Mystery Man

Tracy Barnes is an individual whose path I keep crossing.  Most recently in the current work I’m doing on the Cuba Project and the Bay of Pigs.  I first came across Barnes when I was researching NEXUS, my book on the CIA and assassinations.  As it happened Tracy was the head of the CIA’s Guatemala operations (PBSUCCESS), a program which paid a great deal of attention to assassination, while not actually carrying out most of the planned murders simply due to the pace of events – which moved quicker than did the actual assassination plans (which themselves involved not only the use of threats for intimidation, but a program of regime elimination as part of the actual coup).

Barnes turned up again in the Cuba Project, that time as an aide to Richard Bissell, the project chief.  The Cuba Project had an extremely bifurcated and compartmentalized organization structure – a significant factor in its failures. While Barnes is sometimes characterized as the individual responsible for the Cuba project under Bissell (yes, that’s what Wikipedia says), that was not at all true.  The project’s major operations were run under WH/4, a task group of CIA Western Hemisphere led by J.C. King, with actual operations under Jake Easterline (taking direction from Bissell, possibly relayed through Barnes).  In fact the deeper you dig into the organization chart the more amazingly poor the whole command and control structure of the Cuba Project becomes.

Finding Barnes in both projects where assassination was a major, if hidden element, of operations led me to do a good deal of research on Barnes and it’s amazingly hard to find solid information on him.  One of the things that emerged early on is that he and Bissell had both been rumored within the Agency itself to have constituted what was called the “Health Alteration Committee”.

One instance, documented by the HSCA, involved Barnes – acting under Bissell – to either assassinate or incapacitate an Iraqi Colonel with a poisoned handkerchief.  Another involved Barnes giving the order to blow up a Cuban airliner, hopefully with Fidel Castro on board…and order cancelled by Bissell. While Castro makes some sense, given the structure of the CIA it’s difficult to imagine exactly what authority Bissell and Barnes would have had in regard to Iraq, it certainly is inconsistent with the known assignments. Which leads to the speculation that the two men may simply have been known to be willing to pursue such actions and used at senior officer discretion – as an on call team for such actions. Barnes apparent involvement in the Trujillo assassination comes to mind in that regard.

It is rather hard to trace Barnes’ exact responsibilities and activities.  For example after the failure of the Cuba Project he was reassigned to Domestic Operations, a rather backwater post compared to his previous career postings.  But one interesting to JFK research because it would be CIA Domestic Operations which appears to have contacted Lee Oswald on his return to the United States – and through surrogates in his return to Dallas, Texas. If there was one unit of the CIA that should have been monitoring Lee Oswald in 1963 it would have been Domestic Operations, searching for reports on Oswald from Domestic Operations, or copied to it or to Barnes would be an interesting task.

As for myself, my limited posting time recently is largely due to my intense work on a new book dealing with the Cuba Project.  And in research for that book, Richard Bissell becomes a primary figure – as he should as chief of the project.  So do Jake Easterline, operations chief in WH/4 and Colonel Hawkins the project’s military officer (of its second phase – the landings in Cuba; its first phase failed after some six months).

But I’ve been struck by how little Barnes appears in communications and reports.  He was so deeply into the project that he did attend strategic meetings, he was a player at project HQ and was clearly trusted by Bissell.  But what was his real role?  One of the directions I’m going now is that Bissell had compartmentalized things to the extent that the Guatemala and Nicaragua operations of the project were quite separated from the boat missions and intelligence collections going on out of the project’s Miami Base (not yet designated JMWAVE) and its Key West maritime missions base.

One of the things the IG report on the project criticized was how insular and isolated those Florida missions were from the overall project.  And interestingly enough in the early months of 1961 the Florida base and in particular Key West appears to be where the sniper attacks and assassination missions against Fidel Castro were being run.

Missions apparently under the oversight of none other than Carl Jenkins. But the question arises, who was the HQ person giving orders for those missions. At present I’m speculating it was Tracy Barnes, acting very secretly under Richard Bissell – who in turn had initiated the separate efforts to kill Fidel Castro using Roselli, Trafficante et al. Even with all the work we have done to date we have never established an operational connection between the poison efforts and the Cuba Project.  The same can be said for the sniper attacks and the Cuba Project headquarters.

Now I’m thinking that the connection may well have been Tracy Barnes.  And when Bissell and Barnes hit the wall with the failure at the Bay of Pigs, they lost their position as the Health Alteration Committee…..which meant they needed to be replaced….Mr. Harvey, we have a new task for you.



Riding with Private Malone

If you listened to the song you should have found it incredibly sad – if you fully appreciate how the war there erupted in 1964, drawing in tens of thousands of American service people, it’s even sadder.   The following is excerpted from Surprise Attack:

During the summer of 1964 the United States was continuing covert action North Vietnam, at the same time increasing its electronic intelligence collection immediately off the North Vietnamese coast.

Deniable maritime attacks on North Vietnamese coastal targets had begun in 1962 and by early in 1964 the raids began to use U.S Navy provided Swift PT boats. By summer, the American Military Assistance Commander, General William Westmoreland, was shifting from commando attacks to shore bombardment from the patrol boats being operated by the South Vietnamese.[i]

The North Vietnamese responded by sending patrol vessels against raids. On the night of July 30, a reaction group of four patrol boats chased South Vietnamese raiders some 45 nautical miles. On their return north they passed within four miles of the U.S. Destroyer Maddox, performing electronic intelligence in the Gulf of Tonkin.[ii]

On the evening of August 3, three South Vietnamese boats attacked a military garrison and a radar site. Some 770 rounds of high explosive were fired during the attacks – all told some four separate attacks on North Vietnamese military targets had been made over five days.[iii]

The following day, the destroyer patrol commander moved his ships well offshore to provide maneuvering room in case of attack. Both ships reported continuing technical problems with their radars, the Maddox’s air search radar and the Turner Joy’s fire control radars were both inoperative. From South Vietnam, the Marine SIGNET unit transmitted another CRITIC to the effect that some sort of military preparations were underway, inferring that the destroyers were the likely target.

There were no specific references in the signals, the assumption were that any activity would be targeting the destroyers. Anticipating a night attack, the destroyers began to report a variety of air and surface contacts. The carrier Ticonderoga dispatched a Navy jet to the scene, the pilot easily located both destroyers – quite visible by their wakes – but found no sign of any other vessels in the area.

Navy Commander James Stockdale, in the air over the destroyers was adamant, “I had the best seat in the house to watch that event and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets—there were no PT boats there . . . there was nothing there but black water and American firepower.”[iv]

In the dark and with a mix of chaotic and intermittent radar, sonar and visible observations, both American destroyers opened fire on perceived targets and reported themselves under attack. The incident was over in some two hours and within three hours the Maddox commander transmitted an after action report advising that the Maddox had never positively identified an enemy vessel.

In the interim, the initial CRITIC warning of possible military action had arrived in Washington at 7:40 pm EST. At 9:25, with no further warnings, the Secretary of Defense had advised the President of a possible second attack in the making.

At 10 pm a flash message reporting an attack was received and within three hours, President Lyndon Johnson had ordered a major retaliatory air attack against North Vietnam. The Maddox after action report – which failed to confirm any enemy sighting – had arrived prior to that decision, along with word that the combat air patrol had also been unable to identify any attacking boats in the vicinity of either destroyer.[v]

At approximately the time the President’s ordered was being issued, the Admiral in Command of the Pacific Fleet had reported that the earl reports of enemy torpedoes in the water appeared doubtful. Freak weather, “over-eager” sonar observers and questionable visual observations were also noted.

Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp recommended delaying any retaliation until his command had time to sort out the intelligence and fully confirm an attack. Additional SIGNET later seems to have persuaded Sharp that the attack was real, however it is now clear that intelligence was mistranslated and misinterpreted.

On the Ticonderoga, Commander Stockdale had his orders to launch retaliatory air strikes. He himself had no doubt about the overall situation, “We were about to launch a war under false pretenses, in the face of the on-scene military commander’s advice to the contrary.”[vi]

After action reports and additional information from the military personnel in the field was already arriving in Washington at the time McNamara and Johnson were ordering major retaliation – for an attack which had not actually occurred.

Worse yet, the most current studies strongly suggest that from that point on, intelligence data was classified or possibly even intentionally mishandled, to justify their decision. It would be decades until the full set of signals intelligence reports was released by the National Security Administration, and historians were able to demonstrate – with total certainty – that no second attack had actually occurred.

In fact the NSA documents show exactly the opposite, the signals intelligence was of such quality that it was possible to determine exactly what the North Vietnamese naval forces were doing – which included salvage of their two patrol boats damaged in the previous night’s attacks and a number of close in coastal patrols.

There was no indication of any approach to, much less engagement with American vessels.[vii] With the extensive SIGNET now available, a thorough analysis reveals no comparison at all between the North Vietnamese communications activity of August 2 when an engagement did occur, and August 4, when one did not.


[i] Pat Patterson, Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy, “The Truth About Tonkin”, Naval History Magazine, Volume22, number 1, February 2008


[ii] Robert Gillespie, Black Ops Vietnam : The Operational History of MACVSOG, (Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Institute Press, 2011), 23


[iii] Pat Patterson, Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy, “The Truth About Tonkin”


[iv] Jim and Sybil Stockdale, In Love and War, (Annapolis Maryland, Naval Institute Press, 1990), 5-8


[v]Robert Hanyok, Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds and Flying Fish : The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery 2-4 August 1964 , 25


[vi] Jim and Sybil Stockdale, In Love and War, 25.


[vii] Robert Hanyok, Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds and Flying Fish : The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery 2-4 August 1964, 3


Cuba Project and Radar Anomalies


If anyone makes instant sense out of that title – congratulations!

What it means is that I haven’t been posting much because I’m deeply involved with two projects, both pretty taxing.   First, I’m engaged in research and writing on the initial chapters of a new book dealing with the Eisenhower 1960/61 Cuban regime change project – a project that was initially authorized to do no more than put a limited number of highly trained Cuban volunteers on that island to organize and lead guerilla movements against the Castro regime.

A project which Eisenhower never officially reauthorized beyond that scope but which ended with an attempt to land a full brigade of some 1,500 infantry troops on several beaches around the Bay of Pigs.  A covert action which was initially directed to be totally deniable, but which ended up involving a unit of main line American tanks, a heavy weapons group, and a series of paratroop drops.

In more recent decades the Cuba Project is historically discussed almost solely in terms of the Bay of Pigs, with the blame for the failure being cast almost universally on decisions by President Kennedy.  The real history is far deeper than that and it needs to be told in an understandable fashion.

At the moment it is buried within the reports from several official inquiries, a highly flawed CIA historian’s report and a large number of key operational documents which reveal a great deal of the real story.  Extracting the actual history of the project from the story line that came out of the original investigations and became established history – and from the outright obfuscation and lies of the project’s CIA chief –  is more than a little challenging, not something that is done quickly or simply.  The lies and obfuscation are not easy to identify, the real story is deeply complex.

And at the same time, just so tax my gray cells further, I remain quite interested in research on several technical areas of the UFO phenomena, in particular as it relates to certain incidents involving not simply observations but instrumented data collection.  For those of you not following the contemporary observations I’m going to post a link which introduces you to a recent U.S. Navy incident which products visual observations, laser targeting effects, multiple radar imaging and tracking and infrared imaging.

The link takes you to a conference presentation which gives you an overview of the incident and then some fairly heavy scientific analysis, concluding that the object in question was real, more than unconventional and truly anomalous.

Personally I’m interested in a number of incidents dealing with not just radar tracking of UFO’s, but observations which suggest that the UFO’s were intentionally emitting radar transmissions and IFF signals (Identification Friend or Foe) suggesting that they were either testing American electronics intelligence aircraft and ground air defense radar site or doing something even more interesting.

However, to effectively restudy such incidents, we need help from some military veterans or professionals with radar experience – so if you are one and if these three examples interest you please drop me a note at

1957 Incidents – two month period:

FPS-3A L-band search radar tracked an inbound target at average speed of about 6,200 mph for 48 secs [?] when it “stopped abruptly” and “remained stationary” for 12 secs to the ENE at 75° azimuth 85 miles range, N of Grand Canyon, then target headed outbound at about 7,000 mph on 85° heading over the last 72 secs before disappearing at the radar’s maximum range at 81° azimuth 224 miles range (near Marble Canyon, Ariz.). Target responded to encrypted military IFF transponder signals and transmitted encrypted responses. Similar occurrence 2 days earlier noted by night crew but no others in 2 years prior.


Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) RB-47 jet on training mission repeatedly encountered maneuvering radar- transmitting UFO which correlated with visual of brilliant white-red light tracked at 10 nautical miles from RB-47 by Dallas/Duncanville AFS 647th ACWRON air defense FPS-10 radar (32°38.8′ N, 96°54.3′ W), with same motions outpacing jet, simultaneous blink outs on Duncanville radar, ELINT monitors, visually and on airborne navigation radar.  MPS-7 L-band search and MPS-14 S-band height-finder radars tracked a stationary target at 42,000 ft to the NW at 308° azimuth 82 miles range (S of Chandler, Ariz.). Target responded to encrypted military IFF Mode 3 transponder signals, transmitted encrypted responses resulting in “normal Mode 3 paint” on radar scopes, and “a very slight strobe came from object appearing like ECM jamming.” See similar incident on July 16, 1957, in Arizona (Las Vegas radar station) and RB-47 case on July 17


Unidentified Update

As most of you know, my interests in recent years have broadened – from political assassination to a range of national security topics. Those topics include threat and warnings intelligence, national command and control systems (how they work; how they don’t) and the study of both American and Russian covert action as reflected in  both deniable political warfare and regime change.

It might have surprised some to see me do a book – Unidentified – on the subject of UFO’s, but if you have read it you will know that the book’s theme was national security and the application of threat and warnings intelligence methods to several decades of the UFO experience, beginning during World War II.

I had worked on and anticipated an update to Unidentified, a second edition, which would have been out this year. But what has become increasingly clear is that the work I was doing and the new copy that was generated was literally becoming outdated, month by month.

First it was the discovery that there had been a contemporary program within the Defense Intelligence Agency to explore certain aspects of unconventional and anomalous aerial objects, including the technical exploration of some highly theoretical physics which might explain observed flight characteristics and propulsion.

Then there were ongoing revelations about incidents occurring in restricted Navy test areas on both the west and east coasts of the United States, and even more striking incidents involving ongoing intrusions of unknown objects during maneuvers and training routines involving our most advanced Navy nuclear carrier strike groups. As time went on (months only) it became clear that those were not just isolated incidents but in some instances repetitive intrusions occurring over hours, days and even weeks.

Now if you have read Unidentified you will recall that such waves of intrusions are really noting new; it’s just that in earlier decades they occurred over atomic materials production plants, then atomic weapons construction sites, then atomic weapons storage sites and finally over Air Force ICBM sites and SAC bases.  For that matter, the experiences being related by Navy pilots are not unlike a wave of interceptor encounters which observed all along the strategic northeast corridor from Boston down to Washington DC and the huge Navy base at Norfolk, Virginia in 1952.

That wave of reports, including a series of incidents over Washington DC, was serious enough to get President Eisenhower to call a secret meeting on “Defense of the Capital” and hand off the problem (since the Air Force couldn’t give him the answers he wanted) to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Unfortunately that sort of historical context is totally missing from the current interviews with the Navy pilots and from all the media reporting. Yet the only thing that has really changed since 1952 is that today’s pilots have the benefit of both ship based and airborne phase array radar as well as infrared tracking systems which literally allow them to track and record data in a manner not at all possible during earlier years.

The tracking and data collection in these Navy incidents is so comprehensive that it’s literally impossible to ignore that actual objects of some sort are repeatedly appearing, and to some extent engaging, with Navy interceptors. Of course as the Navy pilots themselves observe, it’s not really an engagement given the dramatic difference in flight capabilities demonstrated by the UFO’s. The same flight characteristics that have been reported – but never captured and recorded on a variety of tracking devices  as in the current incidents.

In fact it’s so obvious, and of such concern, that the Navy is in the process of issuing its own new directives for the reporting of UFO incidents. What the Air Force or other elements of the national intelligence community is doing – if anything – is totally unknown. There is also no discussion of whether or not similar intrusions are occurring over any other segments of the national security/defense complex.

You can read more about what’s going on now below – and appreciate why a second edition of Unidentified a work in progress as I struggle to extend it into the 21st Century.

I’ll offer a few thoughts to bridge the gap – and to comment on certain questions I’ve received – in a follow-on post.

A Tribute to Ian Griggs



Ian Griggs passed this week, he was a British Police Officer, a long time JFK researcher, a stalwart in the DPUK group, a regular presenter at the JFK Lancer “November in Dallas Conference”, a scholar, the author of an exceptional book on the Kennedy assassination – and my good friend for years.

Ian devoted a good deal of his JFK research to Dallas, to the Dallas Police Department and to Jack Ruby, Ruby’s club and performers. He interviewed dozens of people associated with the DPD, with Ruby personally and with the club. Ian spent years compiling a study of the DPD personnel who were working at the time of the assassination, published many articles on them, and wrote a book which we all hope to see in print eventually.

His book “No Case to Answer” has been in print for some time and is something I would highly recommend.  Ian approached the JFK assassination and Lee Oswald as the purported assassin based on his career experience in British law enforcement. The title of the book comes from his conclusion that there simply was no case against Oswald that would have been sustained in court, nor for that matter sufficient to have brought the charge to court in the first place.

No Case to Answer explores a number of issues that support that view – including Oswald’s rifle, the mysterious (and missing in crime scene photos paper sack), the mysterious and missing Oswald line up (missing what was supposed to be a key witness to Oswald as the shooter), and a variety of other points of evidence which Ian deconstructs patiently and in great detail.

Perhaps the most dramatic deconstructions is something Ian liked to demonstrate in his conference presentations – the purported assembly of Oswald’s rifle inside the Texas School Depository after the rifle was supposedly carried to work and into the building in two pieces in a paper sack.

Ian would present the rifle parts (he actually purchased a Carcano in the US and flew home with it to London early on in his studies).  He would point out the very small machine screw required to reattach the rifle parts…and then note that the Warren Commission could find no such small screwdriver in Oswald’s possessions – or in the Texas School Depository – so it concluded that Oswald had used a coin as a tool to lock in the screw and secure the rifle parts.

Given that the screw has to go all the way in and is flush with a metal plate, he would demonstrate and note that it was impossible to do the work using a coin without scratching the finish on the plate.

And then he would project a photo of the Oswald rifle officially held in evidence – with no scratches on the metal plate.  Thereby demonstrating a level of police investigative work which clearly was missing from a great deal of the Warren Commission inquiry.

I first met Ian in London (in a pub), even before joining him as a regular in the Lancer conferences in Dallas.  Later he recruited me to do my first conference presentation (all fifteen minutes of it) and ultimately hosted myself and my wife on a visit to England, including my presentation at the annual DPUK conference.  It was always a treat being with Ian. On that particular trip we were with him when London police responded to a bomb threat at our hotel, and also in a similar situation on the London tube system. He understood their protocols and easily chatted with some of the officers we met, reducing our stress level a good bit.

In Dallas, Ian routinely helped organize diner during the conference for several of us – with a visit to Campisi’s, where we could sit in Jack Ruby’s favorite booth (hey, its not all crime scene evidence and documents – you need a little flavor to make it real).

In that regard I would also have to admit some of my best time at the conferences was spent with Ian and our friends, whether it was in a pub in London or Canterbury (or at the Sherlock Holmes pub/restaurant in London) or in the conference hotel bar in Dallas.

Here’s to Ian, I’ll miss you my friend.

2019 November In Dallas Conference


For those who might not have gotten the word up to this point, the November in Dallas will be continuing – hosted by CAPA (Citizens Against Political Assassinations) and with JFK Lancer participation

Registration is now available:

CAPA 2019 November In Dallas Conference


The conference will be held November 22 and 23, 2019 at the new
Marriott Courtyard hotel at 310 South Houston Street in the Dallas Downtown /Reunion district which is just two short blocks from Dealey Plaza.

A basic schedule for the two day, Friday/Saturday conference is available on the CAPA conference site although speakers have not yet been announced.  Individuals, including my friend Bill Simpich, who previously worked on and presented at the JFK Lancer conference series will be coordinating speakers and presentations and I’m sure it will be excellent.

JFK Lancer President Debra Conway will continue to operate the book and collectibles store at the conference and that should include all of the Lancer books as well as the huge DVD collection of presentations from previous conferences.

A large number of folks were concerned about the future of the conference so I’m really pleased to advise everyone that it will continue and to recommend it.

Clear and Present Danger

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence that the United States is currently in a national security crisis is the obvious disconnect between virtually all elements of the nation’s intelligence community and its Commander in Chief – signs are that disconnect extends to key presidential staff and advisors as well. We have experienced something similar before, in 2001. However that disconnect was more of a matter of priorities, not one of absolute “denial”, as we are facing now.

I’ve blogged on this before, including giving examples of exactly what the Commander in Chief should be doing – and what he obviously is not – on terms of the ongoing political warfare being conducted against its citizens and institutions as well as the failure of Congress to take any real initiative to address the exposure provided by the commercial internet media companies.

So, avoiding the temptation of being redundant and saying it again here, I’ll just anyone interested to a recent and very detailed interview I did with Mike Swanson:

And if you don’t believe me, check out the following stories which describe the extent to which President Trump totally refuses to even discuss Russian political warfare – much less addressing his duty to head a national effort to thwart it.

Wheaton Names Update




This update is for the folks who have been following our Wheaton Names research over the past several months. I’ve blogged a few times and we did put up a link to an early research paper on the work, but since then we’ve gone much further in some respects…and hit a bit of a wall in the process.

With the assumption that Wheaton did hear remarks about the attack on JFK, among the “war stories” that Carl Jenkins and Rafael Quintero were exchanging with their friends, the obvious question is who were those friends and what would Jenkins and Quintero have in common with them.

That obvious answer – given that Wheaton and Jenkins were trying to get into the air transport/supply business for the Contra military effort against the Sandinista’s, is that they were meeting with the two field agents in charge of handling those shipments. That would be Rafael Quintero and Felix Rodriquez.

Further research shows that both Quintero and Rodriquez had an extended history in anti-Castro paramilitary operations Carl Jenkins, making Jenkins a perfect selection for Wheaton as his sales manager.  That history, combined with the documented personal relationship between Wheaton and Quintero, explains why Wheaton might well have been in a position to hear the sorts of war stories and remarks about JFK which he ultimately attempted to report to the ARRB.

Research into Quintero and Rodriquez has also provided a good deal of detail on their association with Jenkins. It began with the earliest volunteers for the CIA’s Cuba project, and their training at a base in Panama – training overseen by Carl Jenkins. During 1960 a group of those earliest volunteers was pulled for additional training at the secret CIA training installation in Belle Chase, outside of New Orleans.

Ultimately those individuals, along with personnel trained in intelligence collection and practices by David Morales, were covertly inserted into Cuba to make contact with resistance groups and report on conditions inside Cuba.  Several of them were also deployed on maritime insertion missions in the months immediately before the landings at the Bay of Pigs, on supply missions – and as we learned – on highly secret attempts to kill Fidel Castro in a series of planned ambushes and sniper attacks.

They were part of a last ditch effort  to decapitate Cuban leadership before the landings, an effort which included the notorious poisoning project but which was more extensive than the CIA ever admitted in its reports on the Cuba Project, or later to the Church committee.

Due to the nature of those missions, the majority of those individuals, including both Quintero and Rodriquez, did not end up in Cuba prisons; they and several of the other individuals being used in the pre-landing maritime missions (operated out of the Florida Keys, with some, including assassination missions overseen by Carl Jenkins) continued working in covert CIA operations including maritime missions into Cuba – overseen by CIA paramilitary specialist Rip Robertson.

Those missions decreased over time, particularly after the agreements with the Russians which helped resolve the Cuban missile crisis of fall 1962.  By mid-1963 several of those individuals has essentially been taken off missions, some held on retainer but most simply looking for ways to continue efforts against Castro.  In the summer of 1963, several of them (who were DRE members) participated in two abortive efforts to carry out bombing missions against Cuba.

At the same time that was going on, the Kennedy Administration had decided to support a new, highly autonomous off shore effort against Castro (AMWORLD), headed by Manuel Artime and with Quintero as second in command.  Carl Jenkins was assigned to perform CIA oversight over Quintero and the initial military operations against Cuba.

What we have learned is that a particular clique of the most committed anti-Castro fighters, the earliest volunteers for the Cuba Project, the individuals given advanced training and sent into Cuba in high risk maritime missions – including assassination attempts were some of the earliest recruits into the new AMWORLD project.  The joined the project in the August and September time frame – but the project itself did not begin covertly exfilitrating personnel out of the U.S. until January/February 1964.

For all intents and purposes those key individuals, very possibly including some of the names mentioned by Quintero, Rodriquez and Jenkins in the conversations Wheaton overhead, simply go out of sight. They continued to live in the US, they continued to travel and take some amount of training, apparently most continued to reside in the Miami area.

However while they were in the process of being given covers, they simply went dark. AMWORLD did have money for domestic activities, including travel and purchases. And it was all done outside of CIA control.  It was autonomous and so were its members to a large extent. There is some indication that certain of the individuals we begin following in Carl Jenkins training camp in Panama in 1960 were traveling to Texas in the fall of 1963.

Several of them were active DRE members and could have used that affiliation as a dover in their travels to New Orleans and Dallas; some were definitely in New Orleans in the summer when Lee Oswald was there. But pinning down their movements in the fall is  a real challenge and largely speculative at the moment.

In one instance it appears that the links may extend to Red Bird airport and the remarks made to Ray January by a Cuba pilot immediately before the attack on JFK. But fully confirming that is a challenge in itself.

So…do we have names that fit the Wheaton story; absolutely. Can we show them to be associated with each other and to be among the most committed and aggressive Cuban exiles; yes.  Some among them were expert marksmen and had volunteered for use in sniper attacks on Castro. They were among the most skillful of the trainees at both infiltration and exfiltration, going in and out of Cuba multiple times even when Cuban security was at its highest. Manuel Artime had requested several of them by name as his own special security team. They were also among the first volunteers for his AMWROLD project in 1963.

Can we put them in Dallas for the attack, no we can’t.  We have suspects, at the moment because of the autonomous nature of the AMWORLD project and its limited reporting,  moving the ball further down the field is proving to be quite challenging.


CIA Autonomy


By mid-1963 President Kennedy was well into several initiatives that were moving covert military operations away from the CIA, and personnel in the CIA Directorate of Operations were not happy with that direction.  JFK had already transferred covert operations against North Vietnam to the Army and 1962 had seen the multi-agency Mongoose program against Cuba – with the CIA strictly in a support role. By the summer of 1963 JFK was looking at several options, including turning covert Cuban operations over to the military (if he determined to return to that tactic), exploring a totally autonomous offshore Cuban exile initiative with AMWORLD, and even pursuing the possibility of some sort of political accommodation with the Castro regime if Castro was willing to break from the Soviets.


The President had taken a number of measures to ensure oversight and control of CIA operations against Cuba, requiring sabotage projects to be proposed and reviewed in detail.  The Special Group Augmented was also tasked with increased oversight of all covert operations. However we have reason to suspect that control was not nearly as complete as intended.

We have indications that the CIA, in particular the Directorate of Plans/Operations was still capable of acting acting quite autonomously, certainly at the level of JMWAVE activities – which included infiltration, exfiltration, intelligence collection and limited support for the few on- island resistance groups still rumored to exist.  The extent of that operational autonomy can illustrated in one particular operation which came to be designated as TILT.


I’ve written about TILT before but my friends David Boylan and Bill Simpich continue to dig up documents which provide further insight – and a dramatic illustration of how JFK could indeed be isolated from extremely risky field activities. In the case of TILT, a mission which if it has come out as planned, would literally have shaken his administration to the core, very possibly shattering JFK’s chances for reelection.


Amazingly TILT did not even have its roots within the CIA, it evolved over a matter of months, based on rumors of Soviet missile technicians who had defected to a resistance group inside Cuba – individuals willing to reveal that Soviet ballistic missions and atomic warheads remained inside Cuba. Ultimately the rumor came to the attention of two powerful individuals highly critical of Kennedy’s actions on Cuba, William Pawley and James Eastland. Background on the project can be found in Chapter 1 of Someone Have Talked or at the following link:


William Pawley, had a long history with the CIA, including acting as a special advisor to President Eisenhower on the performance of the Agency.  He also had close personal connections to senior CIA officers such as J.C. King, Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, Ted Shackley, Chief of Station at JMWAVE and Marshall Carter, CIA Deputy Director. In regard to the reports of Soviet defectors inside Cuba, Pawley approached both Shackley and Carter, offering his own resources and asking for JMWAVE support in extracting them.

Ultimately the operation evolved into a rather complex mission including multiple boats, a PBY type plane, a set of totally unvetted Cuban exile volunteers led by Eddie Bayo and the personal involvement of William Pawley, John Martino, Richard Billings of LIFE Magazine and a LIFE photo journalist.

None of the Cubans were cleared through standard CIA security protocols or given operational approval. And from a security standpoint, having two LIFE magazine employees recording the mission – as well as the implication that the information and ultimately the Russians would be passed on to Senator Eastland’s committee – is totally outside the boundaries of standard CIA practice.

Yet as the following documents reveal, it all happened and the mission was signed off on by various operations personnel including Deputy Director Marshall Carter and COS Shackley. Indeed the chief of the Cuba project, Desmond Fitzgerald was also read into the program at a certain point.

Incredibly, there is no sign that approval went above these individuals, to the Director of the CIA and certainly not to the Special Group Augmented, RFK or the President himself.  The Operations staff at JMWAVE acted totally autonomously in supporting the mission, treating it as an intelligence collections effort, risky but within their mandate. The political implications of success were studiously avoided in the written exchanges among all parties.

I’ve written about the TILT mission itself in great detail, providing both action and after action reports by Rip Robertson (Rutherford) and David Morales. The mission itself failed, with the officers in charge determining they had essentially been scammed, with Bayo using them simply to get a well-armed resistance team into Cuba.

Perhaps most amazingly, even the most basic security cleanup was not done, with the LIFE photographer simply walking off with his film.  It didn’t go into LIFE itself, but did later appear in a soldier of fortune magazine – which is why you can see it yourself in the following photos.

All of which suggests that a great deal more autonomy within CIA field operations than the President realized, or that anyone within among the JMWAVE field personnel appear to have questioned.


In Plain Sight

Covert and deniable military/paramilitary activities continue to be one of my main interests. While I spend most of my research and writing time on historical operations, I do try to keep abreast of contemporary activities, especially changes in practices and emerging trends. As Stu Wexler and I described in Shadow Warfare, one of the most dramatic trends over the last couple of decades has been the moves by both the United States and the Russian Federation to conduct paramilitary operations in the open.  That includes operations both to support favored regimes and activities designed to overthrow or otherwise bring about regime change.

The U.S. began that trend in its response to the 9/11 attacks, sending covert/deniable CIA paramilitary personnel to Afghanistan in an effort to oust the Taliban regime. Extensive pains were taken to covertly infiltrate the CIA officers, later joined by only a handful of regular military when it became clear that forward air control and target illumination would become key to the air campaign that emerged.

Of course initially no one anticipated what would become a decade’s long war, one fought by conventional, uniformed military forces using a truly immense amount of combat air support. And it has to be noted that the CIA went into Afghanistan at a time when the Bush Administration was still advocating a purely tactical hunt and kill type response to Al Qaeda, and swearing that it would never enter into regime building or policing in that nation.

The next stage in what became a move towards overt practice came with the decision to actually hire American contract paramilitary – Backwater – personnel to provide personal security for the new Afghan government leadership. Objectively it seems that it would be a bad sign if the designated leader has to have foreign military security – it seems to echo the practices of the European global empire era. Now with decades worth of Afghan experience that might now be truly viewed as having been a leading indicator to future problems.

Using contract paramilitaries to provide leadership security is one thing, deploying them as a security force to deal with protests and insurgency is another – and of course that was the next phase in Afghanistan, prior to full scale American military deployment. After a number of high profile examples of the risks associated with private military contracting firms, the weaknesses of such practices (perhaps “temptation” is a better word) would seem to be pretty apparent – however as recently as 2018 a serious effort was made within the Trump Administration to actually turn over the war against the Taliban to a Blackwater like private contractor.

While that 2018 effort appears to have failed for the present, events soon demonstrated that Russia was more than willing to implement the same model – in Syria – as a counterpoint to their conventional military presence there.

While the Russian contractor experience in Syria appears not to have proved nearly as effective as it had the Crimea, there is no sign that President Putin has any intention of abandoning it as an option.  Its 2019 and the private Russian military contractors remain a tool for the Russian Federation – reported arriving in the Sudan and most recently in Venezuela.

Its obvious that Russia has increasingly turned to the private contractor model (with financial relationships protected by a network of shell companies which make the CIA fronts of the Cold War look like elementary school ventures by comparison). However the United States has moved to a primary reliance on its Joint Special Operations Command, its Military Assistance Groups and on joint military exercises. All with the stated intent of preserving regimes that it feels are vital to national security – and in pushing back against terrorist groups prior to their gaining an international reach.

On one hand all this openness seems like a good thing. Activities  that were once done under cover are now in view in plain sight, announced in American news releases. Or with Russia at least tracked though the movement of  unmarked aircraft and the appearance of “little green men” in camouflage uniforms.

Of course being “in plain sight” doesn’t seem to have the impact that it once carried. Statements and actions that would have amazed us during the Cold War are making routine appearances in political campaigns and presidential news conferences. It seems clear that the public has come to accept things that would have shocked it into action in earlier decades  – or perhaps its just that nobody cares that much about reality as compared to the internet?

Still, there remains a possibility that there are still covert things going on behind the scenes. In fact some rather “old school” practices may still be in play on occasion.