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Don Bohning: The Castro Obsession


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Hinckle & Turner also make the point that Frank Church's committee did not clearly state that JFK had not known about the plots to assassinate Castro. The committee concentrated on the CIA-Mafia plots and did not look at all at the Guantanamo, Amblood and Veciana plots. Hinckle and Turner point out that the committee's "Democratic majority managed to preserve unsullied the reputation of a Democratic administration". (page 117)

You mention the Hinckle/Turner book, and the fact they say the Church Committee didn't concentrate on the on the Guantanamo, Amblood and Veciana plots. Again it is a question - at least in the case of Guanatamo and Veciana - as to whether the CIA was involved in these plots, or they were freelance ventures by exiles or the dozens of mercenaries - such as was so often the case during, as I know from having lived through those days in South Florida. Bottom line is I thought Hinckle and Turner were a bit loose with some of the facts.

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Thank you for the swift reply Don.  I appreciate your candor that some things may be missing in your book regarding early raids or operations just prior to BOP.  It is that area that I've been studying and it requires a lot of digging and locating folks involved--not much in the written record.  I'm a daughter of a missing man but also an armchair historian of Cuba/US.  It's an amazing story in its longevity, truly unique.

I mean't "a" raid not "the" raid.  My father, a pilot, died six mos before BOP in a random raid, covered in LIFE, Miami News and a few other periodicals.  He left St. Lucie county on Oct 31, 1960-his mission aptly called operation "Trick or Treat."  Andy St. G and Hal Hendrix remember this. 

It was one of many foolhearty attempts to foul the revolution which my father played a part in as a Captain in the revolutionary air force for the second national front of Escambray. To recap, this group following Batista's departure, held the capital days before arrival of Fidel who demanded surrender. Before Fidel arrived he sent Camilo and Che to bargain to little avail.  Then things soured all fell apart, a story of betrayal shared by many of course rest is history.

The event that precluded my father's disappearance was a raid called "27-man invasion" "Masferrer invasion of Navas Bay" various monikers.  The men were jailed tried and swiftly killed.  Some escaped one was my father, a few weeks later having survived Navas Bay he would disappear.  A good account of the Navas raid is by an Englishman, Terrence Spencer for Swank Mag.

As you note, there is minimal paper documentation of those pre Bay of Pigs activities, but the information you provided would indicate to me that it may not have been a CIA sponsored project in which your father disappeared (do you mind telling me what his name was and a bit of his background; it would help determine if it was a CIA/US govt sponsored operation).

If it was Oct. 31, 1960, I would be inclined to think it was not; particularly if it was the Second Front of the Escambry involved and, even more so, if your father was a captain in the revolutionary air force.

I am aware that the Second Front did hold Havana for a few days before Fidel arrived from Santiago. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with either the so-called "27 man invasion" or the "Masferrer invasion of Navas Bay," but if that refers to Rolando Masferrer, which I assume it does, i would doubt very much if the US government/CIA had any involvement in it. That would account for the lack of any declassified documents, which normally include only those activities involving the US government agencies.

You might want to contact Janet Weininger, whose father was a member of the Alabama Air National Guard, recruited for the Bay of Pigs, and who died during the invasion. She has dedicated her life to researching that period. I do not have a contact number for her, but do know that she does again live in South Florida. A mutual friend of hers and mine, Glenn Garvin, who is now the TV critic for the MiamiHerald, might be able to tell you how to get in touch with her. His email address is: ggarvin@herald.com

Also, Jay Mallin is a friend of mine, who lived in Cuba at the time and worked with Hal Hendrix and others for the Miami News. He might have some information and may, in fact, have known your father. He worked for Time magazine also and, like most of those who knew him, had little use for Andrew St. George.

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I have talked to some of people you mention. Thanks for referrals. Jan I know quite well and Mallin I've talked, both very helpful. Talked to a man Ed Sweet who was in jail in Cuba but neither Mallin or Sweet knew Paul Hughes. Interestingly there are entries on Sweet in the Cuba Project. Cuba has done some research on this era between revolution and BOP.

Are you familiar with John Dorschner? Is he still at Herald? Found his book Winds of December very helpful early on.

I realize after many moons of this research proj. Much to learn from stuff coming out of Cuba, no matter our relationship/embargo. It's going to be a joint effort to find the history as you fellows down there for the BOP reunion found. Room for dialog. A caveat for my research is to not believe everything from one source, here or there. People are the most interesting source I've found. Fantastic stories from both sides.

I sent some things, papers about our stories to that conference with Wayne S and never got response. No interest in what I think is important part of history prior to BOP. From POV of family's with our respective tales all I could think -- it was not worth bringing up these things from either side tho' they are part of the history. Castro took examples with him (prior BOP and 27-man invasion was one example) to UN these were important issues then. Sanctioned or not, things were happening that made Cuba very nervous. Made BOP imperative --now or never with disasterous results. Fueled a major not too secret war. Even the water taxi in Lauderdale points out where boats bound for BOP were moored, this history very prevalent in Florida little known rest of country yet it was a staging area, touchstone? for important cold war events.

You are right the written history is limited, but there are files, news clippings and people to fill in details. For any future conferences I'd like to see some of our families represented in the discussion. Above all I hope there will be an effort to preserve what is written about this stuff between our two country's archives, when there's chance.

About La Coubre, I've found good deal of info on record in NARA that indicate there are intrigues behind it but nothing conclusive. It was either accident or sabotage but there may be more to add to that event from the Cuban investigations, I don't think we have access to as yet.

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You mention the Hinckle/Turner book, and the fact they say the Church Committee didn't concentrate on the on the Guantanamo, Amblood and Veciana plots.  Again it is a question - at least in the case of Guanatamo and Veciana - as to whether the CIA was involved in these plots, or they were freelance ventures by exiles or the dozens of mercenaries - such as was so often the case during, as I know from having lived through those days in South Florida. Bottom line is I thought Hinckle and Turner were a bit loose with some of the facts.

William Turner and Warren Hinckle deal with these three plots in Deadly Secrets (pagers 113-116). It is their opinion that the CIA were involved in all three of these plots.

(1) The Guantanamo plot referred to a scheme organized by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). The two proposed assassins were Luis Balbuena and Alonzo Gonzales. Both were anti-Castro Cubans employed at the Guantanamo base. The plan, hatched just after the failed Bay of Pigs mission, was to assassinate both Raul and Fidel Castro. Gonzales was captured but Balbuena managed to get back to Miami in 1962. The information is based on what Balbuena told the Miami police when he returned to America.

(2) Luis Toroella was a former Cuban Treasury Ministry employee. He was recruited by the CIA and given the codename of Amblood. The plan was to fire bazookas at Fidel Castro from a garage across the street from the Havana City Sports Stadium. It was announced by the Cuban government on 24th September, 1961, that Toroella had been arrested and executed.

(3) The third plot was planned by Antonio Veciana who for several years worked closely with the CIA (he was the first head of Alpha 66). The appointed assassin was Reynol Gonzales, a member of the Manuel Ray underground. Gonzales was arrested on 24th October, 1961.

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In August, 1975, Taylor Branch and George Criles III published an article in Harper's Magazine entitled "The Kennedy Vendetta". The article quoted a former JM/WAVE agent as saying:

"A paper like the Miami Herald would have one or two reporters with jurisdiction for Cuba, and we would give them access to the station. So we would feed them information and give them a career out of handouts. The guys learn not to hurt you. Only occasionally do you give them a big lie, and then only for a good reason. The paper was always willing to keep things quiet for us."

Were you aware that the CIA might have been using the Miami Herald during this period?

Several authors, for example, Seth Kantor (Who Was Jack Ruby?), David Corn, (Blond Ghost), Gaeton Fonzi (The Last Investigation) and Warren Hickle/William Turner (Deadly Secrets) have put forward convincing evidence that Hal Hendrix was a CIA asset in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I believe you knew Hendrix. Did you have any idea he was a CIA agent?

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In August, 1975, Taylor Branch and George Criles III published an article in Harper's Magazine entitled "The Kennedy Vendetta". The article quoted a former JM/WAVE agent as saying:

"A paper like the Miami Herald would have one or two reporters with jurisdiction for Cuba, and we would give them access to the station. So we would feed them information and give them a career out of handouts. The guys learn not to hurt you. Only occasionally do you give them a big lie, and then only for a good reason. The paper was always willing to keep things quiet for us."

Were you aware that the CIA might have been using the Miami Herald during this period?

I did not join the Miami Herald Latin America staff until early 1964. As I say in the preface to my book, I met - at least knowingly - my first CIA agent sometime in mid-summer 1965. His name was John Dimmer [at least that is what he was introduced to me as] and he took over JMWave after Ted Shackley left [i never met Shackley until 1999, well after he retired from the Agency when I interviewed him a couple of times in Washington, D.C. for my book.]. I subsequently met Dimmer's successor, again as I say in the preface to my book, Paul Henzie and then Jake Esterline. I am well aware of the Taylor Branch/George Crile article, which is cited in my bibliography.

As for what they attribute to an anonymous CIA agent regarding The Miami Herald, that related to a period before I began covering Latin America. I do know, again as I say in the preface to my book, that in the 1960s and early 1970s, it was very common for journalists covering foreign affairs to have contact with CIA officials, just as it was for journalists to have contact with the political officers in American Embassies and desk officers at the state department.

That all changed in the early 1970s when the stories broke about CIA involvement with the international student movement, Watergate, Vietnam, etc. Journalists did not want to be associated with the CIA and the CIA did not want to be tangled up with journalists. My last known contact [to me at least] with an active CIA agent was sometime in the early 1970s.

I also know that the Miami Herald did have contact with Ted Shackley, before my time. David Corn, in his book the Blond Ghost, re Ted Shackley, quotes from a declassified document saying that my predecessor, Al Burt [who was shot accidentally by US Marines at a checkpoint in the 1965 Dominican intervention] signed by Shackley saying he had "recruited" Al Burt. I doubt that is true, but Burt did have contact with the JMWAVE Station and management at the Miami Herald was well aware of it, just as they were well of my contact with John Dimmer, Paul Henzie and Jake Esterline.

I am sure my name shows up in some declassified CIA documents as well but I have never bothered to put in a FOIA request since I do not consider anything I did as violating an journalist ethic.

It was then considered quite routine. The same was true - and particularly - for Tad Szulc, of the New York Times and was actively involved in a covert operation called Operation Amtrunk [also known as Operation Leonardo] designed to encourage Cuban military officers to defect or revolt. At the same time, [again as I note in my book] George Volsky, the NY Times stringer in Miami, was working not only for the NYTimes but also was employed by the US Information Agency in Miami [directed then by Paul Bethel] and was one of those involved in Amtrunk.

I am sure what Crile and Branch say about the Miami Herald could well apply at that time to any major US newspaper that covered foreign affairs.

I don't think the CIA was using the Miami Herald during that period any more than The Miami Herald was using the CIA.

Several authors, for example, Seth Kantor (Who Was Jack Ruby?), David Corn, (Blond Ghost), Gaeton Fonzi (The Last Investigation) and Warren Hickle/William Turner (Deadly Secrets) have put forward convincing evidence that Hal Hendrix was a CIA asset in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I believe you knew Hendrix. Did you have any idea he was a CIA agent?

Re Hendrix, I do know Hal, although as a foreign reporter I was at least a half generation behind him. We were friendly but now close. As you I don't if he was a CIA "asset," and in fact not quite sure what that means. I do know that he had close ties to the Agency and to Shackley.

I also think the quote in the Crile/Branch article from the anonymous CIA official was a bit overstated, at least from my experience in later years.

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Re Hendrix, I do know Hal, although as a foreign reporter I was at least a half generation behind him. We were friendly but now close. As you I don't if he was a CIA "asset," and in fact not quite sure what that means. I do know that he had close ties to the Agency and to Shackley.

 

I also think the quote in the Crile/Branch article from the anonymous CIA official was a bit overstated, at least from my experience in later years.

My understanding is that a journalist who is a “CIA asset” is someone who will in certain conditions publish information in articles that is in the interest of the CIA. Sometimes this information is true and sometimes it is untrue.

Hal Hendrix is a good example of a CIA asset. Information from the CIA enabled Hendrix to write in 1962 several articles on the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. According to William Pawley, Hendrix was fed information by Ted Shackley, the CIA chief in Miami (quoted by David Corn in his book, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades).

As Hendrix found, it could be very helpful being a CIA asset. Hendrix won the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism in 1963 as a result of his CIA inspired Cuban reports. In September, 1963, Hendrix joined Scripps-Howard News Service as a Latin American specialist. Instead of moving to Washington he remained in Miami "where his contacts were". In an article on 24th September, 1963, Hendrix was able to describe and justify the coup that overthrew Juan Bosch, the president of Dominican Republic. The only problem was the coup took place on the 25th September. Once again, being a CIA asset helped him get a scoop. However, it also confirmed that he was relying on information from CIA. His attempts to justify the coup undermined his credibility as a independent journalist.

Hendrix’s involvement with the intelligence agencies was further highlighted when JFK was assassinated. A few hours after Kennedy had been killed, Hendrix provided background information to a colleague, Seth Kantor, about Lee Harvey Oswald. This included details of his defection to the Soviet Union and his work for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This surprised Kantor because he had this information before it was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation later that evening.

Hendrix left the Scripps-Howard News Service in 1966 and went to work for the International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation, as director of inter-American relations in Buenos Aires. Officially, Hendrix worked in public relations but according to Thomas Powers, "he was something in the way of being a secret operative for the company".

Hendrix moved to Chile. It later emerged that Hendrix worked with the CIA in the overthrow of Salvador Allende. His CIA contact during the Chile operation was David Atlee Phillips.

On 20th March, 1973, Hendrix appeared before Frank Church and his Multinational Corporations Subcommittee. He denied that he ever been a paid agent of the CIA. However, an investigation by Justice Department lawyer Walter May discovered documents that showed that Hendrix had lied under oath.

Hendrix was allowed to plead guilty to lying under oath (which cost him a $100 fine and a one-month suspended sentence) in return for his cooperation with the Justice Department in its pursuit of perjury charges against higher-ranking ITT and CIA officials in the Chile matter.

As you have admitted, you have received information from the CIA. Did you assume this information was always accurate? Did you ever think you were being manipulated by the CIA?

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My understanding is that a journalist who is a “CIA asset” is someone who will in certain conditions publish information in articles that is in the interest of the CIA. Sometimes this information is true and sometimes it is untrue.

Hal Hendrix is a good example of a CIA asset. Information from the CIA enabled Hendrix to write in 1962 several articles on  the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. According to William Pawley, Hendrix was fed information by Ted Shackley, the CIA chief in Miami (quoted by David Corn in his book, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades).

As Hendrix found, it could be very helpful being a CIA asset.  Hendrix won the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism in 1963 as a result of his CIA inspired Cuban reports. In September, 1963, Hendrix joined Scripps-Howard News Service as a Latin American specialist. Instead of moving to Washington he remained in Miami "where his contacts were". In an article on 24th September, 1963, Hendrix was able to describe and justify the coup that overthrew Juan Bosch, the president of Dominican Republic. The only problem was the coup took place on the 25th September. Once again, being a CIA asset helped him get a scoop. However, it also confirmed that he was relying on information from CIA. His attempts to justify the coup undermined his credibility as a independent journalist.

Hendrix’s involvement with the intelligence agencies was further highlighted when JFK was assassinated. A few hours after Kennedy had been killed, Hendrix provided background information to a colleague, Seth Kantor, about Lee Harvey Oswald. This included details of his defection to the Soviet Union and his work for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This surprised Kantor because he had this information before it was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation later that evening.

Hendrix left the Scripps-Howard News Service in 1966 and went to work for the International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation, as director of inter-American relations in Buenos Aires. Officially, Hendrix worked in public relations but according to Thomas Powers, "he was something in the way of being a secret operative for the company".

Hendrix moved to Chile. It later emerged that Hendrix worked with the CIA in the overthrow of Salvador Allende. His CIA contact during the Chile operation was David Atlee Phillips.

On 20th March, 1973, Hendrix appeared before Frank Church and his Multinational Corporations Subcommittee. He denied that he ever been a paid agent of the CIA. However, an investigation by Justice Department lawyer Walter May discovered documents that showed that Hendrix had lied under oath.

Hendrix was allowed to plead guilty to lying under oath (which cost him a $100 fine and a one-month suspended sentence) in return for his cooperation with the Justice Department in its pursuit of perjury charges against higher-ranking ITT and CIA officials in the Chile matter.

As you have admitted, you have received information from the CIA. Did you assume this information was always accurate? Did you ever think you were being manipulated by the CIA?

I don't doubt that Ted Shackley fed information to Hendrix. I do know they were close. Regarding the definition of a CIA "asset," I just don't know. He did win a Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for the Miami News for his reporting on the missile crisis, as you state.

I have inquired of a lot of my friends who Hendrix got his information. I think some of it may well have come from the CIA, but a mutual friend who worked for the overt CIA office in Miami told me that he came to them and suggested they talk to a Cuban exile who had just arrived in Miami from Cuba with information about strange goings on in Cuba. The overt officer - which had responsibility for questioning incoming Cuban refugees - talked to the guy Hendrix had suggested and it helped lead to the over flight which identified the missiles.

Sometime in this period, The Miami News, which was owned by Cox Newspapers, sold its building and leased space and moved its operation into a new Miami Herald Building on Biscayne Bay, which means that Hendrix would have been working in The Herald Building, but not for the Herald. Hendrix subsequently went to work for Scripts Howard, as you note, and The Herald gave him a desk in the Herald newsroom in exchange for publication rights in Miami to his Scripps Howard material.

There is no question that he had great contacts with the CIA in those days, as did Jules Dubois, a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, and Jerry O'Leary [and ex-marine or army colonel], a Washington Start [now defunct] correspondent.

I am not exactly sure about his role in the Dominican coup, but do recall that Juan Bosch, in one of his memoirs, basically blamed Hendrix for the coup.

I think I remember a picture of some sort when Hendrix comes in from behind a curtain in the National Palace as one of the military coup leaders tells Bosch he is out.

Regarding Hendrix, Chile & ITT, I am familiar with it mostly from news accounts but know he [and an ITT colleague named Bob Berrellez, a former AP Latin America correspondent who died several years ago] actively working with the CIA, something that has been well documented. I suspect Powers may be right in his assessment, especially when Hendrix was working with ITT. That is quite clear.

I do not know if he was working with Dave Phillips re the Allende coup. If memory serves correctly, Ted Shackley was head of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division at the time of the 1973 coup. I do know that Hal was extremely bitter about his indictment, feeling that he was working to oust Allende in collaboration with the CIA in the best interests of the US government. Unfortunately, in his memoirs, Shackley barely mentions Chile, except to say he had nothing to do with Allende's death.

[You might be interested to know that The Herald within the past week carried a story from information contained in a new book by a British author - name I don't remember - citing newly available KGB documents, saying that the KGB funnelled some $400,000 plus to Allende].

Now, regarding AMCARBON, The Herald contact with CIA etc. From your description, I suspect that AMCARBON1 may have been Al Burt, my predecessor at The Herald. He did begin work about 1957 on the Herald city desk, then became Latin America editor in the early 1960s, when the Herald decided it needed to set up way to deal with all the crazy Cuban exiles coming in and talking to any reporter they could find, then such stories would get in the paper.

It was before my time, but I am told [and I give this to you as hearsay and appreciate it if you do not post it on the internet] that the way The Herald and the CIA contact is as follows:

Sometime after he had been named Latin America editor, Al Burt, my predecessor was having lunch with George Beebe, the Miami Herald's then managing editor - which was the top newsroom job at the time sometime in the early 1960s [it would had to have been in early 1962 after Shackley became chief of JMWave]. Also lunching in the same restaurant at the time were Bill Pawley and Shackley. Pawley and Beebe were good friends and Pawley came to Beebe and said he was having lunch with someone The Herald should be in touch with. The result was that Al Burt established a connection with Shackley.

In Shackley's book he brags that he has "recruited" Al Burt. I am inclined to doubt that and Burt denies it. I think there may be a matter of semantics involved, but I don't know. Shackley was known to embellish things to further his advancement. That is why I say there may be a matter of semantics involved.

I joined The Herald's Latin America staff in early 1964, when Al Burt was still The Herald's Latin America editor. He got shot accidentally and badly injured by the Marines during the April 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic. He recovered somewhat but left The Herald sometime that year. He introduced me to Shackley's successor, John Dimmer in June - or possibly July - of 1965, the first CIA person I had contact with in my life. That is why I say it is important for me to know what the date of the AMCARBON document is.

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I joined The Herald's Latin America staff in early 1964, when Al Burt was still The Herald's Latin America editor. He got shot accidentally and badly injured by the Marines during the April 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic. He recovered somewhat but left The Herald sometime that year.  He introduced me to Shackley's successor, John Dimmer in June - or possibly July - of 1965, the first CIA person I had contact with in my life. That is why I say it is important for me to know what the date of the AMCARBON document is.

The date on the AMCARBON document is 3/19/64

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I am quite certain I discovered an error in this otherwise fascinating book. An error that would certainly be inconsequential to the points Mr. Bohning is making. But perhaps with clarification nonetheless.

I am quite certain he has the date of Johnny Rosselli's disappearence wrong, as well as the date of the discovery of his body. I am quite confident Rosselli disappeared on July 28th and the barrel with his remains surfaced on August 7th.

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I am quite certain I discovered an error in this otherwise fascinating book.  An error that would certainly be inconsequential to the points Mr. Bohning is making.  But perhaps with clarification nonetheless.

I am quite certain he has the date of Johnny Rosselli's disappearence wrong, as well as the date of the discovery of his body.  I am quite confident Rosselli disappeared on July 28th and the barrel with his remains surfaced on August 7th.

Tim, this is a weird post. What's with all the "quite certain" stuff? If Don or his editor made an error, you should simply ask him if he is certain his dates are correct, because (insert your sources here) said (insert dates) were the dates. By saying "I am quite certain" and "I am quite confident" you're sending the message you have some intimate knowledge of these events. You don't, do you?

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Pat, I am quite certain because the dates are in the masterful Rosselli biography by Rappleye and Becker and I have seen the New York Times article reporting the discovery of the body.

I rechecked the dates because the August 7th date is etched in my mind because it is my sister's birthday. And also the date we buried my mother five years ago. So now whenever I think of those events, I think of Rosselli (or vice-versa!).

The New York Times article tells me that Rappleye and Becker had the dates correct.

WELL. . . things may not be quite that easy. Wikipedia dates the discovery of the body as August 9th, two days later than I have it. But it was clearly about a week into August. Mr. Bohning dates the body's discovery at July 28th (actually the date of his disappearence, which Mr. Bohning dates eleven days earlier.

From "Wikipedia":

Fourteen months later, on August 9, 1976, Rosselli's decomposing body had been found in a 55-gallon steel fuel drum floating in Dumfounding Bay, Florida. He'd been strangled and stabbed; his legs had been sawed off and stuffed into an empty oil drum along with the rest of his body. Many believe Rosselli had been ordered killed by Tampa, Florida mob boss Santos Trafficante because Trafficante had believed the aging Rosselli had talked too much about the Kennedy assassination and Castro murder plots during his Senate testimony, violating the strict Mafia code of omertà

Edited by Tim Gratz
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I am quite certain I discovered an error in this otherwise fascinating book.  An error that would certainly be inconsequential to the points Mr. Bohning is making.  But perhaps with clarification nonetheless.

I am quite certain he has the date of Johnny Rosselli's disappearence wrong, as well as the date of the discovery of his body.  I am quite confident Rosselli disappeared on July 28th and the barrel with his remains surfaced on August 7th.

It has been four years since I finished my book so not sure where I got the dates in it but I assume it might have been the Miami Herald files [which I do not have access to now]. But in rereading it, I know the dates in the book are something I read somewhere because I would not have been as precise as to say 11 days after his disappearance Rosselli was found floating in a barrell in Biscayne Bay. When I get some additional time, I will try and find the source for the dates I used.

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Do you have any views on the JFK assassination? Is it possibly linked to the what you have called the Castro Obsession?

Do you know Dick Billings? If so, could he have been working as a CIA asset? 

Would Hal Hendrix be willing to join us on the Forum?

Re Dick Billings. I do not know him personally.

Re Hal Hendrix. As noted before, I knew Hal but was not a close personal friend. I do think I know him well enough, however, to tell you there is no way he would attend your forum. Apart from the fact he is now in his mid-80s and in failing health.

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