One of the subjects I tackle in Shadow Warfare is the change that came to the CIA’s role in covert military operations. The change was initially driven byPresident Kennedy’s decision to move major covert military action under the Joint Chiefs rather than leaving the CIA in control of it – obviously the Bay of Pigs had a lot to do with that decision but so did the CIA’s failure in covert ops against North Vietnam. It’s a long and evolved story and I’ll leave it to the book itself.

However, one small part of it is illustrated by the very disjointed transition process in the secret war against Cuba, especially in evens of 1963. Following the Bay of Pigs disaster, JFK moved the overall responsibility for the Cuban secret war effort outside and above the CIA, to the multi-agency Mongoose project. The CIA and JMWAVE’s role in Mongoose was primarily that of counter intelligence, intelligence and limited covert maritime operations against Cuba – primarily of an intelligence collection nature but with sabotage as part of the effort (not a very effective part).  In doing that JMWAVE and David Morales worked with Navy personnel at the Guantanamo base.  In particular Morales worked with Commander Hal Finney (sometimes spelled Feeney).

It appears that in at least one instance a plan to use Cuban exiles to attack Castro may have been supported out of that base…its hard to connect all the dots but it seems to have been the attack that involved Veciana associates and ended up with some of the participants fleeing to the Odio family, resulting in their arrest and imprisonment.

The following links and much of the information pertaining to Finney come from my good friend and noted document geek Bill Simpich.

*Memo, 4/3/62, JMWAVE to Task Force W, Reel 2, Folder L – CIA Files on Luis

Balbuena, NARA Record Number: 1994.03.08.09:29:40:280007.



During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Finney was moved in the Defense Intelligence Agency, assigned to Cuba.


During the missile crisis, Feeney was appointed head of the Cuba branch of

the DIA <>


Morales continued to work with Feeney/Finney through 1963 but Finney’s job change reflects some of the changes put him in the position of actually preparing plans rather than simply supporting CIKA maritime ops. His DIA position was reporting to a Department of Defense group charged with “unconventional warfare”. Finney was in the position of proposing plans for major actions against – plans prepared as part of the DIA and Joint Chiefs “unconventional warfare” assignment.  His obituary even describes him as a consultant to the NSC (of course we recalled that Morales ended up as a consultant to the Joint Chiefs).




In one of his plans Finney came up with an operation named to oust Castro and included air attacks against Cuba.

COBRA was Feeney’s plan to take over


a program set up by the brand-new DIA effort <>.

One aspect of COBRA was air raids from Guatemala aimed at strategic Cuban targets.


The plan was to be proposed to the Joint Chiefs, with the intent of taking it to the Special Group for approval of a major new covert initiative against Cuba.

The full story of Feeney and Morales connections and their association with a variety of very interesting Cuban exiles, several nominally not at all connected to approved CIA operations is a fascinating one, perhaps I can get Bill to do a piece on it.  From an overall view, it helps illustrate that the secret warfare picture was changing as of 1963 and there were players at a number of levels outside and above the CIA and very much beyond the JMWAVE station.  The military, Joint Chiefs and DIA, were entering the covert operations picture and when you combine that with the extensive contingency planning going on within the conventional military organizations, the new autonomous group project led by RFK and the back-channel Castro negotiations being supported by JFK – it’s a very complex and risky combination, one that certainly gives me headaches pondering it.


About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

2 responses »

  1. Zach Robertson says:

    Hey Larry, great stuff.

    Harold ‘Hal’ Feeney is of great interest to anyone studying the events surrounding the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He worked close with Rip Robertson, David Morales, and was Tony Izquierdo’s case officer. Feeney was involved in ExComm meetings during the Missile Crisis and it should be noted that while he got his start with the State Dept., he was originally ONI.


    • Hi Zach, yes I think he’s very important for several reasons…one being that he seems to have been just as aggressive and willing to go out on his own as Morales. Another is that he really moved very high in the food chain also very quickly and was coming up with some really radical plans to pursue the secret war. Bill S. has agreed to write an expanded paper on him as soon as he gets a chance and has some very solid and little seen document links on him. He is connected to some exiles that don’t get discussed much and goes way back to an early Castro assassination plot with them. I imagine he would have been as “trusted” as Morales or Robertson, something not to be said of most government guys.

      — Larry

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