Vol. 1 #1 – Premier CAPA Newsletter Excerpt courtesy of John Newman –
PRELUDE: WHERE ANGELS TREAD LIGHTLY
April 24, 1961: New York City
“My dear Mr. Kennedy,” the type written letter began. It had been placed in a plain white envelope and addressed, “Mr. Robert Kennedy, Attorney-General of U.S., Department of Justice, Washington D.C., (Personal Correspondence).” Writing exactly seven days after the disastrous failure of the CIA’s Bay of Pigs operation, the author of this letter used what may have been a pseudonym. Whether or not it was her true name, it had, with very few exceptions, vanished from U.S. intelligence files since the summer of 1960. The name was “Catherine Taaffe.” This name appeared often in the government’s files as far back as the Korean War. It had disappeared in the wake of its association with a murder and kidnapping plot of a former Cuban Senator from the Batista regime in Cuba.
Taaffe was unhappy with U.S. policy in Cuba and the Bay of Pigs failure had lit her fuse. She intended to blast her message to the top of the U.S. government. Taaffe knew full well that letters arriving at the Department of Justice (DOJ) addressed to the Attorney General (AG) did not arrive on the chief’s desk unopened. She had anticipated that the AG’s staff would check the name Taaffe against the DOJ’s files, and she knew what they would find. She understood that this would ensure that her letter would be read by Robert Kennedy, along with many of her voluminous FBI files. By April 1961, those files were bursting at the seams. Much of them remain classified in 2015 but what has been released so far exceeds a thousand pages.
“My letter may be presumptive,” Taaffe told Kennedy, “but I have heard of women being forgiven for tramping where angels tread lightly.” This turn of phrase was her adaptation of the phrase Where Angels Fear to Tread, a line originally from An Essay on Criticism, written by the British poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744)—the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson. Two hundred years later it became the title of E. M. Forster’s novel Where Angels Fear to Tread.
Taaffe’s use of the adjective “presumptive” to describe her letter to Kennedy was an understatement. To tell the Attorney General that where she was “tramping” would, by inference, strike the fear of God in men, was outrageously immodest. But it was also true. The President’s brother would understand this once he began to leaf through her files.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
INVASION OF CUBA
A CLOSE CALL FOR DAVE PHILLIPS
Toward the end of July 1959, the CIA Station in Havana instructed Dave Phillips to contact Michael P. Malone, Vice President of the Czarnikow Rionda firm, which controlled four of the major sugar companies in Cuba, and manager of Robert Kleberg’s (King Ranch) $5.7 million 40,000 acre cattle ranch in Camaguey Province, Cuba. Phillips wrote down what happened as a result in a 6 August memo. On 29 July, Phillips, as instructed, met Malone in his room at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. Malone said he had talked with several people at CIA HQS about his association with a group of Cuban landowners anxious to do something about Castro’s Agrarian Reform program. CIA HQS had told Malone that Phillips would be able to act as an advisor in a public relations program. Malone told Phillips that the Cubans had approached him in the hope that he and the interests he represented would contribute to a fund being generated to prepare “a plan of action.”
Malone then contacted the Cuban group and told them he would introduce them to a representative of a large, unnamed public relations firm in the U.S. who was experienced in “unconventional” propaganda techniques. The Cubans asked to meet Phillips that same day. Hours later, Phillips returned to the hotel room to meet Malone. Malone said that one of the Cubans, Martinez Conhill, was on his way to the room and that they would then go to meet Caines Milanes, President of the Cuban Cattleman’s Association. Conhill told Phillips that Cainas was “the absolute leader of the group, and that the only thing to remember in talking with him was that he had strong political ideas.” In the memo he wrote afterward, Phillips said he took “ideas” to mean ambitions.
Phillips had guessed right about Caines. But Phillips did not know at the time that Caines’ group was one of two nuclei working inside of Cuba with the Trujillo plot and that Caines would become the new Vice President of Cuba if the plot succeeded in overthrowing Castro. The three men drove to meet Caines at a large home in Miramar. Phillips assumed that the home belonged to Caines, but in fact it was the home of another Cuban, Gustavo de Los Reyes. An attorney for the Cuban Cattleman’s Association also joined the meeting. In his memo, Phillips said that in view of being in this “sudden crowd” he was inclined to be “as discreet as possible.”
Caines dominated the two-hour meeting from the beginning. The first thing Phillips told the group was that he would have to consult his “home office” before making any definite commitment. At length, this exchange took place between Caines and Phillips:
After about an hour Caines said to me directly: “Look here—we were told you were an expert on this sort of thing. But so far you have contributed nothing. Can’t you give us one concrete idea of the sort of program you might provide? …I suggested, that if they wanted to move at once and really do something, they should purchase a newspaper (or at least promise the owner of a paper complete financial repayment in the event of loss or closure), and that this newspaper should begin daily editorial attacks against the drastic aspects of the Agrarian Reform program and equally strong attacks against the growing communist activity in Cuba. Such a paper, I pointed out, would draw the immediate interest from the Cuban readers. One of three things would happen:
a. Castro would close the paper and if so all the world would see that freedom of the press did not exist in Cuba.
b. The mob would burn the paper—[meaning] even worse international propaganda against Castro’s government.
c. Or nothing would happen—in which case the full story would be carried to the Cuban public in heavy doses, and other newspapers would find the courage to speak out against communism.
Caines and his group liked Phillips’ idea. In fact, they liked it so much that they talked about which newspaper they might use. They spoke of starting their own weekly newspaper only to destroy it later. And they even said they would provide “the mob” if Castro did not.
At this point in the meeting it dawned on Phillips that this particular group of Cubans was less interested in publicity work than in direct militant action to overthrow the Castro government. They spoke of many other Cubans who were with them and discussed possible paramilitary activities—what would happen if there was an invasion of Cuba from the Dominican Republic; the possible effect of bomb throwing, and what would happen if Castro were assassinated. In his memo, Phillips wrote, Things really became conspiratorial.
Malone was an enthusiastic supporter of the most militant ideas. Generally, he exuded a “give ‘em hell” attitude. I felt it was time to leave. I promised to report back to the group two days later with a plan of some kind. But I made it clear that I would have to consult with my home office. [Emphasis added]
In his memo, Phillips wrote that the group was “undisciplined security-wise,” and did not know exactly what they wanted except “Castro’s head.” Phillips concluded, They would be willing to do almost anything—even supporting a Dominican invasion. They want to get out on the streets and fight, they claim, and they are having a hard time holding their people back. With the new death penalty in Cuba for anti-revolutionary activity, it is not hard to imagine that at least one member of this group might inform to the government.
Phillips was quite right that there was an informant in the Trujillo plot—and he might even have been thinking of Morgan.
Phillips was traveling to CIA HQS and to New York when the American Embassy in Havana learned that a Cuban government tape recorder in the home of Gustavo de Los Reyes had taped a prior conversation between Caines and a “non-Kubark [CIA] American Embassy official.” After much handwringing and exchanges of cables, the CIA eventually concluded that Phillips’ meeting with Caines had not been recorded, and Phillips returned to Havana on 27 August.
Seven years have passed since the sequel to Oswald and the CIA was published in 2008. The boundaries were much narrower in the original 1995 edition, but even in that book, the pre-assassination movements of Oswald and manipulation of his CIA files foreshadowed what came at the end of the 2008 sequel: conspiracy. I argued in the sequel, and I am still convinced today, that the gloves of the person most likely behind that part of the plot fit best on the hands of James Jesus Angleton, the Agency’s counterintelligence chief.
As I waded into these dark waters then, my instincts told me to step back. With millions of new records released and tens of thousands still withheld, I needed a lot more time to investigate—and some time off. And so, I turned to an investigation of parallel paradigms in ancient mysticism. I returned to the JFK case in 2012.
It is not uncommon to view Dealey Plaza as the crime scene in the assassination of President Kennedy. Of course, it is. But I believe that the crime scene in this case extends beyond Dealey Plaza, where the president was shot; and Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where the president is said to have expired; and Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, where the president’s autopsy took place. I am convinced that the “crime scene” includes the millions of records at the National Archives and Research Administration (NARA) facility, now located in College Park, Maryland. The “crime scene tape” was eventually extended to this facility, so to speak, by the passage of the JFK Assassination Records act in 1993. The records at NARA can also help us to find the criminals.
When I returned to active investigation of this case I knew straight away that I had to make a critical decision: all in or stay out. I also knew that all in meant to do more than a new book. It meant perhaps three, four or even more volumes. It also meant testing hypotheses, making mistakes, and readjusting the investigation to follow the evidentiary trail. That is what is supposed to happen in murder investigations.
In this investigation, however, we are attempting to look inside a very dark box. The people involved in the design of the plot, even if they were only a few, were very sophisticated in propaganda and deception operations. In his book, The Craft of Intelligence, former Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles wrote about the “collateral effect” of a successful deception operation. Dulles often used the term “black operation,” which is similar to the term used in this volume, “dark operation.”
Dulles explained the “collateral effect” this way: once a “single piece” of the enemy’s deception has succeeded in its purpose, “then almost anything that happens can be taken as one of his tricks.” This is what happened when British and French intelligence failed to believe some half-burned documents “from the complete plans of the German invasion of France through Belgium, for which Hitler had already given marching orders.” British and French officials felt that “the whole thing was a German deception operation.”
The point that Dulles was driving at was this: “Often the very fear of deception has blinded an opponent to the real value of the information which accidents or intelligence operations have placed in his hands.” The burned documents had fallen into British and French hands by accident, when a German plane landed in the wrong place.
It is worthwhile pondering how Dulles’ point might apply to the Kennedy assassination. As stated in the Introduction to this work, in this case a very significant “single piece” of deception succeeded in its purpose:
The plot to assassinate President Kennedy was designed to deceive both people in the government and the public at large. A convincing trail of evidence was established to make it appear that the Kennedy brothers’ plan to overthrow Castro had been turned around and used against them by Fidel himself, resulting in the assassination of President Kennedy.
We should heed Dulles’ advice and not fear that “almost everything” is a successful deception operation. We should, as Dulles advises us, realize that accidents in intelligence operations happen. Such accidents have occurred in this case too. They have placed important clues into our hands.
There is an unstated corollary principal in the game of deception that Allen Dulles was kind enough to give us. Once a “single piece” of a black operation has been compromised, the entire fabric of that operation can potentially unravel.
8/6/59, CIA memorandum by Michael H. Choaden, Subject: Meeting with Cuban Group re Public Relations Campaign. RIF 104-10267-10168.
8/18/59, HAVA 2573 to DIR CIA. 104-10267-10166.
See 8/21/59, HAVA 25898 to DIR CIA. 104-10128-10335; and 8/22/59, DIR 41198 to HAVA. 104-10177-10088; and HAVA 2603 to DIR CIA. 104-10267-10161.
Jefferson Morley, “The Oswald File: Tales of the Routing Slips; Six Weeks before the President’s Murder, the CIA Didn’t Tell All That it Knew,” Washington Post, 2 April 1995. “The routing slips that shed new light on the CIA’s handling of information about Oswald before the assassination were found by John Newman, a 20-year veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence…”
Allen W. Dulles, Craft of Intelligence: America’s Legendary Spy Master On the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering For a Free World (Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2006), p. 147.
For more on this, see Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics II: Essays Oswald, Mexico, and Cuba (Skokie, Illinois: Green Archive Publications, 1995), p. 64. Scott also proposed (see p. 69), a hypothetical “turn around” scenario. According to this hypothesis, the trigger event was originally a shooter team, “in effect licensed by the CIA to kill Castro,” that “might then have returned from Cuba and killed the president instead.”