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.