A recent reply to one of my blog posts raised the question of “foreknowledge” of a plot against JFK and the idea that there was possible “collusion” by omission by senior government figures aware of a threat to President Kennedy but noting to act against it. That is certainly a complex question, worthy of a book or at least an extended research paper – neither of which I’m going to do myself. However I would offer the following observations related to foreknowledge at two different levels based on my own research and writing.

First, both the FBI and Secret Service were very much aware of real threats against JFK as of the fall of 1963. The FBI investigated source reports of verbal threats from its sources both within the ultra right (the Minutemen and the National States Rights Party) and from radicals within the anti-Castro Cuban exile community. The threats on the right were the most specific, including details on the formation of rifle teams and on the possibility of an attack in Washington, only week or so before the Texas trip a NSRP tip suggested a possible attack in Dallas. Of course by that time there were warnings about violence coming from virtually all quarters including Congresspersons and Dallas business leaders. The FBI provided warnings to the Secret Service about threats from those radical groups, we know of some of them related to both Chicago and Miami.

In turn the Secret Service did act against the Chicago threat, engaged with the CIA to act against threats in Miami and Tampa and with the Dallas Police to interdict an anticipated threat from violent right wing protests in Dallas (there were actually very special and extensive security preparations in Dallas, unfortunately centered on the planned speech at the Trade Center rather than the motorcade).

There were also very special actions taken in Miami, where threats of both IED type bombs and sniper attacks were known. Those actions involved the CIA’s local office, including its Cuban counter intelligence service led by Tony Sforza – a name which appears in Tipping Point. Certainly it would be fair to say that the CIA and specifically its Cuban operations group were ware of threats to the President and at least in some instances acted against them. They were also aware of violent threats from within exile groups they were working with. especially from the leaders within the CRC and within the military arm of the DRE.

Of course readers of Tipping Point will quickly realize that knowledge could have been a bad thing, if certain of those CIA officers decided to encourage those threats rather than act against them….and there is no real sign of the latter. That remains one very likely area of dangerous foreknowledge, but not at the highest levels of the agency, rather at the more dangerous operational levels.

The second, higher level, is much harder to deal with – particularly if you understand the convoluted and confusing process of political assassination I explored in NEXUS. Basically it was not at all uncommon for the highest senior officers in both the military and the intelligence community to talk about threats to national security and we can document that some of them viewed JFK’s policies on Laos, Vietnam and Cuba in that light.

Such remarks were certainly nothing new, I’ve written about that level of disagreement being so intense during the Eisenhower Administration that Ike explored legal action against several of his sitting and former Joint Chiefs, Truman had acted even more directly against such opposition. There is no lack of evidence for talk about “getting rid” of JFK, however that historically such talk was in the context of organizing political action to make sure he was not re-elected and that was becoming intense in 1963. Its hard to think that anyone participating in such talk would immediately jump to thoughts of a plot to kill him being in process.

Of course we know there was similar talk within the CIA, at the highest levels and down through CIA operations, most especially within Cuba related operations. But to know whether a particular individual was talking about politics or obstruction within the Administration (for example convincing Bundy or the Chiefs to be more hawkish directly with JFK or to challenge his decisions in regard to Vietnam or Cuba) or subtly suggesting something more violent is a good bit like retroactive mind reading.

That’s especially true given senior officer’s penchant for being nebulous in their remarks and seeking deniablity at all times. I’ve documented more than one occasion where the word “eliminate”, used in a political action sense, was incorrectly translated down the line of command to “kill”. A very dangerous situation indeed.

So….was there foreknowledge of threats, absolutely, was there action against certain of them…yes. Was there foreknowledge of the specific plot I describe in Tipping Point at senior levels, I doubt it.

However those same senior levels within the CIA were indeed aware of a threat to JFK from within the Cuban exile radical community – from their own sources and indeed from a very public warning by Fidel Castro himself. And there is no sign at all they acted against that threat.

Because of that I would agree there was a certain level of collusion though non-action, but I would put it specifically within the CIA, which can be shown to have been either unable or unwilling to prevent foreign political assassinations by its surrogates on more than one occasion, even with advance warnings. In this instance it was a domestic political assassination.

5 responses »

  1. John F. Davies says:

    From what evidence we have, this is about as close as can be found factually about foreknowledge of an active assassination plot against Kennedy during the Fall of 1963.
    But its damning enough nonetheless.

    One thing I want to bring into this discussion is the concept of Environment. What I mean is that the Powers that ( Shouldn’t.) Be through their influence encourage a political environment to grow where certain thoughts and beliefs are made to be acceptable.
    In JFK’s case, it was a climate of Hatred that was created by a certain faction within this Country’s Establishment. So many people today seem to forget that in spite of that dazzling aura of the Kennedy White House, there was a sizable element within the U.S. who harbored ill against him. The Right Wing became quite public, with militant groups always in the news, the John Birch Society being the most well known. There was also George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazis, the Minutemen, and of course, the Ku Klux Klan. In those days one was not neutral about JFK. You either adored him or hated his guts. And unlike today, this division occurred within BOTH parties, and in every American Institution.

    Elements of the National Security State, feeling betrayed by JFK over Cuba, the Test Ban Treaty, and especially JFK’s refusal to introduce combat troops to Vietnam, by their words and actions allowed an environment where certain individuals would feel compelled to take it upon themselves to literally commit an act of treason.
    Its as old as History.

    “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Priest?”
    Henry II

    Personal note:
    As a boy growing up at the time, even I experienced the public divide over JFK.
    At the age of eight I got into a fist fight with another kid in a lunch line over that “N***** Lover” Kennedy. And both our families knew one another and were Republicans.

  2. Brandon says:

    I read Tipping Point as soon as you posted to Mary Ferrell, and I don’t remember anything substantial about Tony Sforza. It’s possible his name got lost in the haze of all the pre-Castro Havana stuff as I’m used to seeing “Henry J. Sloman” pop up in so many other texts. Was he the one CIA officer you mentioned as adding to the publication copies? What role did he play, if any, with the pathfinders? Why is he significant in the JFK assassination? I know he was very close with David Morales (godfather to his children) but I still haven’t heard of what role he could have played in the lead up to Dallas. Also, are you familiar with Daniel Sheenan’s work on Trafficante’s S-Force? Many of the details of the Pathfinders/Wheaton names overlap, but he leaves out several key players that you highlight. Could the Pathfinders/Infiltrators/Wheaton names/S-Force be a large group of highly trained, dedicated Cuban Exiles 50-100 or so who are the main players in many of the operations we hear about?

  3. larryjoe2 says:

    Let’s start with Tony Sforza and you are correct, he is mentioned in Tipping Point but as a member of the WAVE staff, a key member in regard to his being in charge of the Cuban Counter Inelligence group which had been constructed (at Angleton’s recommendation) from the remnants of Morales’s AMMOT trainees following the review of the Cuba Project and the Bay of Pigs. That put him in a key role with a number of the most trusted Cuban exiles as well as connected to information coming through a number of channels including from the Cuban groups such as DRE and their case officers. In addition his AMMOTS were use for a variety of domestic activities and played a key role in certain activities in Mexico City, including training surveillance personnel and even on penetrations of the Cuban embassy – that is covered in Tipping Point and Sforza shows up in a number of places in the book Index.

    Prior to that role Sforza had been in deep cover inside Cuba and that is covered as well; he is of special interest because he was involved in a Castro assassintion project in Cuba and in other similar projects after his departure from WAVE, including in Chile. Sforza and Morales were indeed tightly bonded and Sforza left the CIA early, apparently so as not to have to testify about things in the Chile project – his longer career story is covered in Shadow Warfare.

    Sforza is also of special interest because he was tasked with investigating anti-Castro participation in the JFK assassination (something Shackley lied about) and either collected extensive information and did no report as directed or the report vanished.

    All in all he was in a key connection to either be sharing information that proved useful to the conspiracy or an enabler of the conspiracy.

    As to Sheenan and S Force, yes quite familiar but its not something I could go into here and requires a huge amount of what you would find in Shadow Warfare as context. Bottom line, I think he was onto something in concept but lacked the right information to take it in exactly the right direction. There was indeed a cadre of Cuban exiles used in Latin America, in SE Asia and in Africa but who they were, how they were recruited and who did what where is something I delve into in Shadow Warfare, not in my JFK books.

  4. DAVID S. says:

    I believe you have understated the foreknowledge in light of the proven government actions setting up Oswald as the Assassination pasty, which actions prove the complete foreknowledge without the doubts you let creep into tour statement…

    David S. Brown

  5. larryjoe2 says:

    David, while I think its clear Oswald (or simply Oswald’s identity rather than him personally in all instances) was being manipulated and used for multiple CIA purposes including both propaganda and very likely for counter intelligence activities against the Cubans in Mexico City, the Cuba/Castro image that was created in New Orleans was the main element of his being of value as a patsy – and I don’t see that the development of that image as connected to Dallas or the assassination as of the summer of 1963.

    What I do see is it being picked up and used by the plot when the conspiracy itself jelled in October and when he was certain to be in Dallas. As I point out a lot of people had a great deal of knowledge of Oswald wand were using that for various non conspiratorial purposes throughout 1963. But none of that directly connects to the attack in Dallas.

    Simply using the Oswald “image” consisting of his time in Russia, his championship of the Castro/Cuba cause was a matter of taking things that already existed – actually setting him up as a patsy basically involved putting him at the scene of the attack and connecting a weapon to him. Certainly that required some foreknowledge but as I tried to point out in the book, the only really unique part of that would be putting the rifle into play inside the TSBD.

    Bottom line is that I see the plotters taking knowing about Oswald, being very much aware of his history and media image and taking advantage of that rather than somehow shaping that over months or years with the idea of using him as a patsy. My take on the timeline for the Dallas conspiracy is that it jelled and played out only from late September to November 22 and that in many regards it was very opportunistic, taking advantages of people and connections that had been in play for years to different purposes. .

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