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Did JFK know about the plots to kill Castro?


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Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

"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."

In my opinion, you are half right and half wrong. I wonder if you can address any item which has been written about JFK which is NOT true. If you can, what is your proof that the allegation was propogated to diminish interest in solving the assassination?

It was incredibly reckless for JFK to engage in marital infidelities with a lady who he knew was also sharing the bed of the head of the Chicago mafia. There is evidence that this affair did interfere with RFK's attempts to prosecute Giancana.

And what can be said about JFK having sex, in the White House, for God's sake, with a lady who was even alleged to be connected to eastern bloc intelligence? This put JFK in risk of being subject to blackmail by the enemies of our country. In fact, there is some reason to believe the Rometsch matter may have been a KGB affair because of its connection to what was happening in Great Britain at the same time.

IMO, JFK could have been impeached for either of these activities.

IMO, the Kennedy family's reluctance to require a complete investigation of the assassination was probably motivated in large part by its desire to prevent these matters from being revealed and damaging his reputation (as well as RFK's political ambitions).

JFK's affairs may very well not have any relevance to the assassination and deplore them as much as I do, I do think it is unfortunate for our history and for the reputation of President Kennedy that, just as RFK feared, the investigation into the assassination brought them to the public eye. I prefer to remember JFK as the devoted father of his two young children and the man who brought the "vigah" of his youth into the Presidency.

With respect to the second paragraph, IMO it is "right on". As you know, until Kennedy's assassination, the murder of a President was not even a federal crime. But the assassination of a president is as much a crime against our country as it is against the president. I think Americans of all political persuasions should be interested in solving the assassination (and foreigners as well; it is heartening to see the interest on non-Americans as expressed in this Forum). In one of his books, Harrison Livingstone wanted to exclude from assassination research people not only to the right of JFK but people to his left, e.g. Mark Lane. IMO that is ridiculous. We should all want to see the assassination solved, and hopefully while there is still a possibility of prosecuting any member of the conspiracy.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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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. 

It is true that members of any organization contains a variety of views within it. I am currently reading Katherine Graham’s autobiography Personal History. Her husband, Philip Graham, ran the CIA project, Operation Mockingbird. Although he used his power to influence the way the media reported events like the Bay of Pigs (on instructions from Tracy Barnes) he personally had liberal views on civil rights issues. This did not bother the CIA at all. They were primarily concerned with the fight against communism. (I know Hoover believed the civil rights struggle was part of a communist plot but the CIA had more sophisticated views on the subject).

The CIA leaderships was divided about the best way to tackle communism. They all hated it but differed on the best way to destroy it. This emerges in the testimony given by Earl Smith, the ambassador to Cuba between 1957-59 to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (27th August, 1960). He complained that senior members of the CIA supported Fidel Castro in his rebellion against Batista. He points out how the CIA used its influence in the media to promote Castro as a “Robin Hood type figure”.

The reason for this was that some senior officials realized that Batista was so corrupt that he would eventually be overthrown. The big fear was this would be a communist revolution. All the evidence suggested that Castro was a liberal. They also assumed he was corruptible. Therefore, it made sense to help Castro overthrow Batista. The strategy might have worked but Eisenhower’s policies drove Castro into the Soviet camp and the plan completely backfired.

It is clear that by 1960 the CIA was unhappy with Eisenhower. He had been reluctant go along with CIA plots to overthrow foreign governments. Like Harry Truman he felt the CIA had too much power. We also know from his final speech that he was concerned by what he called the Military Industrial Complex. These views must have come out in his dealings with the CIA. For obvious reasons, Nixon had supported Eisenhower during this period. They must have feared that Nixon would have followed Eisenhower’s reluctance to act against Cuba.

I therefore suspect that during 1960 Dulles and Bissell checked out JFK’s views on subjects like Cuba. He probably said what they wanted to hear (JFK was very good at that). JFK therefore became the CIA candidate. This becomes clear when you look at the way Operation Mockingbird dealt with the campaign. It was not JFK who suffered from press stories about his personal life. The most important scandal that emerged during the campaign was printed by Philip Graham’s Washington Post. This was Drew Pearson’s story concerning Howard Hughes’ loan (bribe) to F. Donald Nixon (Richard Nixon's brother). This information was passed to Drew Pearson by Howard Hughes. Jack Anderson claims that it was this story that lost Nixon the election.

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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. (Robert Charles-Dunne)

But this is what J. S. Earman, CIA’s Inspector General, did discover from his 1967 investigation. The State Department meeting on the 10th August 1962, must have decided to give its approval of the assassination. Otherwise, the section of his report on the Drew Pearson story makes no sense. It is because of this meeting that Earman is able to say that William Harvey was the only one individual to know all the information that appears in Drew Pearson’s article in the Washington Post (7th March, 1967). It is the reason why Earman says why it is impossible to say if Robert Kennedy knew about the plot (because he did not attend the meeting on the 10th August 1962). As Earman pointed out, it was as a result of the meeting on the 10th that resulted in Edward Lansdale writing the Project Mongoose action memorandum.

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I wrote:

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.

Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

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.

I reply:

Robert, I agree it is only circumstantial evidence and falls short of a "smoking gun". I previously discussed the three different evidentiary standards used in American courts. I would consider "smoling gun" evidence to meet the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard, and circumstantial evidence would only meet the lowest standard used in civil trials, that something is more probable than not.

Applying that standard to this matter, I would say that the RFK phone log makes it more probable than not that RFK knew of the Cubela affair, but only by the lowest evidentiary standard.

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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. (Robert Charles-Dunne)

I accept you are not someone who signs-up to the JFK Camelot myth. However, I do think some researchers are influenced by this view. That the assassination robbed them of a great president. This is a view often held by the left of the Democratic Party. Some might argue that it does not matter if researchers want to believe the JFK Camelot myth. However, I think it does. The reason being that if we can accurately reconstruct JFK’s actions and beliefs, we can get some idea why he was assassinated.

This of course relates to the issue about whether he knew of the plot to assassinate Castro. Therefore, this is my analysis of JFK’s political career.

If we look at JFK’s career it reflects a fairly conservative view of the world. There is nothing in his career to suggest he was anything but a traditional Cold War warrior. He believed in the Domino Theory and was willing to support right-wing military dictators in order in order to prevent the spread of left-wing ideas or policies.

Domestically he was also very conservative. He showed no interest in the civil rights issue. Nor did he advocate any policies that would redistribute wealth in America.

This is not surprising. McCarthyism had taken its toll on American public opinion. People were scared to express left of centre political opinions in case they were denounced as communists or socialists. Adlai Stevenson had lost two presidential elections because he was seen as being too “left-wing”. It made sense for all Democratic candidates for the nomination to project an image that was to the right of Stevenson. Robert Kennedy was despatched into the Deep South to reassure leaders of the Democratic Party that JFK would not attempt to push through any civil rights legislation. He also was willing to make assurances that he would not advocate policies that favoured trade unions.

JFK was also willing to “buy” votes in the primaries. The most obvious example of this was in West Virginia but it also took place in other states. JFK also raised money by selling posts in his administration. He also bought votes in the presidential election, most notably in Illinois but it again took place in several states.

JFK’s supporters will no doubt argue that he had no choice in this as this was the way the American system worked. I have some sympathy with this argument, but it is important to acknowledge that such deals were done as it helps to explain his later behaviour.

In the first couple of years he acted the way you would expect any right-wing president would behave. The only surprise was that he did not give the necessary support for the invasion of Cuba. This raised issues about whether he could take the “tough” decisions. It did seem that he was unduly concerned with his “world image”. However, the Cuban Missile Crisis showed that he was capable of standing up to the Soviets and he was able to recapture his image of the staunch Cold War warrior.

The issue of civil rights also gave JFK problems. For those wishing to fully understand this problem I would fully recommend reading the Robert Kennedy interviews that he gave as part of the John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Project (Robert Kennedy in his Own Words – 1988) and the autobiography of JFK’s Special Assistant for Civil Rights, Harris Wofford (Of Kennedy and Kings – 1980). JFK made some fine issues on this issue but was unable or unwilling to deliver the goods.

I don’t believe JFK was a great president. But I believe he had the potential to be the greatest president in American history. Unfortunately he did not get the opportunity to prove this.

The reason I saw he had the potential to be a great president was because he was very much like the other great president of the 20th century. Franklin D. Roosevelt. They were both intellectuals. They were both genuinely interested in new ideas. This enabled both men to surround themselves with bright people who were willing to challenge their views (only bright people have the confidence to do this).

JFK, like FDR, was also very wealthy. This meant he was not easily corrupted for financial reasons. I believe that by 1963 JFK was a changed man. By this stage in his career he genuinely believed in civil rights. He also realised that the American political system was corrupt to the core. His period in power had shown him how people like Johnson used the power of the Senate Committees to prevent progressive legislation from being passed. He knew how this power was used to protect things like the Oil Depreciation Allowance. JFK had also discovered the Cold War had the potential to destroy the planet.

I believe JFK had developed a strategy for dealing with all these problems. But first he had to be elected in 1964. As a result of his public success in dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis, his standing in the polls were high. Victory seemed certain. Only one thing could stop him. And it did.

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Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

"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."

In my opinion, you are half right and half wrong.  I wonder if you can address any item which has been written about JFK which is NOT true.  If you can, what is your proof that the allegation was propogated to diminish interest in solving the assassination?

You may recall an attempt by E. Howard Hunt to forge cables placing the blame for the murder of the Diems on Kennedy.  That took place well after Kennedy's death, as does the continuing effort to implicate him and/or his brother as responsible for the plots against Castro, which - it is frequently suggested - indirectly led to JFK's own murder.  That both efforts were a CIA contrivance should not escape the attention of those who place the Agency on the list of assassination suspects.  We should not ignore that such efforts to disparage the victim have the effect of making him seem less worthy of our efforts to identify who killed him. 

It was incredibly reckless for JFK to engage in marital infidelities with a lady who he knew was also sharing the bed of the head of the Chicago mafia.  There is evidence that this affair did interfere with RFK's attempts to prosecute Giancana.

Any President engaged in extra-marital affairs leaves himself open to blackmail by any other person or party who learns of it.  One wonders how Thomas Jefferson would have dealt with the disclosure that he had a black mistress, when miscegenation was illegal.

Again, much has been written about the deals struck between Kennedy and the Mob, by which his election was helped by Mob operatives.  In the event it is proved that Kennedy authorized the hit attempts against Castro - which included various Mob leaders and their mechanics - the suggestion is that Kennedy was not beneath consorting with the lowest of criminal lowlifes, in order to further his own career, and commit murder.  But, was it true?

What evidence I've seen certainly implicates Kennedy's father Joe in striking such a deal.  With the exception of the ever-expanding, evermore-fantastic assertions of Exner herself, one fails to find evidence for a direct connection between JFK and the Mob.  To the contrary, we find an historically unprecedented Justice Department campaign to prosecute the Mob [the existence of which was denied by the country's top law enforcement officer, JEH.]  And we find RFK railing against the CIA's use of Mobsters specifically because it played havoc with his attempts to imprison them.

Yet, despite the foregoing acknowledgement that the Kennedy did pursue Mob prosecutions relentlessly, we are asked to believe that the late President knowingly consorted with various Mobsters.  If we believe this, then Kennedy must have been a feckless, faithless, disloyal opportunist and hypocrite.  We should not ignore that such efforts to disparage the victim have the effect of making him seem less worthy of our efforts to identify who killed him.   

And what can be said about JFK having sex, in the White House, for God's sake, with a lady who was even alleged to be connected to eastern bloc intelligence?  This put JFK in risk of being subject to blackmail by the enemies of our country.  In fact, there is some reason to believe the Rometsch matter may have been a KGB affair because of its connection to what was happening in Great Britain at the same time.

Agreed.

IMO, JFK could have been impeached for either of these activities.

IMO, the Kennedy family's reluctance to require a complete investigation of the assassination was probably motivated in large part by its desire to prevent these matters from being revealed and damaging his reputation (as well as RFK's political ambitions).

JFK's affairs may very well not have any relevance to the assassination and deplore them as much as I do, I do think it is unfortunate for our history and for the reputation of President Kennedy that, just as RFK feared, the investigation into the assassination brought them to the public eye.  I prefer to remember JFK as the devoted father of his two young children and the man who brought the "vigah" of his youth into the Presidency.

Again, to me it is immaterial what people think of any individual President; what must remain paramount is their respect for the Presidency, and the process by which the people choose who is to be installed to that position.  Whenever a President is removed from office - by assassination or any other illegal or politically motivated contrivance - the will of the people is thwarted.  It is not just a crime against the individual who holds the office, but a direct assault upon the people's right to choose.  Yet, without that, the democracy is rendered non-existent.

Fact: I loathed Ronald Reagan.  Second fact: When there was an attempt to assassinate him, I was no less interested in the apprehension of those responsible simply because I despised the man and his policies.  Any person elected by the people has the right and responsibility to serve out his term, unless high crimes committed while in office force his resignation or ouster.  That's the way the system works, and it is the system which must be preserved. 

With respect to the second paragraph, IMO it is "right on".  As you know, until Kennedy's assassination, the murder of a President was not even a federal crime.  But the assassination of a president is as much a crime against our country as it is against the president.  I think Americans of all political persuasions should be interested in solving the assassination (and foreigners as well; it is heartening to see the interest on non-Americans as expressed in this Forum).  In one of his books, Harrison Livingstone wanted to exclude from assassination research people not only to the right of JFK but people to his left, e.g. Mark Lane.  IMO that is ridiculous.  We should all want to see the assassination solved, and hopefully while there is still a possibility of prosecuting any member of the conspiracy.

We seem to be in complete agreement, up to your final sentence.  Personally, I've long advocated an 'amnesty' be offered to anyone who can provide any information that leads to the crime being solved, to the extent it is still possible to do so.  While the concept of 'justice' may drive our desire to see someone punished for the crime, at this point, I'd settle for whatever degree of historical and/or legal certainty we can attain, irrespective of whether anyone is ever called to account for their part in the crime.

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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. (Robert Charles-Dunne)

But this is what J. S. Earman, CIA’s Inspector General, did discover from his 1967 investigation. The State Department meeting on the 10th August 1962, must have decided to give its approval of the assassination. Otherwise, the section of his report on the Drew Pearson story makes no sense.

Arguendo, let's assume such a decision was reached and such approval was given.  Who gave that authorization?  Was either Kennedy even present?

You seem to argue that because a decision was hypothetically reached [since there is no documentary evidence for your conclusion], the President must have known about it and authorized it.   

I would argue that if that authorization was given, it was done in the President's absence and without his knowledge.  It would not be the first time that Agency personnel arrogated unto themselves the right to pursue whatever they chose.  So, who among those present at that meeting is on the record stating unequivocably that a decision was reached [not just that the topic was discussed], and that the President [or his brother, acting as JFK's proxy] authorized that decision?  Surely, if either happened, all present must have testified uniformly to that fact, yes?

It is because of this meeting that Earman is able to say that William Harvey was the only one individual to know all the information that appears in Drew Pearson’s article in the Washington Post (7th March, 1967). It is the reason why Earman says why it is impossible to say if Robert Kennedy knew about the plot (because he did not attend the meeting on the 10th August 1962).

Well, how can we conclude that the plots were authorized by either Kennedy, when the self-same people within CIA who maintain they received that authorization cannot even state with certainty those in a position to grant the authority were aware of the plots?  I don't understand why this salient detail keeps slipping by without comment.

As Earman pointed out, it was as a result of the meeting on the 10th that resulted in Edward Lansdale writing the Project Mongoose action memorandum.

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Robert Charles-Dunne wrote:

Fact: I loathed Ronald Reagan. Second fact: When there was an attempt to assassinate him, I was no less interested in the apprehension of those responsible simply because I despised the man and his policies. Any person elected by the people has the right and responsibility to serve out his term, unless high crimes committed while in office force his resignation or ouster. That's the way the system works, and it is the system which must be preserved.

Robert, I believe you are sincere about this and you are, of course, absolutely right, and I respect you for it. As you rightly point out, the assassination of a president is an attack on our constitutional system of government. I regret that there are not more people of conservative political persuasion who are willing to work to solve the JFK case. There is a point, however, that for sometime the JFK "research community", if that is what you want to call it, has been dominated by people who accept the "Camelot myth" without any willingness to admit that there was a "dark side" to Camelot as well. These people can make people who do not subscribe to their position feel less than welcome.

Unless the assassination can be solved, I think it may be regretable that research into the case did result in the disclosure of some of JFK's failings. I did not need to know about JFK sharing a mistress with the mafia, and perhaps our country would have been better off had the "dark side of Camelot" never seen the light of day.

I do not believe that the exposures of JFK's failings were in any way manipulated to decrese interest in solving the assassination, at least I see no evidence for it.

Parenthetically, IMO, Reagan's caricature should be somehow added to Mt. Rushmore. On that we will disagree.

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[...]

the JFK "research community", if that is what you want to call it, has been dominated by people who accept the "Camelot myth" without any willingness to admit that there was a "dark side" to Camelot as well.

[...]

dgh01: oh really? Might there be ANY"dominated" names you'd care to share with us at the moment?

"without any willingness to admit..." NONSENSE!

David Healy

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