Jump to content
The Education Forum

JFK and the Assassination Plots Against Castro


John Simkin
 Share

Recommended Posts

The issue whether JFK or RFK knew about the plot to assassinate Fidel Castro has come up several times. I thought it might be worth looking at the evidence that is available concerning this matter.

The policy of “Plausible Denial” means that we are unlikely to find any documents that prove that John Kennedy knew about the CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the Bay of Pigs invasion was not accompanied by a plot to kill Castro.

There are two sources that indicate that JFK was definitely considering the idea of ordering the assassination of Castro. In March 1960 JFK asked his friend George Smathers what the world would think if Castro were assassinated. (Oral history interview on 31st March, 1964, for the Kennedy Library, quoted by Richard J. Walton, Cold War and Counterrevolution, pages 47-48). According to the historian Michael Beschloss, JFK later told Smathers that he had been “given to believe” that Castro would be dead by the time the Cuban exiles hit the beaches: “Someone was supposed to have knocked him off, and there was supposed to be absolute pandemonium”. (Michael Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khruschchev, pages 138-139).

In November, 1961, JFK asked journalist Tad Szulc: “What would you think if I ordered Castro to be assassinated?” JFK claimed that he was under “terrible pressure” from his advisers. The date of this is interesting. According to Evan Thomas it was in November, 1961 that RFK blasted Richard Bissell for not getting rid of Castro (The Very Best Men, page 271).

Samuel Halpern, executive officer of Task Force W, claimed that JFK actually asked Richard Bissell to create a capacity for political assassination. (Seymour Hersh, Dark Side of Camelot, page 192). Halpern was also interviewed by Evan Thomas. He claims the RFK put Desmond FitzGerald under considerable pressure to continue the assassination plots against Castro (page 294). This is supported by the testimony of Thomas Parrot, secretary of the SGA (page 297).

During the Frank Church Committee hearings several CIA officials claimed that they had come under pressure from RFK to “get rid” of Castro. However, he never used the word “assassination” but he made it clear that is what he meant (Alleged Assassination Plots, pages 121-123, 127, 132-33, 324, 330-31).

There are several documents that show RFK knew about these assassination plots. A memo from Sheffield Edwards to RFK in May 1962 quoted Bissell as saying that the “planning” against Castro included the “use of Giancana and the underworld”. In the same memo Edwards described how Robert Maheu had been used as a “cut-out” so that the CIA would not be directly involved with this “dirty business”. (Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men, page 397).

In an interview with the Washington Star, Edward Lansdale, admitted that at a meeting with RFK in the summer of 1962, he was told that his mission was to “get rid of Fidel Castro”. RFK made it clear that “the project for disposing of Castro envisioned the whole spectrum of plans from overthrowing the Cuban leader to assassinating him”. These orders were then passed on to William Harvey (Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, pages 97-98).

A memo from J. Edgar Hoover dated 1st May, 1961 to RFK, described the CIA’s relationship with Giancana and Rosselli concerning Cuba. Hoover does not use the word “assassination” and instead refers to “dirty business”. In May 1962, Lawrence Houston, general counsel for the CIA told RFK about the planned effort to “dispose” of Castro. (Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, pages 96-97). Apparently RFK was angry with the CIA about using Giancana and Rosselli. He replied: “I trust if you ever do business with organized crime again – with gangsters – you will let the attorney general know”. However, RFK did not instruct the CIA to stop killing Castro. (Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men, page 397).

It is difficult to believe that RFK did not discuss this matter with JFK. Therefore I think it is fair to assume that JFK knew about the CIA/Mafia plots to assassinate Castro.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 34
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

A memo from J. Edgar Hoover dated 1st May, 1961 to RFK, described the CIA’s relationship with Giancana and Rosselli concerning Cuba. Hoover does not use the word “assassination” and instead refers to “dirty business”. In May 1962, Lawrence Houston, general counsel for the CIA told RFK about the planned effort to “dispose” of Castro. (Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, pages 96-97). Apparently RFK was angry with the CIA about using Giancana and Rosselli. He replied: “I trust if you ever do business with organized crime again – with gangsters – you will let the attorney general know”. However, RFK did not instruct the CIA to stop killing Castro. (Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men, page 397).

It is difficult to believe that RFK did not discuss this matter with JFK. Therefore I think it is fair to assume that JFK knew about the CIA/Mafia plots to assassinate Castro.

John, the Church Committee got into all this, and the CIA did not come across as innocent as you paint them. RFK was told that the CIA/Mafia attempts on Castro were in the past; supposedly Houston did not know that Helms and Harvey were in the process of starting them up again. Helms, however, was fully witting that RFK, and his brother, the President, did not know about the resurrected assassination plans , and never thought to tell them. Even worse, he and Harvey agreed not to tell their boss, DCI John McCone, about their new plans. Instead they opted to take Bobby's ordering them to get rid of Castro as his giving them permission to have the man murdered, no matter what it took. Their use of the mob in this endeavor without telling him--which was a direct violation of his commands as attorney general--is reflective of how much they really cared about what Bobby or his brother had to say. Frank Church had it right--there was a rogue elephant on the loose within the CIA.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote=Pat Speer,Aug 31 2005, 11:32 AM]

John, the Church Committee got into all this, and the CIA did not come across as innocent as you paint them. RFK was told that the CIA/Mafia attempts on Castro were in the past; supposedly Houston did not know that Helms and Harvey were in the process of starting them up again. Helms, however, was fully witting that RFK, and his brother, the President, did not know about the resurrected assassination plans , and never thought to tell them. Even worse, he and Harvey agreed not to tell their boss, DCI John McCone, about their new plans. Instead they opted to take Bobby's ordering them to get rid of Castro as his giving them permission to have the man murdered, no matter what it took. Their use of the mob in this endeavor without telling him--which was a direct violation of his commands as attorney general--is reflective of how much they really cared about what Bobby or his brother had to say. Frank Church had it right--there was a rogue elephant on the loose within the CIA.

Pat:

I totally concur. (I just dealt with this in a long email with John). Except I don't think that it was just "rogue" CIA. I think this thinking was "policy" and when JFk did not go along, plans were made to include him in this "policy". Business as usual, imho.

Dawn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would like to interject a thought here. How would one "get rid of Castro" without assassinating him? My perception of RFK in this regard is that his objection was the use of Mafia figures by the CIA to accomplish the deed, not the deed itself. I mean was Castro going to cease being in power because his beard fell out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John, the Church Committee got into all this, and the CIA did not come across as innocent as you paint them.  RFK was told that the CIA/Mafia attempts on Castro were in the past; supposedly Houston did not know that Helms and Harvey were in the process of starting them up again.  Helms, however, was fully witting that RFK, and his brother, the President, did not know about the resurrected assassination plans , and never thought to tell them.  Even worse, he and Harvey agreed not to tell their boss, DCI John McCone, about their new plans.  Instead they opted to take Bobby's ordering them to get rid of Castro as his giving them permission to have the man murdered, no matter what it took.  Their use of the mob in this endeavor without telling him--which was a direct violation of his commands as attorney general--is reflective of how much they really cared about what Bobby or his brother had to say.  Frank Church had it right--there was a rogue elephant on the loose within the CIA.

I would hate people to think that I was giving the impression that I was suggesting that somehow the CIA was an “innocent” party in all this. As members will know from my posts in the past, I have very little good to say about the CIA. However, I do think it is important to be fair to any organization, even if you disagree with everything that it stands for.

It is also important to take an objective position towards political parties that you support. We have all seen the way Tim cannot deal with evidence that is critical of his beloved Republican Party. It would be just as unacceptable for any researcher to take this position towards the Democratic Party. I don’t agree with the politics of Victor Lasky, but I have to agree with his arguments in “It Didn’t Start With Watergate” that political corruption is just as much a feature of Democratic administrations as those of Republicans.

It is important to point out that senior officials involved in the assassination plots against Castro, Richard Bissell, Allen Dulles, Desmond FitzGerald, Tracy Barnes, etc. have never claimed that JFK was ever told about the assassination plots against Castro. After all, they knew that there were severe disadvantages for them in the policy of “plausible denial”. The CIA evidence in favour of this theory comes from fairly minor officials such as Samuel Halpern and Thomas Parrott.

The information from Tad Szulc and George Smathers definitely reveals that JFK was coming under pressure (presumably by the CIA) to order the assassination of Castro. Are we to believe that he really did reject these ideas?

Then we have the evidence of the memos. Although they refer to past events, there is no evidence that RFK made any comments against such operations.

There is also the point that Robert Howard makes. What did RFK mean when he said to senior officials involved in CIA covert operations that they had to “get rid” of Castro. Can we really blame Bissell and FitzGerald for believing that he meant that the CIA should kill him? After all, when you are faced with a dictator who does not hold elections, how do you get rid of him?

I am of the opinion that JFK and RFK knew about the plots to kill Castro at the time of the Bay of Pigs operation. In fact, I doubt very much if JFK would have given the go ahead for the operation without the belief that Castro would be assassinated at the same time. I suspect that it was this failure to assassinate Castro that caused JFK to lose his enthusiasm for the operation.

I also believe that the assassination of Castro was also part of Operation Mongoose. After all, a mongoose is known for its ferocity in killing the most poisonous snakes.

However, I do believe that JFK called off the assassination plots after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although reluctantly, I believe RFK went along with this new policy. It was at this point that the CIA decided to have a foreign policy that was in conflict with that of the JFK administration.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi John

The reality of the CIA assassination plots against Castro, as exposed in the Church hearings, have become a common belief among the American public, to the extent that they have become a topic for the U.S. late night comedians.

As an October 19, 2000 BBC article on "Castro: The Great Survivor" states:

"In the years that followed [the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion] the US intelligence forces spent a good portion of their energy dreaming up methods of doing away with him.

"Dubbed Operation Mongoose, most attempts were downright silly: exploding cigars, a Mob contract, a lethal wet suit, an exploding seashell, even hair removal powder.

"'This was a bright idea. If we got a certain powder to him and if he put it on his beard it would fall out,' remembers one CIA operative. 'The Cuban people would all fall over laughing at him and he would be ridiculed. This was a measure of our desperation.'"

In a March 26, 2004 article in the Christian Science Monitor, "Different hearings - and times,", Gail Russell Chaddock noted that the Church hearings on CIA activities changed the public perception of the CIA, and how the public mood has changed yet again in the wake of 9/11:

"While the news media fixed on the firefight between the Bush White House and former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, there's a deeper theme in this week's 9/11 commission hearings: Call it un-Church imperative.

"Sen. Frank Church's scorching 1973-76 investigations of US intelligence operations changed the thinking of a generation. Starting with the CIA role in the downfall of Chile's Salvador Allende, the hearings targeted international 'dirty tricks.' Today, instead of asking why an assassination was attempted (against Fidel Castro), panels are asking why one didn't succeed (against Osama bin Laden). The difference stems partly from the 9/11 attacks themselves, which galvanized Americans against terrorists - and in favor of using stronger means of stopping them. But it also reflects a slower evolution of national opinion.

"In the mid-'70s, packed hearing rooms heard of botched attempts on the life of Cuba's Castro that ranged from exploding cigars to acid in his shoes. In the wake of the just-completed Watergate hearings, the cautions stuck. At the end, assassination was no longer viewed as a legitimate tool of foreign policy, and the CIA was no longer considered a top career path for the 'best and brightest.'"

Chris George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is important to point out that senior officials involved in the assassination plots against Castro, Richard Bissell, Allen Dulles, Desmond FitzGerald, Tracy Barnes, etc. have never claimed that JFK was ever told about the assassination plots against Castro. After all, they knew that there were severe disadvantages for them in the policy of “plausible denial”. The CIA evidence in favour of this theory comes from fairly minor officials such as Samuel Halpern and Thomas Parrott.

The information from Tad Szulc and George Smathers definitely reveals that JFK was coming under pressure (presumably by the CIA) to order the assassination of Castro. Are we to believe that he really did reject these ideas?

Then we have the evidence of the memos. Although they refer to past events, there is no evidence that RFK made any comments against such operations.

There is also the point that Robert Howard makes. What did RFK mean when he said to senior officials involved in CIA covert operations that they had to “get rid” of Castro. Can we really blame Bissell and FitzGerald for believing that he meant that the CIA should kill him? After all, when you are faced with a dictator who does not hold elections, how do you get rid of him?

John, a quick search through U.S. history will show that we "got rid of" Mossadegh, Arbenz, Sihanouk, Noriega, Ortega, Duvalier, and Hussein, without killing them. There is no evidence the Kennedy brothers were ever briefed on the concept of Plausible Deniability; consequently, there is no reason to believe that when they said things like "get rid of him" they understood the CIA would interpret that to mean they had Presidential authority to hire members of organized crime, currently under investigation by Bobby's Justice Department, to accomplish the task. There is evidence that McNamara and Bundy, among others, contemplated the use of assassination. They may have discussed this with JFK and RFK. There is more evidence, however, that the known attempts were spawned by Bissell, Barnes, Helms, and Harvey, with little or no input from the Kennedys. Hunt testified that it had NEVER occurred to him that the CIA was not authorized to kill.

Virtually all the CIA men involved in assassination participated in WW2 and then dived right into a Cold War. In their minds, they were still at war. The concept of Plausible Deniability, which as I said, there is no evidence the Kennedys even knew about, is a dangerous one. It works both ways. It allows cowardly executives to deny responsibility for reprehensible acts. Even worse, however, it allows ambitious underlings to engage in reprehensible acts THAT THEY THEMSELVES WISH TO UNDERTAKE and then claim they thought they were doing the bidding of their superiors--nowhere is this more clear than with Ollie North. EVERYTHING about JFK's administration indicates he had come to the realization that he was the man in the driver's seat, and that he alone must be responsible for what took place. We also know that he, as McCone, had ethical problems with assassination. (Reportedly, he was horrified by the Diem assassination and his role in Diem's death.) It is totally against everything we know about the man to think he would casually tell the CIA to kill Castro, and NOT want to be involved in the details. After all, he put Bobby on the Cuba project for this very purpose, to oversee the details. That neither Helms nor Harvey--who, in fact, hated Bobby's guts-- testified that they EVER talked to Bobby about the details of their use of Rosselli is to me a clear-cut indication the Kennedys were out of the loop.

If someone can find an instance where Plausible Deniability was performed by someone who was personally against the action undertaken, I'd be surprised. People use Plausible Deniability in eveyday life all the time. When someone hints that they want you to do something that you don't want to do, you make them articulate it so that you have a clear request. When it's something you do want to do, you LEAP at the opportunity and then say "but you said.." if they complain. The CIA was no different. They used Plausible Deniability to enact their own agenda much as a 6 year-old will use his mom's permission to have some cookies as an excuse to eat the whole box and ruin his dinner.

Edited by Pat Speer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find it hard to believe that RFK did not know what "Plausible Deniability" was when he was personally overseeing certain CIA groups and operations.

Nor do I find it convincing that because the CIA used the mafia without authorizing it with Bobby, that they would not have authorized any of it with him. There are many ways to skin a cat, and as someone who, as a teacher, has had students have radical interpretations of what I assigned them, without them having consulted with me first, I don't find it difficult to fathom.

Finally, it's a major taboo for career CIA officials to ever implicate the White House in a public forum such as the Church Committee. They would fall on their swords first, whether they like the President or not. It's out of loyalty to their institutional creed, not out of loyalty to the President.

I think that people often view RFK and JFK and the CIA's activities through an ideological prism. Simple question: how many people here who are more than happy to believe that RFK and JFK were simply ignorant of the CIA-Castro plots are nonetheless convinced that Bush/Cheney pressured the CIA into misrepresenting Iraq WMD leads? I happen to be on the "executive influence" side on both accounts; and I happen to think that there is probably even more evidence of the former than of the latter.

-Stu

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd add the observation that reality is generally more complex and circumstantial than idealogy would suggest.

For example during 1963 and 1964 we see the following:

1) The Kennedy's put their leverage behind autonomous exile groups and leaders and everybody involved acknowledges that this means a grave loss of control...but that's OK as long as they do their thing off shore and don't blame the U.S. And in the process they get backed up with plans that anticipate a coup which can only succeed if somebody kills Castro. So that's OK, as long as the somebody isn't the CIA per se.

2) Fitzgerald proceeds to court Cubela and goes along with his request for assassination equipment....although evenutally Cubela will go to Artime for an assassination rifle. Which is of course much better than CIA just giving it to him...

3) The 303 Committee gets word that crime folks have approached exiles with an offer to take out Castro...and is incensed, going to great lengths to try and shut such a thing down (why you ask given items 1 and 2 and the fact that these crime folks aren't even from the U.S.?) And Fitzgerald sits on the Committee while the subject is discussed.

.....talk about "conflicted"...with or without the President Larry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find it hard to believe that RFK did not know what "Plausible Deniability" was when he was personally overseeing certain CIA groups and operations. 

Nor do I find it convincing that because the CIA used the mafia without authorizing it with Bobby, that they would not have authorized any of it with him.  There are many ways to skin a cat, and as someone who, as a teacher, has had students have radical interpretations of what I assigned them, without them having consulted with me first, I don't find it difficult to fathom.

Finally, it's a major taboo for career CIA officials to ever implicate the White House in a public forum such as the Church Committee.  They would fall on their swords first, whether they like the President or not.  It's out of loyalty to their institutional creed, not out of loyalty to the President.

I think that people often view RFK and JFK and the CIA's activities through an ideological prism.  Simple question:  how many people here who are more than happy to believe that RFK and JFK were simply ignorant of the CIA-Castro plots are nonetheless convinced that Bush/Cheney pressured the CIA into misrepresenting Iraq WMD leads?  I  happen to be on the "executive influence" side on both accounts; and I happen to think that there is probably even more evidence of the former than of the latter.

-Stu

Stu, I think you touched on a valid point about political affiliation (of a researcher) affecting objectivity about evaluating moral decisions of a president of a complex nature. Politically I am an independent but I think, and have always thought very highly of not only JFK but his brother Robert as well; It is a challenge for me to be objective due to the fact that I feel that the media and politicians have consciously attempted to denigrate his legacy and memory. I certainly didn't mean to imply any judgment about either one of the Kennedy's regarding personal knowledge of Castro assassination plots, and I am just as aware of the history of JFK's administration as well as the history of assassination related developments. What I am trying to say is that I personally would not be scandalized IF either Jack or Bobby knew or approved of an assassination attempt by the CIA on Castro, after the Missile Crisis ended, although I don't think they did. The only point I was trying to make was that "getting rid of" the leader of a country which was considered adversarial would seem to endorse the idea of an assassination, Pat Speer's comments regarding other leaders who were "taken out" without recourse to assassination is a very valid one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Larry's post reminded me of another reason I doubt the whole argument that the CIA acted with the Kennedy's overt permission, and then said they didn't to preserve the concept of "Plausible Deniability."

Desmond Fitzgerald represented himself as Bobby Kennedy's personal emissary when he met with Cubela, without telling Kennedy of his act. His personal emissary! How is that, by any stretch of the imagination, preserving Plausible Deniability? While some here on this thread want to believe that Helms and Fitzgerald, et al, would fall on their sword so that those cowardly Kennedys wouldn't have to admit they did some bad things, the REALITY, as admitted by Helms, is that the CIA did exactly the opposite--they implicated the Kennedys into scenarios the Kennedys knew nothing about. The idea that Helms and Bissell, who by the time they testified in the Church hearings were no longer with the CIA, would lie to protect the Kennedys and in the process make themselves look like rogue elephants, is a pipedream. Bissell and Barnes, let's remember, wrote a response to Kirkpatrick's IG report on the BOP that blamed everything on the White House and the State Department and bent over backwards to absolve themselves of all responsibility for the snafu. These men would not fall on the sword for anyone, with the possible exception of Allen Dulles.

The idea that the CIA is made up of honorable men who will do anything to protect the Presidency is further proven false by the CIA's reaction to Watergate, where Walters and Helms placed the interests of the CIA over the interests of the Presidency and left Nixon on the beach.

From what I've read, it's clear there was and probably still is a widespread conviction within the intelligence community that they are the real government, and that elected officials are undeserving of their loyalty and are basically a nuisance. William Casey wouldn't even tell Barry Goldwater what he was up to, even when mandated by law! This "Cult of Intelligence"believes it's up to them to do what's right, and that we're just supposed to trust them. The problem is, we can't.

Edited by Pat Speer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a result of this discussion I have consulted all those books that I have that deal with the CIA plots against Castro. This includes, in order of publication: Victor Marchetti & John D. Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974), Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate (1977), Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets (1979), Warren Hinckle & William Turner, Deadly Secrets (1981), John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II (1986), Wayne S. Smith: The Closest of Enemies: US-Cuban Relations Since 1957 (1987), John Ranelagh, Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (1987), Michael R. Beschloss, Kennedy v Khrushchev, The Crisis Years, 1960-63 (1991), David Corn, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades (1994), Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men (1995), Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (1997), Richard D. Mahoney, Sons and Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy (1999), Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA (2001) and Fabian Escalante, CIA Covert Operations 1959-62 (2004).

I also consulted the CIA Inspector General’s Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro (1967) and Frank Church’s “Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities" (1976). I also looked at what could be called insider accounts: E. Howard Hunt, Undercover (1974), David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch (1977) and Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder (2003).

All the historians that I consulted agree that the question whether JFK ordered the CIA’s assassination plots against Castro will never be resolved as the documents just do not exist. As Michael R. Beschloss points out (page 138) “Presidents did not normally sign written orders to assassinate foreign leaders”. However, he points out that Gerald Ford read a secret CIA report in 1975 that he said “would ruin the reputation of every President since Truman” if it was ever published.

The historians point out that to make a judgement on this means they have to speculate if JFK actually gave out these orders. Most take the view that he did do this. No one of these historians takes the view that he did not know. As far as I can make out, it has only been JFK’s aides and advisors who have argued that this is the case.

However, nearly all these historians believe that Robert Kennedy did know about these assassination plots. Not only did he know, he was the main instigator. He took a very “hands-on” approach and had several meetings with field operatives. This included a meeting with the most extreme of these operatives, Rip Robertson. He had little respect for politicians but after he met RFK he told Cuban exiles that he was “all right” and would deliver (page 213). This view is supported by other anti-Castro Cubans like Manuel Artime who were interviewed by Haynes Johnson for his book: The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders’ Story of Brigade 2506 (1964).

David Atlee Phillips points out that the CIA was against plots to kill Castro unless it was accompanied by a military invasion of Cuba. As he points out in his autobiography: “It would be dumb. It couldn’t change anything in Cuba, except put power in the hands of people even more pro-Soviet and less predictable than Fidel” (page 178).

This was also the official view of the CIA. In Deadly Secrets, Warren Hinckle & William Turner point out that the CIA’s Board of National Estimates was called upon to prepare a forecast called “If Castro Were to Die”. It concluded: "His loss now, by assassination or by natural causes, would have an unsettling effect, but would almost certainly not prove fatal to the regime” (page 118).

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)

Several historians mention the fact that JFK considered appointing RFK as director of the CIA after sacking Dulles. They speculate that the main reason this did not happen was that it would have linked JFK too closely to the CIA’s covert operations against Castro. Although he was not director of the CIA, RFK definitely behaved as if he did hold this position. He put people like Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, William Harvey, Edward Lansdale, etc. under considerable pressure to “get rid” of Castro.

Up until the Cuban Missile Crisis he appeared to be following JFK’s policy. However, after the cancellation of Operation Mongoose, RFK appears to be following his own foreign policy with the CIA. Was JFK following a dual, contradictory policy? Or was RFK acting as an independent spirit? It has even been suggested that this might have been part of a public relationship exercise aimed at the anti-Castro Cuban exile community. If so, it was a highly dangerous activity. If E. Howard Hunt was indeed monitoring the secret negotiations that were going on between JFK and the Castro government in 1963, he no doubt would have passed this information onto the anti-Castro militants. They would have been furious with the Kennedys for this obvious case of betrayal and it would have given them a motive for changing the target of their assassination plots.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Larry's post reminded me of another reason I doubt the whole argument that the CIA acted with the Kennedy's overt permission, and then said they didn't to preserve the concept of "Plausible Deniability."

Desmond Fitzgerald represented himself as Bobby Kennedy's personal emissary when he met with Cubela, without telling Kennedy of his act.  His personal emissary!  How is that, by any stretch of the imagination, preserving Plausible Deniability?  While some here on this thread want to believe that Helms and Fitzgerald, et al, would fall on their sword so that those cowardly Kennedys wouldn't have to admit they did some bad things, the REALITY, as admitted by Helms, is that the CIA did exactly the opposite--they implicated the Kennedys into scenarios the Kennedys knew nothing about.  The idea that Helms and Bissell, who by the time they testified in the Church hearings were no longer with the CIA, would lie to protect the Kennedys and in the process make themselves look like rogue elephants, is a pipedream.  Bissell and Barnes, let's remember, wrote a response to Kirkpatrick's IG report on the BOP that blamed everything on the White House and the State Department and bent over backwards to absolve themselves of all responsibility for the snafu.  These men would not fall on the sword for anyone, with the possible exception of Allen Dulles.

The idea that the CIA is made up of honorable men who will do anything to protect the Presidency is further proven false by the CIA's reaction to Watergate, where Waters and Helms placed the interests of the CIA over the interests of the Presidency and left Nixon on the beach. 

From what I've read, it's clear there was and probably still is a widespread conviction within the intelligence community that they are the real government, and that elected officials are undeserving of their loyalty and are basically a nuisance.  William Casey wouldn't even tell Barry Goldwater what he was up to, even when mandated by law!  This "Cult of Intelligence"believes it's up to them to do what's right, and that we're just supposed to trust them.  The problem is, we can't.

Pat, I couldn't agree more and Tim regarding your question about why I am not scandalized is for the same reason that I am not scandalized by the fact that the CIA was certainly involved in trying to take out Patrice Lamumba in 1961 or the day the second Iraq war started when we dropped a bomb south of Baghdad thinking Saddam was there or when we bombed Libya in 1986 and killed Quaddafi's daughter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All the historians that I consulted agree that the question whether JFK ordered the CIA’s assassination plots against Castro will never be resolved as the documents just do not exist. As Michael R. Beschloss points out (page 138) “Presidents did not normally sign written orders to assassinate foreign leaders”. However, he points out that Gerald Ford read a secret CIA report in 1975 that he said “would ruin the reputation of every President since Truman” if it was ever published.

The historians point out that to make a judgement on this means they have to speculate if JFK actually gave out these orders. Most take the view that he did do this. No one of these historians takes the view that he did not know. As far as I can make out, it has only been JFK’s aides and advisors who have argued that this is the case.

However, nearly all these historians believe that Robert Kennedy did know about these assassination plots. Not only did he know, he was the main instigator. He took a very “hands-on” approach and had several meetings with field operatives. This included a meeting with the most extreme of these operatives, Rip Robertson. He had little respect for politicians but after he met RFK he told Cuban exiles that he was “all right” and would deliver (page 213). This view is supported by other anti-Castro Cubans like Manuel Artime who were interviewed by Haynes Johnson for his book: The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders’ Story of Brigade 2506 (1974).

David Atlee Phillips points out that the CIA was against plots to kill Castro unless it was accompanied by a military invasion of Cuba. As he points out in his autobiography: “It would be dumb. It couldn’t change anything in Cuba, except put power in the hands of people even more pro-Soviet and less predictable than Fidel” (page 178).

This was also the official view of the CIA. In Deadly Secrets, Warren Hinckle & William Turner point out that the CIA’s Board of National Estimates was called upon to prepare a forecast called “If Castro Were to Die”. It concluded: "His loss now, by assassination or by natural causes, would have an unsettling effect, but would almost certainly not prove fatal to the regime” (page 118).

John, these are the same historians who are still leaning towards the "Oswald-did-it" scenario. They are by nature conservative. They refuse to believe what was not so hard for the Senators of the intelligence committee--people who actually had dealings with the CIA-- to believe--that the CIA during the cold war was given a free reign to beat the Reds by any means necessary, and that they failed to respond appropriately when Kennedy came along and wanted to bring them under his control. Since the CIA blamed the interference of the White House and State Department for the Bay of Pigs, they just stopped telling the White House and the State Department what they were up to. It's really that simple.

The idea that William Harvey would lie to protect Bobby Kennedy's reputation is absolutely ridiculous. By ALL reports, Harvey hated Kennedy with a burning passion. No way in hell would he allow himself and Helms take the heat if Bobby was responsible. It's amazing that someone like yourself who is so willing to consider that men like Helms and Harvey would kill Kennedy is so unwilling to consider that they would refuse to take the blame for decisions He made, as if they considered their highest duty the protection of the Presidency at all costs, while reserving the right to kill the President if need be. I asure you these men placed the CIA and the Cult of Intelligence on a throne much higher than the Presidency.

I'm wondering if we're hitting a cultural divide here. The President is not supposed to be a King and all the members of government are not supposed to risk their careers to protect him. The book title "All the President's Men" was intended to point out the misguided loyalties of the House of Nixon. Arthur Schlesinger wrote on this phenomena and called it "The Imperial Presidency." The point is, however, that, outside of McCone, who was kept out of the loop, the Kennedys had no loyal "President's men" in the CIA, only pissed-off cold warriors with an agenda all their own..

Edited by Pat Speer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...