them.  Belin's Agency-friendly Rockefeller incompetence did not go unnoticed, and is largely responsible for the striking of several other congressional committees, with a mandate to nail down what Belin had been tasked, but failed, to do.

McGeorge Bundy admitted before the Church Committee in July, 1975, that there had been talk of murder in the White House, and the men of the CIA had not been on their own in the assassination plotting.

Well, this is most interesting, since all official sources and persons present during such discussions - even within CIA meetings prior to Kennedy's election - refer only to euphemisms like "eliminate" or "get rid of."  If Mac Bundy ever heard the word "murder" used, he is the only member of an exclusive club of one.

Samuel Halpern, the executive officer of Task Force W, admitted in an interview with Seymour Hersh that “Kennedy asked Bissell to create a capacity for political assassination.” This, he claims, was the reason why ZR/RIFLE was set up.

John, this is really getting rather silly.  When caught trying to kill a foreign leader, CIA personnel insisted they were only following orders.  [Ah yes, the infamous Nuremburg defense.]  Are you really surprised by that, since the President who allegedly gave those orders was unavailable to refute the allegations?

Richard Helms told his congressional questioners in 1975 that: "Nobody wants to embarrass the President of the United States by discussing the assassination of foreign leaders in his presence."  Yet, one must wonder, if this is the same President who ordered that assassination of a foreign leader, how could he possibly be embarrassed by discussing it with those he tasked with making it happen?

Dulles knew.  Helms knew.  Bissell knew.  Harvey knew.  Halperin knew.  King knew.  Hunt knew.  Phillips knew.  Why is the only CIA man who didn't know the one who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

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John Simkin wrote:

"McGeorge Bundy admitted before the Church Committee in July, 1975, that there had been talk of murder in the White House, and the men of the CIA had not been on their own in the assassination plotting."

It is also significant that Robert S. McNamara, one of JFK's favorites, had openly talked about assassinating Castro in a meeting of the Special Group (Augmented).

It is true that the CIA's enlistment of the Mafia to kill Castro started in August of 1960. By most reports, the idea was initiated by Richard Bissell who called upon Sheffield Edwards, the head of the CIA's Office of Security, to implement it.

John's comment that Bissell had offered to assist the Kennedy campaign is interesting. I had read previously that Bissell had supported Kennedy's candidacy. Many CIA officials were East Coast, Ivy-educated people who probably disliked Nixon. I think it probably an over-generalization however to state that "the CIA" supported Kennedy's candidacy.

In his great (IMO) semi-fictional book "Harlot's Ghost" Norman Mailer suggests (he has Rosselli suggesting it) that Giancana slowed the Mafia plans to kill Castro because he did not want the death of Castro to benefit the Nixon candidacy. In "The Outfit", Gus Russo (a favorite of Robert Charles-Dunne) argues that Giancana sabotaged the Castro assassination plots after the 1960 election because he considered it a double-cross (by Joe Kennedy) (and IMO it was a double-cross) when JFK selected RFK as Attorney General.

The comment by McBundy and the assassination statement by McNamara certainly support the position of most historians that JFK was aware of the assassination plots. And I have noted in a post above that when Cubela's case officer cabled to CIA HQ on Oct 11, 1963 that Cubela was requesting a personal meeting with RFK, on that very same day Desmond Fitzgerald called RFK (the only time in the fall of 1963 that Fitzgerald called RFK (per RFK's phone logs).

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I should add that when in 1962 Nixon published "Six Crises" in which he railed about JFK's supposed perfidy about the Cuban invasion plans, Allen Dulles, who had been "fired" by JFK over thew BOP, came to Kennedy's defense and stated that he had not in fact briefed JFK about the invasion plans.

Query, however, whether JFk was aware of the assassination plans through Sam Giancana (with whom he shared a mistress) who was strongly backing JFK's candidacy. (JFK received a higher percentage of votes in the Mafia-controlled Chicago wards than George W. Bush did in Orange County, CA!)

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

Dulles knew. Helms knew. Bissell knew. Harvey knew. Halperin knew. King knew. Hunt knew. Phillips knew. Why is the only CIA man who didn't know [John McCone,] . . .who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

Perhaps because everyone knew that McCone was a deeply religious Catholic who would be squeamish about things like murder. You have argued that the fact that McCone, a JFK appointee, was not told about the assassination plans demonstrates that the CIA officers who were aware or participating in the plots were hiding them from the Kennedys. Not necessarily so since CIA people such as Helms and Fitzgerald communicated with the Kennedys directly, without going through McCone.

For instance, RFK's phone logs (first revealed in 1994) indicate that on October 11, 1963 RFK had a phone conversation with Desmond Fitzgerald. That was the same day that CIA HQ received a cable from Rolando Cubela's case officer that Cubela wanted to meet personally with RFK to obtain assurance that RFK supported his plans to kill ("eliminate") Castro. Of course RFK was not going to personally meet a proposed assassin. Instead, Fitzgerald himself met with Cubela and told Cubela that he was Robert Kennedy's "personal emissary". The fact that the October 11 1963 phone call was the only call Fitzgerald made to RFK in the fall of 1963 strongly suggests that the topic of conversation was Major Cubela.

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It is also significant that Robert S. McNamara, one of JFK's favorites, had openly talked about assassinating Castro in a meeting of the Special Group (Augmented).

Others at the 10th August 1962 meeting where the assassination of Fidel Castro was discussed included: Dean Rusk, Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy, John McCone, William Harvey, Edward Murrow, Donald Wilson, Roswell Gilpatric, Edward Lansdale, Lyman Lemnitzer, Alexis Johnson, Edwin Martin, Richard Goodwin, Robert Hurwitch and Thomas Parrot.

Interestingly, Robert Kennedy should have been at this meeting. However, he pulled out at the last minute and was represented by McGeorge Bundy. Did he know this subject was going to be coming up? He could then claim he knew nothing about the plot against Castro. But surely, if Bundy was his representative, he would have reported back to RFK about what had been said at the meeting?

Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

Dulles knew.  Helms knew.  Bissell knew.  Harvey knew.  Halperin knew.  King knew.  Hunt knew.  Phillips knew.  Why is the only CIA man who didn't know [John McCone,] . . .who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

Perhaps because everyone knew that McCone was a deeply religious Catholic who would be squeamish about things like murder.  You have argued that the fact that McCone, a JFK appointee, was not told about the assassination plans demonstrates that the CIA officers who were aware or participating in the plots were hiding them from the Kennedys.  Not necessarily so since CIA people such as Helms and Fitzgerald communicated with the Kennedys directly, without going through McCone.

John McCone did know. He was at the Special Group (Augmented) meeting at Dean Rusk's office on 10th August 1962 when this was discussed.

According to the Inspector General's report, McCone admitted the issue was disccussed at the meeting. He added that it was McNamara who first raised the issue that the "top people in the Cuban regime, including Castro, be liquidated".

McCone later claimed that he thought the meeting had taken place on 8th or 9th August. The report states that McCone's memory was at fault as all the other participants, including Thomas Parrott, who took the minutes, claim that the date was definitely 10th August.

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Right on, John! Your mastery of the facts is impressive, to say the least. There was also an article written by David Corn and Gus Russo about a plot to kill Castro when he visited Hemingway's farm which indicated support for the plot by the Kennedys. It's on the Internet. If someone does not have a quick reference to it I'll try to find it tomorrow.

The JFK-Hemingway connection:

Hemingway was born in Oak, Park, IL, the place of Sam Giancana's murder.

Hemingway had been treated by the same pyschiatrist who had seen LHO as a child and testified to the WC about LHO's anti-social tendencies.

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There's a lot on this thread with which I disagree. Some thoughts:

1. While the Kennedys clearly were aware of the attempts on Castro by the time of Bobby's briefing in 1962, it's important to remember that by the CIA's own internal report written for Bobby-hater LBJ the CIA failed to brief JFK or Bobby on the attempts up until that point and even failed to tell Bobby of the attempts that were then in the works. They also failed to keep their promise of alerting him to any future involvement with the mafia. In the name of secrecy they failed to even tell their bosses. Church had it right; in the 50's and 60's the CIA was a rogue elephant.

2. Richard Helms refused to fall on his sword for Nixon, and would have refused to fall on one for the Kennedys. And yet he admitted that the CIA never told the Kennedys and McCone about many of their schemes and failed to give a satisfactory reason why.

3. Allen Dulles was no way in hell a supporter of Kennedy over Nixon. The Dulles brothers were the Republican architects of the cold war and would have walked over nails to see the policies of Eisenhower, along with his hands-off approach to the CIA, continue under Nixon. While Dulles may have respected JFK as a person, there's no evidence he was down on Nixon and would ever jump ship.

4. As far as Nixon's belief that Dulles betrayed him, In Search of Nixon gets into this a good deal and shows how this belief is symptomatic of the defect in Nixon's character. For in Nixon's response to Kennedy's hawkish statements about Cuba, Nixon bent so far backwards to make himself look like a dove that he pretty much self-destructed on camera. And, why? Did he think he was fooling Castro, who pretty much sized Nixon up as a dangerous adversary around the same time Nixon sized Castro up as a Communist? Of course not. Nixon was acting out his own little martyr play where the rich boys have to "cheat" to win and poor little Dicky has to fall on his sword for the sake of "national security," fooling no one but the voters Nixon was supposedly trying to win over. The Dulles betrayed Nixon story as pushed by Nixon is self-pitying claptrap.

4. The CIA as a group at that time was very Ivy league and liberal on domestic issues, and very hawkish and activist regarding foreign policy. There was no way they were for Kennedy. Nixon was progressive enough domestically to satisfy them.

Alleged Assassination Plots of Foreign Leaders along with the history of the Bay of Pigs reveals a CIA distrustful of Kennedy and Rusk and always trying to sneak their plans by Kennedy and his watchdogs. It's not a mistake that Tracy Barnes sent guns to the assassins in the Dominican and then sent a memo making sure the State Dept. was not informed right away.

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Pat:

Eisenhower was not a strong Nixon supporter; his weak support for Nixon probably cost Nixon the election.

I do doubt however whether Dulles would support JFK. But many at the CIA, including Bissell (father of the Mafia plots, by the way) was definitely a JFK supporter, as John states.

By the way, your description of the CIA as liberal on domestic issues and very hawkish and activist on foreign policy is a description that fits John F. Kennedy perfectly!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Can or did Sprouse know for certain whether the information he compiled was provided to candidate Kennedy?

So Bissell sat on the data compiled by Sprouse? Bissell certainly wouldn't have told Kennedy anything that Dulles hadn't. If Dulles had told Kennedy about the assassination plots, it was unnecessary for Bissell to tell him anything.

Sprouse claims that he prepared material that included charts concerning the proposed invasion of Cuba. He was told that the material was for both Kennedy and Nixon. Kennedy saw them a day after Nixon. The meeting took place in a safe house in northwest Washington. Sprouse was not allowed to attend the meeting but an officer who did said that Bissell personally briefed Kennedy and Nixon. Later Bissell admitted he had secret meetings with Kennedy that started in February 1960. He claimed that the meetings were “social” and involved discussing economic issues and JFK’s presidential campaign. He does not remember talking about foreign policy or CIA matters.

If the selective briefing of Kennedy by Dulles, described above, is correct, then Nixon was wrong, though he would have had no way of knowing it.

During the campaign, Nixon struck a moderate course on the topic of Cuba, in order to preserve the security of the pending invasion. Nixon knew all about the assassination component that was a central part of the plan.

That Kennedy didn't know is suggested by the bellicose and hawkish stand he took, outflanking Nixon by appearing to the right of him. Sure, Nixon thought Kennedy was a rankly crass political opportunist, unable to understand how his rival could be so cavalier about so important a pending plan. The simple answer is that Kennedy didn't know nearly so much as Nixon assumed he did.

JFK definitely tried to give the impression that he was to the right of Nixon concerning his views on foreign policy. However, it must be remembered that JFK was also seen as a right-wing figure on domestic issues as well. JFK refused to criticise Joseph McCarthy even after he had fallen from power. This was why he lost the support of commentators of liberals like Drew Pearson.

Nor did JFK appear liberal on other issues such as civil rights. It is true that he had some liberal advisers and this is why they were so horrified when he selected LBJ as his running-mate. However, they were unaware that RFK had already secured support of the leading right-wing politicians in the Deep South for his brother by agreeing not to pushing civil rights and trade union rights legislation.

In the interviews he gave to the John F. Kennedy Library RFK admits that liberals in the team like Henry Wofford (JFK Special Assistant for Civil Rights) became a problem during his brother’s administration because his suggested policies went against the deal he had done with Eastland and co. He was sidelined and JFK dealt directly with Burke Marshall who was willing to go along with the policy of trying to prevent a showdown over civil rights.

Dulles knew. Helms knew. Bissell knew. Harvey knew. Halperin knew. King knew. Hunt knew. Phillips knew. Why is the only CIA man who didn't know the one who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

John McCone did know. So did Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy, Edward Murrow, Donald Wilson, Roswell Gilpatric, Lyman Lemnitzer, Alexis Johnson, Edwin Martin, Richard Goodwin, Robert Hurwitch and Thomas Parrot. (Special Group Augmented meeting at Dean Rusk's office on 10th August 1962). So did Dorothy Kilgallen. Probably his long-term mistress, Florence Smith, also knew. It is possible that none of these people decided to tell JFK. However, it seems to me highly unlikely.

Although, I can understand why JFK supporters want to desperately to believe this is the case. After all, it wouldn’t do to believe that JFK was just like all the other politicians who would do what was necessary to gain and hold power.

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Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

Dulles knew.  Helms knew.  Bissell knew.  Harvey knew.  Halperin knew.  King knew.  Hunt knew.  Phillips knew.  Why is the only CIA man who didn't know [John McCone,] . . .who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

Perhaps because everyone knew that McCone was a deeply religious Catholic who would be squeamish about things like murder.  You have argued that the fact that McCone, a JFK appointee, was not told about the assassination plans demonstrates that the CIA officers who were aware or participating in the plots were hiding them from the Kennedys.  Not necessarily so since CIA people such as Helms and Fitzgerald communicated with the Kennedys directly, without going through McCone.

McCone's religosity didn't deter him from being in the loop about other things that might offend his sensibilities; only this issue.  As for Helms and FitzGerald, it is true that they enjoyed direct access to the Kennedys.  However, of what possible import is that direct access if they refrained from mentioning the assassination plots?  For this, we have Helms' own admission that he refrained from discussing assassination of foreign leaders because it might embarrass the President.  Gee, that's a whole lot of solicitude by CIA assassination-plotters toward the people to whom they were answerable.

For instance, RFK's phone logs (first revealed in 1994) indicate that on October 11, 1963 RFK had a phone conversation with Desmond Fitzgerald.  That was the same day that CIA HQ received a cable from Rolando Cubela's case officer that Cubela wanted to meet personally with RFK to obtain assurance that RFK supported his plans to kill ("eliminate") Castro.  Of course RFK was not going to personally meet a proposed assassin.  Instead, Fitzgerald himself met with Cubela and told Cubela that he was Robert Kennedy's "personal emissary".  The fact that the October 11 1963 phone call was the only call Fitzgerald made to RFK in the fall of 1963 strongly suggests that the topic of conversation was Major Cubela.

This datum could and should be added to the pile of circumstantial evidence.  It is, in and of itself, something short of smoking gun evidence, by any impartial standard.

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I should add that when in 1962 Nixon published "Six Crises" in which he railed about JFK's supposed perfidy about the Cuban invasion plans, Allen Dulles, who had been "fired" by JFK over thew BOP, came to Kennedy's defense and stated that he had not in fact briefed JFK about the invasion plans.

Thank you.  That is a generous admission.

Query, however, whether JFk was aware of the assassination plans through Sam Giancana (with whom he shared a mistress) who was strongly backing JFK's candidacy.  (JFK received a higher percentage of votes in the Mafia-controlled Chicago wards than George W. Bush did in Orange County, CA!)

If the test of one's veracity is that one's story remains the same, Ms. Exner fails.  With each addition of her purported inside knowledge of events, her story went from plausible to dubious to spurious.  That is not to say there was no truth to it; only that the truth subsequently became indistinguishable from the later... um.... magnification of her own importance, as the book and movie deal discussions commenced.

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It is also significant that Robert S. McNamara, one of JFK's favorites, had openly talked about assassinating Castro in a meeting of the Special Group (Augmented).

Others at the 10th August 1962 meeting where the assassination of Fidel Castro was discussed included: Dean Rusk, Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy, John McCone, William Harvey, Edward Murrow, Donald Wilson, Roswell Gilpatric, Edward Lansdale, Lyman Lemnitzer, Alexis Johnson, Edwin Martin, Richard Goodwin, Robert Hurwitch and Thomas Parrot.

Interestingly, Robert Kennedy should have been at this meeting. However, he pulled out at the last minute and was represented by McGeorge Bundy. Did he know this subject was going to be coming up? He could then claim he knew nothing about the plot against Castro. But surely, if Bundy was his representative, he would have reported back to RFK about what had been said at the meeting?

Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

Dulles knew.  Helms knew.  Bissell knew.  Harvey knew.  Halperin knew.  King knew.  Hunt knew.  Phillips knew.  Why is the only CIA man who didn't know [John McCone,] . . .who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

Perhaps because everyone knew that McCone was a deeply religious Catholic who would be squeamish about things like murder.  You have argued that the fact that McCone, a JFK appointee, was not told about the assassination plans demonstrates that the CIA officers who were aware or participating in the plots were hiding them from the Kennedys.  Not necessarily so since CIA people such as Helms and Fitzgerald communicated with the Kennedys directly, without going through McCone.

John McCone did know. He was at the Special Group (Augmented) meeting at Dean Rusk's office on 10th August 1962 when this was discussed.

According to the Inspector General's report, McCone admitted the issue was disccussed at the meeting. He added that it was McNamara who first raised the issue that the "top people in the Cuban regime, including Castro, be liquidated".

McCone later claimed that he thought the meeting had taken place on 8th or 9th August. The report states that McCone's memory was at fault as all the other participants, including Thomas Parrott, who took the minutes, claim that the date was definitely 10th August.

This is where we hit the crossroads. Were there such discussions? Surely, just as there had been since 1959. Did McCone feel that a firm decision had been taken in this regard? Did somebody - whether the President or Attorney General or one of their proxies - actually order such plans to proceed? Clearly not, or all who were persent would have subsequently testified to that fact when called to do so, and McCone would have been contradicted by the likes of Bill Harvey, who instead confirmed McCone knew nothing about the plans being operational.

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Can or did Sprouse know for certain whether the information he compiled was provided to candidate Kennedy?

So Bissell sat on the data compiled by Sprouse? Bissell certainly wouldn't have told Kennedy anything that Dulles hadn't. If Dulles had told Kennedy about the assassination plots, it was unnecessary for Bissell to tell him anything.

Sprouse claims that he prepared material that included charts concerning the proposed invasion of Cuba. He was told that the material was for both Kennedy and Nixon.

We must be very careful to distinguish between the invasion plan, and what began as central part of that plan, the assassination component. The former was pretty much common knowledge among those 'in the know' in Washington and Havana. All Fidel had to do was read Florida newspapers to know that something was afoot.

The latter secret was, of necessity, more closely held. We know that not long prior to the invasion, Kennedy had conversations such as the one with Tad Szulc in which JFK stated he was being pressured to authorize the murder of a foreign head of state. He wanted Szulc's opinion. When Szulc showed no enthusiasm for the idea, the President agreed it was a bad course of action.

Had Kennedy known that fact prior to his election, would he have had those "moral conundrum" conversations with friends earlier than the point in time when we know he did? Wouldn't those reservations have surfaced almost immediately, if he had any?

If the tale of Dulles' selective briefing of JFK is accurate, this Sprouse-generated material likely didn't include the invasion plan's assassination component. I find no evidence that this was broached until after the election.

Kennedy saw them a day after Nixon. The meeting took place in a safe house in northwest Washington. Sprouse was not allowed to attend the meeting but an officer who did said that Bissell personally briefed Kennedy and Nixon. Later Bissell admitted he had secret meetings with Kennedy that started in February 1960. He claimed that the meetings were “social” and involved discussing economic issues and JFK’s presidential campaign. He does not remember talking about foreign policy or CIA matters.

If that's true, it's unlikely that he casually chatted with the President about sports, and slipped in some news of their progress on the whack-Castro front. One thinks that might qualify as both foreign policy and CIA matters.

If the selective briefing of Kennedy by Dulles, described above, is correct, then Nixon was wrong, though he would have had no way of knowing it.

During the campaign, Nixon struck a moderate course on the topic of Cuba, in order to preserve the security of the pending invasion. Nixon knew all about the assassination component that was a central part of the plan.

That Kennedy didn't know is suggested by the bellicose and hawkish stand he took, outflanking Nixon by appearing to the right of him. Sure, Nixon thought Kennedy was a rankly crass political opportunist, unable to understand how his rival could be so cavalier about so important a pending plan. The simple answer is that Kennedy didn't know nearly so much as Nixon assumed he did.

JFK definitely tried to give the impression that he was to the right of Nixon concerning his views on foreign policy. However, it must be remembered that JFK was also seen as a right-wing figure on domestic issues as well. JFK refused to criticise Joseph McCarthy even after he had fallen from power.

Denouncing the guy for whom your brother works isn't politically astute. Correct, perhaps, but in real-politik terms, dumb.

This was why he lost the support of commentators of liberals like Drew Pearson.

Nor did JFK appear liberal on other issues such as civil rights. It is true that he had some liberal advisers and this is why they were so horrified when he selected LBJ as his running-mate. However, they were unaware that RFK had already secured support of the leading right-wing politicians in the Deep South for his brother by agreeing not to pushing civil rights and trade union rights legislation.

In the interviews he gave to the John F. Kennedy Library RFK admits that liberals in the team like Henry Wofford (JFK Special Assistant for Civil Rights) became a problem during his brother’s administration because his suggested policies went against the deal he had done with Eastland and co. He was sidelined and JFK dealt directly with Burke Marshall who was willing to go along with the policy of trying to prevent a showdown over civil rights.

As I'll explain below, my dissatisfaction with JFK is that he wasn't progressive enough, despite his 'liberal' trappings. [Given the tenor of the times, one needn't have been very left to qualify as 'liberal.']

Dulles knew. Helms knew. Bissell knew. Harvey knew. Halperin knew. King knew. Hunt knew. Phillips knew. Why is the only CIA man who didn't know the one who ran the CIA as Kennedy's appointee?

John McCone did know. So did Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy, Edward Murrow, Donald Wilson, Roswell Gilpatric, Lyman Lemnitzer, Alexis Johnson, Edwin Martin, Richard Goodwin, Robert Hurwitch and Thomas Parrot. (Special Group Augmented meeting at Dean Rusk's office on 10th August 1962). So did Dorothy Kilgallen. Probably his long-term mistress, Florence Smith, also knew. It is possible that none of these people decided to tell JFK. However, it seems to me highly unlikely.

Again, it is important to distinguish between what was discussed and what was ordered. Any large organization or corporation will brainstorm regularly, and not all the ideas that come up are good, or acted upon. Yet, that doesn't stop them coming up at meetings, time and again. I would expect that this topic would have come up at any number of meetings.

The questions are: "Were actual orders given to kill Castro?" and, if so; "How did McCone not know what everyone else did?" Granted, McCone heard discussions [as one would rightly expect.] Did he hear orders given by the President, or even the Attorney General? Did any of them?

Without that, we're left with an ugly topic, discussed for the nth time, without either the President or Attorney General present, and, hence, unavailable to order the murder.

Although, I can understand why JFK supporters want to desperately to believe this is the case. After all, it wouldn’t do to believe that JFK was just like all the other politicians who would do what was necessary to gain and hold power.

John, this comment belittles an important facet of the case.

I am not here to nominate Kennedy for sainthood. He was a flawed man [who among us isn't?], and thus a flawed President. Some policies were good because they were moderate; some bad, because they were too moderate. In other words, in many respects an average President. Yet he faced extraordinary crises frequently.

I freely acknowledge JFK's multiple failings and feel no need to "want desperately" to believe anything about him.

That said, however, after being murdered in broad daylight while surrounded by those paid to protect him, Kennedy's character has repeatedly been assassinated, post-humously. In order to diminish our interest in solving this crime, the victim is made to seem something less than being worth the effort.

To me, it seems the whole point of this exercise is to redress a crime not against Kennedy, or any other individual President, but a crime against democracy and the people's right to choose. It is immaterial to me which President is murdered, or for what policies. What matters is that the people elected that person, and cannot allow their wishes to be usurped with a few bullets.

Consequently, in the interest of ensuring that character assassination be based in fact, when claims are made about Kennedy knowing about the assassination plots against Castro, I'd like to see some concrete proof for that assertion.

I don't think that makes one a Kennedy "groupie" or necessarily hold naive or unrealistic ideas about his Presidency.

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There's a lot on this thread with which I disagree. Some thoughts:

1. While the Kennedys clearly were aware of the attempts on Castro by the time of Bobby's briefing in 1962, it's important to remember that by the CIA's own internal report written for Bobby-hater LBJ the CIA failed to brief JFK or Bobby on the attempts up until that point and even failed to tell Bobby of the attempts that were then in the works.  They also failed to keep their promise of alerting him to any future involvement with the mafia.  In the name of secrecy they failed to even tell their bosses.  Church had it right; in the 50's and 60's the CIA was a rogue elephant.

2. Richard Helms refused to fall on his sword for Nixon, and would have refused to fall on one for the Kennedys.  And yet he admitted that the CIA never told the Kennedys and McCone about many of their schemes and failed to give a satisfactory reason why.

3. Allen Dulles was no way in hell a supporter of Kennedy over Nixon.  The Dulles brothers were the Republican architects of the cold war and would have walked over nails to see the policies of Eisenhower, along with his hands-off approach to the CIA, continue under Nixon.  While Dulles may have respected JFK as a person, there's no evidence he was down on Nixon and would ever jump ship. 

4.  As far as Nixon's belief that Dulles betrayed him, In Search of Nixon gets into this a good deal and shows how this belief is symptomatic of the defect in Nixon's character.  For in Nixon's response to Kennedy's hawkish statements about Cuba, Nixon bent  so far backwards to make himself look like a dove that he pretty much self-destructed on camera.  And, why?  Did he think he was fooling Castro, who pretty much sized Nixon up as a dangerous adversary around the same time Nixon sized Castro up as a Communist?  Of course not.  Nixon was acting out his own little martyr play where the rich boys have to "cheat" to win and poor little Dicky has to fall on his sword for the sake of "national security," fooling no one but the voters Nixon was supposedly trying to win over.  The Dulles betrayed Nixon story as pushed by Nixon is self-pitying claptrap.

4.  The CIA as a group at that time was very Ivy league and liberal on domestic issues, and very hawkish and activist regarding foreign policy.  There was no way they were for Kennedy.  Nixon was progressive enough domestically to satisfy them. 

Alleged Assassination Plots of Foreign Leaders along with the history of the Bay of Pigs reveals a CIA distrustful of Kennedy and Rusk and always trying to sneak their plans by Kennedy and his watchdogs.  It's not a mistake that Tracy Barnes sent guns to the assassins in the Dominican and then sent a memo making sure the State Dept. was not informed right away.

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GREAT POST, PAT!!!!!!!

So freaking true, so well put!!!

Your post made my day, thanx.

Dawn

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