So finally I get to the folks I’ve been writing books about for a couple of decades. And I think it’s fair to say that this particular category of potential assassination suspects didn’t make any newspaper headlines, didn’t get widely discussed around water coolers or in bars and certainly were not considered or investigated as possible associates or as having influenced Lee Harvey Oswald.
A few years later the House Select Committee on Investigations weighed in on a probable conspiracy, but its chair certainly did not devote a book to them, or even mention them for that matter. Before that the District Attorney in New Orleans looked their way, even sending his investigators to Miami to inquire into mysterious Cubans associating with Lee Oswald. That early effort was successfully obstructed (by a very well connected anti-Castro figure who exposed Garrison’s investigation to the press and tried to steer them towards conspiracy and Castro sponsorship) and ultimately Garrison was steered in other directions.
One of the elements that obscured any focus on these folks is that even talking about them was not easy, naming LBJ was simple enough, pointing to public and strident ultra-right figures wasn’t too hard and calling out the mob godfathers that RFK had hassled was no particular challenge. You could put well-known names to those categories.
But the anti-Castro link was “messy”, with names nobody had heard of before (outside Miami) and individuals actively working for or around the CIA’s JM/WAVE covert efforts against Cuba – which nobody would talk about or acknowledge, much less name, even during the HSCA inquiry. Coming up with their names is a long story and a longer book and Someone Would Have Talked does that so I’m just going to pull a few names from that and focus on what happened to them “afterwards”.
The first name is Ted Shackley, certainly an anti-Castro figure although probably not literally a suspect. The interesting thing about Shackley is that he went on record stating that he had done nothing to inquire into possible involvement by the anti-Castro community that the CIA was both engaged with and covertly monitoring – he stated the assassination was the Warren Commission’s concern, not his. It appears that in that regard Shackley lied because we now know that he actually assigned the head (Tony Sforza) of the Cuban Intelligence Group (the AMOTS) to conduct a detailed investigation of exactly that. The investigation was done, a report compiled and submitted – and apparently vanished.
One of Shackley’s personnel (Rip Robertson, working under David Morales, in Operations) was very much involved with an off the books Castro assassination project and was close to certain Cuban exiles as well as other interesting people, such as John Martino. Within months of the attack in Dallas Rip had been assigned to hand pick a group of Cuban exiles and was in Africa, on a mission in the Congo. While there he would be heard to make interesting comments about the Kennedy assassination and his Cuban friends.
Of course some of the most interesting individuals were not directly affiliated with JM/WAVE at all. The FBI was tracking Filipe Vidal, a very well respected independent operator – they monitored him on several trips to Dallas that fall (breaking a court restraining order on travel). His closest friend and fellow independent operator, Roy Hargraves, was reported to the FBI immediately after the assassination, as having Secret Service ID and being a suspect in an action against JFK. Of course at the time Hargraves denied anything of the sort – decades later Hargraves would confirm the he and Vidal had been in Dallas as part of just such an action. More immediately – within weeks – the boat that Hargraves and Vidal were preparing for a mission into Cuba mysteriously exploded, almost killing both men.
And within a few months Vidal was off on his own in a covert mission into Cuba; despite his extensive naval experience in Cuban waters, Vidal was almost immediately captured and executed (almost as if they knew he was coming). Years later Hargraves would voluntarily travel to New Orleans to “assist” DA Garrison with his investigation – much later Hargraves would serve as a consultant for Roger Stone on his movie work.
Tony Cuesta was another very active exile group leader, taking boat missions into Cuba. Cuesta was well connected into the most radical exile circles; one of his raids following the assassination was intercepted in much the same way Vidal’s had been. His crewmen including Diaz Garcia (rumored to have been involved in the Dallas attack) were killed; Cuesta reportedly described what Garcia had told him about exiles being involved in the assassination of the President.
Another individual reported to the HSCA as having inside knowledge of the conspiracy remained in Miami, became very active with the exile Brigade which had reformed after the Bay of Pigs, worked with his brother’s private investigations agency and eventually became the individual to expose Garrison’s investigation to the press and point them towards a Castro connection to Lee Oswald. Bernardo de Torres became a serious person of interest to the HSCA, in particular due to the investigations of Gaeton Fonzi. However Fonzi received no support at all in his desire for an active criminal investigation of de Torres and when the committee did at least allow testimony (using an alias) de Torres certainly disclosed nothing of interest.
The list could go on, and does in SWHT, but this a long enough post to suggest why certain anti-Castro elements both within and outside the CIA have emerged as potential suspects in the assassination. It did take quite a long while for them to make the list though; in reviewing the initial FBI investigations of late 1963 and early 1964 it’s very plain – as agents themselves have confirmed – that any time spent on such leads was not a positive career move.