Well folks, here it comes again, for the 50th anniversary it seems.
Any of you who have read SWHT are familiar with its extended coverage of the various efforts to point suspicion for the President’s assassination in the direction of Cuba. It started as early as the evening of November 22 and continued in multiple efforts over several weeks. Virtually all of those efforts can be traced back to the Cuban exile community or to assets and contacts of the CIA. Not all of those efforts were appreciated at CIA headquarters or within the White House and in the end push back from higher levels overwhelmed the stories coming of out Miami, New Orleans and especially Mexico City.
Over the years, anecdotes and rumors concerning a Castro did it scenario and been revived, refreshed and reissued…perhaps most effectively from author Gus Russo. But Gus is now getting heavy competition, in a new book coming out from a former CIA officer. I’m not going to cover that ground again as many of you have already read it, if you have not check Jeff Morley’s concise overview in his column on Salon:
For myself, I’m going to limit myself to just a couple of observations, independent of Jeff’s
First we have the fundamental sanity test, in this new scenario, Castro (or at least unnamed senior Cuban intelligence officers) learn of a threat to JFK. The treat surfaces with Lee Oswald while in the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. The Cubans Oswald’s emotional outburst against JFK seriously and either encourage him and maintain contact with him – or at least keep track of him in case his passion leads to something serious. Perhaps Castro is told, maybe not (if he knows he shows no sign of it since at the time he was very aggressively moving forward in back channel contacts with JFK).
If he doesn’t, he has intelligence officers who are somehow maintaining contact with an obviously disturbed personality who if he does the act might very well open up and declare victory for himself and Cuba – unleashing immediate military retribution. Which means that the highly astute and tactically sophisticated Cuban intelligence apparatus (described at length in the CIA officers new book) somehow went off the rails and suddenly became involved in an incredibly risky activity with no obvious benefits whatsoever (students of the US effort against Cuba know that by the fall of 1963 it had become a series of ongoing failure and Cuban intelligence had penetrated virtually every new CIA probe and project from AM/TRUNK and AM/WHIP to AM/LASH).
Second, the new Castro did it scenario rests heavily on interviews with Florentino Aspillaga – , a career General Directorate of Intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 1987. Aspillaga worked at a radio monitoring station that normally monitored communications out of Miami and Langley; it would be good to know exactly what sort of communications but one guess would be communications directed towards JMWAVE operations against Cuba, communications directed towards agents and assets working in or around Cuba, or possibly even communications involving some of the autonomous Cuban exile groups staging from outside the U.S. mainland. In other words, a Cuban radio monitoring operation targeting CIA operations.
Reportedly, only on November 22, Aspillaga received a very unusual request, to monitor radio communications out of Dallas, Texas. Afterwards, Aspillaga interpreted this as meaning that his superiors knew that Kennedy was going to be killed that day.
Now further details would be very helpful, first it would be good to know what sort of radio broadcasts he was supposed to monitor? If normally he was monitoring CIA operational frequencies, was he told to suddenly his targets to say commercial radio stations in Dallas? Or was he somehow supposed to be monitoring CIA operational broadcasts from or about Texas? If the former, it would seem pretty dangerous for Cuban intelligence (with or without Castro) to be monitoring their “operative”, Lee Oswald via commercial radio news broadcasts (well OK, Lee did actually shoot JFK, they have him and he’s confessing, guess we had better get ready for the invasion now…). Or is the suggestion that CIA operational broadcasts would reveal something about an attack on the President?
Perhaps someone can sort this out for me, but if Oswald was either under direction or even under surveillance by Cuban intelligence in an act against the President, this radio monitoring thing doesn’t make much sense to me at present.
On the other hand, consider one alternative. As detailed in SWHT, there was indeed lots of buzz immediately prior to the Texas trip about JFK being at risk. And a great deal of it was circulating within certain segments of the exile community in Miami. Security had been intense during JFK’s trip to Miami, the Secret Service had called in CIA resources including members of the exile community in Miami for protective intelligence about potential demonstrations or even more violent outbursts during his visit. It seems very likely to me that Cuban intelligence picked up on those sorts of things and passed back information that JFK could well be at risk as of November. And perhaps they got something even more specific. If that were true, there could well have been a sudden concern about re-targeting radio monitoring to try and pick up something, some sort of advance warning or certainly the most current reports on the President’s trip.
If that were true it might make some sense of of the story, but it probably would not be a “Castro did it” scenario. Nor would it be the sort of interpretation we would expect in a book from a former CIA officer associated with Cuban operations….