One of the perennial questions in regard to the JFK assassination – at least in regard to any involvement of the CIA or its personnel – has always revolved around the origins of political assassination within the Agency. Somewhat amazingly, after the work of the Church Committee and decades of research we really have a great deal of information and examples of how the actual history of political assassination. I incorporated a much of that in NEXUS, including the fact that there were always two tracks . One track being top down, with remarks normally originating in NSC meetings and in some instances directly from the sitting President.
We can now even appreciate the word games played inside that track, Eisenhower (used to giving commands) was quite direct stating in one meeting that “Lemumba must be eliminated”. Later, attendees in the meeting admitted that they interpreted that as an order actually kill Leumuba”. In another example President Clinton specifically issued a “kill order” on Osama Bin Laden, as an outstanding threat to American national security.
More generally, the standard word games found at the upper levels of American government have been much more discrete, offering all involved a path to denial if that should turn out to be needed. Richard Nixon was normally quite cautious about his language and more recently Donald Trump, with decades of business practice experience, appears to have substantially raised the bar on nebulous wording – a skill which can leave CIA Directors and even Attorney Generals in uncomfortable positions:
Still, whatever the wording, for matters to proceed a senior official, had to interpret his boss’s orders and begin a project to carry them out. And that process involves people, monies and communications – all of which do leave a trail. In the instance of Lemumba, CIA Director brought his Richard Bissell into action (Bissell having already been associated with such activities). In turn Bissell reached down to Staff D, was rejected by one officer but ultimately launched two separate efforts against Lemumba, one (poison) involving Sydney Gottlieb and technical services and the other using his Africa Division chief and the head of the field station in the Congo (kidnapping, murder contracts and other similar devices being put on the table though them). All of which we can now find in the communications and activities records.
In another effort during that era Bissell also became involved with the murder of Fidel Castro, again with separate tracks, one including poison and the other ambushes and rifle attacks. Yet again, money and assets were involved as well as operational activities and we have records of those as well (although only have only become available decades later).
History shows us that top down operations do leave tracks, however nebulous the remarks that put them in progress. This is all something discussed at length in a recent dialog I had with Chuck Ochelli concerning my work in NEXUS. However the other thing that came out, probably more clearly than I had written it or perhaps even discussed it was the nature of the “bottoms” up assassination track within the CIA. You can listed to the interview with Chuck at:
What is most important to understand is that there was a separate track which involved CIA officers, if not senior personnel, in assassinations. That track involved the surrogates being used in various operations, and began at the case officer and field officer level. In NEXUS I wrote abut it first in Iran and then in Guatemala, with proposals by the locals (revolutionaries, ex-patriots, etc) that the CIA was working with on regime change projects.
As it turns out those individuals, being at risk themselves, very often see political assassination as the quickest route to regime change, the victory of their movements and their own success – quickest, less costly, low profile and easiest to organize. Especially if the CIA officers they are working with can be convinced to continue the financial, weapons and other related support that they can use in such efforts.
It seems CIA case officers themselves sometimes endorsed such views; I give numerous examples in NEXUS and in my more recent book IN Denial as well. In some instances approval was given verbally, with a head nod, and the support required could not be distinguished from the activities already in process with those surrogates. In other instances it was a bit more obvious – as when the trainers (mudslinging David Morales) provided an actual manual on how to conducted assassinations as part of their support for the Guatemala project.
I’ll provide some further examples of the Track 2 (upwards) (which was never “sanctioned” in the manner of Track 1 (downwards) in a follow-on post – and get into an examination the the CIA activities of 1963 which might give us an insight into which might well have been in play in regard to the murder of President Kennedy.
Great stuff, Larry, as usual. I’m long time fan and try to check in on your blog from time to time. I just received Tipping Point and look forward to reading it. I also caved and ordered the updated version of SWHT though now I’ll have to transfer all of my margin notes from the previous edition over to it. lol. Was wondering if you’ve seen a website called tangodown63.com? Whoever created it has some interesting photos and documents related to the JFK assassination. The side by side comparisons of photos taken at Dealey plaza that day with persons of interest is fascinating. Rip Robertson on the corner of Main and Houston? Could be. Anyway, thank you for all that you do to keep this important piece of history alive and fresh.
Hi Addison and thanks for the kind words! I’ll be interested in you thoughts as you read Tipping Point and yes I am familiar with Tangodown63 – James Richards also provided me with a lot of fascinating photos over the years although I’m unable to get in touch with him at the moment. I would certainly have liked to get some more information about the background for certain of them – James appears to have had some connections to people in Miami that I’ve never found duplicated by anyone else.
While I’m generally not a fan of trying to place identities on individuals in the Plaza based strictly on images, there are a couple that I do find persuasive based on context alone and Robertson would be one of them.
If there were some way to know for certain and it turned out to be Robertson at Main and Houston it would certainly not shock me – even if that were not him I would still think it consistent for him to have been in Dallas. His reputation for being on the front lines with the anti-Castro paramilitary fighters who trusted him would almost gurantee that.
Great point about Robertson’s loyalty to his fighters and his rep for being with them on the front lines. Make’s me want to be convinced that it’s really him. Incidentally, on Robertson’s photo page on Tangodown63, there’s a photo of him in the Congo with his group of Cuban exile fighters that was taken on the one-year anniversary of JFK’s murder. Some of them seem to be holding bottles of liquor as if they’re celebrating an event. But what is more striking is the fighter holding an open black umbrella though it is not raining. Some of his comrades seem amused by it. An inside joke perhaps that only exclusive members of the club get the significance of? I’m sure Robertson loved it.
Yes, that photo does seem ominous, especially if that is the actual date. As I recall it is from James and – although totally anecdotal – what he had heard was at that point in time Rip was being fairly unrestrained in talking among the Cubans about what had gone down in Dallas.
Of course the other interesting thing about the Main/Houston photo from Dallas is the speculation that the guy next to Rip might be Bissell….no comment on that other than it would be hard to find someone who hated JFK more and who had actively shifted all the blame for the disaster at the Bay of Pigs onto him, leading to that blame being carried down to Miami and spread among the CIA personnel there as well as they Cuban exiles they were working with at the time.
If Robertson was talking/bragging about the operational details of Dallas to his fighters, then that would explain this particular photo. Interesting yet still disturbing to look at..
As for the Main/Houston photo, I did some comparisons of Bissell and you may be correct. Plus, it would make sense due to his hostility towards JFK. Apparently, other CIA people admitted to others that they were present that day in Dallas such as Philips, Morales, Sturgis, and then Hunt was seen there by others. I’m sure that there were more attendees who, given the historic moment, couldn’t bear to miss the show. Just my 2 cents.
I tend to be pretty skeptical about the whole photograph thing (and always about Hunt and Sturgis…grin). In regard to Morales and Phillips we have documentation that would nominally place them in Miami or Mexico City respectively on that day (same for Sforza), related to the exfiltration of Castro’s sister (who Sforza had been handling in Cuba at one point).
That could have been a form of cover but it seems either unnecessary or weak since if their had been a real internal investigation it would have been useless.
What leads me to at least consider Robertson and Bissell is Robertson’s total commitment to his operational teams and his history of being up front to show his support. In Bissell’s case it goes back to his whole behavior during the Cuba project and his obsession with blaming JFK – which I fully didn’t appreciate until I did the research for In Denial.
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. It’s been a pleasure.
I”ll look forward to giving you my input on Tipping Point soon.