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.

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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.

10 responses »

  1. Paul Brancato says:

    Larry – Felipe Vidal is especially interesting. Spartacus International names William Bishop as his CIA case officer. When Vidal was in jail in Cuba in 1964 Fabian Escalante, Cuban Intel chief, questioned him at length and claims that it was Bishop,who he identifies as CIA/military Intelligence (Army Colonel I believe), who invited him to Dallas in the month before the assassination. What else have you found out about Bishop?

    • Paul, basically everything I find online about William Bishop is rather old and has not aged well…I’ve investigated him at great length, talked to folks what knew he and his story well (and went though repeated polygraph failures with him) and basically were unable to confirm much at all of his stories other than the fact that he does appear to have worked as a contract employee (either CIA or military, not even sure which) in basically what would be some logistics tasks for operations in Florida prior to the Bay of Pits – and leveraged those contacts, primarily with the local Natl Guard, for certain of his own smuggling and other related activities in later years.

      Its another one of those wild goose chases that was fascinating, that I kept revisiting over and over again until I head slapped myself enough to stop. Another fellow with a host of stories, shady connections some of which were no doubt true but without enough substance to do more than be a diversion – at least in my assessment.

      Vidal of course is another matter entirely, however after his initial departure from Cuba he became very hostile towards the CIA due to their lack of response to his pleas to help exfiltrate his brother and he wanted nothing to do with them, certainly he did not work under a case officer after ending up in Florida. He was ostensibly in Dallas looking for funding, which as pretty much a longer he was always desperate for but very likely simply using that as a cover for his role in the conspiracy. Much the same as Martino used his speaking appearances. I’m familiar with Escalante’s remarks about Cuesta and Diaz Garcia but off the top of my head don’t recall the ones about William Bishop and Vidal…do you have a reference for that beyond Spartacus? I also have to say that in general I have found that a good bit of information on Spartacus has also not “aged” will either (especially after John turned to other interests) – which means that parts of it have not been confirmed by what we have learned in the last decade or so.

  2. Chris Bennett says:

    Larry, I hadn’t heard that Rip was talking about the assassination in the Congo. Do you have any quotes/sources/links? I would love to read more.

    • Chris, I think I mentioned that in the Congo chapter of Shadow Warfare and there should be a source there, I’ll look for it when I have a chance. Robertson’s remarks were reported by more than one source, I’ve had one person tell me he heard about them while doing paramilitary work with one of the fellows who was with Rip in the Congo. Unfortunately its all going to be anecdotal although it seems neither Rip nor some of his guys were bashful about remarking on it at the time. As with the remarks that Gene Wheaton heard, its pretty clear that if you were within certain circles in Miami you heard the talk; if you were in other circles you actually knew some of the guys who were involved.

      • caesarx says:

        Thanks Larry. I just did a search inside the Kindle version of Shadow Warfare and couldn’t find it. Thanks for looking. Such a great book, by the way.

      • I scanned through the Congo chapter and could not find it either, do you have the 2010 version of SWHT? I’m sure I mentioned it and gave at least one reference but it could have been in SWHT or even NEXUS and it could also have been in a footnote. After some eight books its getting tough to recall exactly where I mention some things..sigh. However in any event, the source is no more than second or third party in any event so I’m afraid it will remain anecdotal.

  3. Carter Dary says:

    Hey Larry,

    What are your thoughts about the possible Impeachment of Trumpy?

    Carter

    • Hi Carter, in this blog I’ll confine my comments to the areas of intelligence and national security. In that regard I find Trump’s lack of knowledge, his terrible selection of advisors and the indications that he makes absolutely no effort to avail himself of the normal resources of the President before expressing himself upsetting – to the point of being actually scary. If he continues to make decisions as he has to date and is maneuvered into any truly challenging military or security incidents it could be a disaster. Still, as we have seen in the past, Presidents making bad decisions is not an impeachable offense.

      I would say however, that if his charges against the previous administration are found to have been truly baseless, derived from nothing other than ultra right media sources, I would personally consider that as a level of dereliction of duty in regard to his CIC responsibilities since it has thrown the national security community into chaos. Its also my guess that both he and certain of his associates have been manipulated and maneuvered by Russian political/intelligence operatives without even understanding how that area of black warfare is played. If that proves to be true, as an add on to the previous point, I think you would have grounds for impeachment – however as he stated during the campaign, he could shoot someone in public in front of his supporters and they would still love him. Congress appears to be acting in the same fashion so I’m not sanguine about their response under any circumstance.

  4. aproto1 says:

    Thanks for another informative piece. Russia,Cuba,Vietnam Kennedy policies and potential improvement in relations seems to be the center piece of his transformation from Cold War Warrior to a Pro-nationalist, Ecumenical Peace approach with all nations. Some say the missile crisis played a major role. While it may have, my readings into his speech about Algeria, and his feelings about leaders in Africa,Asia seem to show a proclivity for undoing colonialism and respect for Nationalism well before his Presidency. This might have been smart politics on his part but it was also a profound vision well ahead of many world leaders and most in this Country. I wonder why not much about that has been discussed. I know one will not find it in the TSBD. I wonder if it did not play a part of his murder. The more I read the greater my sorrow for Him, his Family, Americans, the World and what might have been. D Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Due to his personal history, his international travels, and his military service JFK had a background which would be very difficult to duplicate. He understood nationalism, which very few did at the time, even within his cultural circles. He understood the military from the level of a lower ranking officer in combat, a view which not even Eisenhower shared, Truman would have been closer. which is a very different view. And he had the wealth to be independent in his assessments and his views, which made him a true pragmatist, not bound to the normal personal agendas. The sad part is that led him into some very risky behaviors, especially in international relations. High reward, high risk – and as I’ve written I think that most definitely played a part in his murder.

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