One of my major goals in my 2020 book In Denial was to illustrate the difference between how deniable military actions were conducted during the Cold War and how they are being carried out in a new century.
To do that I explored both the decision making process and the practices used by the United States – the major player in covert military action in pursuit of regime change during the Cold War. That exploration led me to wrestle with the fact that while those actions – ranging from the disaster at the Bay of Pigs to the Contra fiasco and worse, the emergence of death squads across Latin American and South America (including the in the Condor nations) – were almost entirely unsuccessful (and consistently disastrous in their consequences), they were never abandoned for any length of time.
Hopefully the book casts some light on how such operations were actually reviewed and officially deconstructed. In each instance (most publicly following both the Cuba Project and the Iran-Contra scandal) commitments were made never to make such mistakes again . Presidents, agencies, military services, and Congress all periodically signed up not to repeat the mistakes, yet in reality could never step away from the temptation. It appears to be the same overwhelming temptation which in the 21st Century once again moved the United States into covert actions in both Syria and Libya.
Yet other geopolitical players in the new century have chosen a different route, openly pursuing assertions to their own particular “spheres of influence”. Those players, the Russian Federation (under Putin), China and Iran have all moved to new forms of military action, and new practices and mechanisms of “denial”. Practices which so far have proved far more effective (and less expensive) than those of the United States carried out during the Cold War. Time will tell if those practices will prove more effective, or the consequences less damaging.
In his ongoing series of conversations on my National Security and Political Assassination series of books, Chuck Ochelli hosted a conversation on this subject a couple of weeks ago, if you are interested you can listen in at the following link (this week the next session in the series will give listeners a serious change of topic – while remaining in the national security space):
In my newest work, Tipping Point, I spend a good bit of time digging into Jack Ruby’s background and examining his most likely role(s) in the Dallas conspiracy. The plural form of “roles” is intentional given that his involvement changed dramatically during the afternoon of the assassination.
The good news is that we now know far more about his associations, connections, involvement in Cuban affairs and the manner in which he would have been brought into the conspiracy than the Warren Commission, or the House Select Committee on Assassinations ever exposed. The bad news is that Ruby was one of the most significant leads immediately available to investigation and the primary subject of the Warren Commissions only two field investigators. A recent exchange with fellow researcher Paul Bleau has prompted me to revisit investigators Griffin and Hubert and review what was and was not done in regard to investigating Jack Ruby in early 1964.
We do know that primary members of the Warren Commission were themselves concerned by the fact that their work almost entirely rested on the activities of the FBI, and that they were skeptical that Hoover would fully share information with them. Their skepticism was justified, we can now document that the FBI itself destroyed evidence related to Lee Oswald, and in more than one case (as with the investigation of Sylvia Odio) Hoover’s responses to the Commission were totally at odds with the FBI’s own internal investigative reports.
Yet despite the commissioners own concerns, the Commission’s own investigators, Burt Griffin and Leo Hubert, were put into the field for only a limited time and separated from the inquiry well before their work was complete. They were tasked specifically with an inquiry into Jack Ruby and years later an HSCA interview with Griffin provided exceptional detail on how they were brought in, their tasking and generally the conditions under which they operated:
(Specific citations to the document are noted in page numbers in the following)
Griffin’s testimony makes it clear that after a couple of months work neither he nor Griffin felt that the Commission considered Ruby of anything other than peripheral interest and that their investigation was not proceeding as they would like to have conducted it. Specifically Griffin noted that several of the inquiries they recommended were not conducted, a series of requests were turned down – and that they were specifically advised that they much act “responsibly” or they could “trigger a thermonuclear war” (page 288 of the document linked above).
Interestingly that was not interpreted as a directive to conceal any information which might suggest foreign influence in a conspiracy, but rather in respect to the extreme consequences that anything of that nature had to be handled “very carefully” within the Commission itself. (page 310)
A memorandum generated by them on May 14, 1964 (page 289) – and addressed to J. Lee Rankin – gives us a clear view of the investigation as Griffin and Hubert wanted to pursue it. Among their top priorities (Summary of Evidence Suggesting Further Investigation) were Ruby’s business activities beyond his Night Clubs (which they felt had not been sufficiently detailed), the possibility that some of his more obvious activities seemed to consume much time to little profit and might have actually served as covers for making money though illegal means, and finally that his ongoing interest and connections to Cuba demanded inquiry and clarification. They also felt that while a variety of evidence showing Ruby’s interest in or connections to the John Birch Society had been treated as circumstantial, it had not been satisfactorily explained.
The Griffin/Hubert investigative memo is extremely detailed and specific, pointing out a host of “loose ends” which needed to be addressed in what was known and had been stated about Jack Ruby. It deserves to be read in detail by anyone with an interest in the Kennedy assassination.
In his HSCA interview Griffin related that by May, 1964 there was considerable time pressure to wrap up their work on Ruby and that one intent of the memorandum was to relate how much work needed to be done which had not been up to that point in time. (page 205) Griffin also noted that while the FBI had delved into Ruby’s Night Clubs, it had not pursued the other aspects outlined in their memorandum. Griffin had no recollection that the FBI ever did expand their work on Ruby nor that the two were allowed to complete the bulk of the investigative work they felt still remained to be pursued.
Griffin confirmed that they felt that Ruby’s Cuban connections and Oswald’s “Cuban interests in Dallas” had not been adequately explored – nor had the FBI been given much of a request to explore such connections and it was an area that was never “explored satisfactorily”. (page 205). Even more specifically they believed, based on then available evidence, that Ruby was involved in illegal dealings with the Cuban elements who might have been in contact with Oswald. The existence of those dealings was a matter of “surmise” but the investigation had not focused on that area.
After the review of a number of other areas, most related to Ruby’s gambling and crime contacts, a fascinating exchange occurred in which Griffin was asked whether or not the memorandum might have “scared” some people and responded that it likely did so – and that had not been written for “flimsy reasons” and was intended to get attention. Griffin appears to think that it did get that attention because at that point nothing changed in terms of advancing the investigation of Ruby, rather “the rug was pulled out from under it”. (page 302)
During the interview Griffin, then a Judge, attempted to be very precise in his wording, and relatively restrained. He did however affirm that he himself had not been satisfied with “the adequacy of the investigation of conspiracy”.
Researchers have long discussed other aspects of the two Ruby investigators, including the details of their separation and the fact that they were not brought back for the actual Commission interview and polygraph of Jack Ruby. Yet Griffin’s actual, extended testimony to the HSCA is much less frequently referenced.
If anything that testimony, and their internal WC memorandum, make it quite clear that even in the earliest months after the assassination they were looking in exactly the right places, and were keenly aware of where the inquiry should have gone – the fact that it did was not their fault. We certainly can’t pull together everything they might have learned at that point in time, but I suspect they would be quite interested in what we have learned in regard to their suspicions. And I’m sure they would not be surprised to find Jack Ruby appearing as a significant figure in an actual conspiracy scenario.
I haven’t been posting recently, tied up with some additions, clarifications and other work needed to get Tipping Point actually published in print and EBook form.
What I’ve also done is some ten hours of interviews since the first the year, starting a new series on both my national security and political assassination books with Chuck Ochelli, plus some additional interviews on the MLK books which Stu Wexler and I co-authored. Most recently I did a two hour interview on Unidentified and will blog on that when I have time.
The Ochelli shows have been two hours in length and the discussion tends to cover a very broad spectrum of subjects. In discussing Surprise Attack we explored the long standing rumors that certain attacks were known yet allowed to happen – that talk ranged from Pearl Harbor to 9/11. The dialog on Pearl Harbor led us into the attack on the Philippines, which hardly ever gets discussed, but was far more egregious in terms of neglected warnings than was Pearl Harbor. Few people know that McArthur actually chose not to communicate with Washington or the War Department for hours after being given the initial warnings that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and ordered to immediately implement his war plan.
I went into detail about the advance war alert which had been issued for Pearl Harbor and the specific defensive plans that should have interdicted the Japanese carrier strikes – had not the B- 17 aircraft which were supposed to be conducting off shore reconnaissance flights searching for the anticipated Japanese fleet northwest of the islands been rerouted to the Philippines for interdiction bombing strikes during the anticipated Japanese attack. Strikes which General McArthur failed to authorize even when his air commander begged for him simply to follow the standing war plans. That failure of command led to the destruction of the American strategic bombing plan for the Pacific – and air strikes which would have caught the Japanese aircraft which devastated the Philippines on the ground prior to taking to the air.
We concluded with a discussion of Benghazi and the highly secret CIA efforts then underway in Libya and Syria. Covert actions which received little attention (not surfacing at all in the follow on Congressional inquiries), but which were the real reason for the attack which targeted the American Ambassador to Libya (who was organizing weapons shipments to Syria) – and explain why the CIA security contractors were not stationed at the embassy, but rather at the much larger and highly secure CIA station some distance away. You can listen to part or all of that conversation here:
In our two hours on Shadow Warfare, Chuck and I explored the early post World War II origins of American covert warfare and regime change – beginning with the effort to stage major military incursions into southern China from Burma and divert the Chinese Army during the Korean War, and then expanding the American activities to regime change in Iran. The Iranian experience proved to be the success (short term as it was) which gave the CIA a largely undeserved reputation for effectiveness – but one in which the regime change was more a matter of luck than the actual CIA plan, which had initially failed. One of the points of the discussion was that the Iranian experience illustrates the opportunity that the U.S. had to actually support the global anti-Colonial movements, but passed on in order to support the British position on dominating oil production in the Gulf States. A decision similar to that which led to supporting the French colonial position in SE Asia and the fragmentation of Vietnam.
The talk ranged on from the earliest years of shadow warfare to discussion of how covert operations frequently become entangled with drug smuggling – largely because the logistics needed for deniable warfare create the commercial covers that can be easily hijacked and often rely on connections to smugglers who are already engaged in illegal activity.
Beyond that the “surrogates” involved in such actions – whether they be the Burmese hill tribes circa 1950, the Hmong in Laos during the 1960’s, the Nicaraguan Contras or the anti-Soviet (and later anti-government) Afghan forces – always seem to involve at least some leaders who finance themselves with and base their power structures around drug sales. Working with them inherently contains the poison pill of drug smuggling. As I note in the Shadow Warfare, if you send in weapons to your surrogates by donkey, drugs come back, if you use helicopters drugs come back and if you ship Toyotas to Afghanistan, well you get the point. You can listen to part or all of that conversation here:
Next up on the Ochelli interviews, on February the 18th, will be a discussion of my newest book on national security history and practices – “In Denial”
For some years – actually decades – there have been online discussions of what was described as an effort by Ruth Hyde Paine to contact the Navy about Lee Oswald prior to his travel to Russia. That has been part of the overall discussion of the Paine’s being intelligence connected and having had some long term role in either monitoring or manipulating Lee Oswald. The problem with the early contact story was that while documents were referred to in regard to that story, none of the dialogs provided any detail, nor were the documents themselves available.
Recently that rumor and discussion resurfaced and fortunately a couple of my research community friends were able to provide links to documents that were declassified in 1992 and released in 1994. The documents make it clear while the Navy/ONI had held at least one memorandum on the purported contact, that document was simply a copy of information from an FBI inquiry. The FBI had made that inquiry based on unsolicited information from an FBI source.
The original FBI informant (Edward Cronk) appears to have advised the FBI that Ruth Hyde Paine actually became a pen pal of Lee Oswald as early as 1957, acting as a member of the Young Friends Movement of Philadelphia. That would have been at a point where the she was attending summer sessions at the University of Pennsylvania and studying Russian. Edward Cronk was listed as serving as the Executive Secretary for the Young Friends Movement of Philadelphia.
Cronk put the pen pal contact in the context of the Young Friends group’s interest in relaxing East-West tensions. As background, Cronk stated that he had first met Ruth Hyde Paine in Indiana, in 1955, with both of them being members of the Young Friends Movement at the time. The FBI confirmed that Ruth Paine did take a six hour summer course in Elementary Russian at that time. Of course both 1955 and 1957 were well before Lee Oswald went to Russia, and before even his Marine buddies in Japan became aware of his Russia and Russian language interests.
Cronk stated that he was aware that Ruth Hyde had become married and that she had moved to a residence in Dallas. However he stated he had no knowledge about her other than that nor anything about the association of Lee Oswald with the Paine’s in Dallas. Most confusingly Cronk stated that it was Lee Oswald and his wife who got in touch with the Ruth Paine and her husband though the pen pal program of the Young Friends movement.
Nothing in the initial FBI summary document on Cronk’s information resolves the issue of what year a contact would have been made between Oswald and Ruth Hyde Paine, who initiated it or whether it was via letter before or when Oswald was in Russia. As a follow up in its inquiry into the Paine’s and Oswald’s, FBI interviews in Dallas produced no evidence to confirm that there had been a pen pal connection between Ruth Hyde Paine and Lee and Marina Oswald prior to their personal introduction to the couple at a party in Dallas in spring, 1963.
Based on those findings, Cronk was re-interviewed by the FBI and at that time stated that he had no evidence that Ruth Hyde Paine had corresponded with Lee Oswald while he was in Russia. Cronk did add the detail that he himself had been a pen pal of Ruth Paine prior to her marriage but had not corresponded with her since 1957, nor was he involved in the Young Friends program after that year – he had simply heard she had taken a Russian language course in Philadelphia. Cronk does not appear to have been challenged as to why he made his original report to the FBI or why he stated such correspondence between Oswald and Ruth Paine had occurred as he described in that report.
In the end it’s hard not to view Cronk as having made a highly speculative report to the FBI (and interesting to wonder why they had considered him an informant), triggering an inquiry that went nowhere, but which did somehow generate the rumor of a very early contact between Ruth Hyde Paine and Lee Oswald, prior to his trip to Russia – in spite of Cronk’s remark that the correspondence he described was between Oswald and Ruth Hyde Paine while he was in Russia.
Not the sort of accuracy and reliability the FBI would expect in a confidential informant….but seemingly enough to generate years of discourse and speculation within JFK research.
First off, let’s be clear, the recent invasion and vandalizing of the United States Capital needs to be recognized for what it became – a violent attack intended to terrorize the U.S. Congress, and subvert the American system of government. If hostages had been taken and public executions performed, as was being called for some of those inciting the attack, it would have had an impact similar to the attacks of 9/11. Those calls to violence were posted (and archived) as well as taped in real time during the demonstrations in Washington. If you doubt either of those statements, simply read the following links:
This threat of this domestic terrorism was known within the intelligence and law enforcement community, just as were the foreign threat of 2000 (the Millennium attacks which were countered and aborted) and the attack of 2001 (which were not). I discuss and analyze those earlier attack in my book Surprise Attack – including an assessment of why the first was successfully interdicted and the second was not. Unfortunately, the failure to block the attack on the Capital and Congress in 2021 appears to be due to the same fundamental causes as the failure of 2001.
Such terror attacks are intended to be sensational, psychological impact beyond any physical casualties. Those of 2000 and 2001 were fueled by foreign agendas, enabled by the emerging potential of radical organization using the newly emerged global internet. In 2021, new social media platforms (with capabilities for sophisticated targeting of potential recruits which were first used during the election of 2016) became tools for inciting and organizing direct violent action against the American Congress.
Supporting that assessment is far beyond this topic or the space available here; I can only refer you to the work in my book Creating Chaos which examines the history of political warfare as well as the following links which discuss the history of internet “targeting”, its impact in the 2016 election involving entities such as Cambridge Analytica. and the emergence and evolution of the social media forum Parlour:
What I’m most concerned with here is the national security failure to deal with what was clearly visible as an imminent threat to Congress and the nation’s capital. While it is easy to point fingers at the law enforcement agencies, it has to be recognized that they are limited by their legal charters, which focus them on investigating and dealing with crime in progress or after they have been committed.
Preempting and interdicting national security threats such as those of 2000, 2001, and 2021 (which are a Federal issue) requires direction and intervention from the highest levels of government – the Commander in Chief, the National Security Advisor, the National Security Council and the heads of agencies such as the FBI, the Justice Department and Homeland Security. Without high level direction, indications of active threats literally go nowhere.
The failure to recognize or acknowledge that fact can be seen in the current dialog – and confusion – about the lack security for the Capital (or Congress).
“Federal and local law enforcement were openly talking about security concerns they harbored in the days leading up to Wednesday’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington. One federal official briefed on the situation told ABC News that concerns about violence were not a secret. The official said it’s not clear why more action was not taken with so much advance notice.”
Fundamentally the problem is that agencies such as the FBI investigate crimes that have been committed or respond to specific warnings reported to them and within their jurisdiction. Beyond that, they always operate with limited personnel and given the variety and number of contemporary threats they routinely prioritize their resources based on directions coming down to them from those at headquarters (the FBI Director or the leadership at Justice).
As I documented in Surprise Attack, each elected administration generates its own law enforcement and national security priorities, and those become the drivers for the federal agencies. Because of those changing priorities, a threat which is outside those priorities may be detected – but may not actually receive a significant response.
The threats of 2000, 2001 and 2021 were all discussed and even communicated at various levels within government agencies. In 2000 the terror threat was taken to the National Security Advisor who, with Presidential endorsement, worked with the FBI and other key players to conduct special investigations and apply special pressures – as a result planned attacks were interdicted or otherwise averted. In 2001 some of the same players, even at the FBI field office level, reported potential threats. Yet at that time the priorities of the President and National Security Advisor were elsewhere and the threats were not even circulated to key agencies such as the FAA.
In 2021, Presidential security and law enforcement priorities were again elsewhere, key federal agencies had been focused on totally different types of threats, several key players within the top leadership circles of key agencies were new in their jobs, there was no trusted national security advisor running point, and the National Security Council can only be said to have been dysfunctional.
A review of contemporary national security threats makes it obvious that the failure to deal with them comes not from the ability to identify them, but very real legal and systems problems involved in responding to them. The fact is that responding to any major national security threat requires actions above and beyond normal law enforcement activity (and legal limitations).
Unfortunately even acknowledging that fact can have political consequences. Perhaps that is why even the individuals leading federal agencies hesitate to highlight the basic issues or comment too openly on them. Such comments could easily have obvious ramifications for their own careers.
I’ve commented before that “institutional memory” is poor in Washington, but given these recurring national security failures – over such a relatively short time span – the question is whether we can ever overcome the level of denial which appears to have become embedded in our national security system. Denial which prevents the conversion of intelligence into action, before it becomes too late to deal with emerging threats.
This final segment focuses on the conspiracy in terms of its activities in Dallas, both on November 22, 1963 and during the weeks preceding the attack. It addresses the types of assets which were called into play and deployed in Dallas to support both the attack on President Kennedy, and the linkage of that attack to Cuba and Fidel Castro. Previous segments have developed the point that there the President was increasingly at risk during 1963. Active threats were known, both from the radical right (John Birch/NSRP rifle teams), and from radical Cuban exiles; those threats were reported to and communicated within the Secret Service. We now know that by October some of those threats were being taken seriously, but to date none of them show the range of assets, the level of local support activity, or the degree of planning which occurred in Dallas.
How and why that level of support was uniquely available in Dallas emerges from the context laid out in the preceding segments, specifically in the connections between Jack Ruby, Cuban affairs, and certain members of the Havana and Las Vegas casino “crowd”. Segment 5 illustrates the danger of revealing the conspiracy which would have been inherent in a full exposure and coordinated investigation of Ruby’s history. It also demonstrates the extent to which a key portion of the plan for Dallas imploded with the capture of Lee Oswald, bringing Ruby into a totally new role.
Beyond the uniqueness of Dallas (both in terms of Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby) this segment also explores the tools and tactics of the assassination which reveal clear signs of what was a paramilitary attack employing standard infantry tactics and practices and carried out by well trained and experienced participants. Deconstructing the attack also reveals that it was in no way designed to conceal a conspiracy. If anything it was carried out so as to reveal a multiple shooters and a level of tactical organization which would be expected from a coordinated team – not to cover itself by placing the blame on a single “lone nut”.
The segment concludes with an examination of key elements in the chaos which followed the failure of the second element of the conspiracy (the framing of Lee Oswald as a Castro regime tool). That examination includes the follow up efforts of both those inside the conspiracy, and the senior officials in Washington D.C. who determined that national security demanded that a conspiracy neither be investigated nor exposed.
I’ll look forward to discussing this segment here or, as usual, via your emails.
As announced earlier, the segments will be consolidated into boo form and made available in book form on Amazon, hopefully before the end of Q1, 2021
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.
This segment begins with a synopsis of the sources I found to be both credible and consistent in providing at least limited amounts of information related to the conspiracy which evolved during the fall of 1963, as well as the actual attack in Dallas, Texas. Some of the individuals discussed were at least peripherally inside the conspiracy, others were totally outside it, but heard relevant information from individuals who can now be identified with some level of certainty. Two individuals are also included who provide critical information related Lee Oswald, information which undermines the official story of his being a loner and instead positions him as being in contact with “subversives”, something known (and suppressed) within both the FBI and CIA.
More to the point, Segment 4 continues with an exploration of the context in which the conspiracy developed, evolved and ultimately reached a tipping point where ongoing talk and plotting against President Kennedy became driven by a time critical element. At that point Dallas emerged as not just another opportunity, but a place where it all had to come together, a place where local assets were available, and a point in time where the President had to be eliminated. Segment 4 also goes into considerable detail in regard to Lee Oswald in 1963, including the connections and activities which brought him into play by the conspiracy.
It’s a fairly long and deep read, to be followed by Segment 5 on December, 20th. That segment will delve into the Dallas attack including the tactical scenario and conclude with an examination of which parts of the plan worked, which did not, and the resulting actions by those who knew that there had indeed been a conspiracy involved in the assassination.
Herminio Diaz Garcia is another of the persons of interest I mention at several points in Someone Would Have Talked who won’t be showing up in Tipping Point. However, Diaz Garcia continues to be someone mentioned as either a shooter in the Dallas attack, as the driver of a Rambler on Elm Street – or both.
Actually his name did not emerge in regard to the Kennedy assassination until 1995, decades after Diaz Garcia had been killed during a small exile group mission into Cuba, and a mission intended to kill Fidel Castro. Diaz Garcia and another man landed via rubber raft and were to set up rockets to be fired against Castro. In 1995 Diaz Garcia’s (along with that of Anthony “Tony” Cuesta and several other anti-Castro Cubans) name was introduced into the JFK assassination by Cuban General Fabio Escalante.
Tony Cuesta himself was a moderately well-known name in anti-Castro activities. In 1961 he had been granted CIA approval to work as a crew member on the Tejuana, a ship used to smuggle weapons and people into Cuba before the landings at the Bay of Pigs. Following that disaster he had broken away and become involved in independent anti-Castro activities with Alpha 66 and later Commandos L.
The Tejanua’s missions ceased prior to actual landings at the Bay of Pigs, and Cuesta had no further operational use by the CIA. In 1966 he was part of a small group affiliated with Commandos L which carried out the abortive mission in which Diaz Garcia was killed; during the engagement Cuesta had been blinded, lost one hand and was taken prisoner. In 1978, following talks with President Jimmy Carter, Castro allowed a group of Cuban prisoners to return to the United States and Cuesta was among that group. After his return to the United States, Cuesta lived for almost three decades, passing away only in 1994.
In 1995 General Fabio Escalate published a book dealing with American / CIA efforts to kill Fidel Castro. That same year he and other former Castro regime figures agreed to an off shore meeting with a group of Kennedy assassination researchers. Among other remarks, Escalante
related that at the time of his release, Tony Cuesta had privately told Escalante that he had been involved in the killing of President Kennedy – as had another member of the mission to kill Castro, Diaz Garcia. Escalante offered no corroboration for the Cuesta/Diaz Garcia story, nor did he offer an explanation for Cuesta’s “confession” other than that in some fashion he and Cuesta had become friendly to General Escalante while in prison.
Escalante’s 1995 book, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations against Cuba, 1959-62 provided an extensive list of purported CIA attempts to kill Fidel Castro. Escalante also wrote the introduction and commentary for CIA Targets Fidel: The Secret Assassination Report. In those works he blamed the assassination of President Kennedy on a conspiracy of Cuban exiles
including Tony Cuesta and Diaz Garcia – working with the CIA.
Over a decade after Escalante’s revelation, in 2007, Reinaldo Martinez, who had also been in prison in Cuba, offered the story that while working in the prison infirmary he had treated Cuesta and Cuesta had told him that Diaz Garcia having told him that he had been involved in killing PresidentKennedy. Cuesta had offered nothing more than saying that he had heard that from Diaz Garcia himself.
Martinez contacted former House Select Committee chief counsel Robert Blakey and ultimately Blakey and author Anthony Summers interviewed Martinez and wrote about the claims – a sensational version of which appeared in the British press.
Martinez attempted to corroborate his own remarks by stating that after his return to the United States a friend of his, Remegio Arce, had told him that a friend of theirs, Diaz Garcia, had been the man who shot JFK. Arce was no longer living at the time of Martinez’s talks with Blakey and Summers so that corroboration could not actually be verified.
While many have accepted both the Escalante and Martinez remarks, a number of JFK researchers have examined them in considerable detail, expressing both skepticism and concerns over the general reliability of Tony Cuesta as a source.
Which brings us back to Diaz Garcia, and the issue of his viability as either a participant (or an actual shooter) in the attack on JFK in Dallas. As it turns out, recent records releases from both the CIA and FBI actually provide some general information about his background in Cuba and in particular his activities after arriving in the United States in July, 1963.
Diaz Garcia entered the United States by commercial liner, the SS Maxima, in 1963, traveling under a release program which had freed members of the Cuban Brigade, certain Americans imprisoned in Cuba, and a number of Cubans who chose to claim political exile. He traveled to the United States along with his wife and an infant daughter.
Along with other incoming Cuban exiles, Diaz Garcia was evaluated by the CIA refuge filter center and its Cuban intelligence assets (AMLEPTON team) and his 201 file saw a number of additions form 1963 on, including input from the CIA’s Cuban intelligence group (AMOTS). A Church committee summary document on from August 1975 indicates that a CIA file on Diaz Garcia had initially been created because he had been reported in the news as a suspect in gang related murders and attempted kidnappings in Cuba as well in Honduras and Costa Rica.
Some of the more sensational claims, based in newspaper stories identifying Diaz Garcia as having been involved in gang activities including political assassination and attempted kidnapping, remain difficult to verify given that he was apparently never actually charged or sentenced for such crimes while inside Cuba. He did spend a short time in jail in 1957, either as a suspect in one of the reputed crimes or for suspected actions against the Batista regime. Later he was held – as were thousands – for suspected anti-Castro sympathies in 1961 and 1962.
Diaz Garcia gave only limited remarks about his own background, describing his membership in a union of restaurant employees and saying that he had worked in Havana hotels and casinos. However, AMOT sources described him as having a criminal history inside Cuba, working in casino security before being demoted to a cashier’s position.
According to those source reports, Diaz Garcia was reputed to have been associated with activities against the Batista regime, having killed a Cuban secret police chief and plotting to assassinate Batista himself. While there is no proof to support those actions against Batista, Dias Garcia was jailed for possible conspiracy against the Castro regime at the time of the Cuban Brigade landings at the Bay of Pigs held for 70 days and then later released. He had also been taken into custody for a shorter period in 1962.
The CIA summary assessment of him was that he might be a useful source of intelligence on certain Cuban figures, but also noted that Diaz Garcia was “fond of gambling and of committing any crime for money”. Given his apparent association with criminals inside Cuba, and his apparent involvement in illegal arms and possibly drug deals after entering the United States that does seem like an accurate assessment.
As of September 17, 1963 the CIA was still in the progress of evaluating Diaz Garcia and preparing a standard 201 file on him. The initial information collected for that file states that he had trained as a dietician, had been a restaurant worker employee and a union member. His
last job inside Cuba had been as a cashier at the Hotel Havana-Rivera. He had formerly headed the security detail at that hotel, during 1959-60 – before Castro had reorganized the casinos and hotels, eliminating the old line American syndicate ownership and management.
Once established in the United States, Diaz Garcia began to pursue limited anti-Castro activities in 1964. An AMOT source reported that he was dedicated to the assassination of Fidel Castro, either through direct military action or through contacts inside the Cuban Army. In 1966, an AMOT intelligence source reported that Diaz Garcia had been specifically plotting and working on plans and efforts to assassinate since 1964.
In 1965 Diaz Garcia began an association with Tony Cuesta and Cuesta’s Commandos L group. Commandos L had in turn had had become associated with individuals in the Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE). RECE was largely funded by a wealthy Cuban rum magnate, Jose Bosch.
During 1965 Diaz Garcia became personally involved in Commandos L missions, including a November attack near Havana, Cuba.
While RECE may have had substantial funding, the individuals involved with Commandos L were left largely to their own resources, selling bonds and asking for donations. However some of their volunteers (including Diaz Garcia) turned to other, far more illegal activities
We know a good deal about both Commandos L and RECE and certain of its members not only because some of them actually served as voluntary sources to the FBI, also but because the CIA had been able to place its own
informants inside the group and they consistently reported on individual’s political and social connections as well as the group’s plans and activities.
FBI sources also covertly monitored some of the Commandos L affiliates, and their records confirm that that Diaz Garcia was among those engaged in trafficking in explosives, detonators and even hand grenades – dealing with long time Miami traffickers including Norman Rothman. In addition FBI sources reported that Diaz Garcia may also have acted as a courier in narcotics deals; he frequently traveled between Miami and New York City as
well as into Mexico.
Possibly in response to the FBI monitoring and certainly as a person of interest to the FBI, by 1966 Diaz Garcia chose to directly approach the FBI and began to volunteer information on his associations and activities with anti-Castro groups. He even disclosed the fact that he was involved in a new plan which would essentially take him back into Cuba on a one way mission, the mission was to have some financial support from RECE but would be a totally independent operation.
Diaz Garcia and a handful of other men were committed to an independent action which would result in the assassination of Fidel Castro. During his interview with the FBI he refused to discuss any further detail about the planned mission, insisting that it would be a totally independent activity, not associated with the United States or other anti-Castro exile
As it turned out Diaz Garcia’s remarks to the FBI were quite accurate. Later in 1966 he did go into Cuba with a group led by Tony Cuesta. Diaz Garcia and another man landed by inflatable raft and were positioning two rockets for an attack on Fidel Castro when they were captured.
All this leaves us with a great deal of information (some confirmed; some simply rumored) detail about Herminio Diaz Garcia, but no corroboration of any remarks attributed to Cuesta or for that matter to Martinez, whose revelation was made after Escalante’s meeting with researchers and his identification of Diaz Garcia in remarks related to his own book about CIA assassination efforts against Fidel Castro.
While I certainly can’t “prove” that neither Diaz Garcia nor Tony Cuesta himself were involved in the attack on JFK, at this point I can’t point out a path to link either of them to the Dallas conspiracy. I’ve tried to focus Tipping Point on provable associations and actual documented activities related to Dallas, what we now know about Herminio Diaz Garcia is not sufficient to outline a scenario for his recruitment or a unique role for him. In fact we cannot even verify even his claim of involvement, nor that of Tony Cuesta. Until and unless something more definitive emerges, he has to remain a wild card.
Addendum: Tipping Point Segment 3 is now live on the Mary Ferrell Foundation
Segment 3 of Tipping Point is live on the Mary Ferrell Foundation now:
It delves into the chronology of what I found to be especially significant events and movements of individuals during the Fall of 1963. The commentary in the end notes also gives my opinions on topics of that period that are widely discussed and debated.
Segment 3 completes the background for the final two segments, which are both much longer and much more detailed – segments 4 and 5 explore what I see as the context in which the Dallas attack involved, the specifics of the personnel involved and the tactical aspects of the attack – and what followed President Kennedy’s murder.
The second segment of Tipping Point is now available on the Mary Ferrell Foundation website. As mentioned earlier, we are serializing the full work with the Introduction plus five parts. Part 1 was rather lengthy while parts 2 (Enter Lee Oswald) and 3 (People in Motion – Fall 1963) are shorter, intended to be highly focused, and with considerable detail and commentary in the end notes. The final two segments will much longer.
Part 2 will no doubt be controversial – everything related to Lee Oswald is controversial. My own view is that there is indeed a considerable backstory in regard to Oswald, beginning with Naval Intelligence in Japan, and likely including his early attempts to approach the Russian Embassy in Tokyo. I mentioned that in my last post on Richard Cast Nagell. I do feel that both men crossed paths there, at a time with Henry Hecksher was CIA chief of station in Japan.
That period in time was at the height of the Cold War, and I really don’t believe that Oswald’s interests in Russia, his later interest in Cuba and his overall political views would have escaped intelligence attention. On the other hand, other than establishing a context for intelligence interest in Oswald, and his probable use as a knowing or even unknowing source, Tipping Point attempts to focus entirely on the Dallas conspiracy and attack so I will leave the details of that Oswald’s earlier intelligence associations – prior to 1962/63 – to others.
In regard to conspiracy and the use of Lee Oswald, my quandary has always been finding the specific connection that would have brought Oswald to the attention of a conspiracy. Not in a general sense – as in his having a CIA file or his being known for his “defection” to Russia. And not in terms of his being the subject of entirely expected and proper attention from both CIA Domestic Operations and FBI interest following his return to the United States and Texas.
Of course the common answer has been that Oswald’s highly visible activities in New Orleans established an “image” which made him ideal as a pointer to Cuba and Castro and his value as a patsy for any conspiracy. I agree with that view, but I would also extend it to the view that Oswald may have been viewed as a patsy by different anti-Castro elements, including more than one clique of Cuban exiles and anti-Castro activists.
As I noted in my last post, Nagell’s story of Oswald being manipulated for some sort of action in the Washington area in September is corroborated by Oswald’s own letters of late August. While that plan aborted, possibly based on Nagell’s own interference, we now know that Oswald (and his image) was far more visible within the broader Cuban exile community and specifically within certain elements of the CIA’s Operations Directorate than we were aware of in the early years of research.
The good news is that it is now possible to be much more specific in terms of exactly who was monitoring and taking advantage of the image that had emerged in New Orleans – both among the Cuban exiles and more importantly inside both the Special Affair Staff as well as specifically among CIA officers at JMWAVE. Now we can even connect him to specific projects of SAS officers, projects including political action against Cuba both at the United Nations and in Mexico City. It is those connections that brought Oswald directly to the attention of individuals who became very much aware of him and ultimately his value in regard to the conspiracy that evolved during October and November, the conspiracy behind the attack in Dallas.
And it is those connections which are the topic of Tipping Point segment two – “Enter Lee Oswald”