I’ve recently been working with my editor on the Congo chapter of Shadow Warfare. One of the broader questions that has fallen out of that is whether or not incoming presidents are really briefed on national security operations, especially covert operations, that are initiated by the former administration – as well as to what extent presidents (or even Agency heads) do much to educate presidents. As an example of the latter, an article on the Diem coup notes that while JFK was shaken by the actual murder of Diem, the CIA director and his staff were nonplussed that a president would not recognize that sort of thing was pretty much routine when coups occur.
Apparently nobody had brought that up in all the White House dialogues about supporting the rebellious generals. I recall being struck, when researching Lucian Conein, that he was worried about getting the Diem brothers out of the country but did not have enough clout to get a U.S. aircraft with the range to fly them anywhere safe….its fascinating to see him begging the Air Force for a plane and copying CIA headquarters. So if headquarters was so smart, why didn’t they have one waiting?
A memo has shown up recently on the JFK Facts and most folks seem to think its pretty dramatic, I was surprised because essentially its just about a handful of private Cuban exiles talking about killing Castro. I hate to break it to anyone but I’ve seen dozens of similar reports. I’ve also seen the AMWORLD memos where both Artime and Quintero are talking about kidnapping and political assassination being a standard tool for any successful coup inside Cuba, and those were circulated around the highest levels of Washington (which does not necessarily mean the President), means CIA, State and Joint Chiefs. And Artime and Quintero were the major players in the last ditch “autonomous group” effort to help kick start a coup inside Cuba. Given that “black lists” (Communist cadre and supporters to be neutralized) had been drawn up for both Guatemala and Cuba, it appears that routine practice for regime change never got briefed to President Kennedy. But then again the CIA always claimed it was their duty to “protect” the President – I wonder if that’s such a good idea?
And as far as presidents briefing each other, well we certainly know there were multiple assassination projects targeting Castro as JFK was taking office, and no sign of Eisenhower or anyone else mentioning it to JFK, apparently Eisenhower was more concerned with conveying the issue of how strategically important it was to make sure Laos did not go communist. Then again, did the CIA actually brief Eisenhower himself on the Castro assassination projects? Or did they brief him on their plan to poison Lumumba, even though Ike had said he had to be eliminated. And I’m guessing Ike didn’t mention to JFK that an effort to assassinate Lumumba was actually in progress as JFK was about to take office.
So if the national security insiders don’t educate the presidents, is the president supposed to immediately circulate a memo titled “Dirty Laundry – Brief Me?” Maybe it wouldn’t hurt?