The Bay of Pigs and the US Navy

There is a real temptation among those interested in the JFK assassination to look at the personalities and events – as well as “practices” – of 1963 as being unique. I had hoped that with the research and publication in Shadow Warfare, I could bring a broader perspective and those that have read it generally seem to agree. The frustrating thing is that it has either not come to the attention of or been read by very many people, especially within the JFK community. That may be because increasingly there is a real reliance on internet sources….which can be really a bad thing considering how many myths, legends and misinformation that readily floats on the net. On the other hand, if you focus on actually historical sites and archives there is great material…it takes a bit longer to find it but it’s well worth the trouble. The following is largely derived from such a study, which you can find for yourselves in the following publication:
In working on updates to my forthcoming 2015 book on national security, I happened to revisit the Bay of Pigs, with a particular interest in one of the things that has troubled me for some time. It’s something that appears in most JFK books and is stated either without much elaboration or as something to be taken for granted. However, since we have the CIA IG report, the Taylor Commission report and the CIA internal rebuttal to the Taylor Commission all online, the question of why there were Navy jet strike aircraft off Cuba, why there was an aircraft carrier there, and why there was apparently a much larger Navy force including a Marine landing Brigade should come to mind when one reads all those reports.
After all, from the beginning, the Eisenhower era plan had involved landing a guerrilla force and even the altered plan of early 1961 had called for a very low profile, night landing with absolutely no overt involvement by the American military. Captain Jake Scapa had from the beginning been assigned to work with the CIA operation, primarily on its amphibious elements – he was assistant chief of plans and operations at the Navy’s Little Creek Amphibious base.
If you dig into the plans and reports, the only noted assignment of Navy ships was to provide a screening force of destroyers to remotely shadow the smaller landing craft from Nicaragua – to provide aid in case there were mechanical or other problems and to shield the group from vessels that might cross its path. They were to be turned away under cover of a Navy exercise in progress. The basic “shadow” force was designated as Task Force Able, it operated under the operational designation “Bumpy Road” and consisted of an anti-submarine task group including an ASW carrier (with helicopters and propeller driven aircraft capable of using depth charges), ostensibly deployed for exercises. It is not unusual to find such groups accompanied by a submarine and two submarine did deploy with Task Force Alpha operation. The force had been scheduled for exercises off Rhode Island but those exercise were simply moved to the Caribbean.
It appears that Task Force Alpha also contained a Navy element not discussed in any real detail in the post Bay of Pigs inquiries – the ASW carrier USS Essex flew off its normal complement of helicopter and propeller aircraft and was reportedly stocked with a variety of ordinance for land strikes. The carrier was also accompanied by a CIA officer. After debarking and while at sea, the Essex took on board a flight of Navy jet attack aircraft – a dozen of A-4 jets were deployed out of squadron AS-34. The referenced article on the operation suggests that as far as the Navy was concerned the original, Trinidad landing, version of the invasion plan was to be supported by Naval air strikes and combat air patrols over the landing area – yet historically there has never been any suggestion of that in the plans reportedly presented to President’s Eisenhower or Kennedy. Beyond that, the Admirals in charge appear to have taken their own initiative to significantly increase the force by activating a second carrier (the USS Independence), a light cruiser (the USS Galveston), a full Marine Landing Brigade and two full additional squadrons of destroyers.
Once again this seems far beyond the scope of any known plan and was apparently done without the knowledge of the White House or President. This is an area that has never been clear in regard to the Bay of Pigs and some friends have volunteered to help me with a FOIA project that may reveal more. Wish us luck!
This incident is simply one more illustration that there have often been serious disconnects between the Commander in Chief and the military service’s senior officers. Everyone knows about Truman and MacArthur, most do not know that Eisenhower pursued military legal measures against some of his former Chiefs – even after their retirement. Which brings us back to my basic point, which is that we need as much perspective as we can get in historical studies.

Cuba 50 Years Late

Those reading this week’s news about President Obama’s effort to open some level of diplomatic relations with Cuba won’t be seeing much – if any – mention of the fact that it is an effort actually begun over 50 years ago, by President John Kennedy.  During 1963 JFK had begun a highly secret dialog with Fidel Castro, in an effort which he hoped would restore basic relations and some level of trade in 1964.  The details of that effort are now well known, I describe them in SWHT and NEXUS and a great deal of the original source documents including phone calls are available at the National Security Archive web site.

The 1963 initiative actually began with an outreach by representatives of Fidel Castro.  Castro had become greatly disenchanted with the Soviet Union and had recently moved to suppress Soviet oriented Communists within his own regime. He used personal and media representatives to extend an offer for talks on restoring relations – in turn JFK made it clear that he would demand that Cuba stop its efforts to spawn new Communist movements in Latin America and make moves towards a more neutral position in international relations, cooling its military alliance with the Soviets.  In doing so, JFK demonstrated that he was one of the few politicians of the time who understood the impetus towards nationalism and the value of neutrality in third world nations and was prepared to take advantage of it to block further creation of Soviet client states.  Of course Kennedy faced huge political danger in such a move, RFK warned him it could lead to impeachment if Congress found out about it before a deal could be reached. However Castro responded in a very open fashion, taking nothing off the table in agreeing to negotiations.  It could have been a huge strategic gain for the United States, at a time when Communist expansion around the globe appeared to be increasingly successful.   Kennedy had the nerve to explore the possibilities, and by November, 1963 arrangements were being made for the first meetings between personal representatives – then came Dallas.

Castro felt so strongly that improved relations were desirable that the made the same outreach to LBJ,  going so far as offering him the option of Johnson publicly acting against Cuba to ensure his election – while secretly opening a dialog.  Johnson refused to even acknowledge the outreach and certain parties – particularly Helms and Bundy – acted to block Castro’s representatives from presenting further offers to the White House.

Fast forward to 2014….and 50 years of inertia, including an ongoing economic embargo.  Beginning in 2013, Putin’s militarily reinvigorated Russia began its own outreach to Latin America, leveraging its oil revenues to begin to restore relationships which had fallen apart with its financial crisis following the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.   Cuba was not the only opportunity for Putin, Venezuela was as well.  The appearance of Russian bombers in Venezuela and the declaration of Russian military flights off the American coasts, including over the Gulf of Mexico, was something not even seen during the Cold War. The U.S. had chosen not to deal with the Cuban relationship for some five decades, it appeared very possible that the Russian Federation might be interested in setting the clock back a few decades, dramatically improving its relationship with a new Cuban government.

Then, anticipated by virtually nobody, the bottom fell out of the oil and gas market, the economies of both Russia and Venezuela began to tank. Venezuela had been acting as a financial surrogate for Cuba,  supplying its energy needs virtually free of charge.  Suddenly those days appeared to be coming to an end.  At that point it appears the Cuban government once again put out its own feelers for an improved relationship with the United States and the Obama Administration responded.  Of course any President can only do so much on his own and its very likely that Congress will attempt to block a truly expanded relationship – although numbers of agriculture oriented states have been lobbying for trade relations with Cuba for some years, touting the opportunity for real job growth and income from doing business with a market only 90 miles off shore.

Real opportunities – both geopolitical and trade – suddenly exist, largely based in the new-found energy sufficiency of the U.S.  Kennedy missed an opportunity 50 years ago, obviously through no fault of his own.  The question is whether the United States understands its own history and can get past the political opposition that will now erupt. We have no idea if good sense would have triumphed in 1964.  We’ll see if we’ve learned anything at all from the establishment of relations and trade with Vietnam, with China and with other dire Cold War enemies since then.

Where’s the Strategy?

The language of clear and present danger,  “the _______ unlike previous aspirants for hegemony, is motivated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world”.   The quote is from The National Security, by Norman Graebner, his book was published in 1986 and the subject of the quote is the Soviet Union. The actual verbiage is from the National Security Council, in its document number 68, begun in 1949 and issued in early 1950.

Fast forward to 2014 and the same statement could be made in regard to the fundamentalist jihadi movement, as epitomized by ISIS/ISIL and demonstrated by the military establishment of new “caliphates” across the Middle East, in Libya and into Yemen and Nigeria. If anything the new fundamentalist regimes are more openly  brutal in their takeovers than the Communist regimes which were taking control of Russia, China and North Korea during late 40’s and early 50’s. The actual loss of life to date would shift strongly to the Communist regimes, but the jihadi caliphates are much more open about their methods and practices.

The point in the comparison is that under the administrations from Truman through Kennedy, there was an immense amount of strategic effort devoted to characterizing and coming up it both new national security practices and strategies to counter what was perceived as a global threat. There was also an immense amount of Congressional attention to that threat and a variety of legislation was passed to deal with it.  As of 2014 that legislation remains largely unchanged and serves as the platform for dealing with an entirely different type of threat, one which more openly proclaims its desire to take absolute control over the rest of the world.  While this is not an article in praise of the Cold War American strategies, it should at least be acknowledged that they were developed, debated and implemented with Congressional involvement.

Yet after years of a new growing threat, one which now actually claims significant geographic areas of control, there appears to be little strategic dialog.  At best we see knee jerk military actions and a constantly broadening military assistance programs, including National Guard relationships with over 60 nations around the globe and a constantly expanding low visibility military capability.

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As followers of this blog and readers of Shadow Warfare know, I don’t see such things as necessarily bad, more like necessary evils.  What troubles me is that way back in the Cold War, the U.S. pursued its National Security strategy with vigor but was often blind to the more subtle nuances – such as the differentiation between Communist and Nationalist movements.  That led us to aligning with first colonial and later military dictatorships and ultimately forced  many nationalist movements towards the Communist banner and outreach to Communist nations, simply in reaction.  The contemporary question is whether we would be able to come up with a more rational strategy, for instance one which could address the complex situation in major nations such as Nigeria.

Perhaps a more rational strategy is possible, perhaps not.  But at the moment we seem to be strictly in knee jerk mode, with no sign of the sort of strategic thinking or debates of the Truman era – as well described in Graeber’s work.  Today’s arguments and debates are over the level of National Security Council (read White House/National Security Adviser/Sec of Defense) tactical micromanagement of the military campaign against ISIS and the apparent bipolar nature of a Congress which opposes executive actions while demanding involvement in foreign military campaign but can’t even deal with a new Authorization for Military Force much less calls for a formal declaration of war called for by a potential Presidential candidate.

Bottom line, tactical decisions, authorizations for military force and even declarations of war would be best served in the context of an overall strategy to address a new threat in a new century – if somebody sees signs of such a strategy emerging, being discussed, promoted or debated, please let me know.  So far I’ve missed it if that’s happening….   The best I can find is the sort of dialog in this article, which should actually be the sort of discussion we are seeing in Congress or at least within the National Security Council.




Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi

Yes, I know I’ve posted on this before but a friend of mine put something on Facebook recently which caused me to take a look at a whole thread of Benghazi comments and I was literally amazed at the number of absolutely false statements still being posted.  While that sort of thing could be excused in the early days, at this point in time its clear that history continues to be submerged by politics.  Now I’m not naive enough to know that does not routinely happen but this seems to be one of the more egregious examples I’ve come across – and that’s saying a bunch.

One of the reasons I can say that with some confidence is that I spent a considerable amount of time studying Benghazi as a part of my newest book, still tentatively titled “Surprise Attack”.  The good news there is that I do have a publisher commitment, it should start into edit this spring and is targeted for publication and availability in Fall, 2015.   In doing the research for the Benghazi section of the book (actually not just Benghazi, but a general study of attacks on American diplomatic facilities overseas) I had not only contemporary news coverage as a source but three separate government inquiries, including one which was obviously politically motivated – the House Armed Services Committee inquiry. That effort was clearly devoted to finding as much fault as possible with the administration.  Actually for my purposes that was good since it dug and it dug deep, especially into the warnings intelligence and military response that is my focus.  It actually contained testimony from the CIA Chief of Station in Benghazi that I was amazed to see in  print – the sort of thing that normally is kept far from the public record.

Independently of the government investigations and reports, three of the CIA paramilitary security officers from the Benghazi Annex have recently published their own book, “13 Hours / The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” which gives virtually a minute by minute account not only of the attacks on the two facilities but the deployment of the Annex force, the security personnel from Tripoli, and the final and very well orchestrated mortar attack….long after the rest of the attacks and with the rescue party actually entering or about to enter the Annex itself.  It was that final burst of fire that killed the Annex security operatives conducting over-watch from the roof of the complex. I would highly recommend the book and the operators themselves are quite clear and adamant about the delay of their own deployment – based on the Chief of Station’s hope that he could keep cover by relying on the militia for a response other than his own forces.

The point of all this is that we now have an accurate history of the event – but that seems to be making little public impact.  Instead, what we see is a total focus on the fact that initial information was obfuscated (as if it were not standard national security operating practice), obviously in an attempt to cover up the CIA mission on the ground in Benghazi.  And rather amazingly, despite all the dialog, the CIA operations story is largely being shelved.  In Shadow Warfare we discuss our speculation on the CIA Benghazi mission and refer to a good deal of early investigative reporting linking it to covert operations in North Africa and Syria. The discouraging thing is that reporting has faded away in the face of the Benghazi political diatribe and once again it may be 30 years before we learn what was really in play.  It seems you either get the real story quickly from the few good investigative journalists or you have to wait for the historians to give it to you decades later – if ever.   I suppose I should have titled this rant something like “Opportunity Lost”, but then nobody would have ever looked for that with an online search…grin.

Air Force One

Events aboard Air Force One on November 22, 1963 have long become a matter of both mystery and speculation in regard to the assassination of President Kennedy.  That remains true despite the fact that William Manchester documented the personalities and activities on that aircraft, and its flight back to Washington in considerable detail in his classic early work The Death of a President.  Towards the end of his writing on that work, he was actually given access to what he knew to be an edited transcript of tape recordings made during the aircraft’s flight.  Actually, although that recording is generally described as a transcript of Air Force 1 radio communications, it is much more than that.  The recording itself was made by the White House Communications Agency, with equipment placed adjacent to the Special Air Mission (SAM) at Andrews air base.  The Special Air Mission supervised all of the aircraft used for White House travel, including VIP travel of senior diplomatic and Joint Chief’s staff.  The recordings had begun specifically at the direction of President Kennedy, who wanted a record of all communications related to presidential air travel.  Given that Air Force One was expected to function as a command center in the event that a national security incident happened during the president’s travels, such a record was as critical to the history of his presidency as were the White House records of events during the Cuban missile crisis.

On November 22, the tape recordings captured a variety of calls to SAM control as well as its communications with both Air Force One and a Cabinet aircraft on the way to Japan.  It was obviously an invaluable historical record, a window into both the personalities and response to the assassination – including the national security activities as the new president took over his responsibility as Commander in Chief.   Initially the existence of the tapes was kept from the public, made known apparently to certain individuals including Presidential aide Pierre Salinger. Salinger was actually provided a transcript of the communications to the Cabinet aircraft, which he had himself had been on at the time of the assassination.   When Manchester became aware of the tape, he requested a copy and was denied.  Ultimately after the better part of a year, he was allowed to listen to a copy he clearly understood to be edited.

Over the course of several decades, an edited version of the tape and a transcript did become available through the Johnson Library. More recently, in 2012, another copy was found in the estate of General Clifford, a military aide to the White House.  Interestingly, the Clifford tape has information edited out of the Johnson Library version, but the material removed proves not to be of any particular military security value – which makes sense given that these radio communications were clear channel and could be picked up by everyone from radio hams to Soviet listening posts. So, if the tape was edited (apparently twice at least), what was the motive?   Part of the answer to that may lie in the fact that there are independent source records of a variety of radio telephone calls which do not show up in either edited tapes – these include calls  by Johnson to Robert Kennedy,  National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, Johnson’s lawyer and at least one other personal friend.  Yet very personal calls such as to Rose Kennedy were left on the tape.

The issue also remains as to whether there were any national security calls on the tape, perhaps scrambled but still there (it was later denied that there was secure voice capability on the aircraft; that denial is highly questionable) – or any of the National Command Authority calls that should have been in progress – even basic communications checks from SAC’s command post, its airborne alert command post, and the National Airborne Emergency Command post which was airborne at the time.  There are no signs of even routine communications of that nature and no sign of all of any communication from the National Military Command Post at the Pentagon.  All this raised the question of what was on the full tape and why it appears to have been heavily edited (even for such things that should be there as routine communications checks).

Was there something on the tape that would have raised concern that a conspiracy had either been discussed – or suppressed – in the earliest hours following the assassination?  Were there embarrassing personal calls by the new President (including discussion of stock sales) at a time when he should have assumed his Commander in Chief role?   Would the full tape show Johnson to be ignorant or even negligent in assuming that role?   Or would the full tape reveal that Johnson had actually lied about certain conversations with Robert Kennedy and his need to stay in Dallas to take the oath of office prior to departure?

It all remains a mystery.  What is not a mystery is that a government record was knowingly altered into edited versions and then apparently destroyed.  Work continues on a search for possible copies of the full tape, but in the interim the alteration of the Air Force One communications records remains yet another open issue in regard to the true response of President Johnson and the operation of the nation’s command and control system following President Kennedy’s assassination.







Bishop, Phillips and Veciana – the implications

Antonio Veciana recently verified that CIA officer David Phillips used the alias of Maurice Bishop from the time of his first 1960 contact with Veciana in Cuba, a relationship that continued over several years and continuing into cover operations in Latin America    The Phillips/Bishop match has been written on at great length by researches ranging from Gaeton Fonzi and Anthony Summers to myself.   In his autobiography Phillips mentioned making contact while in Cuba with a group plotting an attack on Fidel Castro; he stated that he used both an alias and a disguise in those contacts.   We know that Veciana was involved in such a plot and that he had actually proposed an attack on Castro to the CIA (the related document lists the crypt for his CIA contact as “Olien”, a crypt not yet found in other documents).   Phillips notes that he contacted Veciana as a businessman, making no reference to the CIA, and Veciana confirms that Phillips maintained that stance throughout their relationship.  In 1968, Veciana was given a job working for AID (a long time CIA cover) and moved to Latin America, during the next few years he was involved in additional efforts to kill Castro.  I go into this in some detail in NEXUS but Veciana was not the only Cuban exile involved and it appears that Phillips directly and personally ran those assets while serving in a CIA management position as Chief of Cuban Operations for the Western Hemisphere.

It is reasonably clear that Phillips used CIA resources and CIA money to fund those operations.  What is not clear is the degree to which they were sanctioned, documented or the subject of any CIA paperwork trail. Equally important is that circa 1962/1963, Veciana relates the fact that Bishop/Phillips was key in providing the drive, introductions and money to form Alpha 66 and then to direct its activities.  That is especially interesting since once again there is no CIA paper trial showing any connection to Alpha 66.  It is even more interesting given that Veciana relates that Bishop/Phillips directed the group to attack Soviet targets in Cuba, in a series of missions that were to essentially “put JFK’s back to the wall” in some sort of intervention.  Alpha 66 was being used in direct opposition to American and White House possibility – at the direction of a CIA officer.   One possibility was that the group was crated under a sanctioned operation and that Phillips effectively “stole” it with personal direction and manipulation.  Yet there is no paper trail connecting the Agency to Alpha 66 at any point and those documents which do mention it appear to support the view that there was no direct connection.

All of which means that either there is a huge volume of CIA documentation that is missing from the released materials – to no obvious purpose – or that all connections with Alpha 66 were destroyed.  Other possibilities would be that the whole thing could originally have been a vest pocket operation that Phillips stole or that he hijacked the Veciana contact to his own purposes when Veciana arrived in exile in Miami.

Under any guise, its a fascinating and important historical story.  Did the CIA initially direct Phillips to Veciana based on the offer to assassinate Castro?  If so did the CIA not ask for any follow on reports about the assassination group inside Cuba. Phillips was actually brought out of Cuba for a time once his commercial cover was exposed, was he not debriefed then – before being sent back to essentially retrieve his family.   Hopefully someone or some group of researchers will follow this trial – it could have serious historical implications as to whether or not the CIA was essentially acting independently under the Kennedy administration or whether CIA officers had the ability to go rogue and subvert contacts for their own agendas – in Phillips case an agenda lasting well over a decade.   Personally I’ve written about Phillips activities throughout his career in SWHT, NEXUS and Shadow Warfare – no doubt I’ve even forgotten some of the relevant details in those works.  Hopefully younger and fresher minds can use that as a launching point to take this piece of history much further.





The Janus Factor

The War against ISIS is turning out to be uncomfortably familiar in some aspects. The U.S. Congress has managed once again to avoid engaging with it in any fashion other than an extremely limited resolution related to arming groups in Syria. We seem to be totally failing to interdict jihadi volunteers moving into the region, in the thousands (if press reports are correct) and while its agreed that the ISIS internet media campaign is one of its most effective weapons, we apparently have engaged in no cyber warfare against them. It also appears that our military is operating under severe policy micromanagement – refer to the following article on that.

If you are old enough to have experienced Viet Nam or if you have read Shadow Warfare, this may sound frustratingly familiar. And in one respect it seems surprising since President Obama has previously been praised (and condemned) for delegating a high degree of military autonomy to JSOC and the counter terror groups for their operations.

But after pondering this a bit, it strikes me that what we are seeing is a repeat of what I call the Janus Factor. President’s Johnson and Nixon have been roundly condemned for micromanaging military operations in both South and North Vietnam – where the U.S. was publicly engaged. However covert operations in Laos were far more autonomous, largely under control of the CIA and the US Ambassador in Laos. In the Obama Administration, we have observed an ongoing serious of clandestine JSOC activities and a dramatic (if low profile) growth in Military Assistance and State National Guard partnership programs with foreign nations. With virtually no media coverage, the US is now involved in 68 such National Guard partnerships around the world.

What seems to occur is that if a President is politically exposed in overt warfare, there is a huge temptation towards micromanagement (something that did not exist prior to and during WWII).  In covert and clandestine operations, with limited media exposure, the military is allowed far more autonomy (cynically this could also seen as political deniablity). It is a phenomena that seems to affect all of the modern day administrations. But to date it shows little sign of being positive for actual military operations….

Dallas FBI Agent Wallace Heitman

In recent posts regarding Cuban exiles in Dallas, the house on Harlandale and the lack of information on FBI subversive investigations in Dallas targeting Cubans, I mentioned the work done by agent Heitman.  It turned out that Heitman actually had published a book on his career and a couple of us jumped to order that.  This post is a brief synopsis of that book.  First, its a very interesting read in regard to his life and his overall career.  Second, it provides us with only minimal insight into the areas we would be most interested in.

Mr. Heitman does discuss the assassination at some length, very much in line with the official story  and there is no indication that he ever became familiar with the extensive evidential issues which are commonly discussed today.  Of course that is true for a great many of those involved in the initial investigation, the events in Dallas and the work of the Commission itself.  His remarks about his own work are limited, he does note that he was the agent who went to Sheriff Decker’s office and immediately began interviewing witnesses.  That is interesting and researchers might want to make a search for Heitman’s first day interviews.   He also specifically states that he and Agent Charlie Brown were dispatched to the emergency room to obtain a deathbed confession from Lee Oswald; he goes into considerable detail on that.  Given that the presence of “mysterious” government agencies in the emergency room was often debunked and used to challenge the credibility of certain Dallas doctors, Heitman’s remarks are pretty significant.

Other than that, virtually all his other remarks are in regard with his ongoing interviews with Marina Oswald.  I was immediately puzzled by certain points.  First, he stated that Marina was planning to watch a televised broadcast of the motorcade – yet we know there was no such thing.   Yet at the time of the shooting she was hanging out wash in the back yard.  He then goes on to state that her answers in his interviews were sometimes candid and truthful but but also “not infrequently” devious and untruthful.  But from there he essentially offers her boilerplate story about the Walker shooting, the abortive attempt on Richard Nixon and other similar remarks from Marina with no caveat at all.  It would have been interesting to know what he considered untruthful?

That’s it for his activities in Dallas, he relates none of his work before the assassination and nothing else until he appears in the Dominican Republic in 1965.  Given the very interesting documents we do have on his domestic and subversive intelligence work in Dallas, that area remains a total blank in regard to his book.  What we do learn is that before Dallas he served in Monterrey, Mexico.   He portrays his job there as working with Mexican agencies to monitor potential Communist infiltration of groups on both sides of the border.  Finding no sign of that he was transferred to Mexico City.  Again, given what we know of the serious FBI work targeting the Soviet and Cuban embassies as well individuals moving across the border to and from Mexico, there should be some pretty interesting stories there.  Unfortunately Heitman’s only remarks concern his being assigned to target a group of some 35 American expatriates, many from the film industry and others obviously forced out by the McCarthy campaign of earlier years.  His remark is that they were considered “dark pink” so they had to be monitored – other than revealing American spying on its citizens overseas, that seems awfully dull and something of a waste of taxpayer money.  Again, given what we know from other sources, either Mr. Heitman was getting some pretty weak assignments or he chose out to leave out assignments with real national security impact.

All in all its a nice read, especially if  you are interested in the American Southwest, which was here he was involved in some pretty interesting activities.  But in regard to domestic intelligence, which he describes as one of his major areas of work, its not really all that helpful.







Harlandale continued

In an effort to f further spur new research in this area, I wanted to consolidate some of what we do know and point out some key issues with the original investigation as well as a few very interesting open questions.

We officially know about the house only because of reports given to Dallas Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers by his mother who lived a few houses a way and had been observing some strange comings and goings at the place for short period before the assassination.  I should note that virtually all her remarks were either corroborated or seem very credible.  The house itself (in the Oakdale area) had been recently rented – some two months previous – by a leading figure in the local anti-Castro, Cuban exile community.  One of the key occupants was Manual Rodriquez Orcarberrio, an Alpha 66 leader and major figure in efforts to buy serious weaponry for the exile groups.  He was the target of both an FBI sting and of an independent ATF investigation by Frank Ellsworth.  Full details of those efforts are in SWHT and we have a number of on both the FBI and ATF activities.  Yet what we do not have are any FBI surveillance or actual investigation records on Orcaberrio’s movements or his associates at the house on Harlandale.  One of the FBI’s primary subversive tasks in 1963 was cracking down on exile guy buys and we should have a large set of documents on that activity in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  What we do have from the FBI in regard to Walthers report is nothing more than a confirmation that the Cubans had been in the house and left almost immediately either before or after the assassination.  Of course that would be what went into the JFK investigation file; the total local office effort on gun running would be something separate.

It should also be noted that if Oswald was being used as a “dangle” by the FBI, one of the ideal ways for the Bureau to gain more information on these groups and on gun running would be to have Oswald engage with the group having very late night meetings at the Harlandale house (and for those of you who thought that was Mason, regardless of my friend Dick Russell’s remarks, we now have Masens photo and he looks very little like Oswald).  It is also interesting to note that JURE was also actively looking for weapons in Dallas, and the person playing the lead in that role was none other than Sylvia Odio.

Also, as I detail in SWHT, there is reason to believe that the FBI source on the house – and the person who told the FBI Oswald had never been there – was Orcabarrio himself.  Orcarberrio had come from Miami to Dallas and there are reports suggesting he was violently opposed to JFK.  The Harlandale house was used by both Alpha 66 and DRE members, many of the younger exiles belonged to both groups.  It should also be noted that Antonio Veciana, a major Alpha 66 figure, was in Dallas in the fall of 63 to meet David Phillips.  There has been much talk of his seeing Oswald with Phillips in Dallas, but that overshadows what else Veciana might have been doing in Dallas, as well as any contact he may have had with the local exiles.  Recently there has been some information emerging that he too may have been at the house on Harlandale and that we don’t yet have the full story from him on his activities in Dallas. Interestingly enough, we have witness reports of someone looking very much like Oswald at the Harlandale house and across the border in Oklahoma, with Orcarberrio and several other Cuban exiles.

While none of this may have had any direct connection to the attack on JFK, its pretty obvious that if there were Cuban exiles from Florida involved in that, their arrival in Dallas might well have involved at least spending some time on Harlandale or their presence might have been known to some of those there.  Given the degree to which gossip flourished in that community, it would certainly be understandable why the house itself was largely abandoned either right before or immediately after Nov. 22, 1963.


Loose Ends in Dallas and the House on Harlandale

I thought it would be a good break to return at least briefly to the JFK assassination and some loose ends from Dallas.  One of the things that frustrates me a good deal these days is very limited amount of new research that actually goes on in respect to many of the fascinating leads which have turned up in the document releases of the past two decades.  Perhaps its too much work, after all there is so much JFK content (much of it heavily dated and questionable) on the internet that its possible to be immersed in that forever (sort of like becoming addicted to computer games I suppose).

To that end, I’ll offer the following tidbits to those who would like to go off on some less traveled roads.

1)  J.D. Tippet – it would probably be news to most folks that in addition to his security job at the BBQ restaurant, Tippet had worked off duty security at the Stevens Park theater, owned by Manuel Avila.  What makes that especially interesting is that Avila was very much connected to Cuban exile activities at the House on Harlandale. The theater was reportedly a Spanish language show, attracting Latino’s and Cuban exiles as well.  Reportedly in addition to the movies downstairs, a prostitution business went on using facilities associated with the theater. Even more interesting is the apparent rumor that Tippet got into some problems involving one of the girls working that side of the business.

Avila’s activities had included serving as a translator for Cuban exiles in Dallas, apparently including visitors. Amelia Diaz, who had immigrated from Cuba in 1959, worked for Avila, was an active DRE supporter and reportedly moved into the House on Harlandale during the relatively brief period in which it was used by DRE and Alpha 66 members. Victor Murillo, another individual who did volunteer translations, he lived in a house with Domingo Benavides.

Jose Salazar had rented the House on Harlandale, served as vice president of the Dallas Alpha 66 chapter and was a friend of Oswaldo Aurelio Pino – Pino was one of those specifically questioned by the FBI about knowing and possibly visiting Sylvia Odio.  The FBI was particularly interested in Pino as he had been an important figure in Cuba (Chief of the Fuels and Lubrication Department at the Institute of Agrarian reform) following the revolution. He was suspected of involvement with Cuban G-2 inside Cuba and being an informant on anti-Castroites and anti-Communists.  After arriving in the US, the FBI investigated him as a possible Cuban intel agent. He was investigated by Dallas FBI agent Walter Heitman from June 63 to March 64 – the investigation was delayed because Heitman was pulled for JFK assassination investigation work.  If Pino was not a Castro agent, clearly he had become a very dedicated anti-Castro activist.

(side note:   virtually none of Heitman’s pre- assassination reports and files are available; yet he played the main role in FBI subversive investigations focused on Cubans in Dallas.  This is one of the most important and least pursued areas of JFK research…in case anybody is interested).

Pino admitted joining a variety of exile groups in Dallas including Alpha 66 / SNFE / MRP) and being Vice Secretary; this was confirmed by a series of FBI informants.

…….so, it seems rather interesting that J.D. Tippett might have been socially connected to a series of Cuban exile figures extending all the way to the House on Harlandale (where Oswald was reported) and it is also just possible that some of those individuals might have known of information on Tippet, pertaining to the theater, that would have given some access and even leverage over him.

2) Oswald at the El Fenix Mexican Restaurant – everyone knows that Oswald asked to be dropped off the cab a distance away from his apartment.  They should also know about the police report of the suspicious car in the back of that restaurant that left immediately when the occupants realized they were being observed.  It just so happens that Oswaldo Pino had worked at that restaurant, and also as a delivery drive to the restaurant (El Chico Food services) in 1963.

We often talk about an abortive contact at the Texas Theater, but the possibility arises that either  there might have been another potential contact point or that Oswald was being monitored by a variety of individuals, not just including Officer Tippet. There is a lot more to this part of the story.  The license plane noted at the El Fenix restaurant mystery car ties into a close friend of Tippet, who had seen him that morning – and has its own major mysteries related to it.  Indeed the El Fenix car incident – along with the activities at the House on Harlandale – may be one of the hottest loose ends remaining.  There is much more to be said about the House on Harlandale, and about FBI agent Heitman’s exile work – or there would be if somebody would get serious with these sorts of leads and move off of the same subjects (and photos) that have been so consistently discussed for decades (sorry, disclaimer, attitude showing – as my friend Jim Marrs said years ago – look, we know there as a conspiracy, there were multiple shooters and Oswald was not a lone nut…get on with it ).

— Larry