Crimson Contagion

Crimson Contagion

Effective national defense rests to a great extent on threat analysis and planning. That effort involves not only contingency planning, but an ongoing commitment to constant threat response exercises and “war gaming” against the threats.  In the better exercises a good deal of effort is given to simulations and testing of command and control during the crisis. Game theory and other exercise tools expose weaknesses and highlight the changes required to realistically deal with the threats. The tools and practices for this are well understood and readily available. Such exercises have been standard practices for decades.

The American problem is that the process repeatedly experiences a systemic failure. It fails not because the threats are not identified, not because the exercises are not conducted, not because the necessary responses are unclear or not documented and communicated. It fails because the last step in process – execution – is not taken. Just how often, and just how badly it fails, is something I explore in Surprise Attack.

Again and again our response to threats and crises has failed due to a failure to prioritize and execute the identified measures before the threat becomes reality. And once again, with the current pandemic, we are suffering from that same failure.

Perhaps the saddest part is that we have significantly expanded the scope and sophistication of our threat response exercises, and we have sound routines and practices in place to communicate the measures the exercise dictate. Those improvements began during the 1990s when terror attacks were elevated to the level of national threat exercises – following the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, the abortive Twin Towers bombing, the Bojinka airliner terror bombing plot and the aborted Millennium terror attacks on the United States. As of 1999/2000 an expanded variety of threat exercises had become routine.  

Of course one of the fundamental challenges is prioritizing new and evolving threats over those that become “embedded” in the worldviews of national leaders. In democratic nations senior leadership tends to focus on the “threats” that were part of their own political campaigns. Staying behind the curve on prioritizing national threats can be extremely dangerous.

We have a contemporary example of that in the current pandemic:

Unfortunately this is not a new problem, the same types of executive priority failures have occurred on multiple occasions, errors in both 1941 and 2001 illustrate how presidential priorities and related resource allocations can have disastrous consequences.

One of the most dramatic illustrations of the overall systemic problem – which in reality is a matter of simply “closing the loop” – can be found in the recent history of American threat exercises.  

As early as the Atlanta Olympics of 1996, planning exposed the serious threat of aircraft being used as weapons against civilian targets. One of the problems which immediately emerged was that with the end of the Cold War very few air defense aircraft were available should such a threat become real. Even more concerning, air defense radar networks had been closed down, and it was pointed out that if a large commercial aircraft simply turned off its transponder it would literally become invisible to the FAA air control network.

In the following years the North American Defense Command began to exercise against the threat of commercial hijacked airliners, even with scenarios that involved crashing the aircraft into major metropolitan buildings. Yet in all the exercises ready response interceptors were assumed to be close to the scene and the hijacked airliners continued to broadcast their locations with their transponders left on. This failure to integrate known weaknesses, to close the reality loop, became terribly evident within the first minutes of the attacks on America in 9/11.

As a whole, American threat exercising became broader and far more realistic following the events of 2001. Those exercises addressed another fundamental problem which had become clear on 9/11 – if senior officials are not part of the exercises, the lessons learned do not get implemented in policy or in budgets. With that lesson in mind a new series of senior level exercises were created, designated as TOPOFF (Top Officials).

In 2009 the TOPOFF defense exercises were integrated with a series of FEMA exercises and designated as Tier 1 National Level Exercises. Every effort was made to involve the highest level officials; in 2009 President Obama led one such exercise from the White House Situation Room. In 2011 he was involved with an expanded exercise, one which went beyond simply response to restoration – simulating a massive earthquake on the New Madrid Fault Line along with a huge foreign cyber-attack. Such exercises are critical because they assume that the first response fails and all the measures in place “break”, the challenge is to cover from a totally broken system.

Which is what we face in 2020, with a pandemic which literally overwhelmed and broke the system. But a pandemic which (contrary to what you may hear from the White House) was  forecast by professional threat analysts, was identified early by the intelligence community, and which had actually been exercised as a threat – producing detailed recommendations on the necessary measures to deal with it.

The exercise was named Crimson Contagion. Its predictions were accurate and shocking. And once again the loop was not closed operationally – in terms of priorities, funding and national security directives. At least that’s my take on it.

If you take the time to read the articles at these two links I’d like to hear yours:

Without resorting to another post, anyone interested in this subject should read the following article. I may expand on it later but the failure to respond to an identified pandemic threat – a failure at the level of the national security council, with the national security advisor, and with presidential priorities is terribly similar to the failure in the months before the 9/11 attacks on America.

Without resorting to another post I suggest anyone interested in this subject should read the following article. I may expand on it later but the failure to respond to an identified pandemic threat – a failure at the level of the national security council, with the national security advisor, and with presidential priorities is terribly similar to the failure in the months before the 9/11 attacks on America.

Crisis Response

Anyone looking at the cover of Surprise Attack would likely feel that it is all about military action – and to a large extent that is true. The idea behind the book was to explore an extended series of crises in an exploration of how American national command authority prepares and responds to real time emergencies. 

The first instance of a truly national crisis response is seen in the influenza epidemic of 1918. The management of that crisis was largely made possible due to the fact that it occurred near the end of World War I, with the American public already conditioned to national needs, having accepted both rationing and a military draft. The major advances in sanitation and medical treatment during the war had also created a public appreciation and acceptance of scientific medical practices – professional advice on prevention, diagnostics and treatment was a major factor in controlling the pandemic to the extent that was possible.

Of course national command authority itself has dramatically evolved in the following decades, most dramatically after the attacks at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines (the latter of which deserves a great more attention than it normally gets in these matters) of World War II, the first major emergency in which technology and particularly improved communications allowed quickly organizing the nation’s total resources to respond to a crisis.

Centralized command and response dramatically changed following the war, with the threat of nuclear attack. Atomic warfare demanded a totally new speed in response, either the threat was detected within half an hour and effectively met within 15 minutes of decision time or a preemptive attack could end a war before the public was even aware it had begun.

A complex and highly integrated system was developed to do just that, unfortunately such systems tend to be “tuned” for one very specific type of crisis and one specific type of threat. Which explains why in November, 2001 the system proved ineffectual against a totally different type of threat. That same lesson was learned once again in 2005, when the disaster of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the nation remained vulnerable to other types of crises.

Still, lessons can be learned, and one of the major lessons of Katrina was that effective environmental response requires the same type of preparation, training and practice as do military threats (which with the resurgence of biochemical terrorism become not unlike major epidemics).

 It all becomes a matter of readiness – and readiness requires practice, communications and to a large extent “continuity”.  In Surprise Attack Chapter 20 details those elements and illustrates one of the real risks, the loss of continuity and the failure of national level officials to participate in exercises. As with military response, if the president and the nation’s most senior officers to not involve themselves in such exercises, if they do not go through the tension and education learned during realistic simulations – they fail to perform in real crises.  That should be no surprise, emergency responders know that, so do the personnel of any operational military unit.

During most of the decade of 2000 and into the following decade, this lesson stayed fresh and the exercises were frequent, with national command level participation.  At this point in time it is somewhat unclear whether that has tapered off in recent years; I suspect it has.  One way to check is to explore the agencies which conduct such exercises and see what’s going on.  I recommend that for everyone’s own education and these are some links that may help:

Putin’s Cold War

As much as it troubles me I continue to be amazed at the effectiveness of Putin’s political warfare strategies – and appalled by the fact that the current Administration is in a state of denial in regard to one track and apparently blind to the second.  Of course (tongue in cheek) I’ve done my part. My book Creating Chaos received a reasonably good university library penetration and even made it into both the State Department and White House (gasp) libraries.  

I think Creating Chaos makes it clear that the major threat of Putin’s political warfare is fragmentation and destabilization.  While some level of actual election meddling is necessary as part of that effort, you don’t need to steal elections via total vote tampering, you simply need to establish the fear and the discord that associated with the possibility. You simply need a demonstration of the ways you can interfere. The current fragmentation efforts being launched against the Democratic party show how easily such a demonstration that can be carried out

Beyond that, what Putin’s campaign is accomplishing is something only dreamed of during the earlier Cold War – that of neutering the opponents entire intelligence community.  Over decades both the CIA and the KGB jumped through hoops planting poison pills and creating paranoia (James Angleton’s within the CIA being a prime example) that would undermine the opponents intelligence collections infrastructure. 

However Putin has accomplished something far different, he has created a context in which both President Trump and the Senate are not only pushing back against American intelligence on Russian actions (evaluations in which all elements of the community concur, something not at all common), but actively de-funding and obstructing efforts to cope with Russian political action – all out of fear for their own personal political concerns. It is all truly amazing and immensely dangerous. What the neocons managed to do to the intelligence community under the Bush Administrations pales by comparison.

All that is bad enough, but there is a second track in Putin’s strategy that is getting no attention at all.   It’s something I speculated about in an early book – Shadow Warfare – wondering if something so obvious and so “retro” could possibly work. As it turns out the answer is “yes” and Putin is playing that track far better than the U.S. did when it drove the Soviet Union bankrupt.  Basically the strategy is to spend so much on advanced weapons systems that the opponent extends themselves financially – with the Soviet Union it led to system collapse. Of course it was tremendously expensive for America in the earlier Cold War.

Putin saw that as a KGB officer and he understands the drill.  Worse, he knows how to do it more efficiently.  The thing to do is to a) focus your propaganda on the most expensive and terrifying part of your military – nuclear weapons, b) announce sensational new weapons and spend some to develop them but not the huge amounts to bring them operational and c) project your threat into new venues with as little expense as possible.

At present Putin and his military are four years into touting nuclear exchanges as a standard tactical option, they have announced and are working on doomsday weapons which make no sense at all, and they have one of their anti-satellite weapons maneuvering in the vicinity of one of our largest and most capable intelligence collection satellites – clearly we need a brand new service with all its administrative overheads, go Space Command. Note: Russia operates all its air, missile and space activities under one unified command.

The result is that we are starting on a massive and horrendously upgrade of our entire strategic nuclear capability (why we still need 4,000 megaton class weapons is another question, only answered by the response that Russians have that many…sigh).  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the first 10 years of the modernization plan will cost nearly $500 billion – over a 30-year span the total would hit $1.2 trillion, including the cost of sustaining the current and future force. Add that to the now trillion dollar budget deficit and you have some real numbers.

The program includes a new missile to replace the current Minuteman 3 ICBM, a new-generation Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine fleet, and a new long-range bomber (the B-21 Raider) to replace the B-2 stealth bomber while retaining the older B-52 bomber as a bulk weapons carrier. The B-52, which entered service in the 1960s, is getting new engines and other major upgrades. In his 2021 defense budget proposal to Congress, Trump requested $2.8 billion for the Raider bomber and $1.5 billion for the new-generation ICBM.

In all, the administration’s proposed nuclear weapons budget for 2021 would approach $46 billion, divided between the Defense Department, which is responsible for operating the weapons, and the Energy Department, which maintains the warhead stockpile. You will find more information on all this at the links below:

Bottom line, Putin wages a two track political warfare program, fragmenting and destabilizing the American public while multiplying the trauma with intense economic pain.

The Cold Warriors of the 20th Century would be in awe.

JMWAVE Independent Action

I’ve written recently about the extremely unusual July 1963 TILT mission conducted by JMWAVE in support of William Pawley’s effort (organized in conjunction with Senator Eastland’s Senate subcommittee) to obtain information out of Cuba which would have proved a huge embarrassment to the Kennedy administration , very likely undermining the president’s path to reelection. As it turns out, the summer of that same year saw other independent actions by the senior officers at the CIA’s Miami Station.

Based on remarks by William Shackley in interviews with journalist Don Bohning, it appears that Shackley and the Miami station’s chief operations officer got together (around Shackley’s pool) to come up with a plan for renewing covert missions against Cuba and Castro. Normally such plans would have come out of CIA headquarters or at least Desmond Fitzterald’s new Special Affairs Staff – tasked with reinvigorating the anti-Castro effort. Ideally they would actually have originated within the new Cuba Coordinating Committee, a much higher level interdepartmental group which included Robert Kennedy.

At the point in time the committee had just been informed that the Army was conducting its own planning for programs of covert action conducted under Commander in Chief Atlantic (which would have been in line with JFK’s intention to switch major covert action from the CIA to the military, as was already happening in Vietnam).  As it was, JMWAVE appears to have stolen the initiative from both the military and the Cuba Coordinating Committee.

The new JMWAVE effort began with Morales handpicking a very select group of the station’s Cuban paramilitary assets to go into special training for extremely compartmentalized missions – the personnel likely included familiar names from David Boylan and my Wheaton name research, we do know that Tony Izquirerdo was the highly select group. Special high performance boats were obtained, including two “ghost” mother ships which would operate out of Florida ports.

In what would appear to be a direct contradiction to Kennedy administration goal of physically moving mission’s against Cuba offshore, the two ships, Rex and Leda, were based out of Port Everglades and West Palm Beach, flagged as Nicaraguan and captained / crewed by Cuban volunteers. The ships carried radar, electronics and a variety of weapons – stored in port and only mounted at sea. The also carried special high speed boats to be used in the actual sabotage missions. The Rex and Leda were also used to support routine infiltration and caching missions, which continued to average some dozen a month.[i]

Going beyond the missions themselves, Morales utilized his own social network, including contacts in Guatemala, to create a cover for the new sabotage missions – which were conducted by a group designated as Commandoes Mambises. The group was entirely a creation of Morales, using Rafael Martinez Pupo, a wealthy Cuban businessman living in Guatemala, as the public relations front for a group which nobody had ever heard of previously. Pupo became the spokesman for the group, going to the media with reports of their attacks on a metal processing plant and an air raid on a refinery.  Special Group documents do reflect that the covert oversight group was briefed two early raids by Commando Mambisis but it appears a third may also have been conducted using both sea and air assets – the source of the aircraft used is totally undocumented.[ii]

Pupo continued to carry on a media campaign for Commando Mambises, speaking of secret bases in the Caribbean and cells inside Cuba. The September 23 report on two raids to the Special Group was well received, although some security issues were mentioned.

Of course the raids gained a great deal of discussion within the Cuban community, especially given that none of its many leaders or groups had any idea of a group led by Pupo, of anyone who might be fighting with it or of any new bases. Following Special Group security reviews, new missions were authorized for October and November, the first which actually matched a list of raids actually approved by President Kennedy did not occur until October.

The JMWAVE Commando Mambisis missions, operating from Florida, continued through 1963 and on into 1964, even after being exposed to the media in a trap by Castro forces during a mission on October 21. During that mission, infiltration personnel previously inserted into Cuba were identified and monitored by Cuban forces, which then attacked during a pick up effort by the Rex. Two paramilitary personnel were killed, one wounded and four captured. The Rex managed to flee but was tracked back to Florida and as part of the Cuban response, its aircraft mistakenly strafed a U.S. flag bauxite freighter transiting the same coastal waters.

Within days Castro had called out the U.S. involvement, identified the CIA ships and even broadcast the locations of the Florida ports from which they operated.[iii] Reporters flocked to those locations and broadcast extended interviews about the comings and goings of the “ghost ships”.[iv] In something of a fruitless effort, JMWAVE then “sold” the ships through cut outs, repainted and relocated them, while continuing with their missions and giving Castro the opportunity to call out the United States on their follow-on missions which continued under President Johnson.   

In just one more illustration of disconnects within the overall anti-Castro efforts, the Commando Mambisis missions were conducted at the same time that millions of dollars were being poured into the entirely separate and extremely deniable Artime/AMWORLD project, being established at bases around the Caribbean, an effort which did not launch its own boat missions until late spring 1963. While both were ultimately exposed, JMWAVE’s initiative was far more successful in actual raids and damage to Cuban assets.

[i] Cable, JMWAVE to Director, “Infiltrees”,

[ii] Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession, 161-163

[iii] Ibid, 164

[iv] “Castro Says USA used Raider Ship”,  AP Wire Service, October 31, 1963

Wrestling with Mexico City

The official story and timeline for Lee Oswald in Mexico has been found to be rife with anomalies and apparently suppressed information. Even at the time of the HSCA there were enough open questions to assign staff (Lopez and Hardaway) to investigate it. There findings cast even further doubt on the matter. HSCA staff confirmed a number of issues and exposed some significant problems with the CIA’s handling of information about Oswald as well as its suppression of what clearly was an impersonation of Oswald in at least one telephone call.

They also picked up enough information to suggest that Oswald might very well have been in company with suspicious individuals during his visit, even one person who seems to be a perfect match to the individual visiting the Cuban Embassy – which Oswald most definitely was not.

The HSCA Mexico City (the Lopez report) inquiry was withheld for a considerable time but that work is available now and is definitely worth a read:

There are a good number of reasons to believe that issues with Oswald trip to Mexico, his possible meetings with unknown individuals and his impersonation were a critical factor in triggering the suppression of leads suggesting a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination. That is reflected in suppressed and altered telephone calls between LBJ and FBI Director Hoover as well as the missing notes from a very high level national security meeting on Sunday morning following the assassination…reflected only in a meeting entry describing the subject as relating to Mexico City and the Kennedy assassination.

At this point in time while I remain convinced that Lee Oswald did go to Mexico in the fall of 1963, I’m not satisfied with any part of the official story of his visit there. What I am sure of is that something which occurred there was seminal to the suppression of a full investigation into the assassination and appears to have been more related to a potential confrontation with Russia than Cuba. I’m also not satisfied that JFK research has fully appreciated that there were different agendas in play not only between American intelligence groups but also between the Soviets and Cubans.  At that point in time Fidel Castro remained quite upset with the Soviets over their action in the missile crisis, he was conducting a communist purge within Cuba and was certainly not in lockstep with the Soviets.

Beyond that, Russia and Cuba had competing interests in both Mexico City and Central America.  As I noted in Creating Chaos, Russian political action in Mexico included actually establishing revolutionary groups and taking over the Mexican government. In contrast Cuba was primarily interested in maintaining positive relations with Mexico, both economically and as a point of access to Central and South America.

In light of that, I’ve been fascinated by some new information developed by my friend Carmine Savastano, information which might suggest a Soviet KGB officer was actually involved in the spy games going on around Lee Oswald, possibly even impersonating him. While this is strictly speculative at this point in time, if would explain a number of the anomalies that bother me.  And it would support the assertion by James Hosty that his FBI friends in Mexico City told him that they most definitely did have Oswald under observation there, and had seen him meeting with an individual presumed to be a Soviet agent.  As it turns out Carmine and I hooked up with Chuck Ochelli for a two hour discussion of Mexico City – and the possibility that there was an active Russian connection there, the sort of connection that would certainly explain Johnson’s constant focus on a military confrontation with the Soviet Union rather than with Cuba. If you are interested you can listen to our conversation at:

TILT CIA Independent Action

I’ve written about the TILT action several times so a search should give background on it. And thanks to work by my friend David Boylan, even more details are surfacing, not just on the mission but in regard to the CIA officers who approved it.

What becomes more and more interesting with additional documents is the extent to which the operation was an independent action of the CIA, specifically of its Miami Station.  An action which violated a good number of standard security protocols, utilized Cuban exile personnel unknown to the station – unvetted as per standard practice – and exposed both mission craft and CIA personnel to commercial photography (a LIFE photojournalist) which was neither reviewed nor controlled in any fashion.

The mission itself had originated as a Cuban exile proposal, channeled through various Miami figures (including John Martino) and politicians to the point where it reached a prominent former ambassador and presidential security advisor (William Pawley) as well as a very anti-Kennedy Senator, Julian Sourwine of the Senate Internal Security Committee.

The operation, including Pawley, Martino, four CIA officers, Eduardo Perez (Bayo) and a number of non-operational Cuban exiles involved one of only two CIA “ghost” ships (providing radar overwatch), additonal boats and an aircraft. The mission went well into Cuban territorial waters in order to send in a boat load of heavily armed anti-Castro fighters into Cuba – purportedly to bring out Russian missile technicians with evidence missiles still hidden in Cuba. For those not familiar with TILT, full details of the mission may be found here:

It occurred at a time when all missions into Cuba were to be approved by the covert action committee – Special Group Augmented – and by the president himself. In spite of that it was apparently conducted without informing either, and arrangements were made to provide information from the mission to a Congressional committee and to LIFE magazine – in what would have been a tremendous political blow to the Kennedy administration.

The team sent ashore never communicated nor attempted to recover per the plan. Afterwards both the CIA field officer in charge (Robertson) and the JMWAVE senior operations officer (Morales) prepared memos asserting that they and the CIA itself had been duped by the Cubans.  Interestingly those memos contain detailed information that should have made it rather obvious that something was wrong from the very beginning (primarily a complete lack of interest in plans to recover the group along with the Russian officers).

Equally interesting is a follow up memo from the Miami Chief of Station (Shackley) which suggests the CIA had little to no information on the Cubans being sent on the mission with Pawley and that it had been taken in a “con game” by Bayo and Martino.

Beyond that Shackley himself touts the benefits of the mission regardless of how badly he and more senior CIA officers had been taken – to the point of how much it impressed William Pawley (QDDALE), senior managers at LIFE magazine (perhaps including Henry Luce) as to the difficulties faced by CIA in carrying out Cuban missions – hence minimizing future bad press about the CIA. Shackley was also quite pleased that Senator Sourwine would be impressed by the CIA’s wiliness to take independent action and conduct high risk missions.

While Shackley himself is sometimes touted as being conservative, the TILT mission illustrates his obvious willingness to operate outside the box, for both media and political gain.  Years later he would show the same lack of restraint in Los and Vietnam, authorizing extremely high risk actions with no regard at all for the personnel involved.

Perhaps most importantly, the mission, and Shackley’s rather causal response to all parties being conned, obscures the fact that officers within the Agency were actively violating presidential and special group directives, not to mention acting well outside standard oversight. Shackley’s lack of concern for higher level oversight as well as the fact that there were no repercussions for such independent action could hardly have escaped either Morales or Robertson.

JFK at Risk

As I begin working on the promised monograph about the JFK conspiracy I once again find that virtually all the names in play relating to the attack in Dallas that I find most viable can be traced to Cuban affairs.  Not just Cuba in 1963, but all the way back to 1959 where names like Ruby, McWillie, Ferrie, Sturgis and McKewon first appear in conjunction with the overthrow of Batista and the rise to power of Fidel Castro. Of course those names that would be relatively unknown until after the attack in Dallas year’s later.

Then in 1960, a series of other names appear – names of CIA officers, contract employees and Cuban exile volunteers. Some familiar names from assassination research and other names new to virtually everyone. The following year, in 1961, as a result of the failed Cuba project and the disaster at the Bay of Pigs other names emerge – Bissell, Barnes, Esterline, Morales, Robertson, Harvey and even Angleton.  The degree of hatred for JFK which resulted from that project, and the manner in which he hatred was intentionally orchestrated (not only with the media but to a very focused group of individuals) from Bissell down via Easterline through Robertson and Jenkins to a select group of highly skilled and trained Cuban exiles can only now be fully appreciated.  David Boylan and I have explored that subject in our Wheaton Names research and that research became a critical part of several chapters in my new book – In Denial.

And in 1963 a handful of those individuals can be shown to have become privy to JFK’s decision to conduct back channel contacts and a potential settlement with Fidel Castro, pursuing what could be gained for the United States in moving Castro’s Cuba into a position of international neutrality. That initiative was highly secret and highly dangerous, RFK himself warned his brother it could lead to his impeachment. Yet it was compromised and communicated not only at the highest levels of the CIA but downwards to the CIA station in Miami and on to a series of Cuban exiles and fellow travelers – reaching as far as John Martino. There is little doubt that knowledge placed JFK at risk, and no doubt at all that he and his brother realized it – resulting in RFK’s immediate suspicion of CIA officer and Cuban exile involvement on the afternoon of the attack in Dallas.

However, at the highest level, while Cuba may have proved to be the trigger, it’s critical to remember that people at the highest levels of the Special Group, as well as in the CIA, were coming to understand – and fear – that Kennedy was far more dangerous to the established Cold War paradigms than simply in regard to Castro and Cuba. By 1963 JFK was in the process of breaking from the Truman/Eisenhower Cold War practices around the globe. Those practices had been based in the view that that nations had to choose sides; they were either with the Western Bloc or the Eastern Bloc.

That world view was even codified in the SIOP nuclear war plan that if the nation went to war, atomic strikes would be launched against not just Russia but against every nation considered part of the Eastern Bloc, including China. Kennedy came face to face with that reality during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, only then realizing how limited his strategic options were.

Kennedy was the first American president with the background to appreciate that the forces of nationalism and anti-colonialism were as much of a factor in the contemporary geopolitics as the ideology of communism.  And he demonstrated that he was willing to at least attempt to advance American interest though neutrality; successfully in India and Indonesia but under extreme challenge in Laos. And his approach to both Laos and Vietnam was demonstrating that Kennedy was turning from away conventional military solutions to covert action. With “switchback” and a new NSAM he had already done so in Viet Nam and making preparations to shift covert action against Cuba to the Department of Defense.

Beyond that, in both Cuba and Vietnam, JFK was at least exploring the options for diplomatic outreach that might have led to compromise and some form of neutrality for both Cuba and North Vietnam, leaving regimes in place but ousting the growing Russian influence over each nation. Politically Kennedy had to find a solution for Cuba and for Vietnam; he had rejected a conventional military approach – coming to realize that even his Joint Chiefs could not come up with plans that met the basic sanity test for overt action. He was going to have to come up with a new approach – based on negotiation and neutrality. Both concepts which were nothing less than anathema to hard line CIA cold warriors who had been covertly fighting communism since 1947.

New Book

Deniable warfare is returning, there is simply no doubt about it.  And today’s versions appear to be (at least initially) far more successful than those of the Cold War era. That include Putin’s immense tactical success in the Ukraine and Crimea, with indications that he is going to be able to fully claim victory for both in the near future – that story is going largely unmentioned in the media, overwhelmed by political news of events in the United States and Europe.

I’ll be posting about it shortly, but along with other recent events, such as the totally successful and deniable air and missile strike against Saudi Arabia this fall, it illustrates that new tactics and practices of deniablity are definitely in play – with Africa once again emerging as a venue for deniable military action.

It’s been several years since I started my own re-investigation of American’s deniable warfare practices, most particular as pertained to its largest and most obvious failure – Cuba. Its been a highly educational experience, and once again I found that it was far more complex than the history books and anniversary media retrospectives have presented. To my surprise I found there were actually two failures of the project, one after some six months under Eisenhower, another another some seven months later at the Bay of Pigs.

I also found that the projects explicitly ordered by both presidents were not at all what the CIA actually delivered – which led me into a longer study of deniable action in general, seeking to discover whether the Cuba experience was an aberration. It also led me to compare the Kennedy administration’s deniable warfare projects with those of other American presidents as well as today’s actions.

The results of that study, as well as what is a new view of the Cuba Project of 1960/61, appears in my new book – In Denial / Secret Wars with Tanks and Air Strikes?   Among other things I think it is virtually unique in its level of detail presented in a military analysis of the Cuba Project and the failure at the Bay of Pigs.  If anything the true picture of that failure is actually worse than what its been pictured to be over the decades.

In Denial will be available in both Kindle and Print in April, 2020.  Its available on Amazon now for Kindle pre-order now and you can find it at:


JFK Assassination Research

Although it doesn’t seem that long ago, I began my own research into the assassination almost thirty years ago, in the early 1990’s – when research consisted of going to NARA for documents, or blindly ordering them and paying for 4 copies of the same FBI report.  At that time collaboration consisted of personal travel or CompuServe forum exchanges – at 1200 and then 2400 bits per second speed (OK, so now it does sound like long ago).

Over the years I did manage to connect personally with a number of the first generation researchers, including Anna Marie Kuhns Walko, Connie Kritzberg, Mary Ferrell, Jim Marrs, Gary Shaw, Jerry Rose, Gary Murr and others both from the Dallas area and well beyond. And I have spoken with a number of people who were in the Plaza on November, 22, 1963 or who participated in the local investigations (official and otherwise).

There have definitely been “generations” involved in this work, at present we are well into the fourth generation of researchers – and have access to a body of information which would have amazed those of the first generation. In fact in reviewing may of the written works even into the early 1990’s, I find much in them that requires revision or is simply incorrect based on the historical finds and document releases of the last two decades.  Much of what was mysterious then simply is not now; in its place we have new issues of evidence, new mysteries and new names.

I’ve tried to cover much of that in this blog, however I recently had an opportunity to chat for some two hours on the history of JFK research and the current state of the case with my friends Carmine and Chuck and you will find that conversation at the link below. I was very pleased with it and think it provides a good overview of this area of research as well as the current state of the case.

If you do listen and have questions, be sure to post them here and I’ll do my best to respond:

JFK Assassination Research History


Ukraine and Security

To say that the geopolitical situation surrounding Ukraine is complex would be a gross understatement; it took me more than a year of constant reading and research to build the background to write about it in Creating Chaos.  And much of that background had to come from Ukrainian and Russian journalists and historians, people on the ground for years who had worked at great risk to gain a true understanding of the situation.

At its core is a story of Russia and Ukraine which is reminiscent of  America’s sovereignty efforts in both Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960’s….it has far more to do with projection of power and spheres of influence than the interests of the citizens of the nations involved.   But that’s a long story, I think I did it justice in Creating Chaos and would be happy to discuss my analysis with anyone reading that work.

My publisher was convinced enough of the significance of the work to actually send copies to all the members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. I wish they had read the book, or had their staff do so – it would have served them well in the committee testimony they are taking this week.

Which leads me to something not being discussed nearly enough in that discourse – although the media have picked up on a bit of the story they don’t have sufficient history to expand it to showcase the incredible level of American naivety and security compromise that existed in our last couple of years in the Ukraine.

We have known for some time that the internal training for this administration’s staff has been far below the standards for recent administrations – ranging from ethics sessions to security briefings.

I’ve commented in earlier on the fact that the president and his senior staff have not been participating in the types of emergency response planning – including military command and control practices – which have always been important but which were enhanced and taken seriously by all administrations following 9/11.

We have also known that at the very highest level, the president has compromised all standard communications protocols with the use of private cell phones, so have his family and apparently some of his senior appointees.

And now we know from the investigation of evens in the Ukraine, that both the president and his senior staff appear to be totally clueless in regard to security – not just in the United States but in a venue that in contemporary times has become a hub for intelligence wars, much as Berlin was after World War II or Mexico City became during the early 1960’s.

The fact that those in charge of our national security could be so ill informed and negligent in their diplomatic dealings in Ukraine is truly amazing – especially since Russia has successfully used phone intercepts from the Ukraine in political warfare against American diplomatic personnel there before – with one well known public example from 1964.

If you have Creating Chaos, you will find this on pages 288-290 where I discuss the fact that Russia helped install the very sophisticated phone monitoring network now existing in both Ukraine and Russia – the SORM system developed and fielded by the Russian FSB.

In 2014 the American Ambassador and another American diplomat conducted a non-encrypted call and the call was intercepted and recorded…actually ending up on a Russian internet propaganda channel – used in the new style political warfare in Ukrainian elections.

Given the practice of targeting communications of both American diplomats and business people, it is would be safe to assume that all unsecured calls are scooped up and monitored by both Ukrainian and Russian security services.  Diplomatic communications in Ukraine are equally, and likely more, compromised than they were in Mexico City circa 1963.

Of course we knew that then, and our intelligence community knows about Ukraine now. But once again it’s clear that few in the Trump administration are listening to them or showing any respect for their warnings.