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Félix Ismael Rodríguez: A Key Figure?


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During his seminar at Canterbury last week Larry Hancock suggested that Félix Ismael Rodríguez is an interesting figure that needs to be investigated. Over the last few days I have been doing some research into Rodríguez.

He born into a wealthy, landowning family, in Cuba, in 1941. His uncle, José Antonio Mendigutia Silvera, was minister of public works and close collaborator of Fulgencio Batista. Rodriguez fled the country soon after Fidel Castro gained power in 1959. Most of his family, including his father and two of his brothers, were either executed or disappeared within the first months of Castro's regime.

Rodriguez went to live in the United States. He attended college in Pennsylvania and hoped to become an engineer. However, he soon became involved in anti-Castro activities.

At a meeting on 18th January, 1960, a group of CIA officials, including David Atlee Phillips, E. Howard Hunt, Jack Esterline, and Frank Bender, established Operation 40. It obtained this name because originally there were 40 agents involved in the operation. Rodriguez was one of the Cubans who joined this group.

One member, Frank Sturgis claimed: "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents... We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time."

Rodriguez also joined the CIA-backed Brigade 2506 and volunteered to assassinate Fidel Castro. He was smuggled into Cuba a few weeks before the Bay of Pigs invasion but his mission was unsuccessful.

After the failed invasion of Cuba Manuel Artime and the MRP established four bases in Costa Rica and Nicaragua in preparation for another exile military campaign against Castro. The operation was given support by Ted Shackley, the head of the JM/WAVE station in Florida. Rodriguez became the project's communications chief. During this period Rodriguez was involved in a large number of covert anti-Castro operations in an attempt to prepare the way to a second invasion.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis Rodriguez volunteered to parachute into Cuba in order to identify Russian missile sites. The operation was called off when John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev negotiated an end to the dispute.

In 1967 David Morales recruited him to train and head a team that would attempt to catch Che Guevara in Bolivia. Guevara was attempting to persuade the tin-miners living in poverty to join his revolutionary army. When Guevara was captured, it was Rodriguez who interrogated him before he ordered his execution. Rodriguez still possesses Guevara’s Rolex watch that he took as a trophy.

Rodriguez became an U.S. citizen in 1969. Soon afterwards he enlisted in the US Army. During the Vietnam War he flew over 300 helicopter sorties and was shot down five times. In 1971 Rodriguez helped train Provincial Reconnaissance Units for Operation Phoenix. Rodriguez won the Intelligence Star for Valor from the CIA and nine Crosses for Gallantry from the Republic of South Vietnam.

In the 1980s Rodriguez ran the Contra supply depot in El Salvador, and served as the bagman in the CIA's deal with Medellin. He met regularly with Oliver North and at the height of the Contra operations met Ronald Reagan and George Bush at the White House. He flew over 100 combat missions in Central America, and captured the Cuban backed military commander Nidia Diaz.

In 1987 he testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Narcotics. During one session John Kerry accused him of a soliciting a $10 million donation from the Colombian cocaine cartel. The story had originally come Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a convicted money launderer for Columbia.

Rodriguez published his autobiography, Shadow Warrior: The CIA Hero of a Hundred Unknown Battles (co-authored with John Weisman) in 1989. In the book he writes about his relationship with the CIA and the anti-Castro resistance. He also describes his adventures in Bolivia, Vietnam, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

After his retirement Rodriguez became a leader in the Cuban American community in Florida and is currently president of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association. During the 2004 presidential election Rodriguez campaigned strongly for George Bush. He admitted his main motivation was “to get the real word out about John Kerry.” Others accused him of seeking revenge against Kerry for what happened in 1987.

There is an interesting article in Granma International by Jean-Guy Allard that links Rodriguez to both the JFK assassination and George H. W. Bush.

http://www.granma.cu/ingles/33alo/30george-i.html

There is another online article (CBS news) that claims that Rodriguez was involved with Mike Tolliver in drug smuggling.

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

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKoperation40.htm

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John, you state:

There is an interesting article in Granma International by Jean-Guy Allard that links Rodriguez to both the JFK assassination and George H. W. Bush.

I assume most members understand that Granma is the official organ of Communist Cuba, whose intelligence organization is considered the most likely suspect in the Kennedy assassination by, among others, the only historian to publish a book (in two editions) on the assassination.

So let's see what this Communist organ had to say to "link", as you put it, Rodriguez to the Kenedy assassination.

Here is the total verbiage from the Allard article "linking" Rodrigiez to the Kennedy assassination:

Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Some of those investigating the matter considered the possible implication of various Cuban conspirators, including Félix Rodríguez, Frank Sturgis, Herminio Díaz, Orlando Bosch and the Guillermo Brothers, plus Ignacio Novo Sampoll. However, the role of George Bush, Richard Nixon and various Texas oil barons was also brought into question.

On the day of Kennedy’s murder, George Bush was in Texas. He has always maintained that he can’t recollect his precise movements. Neither does Félix Rodríguez remember his.

That's it, baby. Some UNIDENTIFIED investigators have "considered the possible implication of various Cuban conspirators" including Rodriguez. And the article, without stating any source, states Rodriguez cannot recollect his precise movements on November 22, 1963. That is the sum total of the "evidence" Allard cites to link Rodriguez to the murder of JFK.

By what conceivable stretch of your wildest imagination does that "link" Rodriguez to the assassination?

A very interesting source: the official publication of one of the prime suspects in the case, considered such by, among others, Michael Kurtz, Joe Califano, Alexander Haig, Joe Trento and others.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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John wrote:

In 1987 he testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Narcotics. During one session John Kerry accused him of a soliciting a $10 million donation from the Colombian cocaine cartel. The story had originally come Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a convicted money launderer for Columbia.

Then you state Rodriguez worked hard for Bush to get even with Kerry for what happened in 1987.

John, why did you not give the Forum members the complete story of the false charge against Rodriguez, for which Kerry later apologized to Rodriguez?

It is no wonder Rodriguez worked so hard to defeat Kerry!

Here is the rest of the story John conveniently left out (convenient to imply someone was a drug-dealer when you want to imply someone might be an assassin):

From a web-site WorldnetDaily:

On June 30, 1987, a story leaked out of Kerry’s Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Narcotics accusing Felix Rodriguez, one of the most extraordinary agents in the history of the CIA, of soliciting a $10 million donation from the Colombian cocaine cartel.

The story had its basis in the supposedly sealed testimony of Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a convicted money launderer for the Columbian cocaine cartel.

Wholly innocent of the allegation, a startled, upset and blindsided Rodriguez viewed the irresponsible leak as a blatantly political attempt to, among other things, slander then presidential candidate George H. W. Bush -- because of Bush’s and Rodriguez’s long personal relationship, as well as Bush’s former role as head of the CIA.

As Rodriguez explains in his 1989 bestseller “Shadow Warrior”:

“I did not realize that Kerry’s subcommittee was politically motivated – that Kerry, a top foreign-policy adviser and political ally of Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, wanted to embarrass the Reagan administration and help Dukakis win the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Engaged and affronted, Rodriguez demanded that he be publicly allowed to testify in front of the Senate Subcommittee, but the wily Kerry insisted that any testimony given to the committee be done in private -- setting the scene for some historic vitriol on the floor of the hallowed Senate chamber.

Rodriguez: “Senator, this has been the hardest testimony I ever gave in my life.”

Kerry: “Why?”

Rodriguez: “Because, sir, it is extremely difficult to have to answer questions form someone you do not respect.”

Rodriguez appealed in every way he could to Kerry to get the opportunity to clear his good name by public testimony:

“Senator, leaked or not, it was in every goddamned newspaper that, at one of your closed committee hearings Ramon Milian Rodriguez said I solicited money. That is a damned lie. And if you are sincere, then you will put out a statement about what I told you here today…. I want the American people to know about my testimony.”

But it wasn’t to be for another long ten months that Kerry would feel pressured enough to relent. Even then, however, he choreographed the public proceedings to minimize the hit on his own esteem.

As Rodriguez puts it: “By the time I was sworn in at 4:30 P.M., most of the press had gone home and most of the cameras had been turned off…. There were few people in the room to hear Kerry say publicly that, after a year of investigations and millions of taxpayer dollars, he believed the version of events concerning Ramon Milian Rodriguez I’d stated so concisely the previous August.”

The substance of the Kerry apology for dragging the CIA hero through the mud: “I believe what you said, and I want to make that very clear.” The words rang hollow in the near empty chamber.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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The Granma article linked in John's original post has a few points which need some clarification. It is claimed that Herminio Diaz was a part of the Operation 40 formation during that 1960 to 1961 period. He didn't arrive in the United States until July of 1963.

There is also a mention of the Guillermo Brothers and a seperate reference to Ignacio Novo Sampol. It should have read the Novo Sampol brothers and Guillermo Novo Sampol.

Okay, I know, I am being anal. B)

Donald Gregg, the CIA character mentioned is a very interesting individual and should seriously be looked at. (IMO) He probably deserves his own thread.

Gregg below.

James

Edited by James Richards
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I assume most members understand that Granma is the official organ of Communist Cuba, whose intelligence organization is considered the most likely suspect in the Kennedy assassination by, among others, the only historian to publish a book (in two editions) on the assassination.

Once again you have attempted to hijack a thread and turn it into support for the “Castro did it” theory. This is becoming very tiresome and it has resulted in me receiving a lot of complaints from fellow members about your behaviour. I have rejected the idea that you should be banned from the Forum. However, I do believe you should take a close look at your behaviour. Maybe you should get out more.

You also seem very sensitive to anybody mentioning anyone as a suspect who is in someway associated with the Republican Party. We had recently had some very emotional responses to Shanet’s comments on C. Douglas Dillon. As someone suggested at the time, it appeared that you were defending your father against this accusation. As I said at the time, the only reason for this irrational behaviour was because Dillon was a member of the Republican Party.

The same goes for Félix Ismael Rodríguez. I am amazed that even you could attempt to defend the record of this extremely unpleasant individual. However, because he is a buddy of George Bush (both father and son) and hates John Kerry, he must be protected at all costs.

Serious researchers cannot allow themselves be so partisan as to want to believe that members of the Republican Party can do no wrong. In fact, the recent record of the Republican Party has been truly appalling. The Democratic Party might have been the party of corruption in the 1940s and 1950s (orchestrated by Lyndon Johnson) but Bush has taken it to new levels. I suggest for example you read Dan Briody’s The Halliburton Agenda and Robert Bryce’s Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate.

The idea that we must not take the criticism of Rodríguez seriously because it was published by a communist organization is bizarre. This is nothing new. In fact, the statement that a source is not valid because that person is a communist is a common one that you make. Over the last few months you have repeatedly made comments like “all communists are liars” and “communists are only concerned about the advancement of the party”

As a historian you always need to ask questions of the source of information. Therefore, if someone is a communist or a member of the Republican Party, you must take this information into account. However, what you should not do, is to say that because the source has been produced by a “communist” it cannot be believed. That is just as ridiculous as me saying that anything a Republican says should not be seen as the truth.

Like all McCarthyites (for that is what you are) you are very sloppy with the use of the word communist. You dismissed the contents of Thomas Buchan’s book “Who Killed Kennedy?” by repeating Kenneth Rahn’s claim that Buchan was a “communist”. This is an old McCarthy tactic. It allows you to stop thinking about what that person is saying. Your extreme right-wing views suggests that in 1963 you were one of those who called JFK a communist. In 1964 you would have probably joined Edgar Ray Killen in calling all civil rights campaigners as “communists”. Some people believed that this tag of "communist" justified the killing of people like JFK, Martin Luther King, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, etc.

In truth, Buchan, Kennedy, King, etc. were just liberals. People who wanted reform to take place. To reactionaries like you, liberals are the same as communists. They are dangerous people who must be smeared.

The problem with being a reactionary is that in the long-term, you are always destined to be on the losing side. Progress is inevitable, as Edgar Ray Killen discovered this week.

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John wrote:

Like all McCarthyites (for that is what you are) you are very sloppy with the use of the word communist. You dismissed the contents of Thomas Buchan’s book “Who Killed Kennedy?” by repeating Kenneth Rahn’s claim that Buchan was a “communist”. This is an old McCarthy tactic.

John, you tell me: Was Buchanan a communist or not? It is not clear to me whether you are saying I falsely branded him as a Communist (based, of course, on the information from Ken Rahn's web-site) or that my error was in stating he could not be believed because he was a communist?

John wrote:

Your extreme right-wing views suggests that in 1963 you were one of those who called JFK a communist.

John, we may (certainly DO) disagree politically but I hope you know I am a truth-teller. I have written extensively on my views on JFK both before and after the assassination. As I said before, my view of JFK was "nuanced". I disagreed with much (not all) of his politics, but admired him personally, and cried for two or three days after his murder. You have certainly read that before. How, then, could you think, or write, that I probably thought JFK was a Communist? To the contrary, it is clear that he was an anti-communist cold warrior to the core. What is the saying: the apple does not fall far from the tree?

John wrote:

The same goes for Félix Ismael Rodríguez. I am amazed that even you could attempt to defend the record of this extremely unpleasant individual.

John what I pointed out was that your post noted that Rodriguez had been accused before a Sen Kerry committee of being a drug-dealer but after Kerry investigated the charges he was forced to publicly apologize to Rodriguez. You never posted that Rodriguez was cleared of the charges. Now, you may not like Rodriguez or his record but is that any justification to smear him by reciting a false charge against him without bothering to inform your readers that he was cleared of the charges? Is that not a "smear"? If such a charge was made by a right-winger against a left-winger, would that not be considered a "McCarthyite-type smear"? I mean, I am really interested in attempting to determine why you omitted the fact that he was cleared of the charge by Sen. Kerry?

John said:

However, I do believe you should take a close look at your behaviour. Maybe you should get out more.

AGREED!!

John wrote:

To reactionaries like you, liberals are the same as communists. They are dangerous people who must be smeared.

John, absolutely NOT! Again, are you reading what I am writing? It is hard to believe you are. I have posted about the noble impluses of many liberals. I believe most liberals are truth-tellers. A true communist, however, is prepared to do anything to advance the "party line" including lying and even acts of violence. It is like the difference between a conservative, even a reactionary, and a fascist. With what I have written, how can you seriously claim that I see no distinction between liberals and communists? The difference is one of kind, not of degree.

John wrote:

To reactionaries like you, liberals are the same as communists. They are dangerous people who must be smeared.

John, a smear is a false accusation against someone. As I noted, I think most people would indeed consider it a smear to report that someone was accused of being a drug-dealer without reporting that he had been cleared of the charge. And for your information I think that Shanet is a smear artist. C Douglas Dillon is not the first perrson he has accused of being a murderer without any basis in fact for the charge. I recall he made the same charge against Sam Papich after you posted a notice of the death of Papich. In my opinion it is simply outrageous to brand someone a murderer with no evidence at all to support it. My indignation really had nothing to do with Dillon's party affiliation but everything to do with the fact that he was a personal friend of JFK. I have located Sorenson's e-mail address and I do intend to write him about this. I am quite convinced that Sorenson would share my outrage about the charge against Dillon.

I do not believe I have ever smeared anyone, and I would remind you that it is you that posted Sprague's book on your site, a book that falsely links me to the attempted murder of George Wallace. It is clear to me that while you praised the book when you first posted it, you had not even read all of it, or you would have noticed his statement about me far earlier than you did.

Can you tell me anyone who I have smeared? I do not believe it is a smear to state that Castro may have orchestrated the assassination. There is adequate published facts (which some may dispute) that point in his direction. Moreover, I have pointed out that if he did do it, it was more likely done in "self-defense" than it was to retaliate against past unsuccessful attempts on his life.

I have repeatedly said that I have great respect for the educational work you are doing on the web-site and I have also said that many of your posts were very insightful, even the posts with which I disagree. And I also think that other than the criticisms I have raised here, your site is the best on the JFK case and I think the contributions of people on it have in fact advanced assassination research in several areas. I hesitate to name names for fear of leaving people out, but the contributions and writings of Larry, James, Pat, Ron, Gregory Parker, Robin, Steve Thomas and many others (including in many cases yours) are truly exceptional.

But I think since you raised the "McCarthyite" issue let me respectfully suggest that perhaps you should avoid McCarthy-like tactics on this Forum. That would include making baseless charges against people. So let me ask you straight-forward: Do you believe there is any evidence whatsoever to consider Douglas Dillon a suspect in the assassination? I hope you have the integrity to admit that there is no basis whatsoever for such a charge. Let me throw Sam Papich into the hat here. I know there are reputable assassination researchers who will be carefully reviewing if you consider Shanet's charges against Dillon and Papich credible.

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John wrote:

The problem with being a reactionary is that in the long-term, you are always destined to be on the losing side.

One final comment here, John. I am a republican (in the lower case sense) living in a remarkable country the formation of which I strongly believe was shaped by divine providence. (See "The Angel in the Whirlwind".) I believe the ideals for which I stand will be vindicated in the future as they have in the past. It was MY party which freed the slaves. And it was MY party which was the party of the radical reconstruction forces (that I now you also revere). It was my country that came to the assistance of yours and helped defeat the evils of Naziism. And we defeated the evils of Communism as well. I have no apologies for MY position on the War in Vietnam--it is Jane Fonda who has apologized for her remarks. And I believe that the Bush/Blair position re bringing democracy to the middle east will be greatly vindicated if we stay the course. Will there be more blood shed? Unfortunately, yes. But that is often the price men must pay for freedom and democracy. The previous generation paid the ultimate price in World War II, but we can all agree it was worth it.

I am on the winning side, John, because freedom and liberty are causes that will always, ultimately, prevail.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Given the origin of this thread I thought a couple of personal observations might be in line.

First, as John mentioned, I did bring up Felix R. in my presentation - however I was trying to use him as an illustration/profile of the types of individuals that David Morales trained and mentored among the different groups (AMMOT, AMFAST and AMCHEER) of exiles that he prepared for operations into Cuba before and after the BOP. Although we do not have specific lists of those individuals, both Rodriquez and Victor Hernandez fit the profiles and operations described in a recently available document on Morales trainees. The actual point of all of this was to illustrate how much more significant (and capable) that Morales was than has been realized by those who simply consider him a lone wolf covert operator.

We know absolutely nothing of Rodriquez activities in 1963 (he avoids that period as well as comment on Kennedy or the assassination in his own book) and I have seen nothing that would tie him to the operation against JFK. What he may or may not have done that year is pure speculation - less someone has some information to contribute. The same is true of Victor Hernandez.

There is however, plenty of data to characterize Rodriquez's later activities in Latin America, especially in Contra operations. Rodriquez is a passionate anti-Castroite and a passionate anti-Communist....was in the 60's and remains so. However at this point there is nothing that suggests that he participated in the sorts of "terrorist" activities that Posada, Bosch and other exiles appear to have turned to in the years following the BOP.

That's not a defense of him, its simply the most accurate profile I've seen in all my own readings on him. As always I'm more than open to further education on the subject.

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Good post, Larry.

About the only thing I could find concerning Rodriguez and what he was doing in 1963 was his graduation from Fort Benning. I was always curious as to the relationship between Rodriguez and Rafael Quintero during this period and ultimately to David Morales.

You are also right about Morales and the depth to how he operated. Lots of secrets there which I believe include assassination attempts against Castro and his hierarchy going way back to 1960.

James

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James, do you have the Fort Benning graduation date handy?

It is pretty clear that most of not all the exiles that were being trained in 1963 were likely going to end up "seconded" one way or the other to the SNG/Artime project. In Rodriguez case that would have made a huge amount of sense as his family had been well to do and old school establishment in Cuba. Exactly the sort of credentials one would want for a new post-Castro political leadership.

In fact, that sort of profiling was very throughly done by Morales in recruiting and setting up his groups before the BOP - which included individuals who were to become part of the interim government as well as the infrastructure for the new intelligence community which would support the post-Castro government.

This Morales information will be in my second edition and comes from the CIA internal investigation following the BOP fiasco. For what its worth Morales was the only individual to receive unreserved praise for his work - in fact it appears that he was about the only one on the team who was perceived to totally have had his act together.

So much so that nobody objected to him personally retaining independent control over the personnel he had trained and prepared - after those individuals showed up back in Florida (most never made it onto the beach although a couple were killed and others captured - just as Rubin described Morales remarks to him).

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Hi Larry,

I don't have the exact graduation date but they went in during March of 1963 and apparently finished mid year. Sorry for the lack of details there.

Different services of the U.S. Military commissioned these guys including the Marines. The photo below is the Brigade members who served with the Marines.

Morales did recruit freely from these guys as he did with those who ended up in the Army (the bulk of them did). I will dig up that photo and send it to you.

James

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I do not want this thread to be sidetracked so I have started a new thread on "Communists as Sources" here:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4196

I will also be started a new thread on the Republican Party and Civil Rights in the Deep South in the politics section. Tim obviously needs a lesson on the role the Republican Party has played in undermining democracy in the Deep South.

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John, I gather you do not dispute Larry's conclusion (which is the same as I had made earlier) that, to quote Larry directly: ". . .I have seen nothing that would tie him [Rodriguez] to the operation against JFK."

It is also interesting that you objected when I asserted you ought not to trust reports from Communists. But shortly after that James pointed out that the Allard article contained a very substantial error, claiming that Diaz Garcia was involved in the formation of Operaation 40 in 1960-1961 when he did not even enter the US until 1963.

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