Document: CIA Plots to Kill Castro
This document, "CIA Inspector General's Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro," was approved for release in 1993 under the CIA Historical Review Program. The report describes the various capers the CIA engaged in during their attempts to "eliminate" Fidel Castro. From shellfish toxin to exploding conch shell, almost every spy-vs.-spy gag imaginable was considered by the CIA.
23 May 1967
MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD
SUBJECT: Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro
This report was prepared at the request of the Director of Central Intelligence. He assigned the task to the Inspector General on 23 March 1967. The report was delivered to the Director, personally, in installments, beginning on 24 April 1967. The Director returned this copy to the Inspector General on 22 May 1967 with instructions that the Inspector General:
Retain it in personal, EYES ONLY safekeeping
Destroy the one burn copy retained temporarily by the Inspector General
Destroy all notes and other source materials originated by those participating in the writing of this report
The one stayback burn copy, all notes, and all other derived source materials were destroyed on 23 May 1967.
This ribbon copy is the only text of the report now in existence, either in whole or in part. Its text has been read only by:
Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence
J.S. Earman, Inspector General
K.E. Greer, Inspector (one of the authors)
S.D. Breckinridge, Inspector (one of the authors)
All typing of drafts and of final text was done by the authors.
Filed with the report are:
Office of Security file used as source material
Memorandums concerning William Harvey
Certain MONGOOSE papers
Drew Pearson columns
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Scarcity of documentary evidence ....... 1
Relationship of assassination planning to government policy ....... 2
Risk of assassination when a government is overthrown ....... 4
Resort to synecdoche ....... 5
Published intelligence on the possibility of Castro's demise ....... 5
Accuracy of the story Drew Pearson has ....... 6
Miscellaneous Schemes Prior to August 1960 ....... 9
Aerosol Attack on Radio Station ....... 10
Contaminated Cigars ....... 11
Depilatory ....... 13
Gambling Syndicate - Phase 1 ....... 14
Genesis of the plot ....... 14
First contact with Maheu ....... 15
O'Connell named as case officer ....... 16
First meeting with Roselli ....... 16
Briefing of Dulles and Cabell ....... 17
First meeting between Maheu and Giancana ....... 18
True identities of Giancana and Trafficante become known ....... 19
Role of Trafficante ....... 19
Early planning on the means of assassination ....... 20
Gunn's involvement with lethal cigars ....... 21
[deletion] preparation of lethal cigars ....... 21
Delivery of the cigars to Gunn ....... 22
Roosevelt learns of the plot ....... 23
Possible ways of packaging the poison ....... 23
Decision to package the poison in pill form ....... 24
Juan Orta is identified as the syndicate's man in Cuba ....... 25
Gunn tests the pills on guinea pigs ....... 25
Sequence preceding passing the pills to O'Connell ....... 26
O'Connell receives the pills and passes them to Roselli ....... 27
Harvey is briefed on the operation ....... 27
Trafficante receives the pills and gives them to Orta ....... 27
Identification of Orta ....... 28
The Orta channel collapses ....... 29
Varona is brought into the operation ....... 29
Edward K. Moss ....... 30
Roselli associates O'Connell with CIA ....... 31
Funds are approved for passing to Varona ....... 31
Money and lethal pills are passed to Varona ....... 32
Varona's restaurant contact in Cuba ....... 32
Edwards calls off the operation ....... 33
Disposition of the pills ....... 34
List of those witting of the operation ....... 34
Gambling Syndicate - Phase 2 ....... 37
Why Harvey was briefed on Phase 1 ....... 37
Harvey put in charge of the Executive Action Capability ....... 37
Harvey briefs Helms on the Executive Action Capability ....... 37
QJWIN - planned assassination of Lumumba ....... 38
Approval of Project ZRRIFLE ....... 38
Bissell puts Harvey in charge of the Castro operation ....... 39
Harvey is told he will head the Cuba task force ....... 39
Harvey's first meeting with Edwards on the Castro operation ....... 40
Termination of QJWIN ....... 41
Harvey briefs Helms on the Castro operation ....... 41
Differing views on the turnover to Harvey ....... 41
Harvey's first meeting with Roselli in New York City ....... 43
Roselli and O'Connell go to Miami ....... 45
Harvey leaves for Miami with lethal pills ....... 46
Roselli is already in touch with Varona ....... 47
Harvey takes over "a going operation" ....... 47
Changes in gangster personnel participating ....... 48
Maceo enters the operation ....... 48
Harvey supplies weapons and equipment to Varona ....... 49
Roselli reports that the pills are in Cuba ....... 50
Varona sends a three-man team to Cuba ....... 51
Varona plans to send three militia men to Cuba ....... 51
Harvey and Roselli agree to terminate the operation ....... 52
Roselli comes to Washington to meet Harvey ....... 53
Harvey's meeting with Roselli observed by the FBI ....... 54
List of persons witting of this phase of the operation ....... 55
The Wiretapping Incident ....... 57
Giancana suspects Phyllis McGuire and Dan Rowan ....... 57
Giancana asks Maheu to bug Rowan's room ....... 57
Likely date of the bugging incident ....... 58
Maheu asks Edward Du Bois to do the job ....... 58
Du Bois assigns Balletti and Harrison to the job ....... 58
Wiretap made instead of microphone plant ....... 59
Balletti is caught and phones Maheu for help ....... 59
Maheu refers the FBI to CIA ....... 59
Shef Edwards meets with an FBI representative ....... 60
Edwards intervenes with Sam Papich on Maheu's behalf ....... 61
Houston intervenes with the Justice Department ....... 61
Houston briefs General Carter ....... 62
Edwards and Houston brief the Attorney General ....... 62a
Edwards sends a memorandum record of the meeting to Kennedy ....... 63
END OF THIS COPY - PARASCOPE.COM SITE IS DOWN! THIS IS ALL OF THE REPORT REPRINTED HERE!
Gambling Syndicate - Phase 2 is already under way ....... 64
Helms is briefed on the meeting with the Attorney General ....... 65
Edwards warns Harvey to clear with the DCI ....... 65
Kennedy's request on 4 March 67 for a copy of the briefing memo ....... 65
The Wiretapping Incident (continued)
Chicago Sun-Times story of 16 Aug 63 re Giancana & CIA ....... 67
Chicago Daily News story of 20 Aug 63 re Giancana & CIA ....... 69
Helms sends McCone a copy of the Kennedy briefing memorandum ....... 69
Rumors now connect CIA & gangsters in plot to kill Castro ....... 70
The Long Committee ....... 71
Former Maheu employee called to testify ....... 71
The Onassis-Niarchos fight over oil shipping rights ....... 71
Maheu is hired by Niarchos and is supported by CIA ....... 72
CIA intervenes on Niarchos' behalf ....... 72
The Long Committee plans to resurrect the Onassis wiretap ....... 72
CIA intervenes with the Long Committee on Maheu's behalf ....... 73
Maheu applies pressure on CIA to avoid publicity ....... 73
Maheu indicates he may brief his attorney ....... 74
Schemes in Early 1963 ....... 75
Skin Diving Suit ....... 75
Gift from Donovan to Castro ....... 75
The suit is bought and made ready ....... 75
The plan is overtaken by events ....... 75
List of persons witting ....... 76
Booby-trapped Sea Shell ....... 77
Books on Mollusca are bought ....... 77
The plan proves to be impracticable ....... 77
Names of those witting ....... 77
Project AMLASH - Rolando Cubela ....... 78
[deletion] meeting with Cubela in Mexico City (Mar 61) ....... 78
Cubela's role in the Cuban revolution ....... 78
Cubela reported disaffected ....... 79
Mexico City meeting inconclusive ....... 79
Cubela and Juan Orta want to exfiltrate (Mar 61) ....... 80
Cubela asks for meeting in Paris (Aug 61) ....... 81
Cubela plans to attend Helsinki Youth Festival ....... 81
Meetings in Helsinki (Aug 62) ....... 83
Cubela objects to the word "assassinate" ....... 85
Paris meetings (Aug 62); S/W & demolition training ....... 85
Meetings in Porto Alegre (Sept 63) ....... 86
Paris meetings (Oct 63); Cubela wants assurance from U.S. Govt ....... 87
FitzGerald meets with Cubela in Paris (Oct 63) ....... 88
Differing versions of what FitzGerald told Cubela ....... 90
Project AMLASH - Rolando Cubela (continued)
Cuba cache approved for Cubela ....... 91
The Black Leaf 40 scheme is discussed ....... 92
Gunn converts a ballpoint pen into a hypodermic syringe ....... 93
[deletion] gives to Cubela in Paris while Kennedy is shot ....... 93a
Cubela asks for high-powered rifle with telescopic sight ....... 93a
Those witting of the Black Leaf 40 episode ....... 94
Cubela cache put down (without rifles) (Mar 64) ....... 96
Cubela requests a silencer for a FAL rifle ....... 97
SAS requests TSD to produce FAL silencer on crash basis ....... 97
Second Cubela cache put down (with FAL rifles) (June 64) ....... 97
Artime meets Cubela intermediary ....... 98
Artime agrees to meet with Cubela personally ....... 99
[deletion] meets Cubela in Paris (Dec 64) ....... 100
Explanation of how Artime and Cubela were put together ....... 100
Artime and Cubela meet in Madrid (Dec 64) ....... 101
Artime agrees to furnish silencer ....... 102
Artime gives Cubela silencer and other special gear ....... 103
Second name-line between Cubela and gambling syndicate operation ....... 104
Headquarters terminates all contacts with Cubela group ....... 104
Cubela and others arrested; plead guilty (Mar 66) ....... 107
The charges ....... 108
Castro asks for leniency ....... 109
Testimony about the silencer ....... 109
Cubela expects to be executed ....... 110
Cubela sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment ....... 110
No mention made of Cubela's pre-Nov 64 dealings with CIA ....... 111
Memo to Secretary of State (Rusk), Subject: CIA Involvement in Cuban Counter-revolutionary Activities -- Arrest of Rolando CUBELA Secades and Ramon Tomas GUIN Diaz, dated 7 March 1966 (added after completion of report) ....... 132
Miscellaneous Schemes Prior to August 1960
Aerosol Attack on Radio Station
The Gambling Syndicate Operation
Phase 1 (August 1960 - May 1961)
Phase 2 (Late 1961 - June 1963)
The Wiretapping Incident
The Phyllis McGuire/Attorney General Phase (Late 1961 - May 1962)
The Long Committee Phase (May - July 1966)
Schemes in Early 1963
Skin Diving Suit
Project AMLASH - Rolando Cubela (March 1961 - March 1966)
Discussion of Assassination at High-Level Government Meetings
Special Group (Augmented) Meeting of 10 August 1962
Special Group Meeting of 30 July 1964
The Ramifications of the Gambling Syndicate Operation
23 April 1967
This reconstruction of Agency Involvement in plans to Assassinate Fidel Castro is at best an imperfect history. Because of the extreme sensitivity of the operations being discussed or attempted, as a matter of principle no official records were kept of planning, of approvals, or of implementation. The few written records that do exist are either largely tangential to the main events or were put on paper from memory years afterward. William Harvey has retained skeletal notes of his activities during the years in question, and they are our best source of dates. Dr. Edward Gunn of the Office of Medical Services, has a record of whom he met wand when and cryptic references to the subjects discussed. [deletion] of TSD, has a record of two or three dates that are pertinent. Gunn and [deletion] were involved in only the technical aspects of operational planning, and their participations were short-lived. Although fragmentary, their records are a help in establishing critical time frames. Operational files are useful in some instances, because they give dates of meetings, the substances of which may be inferred from collateral information.
For the most part, though, we have had to rely on information given to us orally by people whose memories are fogged by time. Their recollections of dates are particularly hazy, and some of them
are no longer able to keep the details of one plan separate form those of another. We interviewed everyone whom we could identify as likely to be knowledgeable, with the exceptions of Mr. Dulles and General Cabell. A complete list is attached at Tab A. We did not go on fishing expeditions among the mere possibles. To have done so would have risked making witting a number of employees who were previously unwitting and, in our estimate, would have added little to the details available from those directly involved. There are inconsistencies among the various accounts, but most of them can be resolved by collating the information furnished by all of the identifiable participants in a particular plan and by then checking it against specific dates that can be fixed with fair certainty. We believe that this reconstruction of what happened and of the thinking associated with it is reasonably sound. If there are significant inaccuracies in the report, they are most likely to occur in faulty ordering of the sequence of events. People still remember much of what happened, but they can no longer recall precisely when.
It became clear very early in our investigation that the vigor with which schemes were pursued within the Agency to eliminate Castro personally varied with the intensity of the U.S. Government's efforts to overthrow the Castro regime. We can identify five separate phases in Agency assassination planning, although the transitions from one
to another are not always sharply defined. Each phase is a reflection of the then prevailing Government attitude toward the Cuban regime.
a. Prior to August 1960: All of the identifiable schemes prior to about August 1960, with one possible exception, were aimed only at discrediting Castro personally by influencing his behaviour or by altering his appearance.
b. August 1960 to April 1961: The plots that were hatched in late 1960 and early 1961 were aggressively pursued and were viewed by at least some of the participants as being merely one aspect of the over-all active effort to overthrow the regime that culminated in the Bay of Pigs.
c. April 1961 to late 1961: A major scheme that was begun in August 1960 was called off after the Bay of Pigs and remained dormant for several months, as did most other Agency operational activity related to Cuba.
d. Late 1961 to Late 1962: That particular scheme was reactivated in early 1962 and was again pushed vigorously in the era of Project MONGOOSE and in the climate of intense administration pressure on CIA to do something about Castro and his Cuba.
e. Late 1962 until well into 1963: After the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 and the collapse of Project MONGOOSE, the
aggressive scheme that was begun in August 1960 and revived in April 1962 was finally terminate in early 1963. Two other plots were originated in 1963, but both were impracticable and nothing ever came of them.
We cannot overemphasize the extent to which responsible Agency officers felt themselves subject to the Kennedy administration's severe pressures to do something about Castro and his regime. The fruitless and, in retrospect, often unrealistic plotting should be viewed in that light.
Many of those we interviewed stressed two points that are so obvious that recording them here may be superfluous. We believe, though, that they are pertinent to the story. Elimination of the dominant figure in a government, even when loyalties are held to him personally rather than to the government as a body, will not necessarily cause the downfall of the government. This point was stressed with respect to Castro and Cuba in an internal CIA draft paper of October 1961, which was initiated in response to General Maxwell Taylor's desire for a contingency plan. The paper took the position that the demise of Fidel Castro, from whatever cause, would offer little opportunity for the liberation of Cuba from Communist and Soviet Bloc control. The second point, which is more specifically relevant to our investigation, is that bringing about the downfall of a government necessarily requires the removal of its leaders from
positions of power, and there is always the risk that the participants will resort to assassination. Such removals from power as the house arrest of a [Mossainq?] or the flight of a [Busieca?] could not cause one to overlook the killings of a Diem or of a Trujillo by forces encouraged but not controlled by the U.S. government.
There is a third point, which was not directly made by any of those we interviewed, but which emerges clearly from the interviews and from review of files. The point is that of frequent resort to synecdoche--the mention of a part when the whole is to be understood, or vice versa. Thus, we encounter repeated references to phrases such as "disposing of Castro," which may be read in the narrow, literal sense of assassinating him, when it is intended that it be read in the broader, figurative sense of dislodging the Castro regime. Reversing this coin, we find people speaking vaguely of "doing something about Castro" when it is clear that what they have specifically in mind is killing him. In a situation wherein those speaking may not have actually meant what they seemed to say or may not have said what they actually meant, they should not be surprised if their oral shorthand is interpreted differently than was intended.
The suggestion was made that operations aimed at the assassination of Castro may have been generated in an atmosphere of stress in intelligence publications on the possibility of Castro's
demise and on the reordering of the political structure that would follow. We reviewed intelligence publications from 1960 through 1966, including National Intelligence Estimates, Special National Intelligence Estimates, Intelligence Memorandums, and Memorandums for the Director. The NTE's on "The Situation and Prospects in Cuba" for 1960, 1963, and 1964 have brief paragraphs on likely successor governments if Castro were to depart the scene. We also find similar short references in a SNIE of March 1960 and in an Intelligence Memorandum of May 1965. In each case the treatment is no more nor less than one would expect to find in comprehensive round-ups such as these. We conclude that there is no reason to believe that the operators were unduly influenced by the content of intelligence publications.
Drew Pearson's column of 7 March 1967 refers to a reported CIA plan in 1963 to assassinate Cuba's Fidel Castro. Pearson also has information, as yet unpublished, to the effect that there was a meeting at the State Department at which assassination of Castro was discussed and that a team actually landed in Cuba with pills to be used in an assassination attempt. There is basis in fact for each of those three reports.
a. A CIA officer passed an assassination weapon to an Agency Cuban asset at a meeting in Paris on 22 November 1963. The weapon was a ballpoint pen rigged as a hypodermic syringe.
The CIA officer suggested that the Cuban asset load the syringe with Black Leaf 40. The evidence indicates that the meeting was under way at the very moment President Kennedy was shot.
b. There was a meeting of the Special Group (Augmented) in Secretary Rusk's conference room on 10 August 1962 at which Secretary McNamara broached the subject of liquidation of Cuban leaders. The discussion resulted in a Project MONGOOSE action memorandum prepared by Edward Lansdale. At another Special Group meeting on 31 July 1964 there was discussion of a recently-disseminated Clandestine Services information report on a Cuban exile plot to assassinate Castro. CIA had refused the exile's request for funds and had no involvement in that plot.
c. CIA twice (first in early 1961 and again in early 1962) supplied lethal pills to U.S. gambling syndicate members working in behalf of CIA on a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. The 1961 plot aborted and the pills were recovered. Those furnished in April 1962 were passed by the gambling syndicate representative to a Cuban exile leader in Florida, who in turn had them sent to Cuba about May 1962. In June 1962 the exile leader reported that a team of three men had been dispatched to Cuba to recruit for the operation. If the opportunity presented itself, the team would make an attempt on Castro's life--perhaps using the pills.
This report describes these and other episodes in detail; puts them into perspective; and reveals, that while the events described by Drew Pearson did occur and are subject to being patched together as though one complete story, the implication of a direct, causative relationship among them is unfounded.
Miscellaneous Schemes Prior to August 1960
March to August 1960
We find evidence of at least three, and perhaps four, schemes that were under consideration well before the Bay of Pigs, but we can fix the time frame only speculatively. Those who have some knowledge of the episodes guessed at dates ranging from 1959 through 1961. The March-to-August span we have fixed may be too narrow, but it best fits the limited evidence we have.
a. None of those we interviewed who was first assigned to the Cuba task force after the Bay of Pigs knows of any of these schemes.
b. J.D. (Jake) Esterline, who was head of the Cuba task force in pre-Bay of Pigs days, is probably the most reliable witness on general timing. He may not have been privy to the precise details of any of the plans, but he seems at least to have known of all of them. He is no longer able to keep the details of one plan separate from those of another, but each of the facts he recalls fits somewhere into one of the schemes. Hence, we conclude that all of these schemes were under consideration while Esterline had direct responsibility for Cuba operations.
c. Esterline himself furnishes the best clue as to the possible time span. He thinks it unlikely that any planning of this sort would have progressed to the point of consideration of means until after U.S. policy concerning Cuba was decided upon about March 1960. By about the end of the third quarter of 1960, the total energies of the task force were concentrated on the main-thrust effort, and there would have been no interest in nor time for pursuing such wills-o'-the-wisp as these.
We are unable to establish even a tentative sequence among the schemes; they may, in fact, have been under consideration simultaneously. We find no evidence that any of these schemes was approved at any level higher than division, if that. We think it most likely that no higher-level approvals were sought, because none of the schemes progressed to the point where approval to launch would have been needed.
Aerosol Attack on Radio Station
[deletion] of TSD, remembers discussion of a scheme to contaminate the air of the radio station where Castro broadcasts his speeches with an aerosol spray of a chemical that produces reactions similar to those of lysergic acid (LSD). Nothing came of the idea. [deletion] said he had discouraged the scheme, because the chemical could not be relied upon to be effective. [deletion], also of TSD,
recalls experimentation with psychic energizers but cannot relate it to Castro as a target. We found no one else who remembered anything of this plot, with the possible exception of Jake Esterline who may have it confused with other schemes.
Jake Esterline claims to have had in his possession in pre-Bay of Pigs days a box of cigars that had been treated with some sort of chemical. in our first interview with him, his recollection was that the chemical was intended to produce temporary personality disorientation. The thought was to somehow contrive to have Castro smoke one before making a speech and then to make a public spectacle of himself. Esterline distinctly recalls having had the cigars in his personal safe until he left WH/4 and that they definitely were intended for Castro. He does not remember how they came into his possession, but he thinks they must have been prepared by [deletion] In a second interview with Esterline, we mentioned that we had learned since first speaking with him of a scheme to cause Castro's beard to fall out. He then said that his cigars might have been associated with that plan. Esterline finally said that, although it was evident that he no longer remembered the intended effect of the cigars, he was positive they were not lethal. The cigars were never
used, according to Esterline, because WH/4 could not figure out how to deliver them without danger of blowback on the Agency. He says he destroyed them before leaving WH/4 in June 1961.
Sidney Gottlieb, of TSD, claims to remember distinctly a plot involving cigars. To emphasize the clarity of his memory, he named the officer, then assigned to WH/CA, who approached him with the scheme. Although there may well have been such a plot, the officer Gottlieb named was then assigned to India and has never worked in WH Division nor had anything to do with Cuba operations. Gottlieb remembers the scheme as being one that was talked about frequently but not widely and as being concerned with killing, not merely influencing behaviour. As far as Gottlieb knows, this idea never got beyond the talking stage. TSD may have gone ahead and prepared the cigars just in case, but Gottlieb is certain that he did not get the DD/P's (Richard Bissell) personal approval to release them, as would have been done if the operation had gone that far. We are unable to discover whether Esterline and Gottlieb are speaking of a single cigar episode or of two unrelated schemes. We found no one else with firm recollections of lethal cigars being considered prior to August 1960.
[deletion] recalls a scheme involving thallium salts, a chemical used by women as a depilatory--the thought being to destroy Castro's image as "The Beard" by causing the beard to fall out. The chemical may be administered either orally or by absorption through the skin. The right dosage causes depilation; too much produces paralysis. [deletion] believes that the idea originated in connection with a trip Castro was to have made outside of Cuba. The idea was to dust thallium powder into Castro's shoes when they were put out at night to be shined. The scheme progressed as far as procuring the chemical and testing it on animals. [deletion] recollection is that Castro did not make the intended trip, and the scheme fell through. [deletion] remembers consideration being given to use the thallium salts (perhaps against Castro) and something having to do with boots or shoes. [deletion] does not remember with whom he dealt on this plot. We found no one else with firm knowledge of it.
The first seriously-pursued CIA plan to assassinate Castro had its inception in August 1960. It involved the use of members of the criminal underworld with contacts inside Cuba. The operation had two phases: the first ran from August 1960 until late April or early May 1961, when it was called off following the Bay of Pigs; the second ran from April 1962 until February 1963 and was merely a revival of the first phase which had been inactive since about May 1961.
Gambling Syndicate - Phase I
Richard Bissell, Deputy Director for Plans, asked Sheffield Edwards, Director of Security, if Edwards could establish contact with the U.S. gambling syndicate that was active in Cuba. The objective clearly was the assassination of Castro although Edwards claims that there was a studied avoidance of the term in his conversation with Bissell. Bissell recalls that the idea originated with J.C. King, then Chief of WH Division, although King now recalls having had only limited knowledge of such a plan and at a much later date--about mid-1962.
Edwards consulted Robert A. Maheu, a private investigator who had done sensitive work for the Agency, to see if Maheu had any underworld contacts. Maheu was once a special agent of the FBI. He opened a private office in Washington in 1956. The late Robert Cunningham, of the Office of Security (and also a former Special Agent with the FBI), knew Maheu and knew that his business was having a shaky start financially. Cunningham arranged to subsidize Maheu to the extent of $500 per month. Within six months Maheu was doing so well financially that he suggested that the retainer be discontinued. Over the years he has been intimately involved in providing support for some of the Agency's more sensitive operations. He has since moved his personal headquarters to Los Angeles but retains a Washington office. A more detailed account of Maheu's background appears in a separate section of this report.
(Comment: Although we see nothing sinister in it, we are struck by the fact that so many of the persons whose names appear in this account once worked for the FBI. We have already named Cunningham and Maheu. Later to appear are William Harvey, James O'Connell, and Edward Morgan.)
Maheu acknowledged that he had a contact who might furnish access to the criminal underworld, but Maheu was most reluctant to allow himself to be involved in such an assignment. He agreed to
participate only after being pressed by Edwards to do so. Maheu identified his contact as one Johnny Roselli, who lived in Los Angeles and had the concession for the ice-making machines on "the strip" in Las Vegas and whom Maheu understood to be a member of the syndicate. Maheu was known to Roselli as a man who had a number of large business organizations as clients. Edwards and Maheu agreed that Maheu would approach Roselli as the representative of businessmen with interests in Cuba who saw the elimination of Castro as the essential first step to the recovery of their investments. Maheu was authorized to tell Roselli that his "clients" were willing to pay $150,000 for Castro's removal.
Shef Edwards named as his case officer for the operation James P. O'Connell (a former Special Agent of the FBI), then Chief, Operational Support Division, Office of Security. O'Connell and Maheu met Roselli in New York City on 14 September 1960 where Maheu made the pitch. Roselli initially was also reluctant to become involved, but finally agreed to introduce Maheu to "Sam Gold" who either had or could arrange contacts with syndicate elements in Cuba who might handle the job. Roselli said he had no interest in being paid for his participation and believed that "Gold" would feel the
same way. A memorandum for the record prepared by Sheffield Edwards on 14 May 1962 states: "No monies were ever paid to Roselli and Giancana. Maheu was paid part of his expense money during the periods that he was in Miami." (Giancana is "Gold.")
O'Connell was introduced (in true name) to Roselli as an employee of Maheu, the explanation being that O'Connell would handle the case for Maheu, because Maheu was too busy to work on it full time himself. No one else in the Office of Security was made witting of the operation at this time. Edwards himself did not meet Roselli until the summer of 1962.
At this point, about the second half of September, Shef Edwards told Bissell that he had a friend, a private investigator, who had a contact who in turn had other contacts through whom syndicate elements in Cuba could be reached. These syndicate elements in Cuba would be willing to take on such an operation. As of the latter part of September 1960, Edwards, O'Connell, and Bissell were the only ones in the Agency who knew of a plan against Castro involving U.S. gangster elements. Edwards states that Richard Helms was not informed of the plan, because Cuba was being handled by Bissell at that time.
With Bissell present, Edwards briefed the Director (Allen Dulles) and the DDCI (General Cabell) on the existence of a plan involving members of the syndicate. The discussion was circumspect; Edwards
deliberately avoided the use of any "bad words." The descriptive term used was "intelligence operation." Edwards is quite sure that the DCI and the DDCI clearly understood the nature of the operation he was discussing. He recalls describing the channel as being "from A to B to C. " As he then envisioned it, "A" was Maheu, "B" was Roselli, and "C" was the principal in Cuba. Edwards recalls that Mr. Dulles merely nodded, presumably in understanding and approval. Certainly, there was no opposition. Edwards states that, while there was no formal approval as such, he felt that he clearly had tacit approval to use his own judgment. Bissell committed $150,000 for the support of the operation.
(Comment: In the light of this description of the briefing, it is appropriate to conjecture as to just what the Director did approve. It is safe to conclude, given the men participating and the general subject of the meeting, that there was little likelihood of misunderstanding--even though the details were deliberately blurred and the specific intended result was never stated in unmistakable language. It is also reasonable to conclude that the pointed avoidance of "bad words" emphasized to the participants the extreme sensitivity of the operation.)
During the week of 23 September 1960, O'Connell and Maheu went o Miami where Roselli introduced only Maheu to "Sam Gold" at a meeting
in the Fontainbleau Hotel. "Gold" said he had a man, whom he identified only as "Joe," who would serve as courier to Cuba and make arrangements there. Maheu pointed out "Gold" to O'Connell from a distance, but O'Connell never met with either "Gold" or "Joe." He did, however, learn their true identities. As Office of Security memorandum to the DDCI of 24 June 1966 places the time as "several weeks later." O'Connell is now uncertain as to whether it was on this first visit to Miami or on a subsequent one that he and Maheu learned the true identities of the two men. Maheu and O'Connell were staying at separate hotels. Maheu phoned O'Connell one Sunday morning and called his attention to the Parade supplement in one of that morning's Miami newspapers. It carried an article on the Cosa Nostra, with pictures of prominent members. The man Maheu and O'Connell knew as "Sam Gold" appeared as Mom Salvatore (Sam) Giancana, a Chicago-based gangster. "Joe, the courier" (who was never identified to either Maheu or O'Connell in any other way) turned out to be Santos Trafficante, the Cosa Nostra chieftain in Cuba.
At that time the gambling casinos were still operating in Cuba, and Trafficante was making regular trips between Miami and Havana on syndicate business. (The casinos were closed and gambling was banned effective 7 January 1959. On 13 January 1959, Castro announced that the casinos would be permitted to reopen for tourists and foreigners
but that Cubans would be barred. The cabinet on 17 February 1959 authorized reopening the casinos for the tourist trade. Time magazine for 2 March 1959 announced that the casinos had been reopened the previous week. The New York Times issue of 30 September 1961 announced that the last of the casinos still running had been closed.) Trafficante was to make the arrangements with one of his contacts inside Cuba on one of his trips to Havana.
Fall and Early Winter 1960
Very early in the operation, well before the first contact with Roselli, the machinery for readying the means of assassination was set in motion. The sequence of events is not clear, but is apparent that a number of methods were considered. Preparation of some materials went ahead without express approval.
(Comment: It should be noted that TSD maintains a stock of equipment and materials for operational use. When queries are made of TSD technicians about materials or devices that are not stock items, it is not unusual for the technicians to go ahead with the preparation of the materials or devices against the event that there is a formal request for them. Because of this, undue significance should not be attached to advance preparations for this operation. It should also be noted that
it was not unusual at the time in question for the Chief of TSD to be by-passed in operations involving his people. While Cornelius Roosevelt, then Chief of TSD, has the clear impression that all requests were levied through him, instances were cited in the course of this inquiry where such was not the case. The practices and procedures in existence at the time may account, at least in part, for the differing recollections of what did and what did not happen and for the differing degrees of significance given developments in the minds of the participants.)
Dr. Edward Gunn, Chief, Operations Division, Office of Medical Services, has a notation that on 16 August 1960 he received a box of Cuban cigars to be treated with lethal material. He understood them to be Fidel's favorite brand, and he thinks they were given to him by Shef Edwards. Edwards does not recall the incident. Gunn has a notation that he contacted [deletion] of TSD, on 6 September 1960. [deletion] remembers experimenting with some cigars and then treating a full box. He cannot now recall whether he was initially given two boxes, experimenting with one and then treating the other; or whether he bought a box for experimentation, after which he treated the box supplied him by Gunn. He does not, in fact, remember Gunn as the supplier of any cigars. He is positive, though, that he did contaminate a full box of fifty cigars with botulinus toxin, a virulent poison that
produces a fatal illness some hours after it is ingested. [deletion] distinctly remembers the flaps-and-seals job he had to do on the box and on each of the wrapped cigars, both to get the cigars and to erase evidence of tampering. He kept one of the experimental cigars and still has it. He retested it during our inquiry and found that the toxin still retained 94% of its original effectiveness. The cigars were so heavily contaminated that merely putting one in the mouth would do the job; the intended victim would not actually have to smoke it.
Gunn's notes show that he reported the cigars as being ready for delivery on 7 October 1960. [deletion]'s notes do not show actual delivery until 13 February 1961. They do not indicate to whom delivery was made. Gunn states that he took the cigars, at some unspecified time, and kept them in his personal safe. He remembers destroying them within a month of Shef Edwards retirement in June 1963.
[Hand notation in the margin: "We believe (deletion) gave the cigars to Gunn."]
(Comment: Others recall the cigar scheme, but only as an idea that was considered and then discarded. Roosevelt, Chief of TSD at the time, and O'Connell, the case officer, recall the cigar scheme, but feel that it was never considered seriously. To Gunn and [deletion] who gave it a good deal of time but did not participate in the broader operational discussions, the cigars loom as important.)
Edwards recalls approaching Roosevelt after Bissell had already spoken to Roosevelt on the subject; Roosevelt recalls speaking to Edwards after Bissell discussed it with Edwards. Bissel does not recall specific conversations with either of them on the technical aspects of the problem, but he believes that he must have "closed the loop" by talks with both Edwards and Roosevelt. Roosevelt recalls his first meeting with Edwards as being in Edwards' office. Edwards remembers asking to be introduced to a chemist. He is sure that he did not name the target to Roosevelt, but Roosevelt says he knew it was Castro. Roosevelt believes that he would have put Edwards in touch with [deletion], then chief of TSD's Chemical Division, but [deletion] has no recollection of such work at that time. [deletion] recalls other operations at other times, but not this one. Roosevelt did say that, if he turned it over to [deletion] [deletion] could have assigned it to [deletion]
Roosevelt remembers that four possible approaches were considered: (1) something highly toxic, such as shellfish poison to be administered with a pin (which Roosevelt said was what was supplied to Gary Powers); (2) bacterial material in liquid form; (3) bacterial treatment of a cigarette or cigar; and (4) a handkerchief treated with bacteria. The decision, to the best of his recollection, was that bacteria in liquid form was the best means. Bissell recalls the same decision,
tying it to a recollection that Castro frequently drank tea, coffee, or bouillon, for which a liquid poison would be particularly well suited.
January - February 1961
Despite the decision that a poison in liquid form would be most desirable, what was actually prepared and delivered was a solid in the form of small pills about the size of saccharine tablets. [deletion] remembers meeting with Edwards and O'Connell in Edwards' office to discuss the requirement. The specifications were that the poison be stable, soluble, safe to handle, undetectable, not immediately acting, and with a firmly predictable end result. Botulin comes nearest to meeting all those requirements, and it may be put up in either liquid or solid form. [deletion] states that the pill form was chosen because of ease and safety of handling.
(Comment: The gangsters may have had some influence on the choice of a means of assassination. O'Connell says that in his very early discussions with the gangsters (or, more precisely, Maheu's discussions with them) consideration was given to possible ways of accomplishing the mission. Apparently the Agency had first thought in terms of a typical, gangland-style killing in which Castro would be gunned down. Giancana was flatly opposed to the
use of firearms. He said that no one could be recruited to do the job, because the chance of survival and escape would be negligible. Giancana stated a preference for a lethal pill that could be put into Castro's food or drink. Trafficante ("Joe, the courier") was in touch with a disaffected Cuban official with access to Castro and presumably of a sort that would enable him to surreptitiously poison Castro. The gangsters named their man inside as Juan Orta who was then Office Chief and Director General of the Office of the Prime Minister (Castro). The gangsters said that Orta had once been in a position to receive kickbacks from the gambling interests, has since lost that source of income, and needed the money.)
When Edwards received the pills he dropped one into a glass of water to test it for solubility and found that it did not even disintegrate, let alone dissolve. [deletion] took them back and made up a new batch that met the requirement for solubility. Edwards at that point wanted assurance that the pills were truly lethal. He called on Dr. Gunn to make an independent test of them. Edwards gave Gunn money to buy guinea pigs as test animals. Gunn has a record of a conversation with [deletion] on 6 February 1961. It may have related to the tests, but we cannot be sure. What appears to have happened is that Gunn tested the pills on the guinea pigs and found them ineffective.
[deletion] states that tests of bouillon on guinea pigs are not valid, because guinea pigs have a high resistance to this particular toxin. [deletion] himself tested the pills on monkeys and found they did the job expected of them.
We cannot reconstruct with certainty the sequence of events between readying the pills and putting them into the hands of Roselli. Edwards has the impression that he had a favorable report from Dr. Gunn on the guinea pig test. Gunn probably reported only that the pills were effective, and Edwards assumed the report was based on the results of tests on guinea pigs. Dr. Gunn has a clear recollection, without a date, of being present at a meeting in which Roosevelt demonstrated a pencil designed as a concealment device for delivering the pills. Roosevelt also recalls such a meeting, also without a date. Gunns' notes record that his last action on the operation came on 10 February 1961 when he put Gottlieb in touch with Edwards. Gottlieb has no recollection of being involved, an impression that is supported by Bissell who states that Gottlieb's assignments were of a different nature. O'Connell, who eventually received the pills, recalls that he dealt with [deletion] [deletion] has no record of delivering the pills at this time, but he does not ordinarily keep detailed records of such things.
In any event, O'Connell did receive the pills, and he believes there were six of them. He recalls giving three to Roselli. Presumably the other three were used in testing for solubility and effectiveness. The dates on which O'Connell received the pills and subsequently passed them to Roselli cannot be established. It would have been sometime after Gunn's notation of 10 February 1961.
Gunn also has a record of being approached about the undertaking by William K. Harvey (former special agent of the FBI) in February in connection with a sensitive project Harvey was working on for Bissell. According to Gunn's notes, he briefed Harvey on the operation, and Harvey instructed him to discuss techniques, but not targets, with Gottlieb. Gunn's notation on this point is not in accord with the recollections of any of the others involved. We are unable to clarify it; the note may have been in another context. O'Connell states that J.C. King was also briefed at this time, although King denies learning of the operation until much later.
Late February - March 1961
Roselli passed the pills to Trafficante. Roselli reported to O'Connell that the pills had been delivered to Orta in Cuba. Orta is understood to have kept the pills for a couple of weeks before returning them. According to the gangsters, Orta got cold feet.
(Comment: Orta lost his position in the Prime Minister's Office on 26 January 1961, while planning for the operation was still going on in Miami and in Washington. He took refuge in the Venezuelan Embassy on 11 April 1961 and became the responsibility of the Mexican Embassy when Venezuela broke relations with Cuba in November 1961. Castro refused to give him a safe conduct pass until October 1964 when he was allowed to leave for Mexico City. He arrived in Miami in early February 1965.
(It appears that Edwards and O'Connell did not know at the time of Orta's fall from favor. They have made no reference to it--ascribing Orta's failure to cold feet. It would seem, though, that the gangsters did know that Orta had already lost his access to Castro. They described him as a man who had once had a position that allowed him a rake-off on gambling profits, a position that he had since lost. The only job with which we can associate Orta that might have allowed him a rake-off was the one he held in the Prime Minister's Office, which he lost on 26 January 1961. It seems likely that, while the Agency thought the gangsters had a man in Cuba with easy access to Castro, what they actually had was a man disgruntled at having lost access.)
The previously-mentioned 24 June 1966 summary of the operation prepared by the Office of Security states that when Orta asked out
of the assignment he suggested another candidate who made several attempts without success. Neither Edwards nor O'Connell know the identity of Orta's replacement nor any additional details of the reported further attempts.
March - April 1961
Following the collapse of the Orta channel, Roselli told O'Connell that Trafficante knew of a man high up in the Cuban exile movement who might do the job. He identified him as Tony Varona (Dr. Manuel Antonio de VARONA y Loredo). Varona was the head of the Democratic Revolutionary Front, [1/2 line deletion] part of the larger Cuban operation. O'Connell understood that Varona was dissatisfied [two lines deletion]
(Comment: Reports from the FBI suggest how Trafficante may have known of Varona. On 21 December 1960 the Bureau forwarded to the Agency a memorandum reporting that efforts were being made by U.S. racketeers to finance anti-Castro activities in hopes of securing the gambling, prostitution, and dope monopolies in Cuba in the event Castro was overthrown. A later report of 18 January 1961 associates Varona with those schemes. Varona
had hired Edward K. Moss, a Washington public relations counselor, as a fund raiser and public relations advisor. The Bureau report alleged that Moss' mistress was one Julia Cellini, whose brothers represented two of the largest gambling casinos in Cuba. The Cellini bothers were believed to be in touch with Varona through Moss and were reported to have offered Varona large sums of money for his operations against Castro, with the understanding that they would receive privileged treatment "in the Cuba of the future." Attempts to verify these reports were unsuccessful.
(There is a record of CIA interest in Moss, but there is no indication that the Agency had any involvement with him in connection with Cuba. [four lines deletion] In early 1965 Moss became of interest to the House Foreign Affairs Committee because of his record of having represented various foreign governments. A memorandum prepared by CA Staff in march 1965 states that the records do not show any use made of moss [one and a half lines deletion]
[one and three-quarters lines deletion]
Trafficante approached Varona and told him that he had clients who wanted to do away with Castro and that they would pay big money for the job. Varona is reported to have been very receptive, since it would mean that he would be able to buy his own ships, arms, and communications equipment.
(Comment: By this time Roselli had become certain that O'Connell was an Agency employee, not a subordinate of Maheu. He told O'Connell that he was sure that O'Connell was "a government man - CIA" but that O'Connell should not confirm this to him. Roselli said that as a loyal American he would do whatever he could and would never divulge the operation.)
Roselli was to deliver money to Varona for expenses. O'Connell now recalls the amount as $50,00. Edwards, who was away at the time, recalls it as $25,000. Since Edwards was absent, O'Connell had to get approval from Edwards' deputy, Robert Bannerman, who until then had been unwitting of the operation. O'Connell told Bannerman that the operation was known to and approved by Edwards. Bannerman authorized passing the money and now recalls the amount as being on the order of $20,000 to $25,000. An Office of Security memorandum to the DDCI,
dated 24 June 1965, sets the amount as $10,000 in cash and $1,000 worth of communications equipment. Jake Esterline, who signed the vouchers for the funds, recalls the amounts as being those stated in the Office of Security memorandum.
(Comment: As a sidelight, Esterline says that, when he learned of the intended use of Varona, steps were taken to cancel the plan. Varona was one of the five key figures in the Revolutionary Front and was heavily involved in support of the approaching Bay of Pigs operation. If steps were in fact taken to end Varona's participation in the syndicate plan, they were ineffective. It is clear that he continued as an integral part of the syndicate scheme.)
When the money was ready, O'Connell took the pills from his safe and delivered them and the money to Roselli. Roselli gave the pills and the money to Varona, whom Roselli dealt with under pseudonym. Little is known of the delivery channels beyond Varona. Varona was believed to have an asset inside Cuba in a position to slip a pill to Castro. Edwards recalls something about a contact who worked in a restaurant frequented by Castro and who was to receive the pills and put them into Castro's food or drink. Edwards believes that the scheme failed because Castro ceased to visit that particular restaurant.
[handwritten note in margin: "Edwards does not recall where he said this."]
April - May 1961
Soon after the Bay of Pigs, Edwards sent word to Roselli through O'Connell that the operation was off--even if something happened there would be no payoff. Edwards is sure there was a complete standdown after that; the operation was dead and remained so until April 1962. He clearly relates the origins of the operation to the upcoming Bay of Pigs invasion, and its termination to the Bay of Pigs failure. O'Connell agrees that the operation was called off after the Bay of Pigs but that the termination was not firm and final. He believes that there was something going on between April 1961 and April 1962, but he cannot now recall what. He agrees with Bill Harvey that when the operation was revived in April 1962, Harvey took over a "going operation."
(Comment: As distinguished from Edwards and O'Connell, both Bissell and Esterline place the termination date of the assassination operation as being about six months before the Bay of Pigs. Esterline gives as his reason for so believing the fact that the decision had been made to go ahead with a massive, major operation instead of an individually-targeted one such as this. Whatever the intention in this respect, if the decision to terminate was actually made, the decision was not communicated
effectively. It is clear that this plan to assassinate Castro continued in train until sometime after the Bay of Pigs.)
O'Connell believes that he must have recovered the pills, but he has no specific recollection of having done so. He thinks that instead of returning them to TSD he probably would have destroyed them, most likely by flushing them down a toilet. [deletion] has no record of the pills having been returned to him, but he says he is quite sure that they were.
In a memorandum of 14 May 1962 Sheffield Edwards stated that knowledge of this particular operation was limited to six persons. In the course of this investigation, we have identified the following persons who knew in late 1960 or early 1961 of this specific plan to assassinate Castro:
1. Allen Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence
2. General C.P. Cabell, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
3. Richard Bissell, Deputy Director for Plans
4. Sheffield Edwards, Director of Security
5. James O'Connell, Office of Security, the case officer
6. J.D. Esterline, Chief, WH/4
7. Cornelius Roosevelt, Chief, TSD
8. [deletion] Chemical Division, TSD
9. Edward Gunn, Chief, Operations Division, Medical Services
10. William Harvey, Chief, FI/D
11. Sidney Gottlieb, Special Assistant to the DD/P (Gottlieb's name was encountered repeatedly in this inquiry, but he denies knowing of the operation in 1960-1961.)
12. Robert Bannerman, Deputy Director of Security
13. J.C. King, Chief, WH Division (He too denies knowing of the operation at the time.)
The following persons outside the government are known to be witting of the operation and either know or strongly suspect the Agency's connection with it:
1. Robert Maheu, a private investigator
2. John Roselli, the Agency's principal contact with the gambling syndicate
3. Sam Giancana, an important figure in the syndicate
4. Santos Trafficante, the courier and man inside Cuba
These additional people were aware of the operation, but their knowledge of CIA's connection with it can only be speculated:
1. Juan Orta, the man originally selected to poison Castro
2. Antonio Varona, a Cuban exile leader
3. The son-in-law of Varona, who is known to have been involved with him closely during this time. (The Varona 201 file makes no reference to Varona having a son-in-law, but he identified this close associate as such.)
The Agency's General Counsel, Lawrence Houston, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy learned the full details of the operation in May 1962. We do not know the particulars of the report Drew Pearson now has, but it may include many of the details of this operation. If it does, then the circle of those now knowledgeable would be widened to include:
1. Edward P. Morgan, Maheu's Washington attorney
2. Columnist Drew Pearson and probably his partner, Jack Anderson
3. Chief Justice Earl Warren
4. James Rowley, chief of the Secret Service
5. Pat Coyne, Executive Secretary of the PFIAB
6. Attorney General Ramsey Clark
7. Various members of the FBI
Gambling Syndicate - Phase 2
William Harvey, Chief of FI/D, was briefed in February 1961 (by authority of Richard Bissell) on phase one of the gambling syndicate operation. That briefing was in connection with a sensitive operation that Bissell had assigned to Harvey. Harvey describes it thus: Early in the Kennedy administration, Bissell called him in to discuss what Harvey refers to as an Executive Action Capability; i.e., a general stand-by capability to carry out assassinations when required. Harvey's notes quote Bissell as saying, "The White House has twice urged me to create such a capability." Bissell recalls discussing the question of developing a general capability with Harvey. He mentioned the Edwards/gambling syndicate operation against Castro in that context, but he now thinks that the operation was over by then and that reference to it was in terms of a past operation as a case in point. It was on this basis that Harvey arranged to be briefed by Edwards. Harvey's fixing of the date as February was only after review of events both preceding the briefing and following it. He says now that it might have been as early as late January or as late as March 1961.
After some discussion of the problems involved in developing as Executive Action Capability, Bissell placed Harvey in charge of the effort. Harvey says that Bissell had already discussed certain aspects of the problem with [deleted] and with Sidney Gottlieb. Since [deleted] was already cut in, Harvey used him in developing the Executive Action Capability, although never with respect to Castro. We did not question Gottlieb on his knowledge of the program for creating an Executive Action Capability, but Harvey's mention of him in this connection may explain a notation by Dr. Gunn that Harvey instructed Gunn to discuss techniques with Gottlieb without associating the discussion with the Castro operation.
Harvey states that after the decision was made to go ahead with the creating of an Executive Action Capability, and while he was still discussing its development with Bissell, he briefed Mr. Helms fully on the general concept but without mention of the then ongoing plan to assassinate Castro.
The Executive Action program came to be known as ZRRIFLE. Its principal asset was an agent, QJWIN, who had been recruited earlier by [deleted] for use in a special operation in the Congo [the following line was struck through with a pen, but not redacted--it reads: "the assassination of Patrice Lumumba) to be run by [deleted] [deleted] made a survey of the scene, decided he wanted no part in an assassination attempt, and asked to be released--which Bissell granted.) The project name, ZRRIFLE, first appears in the files in May 1961, although the first recorded approval is dated 19 February 1962. The new DD/P (Helms) on that date authorized Harvey, by
memorandum, to handle the project on a special basis. Accounting for expenditures was to be by general category and on Harvey's certification. The initial approval was for $14,700, consisting of $7,200 for QJWIN's annual salary and $7,500 for operational expenses.
Project ZRRIFLE was covered as an FI/D operation (ostensibly to develop a capability for entering safes and for kidnapping couriers). It continued on a course separate from the Edwards/gambling syndicate operation against Castro until 15 November 1961. Harvey has a note that on that date he discussed with Bissell the application of the ZRRIFLE program to Cuba. Harvey says that Bissell instructed him to take over Edwards' contact with the criminal syndicate and thereafter to run the operation against Castro. Harvey adds that, as a completely unrelated development, shortly after this discussion with Bissell he was told by Helms that he was to be placed in charge of the Agency's Cuba task force.
Later 1961 - Early 1962
Harvey recalls that he was very busy with a number of things in the period that followed the discussion with Bissell that led to his taking over Edwards' Castro operation. He was turning over his responsibilities in FI/D. He was working with NSA on the Martin/Mitchell defection case. He was reading in on Cuba operations and
was engaged in daily meetings concerning them. He attended a station chiefs' conference in Panama in late January and early February.
February - March 1962
Harvey recalls a first meeting with Edwards in February 1962 on the subject of the Castro operation. He also recalls working out the details of the takeover during March.
(Comment: After Harvey took over the Castro operation he ran it as one aspect of ZRRIFLE; however, he personally handled the Castro operation and did not use any of the assets being developed in ZRRIFLE. He says that he soon came to think of the Castro operation and ZRRIFLE as being synonymous. The over-all Executive Action program came to be treated in his mind as being synonymous with QJWIN, the agent working on the over-all program. He says that when he wrote of ZRRIFLE/QJWIN the reference was to Executive Action Capability; when he used the cryptonym ZRRIFLE alone, he was referring to Castro. He said that his correspondence would disclose this distinction. We reviewed the correspondence and found it for the most part unrevealing.
(After Harvey left Task Force W and was winding up his headquarters responsibilities in preparation for assignment to Rome, he wrote a memorandum to the Chief, FI Staff, dated 27 June
1963, stating that the original justification for employing QJWIN no longer existed and raising the question of QJWIN's termination. The records ([deletion]-1974, 24 April 1964) show that QJWIN was terminated [deletion] on 21 April 1964. There is no indication in the file that the Executive Action Capability of ZRRIFLE/QJWIN was ever used.)
Edwards recalls Harvey contacting him in April and asking to be put in touch with Roselli. Edwards says that he verified Helms' approval and then made the arrangements. Harvey states that he briefed Helms before his first meeting with Roselli, explaining its purpose, and that he also reported to Helms the results of his meeting with Roselli. Harvey states that thereafter he regularly briefed Helms on the status of the Castro operation.
(Comment: Edwards statement that he "verified Helms' approval" is the earliest indication we have that Mr. Helms had been made witting of the gambling syndicate operation against Castro. Harvey added that, when he briefed Helms on Roselli, he obtained Helms' approval not to brief the Director.)
Edwards, Harvey, and O'Connell have differing recollections of the specifics of the turnover from Edwards/O'Connell to Harvey. Not
all of the differences can be resolved--not even by follow-up interviews in which the information furnished by each was checked with each of the other two. There is no disagreement on the fact that the turnover nor on when it took place. The recollections vary decidedly, though, on the status of the operation at the time of its transfer to Harvey and on just how clean the break was between phase one under Edwards and phase two under Harvey.
a. Edwards believes that the operation was called off completely after the Bay of Pigs and that there was no further operational activity in connection with it until Harvey met Roselli and reactivated the operation in April 1962. O'Connell introduced Harvey to Roselli, and Edwards had nothing further to do with the operation--with the exception of a meeting with Attorney General Robert Kennedy in connection with the Phyllis McGuire wiretapping incident. (The wiretapping incident is described in a separate section of this report.) Edwards' records show that on 14 May 1962 Harvey called Edwards "and indicated that he was dropping any plans for the use of Roselli for the future."
b. Harvey's recollections of the turnover tends to support Edwards' summary, but he claims that he took over "a going operation." Some support for this claim is found in his description
of just how it was planned to get the poison into Castro's food by employing someone with access to a restaurant frequented by Castro. The mechanics were identical with those described by Edwards and as reported in our earlier account of phase one of the operation.
c. O'Connell's account of his own role in the operation in the early weeks following Harvey's supposed takeover makes it evident that there was not a clean break between the Office of Security's responsibility and that of Harvey. Further, O'Connell now believes that there must have been "something going on" between April 1961 (after the Bay of Pigs) and April 1962, but he claims to be unable to remember any of the particulars.
There are other disagreements among the three on facts. They are reviewed here, not because they alter the essential fact of the turnover or of Harvey's sole responsibility for the operation after a certain point in time, but because they suggest that persons who were supposedly unwitting of events after the turnover were in fact witting, because they were not effectively cut off at the instant of turnover.
Harvey's notes show that he and O'Connell went to New York City to meet Roselli on the 8th and 9th of April 1962. O'Connell recalls it as being early in April and that the introduction was made on a
Sunday, which would make it the 8th. Harvey says that only he and O'Connell met with Roselli; O'Connell says that Maheu was also present at the meeting. Both are positive of the accuracy of their recollections, and each gives reasons for his confidence in his clarity of recall. The significance, for purposes of this inquiry, is whether Maheu did or did not know that the operation continued under Harvey.
a. Harvey is certain that he would have remembered it if Maheu were present. He and Maheu were in the same FBI training class at Quantico in 1940. He does not remember having seen Maheu since he, Harvey, came with the Agency in 1947, although he acknowledges that he may have seen him once or twice socially. He is sure he has not seen Maheu since 1952 when Harvey was assigned to Berlin.
b. O'Connell, who set up the meeting, is just as positive that Maheu was there. He describes a series of events that reassure him of the accuracy of his memory. The four of them traveled separately to New York. They met at the Savoy Plaza Hotel (Savoy Hilton?) where all four stayed. After discussions, Maheu suggested dinner at the Elk Room, a fashionable restaurant in a nearby hotel. O'Connell says that Maheu picked up the tab. They finished dinner about 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. Roselli wanted to
buy the group a nightcap, but since it was Sunday night nearly all of the bars were closed. They walked around the neighborhood looking for an open bar and finally wound up at the Copacabana. They were refused admittance to the bar because of a rule restricting admission to couples, so they ate at a table where they could watch the floor show. Roselli found himself facing a table at "ringside" at which Phyllis McGuire was sitting with Dorothy Kilgallen and Liberace for the opening night of singer Rosemary Clooney. To avoid Phyllis McGuire's seeing him, Roselli got his companions to change their seating arrangement so that his back was turned to Miss McGuire. Maheu was an integral part of all this. (Roselli's reason for not wanting Phyllis McGuire to see him with his companions will become evident from her role in the wiretapping incident, which is described in a separate section of this report.)
The two differing recollections cannot be reconciled. As a point of interest, Edwards stated that when he briefed Harvey on the operation he deliberately omitted reference to Maheu in order to screen Maheu off from Harvey's takeover of the operation.
The next significant point of difference has to do with what happened after the New York meeting. O'Connell told us that he and Roselli left New York for Miami the next day (presumably 10 April)
and remained there until Harvey arrived. Harvey, on the other hand, recalls a meeting with O'Connell and Roselli in Washington on 14 April. O'Connell, at first, did not recall the Washington meeting, but, when given Harvey's chronology, he said he did recall returning to Washington to meet Harvey for some purpose but that the details are vague in his mind. Harvey at first thought that the 14 April meeting in Washington was O'Connell's last contact with Roselli during this second phase of the gambling syndicate operation. O'Connell told us that Roselli was apprehensive over the new arrangement (and of Harvey personally) and asked O'Connell to remain on for a time, which O'Connell agreed to do. When told that O'Connell was sure that he had continued on in the operation for some two or three weeks after Harvey's takeover, Harvey agreed that this was correct. O'Connell's carryover was for purposes of continuity. We cannot be sure of the date O'Connell was finally eliminated from the operation. He was in Miami with Roselli and Harvey perhaps as late as 27 April. His role in the operation had definitely ended by June 1962 when he was assigned PCS to Okinawa.
Harvey recalls leaving Washington for Miami by automobile on 19 April. He thought that he took delivery of the pills from Dr. Gunn before leaving. Gunn has no record of any such delivery at that time; his last record concerning pills is dated February 1961. [deletion]
does have a notation of delivering four pills (one capsule and three tablets) to "J.C." on 18 April 1962. [deletion] reads this as being Jim O'Connell. When told of this, Harvey agreed that it was probably correct. O'Connell also feels that he must have been in Washington for the pill delivery.
Harvey says that he arrived in Miami on 21 April 1962 and found Roselli already in touch with Tony Varona, the Cuban exile leader who had participated in phase one. It is at this point that the final difference in recollections occurs. Harvey described the manner in which the lethal material was to be introduced into Castro's food, involving an asset of Varona's who had access to someone in a restaurant frequented by Castro. We told Harvey that Edwards had described precisely the same plan. When we asked Harvey how Edwards could have known of the mechanics if there had been no activity in the operation for a year, and if Harvey was starting again from scratch, Harvey replied that he took over a going operation--one that was already "in train." Edwards denies that this is so. O'Connell says that Harvey is the one who is right. The operation was going on when Harvey took it over, although O'Connell does not remember when Varona was reactivated or what had been done with him in the meantime.
Along with the change in Agency leadership of the operation, which saw Harvey replacing Edwards/O'Connell, there also were changes
in the original cast of hoodlum players. Harvey specified that Giancana was not to be brought in on the reactivation of the operation, and he believes that Roselli honored the request. Roselli once reported to Harvey that Giancana had asked if anything was going on, and when Roselli said that nothing was happening, Giancana said, "Too bad." Additionally, Santos Trafficante ("Joe, the courier" from the earlier phase) was no longer involved. With the closing of the last casino in Havana in September 1961, Trafficante presumably no longer had access. Roselli now had a man known to Harvey as Maceo, who also used the names Garcia-Gomez and Godoy.
(Comment: Harvey is unable further to identify Macoe; he describes him as "a Cuban who spoke Italian." One of Varona's associates in the Cuban exile community was named Antonio Maceo Mackle, but it seems unlikely that he was the Maceo of this operation. He was prominent enough in the exile community to have been known to Harvey. Further, it seems clear that Maceo was "Roselli's man." This second phase appears to lack the overwhelming, high-level gangster flavor that characterized the first phase. Roselli remained as a prominent figure in the operation, but working directly with the Cuban exile community and directly on behalf of CIA. Roselli was essential to the second phase as a contact with Varona, who presumably still
believed he was being supported by U.S. businessmen with financial stakes in Cuba. Roselli needed Giancana and Trafficante in the first phase as a means of establishing contacts inside Cuba. He did not need them in the second phase, because he had Varona. However, it would be naive to assume that Roselli did not take the precaution of informing higher-ups in the syndicate that he was working in a territory considered to be the private domain of someone else in the syndicate.)
When the pills were given to Varona through Roselli, Varona requested arms and equipment needed for the support of his end of the operation. Roselli passed the request to Harvey. Harvey, with the help of Ted Shackley, the chief of the JMWAVE Station, procured explosives, detonators, twenty .30 caliber rifles, twenty .45 caliber hand guns, two radios, and one boat radar. Harvey says that the "shopping list" included some items that could be obtained only from the U.S. Government. Harvey omitted those items, because Roselli, posing as a representative of private business interests, would not have had access to such equipment. The cost of the arms and equipment, about $5,000, was T/A'd to headquarters.
Harvey and Shackley rented a U-Haul truck under an assumed name, loaded it with the arms and equipment, and parked it in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant. The keys were then given to Roselli for
delivery either to Maceo, to Varona, or to Varona's son-in-law. Evidently Harvey and Roselli had not yet come to trust each other. Perhaps fearing a double-cross, each set about independently to assure himself that the equipment reached the proper hands. After parking the truck, Harvey and Shackley kept the parking lot under surveillance until the pass was completed. Roselli, accompanied by O'Connell, did the same. Neither pair knew that the other was watching. Eventually the truck was picked up and driven away. It was returned later, empty, and with the keys under the seat as prearranged. Harvey returned it to the rental agency. Harvey says that Shackley never knew to whom delivery was made nor for what purpose. Shackley was merely called upon to furnish support for a headquarters operation from which he was otherwise excluded.
Harvey and Roselli arranged a system of telephone communication by which Harvey was kept posted on any developments. Harvey, using a pay phone, could call Roselli at the Friars Club in Los Angeles at 1600 hours, Los Angeles time. Roselli could phone Harvey at Harvey's home in the evening. Roselli reported that the pills were in Cuba and at the restaurant reportedly used regularly by Castro.
Roselli reported to Harvey on 21 June that Varona had dispatched a team of three men to Cuba. Just what they were supposed to do is pretty vague. Harvey said that they appeared to have no specific plan for killing Castro. They were to recruit others who might be used in such a scheme. If an opportunity to kill Castro presented itself, they or the persons they recruited were to make the attempt--perhaps using the pills. Harvey never learned their names or anything else about them. From the sequence of the reports, it would seem that the pills were sent in ahead of the three-man team, but this is not now ascertainable.
Harvey saw Roselli in Miami on 7 and 11 September. Varona was reported as then ready to send in another team of three men. They were supposedly militia men whose assignment was to penetrate Castro's body guard. During this period the "medicine" was reported as still in place and the three men of the first team safe.
September 1962 - January 1963
Although Harvey received several reports that the militia men were poised to take off, presumably from somewhere in the Florida keys,
they did not actually leave. First, "conditions inside" were given as the reason for delay; then the October missile crisis threw plans awry. Harvey was in Miami between 22 December and 6 January. He saw both Roselli and Maceo several times during that period. He made a payment of $2,700 to Roselli for passing to Varona for the expenses of the three militia men. Harvey and Roselli had telephone discussions of the operation between 11 and 16 January. Harvey says that Roselli wasn't kidding himself. He agreed with Harvey that nothing was happening and that there was not much chance that anything would happen in the future. As far as Harvey knows, the three militia men never did leave for Cuba. He knows nothing of what may have happened to the three reported to have been sent to Cuba.
Harvey was in Miami 11-14 February. He had no contacts with any of the principals, but he left word for Maceo that there was nothing new and that it now looked as if it were all over. (Just how Harvey left this word for Maceo is not clear.)
Harvey left Miami on 15 February to meet with Roselli in Los Angeles. They agreed at the Los Angeles meeting that the operation would be closed off, but that it would be unwise to attempt a precipitate break between Roselli and Varona. Roselli agreed that he would continue
to see Varona, gradually reducing the frequency of contact until there was none.
April - May 1963
Harvey says that he received two telephone calls from Roselli during this period. Harvey decided that it would be best to have one last meeting with Roselli before he left for his assignment in [deletion] He states that he reported this decision to Mr. Helms who gave his approval.
Roselli came to Washington to meet with Harvey sometime about the middle of June. Harvey met him at Dulles airport. Harvey remembers having suggested to Roselli that he bring only carry-on luggage so there would be no delay at the airport awaiting baggage. Harvey had by then closed his own home in preparation for leaving the country and was living in the house of a neighbor who was out of town. Roselli stayed with Harvey as a houseguest in the neighbor's home. That evening Roselli, Harvey, and Mrs. Harvey went out for dinner. While dining, Harvey received a phone call from Sam Papich who wanted to know if Harvey knew the identity of his dinner guest. Harvey said that he did.
It subsequently developed that the FBI had Roselli under intensive surveillance at the time, and Harvey speculates that he was picked up as he left the airport parking lot and was identified through his auto license number. Harvey met Papich for breakfast the next morning and explained that he was terminating an operational association with Roselli. Papich reminded Harvey of the FBI rule requiring FBI personnel to report any known contacts between former FBI employees and criminal elements. Papich said that he would have to report to J. Edgar Hoover that Harvey had been seen with Roselli. Harvey said he understood Papich's situation and did not object to such a report being made. Harvey said that he asked Papich to inform him in advance if it appeared that Hoover might call Mr. McCone--Harvey's point being that he felt that McCone should be briefed before receiving a call from Hoover. Papich agreed to do so. Harvey said that he then told Mr. Helms of the incident and that Helms agreed that there was no need to brief McCone unless a call from Hoover was to be expected.
This was Harvey's last face-to-face meeting with Roselli, although he has heard from him since then. The later links between Harvey and Roselli are described in a separate section of this report.
The list of persons witting of the second phase of the operation differs from those who knew of the first phase. Those we have identified are:
1. Richard Helms, Deputy Director for Plans
2. William Harvey, Chief, Task Force W
3. James O'Connell, Office of Security (He knows that Harvey took over the operation and delivered the pills, arms, and equipment in April 1962. He does not know of developments after May 1962.)
4. Sheffield Edwards, Director of Security (He knows of the fact of the turnover to Harvey, but states he knows nothing of developments thereafter.)
5. J.C. King, Chief, WH Division (He stated in our interview with him that he knew that Harvey was having meetings with members of the gambling syndicate in 1962.)
6. [deletion] Harvey's deputy in 1962 [deletion] knows that Harvey was meeting with gangsters in Reno (sic) in the winter of 1962.)
7. Ted Shackley, Chief, JMWAVE (He assisted Harvey in the delivery of arms and equipment to Varona in April 1962, but presumably did not know the identities of the recipients nor the purpose for which the material was to be used.)
8. [deletion] TSD [deletion]s participation was limited to furnishing the pills to O'Connell on 18 April 1962.)
9. Antonio Varona, the Cuban exile leader (He presumably was not aware of government sponsorship.)
10. Varona's son-in-law (He too was presumably was not aware of the government's role.)
11. Maceo, Roselli's "man" (Maceo probably knew there was a government connection, but may not have identified CIA as the agency.)
We can only conjecture as to who else may have known at least that the operation was continuing and perhaps some of the details. Sam
Giancana was supposedly cut out of the second phase, but we cannot be sure that Roselli did not keep him informed. The same may be said of Santos Trafficante. Harvey is sure that Maheu was not involved in Harvey's introduction to Roselli, but O'Connell is equally positive that Maheu participated. The story that Drew Pearson told the President, and which is known in other Government circles, sounds suspiciously like this second phase of the operation. If that is so, then it is unlikely that the operation has leaked- perhaps through these channels:
Roselli to Maheu
Maheu to Edward P. Morgan, Maheu's Washington lawyer
Morgan to Drew Pearson
Pearson to Chief Justice Warren and to the President
Warren to Rowley, chief of the Secret Service
Rowley to Pat Coyne and to the FBI
The FBI to Attorney General Clark
We have a more detailed treatment in a separate section of this report of the channels through which the story may have passed.
The Wiretapping Incident
Late 1961 - Early 1962
Well after the Pre-Bay of Pigs phase of the gambling syndicate operation to assassinate Castro, and only indirectly related to it, a development in the private life of Sam Giancana led to an incident that made the FBI aware of the Agency's relationship with the syndicate and required the briefing of the Attorney General on the details of the assassination plan.
Phyllis McGuire, one of the singing McGuire sisters, was and is openly known to be Giancana's mistress. Giancana suspected her of having an affair with Dan Rowan, of the Rowan and Martin comedy team. Both Rowan and Miss McGuire were then entertaining in Las Vegas, and Giancana asked Maheu to put a bug in Rowan's room. Maheu did not want to do the job and declined on the grounds that he wasn't equipped for that sort of work. Giancana made a claim for a return favor: he had worked on the Castro assassination operation for Maheu, and Maheu was indebted to him. Giancana said that if Maheu wouldn't take on the job, he, Giancana, would go to Las Vegas and do it himself. Maheu agreed to have the room bugged.
(Comment: The exact date of this is uncertain. An August 1963 item on Giancana in the Chicago Sun-Times refers to the incident, without mention of wiretapping, and sets the year as
1961. There is nothing in Agency files that pinpoints the date, and the memories of those we interviewed who know of the incident are hazy. Edwards and O'Connell did not learn of the incident until after it had happened. Edwards can place it only as being after the Bay of Pigs. O'Connell at first thought that it was in early 1962. When shown the newspaper account, O'Connell said that if the news story was correct, it would have had to have been very late in 1961. An Office of Security memorandum to the DDCI, of 24 June 1966, states that it was "at the height of the project negotiations." This is confusing, rather than clarifying, because the operation was supposedly at dead standstill in late 1961 and very early 1962. Clearly the incident occurred before 7 February 1962, because it was on that date that the Director of Security told the FBI that CIA would object to prosecution. Presumably the FBI's case was already complete by then.)
Maheu arranged to have Giancana's request handled by Edward L. Du Bois, a private investigator in Miami. Du Bois assigned two men to the job: Arthur J. Balletti and J.W. Harrison.
(Comment: The September 1966 classified telephone directory for the Greater Miami Area lists Edward L. Du Bois under "Detective Agencies." There is an advertisement on the page for "Arthur J. Balletti Investigations" which lists as one of
his specialties the obtaining of photographic and electronic evidence.)
O'Connell recalls that, instead of planting a microphone in Rowan's room, the investigator tapped the telephone, which would not have revealed the sort of intimacies that Giancana expected to discover. When Rowan left the room to do a show, Balletti also left his room to see the act, leaving his equipment out in full sight and running. It was found by a maid, and the local sheriff's office was called. Balletti was arrested. Harrison was not picked up. Agency personnel have no further information about Harrison. The FBI identified him only as being "supplied by Maheu."
Balletti first tried to telephone Du Bois for help but could not reach him. He then called Maheu, in the presence of the sheriff's officers. O'Connell says that Maheu was able to fix the matter with local Las Vegas authorities, perhaps with help from Roselli. However, Balletti's call to Maheu caused the case to reach the FBI. The Bureau decided to press for prosecution under the wiretapping statute. When Maheu was approached by the FBI, he referred them to the CIA Director of Security, Sheffield Edwards.
(Comment: Edwards states that he had told Maheu, who had to work closely with the thugs, that if he got into a bind with the FBI, he could tell the Bureau that he was working on an
intelligence operation being handled by Edwards. Maheu, according to Edwards, told the Bureau that he had not personally done the wiretapping, but that it grew out of an operation he was working on with Edwards. Maheu presumably did not mention the ultimate objective of the "intelligence operation" involving the gambling syndicate. The Bureau, in a memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover to the DCI, dated 23 March 1962, stated that: "Maheu claimed that he ordered coverage of Rowan in behalf of CIA's efforts to obtain intelligence information in Cuba through the hoodlum element, including Sam Giancana, which had interests there. Maheu said he was put in contact with Giancana in connection with these intelligence activities through John Roselli, a Los Angeles hoodlum. Maheu authorized wiring of Rowan's room and discussed this matter with John Roselli.")
The 23 March memorandum from the Bureau takes the form of a letter of confirmation of a 7 February meeting between an unnamed representative of the FBI and Shef Edwards. The memorandum quotes Edwards as having made the following points: Maheu was involved in a sensitive operation with the Agency; the Agency would object to any prosecution that would necessitate use of CIA personnel or information;
and introduction of evidence concerning CIA operations would embarrass the Government. This is also essentially as stated to us by Edwards in reviewing the incident during the course of this investigation.
The 23 March memorandum stated that the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice requested that CIA advise specifically if it objected to initiation of criminal prosecution against Balletti, Maheu, and Harrison. On 28 or 29 March, Edwards met with the Bureau liaison officer, Sam Papich, and told him that any prosecution would endanger sensitive sources and methods used in a duly authorized project and would not be in the national interest. Papich accepted Edwards' oral statement as the reply requested and said that he would report to proper authorities in the Bureau. Edwards made a record of the meeting in a memorandum of 4 April 1962.
Edwards informed us during our inquiry that at the time of the bugging incident and the flap that ensued those (Dulles and Bissell) who had given the initial approval of the plan to assassinate Castro through the gambling syndicate were gone. As no one else in authority (including Mr. Helms) had been cut in on the operation, Edwards dealt with Papich without reference to anyone else in the Agency.
In early April Papich informed Edwards that Herbert J. Miller,
Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, wanted to discuss the case. Edwards then brought in Lawrence Houston, General Counsel, and asked Houston to call on Miller and tell him that the bugging incident in Las Vegas was related to an intelligence operation and that the Agency did not think it wise at that time to surface its connection with Roselli.
Houston met with Miller on 16 April and told him of the Agency's involvement, without revealing any details of the assassination operation. Houston's memorandum of the meeting, dated 26 April, quotes Miller as saying that he foresaw no major difficulty in stopping prosecution, but that he might mention the problem to the Attorney General. Houston's memorandum notes that Miller raised a question about the possibility of our involvement in this particular case, the Las Vegas wiretap, standing in the way of prosecution of other actions, particularly against Giancana.
Houston's 26 April memorandum states that on 20 April there was a second meeting with Justice--with Miller's first assistant, Mr. Foley. At that meeting Houston told Foley that the Agency's request not to prosecute was limited to this specific bugging incident, was based on security grounds, and that security considerations would not be a bar to prosecution on other matters. As it was possible that the Attorney General might be told about this and might then call the DCI, Houston
briefed the DDCI, General Carter, who said he understood the situation and in due time might brief the Director, Mr. McCone. It is not known whether General Carter was further briefed on the full details of the assassination plot against Castro.
The Attorney General obviously was told of CIA's operational involvement with gangster elements, because he requested a briefing on the details. On 7 May 1962 Sheffield Edwards and Lawrence Houston met with Attorney General Robert Kennedy and, as Edwards puts it, "briefed him all the way." Houston says that after the briefing Kennedy "thought about the problem quite seriously." The Attorney General said that he could see the problem and that he cou.....
This is the end of the google cache of this document! The Parascope site will be back up soon!