Cubanálisis El Think-Tank
ARTÍCULO ORIGINAL PARA EL THINK-TANK DE CUBANÁLISIS
Diego Trinidad, PhD, Miami
THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY, THE KGB AND THE CUBAN DGI:
AN ALTERNATE VERSION
Next month, it will be half a century since President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Almost from that terrible day, the greatest cover up in the history of the United States began to be implemented. This was not by chance. It was a deliberate decision of new President Lyndon Johnson. Combined with what was called Operation Dragon, the disinformation masterpiece orchestrated by the KGB from Moscow and aided by the Cuban DGI (Dirección General de Inteligencia), a falsified version of the assassination of President Kennedy emerged. It has been unchallenged in almost 50 years. It is time to finally reject that Great Lie. It is time to offer an alternate version of what most probably really happened in Dallas that fateful November 22, 1963. What follows is an attempt to begin a new search for the truth.
The KGB launched Operation Dragon, designed to exculpate the KGB and to place the blame for the assassination on the CIA, began with two simultaneous, well orchestrated “shows”, one in the Soviet Union, the other one in Cuba, on the afternoon of the assassination. The first was held in one of Fidel Castro’s houses in the famous Cuban beach resort of Varadero. The guest of honor was the well known French writer Jean Daniel, invited to interview Castro a few days before. Castro knew President Kennedy would be shot that afternoon. So did Nikita Khrushchev and the KGB in Moscow. Around 2pm, the telephone rang and Castro, uncharacteristically, rose up to answer it. There were about a dozen people present and Castro was heard to exclaim, loudly: “¿Como? (What?). ¿Un atentado? (An [assassination] attempt?). He seemed genuinely shocked. Some time later, when it was learned that Kennedy was dead, Castro commented: “They will have to find the assassin quickly. Otherwise, you watch and see. They will try to blame us” Weeks later, Daniel published all of the above in a long article in The New Republic. The Cuban part of Operation Dragon was completed.
Almost at the same time in Moscow (early evening), high Politburo member Boris Ponomarev was meeting with Morris Childs, a long time member of the Communist Party of the United States, but also an FBI informer, which the Soviets suspected. Suddenly, a party hack burst into the office and excitedly told Ponomarev, in Russian, that Kennedy had been shot. Childs spoke Russian, unknown to the Soviets, so Ponomarev dutifully translated into English the information, assuring Childs that neither the Soviet Union nor the KGB had anything to do with the assassination. Childs passed the information later on to FBI Director J. Edgard Hoover, who accepted it as fact. The Soviet part of Operation Dragon was also completed.
Two months later, in January, 1964, a Soviet deserter asked for political asylum in Geneva, Switzerland. His name was Yuri Nosenko and he told the CIA in Geneva that he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB and that he had valuable information for the U.S. government: he had seen the Oswald file at KGB headquarters and wanted to share what he had read with the CIA. When Nosenko was later interviewed by FBI agents in Washington, although at least William Sullivan, the FBI’s Intelligence chief, always had his doubts, most everyone else, including Director Hoover believed Nosenko. What he told both the CIA and the FBI was that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a KGB agent and that the KGB had nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination: it was a solo operation by Oswald. That was the last piece of the masterful disinformation campaign known as Operation Dragon.
Even before the preliminary conclusions of the Warren Commission were published a few weeks after the assassination, Operation Dragon had completely deflected any guilt from either the Soviet Union or Cuba. The almost universally accepted version of what happened in Dallas was that it was the CIA who was responsible. Not just the CIA, however. Oswald was a CIA “plant” who had been aided by renegade Cuban exiles. The Mafia and Texas oil millionaires had financed the entire operation. By the time the Warren Commission Repot was published in September, 1964, most people in the U.S. believed the above version. Almost none believed that Oswald had acted alone. That is still mostly the case half a century later.
But that is not what happened at all. There is an alternate version of the events that shook the world that morning of November 22, 1963 in Dallas. According to the legendary CIA Director of Counterintelligence, James Angleton, Oswald shot Kennedy from the fifth floor of the Texas Book Depository building, but he was assisted, without his knowledge, by three Cuban DGI agents. Their names were Miguel Casas and Gilberto Policarpo López. Angleton did not mention the third name but it may have been the most important: Fabian Escalante, Chief of Cuban Counterintelligence (DGCI). The three men made their way separately to Dallas and on the morning of November 22, one or two of them shot at Kennedy from behind the infamous grassy knoll. All shots, including Oswald’s, hit the president almost simultaneously. Casas escaped by driving to Laredo, Texas. From there, he was flown in a small private plane to Mexico City, where a Cubana de Aviación passenger plane waited five hours in the tarmac until Casas arrived. Then he was flown to Havana, the only passenger in the Cubana plane. Lopez stayed in Dallas to make sure that Jack Ruby, another DGI agent, shot Oswald two days later. Lopez then also made his way to Laredo, Texas, where he crossed over to Mexico by car. He then flew to Mexico City, via Tijuana and then left for Cuba on a Cubana flight on November 27. Escalante flew into Dallas on the morning of November 22 in a private plane from Mexico and left the same way in the evening of the murder. From Mexico he made it back to Cuba. Only Angleton’s testimony remains. His entire 20 year counterintelligence archive, including the above information, was destroyed by orders given by CIA Director William Colby in 1975, two years after Colby fired Angleton.
What follows is a reconstruction of all the events leading to Dallas. It is based mostly on facts and on documentary evidence. But although this alternate version of the assassination is the most reasonable and credible of all that have been proposed in half a century, it cannot be proven empirically. It must remain a theory. However, so are all others that have been offered so far. Until and unless the KGB archives in Russia and the DGI archives in Cuba are open, the truth will probably never be known. Perhaps it will never be known.
It all started in Japan in 1957. At that time, 18 year-old Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was stationed in the Atsugi Marine Air Base, 35 miles south of Tokyo. Atsugi was one of the two (the other was in Turkey) bases from which American U-2 spy planes flew over the Soviet Union and China in the late 1950s. The U-2 flights provided up to 90% of the hard information on the Soviet Union’s and China’s military and industrial installations. Oswald, who was highly intelligent (118 I.Q.) and had good mathematical skills, was assigned to the U-2 radar operations office. There, he managed to learn the most coveted secret of Soviet intelligence: the altitude the U-2s flew at.
Soviet intelligence knew of the U-2s over-flights and had been tracking the U-2s for months. But neither its SAM missiles nor its MiG fighter planes could reach the U-2s. Marine recruits at Atsugi base usually went to Tokyo on their leave and while there, visited many of Tokyo’s prostitute bars. Oswald went along, but he visited one bar in particular, the Queen Bee, which catered to a higher clientele of officers, including U-2 pilots and KGB agents. Prostitutes at the Queen Bee were known to charge up to $100 per night, which was way beyond Oswald’s means (he earned less than $85 a month). Some Queen Bee prostitutes worked for the KGB and that is probably how Oswald was recruited and was able to afford their services. Oswald gave the KGB the information about the U-2’s maximum altitude (90,000 feet). This knowledge allowed Soviet technology to develop high interceptors called Su-9s. One of these Su-9s downed Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 when it flew close to the U-2’s fragile wings. The air current caused one of the wings to crack and the U-2 went down. It was not a Soviet SAM, as it was believed for many years, that was responsible for the U-2 downed on May 1, 1960.
Oswald’s trajectory since he defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 is well known, so it will not be covered in detail. But it must be mentioned that since he was 12 years old, he was attracted to “progressive” causes and was well read in Communist literature, describing himself as a Marxist. He also taught himself enough Russian to allow him to live for three years in the Soviet Union, mostly in Minsk. While he lived there, he was trained by the KGB in espionage and marksmanship. He probably met Fabian Escalante, who was also being trained by the KGB in Minsk at the time. Ramiro Valdés and José Abrantes, who later headed the Cuban Interior Ministry (MININT) security apparatus for years, were also at the KGB school for spies in Minsk.
It appears that for a short time after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Nikita Khrushchev contemplated the possibility of having the KGB assassinate President Kennedy in revenge for his humiliation in the aftermath of the Missile Crisis. The KGB offered Oswald, who had returned to the U.S. in 1962, as a candidate, but Khrushchev soon changed his mind and so did the KGB. Oswald was considered too unstable to be used as an assassin, but he remained in the U.S. as a “sleeper” agent and so probably did his wife Marina, too. Dallas businessman George de Mohrenschildt may have been their KGB “controller”. He certainly helped both financially and introduced them to Dallas friends during most of 1963.
However, while the Soviet leader and the KGB may have abandoned the idea of killing Kennedy, neither Oswald nor Fidel Castro did. Castro never forgave Khrushchev for withdrawing the Soviet missiles from Cuba. Indeed, he urged Khrushchev to launch a missile against the U.S. in case of an invasion of Cuba in October, 1962. Castro also knew of the many assassination attempts against him made by the CIA, on Kennedy’s orders, since 1961. And Castro never forgets or forgives. He hated Kennedy with a passion and he now saw an opportunity to get even. The KGB made him believe that it would be a joint operation. Since Oswald was bent on killing Kennedy, the KGB informed the Cuban DGI and requested that someone be sent to Dallas to kill Oswald afterwards. But the DGI instead made plans for Oswald to shoot the president, and, unknown to him, also for DGI agents to shoot at Kennedy at the same time. Both services always intended for Oswald to be the escape goat, for him to be held responsible for the assassination afterwards.
Khrushchev did not give the order to shoot Kennedy and may not even have known of the operation. He and the president had, after all, grown closer since the end of the Missile Crisis. But the Soviet leader had many enemies, especially in the military and the KGB. By the time he was deposed less that a year after Kennedy was killed, almost all the Politburo members and most of the military and KGB were against him. It is entirely possible that secret KGB/DGI plans to kill Kennedy were withheld from his knowledge. Castro may have been mollified by Khrushchev’s assurances of Kennedy’s promise not to invade Cuba as a result of their secret agreement in exchange for the withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba and from Turkey. However, there never really was a binding promise by Kennedy not to invade Cuba, as the Soviets did not comply with the conditions of on site inspection in Cuba. But Castro did not know that and Khrushchev made him believe the terms of the agreement were firm.
Still, Castro was so enraged at Khrushchev for taking the missiles out of Cuba without even informing him, that he concocted a terrorist plan to bomb New York City, probably on the day after Thanksgiving, November 24, 1962, when shoppers and tourists would be all over New York streets. The plot was discovered by the FBI just in time and on November 17, three Cuban “diplomats” at the UN mission (DGI agents, really) and two members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) were arrested. On the back of a jewelry store owned by FPCC member José García, more than 1000 pounds of TNT, along with detonators, grenades and incendiary devices, were found. The plan called for the bombing of major department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Grand Central Station, the New York Port Authority, New Jersey’s oil refineries, and even the Statue of Liberty. If the plot had succeeded, it would have been more devastating than the attack on the Twin Towers of 9/11. The Cuban “diplomats” were held for five months, and then quietly exchanged for some CIA operatives imprisoned in Cuba since the Bay of Pigs invasion.
But now Castro found out that the Kennedys were still trying to kill him this late in 1963. He knew this because former Cuban Army Major Rolando Cubela had been working with the CIA to that effect since 1961. Cubela was probably discovered by the DGI sometime in 1962 and became a double agent. He was keeping Castro informed of the CIA plans, which he knew were ordered by the President and his brother Robert, the Attorney General, who was in charge of Operation Mongoose up to the time his brother was killed. Indeed, almost at the time Oswald was shooting at President Kennedy in Dallas, CIA agent Desmond FitzGerald was meeting with Cubela in Paris to finalize the details of Cubela’s attempt on Castro.
It is not known when Castro decided to go ahead with the DGI plan to murder President Kennedy. Nor is it known when Oswald decided to go ahead with the assassination on his own, but it was probably in early October, 1963, after he returned from Mexico to Dallas. Oswald had become disillusioned with the Soviet system after living there for three years. He still considered himself a Marxist, but he became convinced that the Soviet Union had become a bureaucratized society which was not very different from the United States. He was disappointed that the KGB had not contacted him for months. He felt forgotten and betrayed. So he switched his sympathies and his loyalty to a truly revolutionary regime: that of Castro’s Cuba, which he saw as the future of mankind. He had been following the Cuban revolution since 1959 and was an admirer of American William Morgan, who fought for Castro against the Batista dictatorship and became a Cuban Army Major after the revolution was won. Since he came back to the U.S. in 1962, Oswald became obsessed with establishing his bona fides with Cuba so that he could become a revolutionary just like his new hero Morgan. He really wanted to desert again, this time to Cuba.
In April, 1963, Oswald tried to kill retired Army General Edwin Walker. He barely missed, but documented his attempt with photographic evidence and may have escaped with the help of Cuban DGI agents. Several months later, Oswald moved to New Orleans, then a focus of anti Castro activities by Cuban exiles. Oswald tried to organize a chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans, but he also tried to infiltrate anti Castro organizations. He had a run in with Cuban exile Carlos Bringuier which resulted in the arrest of both men. Oswald later appeared in a radio program with Bringuier and others and expounded his pro Castro views. He was trying to set up his own “legend” (a false biography, in espionage parlance) for the next step in his plan: to defect to Cuba and to become one of Castro’s “soldiers”.
In late September, Oswald traveled from New Orleans to Mexico City by bus, but he made a stop in Dallas, where on the night of September 25, he visited the home of the Odio sisters with two Cubans. They all presented themselves as enemies of the Castro regime and tried to get information from Sylvia Odio about anti Castro activities. Sylvia’s father was imprisoned in Havana as a result of his involvement, along with Cuban Army Major Rolando Cubela, in a plot to assassinate Castro. Sylvia and her sister became suspicious and told Oswald and the Cubans nothing. Much later, they found out the truth about Oswald and also that his companions were DGI agents.
Oswald arrived in Mexico City on the morning of September 27 and checked into the Hotel del Comercio, a few blocks from both the Cuban and Soviets embassies. The Hotel del Comercio was a notorious meeting place for Cuban intelligence agencies and Oswald probably met with some of them while in Mexico. He went to the Cuban embassy later in the morning to get a visa and travel to Cuba. He had a lengthy conversation with Silvia Tirado de Durán, who worked as a receptionist but may have been a DGI agent. Durán explained that he needed a visa from the Soviet embassy to be able to get a Cuban visa. Oswald, who expected to travel to Cuba in a few days, became agitated and argumentative. The Cuban Consul, Eusebio Azcue was called by Durán and finally convinced Oswald to go to the Soviet embassy, which he did.
Oswald walked over to the Soviet embassy and was directed to a consular officer named Valery Kostikov. But Kostikov was really a KGB Colonel in Department 13, which handled “wet” operations (assassinations). Kostikov called in two other KGB officers, but eventually, Oswald was told he could not get a Soviet visa, that it would take months to get one from the embassy in Washington. A dejected Oswald then went back to the Cuban embassy, where he had another heated argument with Durán and Azcue. He finally left, after shouting that he intended to kill President Kennedy.
That weekend in Mexico City, Oswald went to a party with Silvia Durán and met other prominent Mexican society members who were sympathizers of the Cuban revolution. He also met with Cuban DGI agents. Oswald slept with Silvia Durán during his stay in Mexico City and perhaps also with another Cuban DGI agent, Luisa Calderón (he had Durán’s phone number in his pocket when he was arrested). That “lost weekend” (because not much was known about Oswald’s activities in Mexico for a long time), Oswald probably met again with Kostikov and Cuban DGI agents, including Rolando Cubela. Final plans for the Kennedy assassination were then likely finalized between Oswald and DGI agents that weekend, after Oswald was told by Cubela in detail of the latest Kennedy-ordered, CIA plan to kill Castro, the one involving Cubela. But it must be pointed out that what Oswald truly wanted was to go to Cuba. When he found out he could not, he apparently decided to kill Kennedy as a final “proof” of his devotion to Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution.
Oswald returned to Dallas on October 3. He now began to carefully plan his assassination attempt on Kennedy. He started by getting a job at the Texas School Book Depository on October 15. That same day, his visa to travel to Cuba was approved, contingent on his getting a Soviet visa. Oswald was notified three days later. He was living in a rooming house in Dallas while Marina and their daughters (a second daughter was born on October 20) stayed with Ruth Paine at her house in Irving, a Dallas suburb. It is not known when Oswald learned of Kennedy’s trip to Dallas and of his itinerary, but the trip had been planned back in June, 1963 as a political favor to the Texas Democratic Party, to help unite the party. It was announced in September and the itinerary was released to the public around November 18. Oswald therefore knew well in advance that the president would be traveling through downtown Dallas. He was in a good position at his job in the Texas School Book Depository, but he nevertheless explored the possibility of getting into other buildings in downtown Dallas before the visit. When the itinerary was announced on November 18, all he had to do was to bring his rifle into the building and wait for the presidential caravan to pass by.
A second stage of the assassination was being planned in Havana under the direction of Fabian Escalante, the head of Cuban counterintelligence and a close confidant of Raul Castro. Escalante was only 22 at the time, but he was a Sierra Maestra veteran and he had been well trained by the KGB in Minsk (where he probably met Oswald). The plan was to assist Oswald without his knowledge. All Oswald knew was that the DGI would help him escape to Cuba. It is possible that the two DGI agents under Escalante, Casas and Lopez, only provided logistical support and did not shoot at Kennedy. But they may have. In any case, they were all in position in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
There is some evidence that after the killing, Oswald had made plans to escape to Cuba. Perhaps there would be a private plane waiting in Dallas (the one in which Escalante traveled to Dallas that morning). Perhaps he would leave for Cuba in a commercial airline from Mexico (Cubana de Aviación’s number in Mexico City was also found in his pocket when he was arrested). But when he was confronted, apparently by chance, by Dallas police officer J.C. Tippit as he was trying to escape after the assassination, he shot and killed Tippit. Then, everything that had been planned was ruined. Now Fabián Escalante left Dallas and the final plan to silence Oswald, by having Jack Ruby, a DGI agent, kill Oswald two days later, was implemented. The great disinformation campaign of Operation Dragon began in the afternoon of November 22. Shortly afterwards, the great cover-up of the assassination would begin in full by the new Johnson administration.
James Angleton’s theory implicating the Cuban DGI in the Kennedy assassination has a critical flaw and another very difficult obstacle to overcome. The first is that Angleton unfortunately never gave details of the operation to investigative writer Joseph J. Trento. He only said that the DGI agents “carried out the assassination”. But he never said they had shot at the president (although the implication is clear). Because ALL “experts” agree that only Oswald shot at Kennedy and the bullets that struck the president ALL came from Oswald’s rifle, that is a major problem. All evidence Angleton may have had, was destroyed in 1975. However, there is plenty of evidence -including photographic evidence- that the Cuban DGI agents were in Dallas on November 22 and that they escaped to Mexico in the following days. The second obstacle, that Oswald was the only shooter, is not insurmountable, it can be overcome. Evidence, including forensic and ballistic evidence, can be altered and falsified; it can be created as well as it can be destroyed. But in the end, it is not that important whether the Cuban DGI agents did the shooting. What matters is that they were in Dallas and that the entire operation was planned and carried out by the DGI under orders from Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro WAS the intellectual author of Kennedy’s assassination.
The main sources for the above reconstruction of President Kennedy’s death in 1963 come from a handful of relatively recent books. Disinformation, by General Ion Mihai Pacepa and historian Ronald J. Ryslack (2013) provides all the information on Operation Dragon. Because General Pacepa, who defected from Rumania in 1978 (the highest military defector from a Communist nation until then) was the head of Rumanian intelligence and he personally knew all the highest members of Warsaw Pact intelligence services, including the KGB, his information must be given high credibility. He also personally knew the party leaders of all communist nations from 1954 until 1978 and was Rumanian Party leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s Chief of Staff from 1972 until he defected in 1978. He still lives under a secret identity and under U.S. government protection after all these years. No one alive today probably knows more about communist dezinformatsiya (disinformation) that General Pacepa. The General is also firmly convinced that Khrushchev initially planned to have President Kennedy’s assassinated in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but changed his mind when his involvement in two political murders was revealed in a trial of a high KGB agent in Germany in October, 1962. General Pacepa believes that Khrushchev did not want to risk another such spectacular assassination at the time. If it failed and was discovered, it would certainly provoke another nuclear confrontation. It also may have cost Khrushchev his position as Soviet leader and even his life, as opposition to him was mounting in the Politburo, the military and the KGB. General Pacepa’s analysis of Cuban DGI involvement in the Kennedy assassination provides strong support for Angleton’s theory, although he does not say they were directly involved in the assassination. He also explains how the KGB was deeply involved in the planning (through Colonel Kostikov) along with the Cuban DGI and identifies Jack Ruby as a DGI agent. His book Disinformation is invaluable to understand what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. So is a previous book by the General, Programmed to Kill (2007). After General Pacepa reads this article, I hope that he can provide me with additional information.
Joseph. J. Trento is a long time investigative reporter and author of several books on U.S. intelligence. In The Secret History of the CIA (2001 and a second edition with a new introduction in 2005), Trento reveals Angleton’s theory of DGI involvement in the Kennedy assassination. As has been mentioned a few times, Angleton’s evidence of his theory was ordered destroyed by CIA Director William Colby in 1975, after he had fired Angleton the year before. Angleton, because of his 20 years as CIA Director of Counterintelligence, probably knew more than anyone else about the Kennedy assassination. Trento interviewed him for many hours and was his close friend for eleven years. Trento also interviewed hundreds of other top CIA agents, including John Sherwood and Robert Crowley and Dr. William Corson, who worked as an advisor for four different presidents. The book is a treasure trove of information about the CIA and is especially valuable in explaining the controversy within U.S. intelligence agencies about the Soviet defectors Nosenko and Golitsyn and how that affected the investigation into Kennedy’s murder. Final verdict: Nosenko was a KGB disinformation agent; Golitsyn was legitimate, but he was avaricious and amoral and the information he provided was of little value. This book offers a very disturbing and depressing overview of the espionage and counterintelligence world. It leaves the reader shaken and feeling that there was not much difference between the KGB and the CIA top personnel. Indeed, according to Angleton himself, “they were all liars”. Trento is now president of the Public Education Center in Washington. In a recent telephone conversation, he assured me that Angleton’s version of the assassination is correct and he is satisfied that Angleton was right in his theory. He also told me that the truth about Kennedy’s death will probably never be known. Hopefully, he will also offer some comments when he reads this article.
The best book on Lee Harvey Oswald is still Legend, by Edward Jay Eptein (1978). Epstein has written a number of other excellent books about the assassination and on September 27, 2013, published a new digital book, The JFK Assassination Diary: My Search for Answers to the Mystery of the Century. Mr. Epstein directed me to chapter 4 of this new book to find “everything I know about the case”. He was one of the few people who interviewed all members of the Warren Commission in 1964, when he was a student writing his thesis at Cornell University. One of those members, John J. McCloy, according to Epstein believed that there was “persuasive evidence” before the Commission that Oswald had been trained in espionage in Russia and that he might have been a sleeper agent “who went haywire”. But Justice Warren refused to accept such evidence and nothing was included in the final report. Epstein offers details of Oswald’s visit to the Odio sister in Dallas in September, 1963, on his way to Mexico. He interviewed Sylvia Odio 15 years later and she told him that according to her father (who was tortured while imprisoned in Havana’s to obtain the information), the Cubans who were with Oswald in Dallas when they visited her home, were DGI agents. Epstein’s new book provides information about the destruction of Angleton’s archives (according to CIA agent Scotty Miller) and that Nosenko was indeed a KGB disinformation “plant” (according to Sergey Kondrashev, head of KGB clandestine operations; and also according to former CIA agent Tennant Peter Bagley). Mr. Epstein will also review this article and hopefully provide some new inputs.
Brian Latell, a former CIA officer for 30 years and now a Research Fellow at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, wrote Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, the CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy in 2012. In a newly published paperback edition this year, Brian, who is a friend, has added a long, 8,000 word introduction which includes some extraordinary recent research by him. Perhaps the most important new information provided in the paperback edition is the informal investigation conducted in Mexico after Kennedy’s death by U.S. ambassador Thomas Mann. Mann uncovered evidence that the Hotel del Comercio where Oswald stayed during his week in Mexico City was “headquarters for pro Castro activities” and that the DGI used the hotel for intelligence purposes. Mann also had some evidence that Oswald had received money at the Cuban embassy, perhaps from DGI agent Luisa Calderón. Mann wanted Calderón and the Cuban consul, Azcue, arrested by Mexican authorities for complicity in the plot. All this evidence was suppressed and Mann was ordered to stop any and all further investigations of Oswald’s activities in Mexico by new president Lyndon Johnson, a close friend, who was himself under pressure from FBI Director Hoover, Robert Kennedy and CIA Assistant Director Richard Helms. Latell also provides important evidence from former North Carolina Senator Robert B. Morgan, who was a member of the [Frank] Church Senate investigative subcommittee on assassinations in 1975. In a telephone interview in 2009, Morgan, who had been a prosecutor in North Carolina before he was elected Senator, and who was convinced of Castro’s involvement in the assassination, told Latell that he believed he would have convicted Castro of complicity in Kennedy’s death. “If I ever had tried it in court, it would have been as strong a circumstantial case as I’ve ever known”, Morgan ended. But Morgan’s views were not included in the final report of the Church Committee.
Two books by Gus Russo, Live by the Sword (1998) and Brothers in Arms (2008, with Stephen Molton) are extremely important. They offer a great deal of information on the assassination, especially on Oswald’s stay in Mexico prior to the attempt on the president’s life. The books also provide hard evidence of the DGI agents escape from Dallas—including photographic and documentary evidence—and of Escalante’s deep involvement in the execution of the plan. But Russo does not accept that DGI agents were directly involved in the shooting because he firmly believes that it was impossible (his words) for anyone else to shoot at Kennedy from the grassy knoll or any other spot in front of the caravan. He believes this because he believes the forensic evidence that only two bullets fired from behind struck Kennedy. Russo is nevertheless one of the few authors who is convinced that Castro was responsible for Kennedy’s death and his books argue that the Kennedys (including very prominently Robert) brought it upon themselves what happened in Dallas. Russo believes that because the Kennedys had been trying to kill Castro for years, Castro finally retaliated and struck before Robert’s final plan to kill him, by using Rolando Cubela as the assassin, could be implemented. Russo provides a devastating indictment on the DGI’s record of assassinations and of Fabian Escalona’s participation in many of those murders. As of 2005, according to Russo, 67 foreign nationals have been killed by the Castro regime; 25 have been assassinated, including 14 Americans on U.S. soil. In a final ironic twist on the final attempt against Castro’s life by Cubela, a CIA agent was meeting with Cubela in Paris, France, right at the time Oswald was killing Kennedy. Cubela had requested direct proof that Kennedy was behind the assassination plot on Castro. Desmond Fitzgerald of the CIA was dispatched to Paris on orders from Robert Kennedy to provide Cubela’s proof.
The Warren Commission Report, rushed to publication in late September, 1963, because Lyndon Johnson wanted the findings to be known before the 1964 presidential election, is basically useless. It was the culmination of the greatest cover-up in American history. But two other Congressional Reports, by the Senate in 1975 and by the House of representatives in 1978-79, have lots of useful information. The Senate Report includes much evidence from forensic and ballistic “experts” and tries to re-establish the ‘fact” that Oswald was the only assassin and there was no conspiracy. It is a mere re-affirmation of the aims of Operation Dragon. Besides, the Senate investigation was more concerned with revealing some of the CIA’s past misdeeds, which it did. But the House investigation was much more thorough. It is worth quoting some of its main conclusions. “B. Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy [my emphasis]. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations. C. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy”. It is to be noted that the Committee DID find evidence to conclude that there was more than one shooter and that there WAS a conspiracy to kill the president. This report struck a big blow to Operation Dragon, but unfortunately, it did not place the responsibility for the president’s death either on the KGB or on the Cuban DGI. Those who read it probably decided it was old news because it did say there was a conspiracy, but not who was involved in it.
The evidentiary evidence that still exists can be found in the Mitrokhin and Vassiliev archives. These contain copies of original KGB documents brought out of the USSR by two KGB defectors, Vasili Mitrokhin y Alexander Vassiliev. Mitrokhin hand-copied thousands of secret documents and smuggled them out during 10 years. In 1999, part of the archive was published in the book The Sword and the Shield, by Mitrokhin and British historian Christopher Andrew. A second book by the same authors was published in 2005, The World Was Going Our Way. It contains important documents about KGB dealings with espionage in Third World nations. Both have information about the Kennedy assassination. The Vassiliev archive consists of a number of notebooks and lots of unbound pages copied from original KGB documents in 1993 by Alexander Vassiliev, who was a KGB agent in 1987-90. Although the Soviet Union had disintegrated by then, its archives were still secret. The Vassiliev archives were published in three books, The Haunted Wood, by Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein (1999); In Denial, by John Earl Haynes (2003); and Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by Vassiliev, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr (2009).
Aside from the excellent history of the CIA by Joseph Trento, already mentioned, two other very critical histories are worth consulting, Safe for Democracy, by John Prados (2006) and Legacy of Ashes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, by Tim Weiner (2007). Two great books about Operation Venona, the secret intercept program by the U.S. Army during the Second World War, are essential to understand Soviet espionage, not only dealing with the Kennedy assassination but with Soviet penetration of American society. They were both published in 2000. One is Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. The other is The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors, by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel. A unique book published in 2007, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism, by James Piereson, describes in detail how a large segment of American society was preconditioned to accept Operation Dragon and blame the assassination on the CIA and “conservative” elements, rather than on the responsible party, Lee Harvey Oswald, a committed communist. The book also illustrates how the myth of “Camelot” was created almost singlehandedly by Jacqueline Kennedy and how the president became a “martyr” of civil rights instead of the most important victim of the Cold War. It has many fascinating details of Oswald and how he went from an unbalanced but convinced anti American and Kennedy hater, to a “nut”, a CIA “puppet” or an inconsequential “silly little communist”, in the words of Jacqueline Kennedy. Seymour M. Hersh’s book The Dark Side of Camelot (1997) is worth reading because it has most of the well-known conspiracy theories and numerous anecdotes about the reaction to the assassination by many notable Washington insiders.
Details on the U-2 matter involving Oswald passing secrets to KGB agents and the downing of the plane by a Soviet interceptor fighter plane can be found in the cited books Legend and Disinformation. Additional material on the U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers are Powers’s own memoirs, Operation Overflight (1970), in which Powers accuses Oswald of revealing U-2 secrets to Oswald; and two more recent articles, one by Khrushchev’s son Sergey in American Heritage magazine (September, 2000); the other by the pilot of the Soviet Sukhoi Su-9 which accidentally downed Powers’s U-2, Captain Igor Mentyukov. Mentyukov broke 36 years of silence when he revealed the truth in 1996. The Su-9 was ordered to ram the U-2, but Captain Mentyukov lost the U-2 in space and when his Su-9 passed too close to the U-2, the air current created by the Su-9 broke the U-2’s wing and it came down. Mentyukov said Soviet generals, “eager to satisfy Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev’s misguided faith in Moscow’s rocket defenses, covered up his extraordinary feat and insisted for three decades that the U-2 was hit by a guided missile”. The report can be found in the website DeseretNews.com, dated October 12, 1996. As part of the cover-up, the CIA gave the Warren Commission a memorandum stating that Oswald knew nothing about the U-2’s operations and provided no information about it to the KGB in 1958-59. This is false. Oswald must have known, at the very least, about the U-2’s altitude. He was present at the radar shack when pilots routinely asked about “winds aloft at 90,000”, a clear mention of the plane’s altitude.
Useful information about Khrushchev’s character and whether he, at one time at least, wanted to kill Kennedy in revenge for the Cuban Missile Crisis humiliation, is included in Disinformation. General Pacepa is the main source as to the Soviet leader’s intentions and change of mind. But Trento offers some information in his cited book and so does Russo in his two books. The best Khrushchev biography, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, by William Taubman, an admittedly sympathetic book, does not mention anything about Khrushchev’s possible ill will against Kennedy. However, three other books are much better to illustrate Khrushchev’s personality. Perhaps one of the best books on the Cold War, The Fifty Year Wound, by Derek Leebaert (2002), is excellent in its objective but highly critical treatment of the Soviet Premier. The very best book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it is not just about the Crisis, is Khrushchev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary, by Russian historian Aleksandr Fursenko and American historian Timothy Naftali (2006). The authors were the first researchers who had access to a secret archive controlled by the Office of the President of the Russian Federation (Yeltsin). All the minutes and shorthand notes of the deliberations inside the Kremlin during the Missile Crisis are there. Nothing illustrates better Khrushchev’s motivations and reactions during the Crisis than what the authors reveal in their great book. And the chapter about Khrushchev in The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire, by the renowned Russian historian General Dmitri Volkogonov (1998) is without compare. Volkogonov, as a Russian and as a three star general, has a unique perspective on Khrushchev, especially his relationship with KGB head Lavrenti Beria and his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Lyndon Johnson always suspected, but did not know, about the Kennedy brothers multiple plans to kill Fidel Castro since before the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was, however, quite sure, that Castro was involved in the president’s assassination. This is well known and can be found in multiple sources. Kennedy’s fine biography by Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life (2003) is one of them. Johnson shared his suspicions about Castro with many friends and advisors, such as his Chief of Staff Joseph Califano and the powerful Georgia Senator Richard Russell, who also agreed with Castro’s guilt. Upon learning of the attempt on Kennedy’s life (before Kennedy died), the following was his reaction: “What raced through my mind was, if they had shot our president, who would they shoot next? And what was going on in Washington? And when would the missiles be comin’? And I thought it was a conspiracy. And I raised that question. And nearly everybody that was with me raised it”. Johnson said that in a telephone call to his aide Bill Moyers, minutes after being told of the shooting. It is reported in Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes. But Johnson was not just convinced of Castro’s involvement in the assassination. He was also deathly afraid that Castro would come after him next. To that effect, he endeavored to send a number of messages to Cuba that he was stopping all further attempts against Castro’s life. He also dismantled all anti Castro activities, including Operation Mongoose, and stopped all CIA aid to anti Castro exiles within a few months. He died convinced that Castro was responsible for Kennedy’s death
Robert Kennedy was more convinced of Castro’s involvement than anyone else. He was, after all, in charge of Operation Mongoose since after the Bay of Pigs invasion. He told his brother, in a memorandum written April 20, that Castro must be eliminated. Otherwise, there would be nuclear missiles in Cuba within 18 months. Robert considered Castro’s Cuba by far the most pressing matter for the administration, and Castro the most dangerous man in the world. He was so convinced of Castro’s intervention on his brother’s death, that he was the first to propose to Johnson an independent investigation. Johnson at first rejected that idea, but soon came around. Robert convinced him that an independent investigation could immediately stop the dangerous rumors that either the Soviet Union or Cuba was involved (as they were) in the assassination. If not stopped, indeed, if confirmed, those rumors could bring a new nuclear confrontation with the USSR and calls for an immediate invasion of Cuba. CIA Assistant Director Richard Helms later testified before the Senate [in 1975] that “the implications [of Cuban or Soviet involvement] would have been cataclysmic”. According to Russo, Robert had an additional motive to deny any involvement by Castro in his brother’s death: the protection of his legacy. If Castro’s involvement was proven, all the attempts to kill him by the Kennedy administration since 1961 would be known. That would stain his brother’s reputation and his legacy forever, so Castro’s role in the assassination had to be suppressed, covered up. And so it was, but Robert could hardly hide his grief and regret for his responsibility in the plots to kill Castro. He was heard to exclaim, “I have killed my brother” when an especially compromising report came in from Ambassador Mann in Mexico. And he was dramatically changed, realizing the tremendous consequences of the administration’s “assassination politics” and accepting that it was wrong and it brought fatal results to him and his brother. All the books already cited, but especially Epstein’s Legacy and the Russo books, have quotes from many administration advisers who were convinced that Cuba was involved. But national security considerations prevailed and the great cover-up was implemented. It is still on.
There are three upcoming events that may shed some new light on the assassination. The first is a conference at the University of Miami in late November. Brian Latell, Miami Herald writer Glenn Garvin and others will participate. I expect to be able to express my views and my alternate version at the conference. Perhaps, at least, a new discussion of the Kennedy assassination will ensue. The second is a documentary to be shown by NBC on November 22, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Perhaps something different, if not new, will come out, especially from Carlos Bringuier, who was interviewed for the program. Finally, there is a new book written by Carlos Bringuier that will be published in December of this year. I have been in touch with Bringuier lately and in response to a number of my questions, he sent me the following comments: “Oswald killed Kennedy following Castro’s instructions. Fabián Escalante waited for Oswald to take him to Cuba at an airport in Dallas. Upon learning that Oswald was arrested, he left for Cuba via Mexico. Oswald thought he would be received in Cuba as a hero, but I believe he might have been dumped in the Gulf of Mexico on the way to Cuba. Other members of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee from Tampa were involved. Rolando Cubela was a double agent. Santos Trafficante, when he was released from jail in Havana in 1959 by Cubela, became a Castro agent and used his friend Jack Ruby to silence Oswald. The CIA was infiltrated to its highest levels by pro communist Castro sympathizers. Fidel Castro ordered Kennedy’s assassination since 1960 and infiltrated many assassins to liquidate him, as detailed in CIA memos to the Secret Service and the FBI that were never delivered to the Warren Commission and never saw the public light until 1998”. The title of Bringuier’s book is revealing: Crime Without Punishment: How Fidel Castro Assassinated President Kennedy And Got Away With It.
When I first wrote this article in Spanish a month ago, one of my purposes was to stimulate a new discussion on a matter shamefully covered up for half a century by the U.S. government. My other purpose was to try to cleanse the reputation of Cuban exiles, unjustly saddled with at least some of the responsibility for Kennedy’s murder. But I must admit I was never particularly interested in the subject and have never read any of the multiple “conspiracy books” on the assassination. Until I read General Pacepa’s and Joseph Trento’s books a few months ago, I generally believed there was a conspiracy to kill the president and it was made up of the CIA, the Mafia, some Cuban exiles and some Texas oilmen. As a professional historian, I have spent 45 years researching the two seminal events of President Kennedy’s short-lived administration: the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of October-December 1962. That research has helped enormously in my new understanding of what happened and why. I know a great deal about Kennedy, Castro and Khrushchev. Because of all that, I now know that I have been wrong to accept the monstrous cover-up designed by Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, J. Edgard Hoover and Helms and Dulles at the CIA. I now know about Operation Dragon and its success. Any historical work should always strive to seek the truth. I hope I can do something to correct the historical record and to help some others to change their minds and to see different, alternate aspects of the assassination. The final truth may never be known, but the truth is definitely NOT what we have been led to believe for half a century. The truth is that Fidel Castro had President John F. Kennedy killed.