Someone who is currently reading the Tipping Point serialization raised an interesting point in regard to the element of risk in regard to attacking President Kennedy in Dallas. As it turns out, some thought on that issue may itself tell us something about the conspiracy which murdered the president.

In Tipping Point I present the scenario that the shooting in Dallas was a paramilitary style ambush, carried out by a small group of trained and experienced attackers. I also maintain that those individuals were “surrogates” for those who incited and organized the Dallas conspiracy, with their own, very specific motivation.

Which takes us to the first point, which is that in terms of the history of political assassination, especially in regard to attacks on national leaders, such an attack is very much an exception.  There is simply no doubt that historically and in the 21st Century, poison is the primary tool in such actions, followed by the use of explosives (either planted or personally carried).

In a contemporary example we know that American efforts to eliminate both Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba began with poison attempts, that option provided maximum deniability. However in each instance, the failure of the poison efforts exposed a key problem – access.  Poison required not only that the target’s security be compromised, but that the poison deployed by someone above suspicion, within the target’s trusted circle of supporters.  Of course for lower level figures, without extensive security, poison is much easier to use and most recently has become a standard tool, even against domestic targets (as with its recent uses against Russian Federation opposition figures).

Several Castro poison attempts during 1961-1962 failed over issues of security and access.  And in all instances the “fall back” to those failures were paramilitary attacks involving anti-Castro surrogates – using rifles, bazookas and bombs. In NEXUS I explore a number of similar instances when CIA engaged with rebels and ex-patriots throughout Latin America who themselves proposed assassination as the quickest path to regime change.

While the CIA (and the State Department) actively supported that in Guatemala, later deniability became the watchword and on those occasion when surrogates did carry out attacks the standard response was something along the lines of – “well we were working with them, and we may have supplied some weapons, but we never ordered them to carry out an assassination”.  Readers can actually find that response in the Church Committee inquiry.

Bottom line, paramilitary attacks on national leaders do present a variety of extreme risks and poison, sabotage, bombs and virtually any other option is preferable.  Assassination turns to paramilitary assaults as a last resort – only when security and access block the “safer” options. In such instances the attack itself is normally carried out by a very few extremely committed individuals, with local support if at all possible, and without the direct participation of those who might have incited, aided or abetted the conspiracy.  

Which brings us to another major area of risk – the risk to the participants themselves. In the scenario I outline in Tipping Point, both the Dallas tactical team and those directly involved with them risked being killed or captured, and likely executed. History shows us that in virtually all cases, the people carrying out attacks on national leaders are operating at an extreme, virtually fanatic level of motivation. Despite what the movies may show, mysterious extralegal professional assassins signing on for fantastic payoffs simply don’t show up in presidential assassinations. The instances of professional murders do occur, but are associated with much “softer” targets than national leaders. That leads us to either imbalanced individuals or extremely radical groups – historically most often political (although often with underlying racist and religious agendas).  

Which of course includes the “lone nut” scenario offered by Allen Dulles to the Warren Commission – useful in that he could even pass out a book on the subject of “lone nuts”.  As a counter to that, in Tipping Point, I present a different alternative, that of a limited conspiracy of individuals, with a very few actually being at risk of being killed or captured. I also speculate that the actual individuals on the ground in Dallas, those most at risk, may have been so committed as to have other options which would have neutralized the very real risk of being killed or captured.

Specifically, I theorize that those most directly involved in the attack were activist anti-Castro Cubans, but with histories going back to actually supporting the revolution against Batista and what became the Castro regime. While the plot itself had elements which, if successful in killing the President, would point the act towards Cuba and Castro, there were options for failure in the attack, and for being killed or captured.

The first option was that the participants could be positioned as double agents, actually under control of Castro and his agents. That argument was actually taken to the press after the assassination, with stories that Castro had so deeply infiltrated the Cuban exile groups that he had manipulated them in an attack on the President.  You have to look for that story, but it can be found in statements by in the Americans in the anti-Castro effort (Gerry Hemming and Roy Hargraves being examples). A variant was offered by John Roselli, with a CIA hit team turned by Castro to target JFK.

The second, and much more dramatic option, would have been for anyone captured to have told the press that they were aware of the pending talks between JFK and Fidel Castro, talks which would have “sold out” their cause to the Communist regime. News stories of anti-Communists driven to extreme violence would have both aborted any and all outreach in progress and generated a huge political challenge to JFK’s re-election (just as the TILT mission would have earlier in the summer if it had actually brought out evidence of Russian missiles still in Cuba).

In short, and in summary, there is no doubt an ambush of the President was high risk, a last resort option in political assassination. But there is also no doubt that those carrying it out would have been extremists, fanatically anti-Communist and fanatically patriotic in their own minds. But with that in mind, the odds of ending any possible reconciliation between the U.S. were on their side.  

7 responses »

  1. D Conway says:

    I’m sorry I haven’t called you ☺️ Will call tomorrow.


  2. roadrider says:

    I can buy that anit-Castro extremists who had been trained to assassinate Castro were involved at the operational level in the Dealey Plaza ambush. But it seems obvious that the ambush relied on more than just their fanaticism. Otherwise where did the phony Secret Service agents come from? Who prevented the SS or DPD from preventing anyone from hiding behind the picket fence on the Grassy Knoll? Who arranged the parade route that led JFK into the ambush? Who arranged to have the crime scene not sealed off and for the president’s limousine to be scrubbed clean and have it’s windshield replaced? Who set up Oswald before the ambush and began scapegoating him as soon as the echoes of the shots had faded? And who arranged to have Oswald whacked while in the custody of the police? I find it very hard to believe that all of this was the work of a small group of extremists. I’m sure that the shooters and their field support teams faced risks but it seems obvious to me that these risks were mitigated by support from the larger forces behind the assassination.

  3. larryjoe2 says:

    Many of those are obviously good questions – and I address a number of them in segment 5 of Tipping Point (which hopefully you are reading). This particular post should really have gone along with segment 5 but since I’d been ask about the risk element specifically I thought I would go ahead and deal with it here.

    Of course there were other operational elements involved, associated with inserting and removing the shooting team, providing over-watch and screening of firing positions, establishing diversions before, during and after the shooting, and a number of other details of that sort. All of which are common practice for any infantry ambush of this sort…which always involves more than just the people firing the weapons. Segment 5 (which will go up next weekend) delves into the “attack” that aspect of the attack in great detail – as well as the issues related to Oswald . Of course as I explore in Segment 4, Oswald was being manipulated in a number of ways which established him as a fall guy for a Cuban connection – well before Dallas.

    For some of your broader points including the much larger story of the national security response over the following 72 hours – that is dealt with in Chapter 15 of Someone Would Have Talked and I would have to refer you there.

    The best I can do in a blog is give fairly simple responses to individual’s questions as they are reading Tipping Point – as I did in this post responding to a reader. The big picture is contained in the total body of my research and writing, including Someone Would Have Talked, NEXUS, In Denial, the Wheaton Lead and of course Tipping Point. They all explore the broader picture which includes the issues you reference. If you do dig into that material you will find it goes far beyond the actual attack.

  4. Brandon says:

    The Warren Commission refused to accept numerous reports of Ruby at the police station and essentially stalking Ruby over the next two days, it was all far too suggestive of something other than an impulsive, emotional act of murder.

    I think it’s supposed to say “stalking Oswald”

    otherwise I’m loving the breakdown

  5. larryjoe2 says:

    Yes, sorry about that, certainly it should be “stalking Oswald”..

    And you will find a great deal more along that line of thought in Segment 5 which has just gone live on the Mary Ferrell Foundation:

    • Brandon says:

      I pulled it from segment 5… I though it was a solid read. The biggest surprise to me was the DPD parts. For all the reading I’ve done in the last 10 years I have focused very little time on the DPD but it seems clear that some of them were positioned to support, and at least 1 was supposed to eliminate Oswald.

      I’m surprised that the mechanics team was that small… I was expecting 3 shooters and another 5 to 6 spotters and radio men, and that’s separate from the others in a support capacity.

      I’m still wondering if someone above Harvey was pulling strings for the actual hit. I kept thinking it would eventually lead back to Lemay or Dulles (and maybe it does) but that’s bigger picture.

      I attempted to summarize your theory, along with Bill Kelly and Bill Simpich’s work, about a year ago.

      I know I’m off on a number of things but I want to thank you for all your work and I hope to see more of it in the future. You mentioned that at least 2 of the Wheaton names were skilled marksmen… is it Carlos Hernandez and Victor Espinoza?

  6. larryjoe2 says:

    It seems that in more recent years the lowest operational level – including Jack Ruby – has not received nearly the attention it had in earlier years. I don’t know if its not sensational enough, just “old” or that folks have gotten so wrapped up in arguing photos and films that the attention has been diverted. But deconstructing the support side as well as the assault itself tell us a lot about the conspiracy – if you can identify the assets you can work back through the recruiting.

    As to the team, I can’t swear to the size but I can say that a classic infantry type ambush against a soft target traveling on a known route does not require the type of operational command and control we see in today’s military actions. I have been discussing that with my friends David Boylan and Greg and should probably post on it – as with the “risk” element “positive control” over the attack itself is not that complex or as structured as we tend to imagine. The only real communications required are in regard to whether the attack itself had to abort or failed and shift to a backup action.

    In this particular attack instance, as I noted in the Risk post, the situation was very much different in that even a failed attack and killed or captured personnel could prove successful in the sense of the primary mission.

    As to pulling strings, my take would be that the higher level (within the CIA, a great many reasons why it needed to go no further) would instigate the action as they did all political assassination – “obliquely” – and with all the practices of vagueness and deniablity. They would then back off and leave it to people like Harvey to make sure something happened and the folks in the field to deal with operations. A very standard and familiar chain of evnts, vague at the top, planned at a field level and left largely to surrogates with a military case officer taking lead.

    In Dallas the tactical side was simple and it worked, the track involving framing Cuban sponsorship was more complex, much less under control and it didn’t work.

    As to the shooters, any of the original maritime team that Jenkins trained would be candidates but Carlos Hernandez and Izquierdo stand out due to both experience and commitment. Would be interesting to know where Felix Rodriquez was at the time – he talks in depth about all his activities in his book…except for the particular period in the late fall of 1963. The same holds true for Victor Hernandez and a couple of the others. They simply were off the grid and only show up again later, and overseas.

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