Breaking News from AP

The True Story of Las Vegas….Episode: Thieves robbed the Mob at the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino with fake drop boxes.

By Geno Munari

In the early days of the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino the outside scam artists, that is the guys and gals off the streets and not the owners in the tradition of a skim, beat the Desert Inn in a remarkable bold move that was based on a fake or altered drop box.  A drop box is where the cash is deposited after a customer walks up and buys casino chips from the dealer.  Every casino game has a drop box where the currency is deposited for safe keeping.

Before the shift ends, and this happens three times a day, the new empty drop boxes are put out to be changed for boxes that are full of cash.  This is done so that the currency is promptly put into the casino cage and infiltrated into the accounting policy of the casino, rather than let the cash just sit there for 24 hours a day.  Imagine how much interest is lost on cash just sitting in a box for 24 or 48 hours.

Some slick bold scam artist got a hold of a drop box and created a cardboard (or some other material) side that was painted to look like it was a piece of metal.  The box looked identical to a regular box, however it had a side that could be opened and the cash could be taken out without drawing any suspicion.  When the boxes were being put out, the team found various spots were they could switch the boxes without detection.  They did this on New Year’s Eve, wherein there was a lot of business and plenty of misdirection.  Every blackjack table has the drop box close to where the player sits, and this location is not exact, but varies according to the table manufacturer.  In the case of the Desert Inn, the drop box was conveniently close to the player setting in a position called third base.  Third base would be to the dealer’s right, unlike baseball, if you were standing at home plate, third base would be on your left.  Why it is called third base, I am not sure, but it is.  It was really pretty easy for a player that had a beautiful lady next to him distract the dealer and floorman just enough for the dirty work to be completed.

The thieves picked out New Year’s Eve to pull off the scam and they worked from table to table getting as much cash as possible without getting caught.  The boxes were able to be closed after the money was taken so no one got wise to the bold scam until the boxes were taken off the table.  Who knows, maybe they had a dealer or two that was in with the scam?

When the owners found out what happened, they put the word out real quickly that these people, if caught, wouldn’t see their next New Year’s Eve.

Gaming Control Board’s Secret Hearings

In 1966 there was plenty of pressure on Nevada regarding the alleged skimming that was occurring in various casinos around the state. The FBI had installed listening devices in the early 1960s in various offices, hotel rooms and even in certain casino owners’ private bedrooms. This led to Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer to hold TOP SECRET hearings inquiring into the Flamingo and Dunes hotels.

The average citizen will never know what these meetings were about! All of the people that testified in the Dunes and Flamingo cases are deceased. The historical value of the meetings, the dialogue, the actions that developed are all under wrap and key, by the ever so mighty Gaming Control Board. These are not personal files but hearings that affected all Nevada citizens. What reason could there be to keep these proceedings that occurred in 1966 a hidden secret? That is about 52 years ago.

A movement must be started to make files like these available to the public. Even researchers can’t get information about licensees. A writer can’t even assemble a historical photo library of past gaming legends that the Gaming Control Board has in their files that they protect by an archaic Nevada Statute.

Citizens, we need to change this secret society of gaming information. We need to protest, demonstrate and unlock history!

The Ideologues of the Gaming Control Board

June 24, 2018
The Ideologues of the Gaming Control Board

For the most part the rank and file members of the Nevada Gaming Control Board are above and beyond reproach. They are hardworking, dedicated and good citizens serving Nevada and keeping casino gambling on the straight and narrow. The following comments are not directed to these fine people. These comments are directed to the powers to be that allows the GCB to continually hide and suppress public information behind an archaic Nevada law: NRS 463.335(16) and under the provisions of NRS Chapter 239.
This law keeps the facts, historical data and the truth from the public. The law makes it illegal for the GCB to release anything about a gaming licensee or investigation to practically anyone.  This means they won’t give you a photo of a past legendary deceased hotel owner, or a picture of an interior of an imploded casino, if they had one.  And what about the interesting cases that were investigated 30 or 40 years ago.  Everyone in the case has passed away, and yet they won’t reveal anything to a person requesting some information.  A STONE WALL!
Nevada’s gaming regulators use this law as dictators over the public in a manner that is unjust competition. When they need to inspect, peruse or examine a fact in a file, they can do so under the precept that it is within the law, yet if a subject of the file needs to defend him or herself it practically take an act of Congress to even look at what is even contained in the secret file. Even a person who has been investigated by the secretive Gaming Control Board isn’t even allowed to view their own file.

Even a researcher who wants to historical facts about a deceased gaming operator regarding confirmation of employment in a vintage casino in the 1970s is denied.
This is beyond reasonable and in the spirit of fair dealing and there must be a reason that the GBC wants to keep this information secret. Perhaps a legitimate right of privacy excuse would apply in some cases. Certainly sensitive personal information should not be disclosed that could cause harm to a living subject if the file. But in the case of deceased gaming licensees and investigations of these persons, keeping this information in a vault is akin to a dictatorship running our state.
The reason of protecting Nevada Gaming from innuendo, speculation and the possibility of bad press is not acceptable in this new age of social media and 24/7 worldwide news facilities.

The files in the secret vaults of the Gaming Control Board are valuable to history and accuracy. The FBI has released much of the information via the FOIA and is available to the public for a postage stamp. So why then, has the GCB not released the same information. Is it because of the fear of a lawsuit? The last time this writer checked the law, a dead man could not file a law suit.

There are hundreds if not thousands of files in the secret protected filing cabinets of the Nevada’s Gaming Control Board that belong to the educational curriculum of gaming history.  Try to search the internet to find a picture of Ed Torres or Maurice Friedman.  Good luck!

The reason the Fascist high lamas at the GCB may have another reason that they don’t want this information released and open for research is because there may be many smoking guns in the files that implicate past Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board members in wrongdoing, unfair dealing and flat out criminal activity.

I say fellow Nevadans, petition your Assembly persons, write letters to your State Senators and initiate action to change NRS 463.335(16) certain

CIA Agent Claimed Oswald was a CIA AGENT

A very interesting interview, of former CIA Agent  James Wilcott, by the House Assassinations Committee in 1978.  Wilcott and his wife both worked for the CIA and claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald was an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.   This interview is news to this writer and seems obscure, if not missing from the many books that have been written on the JFK assassination.

Wilcot edited180-10089-10407

Mark Lane & Herb Klein – An interesting repartee

Mark Lane (February 24, 1927 – May 10, 2016) was an American attorney, New York state legislator, civil rights activist, and Vietnam war-crimes investigator. He is best known as a leading researcher, author, and conspiracy theorist on the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. From his 1966 number-one bestselling critique of the Warren Commission, Rush to Judgment, to Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK, published in 2011, Lane wrote at least four major works on the JFK assassination and no fewer than ten books overall.

In the late 1970s, the American media reported that the Copley Press was used as a front by the Central Intelligence Agency. Reporters Joe Trento and Dave Roman claimed that James S. Copley,  who served as publisher until 1973,  had cooperated with the CIA since its founding in 1947. They also reported that a subsidiary division, Copley News Service, was used in Latin America by the CIA as a front. Trento and Roman also said that reporters at the Copley-owned San Diego Union and Evening News spied on antiwar protesters for the FBI. They alleged that, at the height of these operations, at least two dozen Copley employees were simultaneously working for the CIA. James S. Copley was also accused of involvement in the CIA-funded Inter-American Press Association.Here is an interesting account of the confrontation Lane had with CIA affiliated Herb Klein.


Four weeks after the assassination of Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Lane published an article in the National Guardian dealing in-depth with 15 questions regarding statements by public officials about the murders of J. D. Tippit and John F. Kennedy from the perspective of a defense attorney. The statements were about the witnesses who claimed to have seen Oswald on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository; the paraffin test which, to Lane, indicated that Oswald had not fired a rifle recently; the conflicting claims about the rifle which at first was, as the police announced, a German Mauser and afterwards a World War II Mannlicher–Carcano; the Parkland Hospital doctors announcing an entrance wound in the throat, and the role of the FBI and the press, who convicted Oswald before his guilt was proven.

In June 1964, according to historian Peter Knight, Bertrand Russell, “prompted by the emerging work of the lawyer Mark Lane in the US … rallied support from other noteworthy and left-leaning compatriots to form a Who Killed Kennedy Committee, members of which included Michael Foot MP, the wife of Tony Benn MP, the publisher Victor Gollancz, the writers John Arden and J. B. Priestley, and the Oxford history professor Hugh Trevor-Roper.” Russell published a highly critical article weeks before the Warren Commission Report was published, setting forth “16 Questions on the Assassination” and equating the Oswald case with the Dreyfus affair of late nineteenth-century France in which the state wrongly convicted an innocent man. Russell also criticized the American press for failing to heed any voices critical of the official version.”
Warren Commission
Lane applied to the Warren Commission to represent the interests of Lee Harvey Oswald, but the Commission rejected his request.[13] Three months later Walter E. Craig, president of the American Bar Association, was appointed by the Commission to represent the interests of Oswald. Craig himself stated that he was not counsel for Oswald; and official records do not indicate that Craig or his associates named, cross-examined, or interviewed witnesses of their own.[14] Lane continued to search for clues for Oswald’s innocence. He was called to testify before the Commission but was not permitted to cross-examine witnesses. According to R. Andrew Kiel in J. Edgar Hoover: The Father of the Cold War, “After the Warren Commission’s final report was completed in September 1964, Lane interviewed numerous witnesses ignored by the Commission.”
For Lane, Commission chairman Chief Justice Earl Warren had only contempt. According to biographer Ed Cray, Warren “deemed Lane a publicity seeker who ‘played fast and loose’ with the subject.” Warren maintained prior to his death that the Commission had investigated all leads and left no witness unheard.
Lane’s testimony
Lane provided testimony to the Warren Commission in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1964.  Lane testified that he had contacted witness Helen Markham sometime within the five days preceding his appearance before the Commission and that she had described Tippit’s killer to him as “short, a little on the heavy side, and his hair was somewhat bushy”.  He added, “I think it is fair to state that an accurate description of Oswald would be average height, quite slender with thin and receding hair.”
In addressing the assertion that Markham’s description of Tippit’s killer was not consistent with the appearance of Oswald, the Warren Commission stated that they had reviewed the telephone transcript in which she was alleged to have made it.  The Commission wrote: “A review of the complete transcript has satisfied the Commission that Mrs. Markham strongly reaffirmed her positive identification of Oswald and denied having described the killer as short, stocky and having bushy hair.”
Rush to Judgment
Lane published an indictment of the Warren Commission, entitled Rush to Judgment, using these interviews as well as evidence from the 26 volumes of the Commission’s report. Despite the fact that the majority of Mark Lane’s material for his book came from the Warren Report itself, as well as from interviews with those who were at the scene, sixteen publishers canceled contracts before Rush to Judgment was published.  The book became a number one best seller and spent 29 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.  The book criticizes in detail the work and conclusions of the Warren Commission and remains one of the most remarkable books about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was adapted into a documentary film in 1966.
Lane questions, among other things, the Warren Commission conclusion that three shots were fired from the Texas School Book Depository and focuses on the witnesses who had recounted seeing or hearing shots coming from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. Lane questions whether Oswald was guilty of the murder of policeman J.D. Tippit shortly after the Kennedy murder. Lane also states that none of the Warren Commission firearm experts were able to duplicate Oswald’s shooting feat.
According to former KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin in his 1999 book The Sword and the Shield, the KGB helped finance Lane’s research on Rush to Judgement without the author’s knowledge.  The KGB allegedly used journalist Genrikh Borovik as a contact and provided Lane with $2000 for research and travel in 1964.  Mark Lane called the allegation “an outright lie” and wrote, “Neither the KGB nor any person or organization associated with it ever made any contribution to my work.”  (Wikipedia)

The Assassination of J.F.K: The Garrison Interview, March 1992 Pacifica Radio

The Assassination of  J.F.K. : The Garrison Interview – This documentary aired on Pacifica radio in 1992.  This audio documentary explores Judge Jim Garrison’s investigation of the John F. Kennedy Assassination which was popularized in Oliver Stone’s film JFK. The program includes an interview with Jim Garrison, excerpts from a rare pre-assassination interview with Lee Harvey Oswald, an a analysis by Oliver Stone, John Davis, and Dr. Phillip Melanson about links between Oswald and the United States intelligence agencies. Also includes actualities from the events of November 1963. – Originally BROADCAST via Satellite, 25 Mar. 1992.

Part 1

Part 2


The Last Investigation” by Gaeton Fonzi

“The Last Investigation”
by Gaeton Fonzi
(Original manuscript of Fonzi’s article that appeared in the November 1980 “The Washingtonian” magazine article entitled “Who Killed JFK?” Spelling and other grammatical errors are Fonzi‘s from the original manuscript)
It was very hot in Dallas. That week, in the summer of 1978, there was a heat wave and the temperature had climbed to 106 degrees. I could see the city’s fever shimmering from the gray macadam, feel its stifling thickness against my skin. I waited on the south curb on Elm Street for a break in the traffic and then moved out into the center lane. The street is not as wide as it appears in photographs. Right about …here. I stopped on the spot. I had studied it in both the films and the still photos. I knew it. Right here. Above me rose the dark shadows of the trees and heavy foliage of the grassy knoll. I saw only a stillness there now, a breezeless serenity. On my right loomed the familiar red brick building, flat, insistent, hard-edged, its rows of sooted windows now innocuous and dull. In my mind, I dropped into a well of time and fell against the micro-instant of history. It suddenly struck me: Here was where a man was killed. It was such a simple, clarifying thought. Right here, in an explosively horrible and bloody moment, a man’s life ended. that very realization — a man was killed here — had been oddly removed from the whirlwind of activity in which I had been involved. A man was killed here, and what had been going on in Washington — all the officious meetings and the political posturing, all the time and attention devoted to administrative procedures and organizational processes and forms and reports for the record, all the chaotic concern for distorted priorities and, now, all the scurrying about in a thousand directions in the mad rush of produce a final report — all of that seemed so detached from the hard reality of a single fact: A man was killed here. Wasn’t that supposed to have some relationship to what we were doing?

I had been working as a staff investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations for more than a year and a half. In fact, however, the formal investigation had begun only the previous January — and then had abruptly ended less than six months later, in June. I was one of the few investigators who had not been fired. And now I was standing in Dealey Plaza, on the spot where President John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22nd, 1963, and wondering what the hell had gone wrong.

What had smothered my initial optimism and early enthusiasm, my original hop that, finally, after all these years, we might find out the truth about the Kennedy assassination? Why had I become so bitter and cynical, so depressed and frustrated about what apparently was going to b e the final result of all our time and effort? I stood in Dealey Plaza that summer of 1978, on a very hot day in Dallas, and could not help thinking that perhaps — just perhaps — the powers that controlled the Assassinations Committee would not have gone so far astray in their purpose had they remembered that micro-instant of time when a man’s life ended here.

On the Tuesday morning on July 17th, 1979, the Chairman of the House Selected Committee on Assassinations, Ohio Democrat Louis Stokes, called a press conference to formally release the Committee’s “final report.”

The report was long overdue. After consuming more than $5.4 million over a two year period, the Committee had legally ceased to exist the previous December. At that time, however, the Committee’s Chief Counsel and Staff Director, G. Robert Blakey, wasn’t satisfied with the report the staff had complied and so, in a bit of bureaucratic legerdemain, he had himself and a few selected aides temporarily attached to the Speaker of the House’s Office for administrative and pay purposes in order to obtain the additional time to reconstruct a few final report.

That reconstruction was dictated by startling testimony which emerged in the very last days of the Committee’s life. Acoustics experts, analyzing a tape recording of the sounds in Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was shot, concluded that more than one rifle had been fired. As the final report put it: “Scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy.”

The presence of more than one gunman meant there was a conspiracy, yet the Committee had uncovered no hard evidence to indicate the character of that conspiracy. Blakey realized that would be too obvious a shortcoming in what he was determined to make an ostensibly impressive document. (“This, I can assure you, will be the absolutely final report on the Kennedy assassination,” he early told the staff. “This will e the last investigation. After us, there ain’t gonna be no more.”) He was also very aware of the political priorities of the committee members themselves. He wanted the report to have attention-getting impact or, as he called it, “sex appeal.” So although the report could not, without embarrassment, clearly reflect the actual limitations of the staff’s investigation, it had to convey the impression that enough hard digging had been done to provide the Committee with an insight into the nature of the conspiracy it had uncovered. Thus it became necessary to restructure and weight the report toward a conspiracy theory. The question than became: Who to blame?

In retrospect, the answer should have seemed obvious from the beginning. G. Robert Blakey was a 41-year-old criminal law professor and head of Cornell University’s Organized Crime Institute when he was asked to take the reins of the Assassinations Committee. (His appointment followed the debacle which brought about forced resignation of his predecessor, Philadelphia’s Richard Sprague.) Blakey had been with the Justice Department under Robert Kennedy, and his subsequent career was focused on Organized Crime — that nebulous entity which somehow was achieved capitalized status over the years. He was considered one of the top Organized Crime experts in the country, was regularly called to testify as an “expert witness” in that area, and was a fixture at the numerous Organized Crime seminars held periodically by law enforcement interests. He also had personal contacts in most Federal agencies and in the Organized Crime sections of almost every major police department in the nation.

As soon as he was appointed, Blakey drew upon his contacts in that Organized Crime- fighting fraternity to select key senior counsels for the Committee. For instance, the lawyer he picked to head the Kennedy investigation task force was a bright, snappy little Texan named Gary Cornwell. As chief of the Federal Strike Force in Kansas City, Cornwell had achieved notable trial victories against key Midwest Mafia bigwigs.

Another initial move by Blakey was to hire as a special consultant to the Committee a man who carried the Mob’s organizational chart in his head, a former New York cop named Ralph Salerno. For years Salerno has earned a good living lecturing, writing books and appearing on radio and television shows as the capo de tutti capi of Organized Crime experts. And there were a number of other lawyers and researchers Blakey specifically chose for their background in criminal law and Organized Crime. the Assassinations Committee was well stacked, in other words, to find an Organized Crime conspiracy in the John F. Kennedy assassination.

There is substance and there is the illusion of substance. In Washington, it is often difficult to tell the difference. Chief Counsel Blakey was an experienced Hill man. He had worked not only at Justice but also with previous Congressional committees. He knew exactly what the priorities of his job were by Washington standards, even before he stepped in. The first priority, he announced in his inaugural address to the staff, was to produce a report. The second priority was to produce a report that looked good, one that appeared to be definitive and substantial. Somewhere along the line there would be an effort at conducting a limited investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Bob Blakey is quite a literate fellow, exceptionally articulate and given to structured rationality in even his most casual conversations. Nevertheless, to give the report slickness, he brought in a top professional writer, former Life magazine editor Richard Billings, who happened to be another knowledgeable veteran of Congressional committee operations. Together, Blakey and Billings would insure that the report was expertly constructed.

Thus from the beginning, there was no doubt that, regardless of the realities of the actual investigation, the Assassinations Committee’s historical legacy would appear to have substance.

And it does. An impressively hefty tome — 686 pages thick, with 13 volumes of appendixes — the Committee’s final report appears to have a lot of substance. And yet, on close examination, it makes very few definitive statements. Used in abundance are such hedging terms as “on the basis of evidence available to it,” and, “the committee believes,” and, “available evidence does not preclude the possibility,” and such words as “probably,” “most likely,” “possible,” and “may have been.”

The point is that the Committee report does not actually state that Organized Crime was involved in the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. The report says this:
“The Committee believes, on the basis of evidence available to it, that the national syndicate
of Organized Crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President
Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual
members may have been involved.”

The cryptic, latter part of the conclusion specifically referred to two key mob bosses: Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santos Trafficante of Florida. (Lee Harvey Oswald’s uncle, the Committee discovered, was a numbers runner for the Marcello organization; and Jack Ruby may have had some contact with Trafficante in Cuba)

However, after making the allegation in its “Summary of Findings and Recommendations,” the report buries in its body the detailed conclusion that “it is unlikely” that either Marcello or Trafficante was involved in the assassination of the President.

That is an example of numerous inherent contradictions contained in the details of the report. It’s the result of an attempt to leave no base untouched, no area verbally unexplored, however cursory the Committee’s actual investigation. What the report does in the most quintessential way is — to use the expression favored in Washington — cover its ass.

One of the most ironic aspects of that is this: In doing so, the report was forced to expose indications of its own basic conflicts, as well as the shortcomings of the Committee’s pseudo-investigation.

That problem came to light some time ago, when the first attempt was made to bring the various aspects of the report together. For instance, before the acoustics evidence of conspiracy was firmed up very late in December, each Committee team was frantically writing what it thought would be a portion of the final report, that part dealing with its aspect of the investigation. (There were five major teams, each originally consisting of two lawyers, three researchers and two investigator. There were also special project teams — ballistics, autopsy, acoustics, photographic and other areas involving expert consultants — and staff investigators stationed in New Orleans and Miami.) By December, however, the staff had been drastically depleted through firings and resignations. When it became obvious that all the portions would not be finished before the Committee’s demise at the end of the month, a young lawyer name Jim Wolf was given the job of gathering from each team a summary of its findings and putting them together into what would appears to be a “draft” of a final report. That, at least, would be something for the Committee to release before it officially folded.

When that compilation was completed, it totaled more than 500 pages. Wolf strung together the summaries he got from each team and then, after a conference with Blakey, drew up the conclusion. That’s when it became obvious that there were some basic problems.

One of the key conflicts was Blakey’s insistence that the Committee had to come to some conclusion about Oswald’s motivation. (Oswald’s guilt, ruled Blakey, had already been resolved through scientific analysis of the physical evidence.) Unfortunately, one of the areas that most reflected the inadequacy of the Committee’s investigation was the one dealing with Oswald himself. Like the Warren Commission, the Committee never did truly define who Oswald really was, what he really believed, the nature of his relationships with an odd assortment of people, the reasons for the strange and mysterious things he did, nor why there are no traces of his actions over certain periods of time. The Committee, because of the structure of its limited investigation plan, did very little original work in this area.

In fact, a glaring example of the quality of the Committee’s investigation is the fact that one of the key individuals in Oswald’s life a women named Ruth Paine, was never called as a witness by the Committee. She just slipped through the cracks of the investigative plan. Yet it was Ruth Paine who played an important role in the life of the Oswald family immediately before and after the assassination. It was in Ruth Paine’s garage that the Warren Commission said Oswald stored and retrieved the rifle used in the assassination. Ruth Paine was instrumental in Oswald getting his job at the Texas School Book Depository. Ruth Paine’s husband, Michael, worked for a major Defense Department contractor and had a government security clearance. A once-classified document recently revealed that it was on Ruth Paine’s telephone that a “confidential informant” overheard, immediately after the assassination, a male voice say he didn’t believe Oswald killed Kennedy, and then added, “we both know who is responsible.

Ruth Paine was never even interviewed by the Committee.

Despite the mass of conflicting evidence and any investigation inadequate to resolve the issue, Blakey insisted that the Committee conclude that Oswald killed Kennedy because of left- wing political motivations. Most of the staff attorneys, including JFK Task Force Chief Gary Cornwell, argued against such a conclusion, but not successfully.

Before the compiled “draft” of the final report was to be presented to the committee members themselves, Blakey, sensing an undercurrent of discontent wafting through his staff, announced that all staff members would have the opportunity to read the report and discuss it. “I will be disappointed if there is not vigorous debate on many portions of the volume of our staff meeting Thursday night, ” he wrote in a memo. There was vigorous debate, but on the issue of motivation Blakey did not cave in.

On the morning that staff meeting, copies of the report were distributed to the staff. I recall Deputy Chief Counsel Ken Klein wandering into my office shaking his head shortly after hie read it. Klein was a witty little guy with a mop of red hair and perpetually raised eyebrows. He had originally been hired by Dick Sprague out of the New York District Attorney’s Office.

“You know,” Klein said with a wry smile on his face, “when I first got my copy I thought they were putting me on. I mean it was like somebody wrote the report and then somebody else came along and, without reading what the first guy had written, wrote the conclusions. You know, I was gonna go into Gary and say, ‘Hey, O.K,. that’s funny. Now com’on, give me the real report!'”

What bothered Klein was the fact that each team report had built an excellent argument for that team’s main subject of interest — whether it was Organized Crime, pro-Castro sympathizers, anti-Castro or right-wing militants or Russian intelligence forces. All the subjects had the motivation to be considered suspects in the Kennedy assassination conspiracy. Each team had taken pages detailed relevant evidence. “And then, “Klein pointed out, “after all these pages of evidence, all the arguments get thrown out in the conclusion that, naah, Oswald couldn’t have been involved with these guys because that wasn’t his motivation! Very funny. All right now, is somebody gonna tell me where the real report is?”

When the real report finally was released, that basic conflict remained. Although the largest number of pages — and one complete 1, 169 -pages appendix volume — was devoted to building a conspiracy case against Organized Crime, Oswald’s motivation was, perversely, ascribed to his “twisted ideological view.”

But that, of course, is substance. And irrelevant. In the end, the final report id what it was carefully structured to do: Create the impression that Organized Crime was involved in the conspiracy. That was the one point that Blakey wanted to etch in the national consciousness and leave in history’s memory. It was his personal bid to finally lay to rest the question of President Kennedy’s assassination.

The front-page headline in The Washington Post, its theme echoed by the media across the country, reflected the report’s implications as well as the gist of the press conference attending its release: Mobsters Linked to JFK Death.”

Blakey himself wanted to be absolutely certain that the reporters at the conference would accurately interpret the report’s interlinear message. “I am now firmly of the opinion that the Mob did it,” he told them. “It is a historical truth.” Then backstepping from such a seemingly impetuous declaration — covering his ass — he quickly added: “This Committee report does not say the Mob id it. I said it. I think the Mob did it.”

Well, I don’t know if the Mob id it, but I doubt it. From my experience as a committee investigator and, later, as a team leader, I know that the Committee’s investigation was simply not adequate enough to produce any firm conclusions about the nature of the conspiracy. To give the impression that it was, is a deception.

Yet there was a part of the Committee’s investigation which, if vigorously pursued, could have negated the implications of the Committee’s final report. It was in an area that threatened to open more doors than the Committee cared to open. As it stands even now, the information that was developed in this area contradicts the thrust of the Committee report and indicates that Chief Counsel Blakey’s efforts were governed by misguided priorities. The area may contain the only live lead remaining in the mystery of the Kennedy assassination.

Although the Committee report touched this lead — again, just enough to cover its ass – – the conclusions draw from it were distorted. Necessarily so. Told in context and with sufficient background detail, the story could have been used to stir anew public interest in the Kennedy assassination, this time sufficient enough, perhaps, to transcend the apathy that has been so carefully bred over the years. That, of course, would have been a very daring thing for Congress to do.

This, is only for history’s sake, is that story.

I can still hear the sound of Vincent Salandria’s voice. It has an odd quality to it, A low, velvet intensity. He was leaning back in his chair, his hands clasped easily behind his head, speaking slowly and casually but with a building rationality. We were in the paneled basement office of his home on Delancey Street in Philadelphia, it was late in 1964, and what Vincent Salandria was telling me that day I will never forget was that the Warren Commission report was not the truth.
I thought he was crazy. If you do not recall that time, you cannot comprehend what a discordant thing it was in 1964 to content that an official government report might be wrong — especially one which had been issued by a panel of men of weighty public status. People than believed what government officials said. If a guy like Salandria came along and suggested that an official government report wasn’t truthful….well, Salandria was crazy.

Immediately after the Warren Commission report was released in September, 1964, Salandria had written a critique of it for The Legal Intelligencer, Philadelphia’s local law daily. Salandria was then 38-year-old Penn Law grad and ACLU consultant. He critique was a highly detailed analysis of the report’s findings concerning the trajectories and ballistics of the bullets which killed President Kennedy. The first time I read Salandria’s article, I didn’t understand it. It was complex and technical. But I did grasp the sensational implication of Salandria’s contentions: There was a possibility that the Warren Commission report was wrong.

I decided to write an article for Philadelphia Magazine about this oddball young attorney who was saying these crazy things about our government. Physically a small man, olive-skinned, dark eyes, a crew cut over a high forehead and thin, serious face, Salandria appeared a relaxed, easy-mannered fellow, but as we spoke I sense a deep intellectual intensity within him. Eventually, the things he said no longer sounded so crazy.

Salandria said his interest in the Warren Commission had begun long before its report was issued. He did not like the fact that it was holding secret hearings. He felt that the rise of dictatorships always corresponded to the abdication of individual interest in governmental function, but free access to information concerning that function was necessary to maintain that interest. When leaks about the Warren Commission’s conclusion began emerging, Salandria became more concerned.

“I thought you had to be objective about it,” he said. “If this had happened in Smolensk or Minsk or Moscow, no American would have believed the story that was evolving about a single assassin, with all its built-in contradictions. But because it happened in Dallas, too many Americans were accepting it.”

Salandria began an intense watch of the Warren Commission’s activities. He spent his vacations in Dallas to familiarize himself with the murder scene. He ordered the Commission’s report and its accompanying 26 volumes of evidence as soon as they were issued and plunged into a page-by-page study.

“My initial feeling,” Salandria said when I spoke with him, “was that if this were a simple assassination, as the Commission claimed, the facts would come together very neatly. If there were more than one assassin, the details would not fit.”

Salandria claimed the details did not fit. There were, he contented, blatant contradictions between the Commission’s conclusions and the details of the evidence in the 26 volumes. I found that hard to believe. But Salandria gave me a copy of the report and the 26 volumes and suggested I take the time to study them carefully. I did, and then I spoke with another Philadelphia lawyer, Arlen Specter, who worked on the Warren Commission. In August of 1966, I wrote an article about the Kennedy assassination in Philadelphia Magazine. “It is difficult to believe the Warren Commission report is the truth,” I wrote.

Salandria eventually became recognized as one of the pioneers in the burgeoning group of Warren Commission critics, and one of the few who never commercialized his research. And, over the years, as he continued analyzing newly available evidence, he went beyond criticism and began to reach theoretical conclusions about the nature of the assassination itself.

Salandria, for instance, was the first to suggest that details of the evidence indicated not only a conspiracy, but also the pattern of an intelligence operation — perhaps, he tentatively suggested, involving the Central Intelligence Agency. That’s when a young columnist named Joe McGinnis wrote about Salandria in the Philadelphia Inquirer. McGinnis thought Salandria was crazy.
I had left Philadelphia to live in Florida and, by late 1975, when I first began working as a government investigator on the Kennedy assassination, I had not seen or spoken with Vince Salandria for a number of years. He had, for some reason, faded into the background among Warren Commission critics.

I returned to Philadelphia because I wanted to draw upon Salandria’s vast knowledge of the evidence and get his opinion about the most fruitful areas of investigation. Salandria was most cordial, said he would be glad to help and we spent a long winter Sunday talking. Yet in his attitude I sense a certain balking, a feeling of disappointment in what I was about to begin. Eventually, he explained it and why he was no longer actively involved in pursuing an investigation of the assassination. It gave me a surprising insight into how far Salandria’s thinking had evolved.

“I’m afraid we were misled,” Salandria said sadly. “All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort micro-analyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don’t you think that the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: ‘We are in control and no one — not the President, nor Congress, nor any elected official — no one can do anything about it.’ It was a message to the people that their government was powerless. And the people eventually got the message. Consider what has happened since the Kennedy assassination. People see government today as unresponsive to their needs, yet the budget and power of the military and intelligence establishment have increased tremendously.

“The tyranny of power is here. Current events tell us that those who killed Kennedy can only perpetuate their power by* promoting social upheaval both at home and abroad. And that will lead not to revolution but to repression. I suggest to you, my friend, that the interests of those who killed Kennedy now transcend national boundaries and national priorities. No doubt we are dealing now with an international conspiracy. We must face that fact — and not waste any more time micro-analyzing the evidence. That’s exactly what they want us to do. They have kept us busy for so long. And I will bet, buddy, that is what will happen to you. They’ll keep you very, very busy and, eventually, they’ll wear you down.”

It had been almost 10 years from the time I first interviewed Salandria to our talk that long winter Sunday. Yet, flying back home to Miami that evening, I sat in the dark plane and had an eerie sense of deja vu. As when I first spoke with him, I didn’t quite grasp exactly what he was talking about, but had the uneasy feeling he was advancing some awesomely frightening theories. It crossed my mind that, perhaps this time for sure, Salandria was crazy.

That was late November, 1975. A few weeks earlier, I had received a call at my home in Miami from U.S. Senator Richard S. Schweiker. I had never met Schweiker but, while working for Philadelphia Magazine, I had spoke with his administrative assistant, Dave Newhall, a few times over the years. Newhall, a former Philadelphia Bulletin reporter, was familiar with any early interest in the Kennedy assassination and thought I might help Schweiker check out some leads on the case related to Miami’s Cuban exile community.

At the time, Schweiker was a member of what was officially named the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church. The Church Committee, as it became known in the press, had been making deadlines since early in the year by revealing how the FBI abused its power by harassing dissident political groups and conducting illegal investigations, how the CIA, Army Intelligence and the National Security Agency were involved in domestic snooping and how the intelligence agencies had planned assassination attempts on foreign leaders. For Schweiker, despite his long stints in both houses of Congress, these were eye-opening revelations. “I’ve learned more about the inner workings of government in the past nine months than in my 15 previous years in Congress,” he later told a reporter.

Schweiker had never been moved to take a special interest in the details of the Kennedy assassination. He had assumed, as did most Americans then, that the Warren Commission Report reflected a comprehensive, objective investigation. He had never had the inclination to critically question the Report closely because that inclination would have had to include the assumption that certain government officials and agencies could have been involved in at the very least a cover-up. Schweiker did not want to believe that. However, when the Church Committee discovered that United States Government officials — specifically, CIA agents — had made alliances with the Mafia and other members of Organized Crime in planning assassination, Schweiker was traumatically shaken. “That was so repugnant and shocking to me that I did a backflip on any number of things,” he later recalled.

One of the backflips included his old assumption about the validity of the Warren Commission Report. It was particularly upsetting to Schweiker when he discovered that CIA Director Allen Dulles was aware of CIA assassination plots against Cuban Premier Fidel Castro and yet withheld that information from his fellow members on the Warren Commission. The significance of that for Schweiker was enlarged when he came across an old Associated Press story which indicated that Castro had told a reporter just several weeks before Kennedy’s assassination that if the United States tried to eliminate Cuban leader, then the U.S. leaders themselves would be in danger. “Nobody paid any attention then because nobody knew we were trying to kill Castro,” Schweiker later said. “But that statement had to have meaning, particularly to Allen Dulles.” Schweiker thought Dulles’s failure to tell the Warren Commission of the Castro plots was “a cover-up of sensational proportions.”

While the Senate and the Church Committee took their summer vacations, Schweiker spent most of his time sifting through the volumes of evidence and the unclassified documents in the Natural Archives relating to the murder of John F. Kennedy. Then, in September, he issued a public statement calling for a re-opening of the Kennedy assassination investigation by the Church Committee.

“Recent disclosure have devastated the credibility of the Warren Commission Report.” Schweiker said. He called for a new “vigorous and meticulous” inquiry. In backing his call, Schweiker cited the failure of former CIA Director Dulles to inform the Warren Commission of U.S. Attempts on Castro’s life. He also revealed a testimony that the FBI destroyed and suppressed evidence about its association with Oswald. And he noted with true shock that a transcript of a previous “Top Secret” warren Commission session revealed that Allen Dulles bluntly told his fellow members that J. Edgar Hoover would probably lie if called to testify.

Schweiker felt the Church Committee could, in keeping within its mandate, initially focus on the role of U.S. intelligence agencies in investigating the assassination. “We don’t know what happened,” Schweiker concluded from his detailed study of the case, “but we do know Oswald had intelligence connections. Everywhere you look with him, there are the fingerprints of intelligence.”

The Church Committee was one of the larger select committees formed by the Senate. It employed more than 100 full-time staffers, mostly attorneys. Its mandate, however, was unrealistically broad. It not only was supposed to investigate all illegal domestic intelligence and counterintelligence activities on the part of the CIA, the FBI and all the military intelligence agencies, it was also directed to delve into “the nature and extent of which Federal agencies cooperate and exchange intelligence information,” the need for improved oversight, whether existing laws governing intelligence activities were adequate and “the extent and necessity of overt and covert intelligence activities,” among other things.

The committee was formed in January, 1975 and its final report was originally scheduled for release by that September. That meant that the report had to be, in relation to the Committee’s mandate, a predetermined exercise in superficiality. To Chairman Frank Church, that was not as important ass having the Committee finish its work quickly. He had already told intimates that he was going to run for the Presidency the following year and, because he didn’t want to be accused of using the Committee to garner personal publicity, he said he would not announce his candidacy until the Committee finished its job. Despite the pressure from Church, however, in September the Committee staff had already gotten its deadline extended to March 5th when Schweiker came up with his proposal to throw the Kennedy assassination into the investigative pot. That upset Church quite a bit. He knew that looking into the Kennedy assassination, even from the narrow focus of its relationship to the intelligence agencies, could extend the Committee’s work for months and months, thereby fouling up his personal plans. Church, however, did not want to take any political risk by publicly opposing the suggestion, so he came up with a clever compromise. He said he would permit Schweiker and a Democrat counterpart, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, to set up a two- man Kennedy assassination Subcommittee provided that it, too, would wrap up its work when the committee did in March.

Schweiker wasn’t happy with the limitations but decided to take what he got. He figured that if he could develop enough solid information or stumble upon a new revelation in the case, the Committee as a whole could then be pressured into tackling the Kennedy assassination even beyond its deadline. So Schweiker jumped in with both feet. Since Church said he could initially spare only two members of the Committee staff for Schweiker’s Subcommittee — he would get a few more later as the Committee wound up it individual projects — Schweiker geared up his own personal staff for a Kennedy inquiry. He assigned his then-Legislative Counsel David Marston (later to be appointed U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia) as his point man. Marston took it upon himself to become an instant expert in the details of the Kennedy assassination, immersing himself in national Archives files, guiding Schweiker to what appeared to be the most fruitful areas of investigation and serving as liaison with the independent researchers and Warren Commission critics who had suddenly deluged Schweiker with offers to help. A few office staffers were also assigned to devote the bulk of their energy to the Kennedy case, including handling all the kooks and spooks who had started wondering into the office.

Schweiker and his operation going for about a month before he called me. Although he himself never detailed all of them, I later learned there were several reasons for his feeling that he needed an outside staff investigator who would report directly to him and not to the Committee. He was, first of all initially not getting the kind of concentrated Committee staff support he felt his Subcommittee needed. Even those staffers immediately assigned to the Subcommittee couldn’t plunge full-time into the case because they were busy wrapping up other Committee projects. Schweiker also realized that the sheer bulk of material that had built up over the years on the Kennedy case was awesome, yet no Committee staffer had any background knowledge of it. In fact, the former Wall Street lawyer who was assigned to head Schweiker’s Subcommittee staff, did not even read the Warren Commission Report until two months after the Subcommittee was formed.

In addition, the Subcommittee staff was approaching the Kennedy assassination in the same way it had approached the Committee’s investigation into the activities of the intelligence agencies: It was doing a paper investigation of documents provided by the agencies themselves. No one was leaving Washington, no one was doing any original probing. Instead, the staffers spent most of their time working with the CIA and the FBI, the very agencies that were suspect of violating their operating charter and engaging in illegal activities. The CIA was especially cooperative with Church. “they were almost anxious to show us everything they had, just so they could prove they had nothing,” one staffer later reported. (An interesting point: Although the CIA admitted withholding information from the Warren Commission the officer assigned to guide the Senate probers through the Agency’s files was the very one who had performed the same chore for the Warren Commission.) At any rate, Schweiker was bothered by the approach and, despite the mandate, limited time allowed him felt that he had to dig into the substance of the case if there was going to be a break.

Another reason Schweiker decided to hire his own investigator was this: Although he was struck by the newly discovered evidence that Kennedy’s murder might have been an act of retaliation by Castro for the CIA assassination plots against him, Schweiker wasn’t ready to rule out another possibilities. The Subcommittee staff was obviously concentrating on the retaliation theory because, from the pragmatic viewpoint of its paper investigation, it was the easiest one to neatly structure into a report within the time limitations. Yet Schweiker was personally struck by what he termed “the fingerprints of intelligence” an Oswald’s activities before the assassination, as well as Oswald’s associations with anti-Castro Cubans. So while his Subcommittee staff was heading down one road, Schweiker wanted the opposite and also checked out.

Finally, there was this factor: Although Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, a vast amount of information about the case is associate with a city 1300 miles away. Within hours of the assassination itself, a rush of leads and tips related to Miami suddenly popped up. Similarly, as word of Schweiker’s interest in the assassination spread, he was flooded with suggestions of a Miami connection. In fact, he decided that if there were a relationship between the Kennedy assassination and Castro elements — either pro-Castro or anti-Castro — or one of the intelligence agencies, Miami was the place to look for the key clues. Then, when he began receiving some specific tips about such a relationship, Schweiker decided he could use a man on the street in Miami’s Little Havana.

And I was in the right place at the right time.

Knowing something about the Miami area may be of special significance in attempting to understand the mystery of John F. Kennedy’s murder. It played a key role in the history of the times surrounding the assassination.

You may not know Miami. You may know a bit about Miami Beach, an unrelated island strip of high-rise condominiums, kitschy elegant hotels, pseudo-Vegas nightclubs, expensive restaurants and peacock tourists. But Miami — or what is called Miami — is something else. The actual City of Miami is a small, 34-square-mile jigsaw puzzle piece of real estate slotted within the 2054-square-mile entity of Dade County. Although there are 26 other municipalities within Dade, the whole county area is generally known simply as “Miami.” To the east there is Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean; to the south are the sultry Florida Keys, linked to civilization by a single road and one water pipeline; to the west is the endless sea of sawgrass called the Everglades, one of the country’s largest, most primitive natural preserves.

Although most urban areas have undergone certain transformations over the last two decades, Miami’s was uniquely different. Like other big cities during the 50’s, Miami also felt the negative effects of urban sprawl as the white middle-class abandoned the inner city and took off for the suburbs. And although the area population was booming, Miami itself was relatively old and few newcomers to South Florida wanted to move back into an urban environment after leaving a Northern city — despite the fact that most of Miami had a small town feeling about it. Never blighted with high-rise tenements, Miami was, in fact, a city of neighborhoods lined with modest old homes of white clapboard, cinder block or coral rock, rear “Florida rooms” and front porches. With the middle-class exodus and the deterioration of its neighborhoods, the City of Miami — almost all of which was really “inner city” in relation to its neighboring Dade County communities — began more and more looking like a neglected waif with no hope of capturing a piece of the prosperity that was coming on the Gold Coast. Its downtown began going to hell and its poor black sections like Overtown and Liberty City began oozing their blight through the rest of the city. Despite the tropical clime, Miami’s feature wasn’t sunny.

Until the Cubans came.

The first small flock came in the early and mid 50s, the anti-Batistianos, those who opposed the military dictatorship of General Fulgencio Batista. A young lawyer named Fidel Castro was among the. He stayed briefly and gave fiery speeches at an old movie theater on Flagler Street. Another was the wealthy former president, Carlos Prio, who ensconced himself in an elegant home on Miami Beach and dispensed millions in setting up arms and supply lines to the rebels while maintaining a close association with the American Racketeers who were running the Havana gambling casinos. Then, when it appeared that the end was inevitable, came the Batistianos themselves and the nonpolitical wealthy who saw the writing on the wall and got out with their nesteggs. That’s when Miami first began to feel the early tone of Cuban culture and social activity as the monied class began moving into the business and banking world, setting up their private clubs and fancy restaurants and the accouterments necessary to maintain the style of living to which they were accustomed on the island.

Then, beginning on January 1st, 1959, came the deluge. The seizure of power by Fidel Castro wrought as profound a change in the destiny of Miami as it did in the future of Cuba. At firs, the flow of exiles into the city was a slow stream moving through Miami’s International Airport, then as it became more and more apparent that the ranting barbudo was taking his country toward Communism, the stream became a torrent.

“They were new types of refugees,” wrote reporter Haynes Johnson. “Instead of a home, they were seeking temporary asylum. They found it along the sandy beaches and curving coast line of Florida. They arrived by the thousands, in small fishing boats, in planes, chartered or stolen, and crowded into Miami. Along the boulevards, under the palms, and in hotel lobbies, they gathered and plotted their counter-revolution. Miami began to take on the air of a Cuban city. Even its voice was changing. Stores and cafes began advertising in Spanish and English. New signs went up on the toll roads slicing through the city, giving instructions in both languages. Everyone talked of home only one hundred miles away. And everyone talked about the great liberation army being formed in the secret camps somewhere far way.”

And with the exiles and their passion for a counter-revolution came the Central Intelligence Agency. Well before the U.S. Embassy in Cuba closed down in January, 1960, the CIA had stepped up its activities within the country tremendously. It had not only increased the number of personnel operating out of the Embassy itself, but it began to put covert operatives in place as businessmen, ranchers, engineers and journalists, amount other covers, in order to recruit and establish liaison with anti-Castro dissidents. As counter- revolutionary groups began to form within Cuba, and Agency also began supplying arms and communications equipment and, for those subversives threatened with exposure, help in escaping. Among the key Castro defectors the Agency helped get out of Cuba where its two top Air Force officers, Pedro and Marcos Diaz-Lanz. The CIA’s liaison in that operation was a former Cuban police official named Bernard Barker, later to gain notoriety as a Watergate burglar. Working with Pedro Diaz-Lanz as Air Force chief of security, and shortly after also departing Cuba secretly, was a former Philadelphian named Frank Fiorini who, later as Frank Sturgis, was also in the Watergate burglary team.

Within a year after Castro took power, the face of Miami had taken on a definite Cuban character. More than 100,000 exiles had settled in and others were arriving at a rate of 1700 a week. As the Cuban exile population of Miami grew, so did the presence of the CIA. Although 18 government agencies dealt with handling exile reception, the CIA had its contacts into every one, including the mother agency, the Cuban Refugee Center. It also used the Immigration and Naturalization Service to set up and maintain a massive debriefing facility at the Opa-Locka air base in northern Dade County. More importantly, however, the Agency began assigning case agents and keeping tabs on the multitude of anti-Castro groups which and begun spreading through the exile community like mangrove roots. At one point, the Agency had a list of almost 700 such groups, some of which had begun active military operations with CIA support. One veteran recalls that the infiltration and exfiltration boat traffic on Biscayne Bay got so heavy “you needed a traffic cop.” It confused the U.S. Coast Guard, which didn’t always know whether it was chasing a ‘sponsored operation” financed by the CIA or just a bunch of “crazy Cubans.”

The invasion of Cuba’s Bahia Cochinos — Bay of Pigs — occurred in April, 1961. It was the brainchild not of the Cuban exiles but of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was spawned at a meeting of the Agency’s top brass in January, 1960. Originally, it was not going to be a massive operation. No more than 30 Cuban exile were to be trained in Panama to serve as cadre for bands of guerrillas recruited within or infiltrated into Cuba. However, by the time the plan moved through the Agency’s bureaucracy and, was adopted and natured by its covert operations chief — a lanky, stopped-shouldered, brilliantly manipulative, Groton- Yale aristocrat named Richard Bissell — it had gotten blown up to a major project. The plan President Dwight Eisenhower approved in March, 1960, called for a “unified” and a large paramilitary force. Named White House project officer was the plan’s most enthusiastic supporter, Vice President Richard Nixon.

Years later, the Senate Intelligence Committee was to discover, from files voluntarily given to it by the CIA, that a select few of the Agency’s top officers — including Richard Bissell — had in the spring of 1960 begun setting in motion, as an adjunct to the Bay of Pigs operation, plans to assassinate Castro. The CIA told the Committee that it was involved in nine Castro assassination plots in all, including those with the Mafia. Castro himself later produced a detailed list of 24 plots against his life involving the CIA. What’s significant is that both the CIA and Castro agree on when the plans began.

In Miami, even before plans for a Cuban invasion became common gossip, the Cuban exiles’ hopes for Castro’s overthrow were constantly buoyed by public pronouncements of support for the U.S. Government. In his State of the Union address, President Kennedy himself spoke of “the Communist base established 90 miles from the United States,” and said that “Communist domination in this hemisphere can never be negotiated.” As soon as Kennedy and been elected, CIA Director Allen Dulles and his covert plans deputy Richard Bissell had flown to the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach and sold their new boss on the efficacy of a Cuban operation. They did not tell him that the plans had recently been upgraded within the Agency to include an even large paramilitary force and air strikes. That decision, Bissell would later admit, was “internal.”
In his recent excellent book on the subject, Peter Wyden wrote: “No notable event in recent United States history remains as unexplained and puzzling as the Central Intelligence Agency’s adventure that became know as ‘the Bay of Pigs.’

“…the Bay of Pigs is more than a skeleton in the nation’s historical closet; more than the first blemish on the magic of the Kennedy name and reputation; more than the collapse of the largest secret operation in U.S. history. It is a watershed.

“In the CIA, acting out of control and independently, had not escalated its plans against Fidel Castro from modest guerrilla operation into a full-fledged invasion, President Kennedy would have suffered no humiliating, almost grotesque defeat.

“If Kennedy had not been thoroughly defeated by Castro on the beaches in 1961, Nikita Khrushchev almost certainly would not have dared to precipitate the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — the crisis which, in the words of former CIA Director William E. Colby, pushed the world ‘as close to Armageddon’ as it has ever come.

“And it the reasons for the collapse at the Bay of Pigs had not been covered up…the CIA might perhaps have been curbed, and the country could have been spared the intelligence scandals of the 1970s, the revelations of a government agency routinely, daily, committing unconstitutional acts against its own citizens in its own country.”

Wyden misses one significant observation: What the Bay of Pigs plan provided was the historic opportunity for the CIA to begin domestic field operations on an unprecedented scale. Some aspects of those operations were of questionable legality. For instance, although the main Cuban exile brigade was trained at a secret base in Guatemala, other special units were prepared within the United States by both military and CIA personnel. That, however, was relatively minor compare with the overwhelming dimensions to which the CIA’s presence in Miami grew. The Agency’s officers, contract agents, informants and contacts reached into almost every area of the community. And as pervasive as that presence was before the Bay of Pigs, it was to be but a foothold for later, larger operations. Nevertheless, it was the preparation of the Bay of Pigs invasion which gave birth to a special relationship between CIA operatives and the Cuban exiles. That relationship would eventually intensify into a mutuality of interests which, as it later became apparent, transcended even Presidential directives and official United States policy.

One of the factors that led the Central Intelligence Agency to believe it could topple Castro was the success it had enjoyed in Guatemala in 1954. Using a force of only 150 exiles and a handful of World War II P-47 fighters flow by American contract pilots, the CIA brought down the Communist-leaning Guatemalan government in less than a week, firing hardly a shot, and installed the Agency’s hand-picked leader, Castillo Armas. When covert operations boss Richard Bissell was selecting Agency personnel to run the Bay of Pigs scheme, he told them that the plan was based on “the Guatemala scenario.”

Because of the success of that scenario, Bissell picked veterans of it for the key slots in the Cuban operation. For instance, appointed the Agency’s political liaison chief to the multitude of Cuban exile groups in Miami was a dapper, pipe-smoking Ivy Leaguer (Brown, ’40) and prolific author of spy thrillers named E. Howard Hunt. Among Agency personnel, Hunt had — and still does have — a curious reputation. To some he is the caricature of the Hollywood spy — indeed, Hunt did serve a stint as a Hollywood script writer — given to overplaying the cloak and dagger role. One of the more earnest of the Agency professionals liked to say that Hunt was consistent in his judgment: “always wrong.” Yet down through the years and right up through the Watergate fiasco, Hunt was inevitable chosen to be on the front lines of dirty trick operations,. Despite the fact there appeared to be so many ostensible failures among those operations, Hunts star continually rose. He also remained strangely close to the one man whose markedly unflamboyant character seemed in such contrast to his, the one deemed the shrewdest and most coldly professional of all Agency bosses: Richard Helms.

It didn’t take long for E. Howard Hunt to inject himself into the labyrinthine world of Cuban exile politics in Miami. With his faithful sidekick, Bernard Barker, Hunt set up a series of ‘safe” houses for Clandestine meetings, moved through the shadows of Little Havana and doled out packets of money from dark doorways. (Hunt carried as much as $115,000 in his briefcase.) Although Hunt attempted to keep 2 separate identity (“Just call me ‘Eduardo,'” he told the Cubans) and the source of the funds a mystery, the exiles soon began referring to their benefactors as “Uncle Sam.”

It was Hunt’s job to form the Frente, the coalition of Cuban exile groups which would serve as the political umbrella for the military army of the invasion. It was early apparent, however, that Hunt’s own conservative right-wing political view colored his handling of the exile groups and he and Barker, wheeling and dealing among the politicians, started as many squabbles as they mediated. In fact, immediately before the actual invasion, Hunt was removed — he says he quit — as the Agency’s political liaison because he wouldn’t go along with including in the exile coalition a group headed by a democratic socialist named Manolo Ray. Fidelisimo sin Fidel, Hunt said, and called him a Communist. Ray’s name would also later pop up in the Kennedy assassination investigation.

Hunt’s principal contribution to the Bay of Pigs invasion was his selection of the military brigade’s political leader, a fiery physician-tuned-politician named Manuel Artime. Flamboyant had effective, Artime helped stop a political insurrection at the exile training camp. Years later, he would become wealthy as a business partner of former Nicaragua dictator Luis Somoza. His relationship with Howard Hunt would grow into a extremely close friendship. They bought homes across the street from each other in Miami Shores and Hunt served as the godfather for one of Artime’s children. (In 1975, an informant called the office of Senator Richard Schweiker and said that a friend of Artime’s in Mexico City claimed that Artime had “guilty knowledge” of the Kennedy assassination. Artime, moving in and out of the country on business, was unable to be contacted before Schweiker’s mandate expired. Later, the House Assassinations Committee contacted Artime and planned to take his sworn statement. Suddenly, Artime went into the hospital and was told he had cancer. Two weeks later, Artime died. He was 45.)

Another major contribution Hunt made to the Bay of Pigs operation was his help in selecting an old friend from the Guatemala scenario for an extremely important Agency role. Pulled from his post as a covert operative in Havana was a tall, articulate, charmingly diffident counterintelligence expert named David Atlee Phillips. It was Phillips’ enormous and primary task to create the Big Lie. As head of the Agency’s “propaganda shop” for the invasion, Phillips had to bend the ranting of the exile groups into an effective symphony, set up broadcast stations that would rally guerrillas with Cuba to join the invaders, and establish communications links that would provide secret codes to trigger the actual invasion. Most of all, it was Phillips’ job to create the impression to the world that the invasion was all a spontaneous action by anti-Castro forces and that neither the United States nor the CIA had anything to do with it. Phillips obviously had to be ingenious.

Later, there would be many an autopsy done on the Bay of Pigs operation and many valid conclusion reached about why it was such a dismal failure. One of the major reasons, however, had to be the fact that the most ambitious clandestine project ever concocted and supervised by the world’s most technically proficient experts in deception and secrecy was, in the end, anything but a secret. Just nine days before the invasion, a New York Times reporter in Miami wrote: “Men come and go quietly on their secret missions of sabotage and gun- running into Cuba, while others assemble at staging points here to be flown at night to military camps in Guatemala and Louisiana. Since a mobilization order was issued ten days ago…contingents of men have been leaving here nightly for the camps of the new revolutionary army. They will be followed next week by professional men and intellectual who are to be concentrated at an undisclosed spot in the Caribbean area to prepare to serve as military government officials if the revolutionaries gain a foothold on Cuban soil.” The next day, Castro must have at least glanced at the story before checking the sports news.

President Kennedy told the world that he assumed “sole responsibility” for the Bay of Pigs. Privately, he turned to his special counsel, Theodore Sorensen, and asked: “How could I have been so stupid to let them to ahead?” Yet many in the top echelon of CIA officers involved in planning the Bay of Pigs did, indeed, feel strongly that Kennedy was responsible of its failure. There would have been no slaughter of the exiles, no 1200 brave man captured, if Kennedy had not at the last moment rejected the proposal of massive air support. That was the word that filtered down to the field operatives, the Cuban exile community and the remnants of the invasion Brigade. It produced an incredible bitterness on every level. The military leader of the Brigade, Pepe San Roman, captured and imprisoned by Castro, later revealed the depth of his reaction: “I hated the United States,” he said, “and I felt that I had been betrayed. Every day it became worse and then I was getting madder and madder and I wanted to get a rifle and come and fight against the U.S.”

The Agency operatives who had led the exiles expressed the same deep bitterness. The ever-eloquent E. Howard Hunt, monitoring the effect at CIA headquarters until the end, later noted: “I was sick of lying and deception, heartsick over political compromise and military defect…. That night, laced through my broken sleep, were the words Sir Winston Churchill had spoken to a British Minister of Defense: ‘I am not sure I should have dared to start; but I am sure I should not have dared to stop.’ …I saw in his words a warning for those Americans who had faltered at the Bay of Pigs.”

Hunts close associate, David Phillips, would also reveal, years later, the incredible emotional impact of the defeat. Writing in his memoirs, The Night Watch, he too, detailed the end:

I went home. I peeled off my socks like dirty layers of skin — I realized I hadn’t changed them for a week…. I bathed, then fell into bed to sleep for several hours. On awakening I tried to eat again, but couldn’t. Outside, the day was sheet spring beauty. I carried a portable radio to the yard at the rear of the house and listened to the gloomy newscasts about Cuba as I sat on the ground, my back against a tree.

Helen came out from the house and handed me a martini, a large one. I was half drunk
when I finished.. Suddenly my stomach churned. I was sick. My body heaved.

Then I began to cry….

I wept for two hours. I was sick again, then drunk again…

Oh shit! Shit!

The relationship between the Bay of Pigs failure and the assassination of President Kennedy is, even speculatively, not a direct one. No doubt the defeat was a pivotal event in the course of America’s destiny, but perhaps more significant in relation to the assassination itself is the era which followed, the ear spawned at the Bay of Pigs. In the beginning, it was shaped by Kennedy himself, the result of his personal reaction to the ignominious defeat at Bahia de Cochinos. It turned into an ear of increasing aggressiveness and true clandestinity under the shroud of a publicly unsanctioned national policy. The country knew little about what was happening at the time — and still remains aware of the possibility that what was happening eventually lied to the death of a President.

It may help here to put it all into a large perspective, one that is especially relevant to the intriguing mystery I was later to stumble upon. A prolific freelancer named Andrew St. George touched upon it in an article in Harper’s a few years ago. I got to know the bearded, swashbuckling St. George, a rotund, witty, European-bred charmer, during the early course of the Schweiker investigation. I discovered he was all over Miami in the early ’60s, working mostly for LIFE magazine at the time, slipping around the anti-Castro groups and soldier-of- fortune crowd, conning his way along on infiltration operations into Cuba and wheeling and dealing often, it was rumored, more as an activist than as an objective journalist. (“Andrew was a loveable scoundrel,” says one anti-Castro Cuban leader who claims that St. George Purloined a b oat from his group to give to another anti-Castro group.) St. George was one of the first correspondents to Join the rebel Castro in his mountain stronghold and monitor the deployment of his guerrilla command. I once asked Andrew if he had ever worked for the CIA. He smiled, puffed on a Fine cigar and said, “Only when I worked for LIFE.” He meant that, in those days, it was hard to tell where the CIA left off and LIFE began. At any rate, what makes St. George’s observations especially fascinating is that he is indeed known to have very close contacts, as they say, within the Agency.

“Had someone asked me during the early Sixties to explain, in twenty words or fewer, why I called the Bay of Pigs a failure,” St. George wrote in Harper’s, “I would have said something like this: It was a military formula applied to an essentially political problem. It was an inevitable failure.

“But what evidence did we have, really, to say that the Cuban invasion was a failure? The discredited approach of applying military solutions to political problems, this failed formula we expected President Kennedy to junk with contempt, was instead polished up and adopted as the favorite method, in the essential strategy of the Kennedy Administration, which we expected to suffer and starve for selling this ‘failed formula’ to the President, turned out to be a big beneficiary of the wretched Cuban adventure….

“Within a year of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA curiously and inexplicably began to grow, to branch out, to gather more and more responsibility for the ‘Cuban problem.’ The Company was given authority to help monitor Cuba’s wireless traffic; to observe its weather; to publish some of its best short stories (by Cuban authors in exile) through its wholly owned CIA printing company; to follow the Castro government’s purchases abroad and its currency transactions, (a separate economic research branch was set up in South Miami for the purpose); to move extraordinary numbers of clandestine field operatives in and out of Cuba; to acquire a support fleet of ships and aircraft in order to facilitate these secret agent movements; to advise, train, and help reorganize the police and security establishments of Latin countries which felt threatened by Castro’s guerrilla politics; to take a hand in U-2 over flights and in sea-air ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) operations aimed at tracing Cuban coastal-defense communications on special devices; to pump such vast sums into political operations thought to be helpful in containing Castro that by the time of the 1965 U.S. military intervention in the Dominican Republic both the bad guys and the good guys — i.e., the ‘radical’ civilian politicos and the ‘conservative’ generals — turned out to have been financed by La Compania. Owing largely to the Bay of Pigs, the CIA ceased being an invisible government: it became an empire.”

Following the Bay of Pigs, word leaked out from the White House that Kennedy was disillusioned with the CIA, that he was upset with his CIA advisors for pushing a scheme on him which had been devised during the Eisenhower Administration, that he had been ill-informed and misled and pressured by CIA brass who had an egocentric interest in pushing the ill-conceived plan. The President called for the resignation of CIA Director Allen Dulles and covert plans boss Richard Bissell and, one aide reported, said he was going to “splinter” the Agency into “a thousand pieces and scatter to the winds.”

That was misleading. Kennedy was, indeed, damn angry at the CIA, not for planning the Bay of Pigs but for botching it. And he was mad as hell at Castro who, in daily endless harangues and broadcast reviews of the battle kept rubbing the young President’s nose in the humiliating defeat. Kennedy’s initial reaction was almost reflexive: Don’t get mad, get even. Appointing his brother Robert to oversee the Agency’s covert operations, Kennedy did not splinter the CIA but infused it with new life. That firming up of policy towards Cuba and the massive infusion of funding to the CIA’s anti-Castro front groups became known to insiders as “the Kennedy vendetta.”

Between the Bay of Pigs debacle in April, 1961, and the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962, a massive and, this time, truly secret war was launched against the Castro regime. The Manifestations of Kennedy’s new policy, which made the preparations for the Bay of Pigs pale by comparison, slowly began altering the attitudes of the anti-Castro militant and the CIA operatives in the field, and although a good measure of encrusted bitterness and cynicism lingered, a revised, more positive image of the President began taking shape.

Kennedy did his best to reinforce that image. “Cuba must not be abandoned to the Communists,” he declared in a speech shortly after the Bay of Pigs, and spoke of a “new and deeper struggle.” That was a euphemism for a campaign which eventually employed several thousand CIA operatives and cost over $100 million a year. Again Miami was the focus of the effort. And this time the CIA moved in on a truly unprecedented scale. On a large, secluded, heavily-wooded tract that was part of the University of Miami’s South Campus, the Agency set up a front corporation called Zenith Technological Services. Its code name was JM/WAVE and it soon became the largest CIA installation anywhere in the world outside of its Langley, Va., headquarters.

At the height of its activities, the JM/WAVE station had a staff of more than 300 Americans, mostly case officers in charge of supervising and monitoring Cuban exile groups. Each case officer employed as many as 10 Cuban principal agents.” Each principal agent, in turn, would be responsible for as many as 30 regular agents. In addition, the Agency funded scores of front operations throughout the area — print shops, real estate firms, travel agencies, coffee shops, boat repair yards, detective agencies, gun shops, neighborhood newspapers — to provide ostensible employment for the thousands of case officers and agents operating outside of JM/WAVE headquarters. It was said that if any Cuban exile wanted to open his own business, he had but to ask the CIA for start-up capital. The CIA became one of the largest employers in South Florida.

The JM/WAVE station was also a logistical giant within itself. It leased more than 100 staff cars and maintained its own gas depot. It kept warehouses loaded with everything from machine guns to caskets. It had its own airplanes and what a former

CIA officer called “the third largest navy in the Western Hemisphere,” including hundreds of small boats and huge yachts donated by friendly millionaires. There were also hundreds of pieces of real estates, from dives to palatial waterfront mansions, used as “safe houses” or assembly points for operations. In addition, of course, there were paramilitary training throughout the Florida Keys and deep in the Everglades. (One of the more active sites, used by a variety of anti-Castro groups, was a small, remote island north of Key West called, appropriately enough, No Name Key. One of the groups was called the International Anti-Communist Brigade, a collection of soldiers-of-fortune, mostly Americans, headed by a giant ex-Marine named Gerry Patrick Hemming. Like another ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, Hemming was trained as a radar operator in California. Hemming would later claim that Oswald once tried to join his IAB group. Co-founder of the IAB with Hemming was Frank Sturgis.)

Those were heady times for the anti-Castro groups in Miami. With the CIA providing lessons in sabotage, explosives, weapons, survival, ambushes, communications and logistics, the missions to Cuba began escalating in both frequency and sale. Initially intent on infiltrating small guerrilla bands onto the island, the Agency was soon supervising major raids aimed at blowing up oil refineries and sugar mills. Although some of the more militant exile groups considered themselves its independent of the CIA — and some raids were made without its approval because the missions were technically illegal under the Neutrality Act, no group could function very long without the Agency, making special arrangements with Customs, Immigration and the Coast Guard. Whether the exile leaders acknowledged it or not, the Agency was pulling all the strings.

Those were, of course, equally heady times for the CIA. It ran the whole show in more ways than one, eventually achieving over a major section of foreign policy a level of influence and control
which Kennedy himself didn’t envision. The JM/WAVE station in Miami became the international coordinating center for the secret war around the globe. Every CIA station in the world had at least one case officer assigned to Cuban operations and reporting to the Miami station. The station also controlled an international economic strategy, pressuring U.S. allies to embargo all trade with Cuba and supervising a worldwide sabotage program against goods being shipped to and from Cuba. (It took delight, for instance, in getting a German manufacturer to produce a shipment of off-center ball bearings for a Cuban factory.) The operational level of the Agency was also — without Kennedy’s knowledge, it now appears, and without even the knowledge of his newly-appointed Director, John McCone — continuing its program of assassination attempts against Castro. In giving the CIA a new life, immense funding, and the incredible power and influence to conduct effective large-scale secret operations, Kennedy had created a force over which, as he himself would eventually discover, could not maintain total control. That realization came with the Cuban missile crisis-in October, 1962.

It is not known whether Castro requested the installation of offensive ballistic missiles in Cuba or if he accepted them at the suggestion of the Russians. There are many Cuban exiles in Miami who know Castro well, who went to school with him and fought beside him in the mountains during the early days of the 26th of July Movement. They believe Castro was driven to obtaining the missiles by the effectiveness of the secret CIA war against him, that the unrelenting jabbing of the infiltration and sabotage operations created economic and political pressures which drove him to consider the possibility of doing something rash. Perhaps that is what the CIA itself was counting on. The more fervent of the Cuban exiles were, indeed, initially elated by the possibility that the crisis might provoke a final showdown with Castro. President Kennedy himself boosted such hopes with hard-line responses to the daily more blatant build-up of the Soviet presence in Cuba. In September of that year, Kennedy declared that the United States would use “whatever means may be necessary” to prevent Cuba from exporting “its aggressive purposes by force or threat of force.” In Miami, the anti-Castro exiles and their CIA control bosses delighted in such tough talk and looked forward to some real action.

The manner in which President Kennedy resolved the Cuban missile destroyed the hope of the exiles and the men conducting the secret war. Cuba and Castro were relegated to a minor role as Kennedy dealt directly with Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The crisis ended on November 29th, 1962. Kennedy announced that all IL-28 bombers were being withdrawn by the Soviets and that progress was being made on the withdrawal of offensive missiles. In return, Kennedy said he gave the Soviets and the Cubans a “no invasion” pledge.

The reaction among the secret war activities to that settlement one of tremendous shock. To the men who had been risking their very lives in a tough guerrilla war against the menace of Communism in the Caribbean, it was astounding that Kennedy should make a deal with Khrushchev. If the President’s actions at the Bay of Pigs had raised doubts in their minds about Kennedy’s sincerity and determination to bring down Castro, his handling of the missile crisis more than confirmed those doubts. Over café Cubano at the back tables of luncheonettes in Miami’s Little Havana, in the CIA safe houses set in the lush foliage of Coconut Grove in the training camps in the remote Keys and the deep Everglades, wherever the exiles and their control agents gathered, the word “traitor” would eventually be spoken. Feelings ran that strong. The late Mario Lazo, a prominent exile attorney and close associate of top CIA officials (even after the Watergate burglary, he considered E. Howard Hunt “one of the great men of our time.”), called it a “soul-shattering blow.”

And yet the depth of anger at Kennedy for making the missile settlement was shallow compared with the reaction of the exiles and their CIA cohorts when it became apparent what the implementation of the President’s new “no-invasion” policy actually meant. Suddenly the United States Government began cracking down on the very training camps and guerrilla bases which had been originally established by the United States Government. Regular infiltration raids into Cuba by the exiles, which automatically would get the Government’s “green light,” now were promptly disavowed and condemned. The Cuban Revolutionary Council, the united front of exile groups established by the CIA, had its subsidy cut off. (Reacting bitterly, the Council’s president declared that Kennedy had become “the victim of a master play by the Russians.”)

The crackdown continued over the next several months, to the increasing confusion and anger of the exiles. On the one hand, they were being encouraged and supported by the U.S. Government — wasn’t the CIA the U.S. Government? — and, on the other hand, they were being literally handcuffed and arrested. It was crazy. In March, 1963 for instance, when a group of anti-Castro raiders were arrested by British police at a training site in the Bahamas, the U.S. State Department admitted it had tipped off the British about the camp. That same night another exile raiding boat was seized in Miami harbor. The Coast Guard announced it was throwing more planes, ships and men into policing the Florida straits for anti-Castro raiders. The Customs Service raided the secret camp at No Name Key and arrested the anti-Castro force in training there. The FBI seized a major cache of explosives at another exile camp outside of New Orleans. Weeks later, the Coast Guard assisted the British Navy in capturing another group of Cuban exiles in the Bahamas. Then Federal Aviation Administration issued “strong warnings” to six American civilian pilots — including soldier-of-fortune Frank Sturgis and a few who had worked directly with the CIA — who had been flying raids over Cuba. Shortly afterwards, the Secret Service arrested a prominent exile leader for conspiring to counterfeit Cuban currency destined for rebel forces inside Cuba — a plan that had all the earmarks of a CIA operation. Had Kennedy gone crazy — or was he, indeed, a “traitor”?

And yet against this pattern of a crackdown by Federal enforcement agencies on exile activity, there emerged a counter-grain of incidents which is very relevant to the Kennedy assassination. These incidents involve a series of major raids by anti-Castro groups which took place, despite the crackdown, between the time of the missile crisis and the assassination of the President. In fact, at the height of the missile crisis — and the most politically inopportune moment for Kennedy — one of the largest and most militant of the Cuban groups, Alpha 66, launched a quick strike at a major port in Cuba, killing at least 20 defenders, including some Russians. A week later, the same group sunk a Cuban patrol boat. On October 31st, the day after Kennedy lifted his blockade of Cuba as a sign of his peaceful intentions, Alpha 66 struck again. Then, immediately after the crisis ended in November, a spokesman for the group pledged further raids.

There were other Cuban exile groups which also defied Kennedy’s “no invasion” policy. In April, a group calling itself the Cuban Freedom Fighters bombed an oil refinery outside Havana. In May, another band of anti-Castro rebels struck military camp near the capitol. Shortly afterwards, a group of exile raiders returned to Miami and announced it had blown up another refinery, sank a gunboat and killed scores of Castro soldiers. There were at least a dozen other actions which, despite the President’s orders, indicated that certain Cuban exile groups and their field operatives were continuing the secret war. Despite the fact that none of the groups had been formed without the help of the CIA, that they had all long operated successfully with the supervisory support and funding of the CIA, the Agency denied it had any association at all with their continuing actions.

There were indications that Kennedy himself was confused and did not know what was happening. At a press conference in May, 1963, in response to a question about whether or not the United States was giving aid to the exiles, the President stumbled: “We may well be…well, none that I am familiar with…. I don’t think as of today that we are.” It was recently discovered that the CIA was supporting at least one exile group under what the Agency termed an “antonymous operations concept, whatever that meant.

There were few who had the foresight or knowledge to understand the significance of what was happening at the time, but one who did was a Democratic Representative from Florida named Paul Rodgers. Citing some “serious kinks in our intelligence system,” Rodgers called for a Joint Congressional committee to oversee the CIA. “And what proof have we,” asked Rodgers with uncanny prescience, “that this Agency, which in many respects has the power to pre-empt foreign policy, is not actually exercising this power through practices which are contradictory to the established policy objectives of this Government?”

That was in February, 1963. That month, in Dallas, a Czarist Russian emigre, world traveler and former French intelligence operative named George DeMohrenschildt decided to give a dinner party. He invited a young couple named Oswald, who had just returned from Russia the previous summer. It was at that dinner party that Lee Harvey Oswald was introduced to Ruth Paine.

There was a Democratic Representative from Florida named Paul Rodgers. Citing some “serious kinks in our intelligence system,” Rodgers called for a Joint Congressional committee to oversee the CIA. “And what proof have we,” asked Rodgers with uncanny prescience, “that this Agency, which in many respects has the power to pre-empt foreign policy, is not actually exercising this power through practices which are contradictory to the established policy objectives of this Government?”

Twelve years later, with the call from Senator Schweiker, I began an odyssey into the Kennedy assassination that would be far more revealing than I ever anticipated. It was a journey into a maze that had, over the years, grown incredibly complicated, with all sorts of elaborate cul-de-sacs. Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that there emerged certain similar images along so many of the pathways — an indication, often only gossamer, of a concealed connecting thread or associative strands which appeared to emanate from a common spool.

For instance, one of the first leads which Schweiker asked me to check out came from a source he had to consider impeccable: Clare Boothe Luce. One of the wealthiest women in the world, widow of the founder of the Time, Inc. publishing empire, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a former Ambassador to Italy, a successful Broadway playwright, international socialite and longtime civic activist, Clare Boothe Luce was the last person in the world Schweiker would have suspected of leading him on a wild goose chase.

It began almost immediately after Schweiker announced the formation of the Kennedy assassination subcommittee. He was visited by syndicated Washington columnist Vera Glaser who told him she had just interviewed Clare Boothe Luce and that Luce had given her some information relating to the assassination. Schweiker immediately called Luce and she, quite cooperatively and in detail, confirmed the story she had told Glaser.

Luce said that some time after the Bay of Pigs she received a call from her “great friend” William Pawley, who lived in Miami. Pawley was a man of immense wealth, originally a Texas oil millionaire who once owned the Havana bus system and vast sugar holdings. He had helped start General Claire Chenault’s famous Flying Tigers in World War II. Pawley had long been actively supporting anti-Castro Cubans in Miami, Luce said, and he now had the idea of sponsoring a fleet of speedboat — sea-going “Flying Tiger” — which would be used by the exiles to dart in and out of Cuba on “intelligence gathering” missions. Pawley asked her to sponsor one of these boats, said Luce, and she agreed.

As a result of her sponsorship, Luce said, she got to know the three-man “crew” of the boat. She called them “my boys” and said they visited her a few times in her New York townhouse. “I got to know them fairly well,” she said. It was one of these boat crews, she said, that originally brought back the news of Russian missiles in Cuba. Because Kennedy didn’t react to it, she said she helped feed it to then-Senator Kenneth Keating, who made it public. She said she wrote an article in LIFE magazine which predicted the nuclear showdown. “Well, then came the nuclear showdown and the President made his deal with Khrushchev and I never saw my young Cubans again,” she said. The boat operations were stopped, she said, when after Kennedy’s “deal,” Pawley was notified that the U.S. was invoking the Neutrality Act and would prevent any further exile missions into Cuba.

Luce said she didn’t think of her boat crew until the day that President Kennedy was killed. That evening she received a telephone call from one of the members of her boat crew. She told Schweiker she believed his name was Julio Fernandez. He said he was calling from New Orleans. He told her that he and the other crew members had been forced out of Miami after the Cuban missile crisis and that they had started a “Free Cuba” cell ln New Orleans. Luce said that Julio Fernandez told her that Oswald had approached his group and offered his services as a potential Castro assassin. Fernandez said his group didn’t believe Oswald, suspected he was really a Communist and decided to keep tabs on him. Fernandez said they found that Oswald was, indeed, a Communist, and they eventually penetrated his “cell” and tape–recorded his talks, including his bragging that he could shoot anyone because he was “the greatest shot in the world with a telescopic lens.” Fernandez said that Oswald than suddenly came into money and went to Mexico City and then Dallas. Fernandez also told Luce his group had photographs of Oswald and copies of the handbills Oswald had distributed on the streets of New Orleans. Fernandez asked Luce what he should do with this information and material.

Luce recalled: “I said what you do is call the FBI at once. Don’t waste a minute. Go right in and call up the FBI.”

Luce said she did not think about the story again until Jim Garrison’s investigation hit the headlines in 1967. She said she called the New Orleans district attorney and tell him of the incident but, after talking to him for 10 minutes, she decided he was a “phony” and not serious. Through Pawley, however, she did locate and call her “young Cuban” and reminded him of his conversation with her the evening Kennedy was killed. By then, Luce recalled, Julio Fernandez no longer wanted to get involved: “He said, ‘Mrs. Luce, we did just what you said. We got it all to the FBI. They came, took our tape recordings, took our photographs and told us to keep our mouths shut until the FBI sent for us.’ He said, Mrs. Luce, I am married, I have two children, I am a lawyer with a very successful practice in Miami. I don’t want any part of the Kennedy assassination. You couldn’t torture it out of me.”‘ Luce also said that Fernandez told her that of the other two members of her boat crew, one was deported and one was stabbed to death in Miami.

Luce told Schweiker that her impression, based on what she was told by “her Cubans,” was that Oswald was hired by Castro to assassinate Kennedy in retaliation for the assassination efforts against him.

Luce also told Schweiker that she did not remember the names of the other two crew members, nor did she know now how to get in touch with Julio Fernandez. She said that Bill Pawley would know all about it.

Schweiker called Pawley. Pawley said he didn’t remember a thing. Schweiker took it as an indication that Pawley just didn’t want to get involved. He still thought that Luce’s story, if confirmed, could lead to a significant break. He asked me to try to find the Julio Fernandez who had called her.

I discovered there are a lot of Cubans in Miami named Julio Fernandez. There are more than a dozen lawyers named Fernandez. Many Cubans, like Americans, are commonly known by their middle name, not their first, and some Cubans are commonly known not by their by father’s family name by their matrinomy. Nevertheless, selecting them by their age and word of their anti-Castro activism, I spent weeks talking with scores of Cubans named Julio Fernandez. Schweiker particularly interested in the Julio Fernandez whose name did turn up in an FBI report buried in the Warren Commissions’ volume of evidence. I finally tracked him down in upstate New York. He wasn’t the Julio Fernandez who had called Clair Boothe Luce. It wasn’t until more than a year later, with the broadened access to information I had with the House Assassinations Committee, I discovered that there was no Julio Fernandez who called Luce. She had simply concocted the name for Schweiker.

What was interesting about the Luce story was that it had a couple of the characteristics common to so many of the other leads which were fed to Schweiker and, later, the House Assassinations Committee and, when checked out, went no where. One such characteristic was that the leads usually could not be dismissed outright because they always contained hard kernels of truth mixed in the fluff.

For instance, in the case of the Luce lead, it was known that Oswald did approach an anti-Castro group in New Orleans and said he was interested in helping their cause. The fellow he approached, Carlos Bringuier, was the chief Orleans delegate of the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil, known simply as the DRE or Student Directorate, headquartered in Miami and under the wing of the CIA’s JM/WAVE station. A few days after Oswald walked into Bringuier’s small store, Bringuier saw him passing out pro-Castro leaflets on Canal Street, got in a scuffle with him and both he and Oswald were arrested. He later debated Oswald on a radio program recording of which appeared on the commercial market immediately after the Kennedy assassination.

Independent researchers have been looking into Oswald’s encounter with Bringuier for years and have discovered some curious things about it. Jim Garrison found that a newspaper photographer had been alerted to Bringuier’s encounter with Oswald handling out leaflets before Bringuier approached Oswald. Oswald, despite his attempt to join the anti-Castro group days earlier, seemed bent on getting publicity as a pro-Castro demonstrator and encouraged Bringuier to attack him. At one point, Oswald was overheard to say, “Hit me, Carlos.” In addition Oswald had stamped on some of the pro-Castro leaflets strange address for the New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (of which he was the only member). The address was a building which housed a hotbed of anti-Castro activity, at one time the New Orleans office of the CIA-backed Cuban Revolutionary Front. The Assassination Committee discovered that Oswald was seen in that building with extreme right-wing and anti-Castro activists.

In checking further into Luce’s story for the Assassinations Committee, we developed some additional interesting information. We found that Luce’s “great friend” in Miami, William Pawley, was also a longtime friend of the CIA. He was reportedly involved in the CIA’s overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala. A CIA front called the Pacific Corporation was an offshoot of Pawley’s Flying Tigers. Pawley himself fronted some of the CIA’s anti-Castro activities. (He once told a Miami reporter: “Find me one man, just one man who can go it alone and get Castro, I’ll pay anything, almost anything.”) He helped fund the LIFE magazine, a secret raid into Cuba in order to exfiltrate two Russian technicians who could testify, to Kennedy’s embarrassment, that Russian missiles were still in Cuba. The raiding party failed to return and 10 exiles were lost.

In 1976, before we could interview Pawley about the Luce story and other matters concerning the Kennedy assassination, he committed suicide. He reportedly had been suffering from a bad case of shingles.

We pursued the Luce story all the way down the line. Carlos Bringuier, who later became a lecturer on Billy Jean Hargis’ right-wing Christian Crusade circuit, said he had never spoken to Clair Boothe Luce. In Miami, however, we did discover that a few leaders of his Directorio group were — the kernel of truth — in touch with Luce.

The Directorio was, along with Alpha 66, the most active, on both the military and propaganda fronts, of all the Cuban exile groups. In September, 1962 the group received national publicity with a daring raid into Havana harbor. Its boats shelled a theater where Castro was scheduled to speak. Castro raged that it was another attempt on his life by the CIA. The leaders of the Directorio decided to squeeze as much propaganda and fund-raising benefit as they could out of the publicity. They were put in touch with a man in New York who, for certain reasons, will be known here as Jack Justin. Justin had excellent contacts in the media and got the Directorio leaders on several radio and television shows. He also introduced them to Clair Boothe Luce.

The key Directorio liaison was a sharp, articulate young fellow named Jose Antonio Lanusa. It was Lanusa who handled the regular reports from DRE delegates in various cities and who, after the Kennedy assassination, recalled Bringuier’s report from New Orleans about Oswald’s visit. It was Lanusa who originally released the story to the press, after contacting his CIA case officer at the JM/WAVE station. It was also Lanusa who turned over to the FBI copies of Bringuier’s reports and a tape recording of the radio debate with Oswald. The FBI never told him to keep his mouth shut about it, Lanusa said. Lanusa said he never spoke to Clare Boothe Luce about the incident, either at the time or later, and he knew of no DRE member who was deported or murdered.

Lanusa said he had only a single contact with Luce, arranged by Jack Justin. Lanusa didn’t know how the DRE arrangement with Justin came about, but Justin appeared to be affluent, lived in a
luxury apartment on Central Park West and picked up all expenses whenever DRE members visited New York. “My opinion now,” Lanusa told me, “is that he was being paid by the CIA.”

Justin introduced him and another leader of the Directorio to Luce in her New York apartment because, Lanusa was told, she wanted to write an article for LIFE magazine about the group’s raid into Cuba. She said she would turn the $600 fee she would get for the article over to the DRE as a _ contribution. Lanusa said that was the only money Luce ever contributed to the DRE. He said she could not have sponsored a boat because he was aware of how all the DRE boats were acquired. When I told him of the story that Luce had told Schweiker, Lanusa shook his head and said: “I think Clare Boothe Luce shoots from the hip without having her brain engaged.”

Many times in the course of my experiences investigating the Kennedy assassination, I found it strangely difficult to accept the obvious. The truth often came so boldly and blatantly that it was difficult to believe. Analogically, it was like sitting across the table from an old friend when, in the midst of a very pleasant conversation, he suddenly reaches over and slaps you across the face and then, without missing a word, continues the pleasant conversation. Your initial reaction is one of shock, then disbelief. When you ask why he did that, he asks, “Did what?” without changing his pleasant expression. It was quite obvious what happened, but with his denying the obvious and the continued pleasant conversation, you begin to doubt the reality of the obvious. Did what just happened — this time chunk of experience that was here a moment ago and is now gone — really happen? Did I just get slapped in the face? It was a question I asked myself often.

On slowly uncovering and verifying the facts surrounding the story that Luce told Schweiker, I began to envision her as an old woman now — she was well into her 70s –diverse experiences of her colorful life perhaps blending into jumbled recollections over-dramatically recalled. That image was shattered when I met her.

Clare Boothe Luce had been difficult to pin down. She regularly moves between her New York apartment, her home in Hawaii and her penthouse at the Watergate in Washington, still very active and agile. We finally set up an interview in the last months of the Committee’s existence, too late for an executive session hearing or sworn deposition. I was accompanied by staff researcher Betsy Palmer, who had done the file checking of the Luce story at the CIA.

Amid a splendid fortune of museum-quality Chinese artifacts in her elegant Watergate apartment house on the floor, coincidentally, is occupied by General Claire Chenault’s widow), Luce was most pleasant and cooperative. Yes, she said, she had originally told the story to columnist Vera Glaser and confirmed it with Senator Schweiker. She repeated the story, virtually unchanged for us.

Luce, however, when question further, also confirmed additional details which Betsy Palmer had uncovered in her file search. At the time Luce was in touch with Schweiker, she was also in touch with William Colby, then head of the CIA. She told Colby she had just made up the name of Julio Fernandez for Schweiker. She said she was also in touch with Jack Justin, who gave her the names of three DRE leaders, including Lanusa, but she didn’t mention them to Schweiker. Colby, however, called Justin and urged him to cooperate with Schweiker, but Justin said he did not want to get involved. From the CIA file notes of telephone conversation, it appeared that even Colby was confused about what was going on. When I pointed out to Luce that her story reminded me of the Carlos Bringuier incident with Oswald, she smiled and said, “Why, yes, that’s the same type of thing that happened to my boys.”

When we walked out of the Watergate late that afternoon, we knew only one thing for sure: An awful lot of time had been spent checking out Luce’s story and, in the end, it led nowhere at all.

The last time I saw Clare Boothe Luce was shortly after we interviewed her at the Watergate. I attended a luncheon meeting, for reasons which will be later apparent, of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers at a country club in Arlington. Luce was the guest speaker. Her speech was a vigorous defense of the intelligence establishment and an historical review of its successes. I discovered that Boothe Luce, besides being the guest speaker at that meeting, is actually on the Board of Directors of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. The organization was founded in 1975 by former Bay of Pigs propaganda chief, David Atlee Phillips.

Time and again, as I probed through the maze of the Kennedy assassination investigation, that thread of an association of some sort with intelligence agency activity would appear and reappear often clear and distinct, sometimes thin and tenuous. What, if anything did it mean? I’m still puzzled, for instance, by an episode involving a tip that came into Senator Schweiker’s office later in his investigation. Although I was then in the midst of pursuing an especially significant development, the new information seemed much too important to put aside and its source, again, valid enough not to dismiss.

A man from Key West called Schweiker’s office in Washington and said he had some information which might be of some help in the Senator’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination. The man said he had seen Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby together at the Key West International Airport in the summer prior to the Kennedy assassination. He provided the details. Schweiker’s office called me and I called the man. What he told me led me to drive to Key West and spend more than a week attempting to confirm the details of his story. I was not totally unsuccessful, and I did find out more than I expected.

In the FBI files of its Kennedy assassination investigation, there are hundreds of reports of individuals who claimed they saw Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby together before the killing. Almost every report indicates that a brief investigation proved the claim groundless. There are some, however, which indicate that a brief investigation left some claims unresolved, including a few from sources which appeared to be legitimate; that is where not obvious mental cases or publicity seekers that relevant in my deciding to go to Key West. So was another FBI report which connected Jack Ruby to a gun-smuggling operation in the Florida Keys. There is good evidence which links Ruby to smuggling guns, although not in the Florida Keys. In addition, the man who called Schweiker’s office appeared to be a very legitimate sources.

George Faraldo, a thin, swarthy man in his late 50s was the general manager of the Key West airport until his retirement several years ago. He subsequently opened a successful marine diesel business on the island. He is well-known in the community, a generally respected family man whose wife sings in the church choir.

I initially spent several hours with George Faraldo at his office getting the details of his story. On November 22nd, 1963, Faraldo was in the hospital recovering from a mild heart attack. That’s why he was sure the incident occurred prior to the Kennedy assassination, probably the summer before, he said. He remembered arriving at the airport that morning and seeing a group of about 30 or 40 persons clustered in the lobby. Despite its “international” status, the Key West airport is not large, its terminal building a cinder block structure the size of a small city post office. There are usually not that many people in the terminal, which has only a few ticket counters and a separate small waiting lounge. Faraldo said he learned from talking with a few in the group that they were part of an organization called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and that they were going to Cuba to help, cut the sugar cane crop. They were waiting for an Aerovia Q Airline plane to fly in from Cuba to pick them up. Aerovia Q was a commercial airline that regularly flew chartered and scheduled flights between Key West and Cuba, a 90-mile hop across the Florida Straits. It maintained a ticket counter at the Key West Airport.

Faraldo said he recalled the group waiting around the airport almost all day, getting repeated word that the plane was delayed. Mostly, he said, they were young boys and girls, “hippie-looking,” casually dressed dungarees, a few in olive-drab fatigues. They were quiet and well-behaved, Faraldo recalled, some sitting on the floor in small circles, a few playing guitars. The reason that Faraldo specifically remembered Lee Harvey Oswald, he said, was because Oswald was the only one who, during the course of day, kept circulating among the group, chatting with the various clusters briefly, then moving on. He didn’t, however, appear to be the leader of the group, the one who kept making the announcements about the plane being delayed. That guy had a beard, said Faraldo. Both Oswald and Jack Ruby were casually dressed, Faraldo recalled, but Ruby did not mingle much with the group and spent most of the day standing next to the doorway that led to the plane boarding area. Once, Faraldo said, he saw Oswald approach Ruby and talk to him briefly. Faraldo recalled that the Aerovia Q plane that the group had been waiting for finally arrived late in the evening and that Oswald got on the plane with the group. He said he didn’t see Ruby get on and doesn’t know if he did.

It was an incredible story Faraldo told, yet he seemed to tell lt in a very credible way. He said he would have had some doubts about recognizing either Oswald or Ruby after the Kennedy assassination if it had been a case of just one, but the fact that he recalled both individuals led him to dispel any thought that it may have been a case of mistaken identity.

Faraldo said he didn’t observe the group all day, but worked in his office and just made a few trips out to chat, although he didn’t speak with either Oswald or Ruby. What he did do at one point, however, was film the group with a movie camera. He was a regular “stringer,” or freelance correspondent, for WTVJ-TV, a Miami television station, and he often sent the news director short takes of newsy events around Key West, brief film clips for which he would get a few bucks. Faraldo said his regular procedure was to send the unprocessed film to Miami with a crew member of a National Airlines flight. The crew member would then give the film to a cab driver at Miami airport to deliver to the television station. That’s what he did with the film he took of the Fair Play for Cuba group, Faraldo said.

Although Faraldo was very believable, I was a bit bothered by an inconsistency in his ability to recollect detail. He was, for instance, absolutely sure that the number of the plane that finally arrived to pick up the group was CU-T583 — it just stuck in his mind, he said — he couldn’t, on the other hand, recall exactly what month the incident occurred and even had some doubts about the year. Still, I reasoned, undulations in recollected detail would be normal after 13 years.

In that initial interview with him, I probed Faraldo for hours. He remained very credible. More importantly, he appeared honest and consistently normal. He wasn’t a nut or an odd-ball. He was, in fact, a very intelligent man, a college graduate with a degree in engineering. Together we drove to the airport terminal and Faraldo showed me around. We walked through the lobby and he explain the way the roup was scattered about. He then pointed out exactly where he saw Oswald and exactly where Ruby was standing most of the time. Faraldo appeared so sure of what he was saying that I could almost see them there.

I spent the next few days attempting to check out Faraldo’s story. At the very least, I wanted to find out whether or not a Fair Play for Cuba group did fly from Key West to Cuba and when. Perhaps then, I thought, I could locate other who saw Oswald and Ruby together. I spoke to at least two dozen individuals, employees and former employees of the airlines operating out of Key West at the time. I spoke to pilots, stewardesses, mechanics, ticket counter workers and employees of the terminal itself, including a former janitor. I could not get any hard substantiation of any point, yet I kept getting a few tantalizingly vague confirmations that drove me to dig deeper.

I spoke, for instance, to a woman who worked the ticket counter for National Airlines at Key West in the early ’60s. She said she did remember a group going to Cuba to cut sugar cane. A retired Immigration Department official said he remembered reading about such a group in the newspapers. A Federal Aviation Administration employee also recalled hearing about a sugar cane cutting group, but thinks he didn’t see them because he worked the late shift at the time. The FAA chief at Key West said he didn’t remember that at all and that all FAA records of flights were kept only 15 days before being destroyed. No one who worked the control
tower at the time remembered an Aerovia Q plane flying in late one night to pick up a group of sugar cane cutters. The retired airport Janitor, a very old man, did remember a group of 30 or 40 persons going to Cuba, but thought they were “foreigners.” The U.S. Customs Department kept no records that could help.

I tried other angles. I spoke to a number of former employees of Aerovia Q Airlines, but none could remember the incident Faraldo described. I discovered that Aerovia Q stopped its regular flights to Key West late in 1961, but Faraldo said it would have been possible for the airline to fly into Key West as late as 1963 merely by filing a flight plan with the FAA.

I also did a page-by-page check of the old bound volumes of the Key West citizen, the local newspaper. Faraldo had said he thought the newspaper’s photographer had covered the incident, but the guy didn’t remember it and said all his negatives from that time were later lost in a hurricane. Faraldo himself sent me to an historian at the local public library who, he said, “remembers everything.” She didn’t recall the incident and could dig up no confirmation in her own files.

A spark of hope flared when Faraldo mentioned that he used to keep the manifests, or passenger lists, of every daily flight out of Key West, including those from Aerovia Q. He said he would staple them together at the end of the day, fold them, put them ln a white envelope and put the envelope in a cardboard box. And Faraldo remembered specifically where he had kept those boxes in a storage room at the airport. I~e sped back to check.

With the help of the current airport manager, we rummaged through every possible storage area without success. The one storage room where Faraldo was sure the boxes had been was, just two week before, gutted after a rain storm tore off part of the ceiling and flooded the room. Faraldo pointed out where the boxes should have been on a shelf suspended between the ceiling and the air conditioning ducts. The new manager said everything taken from that gutted room was in a trash heap on the side of the terminal. I spent hours going through a ~ mountain of soggy trash looking for the discarded boxes. I found nothing that resembled manifests.

I subsequently contacted the news director of WTVJ-TV, where Faraldo said he had sent his film. Ralph Renick confirmed that Faraldo had done some freelancing for the station and said he was. He said familiar with his story about Oswald and Ruby. He said Faraldo mentioned it to him about the time of Jim Garrison’s investigation in New Orleans. He went back through his film files at the time but couldn’t find anything. “It would have been a damn good story for us to break, obviously,” said Renick. Renick said he would re-check the files. He did and found nothing. Meanwhile, I kept going back to Faraldo. I was frustrated. I thought I myself vaguely recalled reading about a group of pacifists going to Cuba to cut sugar cane, and there were a few I talked with who remembered such a group in Key West. Faraldo appeared even more frustrated than I. He was extremely upset that his manifest records, which he had so carefully kept for years, he said, had not been retained. We tried to probe deeper into his memory for additional details. We’d sit around his office or drive to the coffee shop at the airport. We had lunch together a few times and one night his wife invited me for a delicious home cooked dinner. We talked of many things besides the Kennedy assassination and were beginning to get to know each other a little. He was a soft-voiced, intelligent man and I liked him.

One day we were sitting around his office chatting. Faraldo mentioned that he is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, an experienced pilot, has an avid interest in electronics and considers himself an expert photographic technician. These bits of information were dropped over the course of a long conversation and I didn’t immediately link them to anything of significance. He then mentioned he had a photo lab behind his machine shop. I noted my own interest in photography and asked to see it. I assumed he was an amateur photographer who freelanced occasionally for a few bucks and had a nice array of perhaps even professional quality equipment. I was amazed, however, at the collection of sophisticated electronic and photographic gear stocked in Faraldo’s shop. I guessed there was well over $100,000 worth of equipment. I then noticed sitting on the floor in a corner what appeared to be the housing of a an aerial reconnaissance camera.
Hey, what’s going on here?

Softly I began probing Faraldo about his use of such equipment. Well, he said, he had made a number of trips into Cuba after Castro took over in order to find out a few things. ~e told a story about once being suspected of spying by Castro’s police and how he was retained and beaten. He spoke of how he hated Castro and how he thought Batista, whom he had known personally, was “one of the best friends the United States ever had.” He said he was also very friendly with Castro’s former Air Force Chief, Pedro Diaz Lanz.

When I asked Faraldo specifically about the reconnaissance camera, he said he had flown a number of aerial photographic missions and proudly went into a detailed explanation of how he had designed a special device to permit him to trigger the camera, installed in the belly of his plane, from the cockpit. He said he had taken shots of the Russian missiles in Cuba long before Kennedy announced they existed.

For whom, I tried to ask casually, was he working? “I was told,” he said smiling, “I was working~ for the United States Information Agency.” I asked if he thought it possible that he was really working for the CIA? “Yes,” he said, “I would think so.” I thought that he should more than just think so and decided to press. I asked him who paid for all the sophisticated photo and electronic equipment he had. He looked at me as if I were playing a game with him and didn’t answer directly. Finally he gave me a wide grin and said, “No comment.”

It’s a beautiful ride from Key West back to Miami over a long, lonesome stretch of the Overseas Highway, the big sky a clear deep blue, the ocean vista of white caps on one side, on the other the bay a crystal expanse of glistening serenity. But I couldn’t appreciate the scenery as I drove back because my mind was a jumble of confusion about what I had experienced over the previous several days. I wanted to believe Faraldo because he was intelligent and credible and I like him. And didn’t a few others remember that group at the airport? Besides, why would he be lying? Why would he tell such a story and go out of his way to bring it to Schweiker’s attention? I remember conflicting questions racing through my mind as I drove back to Miami. I also remember feeling something I didn’t want to believe I felt: The sensation of a lingering sting along the side of my cheek, as if someone had just slapped me across the face.

Perhaps, yes, perhaps coincidentally, the Luce incident and the Faraldo incident both contain elements of similarity to a burst of reports which sprung up immediately following the action of President John F. Kennedy. These reports all indicated that Lee Harvey Oswald had some association with pro-Castro elements or was, in fact, a Castro agent. Also, most of the reports had some connection with Mexico City or Miami. And, again, somewhere along the chain of investigative links there always popped up some association with the intelligence community.

I’ve come to believe that a few of those early reports may have some relationship to what I later uncovered. The reports linked to Mexico City were especially interesting. Clare Boothe Luce, for instance, maintained she received that telephone call from one of her young Cubans on the evening of Kennedy’s assassination. She specifically remembered watching television with her husband in her New York apartment when the call came through. The caller told her, she said, about Oswald and how he had left New Orleans to go to Mexico City before returning to Dallas. Yet, on the evening of November 22nd, Oswald’s visit to Mexico City was known by a limited number of, persons other than Oswald himself, perhaps his wife Marina and a handful of intelligence officials — most notably a select few in the CIA’s Mexico City station.

Another attempt to link Oswald to Castro came out of Mexico City immediately after Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby. A young Nicaraguan named Gilberto Alvarado Ugarte walked into the American Embassy and insisted he had a story to tell the American Ambassador, Thomas Mann. Alvarado claimed that he had gone to the Cuban Embassy in September and while waiting to conduct some business saw three persons talking in a patio a few feet away. One was Lee Harvey Oswald, another a tall, thin Negro with reddish hair and the third a Cuban from the consulate. Alvarado said he saw the Cuban give the Negro a large sum of money and then heard the Negro tell Oswald, “I want to kill the man.” Oswald replied, “You’re not man enough, I can do it.” The Negro then gave Oswald $6500 in large denomination American bills. Their conversation, said Alvarado, was in both Spanish and English.

The story caused quite a stir with Ambassador Mann, a hard-boiled anti-Communist who, even before Alvarado showed up, was pushing the FBI to investigate a Castro link to the Kennedy’s assassination. It would later become one of the first pieces of “evidence” to plant the seed of a Cuban conspiracy in President Johnson’s mind. This despite the fact that Alvarado’s story didn’t check out. Alvarado subsequently retracted his story, saying he had fabricated lt because he wanted to get to the United States to join the anti-Castro activists. Then he recanted his retraction and then, failing a polygraph test given by the Mexican police, again confessed he had lied. Nevertheless, it was eventually brought to the attention of the Warren Commission by CIA boss Richard Helms. In its final Report, the Commission devoted two entire pages to it.

The Warren Commission, however, never considered the significance of the source of the story. Alvarado, it was later discovered, was an agent of the Nicaraguan intelligence service. Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza was a strong anti-Castro and a cooperative ally of the CIA, having permitted the Agency to use his country as a training camp and assembly area for the Bay of Pigs invasion. In fact, at the time of the Kennedy assassination, Manuel Artime, the CIA’s “golden boy” ¿as his fellow anti-Castro leaders dubbed him), ~till had two training bases in Nicaragua and a huge arsenal of equipment. According to one source, Artime was also then involved ln a Castro assassination plot with his close friend and Miami neighbor, E. Howard Hunt.

There are a few theories about the type of incident the Alvarado fabrication represents, other than it being the meaningless activity of lone nut — unlikely in view of Alvarado’s background. It strikes a few researchers as having the hallmarks of a counter-intelligence scenario, a shrewd ploy (loaded with diverse angles, from the ridiculous to the sublime, but in the end having a single although not immediately apparent effect. Was it meant to reinforce certain evidence or suspicions, or was it just another stone thrown in to further muddy already murky waters.?

There are a lot of questions. And perhaps that in itself is relevant. Why should the sources of the information turn out to be of more interest than the information itself? What motivation did the sources have in promulgating the information? Why did they inject themselves into the Kennedy assassination investigation? Did they each have their own individual reasons for doing so? Or were they orchestrated by those with a more sophisticated knowledge of public opinion manipulation, psychological and propaganda techniques These questions are the matrix of the pattern.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the early reports linking Oswald to pro-Castro activity was how quickly they surfaced. The first ones came within hours of Oswald’s arrest, almost before Dallas police knew anything about him or his background or had, in fact, definitely linked him to anything other than the killing of Patrolman J.D. Tippitt.

A Scripps-Howard wire service reporter named Seth Kantor was part of the press contingent which had traveled with President Kennedy to Dallas. Kantor, a veteran reporter well-respected by his peers, had worked in Dallas before being transferred to Washington. He knew the city intimately, its politicians, its leading citizens, its characters. As did almost every other reporter in Dallas, Kantor knew Jack Ruby, a character who liked to hang around
police headquarters and newspaper offices. Ruby had
help him with a couple of stories about Dallas nightlife. Kantor knew Ruby.

Kantor says he saw and spoke with Jack Ruby at Parkland Hospital immediately after Kennedy’s assassination. A nurse, who didn’t know Ruby, later also reported she saw Ruby at Parkland Hospital. The Warren Commission chose to ignore Seth Kantor because his testimony would have alluded to a conspiracy.

I spoke with Seth Kantor a few times and had dinner with him one evening in Washington. He’s a reserved, soft-spoken guy not given to exaggeration. I checked into his background and spoke with people who know him. I found no reason to suspect that Seth Kantor would lie. That, I believe is significant in terms of another bit of information that Kantor provided. Kantor said he learned of Oswald’s pro-Castro association shortly after Oswald was arrested, not more than two hours later, at the most, perhaps before 3 p.m. Dallas time. Kantor had called his managing editor in Washington and been told that the Scripps-Howard correspondent in Miami a fellow named Hal Hendrix, had this Information. “I specifically recall that I was at the police station and had to call Hendrix collect,” said Kantor. “Hendrix told me of Oswald’s pro-Castro association. I don’t think he knew it first-hand, he said he had been told about it. He didn’t tell me by whom.”

Kantor didn’t give special significance to his conversation with Hendrix until years later. Disturbed by the Warren Commission’s findings, he decided to write a book about Jack Ruby. That’s when he found that among the documents not released to the public was the FBI’s list of telephone calls from the Dallas police station. Kantor requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. When he finally got the list, Kantor discovered that the only call exorcized from it, the only call which remained classified for “national security” reasons, was the call he made to Hendrix.

Again, it turned out that the source of the information about Oswald’s pro-Castroism was more interesting than the information itself. Before he joined Scripps-Howard, Hal Hendrix worked for the Miami News. During the Bay of Pigs invasion, Hendrix’s stories contained exceptional detail of the invasion’s progress, information obviously obtained form CIA sources, most likely the Agency’s propaganda section. Hendrix would later win a Pulitzer Prize for his stories revealing the existence of Russian missiles in Cuba. Still later he would join the International Telephone & Telegraphs Company as its public relations director in Latin America. In 1976. Hendrix was indicted and pleaded guilty perjury as a result of his testimony before a Senate Subcommittee investigating the role of the CIA and ITT in toppling the Allende government in Chile. Hendrix worked in Chile and had close contacts with CIA in personnel in Chile. During a hearing in Miami, a Justice Department attorney revealed that Hendrix had relationship with the CIA “both as a reporter and later as an employee of ITT.”

Hal Hendrix was another one of the witnesses who fell between the cracks of the House Assassination Committee’s investigation. In March, 1978, I wrote a memorandum to Chief Counsel Blakey urging that Hendrix be subpoenaed to testify about his knowledge of CIA activity. No action was taken. Hendrix was outside the game plan.

Aside from his specific requests to check out certain leads which had come to him, Senator Schweiker laid down no investigative ground rules when he hired me as a staff investigator. “Just follow your instincts,” he said. Schweiker was, of course enough to realize the advantage of having a personal staff the investigator not bound by the parameters of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s mandate or under the pressures of a report deadline. Because he had uncovered the facts about the intelligence agencies withholding information about Castro assassination plots from the Warren Commission, Schweiker early leaned toward a Castro retaliation theory for the Kennedy murder. His Subcommittee staff, ridiculously limited in time and resources, had only those same blocks of facts to play with and so was structuring its report along the same theory. Yet as I uncovered information in Miami which took me in the opposite direction Schweiker encouraged me to pursue the evidence wherever it led.

Over the course of almost a year of working with Schweiker, my attention was drawn to a diverse collection of individuals, almost all of whom had an association with the CIA and anti-Castro activity. Most had the means, motivation and opportunity to be considered suspect for involvement in the Kennedy assassination, or have knowledge of it. They all denied having any connection with the assassination, although a few said they would have liked to have killed Jack Kennedy themselves. That admission, in itself, never allayed my suspicions.

What I found especially fascinating was how, as soon as word of what I was doing spread, offers of help and sources of information began pouring down on me. There were independent
researchers, journalists, private investigators and individuals whose means of support I could never figure out calling me regularly. There were whispered meetings with anonymous informants in the back of dark bars in Little Havana. There were meetings in parks along Biscayne Bay. The telephone often rang in the middle of the night and a Spanish- accented voice would tip me about the strange behavior of a certain individual in November, 1963. My file began to grow with hundreds of names and my mind spun attempting to keep track of information involving scores of interlinking Cuban groups. Slowly, too, I began recognizing that some of the names ~ coming to me, some of the sources of information contacting me, were the same as those I had been reading in the volumes of Warren Commission files and stacks of FBI reports, names which had popped up immediately after the Kennedy assassination. It was as if I had suddenly entered a mysterious theater where a 13-year old drama had suddenly been review with the original cast.

There were several key characters who early drew my interest and, I still believe, may be relevant to the new evidence I would later stumble upon. One of them was a cocky bantam of a man named Mitchell Livingston WerBell III, an arms dealer who runs. on his large “farm” outside of Atlanta, what amounts to a training camp for professional killers — including police and military types, terrorists and anti-terrorists, soldiers-of-fortune and mercenaries. WerBell may be the last of the true swashbucklers, a braggadocio an delightful guy.

Bell was born in Philadelphia, the son of a wealthy, former Czarist calvary officer. . (“My father dragged me all over the world,” he says. “I was raised in some of the best bar in Europe.”) He claims he was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938 although there are no record of it — and wound up with the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) in World War II. Trained as a paratroop and guerilla warfare expert, he established himself as a stalwart secret agent and came out of the China-Burma theater of life operations as dues-paid life member of the “old-boys’ network”of American secret intelligence — a superspy fraternity that included Allen Dulles, Richard Helms and E. Howard Hunt, among others.

They don’t come more colorful than Mitchell Livingston WerBell III. Seemingly eccentric, he was in his day a blasphemous, often boozy always raucous bon vivant with a sly sense of humor. He wore a handlebar mustache from time to time, screwed a monocle in his eye and called himself Prince Eric Straf. He boastfully dubbed himself “Mitch the Fifth’ after multiple invocations of that Constitutional amendment before a Senate investigations subcommittee questioning him about his business relationship with Robert Vesco.

What drew my interest to WerBell was not his color nor his wit; it was his business, his background and his associates. It appeared that Jack Ruby was involved in arms dealing and smuggling. So was Mitch WerBell. A passionate anti-Communist, WerBell has run a series of weapons manufacturing and marketing firms — principally Military Armament Corporation and its Washington-based parent, Quantum Ordinance Bankers — which advanced supplied countries and groups around the world with advanced weaponry, including the Ingram M-ll, a hand-held, quiet machine gun. WerBell has been call a “creative genius” for his designs of noise suppressor for automatic weapons and for other “silent-kill” devices. He has also been termed the “principal supplier of the CIA’s most sophisticated weapons.”

Early in my investigation for Senator Schweiker, I had a long, all-day, liquory session with Mitch WerBell in his gun-filled den on his farm in Powder Springs, Georgia. Between sips, he denied an association with the CIA. “I’ve always cooperated very closely,” he said, “but I’ve never allowed them to pay me one goddamned dime. I don’t need it.”

Nevertheless, down through the years WerBell has popped up with uncanny consistency in operations which have had the imprimatur of the CIA, overtly or covertly. He was all over Miami working with anti-Castro activists at the height of Kennedy’s secret war against Cuba. He was in Guatemala when assassination teams swept through the country to bolster the reign of the military. He was in the Dominican Republic when the United States moved in to quash the Communist threat. In Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile, Greece, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, WerBell always seemed to be passing through at the most opportune moments. My prolific journalistic colleague, the aforementioned Andrew St. George, has taken a special interest in Mitch WerBell down through the years and has cultivated a strange and unique relationship with the chesty little guy. St. George has written a number of articles about WerBell, all very well done, politically insightful and damningly revealing, yet most of them buried in pulp adventure or girlie magazine with very little credible impact Damning revelation is the last thing that WerBell should want, yet the close relationship between subject and journalist remains intact and St. George is still a frequent houseguest on “the farm.” (Once WerBell was extremely upset at a St. George article in Esquire which revealed WerBell’s plans to foment a coup d’etat on the Bahamas island of Abaco and make it his own tax-free nation, but what most bothered the feisty arms dealer was a St. George photo of him attending to a shapely bikini-clad blonde languishing on a chaise. WerBell claims the photo almost wrecked his marriage.)

St. George’s continuing interest in WerBell relates to, among other things, his concept of WerBell’s role in history. Sometime in the 50s, St. George maintains, assassination became an instrument of U.S. national policy: “It also became an important branch of our invisible government, a sizable business, and a separate technology involving weapons and devices the ordinary taxpayer paid billions for but was never permitted to see, except perhaps in the technicolor fantasies of James Bond flicks.” Thanks to the technological proficiency of his “silent-kill” weapons, Mitch WerBell was in the center of the development of the “special teams” concept. Special teams are assassination teams.

It was the special team concept that the CIA employed within its own bureaucratic structure — selected individuals stitched together into a tight, top-secret network outside their normal
chain-of-command — to plan the Castro assassination attempts. Yet the first utilization of the concept came in 1954, according to St. George, when a deep-cover CIA team went off to Hanoi under Lt. Colonel Lucien Conein, described as “one of Mitch WerBell’s closest lifelong friends.” The Conein mission, code-named “Blackhawk,” was to harass and decimate the new Communist rulers of North Vietnam. Its orders included the “elimination of Vietminh cadres where conditions permit.” Subsequently, similar missions multiplied as CIA Clandestine Services sent out special teams with authority to kill whenever “circumstances warranted.” There were, among others, “White Star Training Mission” in Laos, “Operation Lodestone” in Northern Thailand “Study Project Minimax” in certain disaffected ethnic regions of Indonesia. Then, in the early 60s, With the CIA employment of the hard-bitten hill tribesmen of North Burma, Laos and Southwestern China as “deep penetration” and “long-range reconnaissance” teams into Red China, came large-scale, top-secret U.S. intelligence operations involving unlimited license to kill. Mitch WerBell’s “silent-kill” weapons business did very well in those days, and Thai King Phumiphon personally hand carved a tiny rosewood Buddha for him.

Besides his general association with assassination operations, there were other reasons why WerBell would interest an investigator probing the Kennedy murder. A key one was his relationship with individuals who popped up in the FBI’s original investigation. Gerry Patrick Hemming, for instance, was the ex-Marine who claimed he had contact with Lee Harvey Oswald both in California and Miami. Deeply involved in anti-Castro activity, Hemming was among those arrested at a training camp in the Florida Keys after Kennedy’s Cuban missile deal with Khrushchev. Hemming worked as a weapon salesman for Mitch WerBell.

Another interesting associate of WerBell’s is his buddy from his OSS days, Lucien Conein. “You’ve got to start with the premise that Lou Conein is crazy,” said one of his former CIA bosses once. Crazy enough to always survive. Now a beefy, scarred and gnarled old grizzly, Conein left Kansas City when he was 17 to join the French Foreign Legion. In 1941, he switched to the OSS in France and lived and fought with the notorious Corsican Brotherhood, which was then part of the Resistance. (Later the Brotherhood would turn into an underworld organization deeply involved in drug trade and considered much more effective and dangerous than its Sicilian counterpart, the Mafia.) Moving to the Far East areas, Conein was part of an OSS team parachuted into Vietnam to fight the Japanese alongside the Vietminh. Later he married a Vietnamese, helped Ngo Dinh Diem consolidate his power in South Vietnam and then, turning against him, was the CIA’s liaison with the cabal of generals who murdered Diem.

It was Conein’s involvement with the coup of the generals which led another old OSS cohort, E. Howard Hunt, to give him a call several years later. Hunt, by then, was working in the Nixon White House. Besides wanting Conein to release a group of phony telegrams which would have squarely blamed President Kennedy for the Diem assassination (Nixon then considered Edward Kennedy his prime political foe), Hunt recruited Conein for what was ostensibly the White House war against the international drug trade.

Conein got involved in a series of sensitive operations with Hunt at the White House, some of which, according to a later report in the Washington Post, “appear to have stretched so far over the boundaries of legality that they were undertaken in _____ secrecy.” One of these, part of a program called Gemstone, was Operation Diamond, a large, secret organization which Bernard Barker was putting together for Hunt in Miami. Barker reportedly recruited some 200 former CIA Cuban agents and organized them into specialized units for future operations. Among them were intelligence and counterintelligence units as what were known as Action Teams — the old CIA term for units with paramilitary skills, including assassination.

Then, in November, 1973, Conein got moved out of the White House — though not out from under White House command –to become chief of Special Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration — the DEA. He was to be part of Nixon’s highly publicized nation-wide police campaign, led by White House enforcers with special powers, to combat drug abuse. It has been suggested that Nixon’s anti-drug campaign was, in actuality, a bit to establish his own intelligence network as part of, as the knowledgeable St. George put it, “a covert drive to set up a national police machinery under the centralized command of the White House police organization.” It has also been suggested that it was exactly that bid which brought about Nixon’s political assassination, the sucker set-up that was Watergate.

Assassination, of course, is the buzz word. It struck me, early on in my investigation of the Kennedy assassination, how a select group of individuals who drew my attention for other reasons, would turn out to have some association with assassination operations in their past. More significantly, that association often involved a relationship with another member of this select ~roup. The multiplicity of “coincidences” never failed to surprise me. My attention was drawn to Lucien Conein, for instance, when I discovered his relationship with E. Howard Hunt, who attracted my interest because of his activities with Miami’s anti-Castro Cubans When I learned of Conein’s OSS background, I wondered if he had crossed paths somewhere along the way with Mitch WerBell. Their paths, it turned out, more than just crossed, they interlocked.

When Conein set up his Special Operations branch of the DEA he recruited” at least a dozen field operatives from the CIA and set them up in a “safe house,” an office suite in the LaSalle Building on Connecticut Avenue in Washington. It has been reported that the reason for operating outside of DEA headquarters was because the branch was developing a very special plan, which included assassinating the key drug suppliers in Mexico. The question has been raised, however, by columnist Jack Anderson among others, whether the White House Plumbers group was developing assassination capability not for foreign utilization but for domestic political reasons. Anderson claimed that a contract was put out on him at one point. At any rate, the Connecticut Avenue office was funded not by the DEA but by the CIA. And Mitch WerBell has admitted he was in business there with two former CIA men manufacturing ultra-sophisticated assassination devices.

My meeting with Mitch WerBell that long Georgia day in his gun-filled den turned out to be a verbal paso-doble with a drunk — or a man who acted drunk. Actually, by the time I got to him, WerBell was coming off a long bout with the booze, the result of being caught between the pressure of a few Congressional investigating committees probing~ his intelligence, arms and drug connections and, on the other side the very tough squeeze being put on him to keep his mouth shut by agencies for which he worked. Although we spent several hours talking, WerBell was determined to dance drunkenly around my key areas of interest. “There’s a helluva lot I ain’t said yet,” he blathered at one point, “and there’s a helluva lot I ain’t gonna say yet”‘ At times he claimed loss of memory: “I’ve been in so many places, so many countries, so many fuckin’ revolutions, it’s beginning to get all mixed up ln my mind.”

Yet the transcript of the tape I made during that session with WerBell reveals, despite the staccato verbal ellipses he drunkenly affected, some interesting responses. He admitted his involvement with some Castro assassination attempts (“I was sittin’ in Miami with a goddamned million dollars in cash for the guy who was gonna take Fidel out.”), but disclaimed any knowledge of the Kennedy murder. “Now I didn’t like Jack Kennedy,” he said. “I thought he was a shit to begin with. But I was certain not to be involved in the assassination of an American President, for Christsakes!” WerBell also denied any business dealings with Jack Ruby, but half-admitted a contact. First he said he had no connection, then added: “And the reason we didn’t…I think we may have had an incoming…but we don’t play with people like that. I mean, it’s as simple as that. This guy Ruby, he called, I didn’t know who the hell he was, but that was years ago….” WerBell lapsed into a drunken mumble. Later, I thought I might have been fruitful if the House Assassinations Committee, with its subpoena power and power to grant immunity, would have called WerBell for formal questioning. But Mitchell Livingston WerBell III, despite his acknowledged relationship with the area of evidence I considered most crucial in breaking new investigative grounds — and despite his long association with assassination operations –was just another one of the characters who didn’t fit into the game plan.

Although the initial stages of my investigation for Senator Schweiker were basically unstructured, I kept stumbling across those interlocking areas of activities and associations. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s what would make the evidence I would later discover meaningful. All of which is relevant to one other individual who early captured my attention: Frank Sturgis, another one of E. Howard Hunt’s cohorts in the Watergate burglary.

Of all the characters I’ve met in my reporting and investigating career, Sturgis is one of the most intriguing. That’s saying a lot. There are many who feel that he is an easy guy to know — he’s outspoken, talkative, apparently direct, usually quite visible and frequently projects himself into the spotlight. (A few months ago, he was the spokesman for a group of anti-Castro Cubans who offered to exchange themselves for the hostages being held in Iran.) But I spent a lot of time with Frank Sturgis and I haven’t figured him out yet.

The names of both E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis had been prominently in the news in connection with the Kennedy assassination long before I joined Senator Schweiker’s staff. A small group of assassination researchers had contended that two of the three men in
certain photographs taken in Dealey Plaza on November 22nd, 1963, bore “striking resemblances” to Hunt and Sturgis. The men were reportedly derelicts or “tramps,” as the press came to call them, who were discovered in a boxcar in the railroad yard behind the grassy knoll. (Later, the House Committee’s acoustic tests would indicate that a shot was fired from the knoll area.) Taken to police headquarters, the tramps were escorted across Dealey Plaza, where new photographers took several photos of them. The tramps were questioned and released, without record of their identities being kept. (Despite the notoriety they subsequently received, not one has turned up since.)

Because of the publicity generated by the researchers, the contention that two of the tramps were Sturgis and Hunt was examined by the Rockefeller commission in early 1975. President had appointed the commission that January to probably possible illegal CIA activities within the United States. After a six-month investigation, the Commission issued its report. Relying on comparative photo analysis performed by the same FBI expert who did all the Warren Commission’s analysis the Rockefeller Commission concluded that the men in the tramps photographs were not Sturgis and Hunt.

About the time Schweiker began his investigation, a book which raised the contention again was published. Titled Coup d’ £at In America, it was written by Michael Canfield and Alan J. Weberman and contained a forward by Texas Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez. The book incorporated a novel device: It came with film positive photos of Sturgis and Hunt designed to be overlaid on photographs of the tramp. Superimposed, the images did, indeed, bear striking similarities.

I would later discover, however,-that photo comparison and analysis is an exceptionally non-conclusive technique. The House Assassinations Committee would wind up spending $83,154 on it and came up with results which, in some instances, are totally worthless.

Among the photographs submitted to a panel of experts for analysis and comparison were not only those of Sturgis and Hunt but also those of other individuals who had been suggested by various critics as possible being one or the other of the three tramps. The panel concluded that Sturgis and Hunt were not the tramps ln the photographs. It did conclude, however, that one of the tramps — the one who resembled Hunt –could very well be a fellow named Fred Lee Chrisman, a right-wing activist implicated in the Garrison investigation in New Orleans. When those results came in, investigators were frantically sent out to track down Chrisman’s whereabouts on November 22nd, 1963. (Chrisman had since died.) They came back with official records and eye-witness affidavits that Chrisman was on the West Coast teaching school the day Kennedy was assassinated. So much for the conclusiveness of photo analysis.

What was particularly interesting, however, was the panel’s conclusions in its comparison of photos of Frank Sturgis with those of the tramps. It used two basic comparative techniques. One it termed “metric traits” and the other “morphological differences.” One was a comparison of the measurements of six facial features and their metric relationships; the other was simply whether or not various facial features were shaped the same. The panel concluded that the average deviation between the tramp’s features and Sturgis’ features was “low enough to make it impossible to rule out Sturgis on the basis of metric traits alone.” However, the panel said, it was the morphological differences which indicated that Sturgis was not the tramp. In other words, Sturgis just didn’t look like the tramp. (The hair and hairline were different, it said, and so were the nose, the chin and the differences in ear projection.)

House Committee’s staffer in charge of organizing the photo panel’s work was a research attorney named Jane Downey, and an exceptionally competent, good detail worker. One day she came to me and asked me to help gather some of the photographs which would be sent to the panel to find out members for analysis. I recall asking her at the time to find out whether or not the experts would take into consideration the possibility that the tramps might be wearing sophisticated disguises. That, in fact, had to be the case if they were not just real drifters in the wrong place at the wrong time. (As a member of the White House Plumbers, E. Howard Hunt had obtained disguises from the CIA’s Technical Services Bureau and used them on more than one job. Downey promised she would ask the photo analysts about the use of disguises.

Several days later Jane Downey told me she had checked with the photo analysts. “I’m told that there is no way they can tell if disguises were used,” she said. I was shocked. “In other words,” I said, “if the tramps were in disguise there would be no way the analysts, could tell who they really are?”

“That’s what I’m told,” said Downey.

“Then why do a photo comparison at all?” I asked. Downey just shrugged her shoulders. “Well,” I said, “I hope that point is mentioned in the final report.”

“I’m sure it will be,” said Downey.

Nowhere in the Committee’s final report, nor in the appendix volume dealing with the photographic evidence, is the fact mentioned that comparative analysis would be meaningless if the tramps were wearing disguises.

In my own mind, I’ve never resolved the question of whether or not Frank Sturgis looked like one of the tramps in Dealey Plaza. There are a couple of photos which have strong similarities, others with few. The same could be said of the Hunt comparison. My initial interest in both, however, was not predicated on whether or not they were the Dealey Plaza tramps. When the Rockefeller Commission issued its conclusion that Sturgis and Hunt were not in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963, it raised more questions than it resolved. (At the time, I didn’t realize how suspect I should have been a~out the Commission’s report in general. It was later revealed that then-Vice President Nelson Rockefeller really didn’t want the CIA to air all its dirty linen and, at one point, quietly called in Director William Colby and urged him not to tell all. Rockefeller, it turned out, had earlier been a member of the White House’s Operations Coordinating Board which cleared some of the illegal CIA activity the Commission was investigating.)

Although the Rockefeller Commission report claimed that Sturgis and Hunt hadn’t legitimate alibis for their whereabouts on November 22nd, 1963, it ultimately concluded: “It cannot be determined with certainty where Hunt and Sturgis actually were on the day of the assassination.” It is obsolete certainty that Frank Sturgis knows where he was on the day after the Kennedy assassination. He says FBI found him at his home in Miami. “I had FBI agents all over my house,” he has said. “They told me I was one person they felt had the capabilities to do it. They said, ‘Frank, if there’s anybody capable of killing the President of the the United States, you’re the guy that can do it.”

I spent a lot of time with Frank Sturgis, especially during the period of the Schweiker investigation. He had not been out of prison from his Watergate sentence long when we first met~ an all-evening interview session at his home. He lives in north Miami, not far from me, and we were in contact often. Sometimes he would call in the evening and we would chat for hours. Frequently, we met for coffee at a snack shop or hotel coffee shop. He was always very direct, very outspoken and, I believe, a lot more polished and sophisticated than the obscenity-prone, rough-hewn and little-educated character he projects. In talking about people he knows, he of individuals his “close friend,” but no one really gets close to Frank Sturgis.

Now in his 50s and tending toward obesity — and a far cry from the muscular figure he was not long ago — Sturgis has led a thousand lives, maybe more- He was born Frank Angelo Fiorini in Norfolk, Virginia , but his parents separated when he was an infant and he grew up with his mother’s family in Philadelphia’s Germantown. (He would later change his name to his stepfather’s, Frank Anthony Sturgis, when his mother remarried. Howard Hunt once named the chief character in one his. pulp novels “Sturgis.”) Frank Sturgis turned 17 two days after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and he immediately dropped out of Germantown High to join the Marines.

Sturgis was shipped out to the Pacific jungles where he volunteered for the toughest unit in the Marines, the First Raider Battalion, the legendary Edson’s Raiders. He was taught how to kill silently with his bare hands, infiltrated into enemy encampments, sloshed through amphibious landings, air-dropped on commando raids. Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, three serious combat wounds, malaria, jaundice and, in the end, “exhaustion and possible psychoneurosis” and a stay at the Sun Valley Naval Medical Center before his discharge in 1945. After the War, Sturgis was a plainclothes cop with the Norfolk Police, a part-time student at William & Mary College, managed a few bars, trained as a radio gunner in the Naval Reserves, crewed as a merchant seaman, did a two-year stint with the U.S. Army in Germany where he served with the Armed Forces Security Agency, was married, widowed, re-married, divorced and married again.

Sturgis claims he got involved in Cuban activities in the early 50s when he went to Miami to visit an uncle who was married to a Cuban. That’s how he got friendly with exiled former Cuban President Carlos Prio, he says. Prio, close to the American mob men who ran Havana’s gambling casinos, was a multimillionaire who was funding a mountain rebel Fidel Castro’s guerilla war against General Batista. (Prio would later be convicted of arms smuggling with a Texan named Robert McKeown. After the Kennedy assassination, McKeown told the FBI that he was approached by Jack Ruby about a deal to sell military equipment to Castro. A week before I had scheduled to call Prio for an interview he went to the side of his Miami Beach home, sat on a chaise outside the garage and shot himself in the heart. He reportedly had financial problems.)

It was through Prio, Sturgis says, that he was infiltrated into Cuba to join Castro in the mountains. Soon he was a trusted aide, a emissary for Castro on arms deals all over the United States and Latin America, a daring pilot who flew loads of weapons into hairy mountain airstrips. He became friendly with another daredevil pilot, Pedro Diaz-Lanz, and when, after the revolution, Castro appointed Diaz-Lanz chief of the Rebel Air Force, Sturgis was named the Air Force’s director of security. Nine months after Castro took power, Diaz-Lanz and Sturgis publicly decried Castro’s Communism, and fled Miami. A Month later, they were dropping propaganda leaflets over Havana. (Some 30 Cubans were their killed when Castro’s planes unsuccessfully tried to bomb their B-25 out of the air.)

Frank Sturgis says he was never _ an official, paid has confirmed agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA has confirmed that proclamation. Yet Sturgis, while he could not remember the first name of his first wife in his testimony before the House Assassinations Committee, recalled that it was a Friday in 1958 in Santiago, Cuba, that he made his first contact with a CIA agent. Before the Bay of Pigs and afterwards, during the height of the JM/WAVE’s secret war against Castro, Sturgis used equipment, flew planes and directed assault craft which were supported by the CIA. He has admitted that the B-25 he flew on his first leaflet-drop was later repaired with $10,000 which came from E. Howard Hunt.

In terms of the Kennedy assassination, it was Sturgis’ relationship with Hunt that early drew my attention. Both testified under oath to the Rockefeller Commission that they first met just prior to the Watergate caper — Hunt said in 1972, Sturgis said in late ’71 or early ’72. That seemed a strange contention in view of their very active involvement in Miami’s anti-Castro activities in the early ’60s. Sturgis claim that although he knew of “Eduardo” at the time, all his contacts with him and the funds which came from him were through Hunt’ assistant, Bernard Barker.

There is no hard evidence to disprove their contention, although there are some circumstantial factors which raise some questions. Sturgis admitted he worked closely with the CIA’s top Cuban leader, Manuel Artime, and I have spoken with witnesses who saw them often together in Little Havana. Artime was very close to and in frequent contact with CIA liaison Hunt. In his autobiography, Hunt himself claims his attention was drawn to the daring leaflet drop of Pedro Diaz-Lanz and he quickly made arrangement to meet with the counter-revolutionary hero. Hunt however, writes nothing of the man who flew with Diaz-Lanz and was his constant companion. (Hunt’s book was published in 1973.)

In October, 1972, Andrew St. George interviewed Frank Sturgis in his home in Miami while Sturgis was awaiting his Watergate photo~ were publicized~ sentence. It was before the tramp photo were publicized, before the cries for another Kennedy assassination investigation began to peak, before the Rockefeller Commission was formed. St. George was an old friend of Sturgis from their days together with Castro in the mountains. Sturgis was glad to see the gregarious Hungarian and, stung by his set up at Watergate and the black headlines which made him appear an inept bungling burglar, Sturgis — according to St. George — blurted out the real story behind Watergate. A few months later, St. George visited Sturgis in the Washington, D.C. jail. “I will never leave this jail alive,” he says Sturgis told him, “if what we discussed about Watergate does not remain between us. If you attempt to publish what I’ve told you, I am a dead man.”

In August, 1974, St. George published his interview with Sturgis in True magazine. In it, he quotes Sturgis as saying: “The Bay of Pigs — hey, was one sweet mess. I met Howard Hunt that year; he was the political officer of the exile brigade. Bernard Barker was Hunt’s right-hand man, his confidential clerk — his body servant, really; that’s how I met Barker.” Sturgis today denies he ever said that and curses St. George vehemently.

Today, Sturgis is not hesitant to admit his disgust with Kennedy after the President made the Cuban missile arrangement with the Russians. Sturgis was one of six pilots specially warned by the Federal Aviation Administration for making raids over Cuba at the time Kennedy was negotiating the delicate deal. Sturgis was also the co-founded with Mitch WerBell’s arms salesman Gerry Patrick Hemming, of the International Anti-Communist Brigade, some of whose members were arrested at their training site on No Name Key after the missile crisis.

My first interview with Frank Sturgis came not long after he was released from his Watergate sentence. For many months he remained a relatively low-key figure in Miami, not moving around much, not getting his name in the newspaper, not yet back in action. That night he talked effusively, chain-smoking ant drinking Coke. (Sturgis is a heavy smoker, but never touches any kind of alcoholic beverage.) He spoke of his early days with Castro, his appointment by Castro at one point to oversee the gambling casinos before Castro threw the mob out of Cuba, and of his later anti-Castro activities, being a bit evasive only his about some of his more mysterious associations. (He once had a boat called the CUSA. That was the acronym for an ultra-right-wing group, formed in Germany in the ’50s, called Conservatism-U.S.A. The group placed a black-bordered anti-Kennedy advertisement in a Dallas newspaper the President was shot. Sturgis initially lied to me about the spelling of the boat’s name. Later, under oath, he would claim that was the name on it when he bought it.)

What particularly struck me about that initial interview with Sturgis was his Archie Bunker-like directness. He said he thought the Kennedy assassination was definitely a conspiracy, that Oswald was a patsy and that the government agencies — the FBI, the Secret Service and the CIA — were all involved in a cover-up. He spoke of the possible motivations of the anti-Castro groups and their dislike for Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs failure. (“I even hated him, too,” he said.) He said he once refused to join the CIA even though it gave him an application because he thought it was infiltrated at its highest ranks with double-agents — “possibly the same people who conspired to kill Kennedy.” He s~id his theory was that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy involving groups of intelligence agents in Russia’s KGB service, Cuba’s intelligence service and the CIA. Actually, as Sturgis rambled on and around in circles, there wasn’t a conspiracy theory he didn’t espouse. By the end of the evening, my head was reeling. Several months Frank Sturgis made that initial interview more interesting. The Schweiker Report had just been released. The Intelligence Committee staff had built it on the blocks of Castro assassination plots which the Warren Commission was not told about, thus making the Castro retaliation theory its strong theme. It thus appeared that Sturgis now knew which way to push.

The evening after the report was released, Sturgis telephoned. He said he had just ran across an old friend, a “guy with the Company,” who “revived” his mind about something he had “completely forgot” to tell me over the months we had been in touch. He now recalled that he had heard about a meeting in Havana just about two months before the Kennedy assassination. At the meeting were a number of high-ranking men, including Castro, his brother Raul, Ramiro Valdez, the chief of Cuban intelligence, Che Guevara and his secretary, Tanya, another Cuban officer, an American known as “El Mexicano,” and — oh, yeah — Jack Ruby. And the meeting dealt with plotting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Oh. That’s what Sturgis had “completely forgot” to tell me. Just a bit of incidental information, replete with details of the plotter’s name. “Hey, Frank,” I said, “I’m glad someone revived your mind about that. It may be relevant.”

Incredible. Suddenly Frank Sturgis was pushing phony Castro-did-. stories again. And as patently ridiculous as it may appear on its surface, lt did have all the sophisticated edges of so many of the stories which popped up after the Kennedy assassination. In fact, Sturgis’ “new” story was in fact a dressed version of one that came during the Warren Commission investigation. And, as always, there is a hint of documentary evidence to it — which Sturgis was kind enough to point out to me. The original story was generated by a Miami-based investigator named Al Tarabochia, a strong right-winger who worked for the Senate Internal Security subcommittee. Tarabochia wrote a memo which wound up with the Warren Commission. He told of a Cuban exile source who said he had received a letter from a relative in Cuba with the information that “the assassin of President Kennedy’s assassin” visited Cuba “last year.” (Later, I would track down the original writer of the letter, now in Miami, who would say that her information was given to her by someone she didn’t recall.) At any rate, on such sources did Frank Sturgis’ new hot tip to me seem to be based. Immediately after the Kennedy assassination, Frank Sturgis was involved in other stories which proved to be without foundation. According to FBI documents, one involved a reporter named James Buchanan who wrote an article for the Pompano Beach S-un Sentinel which quoted Sturgis as saying that Oswald visited Miami in November, 1962, to contact Miami-based supporters of Fidel Castro and that, while in Miami, was in telephone contact with Castro’s intelligence service. About that time, another story began circulating, the source of which was reportedly Frank Sturgis, which indicated that Oswald demonstrated in Miami’s Bayfront Park with a group from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and had gotten in a fracas with Jerry Buchanan, the brother of the reporter. The FBI traced both stories and eventually contacted Frank Sturgis, who denied he had anything to do with them. The FBI reports wound up as Warren Commission documents. One of them indicates that both James and Jerry Buchanan were officers in the International Anti-Communist Brigade.

I was intrigued by the question of why Frank Sturgis would so early inject himself into the Kennedy assassination investigation. I was also intrigued by the character of the information he circulated, imbued as it was with just the right amount of detail and tenuous relation to some sort of documentary evidence. In my paranoid moments, I began to wonder whether or not there was a counterintelligence overlay to what was happening.

There were, however, other moments which made me think I was taking Frank Sturgis much too seriously. I recall one evening chatting with him on the telephone. At the time I was checking into a fellow who was called “El Mono” — The monkey — and who had been described to me as _ “one of the CIA’s best-trained Cuban operatives.” I asked Sturgis about him. Sturgis talked about him for a while and then said he had a friend who could tell me a lot more about El Mono. The friend, who we’ll call Paul here, was an American who had spent seven years in Castro prisons. He was charged with plotting to blow up a building housing Russian agents Castro used to visit regularly. Paul had operated a small bar in Havana 25 a front, was married to a Cuban who worked for the CIA and was deeply involved in Miami’s anti-Castro Cuban activity. Sturgis said he would make arrangements for me to meet Paul, but he didn’t want to tell Paul that he was setting him up. He said he would be having breakfast with Paul the next Saturday morning at the Westward Ho restaurant in Little Havana and that I should just “coincidentally” stroll in. “He don’t know you’re gonna be there, so when you get there I’ll just put him on a little bit,” said Sturgis. We’re old friends, I’ve known him for years. It’ll be funny. We kid with each other a lot. He’s a funny guy.”
I spotted Sturgis and his friend sitting at a back booth as soon as I walked into the Westward Ho. Sturgis had his back to the door. I strolled up beside him and slapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, Frank!” I greeted him, trying to fake sudden recognition. “Howya been? What’ve you been doing? Haven’t seen you around lately.” Sturgis looked up with a surprised yet blank expression. “Hey, I know you,” he said. “Sure you do”‘ I said, sitting down beside him. Sturgis’ face took on a pained quizzicality. “Where do I know you from?” he pondered aloud. “Frank, how can you forget?” I said. “Now wait a minute, don’t tell me,” said Sturgis. “I’ll think of it.” He cupped his chin in his hand and donned an expression of deep reflection. He appeared to be a very bad actor and I couldn’t keep a silly grin from crossing my face. Paul just stared back and forth at us wondering what the hell was going on but not quite believing it, I thought.

Sturgis kept the act up for about five minutes, pounding his forehead and taking shots at different names. “Oh, I know I know I know,” he would say in mock frustration, “but I’m drawing a blank wall!” I couldn’t help laughing, more at his display of over-dramatics than at Paul’s puzzlement. Finally, I reached across the table and introduced myself by name to Paul. He shook my hand and then turned to Sturgis. “Well, now do you remember who he is?” he asked him. Sturgis feigned a mild convulsion of silly laughter. “Oh, sure, sure,” he admitted, “I really know who he is. I was just puttin’ you on'” “Oh,” Paul said, with a smile on his face but obviously not getting the point of the charade.

“Gaeton here,” Sturgis aid, still laughing as he was about to reveal all, “is a friend of mine who is with the, uh, Whattaya callit, you know, the government committee that’s looking into the assassination of John F. Kennedy.”

Paul didn’t miss a beat: “Oh,” he said, “you mean the guy you killed!”

Sturgis face suddenly froze for a split-moment. The smile was gone. Then he shook his head and smiled again. “Oh, yeah, sure,” he said. I looked at Sturgis and started laughing also. He was right. Paul was a funny guy. One afternoon early in January, 1976, I received a telephone call from Dave Marston in Senator Schweiker’s office. “You can give up on Silvia Odio,” he said. “The guys over on Committee staff told me they got word she’s in Puerto Rico. They’re getting ready to track her down.”

The guys on the Intelligence Committee staff played everything very close to the vest. They had pretty much decided that the final report on the Kennedy assassination could be written from the documents they had acquired, mostly from the CIA, which showed that the Agency had not told the Warren Commission about the Castro plot. The staffers figured they didn’t have the time for much original investigation and, if they did any, it might open doors to more than they could handle. But what had become known as the “Odio incident” bothered them, just as it had bothered the Warren Commission. They were now thinking about talking to Silvia Odio, just to cover an important base.

The problem was that Silvia Odio was missing. She had lived in Dallas at the time of the Kennedy assassination, but word among independent researchers was that she had years ago moved to Miami, had re-married and dropped out of sight. She was one of the few key witnesses who had not exploited her role or capitalized on her early notoriety. She disliked the publicity, refused interviews with the press or assassination buffs — despite being offered large sums of money — and had gone into hiding. Now, according to word that Marston received, the Committee staff had tracked her down in Puerto Rico. “I understand she just moved back there recently,” said Marston. “I was talking to Silvia Odio in Miami this morning,” I said. “Sonavagun,” David laughed. “Imagine, those supersleuths are going after the CIA. One of Silvia Odio’s brothers had gotten a ticket for a minor traffic violation once and wound up in Florida’s computer system. Tracking her family down through several moves eventually led me to Silvia herself. For the first time in 13 years, Silvia Odio would repeat the story that represented one of the key unanswered questions in the Warren Commission investigation. She would also later cooperate, not without misgivings, with the House Select Committee on Assassinations. She would come to found. If the Warren Commission had found that Silvia Odio was telling the truth, its final conclusion that Oswald was not part of a conspiracy would have been seriously undermined. Odio had claimed that Oswald was one of three men who came to the door of her apartment in Dallas one evening the last week in September, 1963. The Commission dismissed Odio’s testimony because, it said, it had considerable evidence” that Oswald was not in Dallas at all that September.

It had nothing of the sort. In fact, the Commission had to resort to a blatant deception in its final report in order to discredit Odio’s testimony. However, if Oswald had gone from New Orleans to Dallas, on his way to Mexico City September, from other evidence the Commission had, he would have had to have private transportation and, since he did not have a car and could not drive, that meant that others were involved with him. (The House Assassinations Committee would later conclude that Oswald did, in fact, leave New Orleans the last week in September and, from his other known movements, had to have access.

My discovery of Silvia Odio in Miami was important for two reasons: First, because in investigating her story I would incidentally open a new area of evidence with explosive potential; and, secondly, because the manner in which Silvia Odio and her testimony were later handled would indicate that the House Assassination Committee was, in its own way as deceptive in its revelations to the American people as the Warren Commission.

Silvia Odio’s background is relevant. She was the oldest of 10 children who were spirited out of Cuba when their parents became active in anti-Castro activity. Her father Amador Odio was among Cuba’s most wealthy men, owner of the country’s largest trucking business and was once described by Time as the “transport tycoon” of Latin America. Yet both he and his wife were idealists and had fought against dictators from the time of General Machado in the ’30s. They were among Castro’s early supporters, but they were also among the first to turn against him when “Fidel betrayed the Revolution,” as Amador Odio would later say. With liberal leader Manolo Ray, they helped form one of the first anti-Castro groups within Cuba.

Amador and Sarah Odio were arrest in by Castro October, 1961, at their country estate outside Havana. Ironically, the Odio’s had once hosted the wedding of one of Castro’s sisters on that very estate. Later, Castro would turn it into a national women’s prison and Sarah Odio would spend eight years incarcerated there, while her husband was placed in a cell on Isla de Pinos. When her parents were arrested, Silvia Odio was 24 years old, living in Puerto Rico with her husband and four young children. She had attended private school, Eden Hall Convent of the Sacred Heart in Philadelphia and law school in Cuba for a while. After her parents were arrested, her husband was sent to Germany by the firm for which he was working and subsequently deserted her and her children. Destitute and alone, she began having emotional problems. By that time, Silvia’s younger sisters, Annie and Sarita, were settled in Dallas. Sarita, a student at the University of Dallas, had become friendly with a Dallas clubwoman named Lucille Connell, who was active in both the Cuban Refugee Center there and the Mental Health Association. When Sarita told Connell of Silvia’s plight, Connell made arrangements to have Silvia and her children move to Dallas and for Silvia to receive psychiatric treatment for her emotional problems. Lucille Connell became Silvia’s closest confidant. Cornell would later tell me that Silvia’s emotional problems — brought on by the shock of suddenly being left alone with four young children, her parents’ imprisonment and her abrupt fall from a life of wealth to deep destitution — resulted in attacks of sudden fainting when, according to Connell, “reality got to painful to bear.” Connell said she personally witnessed Silvia suffer these attacks in her home when she first arrived in Dallas, but with psychiatric counseling they eventually ended…until the Kennedy assassination.

Silvia Odio had moved to Dallas in March of 1963. She said she wanted only to lead a quiet life, but her concern and her desire to do something to help get her parents out of prison led her and her sisters to maintain contact with Cuban exiles who were ~ politically active and to join the anti-Castro group called JURE, which was founded by her father’s old friend, Manolo Ray. (This was the same Manolo Ray whom E. Howard Hunt claims he resigned his Bay of Pigs CIA-liaison position over; Hunt contended that Ray was much too liberal and leftist to be permitted to join the invasion’s political front coalition.) The sister attended a couple of Cuban exile rallies in Dallas and gave their spiritual support to anti-Castro efforts, but being young and with little money there was not much else they could do. By September, 1963, Silvia Odio was well-established in the Dallas Cuban exile community, had a decent job, had her emotional problems under control was doing well enough to be planning to move into a more comfortable apartment than the garden-type rental unit in which she and her four children had been squeezed. The week before Monday, October 1st, 1963, the day she was scheduled to make the move, her sister Annie, who was then 17, had come to the apartment to help her pack and babysit with her children. When the doorbell rang early one evening in that last week of September, it was Annie who went to the door to answer it. Later I would talk with Annie Odio, who is now also living in to Miami. She is married to an architect and the mother of two children. She remembered the evening when three men came to the door of Silvia’s apartment in Dallas. One of the men asked to speak to Sarita. He spoke English but when Annie answered him in Spanish he also spoke Spanish. Annie told him that Sarita didn’t live there. He then said something, I don’t recall exactly what, something about her being married, which made me think that they really wanted my sister Silvia. I recall puttin~ the chain on the door after I told them to wait while I went to get Silvia.” Annie told me that two of the men were Latin-looking and that one of them was shorter and heavy-set, had dark shiny hair combed back and “looked Mexican.” She also said, “The-one-in the middle was American.”

I spoke with Annie Odio a few weeks after my initial interview with Silvia. They do not live near each other, but their own families and, although they talk on the telephone occasionally, are not in frequent touch today. Both sisters told me they had not discussed the incident in Dallas for several years pr~or to my asking them about it. Annie recalled that Silvia was initially reluctant to talk with the strange visitor because she was busy getting dressed to go out, but she remembers Silvia coming out of the bedroom in her bathrobe to go to the door.

Silvia Odio had told me that she remembers it was early evening and that she was getting dressed to go out when the three men came to the door. The men were standing in the vestibule just inside the small front porch. Both the porch and the vestibule had bright overhead lights. Silvia said the men told her they were members of JURE and spoke as if they knew both Manolo Ray and her father. All her conversation, she said, was with the taller Latin, the one who identified himself as “Leopoldo,” although he admitted he was giving her an alias or a “war name,” which was common among anti-Castro activists at the time. She said she is less certain of the other Latin’s name, it might have been “Angelo,” but she described him as her sister did, “looking more Mexican than anything else.” The third visitor, the American, was introduced to her as “Leon Oswald.” She said “Leon Oswald” acknowledged the introduction with very brief reply, perhaps in idiomatic Spanish, but she later decided he could not understand Spanish because of his lack of reaction to her Spanish conversation with ‘Leopoldo.”

There is no doubt in Silvia Odio’s mind that her visitor was, in fact, Lee Harvey Oswald. She said she was talking with the men more than 20 minutes and, although she did not permit them in her apartment, she was less than three feet from them as they stood in the well-lit vestibule. (Later, I would go to Dallas to confirm her description of the scene.) She said Oswald, as well as the other two, appeared tired, unkempt and unshaven, as if they had just come from a long trip.

“Leopoldo” told Silvia Odio that the reason they had come to her was to get her help in soliciting funds in the name of JURE from local businessmen. “He told me,” she recalled, “that he would like for me to write them in English, very nice letters, and perhaps we could get some funds.”

Silvia was very suspicious of the strangers and avoided giving them any commitment, but their conversation ended with “Leopoldo” giving her the impression he would contact her again. After the men left, Silvia locked her door and went to the window to watch them pull away in a red car that had been parked in front of the apartment. She said she could not see who was driving the car but did see “Angelo” on the passenger side.

The following day or the day after, a Silvia was never certain about that, she received a call from “Leopoldo.” She is relatively certain about the gist of what “Leopoldo told her in that telephone conversation and it is consistent with her testimony to the Warren Commission. She said that “Leopoldo’ told her that “the Gringo” had been a Marine, that he was an expert marksman and that he was “kind of loco.” She recalled: “He said that the Cubans, we did not have any guts because we should have assassinated Kennedy after the Bay Pigs.” On the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, both Silvia and Annie immediately remembered the visit of the three men. Before she had seen a photograph of Oswald or knew the President’s that he was involved, the news of the President death brought back to Silvia’s mind what “Leopoldo” had said about assassinating Kennedy. She had just returned to work from lunch, was told that everyone was being sent home, suddenly felt terribly, uncontrollably frightened and, while walking to her car, fainted. She remembers later waking up in the hospital.

Across town, Annie Odio was watching television at a friend’s house. She and some friends had gone to see the President’s motorcade pass several miles before it reached Dealey Plaza. “When I first saw Oswald on television,” she told me, “my first thought was, ‘My God, I know this ~uv and I don’t know from where’ I kept thinking, ‘Where have I seen this guy?’ Then I remember my sister Sarita called me and told me that Silvia had fainted at work and that she was sending her boyfriend to take me to the hospital. The first thing I remember when I walked into the room was that Silvia started crying and crying. I think I told her, ‘You know this guy on TV who shot President Kennedy? I think I know him.’ And she said, ‘You don’t remember where you know him from?’ I said, ‘No, I cannot recall, but I know I’ve seen him before.’ And then she told me, Do you remember those three guys who came to the house?”‘ That’s when, Annie said, she suddenly knew she had seen Lee Harvey Oswald before.

Based on background and character alone, Silvia and Annie highly were highly credible. Nevertheless, the subsequent heavy checking I did of their story absolutely convinced me they were telling the truth. One of the major factors was that Silvia Odio had told more than one person of the incident before the Kennedy assassination. She wrote to her father in prison and told him of the visit of the three strangers. The Warren Commission obtained a copy of his reply warning her to he careful because he did not know them. I spoke to Amador Odio himself. He and his wife were released from Cuban prison a few years ago and are also living in Miami now. No longer wealthy (he was working at night in a low manager’s job for an airline),but still proud and idealistic, a handsome old gentleman who exudes a quite dignity, he confirmed receiving the letter from Silvia and his reply. More specifically, Dr. Burton Einspruch, the psychiatrist who was counseling Silvia at the time, recalled that she had him prior to the assassination of the visit of the two Latins and the American and that he remembered calling her on the day of the assassination. He said she mentioned “Leon” and in what he called “a sort of histrionic way,” connected he visit of “Leon’- to the Kennedy assassination.

Also of special relevance, I thought, was the fact that the FBI found out about the visit only inadvertently. Both Silvia and Annie had immediately decided that day in the hospital room not to say anything to anyone about what they knew. “We were so frightened, we were obsoletely terrified,” Silvia remembered. We were both very young and yet we had so much responsibility, with so many brothers and sisters and our mother and father in prison, we were so afraid and not knowing what was happening. We made a vow to each other not to tell anyone.” And they did not tell anyone they did not know and trust. But their sister Sarita told Lucille Connell and Connell told a trusted friend and soon the FBI was knocking on Silvia Odio’s door. She says it was the last thing in the world she wanted but when they came she felt she had a responsibility to tell the truth. Even before I met Silvia and Annie Odio and had the, opportunity to evaluate their credibility, in reviewing all the FBI documents and the Warren Commission records of the Odio incident, I was especially intrigued by two aspects of it: One was that it seemed to contain the potential of something of keystone significant in any attempt to grasp the truth about Lee Harvey Oswald and the John F. Kennedy assassination. If the incident did occur as Odio contended, then no theory of the assassination would stand unassailable if it did not somehow account for it. Secondly, that was the very point the Warren Commission itself quickly recognized and was therefore forced, by its own conclusions, to pummel the facts about its investigation of the incident into conforming lies.

The Warren Commission was hampered, of course, by the FBI initial bungling in investigating the incident. Silvia Odio had provided good physical descriptions of her visitors and details about their car. The FBI simply did not vigorously pursue those leads, instead spent most of its time questioning people about Silvia’s credibility and her emotional problems. The Bureau’s first interview with Silvia Odio was on December 12th, 1963. On August 23rd, 1964, with the first drafts of the Warren Commission report being written, Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin wrote to J. Edgar Hoover: “It is a matter of some importance to the Commission that Mrs. Odio’s allegations either be proved or disapprove.” A month later, with the report in galley form, the Odio incident was still a critical concern staffers. In a memo to his boss, Staff Counsel Wesley Liebeler wrote: “There are problems. Odio may well be right. The Commission will look bad if it turns out that she is. There is no need to look foolish by grasping at straws to avoid admitting that there is a problem.”

The FBI did attempt to alleviate that “problem” when lt interviewed a soldier-of-fortune named Loran Eugene Hall or September 26th, 1964. Hall claimed he had been in Dallas in September, 1963, trying to Castro funds with two companions, one of whom might have looked like Oswald. The Warren Commission grasped at that straw and detailed that interview in its final report, giving the impression that Hall and his companions were Odio’s visitors. concluded: “…Lee Harvey Oswald was not at Mrs. Odio’s apartment in September, 1963.” The Warren Commission did not mention that Loran Eugene Hall the Kennedy Cuban missile crackdown and was a member of the International Anti-Communist Brigade, whose members and leaders had promulgated a series of phony stories to Kennedy assassination investigators. Neither did the Warren Commission note in its final report — even though it knew — that the subsequent FBI interviews revealed that Hall’s two companions denied being in Dallas, that neither looked at all like Oswald, that Silvia Odio, shown their photographs, did not recognize them, and that Loran Eugene Hall, when re-questioned, admitted he had fabricated the story and was just playing games. It is no wonder that the critics early pounced on the Odio incident as being the most flagrant of all the Warren Commission distortions. One of the most respected, Sylvia Meagher, wrote in her book, Accessories After the Fact: “In the Commission could leave such business unfinished, we are entitled to ask whether its members were ever determined to uncover the truth.”

It ironic that Meagher’s statement would still be relevant 15 years later, after House Select Committee’s “final” report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That I recall most about first meeting Silvia Odio was the fear. It is still very much with her after all these years. She was working as a legal assistant in the law department of a large firm, but she had remained home that morning so we could talker husband, Mauricio, a handsome chap involved a in Spanish-language publishing, had also remained home until he saw his wife was comfortable. Silvia, then her late 30s, still very youthful and attractive, was nervous but bright and morning fresh when we began detailing talking. After a few hours of detailing the incident and her experiences with the Warren Commission, she had visibly aged. I remember being shocked by that, the way her face sagged and lines appeared under her eyes and how clearly apparent was the emotional drain of bringing it all up again. Silvia Odio had been reluctant to talk with me at all. She kept asking me, “Why are they bringing it all up again? What good will it do? I told them the truth but they did not want
to hear it. Why do they want to keep playing games with me? ~Why?” Her voice had a nervous edge but she was articulate and raised rational points. “Why didn’t the FBI investigate immediately? Why did they wait so long after first ~ talking with me before they came back? Do you really think they really want to know what the answer to the Kennedy assassination is? I have to admit I’ve become very cynical.”

She also admitted she had become terribly disillusioned in the U. Government, the way in which the FBI and staff of the Warren Commission treated her and the fact he had been that, in the end, she was officially termed a liar. She had been bred into a family of culture and class, she had been, style and respect. She was upset when Warren Commission staff attorney Wesley Liebeler, in Dallas to take deposition in the Federal building, immediately started joking with her and told her he was been kidded by other staff member in Washington about being so lucky to interview the prettiest witness in the case, invited her to dinner on the pretext of having additional questions to ask and then invited her to his hotel room. She was shocked, and began wondering how seriously the Warren Commission was taking its investigation.

“Why should I get myself involved again?” she asked. “What good will it do me? What good will it do my family?” Her children are older now, she said, but still fears for their safety. She said she wonder if men who were with Oswald are still alive. She was also concerned publicity she might receive in Miami’s Cuban Community, still constantly being shaken by internecine bombings, and what some crazy, anti-Castro fanatic might do. (She and her husband once tried to publish a local Spanish-language literary magazine, but because right-wing Cuban exiles control that specialty distribution market, they could not get it on the newsstands in Little Havana.)

She was reluctant to cooperate, but she was also very angry and frustrated. “It gets me so mad that I was just used,” she told me. I gave her my assurances that this time it ff would be different. I told her that I deeply believed that it was necessary for the American people to learn the truth about the Kennedy assassination and that it had something to do with the basics of the democratic system. I told her I believed that Senator Schweiker was an honorable man and would not be involved in anything but an honest investigation. He spoke on the telephone several times before Silvia Odio finally agreed to talk with me and, eventually, trust me. It was a mistake. I did not realize at the time that I would later become part of an apparatus that would wind up using her, Just as the Warren Commission did, “handling” her testimony in a much more subtle but just as deceptive way — and deliberately making sure her story was not prominently presented to the American public. Yet in the end the House Committee on Assassinations forced to conclude that Silvia Odio was telling the truth –and that is what it did, reluctantly, in its final report: “The committee was inclined to believe Silvia Odio.”

Waffling as the admission is, that meant that Silvia Odio, the committee decided, was telling the truth. And that was that. As if once that was acknowledged and said, it could be put aside — a curtsy to honesty and truth — and the dance could go on. Yet the questions that bow to truth hammer fatal structural cracks in the foundation of the House Committee’s conclusions that elements of Organized Crime were the probable conspirators in the Kennedy assassination. The report attempted to cover its ass on that but, in doing so, was forced to cross the bounds of rationality: “It is possible,” it noted, “despite his alleged remark about killing Kennedy, that Oswald had not yet contemplated the President’s assassination at the time of the Odio incident, or if he did, that his assassination plan had no relation to his anti-Castro contacts, and that he was associating with anti-Castro activists for some other unrelated reason.”

The Committee did not speculate on that “other unrelated reason.” That would have opened a door marked “CIA,” and it had already concluded that the Agency had nothing to do with Oswald. But all that was to come long after my first talk with Silvia Odio. And although I sensed her story was important to understanding the truth behind the Kennedy assassination, I didn’t realize how significant the pursuit of it would be in my own investigation. About the time I found Silvia Odio in Miami, an independent researcher named Paul Hoch sent Senator Schweiker a pre-publication copy of an article which as going to appear in a few weeks in The Saturday Evening Post. He had written it with George O’Tool a former CIA computer specialist and the author of The Assassination Tapes, a book which revealed that psychological stress analysis of Oswald’s voice indicate telling the truth when he denied killing President Kennedy. Hoch himself, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, was a respected Warren Commission critic known for his plodding analytical research of government documents.

The article was titled, “Dallas: The Cuban Connection,” and it dealt with the Odio incident. “The Saturday Evening Post has learned,” said the article, “of a link between the Odio incident and one of the many attempts on the life of Cuban Premier Fidel Castro carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency and Cuban emigres in the early 1960s.”

In his research, Hoch had discovered that Silvia Odio’s parents had been arrested by Castro because they had harbored a fugitive named Reynol Gonzalez who was wanted for plotting to kill named Castro in October, 1961. The plotters planned to use a bazooka fired from an apartment near the Presidential Palace when Castro was making one of his marathon speeches. The apartment had been rented by the mother-in-law of the principal plotter, Antonio Veciana. The plot failed, the bazooka never was fired (the triggerman copped out at the last moment), the potential killers were arrested and Gonzalez was later picked up on the Odio estate. However, Veciana, the organizer of the plot, escape to Miami where he founded Alpha 66, which came to be one of the largest best financial and most aggressive of the militant Cuban exile group.

The article pointed out that Alpha 66 had chapters all over the country, that Veciana made frequent fund-raising trips to these chapters and that one of the chapters he visited was in Dallas at “3126 Hollandale.” In the mounds of Warren Commission Hoch found a report by a Dallas deputy sheriff saying that an informant told him that a person resembling Oswald was seen associating with Cubans at “3128 Harlendale.” The article concluded: “Like the two Cubans who, with ‘Leon Oswald,’ visited Silvia Odio in September, 1963, Antonio Veciana was: 1) an anti-Castro activist, 2) engaged in raising funds for the commandos, and 3) acquainted with Silvia Odio’s father. While this falls short of proving it, a real possibility exists that Veciana was one of the two Cubans who visited Silvia Odio, or that he at least can shed some light on the Odio incident.”

I doubted that, but I had the advantage of having had spoken to Silvia and Amador Odio. If Veciana had been one of Silvia’s visitors, both she and her father I assumed, would have discovered that by now, since Veciana had been a very visible figure in Miami’s anti-Castro movement. (I later checked and confirmed that with them.) I also doubted that Veciana, if he hadn’t been involved, would know anything about the visit, but he might be worthwhile talking with when I got around to it. I didn’t give it any priority because I thought the article was overly speculative.

I was, however, intrigued by another possibility which Paul Hoch raised in a separate memorandum to Schweiker. In a long and impressively detailed analysis of one of the early released Church committee reports on assassination plots against foreign leaders, Hoch wondered why the 1961 Veciana attempt against Castro was not mentioned. He pointed out that although the CIA claimed its admitted series of plots with the Mafia where allegedly suspended at that time, Hoch noted that there was still in effect an earlier directive — called NSAM 100 — which ordered a contingency plan drawn up for Castro’s “removal.” Wrote Hoch: “The hypothesis that NSAN 100 and subsequent events were directly related to the Veciana plot deserves careful consideration. This would be the case even if there were no possible link to the Kennedy assassination through the people involved in the Odio incident. …It is possible that Veciana was under the direct control of the CIA.” The significance of Hoch’s shrew speculation was much deeper than it appeared on the surface. He was contending, in effect, that since the Veciana plot did not appear in the Church report, it was one the CIA was trying to hide.

Hoch is a soft-spoken, conservative analyst, yet his conclusions were usually strong: “I suggest consideration of the hypothesis that the CIA has managed to draw the attention of the Church Committee away from assassination plots other than the Giancana-Roselli one (specifically, away from the Veciana plot) for some reason; and that the CIA has thus diverted attention from possible links between CIA activities and the Kennedy assassination.” Hoch then cautiously added: “Clearly, as such hypothesis is speculative.”

Coincidentally, at about that time, there appeared in Esquire an insightful column by its Washington watcher Timothy Crouse, who suggested that the CIA in revealing such flashy “seecrets” as its deadly shellfish toxin and toxic dart gun, was taking the Church Committee through a promose maze. Crouse was disturbed that the Committee’s chief counsel, F.A.O. Schwarz Jr. (“he was the innocent look of one of the trolls they sell at the toy store his great- grandfather founder”), was accepting on face value the CIA’s own enumeration of its misdeeds. “Its pretty unusual,” Schwarz admitted to Crouse, “to find that the defendant has developed large parts of the case. It’s very helpful.”

That bothered Crouse: “Its a queer thing to hear the chief Senate investigator talking as if he and the CIA wer>
Transfer interrupted!
th…. It does not seem to have occurred to Schwarz that the CIA was, is, and always will be, in the business of deception.” Course’s conclusion was not irrelevant to the speculation that Paul Hoch had advanced in h is memorandum to Schweiker. “A subtle pattern begins to emerge,” he wrote. “One suspects that the agency may be trying to peddle certain crimes of its own choice, trying to guide the Church committee toward certain items and away from…God knows what.”

Actually, there were no limits to the kinds of God-knows-what speculations bouncing around my mind by the time I decided to try to locate Antonio Veciana. I’d been procrastinating. I figured that anyone with his long terrorist reputation would naturally be elusive and that it would take time to find him. I didn’t know if he was still living in Miami or even if he was still alive. I might have to put the word through my contacts in Little Havana, start the tedious core of combing through public records, spending days on the telephone or in the street sniffing for his trail, pull out all the research sources I could muster. I found Veciana listed in the Miami telephone directory.

When I first called I spoke to his wife Sira. She was, I would later learn, a pleasantly pretty woman in her early 40 whose life was dedicated to the welfare of her husband and family. There was a nervous edge to her voice when she told me her husband wasn’t home. I told her I was with Senator Schweiker and asked for the best time to reach him. She said I should talk to her son. Tony, I would also later learn, was a college student, the oldest son of Veciana’s five children. Tony told me his father was in Atlanta. I asked when he would return home. Tony had a muffled conversation with his mother. “well, he’s in Atlanta and he won’t be home for a while,” he said. I asked if there were anyway I could reach his father in Atlanta. Another muffled conversation with his mother. He asked why I wanted to talk with his father. In order to easier establish an initial rapport, I had made it a point to not specifically mention the Kennedy assassination when I first approached any of the Cuban exiles. I said simply that I was a staff investigator for Senator Schweiker and that Schweiker was a member of the Church Intelligence Committee. My interest I always said, was in learning something about the relationships of the Federal agencies with the anti-Castro Cubans during the early 1960s. That’s what I told Veciana’s son. There was another muffled conversation with his mother. “Well, you see,” he said again, “he’s in Atlanta.” It was the third time the kid told me that his father was in Atlanta and I was getting a little annoyed that I couldn’t get beyond that. Then it struck me. The Federal penitentiary was in Atlanta. Was he trying to tell me his mother was in prison?

That, it turned out, was exactly what he was trying to tell me. He was being protective of his father but, at the same time, considered the possibility that I might be able to help him in some way. I would later learn that I had approached the Veciana family at a time of extreme stress for them. It was a very closed-knit family, as many Cuban exile families still are, with the father ruling gently but firmly and providing supportive direction. For the Veciana family to be without its patriarch, without even the stability of his inevitable presence at its main mid-day meal, was terrible stressful. I would come to know the Veciana — his wife and his mother, who still lived with them, Tony and his sisters, Ana, then just finishing college and Victoria, a high school senior, and the two little ones, Carlos, then five, and Bebe, three. Ana would later write: “Despite my father’s involvement in the maelstrom of Cuba politics, we have led a very normal life — on CUBAN terms. We prayed to Our Lady of Charity (the patron saint of Cuba), we spoke Spanglish at home and fought — successfully — to leave the chaperones at home.” Understanding Veciana and his role in his family, the circumstances of his being in prison and the stress that was causing is, I now believe, crucial to understanding the information that Veciana provided and whey he provided it.

Veciana’s son would not tell me why his father was in prison. “I think there are some people who want him in there,” he said, “but I would rather you get the details from him. I think my father would be in favor of talking to you.” He said he would write to his father about hat and have him put me on his visitor’s list, although I would first have to bring him some identification, of curse. I said I would do that and also try to go directly through the Federal prison authorities for permission to visit Atlanta. His father, said Tony, had been in there for 26 months.
A few days later I stopped by the Veciana home to give Tony my card and show him my official identification. It was a small, modest home with a green stucco facade set on a quite street on the northern edge of Miami’s Little Havana. Around the abbreviated front yard was a low chain-link fence with a latch gate. On the patch of grass to the right of the walkway was a small white status of the Madonna and Child and set in front of it as if part of a shrine, a slab bench. Closer to the walkway was a flower planter in the form of a small concrete ship. Dripping terms and bromelia hung from the edges of a white aluminum awning shading its tiled front porch. Hung on the varnished wood front door was an old–fashioned promotional device from Schlitz Brewing, the kind you used to see cluttering neighborhood saloons. It was a wooden plaque with a brass coat hook on top and, below that, a brass plate with a “Ship’s Time” pie chart. The home exuded a comfortable unpretentiousness, bereft of the fancy iron scrollwork and fancy trim which adorns the domiciles of many of Miami’s wealthier and more socially prominent Cuban exiles. You would not guess the Veciana home to be that of a man of historical importance.

It would be another month before I could talk with Antonio Veciana. Shortly after he had put me on his visitor’s list and I had made arrangements to go to Atlanta, he was told that he would be getting an early parole. Learning that, I decided to wait until he came home. I was in no hurry, I didn’t think it of pressing importance and I had plenty to keep my very busy.

While I was waiting, I tried to do what little background checking I could into Veciana and Alpha 66. There was not much in the newspaper files about Veciana’s early years. He was 31 years old when Castro took power in 1959, and accounting graduate of the University of Havana. In his early 20s, he was considered the boy wonder of Cuban banking and rose to become the right-hand man of Cuban’s major banker, Juko Lobo, the millionaire who was also know as the “Sugar King” of Cuba.

Alpha 66 emerged early in 1962, with Veciana its founder and chief spokesman. It seems to receive more press attention than other militant exile groups because it appeared better organized, better equipped and consistently more successful in its guerilla attacks and sabotage operations. Strangely enough, the group’s military leader, Major Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, was not considered among the more right-wing exiles, rather a political liberal. (Menoyo was eventually captured by Castro on a daring raid into Cuba and still remains in prison there.) Alpha 66 was the Cuban exile group which particularly seemed to taunt President Kennedy. Not content to limit its assaults against Cuba and Castro’s forces, it also attacked any foreign ships supplying Castro and conducted assassination raids against Russian troops in CUBA. Long before the missile crisis, when Kennedy’s policy was to maintain a separate U.S. stance toward Russia and CUBA, Alpha 66 seemed bent on attempting to provoke a direct conflict between Russia and the United States.

Later when Kennedy went to a special conference in Central America to rally support of those Latin countries behind his Cuban policy, Alpha 66 deliberately created an international incident by attacking a Soviet freighter in the Cuban port of Isabela de Sugua. To acerbate the situation, Veciana conducted a special news conference for the international press in Washington detailing the attack and calling on Kennedy to take further direct action against Russia. The New York Times noted: “Hit-and-run attacks by Cuban exiles against Soviet ships in Cuba are causing dismay and embarrassment in the Administration.”

At the height of the missile crisis, when Kennedy was in the midst of delicate negotiations with Khrushchev to keep World War III from erupting, Alpha 66 continued its raids into CUBA and Assaulting on Castro’s patrol boats. “We will attack again and again,” announced Veciana. After the crisis, when Kennedy had issued a directive to Federal law enforcement agencies to halt all anti-Castro raids and shut down exile training camps, Alpha 66 defied the ban by continuing operations secretly and even attacked British merchant ships in Cuban waters. A lead editorial in the Times warned than: “NO matter how much we may admire the anti-Castroism that motivates its actions, this group is nevertheless dangerously playing with the laws and the security of the United States.”

One serene morning 13 years later, the relative incongruity of its all struck me as I approached this cozy green home on a quite street in Little Havana — with its peaceful status of the Madonna gazing across its lovely flowered lawn — to see the man who was once at the vortex of such international turmoil and attention. It was a beautiful blue-sky Florida winter morning, the sun comfortable warm, a nice breeze blowing from the southeast. I thought I’d like to be sailing.

I had contacted Veciana as soon as I learned he was released on parole. The only image I had of the man was from and old newspaper clipping, a much young Veciana, the dreaded anti-Castro terrorist, his face contorted in anger as he sneered a declaration of defiance. And he was, indeed, a well-known exile terrorist who, in an attempt by the U.S. Government to put a check on the actions of Alpha 66, was once ordered confined to the county limits.

The man who opened the door to the small green home appeared as little like a menacing terrorist as one can imagine. He was, in fact, a very soft-looking man, fairly tall, with a smooth, full face, wavy black hair and warm dark eyes. He was not at all muscular, but had a certain heft, a pearish paunch. He was casually but neatly groomed with pressed dark trousers and a fresh white guyabera — actually, nondescript attire in Little Havana. But what struck me most when I first me Veciana — and perhaps this is something one would notice more in Miami — was his pallor. He had been released for a few days, yet it was still very much a prison pallor — which is something that comes from more than just not being in the sun, something that has to do with the spirit. The prison was still in Veciana’s eyes. We sat in the small front living room, which could very well have been set in South Philadelphia: Two Spanish Provincial couches, one red and one green, fitted with clear plastic covers; large individual portrait photographs of each child adorning one wall, a coffee table between the two couches with a gild-framed formal family portrait propped in the center, crocheted doilies on the end tables.

As soon as I saw Veciana I knew that he could not have been directly involved in the Odio incident. He simply did not match the description of any of Silvia’s visitors. In addition, Veciana has a large and noticeable mole or birthmark over the right side of his mouth. Later, when I asked Veciana about the Odio incident, he said he knew Amador Odio and his daughter but knew nothing about the incident. That, I thought, knocked out the theory that Hoch and O’Toole had advance in their Post article.

When I first sat down with Veciana, I told him exactly what I had told his son: I wanted to talk with him in general about the relationship of the U.S. intelligence agencies with the anti-Castro CUBAN groups. I said nothing of my interest in the Kennedy assassination and, since Schweiker had gotten relatively little press attention in Miami compared to the headlines than being made by the Church Committee, there was little reason for Veciana to assume that was my priority.

Although Veciana said he would answer any questions I had, there was an initial defensiveness in his attitude. “I will tell you what you want to know,” he said, “but I am worried about certain things that can be used against me.” He said he did not understand certain things that happened which he believed are connected with his going to prison. He said he had gone to prison on a drug conspiracy charge. He said he would talk with me only if I could assure him that any information he provided would not be used against him.

That puzzled me a bit, but I assumed he was concerned about some United States laws he may have broke n during the course of his anti-Castro activity. I assured him our talk would be confidential and not be made public. I felt I could trust Schweiker to back me and keep that promise, and Schweiker did; b ut I didn’t realize then that once something is thrown into the political hopper that is the Federal bureaucracy, its ultimate use is dictated by political ends. At any rate, Veciana accepted that assurance. In his own way, I later came to learn, he himself was anxious to use me. Just released from prison, uncertain and confused about what had happened to him, he took my arrival as an opportunity to establish a defense against any other actions which might be taken against him. That would come clear to me only much later. I asked Veciana to start with some general background about himself and how he had gotten involved in anti-Castro activity. He said that as president of the association of certified public accountants in Cuba he had always been interested in politics. He was among the leaders of a group of professional association presidents who had secretly worked on Castro’s behalf during General Batista’s reign. As a result, when Castro took over he was asked to join the government as a top echelon finance minister. HE turned the offer down, he said, because he had a good position in CUBA’s major bank, but he did know and worked closely with Castro’s highest ranking government officials.

It was the inside knowledge of what was going on within the government, Veciana said, which gave him an early indication that Castro was really a Communist. His disillusionment grew as time when on and soon he was talking with a few very close friends about working against Castro. The, he said, certain people came to him and started talking about eliminating Castro. For some reason, the way Veciana put that made me think of the letter Paul Hoch had sent to Schweiker raising the possibility that the CIA may have been involved in that bazooka attempt on Castro’s life which Veciana planned. I asked him if any of the people who spoke with him about elimination Castro were representatives of the United States Government. Well, said Veciana, that was something he had never spoken about before, but there was an American he dealt with who had very strong connections with the U.S. Government.

For the next hour and a half, I questioned Veciana about this American who became, it turned out, the secret supervisor and director of all his anti-Castro activities. It was this American, who told Veciana his name was Maurice Bishop, who not only directed the assassination attempt of Castro in Cuba in October, 1961, but also the plan to kill Castro in Chile in 1971. Bishop, said Veciana, was the one who suggested the founding of Alpha 66 and guided its overall strategy. Bishop was the one who pulled the strings when connections with the U.S. Government were needed and when financial support was needed and who involved Veciana not only in anti-Castro activity but anti-Communist activity in Latin America as well. He worked with Veciana for 13 years.

I was fascinated by what Veciana was revealing and knew I had stumbled upon something important. Bishop obviously was an intelligence agency connection — a direct connection — to an anti-Castro group. The CIA had always denied — and still does — a supervisory role in the activities of anti-Castro groups after the Bay of Pigs. The Agency claimed it only “monitored” such activity. Here was Veciana, the key leader of the largest and most militant anti-Castro group, revealing much more then just a monitoring interest on the Agency’s part — revealing, in fact, an involvement in two Castro assassination attempts the CIA had not admitted to the Church Committee. I wonder how the guys at the committee would handle this one, I remember thinking to myself, if they gave a damn now that they were frantically trying to wrap up their final report.

It was all fascinating but not especially relevant to the Kennedy assassination. I could see no connection with Veciana’s activities in Miami and what had happened in Dallas, although Veciana did say his secret meetings with Bishop took place, over the years, in cities besides Miami, including Dallas, Las Vegas and Washington, and in Puerto Rico and Latin America. However, when Veciana started talking about chapter of Alpha 66 he had set up across the country, it gave me the opportunity, with out making reference to the Kennedy assassination, to asked him about he one in Dallas. He told me he had spoken at some fund- raising meetings at the home of the Alpha 66 delegate there. I asked him I he knew Jorge Salazar. That was the name mentioned in theat Dallas deputy sheriff’s report about the gathering of Alpha 66 members at “3126 Hollandale.” But I did not mention that to Veciana, nor that Lee Harvey Oswald was reportedly seen there. “No,” said Veciana, “I do not know the Salazar that is mentioned is the magazine article in Dallas. And I never saw Oswald at the home where we met.” I was taken back that Veciana should mention Oswald at all, but then I realized, as Veciana himself would point out to me when he went back to his bedroom and returned with the magazine, that the Hoch and O’Toole article had been published in The Saturday Evening Post. Veciana said he had just read the article the day before. “…No,” he was saying , “I never saw Oswald at that place where we held the meetings….” I was jotting that down in my notebook and was not looking at him, but I heard him continue…” “…but I remember once meeting Lee Harvey Oswald.” I did not look up. My mind fell off its chair. I restrained myself from reacting with a ridiculously overly casual, “Oh, recall I simply asked in a forced monotone: “How did you meet him? Where? When?” Veciana said he met Oswald with Maurice Bishop in Dallas sometime near the beginning of September, 1963. There, in that modest green house in Little Havana, almost 13 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the reality of what I was involved in suddenly struck me. The killing of a President was no longer a series of lingering mental televison images, bold black headlines, thick stacks of documents, books and files. It was something that had actually happened, and there were living people with direct strings through time to the moment. As much as the substance of the information itself, it was the absolutely coincidental and credible way it came up, the manner in wich the interview had developed, which so stunned me. First impressions are inherently circumstantial judgements, but I had no doubt then — and have none now — that Veciana was simple and truthfully revealing what he knew.

The details are what make the case. One morning in the late summer of 1960 — about a year and ahalf after Castro took power — Antonio Veciana’s secretary at the Banco Financiero in Havana handed him a business care from a gentleman, she said, who was waiting to see him. The name on the card was Maurice Bishop. Veciana does not specifically remember the name of the business imprinted on the card but now believes it may have been a construction firm headquartered in Belgium. Veciana’s first for his bank. The man who said he was Maurice Bishop did not lead Veciana to change his thought about that initially. Although he spoke excellent Spanish, Bishop said he was an American and wanted to talk with Veciana about the state of the Cuban economy and where it appears to be going since Castro took over. They talked for quite a while and then, around noon, Bishop suggested they continue their conversation over lunch. Bishop took Veciana to a fine restaurant called the Floridita once one of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes. As their conversation continued, Veciana recalls. Bishop began to express a concern about the Cuban government’s learning toward Communism and also let it be known that he was aware of Veciana’s feelings toward Castro. That surprised Veciana because he had told only a few close friends about his disillusionment with Castro’s government. (Among those he told, however, were two who it late became know had direct contact with the Central Intelligence Agency. One was his boss, Julio Lobo, who later in exile was designated to set up an “independent” front committee to raise $20 million for the return of the Bay of Pigs prisoners; another was Rufo Lopez-Fresquet, who, for the first 14 months of the Revolution, was Castro’s Minister of the Treasury and the CIA’s liaison contact with the new government.)

As their lunch continued, it became obvious to Veciana that Bishop knew a good deal about him personally. It also became obvious that Bishop was not interested in Veciana’s banking services but, rather, in recruiting him as an active participant in the then just growing movement against the government of Fidel Castro and Communism. “He tried to impress on me the seriousness of the situation,” Veciana recalls. Veciana was ready. Through his contacts high in government, he had long ago come to the conclusion that Castro, by moving toward tighter control than Batista ever had, was a betrayer of the Revolution. Veciana had come despise Castro. He told Bishop that he was willing to work with him against Castro. Bishop offered to pay him for his services. Veciana told him that he did not need to get paid to fight against Castro put when the job was over, if Bishop insisted, they could settle accounts then. In the summer of 1960, Veciana did not think it would take very long to topple Castro.

Because it appeared so obvious to him at that first meeting, Veciana asked Bishop if he worked for the U.S. Government. “He told me at the time,” Veciana would later recall, “that he was in a position to let me know for whom he was working or for which agency he was doing this.” There were several meetings after the initial one as both Veciana and Bishop got to know one another better. Finally, Bishop told Veciana that he would like him to take a “training program” in order to better prepare him for the work ahead. This turned out to be a series of nightly lectures and instruction which were given in a nondescript office in a building which Veciana recalls as being on El Vedado, a commercial strip. He remembers seeing the name of a mining company in the building and, on the ground floor, a branch of the Berlitz School of Languages. In addition to Bishop, who would attend on some evenings, Veciana was instructed by a man he remembers only as “Mr. Melton.” Although he was given some technical training on the use of explosive and sabotage techniques, Veciana’s lessons dealt mainly in propaganda and psychological warfare. “Bishop told me several times,” Veciana recalls, “that psychological warfare could help more than hundreds of soldiers, thousands of soldiers.” Veciana was also trained in various techniques of counterintelligence, surveillance and communications. The thrust of his training, however, was to make him proficient not as a guerilla operative but as higher-echelon planner and supervisor. As Veciana put it: “The main purpose was to train me to be an organizer so I was supposed to initiate a type of action and other people would be the ones who would really carry it out.”

The training sessions lasted only a few weeks. By that time, Bishop and Veciana were concocting various schemes to undermine Castro’s regime. With Veciana’s contacts in the upper levels of government, several plots were evolved to discredit key Communists and funnel the government’s own money into the hands of anti-Castro guerillas. In one instance, Veciana successfully schemed to get Castro’s top aide, “Che” Guevara, to sign a $200,000 check which, unbeknownst to him, went to the underground. Veciana also set in motion a propaganda program which results in the destabilization of the Cuba currency and the creation of public distrust in its value.

Meanwhile, at Bishop’s direction, Veciana began taking a more active role in the organized underground movement. “Bishop always wanted to be kept informed about what was going on with the various groups,” Veciana told me. With his supervisory training and technical expertise, Veciana soon became chief of sabotage for one of the largest underground groups, the Moviemento Revolucionario del Pueble, formed by Manuel Ray and the predecessor of JURE. Like others in the underground movement, Veciana also had a few “war names.” One he employed frequently was “Carlos.”

Although Maurice Bishop refused to acknowledge to Veciana any connection with the U.S. Government, he apparently was familiar with certain personnel in the American Embassy in Havana. Before the Embassy was closed in January, 1961, Bishop suggested that Veciana contact specific individuals there in order to get direct assistance and supplies for the anti- Castro movement. Bishop, however, asked Veciana not to mention his name or the fact that he was sent by an American. Nor did Bishop indicate whether or not the contacts he suggested were intelligence agents.

One of the American Embassy personnel Bishop suggested Veciana contact was named Smith. At the time, the American Ambassador was Earl E. T. Smith, a wealthy socialite who would later become the multi-term mayor of Palm Beach and whose wife, it was well known in that town, had a special relationship with John. F. Kennedy. Veciana said, however, theat Earl Smith was not the one he contacted; rather it was a Smith who was a young man then and whose first name might have been “Ewing,” as Veciana initially recalled it.

Another individual Veciana remembers contacting at the Embassy was a “Colonel Kail.” Kail, who was in the Army, told Veciana the U.S. Government could not directly support him in any way. Kail said, however, could be of assistance with the issuance of passports and visas for plotters who wanted to escape. The American Embassy closed shortly after Veciana last talked with Kail.

According to Veciana, Bishop left Cuba before the Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961. He says he had not met with Bishop for some months prior to it. However, after the Bay of Pigs, Bishop returned to CUBA. Probably, Veciana learned, with a Belgium passport. Veciana recalls that he and Bishop had long discussions about what happened at the Bay of Pigs. He says Bishop told him that Kennedy’s failure to provide air support was the crucial factor in the failure of the operation. Bishop obviously felt a terrible frustration about that because, according to Veciana, “At the theme Bishop decided that the only thing left to be done was to have an attempt on Castro’s life.”

The assassination of Fidel Castro was something that Veciana and Bishop had discussed before. Earlier that year, Russia’s first spaceman, Yuri Gagarin, had visited Castro and Veciana had suggested an attempt at that time, but Bishop, who always seemed critically aware of the propaganda repercussions of any scheme, rejected the idea. “He said that it would cause too much trouble between the United States and Russia,” recalls Veciana.

It was decided that an appropriate opportunity to kill Castro would be when he made a public appearance on the balcony of the Presidential Palace at a scheduled ceremony in early October, 1961. Veciana had his mother-in-law rent an apartment on the eighth floor of a building within range of the balcony and then made arrangements for her escape to the Untied States by boat on the day before the planned attempt. (He had flown his wife and children to Spain as a precaution as soon as he had begun plotting.) He then recruited the action men to do the actual shooting and obtained the weapons. (Availability of weapons was not a major problem to the anti-Castro underground as a result of the supply air-dropped by the U.S. prior to the Bay of Pigs.) The apartment was stocked with automatic rifles, grenade launchers and a bazooka. A massive firepower attack was planned so that all of the key Castro aids who appeared on the balcony with Fidel would be killed.

A short while before the scheduled attempt, Veciana learned he had long been under suspicion by Castro’s intelligence agency, the DGI. His cousin, Guillermo Ruiz, who was a high-ranking DGI officer, asked him why he had been seen visiting the American Embassy. Veciana said it was only to see about obtaining passports for some friends. Ruiz said if that was the case then he had been using the wrong entrance. Veciana took it as a warning that he was still being watched. Bishop also told Veciana that he had information that Castro’s intelligence agents suspected him of subversive activity and that he should consider leaving CUBA.

The bazooka attack never came off. Fearing the DGI had learned of the plot, the firing team fled the apartment. And, indeed, the DGI did know that something was going to happen, but it was only later that it found the apartment and seized the weapons.) However, the night before the planned attack, when Veciana was to place his mother-in-law aboard her escape boat, it was discovered that the landing site was under heavy surveillance and the boat could not come into the dock. Because his mother-in-law couldn’t swim, according to Veciana, he had to push her into the water and swim out to the boat with her. At that point, he says, he decided it was too dangerous to return to shore and that he would go with her to Miami. Veciana was not in Miami very long before Maurice Bishop was back in touch with him. (He would not have been difficult to find in the close-knit exile community even if Bishop did not have access to official Immigration records.) Soon there were meeting regularly and planning strategy to continue the fight against Castro. The result was that founding of Alpha 66 which, according to Veciana, was Bishop’s brainchild. (The name was a collaboration: Alpha was meant to symbolize the beginning of the end of Castro; the 66 represented the number of fellow accountants Veciana recruited at the start of his anti-Castro activities.

While Veciana established himself as Alpha 66’s chief executive officer, spokesman and fund-raiser, he recruited as the organization’s military leader former Rebel Army officer Major Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo. A daring soldier, Menoyo had the reputation among Cuban exiles of being a socialist. Veciana says that Bishop expressed some doubts about his loyalty, but Veciana knew Menoyo and convinced Bishop he could be trusted. Veciana never told Menoyo about Bishop but believes today that Menoyo may have suspected he had some guidance from someone.

With strong management direction, clever use of propaganda techniques, sophisticated control of the media, organizational skill in fund-raising and special expertise in locating weapons caches and planning military operations, Alpha 66 soon rose to the forefront of the numerous anti-Castro exile groups. Veciana was all over the place, buying guns and boats, recruiting and organizing training sites, making fiery speeches, issuing public communiques proclaiming numerous successful raids into Cuba. At one point, Veciana announced he had a war chest of $100,000 and that ll the major exile organizations were backing Alpha 66’s efforts. And except for one minor slip which no one paid any attention to at the time, Veciana gave not a hint to his Alpha 66 associates that there was an American behind the scenes guiding his strategy. However, at a press conference recorded in The New York Times on September 14, 1962, Veciana announced a series of forthcoming Alpha 66 attacks and, in passing, added that the planning was being done by those “I don’t even know.”

According to Veciana, the special headaches that Alpha 66 created for President Kennedy before and during the Cuban missile crisis were deliberately planned by Maurice Bishop. The timing of the raids on Cuba at the height of the missile crisis when Kennedy was in delicate negotiating with Khrushchev was Bishop’s idea. SO was a special press conference in Washington after the crisis, when Veciana announced that Alpha 66 had just successfully attacked a Russian ship in a Cuban harbor and engaged in a firefight with Russian troops. The conference was planned at the time Kennedy was in Costa Rica trying to gain Latin American support for his new Cuban policy. “The purpose was to publicly embarrass Kennedy and force him to move against Castro,” Veciana now admits. Although Bishop was not present at the press conference, Veciana says he arranged for two high-ranking government officials, one in the Department of Health and one in the Department of Agriculture, to attend to give it more legitimacy in the eyes of the press. And it did, indeed, get the publicity that Bishop had planned. The Government, said The New York times, “was embarrassed by the incident,” and noted that Kennedy’s party in Costa Rico telephoned several times for reports on the situation. ALTHOUGH Maurice Bishop often suggested specific tactical moves, he was more concerned with the overall strategy of Alpha 66 and Veciana’s anti-Castro activity. As such, he was far from in constant contact with Veciana. In fact, Veciana never saw him ore than a dozen or so times in any one year.

The understanding between them — arrived at very early in their relationship — and the arrangement they had for meetings was right out of a standard operating procedures manual of a covert operative. Although an unspoken trust developed, there was no true personal relationship between Bishop and Veciana, no private matters were discussed that did not bear upon their mutual anti-Castro mission. (That, I’ve come to learn, may say less about Bishop than it does about Veciana. In the four years I’ve known Veciana, the numerous times I’ve been at his home and among his family, the conversation inevitably returns to his passion, Cuba politics and anti-Castro activity.)

Every meetings was instigated by Bishop. That was the arrangement, Veciana said, that was made at the beginning. Bishop would call and set the time and place of the meeting. Usually it was in a public place, on a particular corner or in a park where they would walk and talk. Veciana remembers meetings in Havana, however, which took place at a country club and, once, in an apartment across the street from the American Embassy. Later, however, if Veciana was in another city, Bishop would come to his hotel. The majority of his meetings with Bishop over the years were in Miami and Puerto Rico, where most of Alpha 66’s operational planning took place. Veciana assumed that Bishop would fly in for these meetings because often Bishop would meet him in a rented car. Over the years, meetings with Bishop took place also in Washington, Las Vegas and Dallas and, during a period when Veciana had a job in South America, in Caracas, Lima and La Paz.

During the most active period of Alpha 66’s operations, Veciana was constantly on the move, hectically in turn with the action and, for security reasons, not very visible. At that time, Veciana told me, he made arrangements whereby Bishop would be able to find out where he was at any moment. A third party, someone Veciana trusted implicitly, was designated as the link. Although Veciana did not tell this third party who Bishop was or of the relationship with him. He always made sure this party knew his whereabouts and left instructions on how Bishop could reach him if he called. Veciana told me this third party was not a member of his family, but did not want to reveal the name. He said this intermediary did not know Bishop, was only contacted by telephone and therefore would be of no help in locating or identifying Bishop. There was no need to get this third party involved now, he said. I later found out this third party was a woman.

I always took the fact that Veciana volunteered the existence of an intermediary as a strong indication of his credibility. I later also learned that his reasons for wanting to protect her identity were legitimate: She had not been actively involved in anti-Castro politics and so could provide no additional information in that area; she had a husband and family now she was concerned about protecting; and she was now a Government employee who, if Bishop still had any connections, might be vulnerable to whatever kind of pressures that could be applied. It took me three years to find out the identity of this third party. Whether or not she could have been a factor in identifying Bishop, she was in a position to confirm Veciana’s credibility. What later happened when I finally discovered her identity revealed a significant insight into the House Assassinations Committee’s investigation and those who controlled it.

In his biographical revelations of his Cuban operational days, CIA operative E. Howard Hunt recalled his first meeting with his project chief, a fellow he gave the phoney “real” name of Drecher: “Drecher then told me,” Hunt writes, “he had adopted the operational alias of Frank Bender in his dealings with the Cubans whom he told he was the representative of a private American group made up of wealthy industrialist….” Hunt revealed that he also used that same cover story. From the spate of published memoirs now pouring from the typewriters of former CIA officers, it appears to have been a fairly typical line employed by operatives with their covert contacts in whatever country they seemed to be working. It was an effective enough cover, and sufficiently credible to account for the huge amount of funding the operative usually had available. It was the same cover story that Maurice Bishop used. “He would tell me,” Veciana recalls, “that, you know, there are some other people, some very wealthy businessmen, who would like to get rid of Castro also.” He would never be any more specific than that.

Yet down through the years it was obvious that Maurice Bishop’s range of contacts and ability to get strings pulled went beyond those of a private individual or independent group. There was one especially revealing meeting that Veciana had with Bishop shortly after Veciana left Cuba. Bishop called and asked Veciana to meet him on a downtown Miami street corner. They walked about for a while talking. Bishop spoke about how the fight against Castro might be more difficult and longer than they had first envisioned, how he and Veciana would have to work very close together and how they must develop a mutual trust and loyalty. Veciana agreed. Would Veciana, Bishop asked, be willing to sign a contract to that effect. Of course, said Veciana. Bishop then led Veciana to the Pan American Bank Building, a five-story office structure in the heart of Miami’s business district. Veciana recalls only that they took an elevator and that Bishop had the key to an unmarked office door. The office was spartanly furnished with only a desk and a few chairs, but Veciana does remember an American flag standing in one corner.

There was no one in the office when Bishop and Veciana entered. Bishop, however, went through another door and returned with two men and some papers. Bishop asked Veciana to read the papers and sign them. Veciana believes the documents he signed were contracts and loyalty oaths. He was not given copies. He recalls that in the contract was a space for a salary figure and that, according to his original agreement with Bishop, was left blank. Veciana now describes the incident was a “commitment” ceremony. “It was a pledge of my loyalty, a secret pledge,” he says. “I think they wanted to impress on me my responsibility and my commitment to the cause.” Today he cannot recall the specific description of the two men present nor if the was introduced to them. He believes they were just witnesses. (I later checked the directory of the Pan American Bank Building for that period Veciana talked about, but there were so many CIA business fronts of all types in Miami at the time it was invalid to consider one more suspect, although the building had a few import- export firms. It also had, in nine separate offices on four different floors, branches of four Federal agencies, including Treasury, State Department and Health, Education & Welfare offices. Temporary use of any Government office could have easily been arranged by Bishop. As a Federal investigator, I often made use of other agency offices when I traveled, arranged by just a telephone call in advance.) What also struck Veciana was Bishop’s knowledge of other covert activity the CIA was then associated with and of individuals the Agency was using as contacts or, in the CIA’s term, “assets.” For instance, at one point Bishop asked Veciana to monitor an operation that led the code name of Cellula Fantasma. “Bishop told me it cost the CIA $3000,000 for that operation,” Veciana says. It was basically a propaganda operation that involved leaflet drops over Cuba. Veciana attended a couple of meetings of the group planning the action and reported back to Bishop. One of those involved was Frank Fiorini Sturgis. “At that time,” Veciana recalls, “I remember Bishop saying to me about Fiorini that he wasn’t just another soldier, he was more than that.”

At another time, a friend of Veciana’s who had good contacts in the New York social scene, arranged a meeting for him with an American, a member of the New York Racquet Club, who, in turn, reportedly had good contacts with both some wealthy potential anti-Castro contributors and with high government officials. Veciana met with the American and later told Bishop about it. Bishop told him not to bother further with the guy because he was a CIA asset and, besides, he was a drunk. Veciana concluded that Bishop did, indeed, know the fellow because the guy almost drank himself under the table at their meeting. (I confirmed Veciana’s story about this when I found the American, now living in Palm Beach. Although he said he never knew a Maurice Bishop, he admitted his contacts with Veciana and with the CIA, HE was a regular at Palm Beach’s most popular social watering spot, the Ta-boo.) Veciana had considered the possibility that Bishop worked for an intelligence agency other than the CIA. Among the most active monitoring anti-Castro activity was the Army Intelligence section. What Veciana specifically recalls, however, was being contacted in 1962 in Puerto Rico by an American who called himself Patrick Harris. From a series of long conversations with him, Veciana came to the conclusion that he was Army Intelligence. Harris told Veciana that he might be able to provide some support for his anti-Castro activities, but first wanted to make an inspection trip of Alpha 66’s operational base in the Bahamas. Veciana eventually came to trust Harris and did provide him and a couple of associates a tour of the base, over military chief Menoyo’s objections. Harris never did come through with any aid. “I told Bishop about that,” Veciana now says, “and he told me not to bother with them, that they could not help me. He was right.”

In 1968, Maurice Bishop helped Veciana get a job with the U.S. Agency for International Development, working in La Paz, Bolivia, as a banking adviser to Bolivia’s Central Bank. It was a very good paying job and his checks came directly from the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington. “I was very surprised I was hired because I was a known terrorist,” Veciana says today. “The State Department, which hired me, once ordered me confined to Dade County because of my anti-Castro activity. Then in La Paz they put my office in the American Embassy. For sure, Bishop had very good connection.”

Veciana worked for the Agency for International Development for four years, receiving more than $31,000 a year to provide advice to Bolivia’s budding banking industry. (It had since been reported that the CIA has used the AID as a front in other instances, once got one of its own proprietary companies a multi-million dollar AID contract to train Thailand’s border police.) Veciana says, however, he did very little bank advising during the entire four years. Instead, he spent almost all his time involved in anti-Castro and anti-Communist activities directed by Bishop.

The fact that Bishop was interested in more than just knocking off Castro is significant. It discredits the possibility, for instance, that Bishop’s backing came from a group of disenfranchised capitalists, or even Organized Crime gambling Czars, singularly intent on getting their Cuban holdings back. In addition, the typ of anti-Communist scheming which Bishop had Veciana carry out incorporated sophisticated counter-intelligence and psychological warfare techniques which would be employed by someone with a strategic overview. Veciana, for instance traveled around Latin America — with Bishop providing expenses — involving himself in propaganda ploys aimed at the character assassination of leading Communist politicians or weakening the financial stability of Left-leaning governments. (once, when I was questioning Veciana about Bishop’s apparent competency based on his failures to assassinate Castro, Veciana simply smiled slightly and said, “No, we did not kill Castro, but here were many other plans, many other plots that did work.” He did not want to elaborate.)

Early in 1971, Bishop told Veciana that Castro would probably be making a state visit to Chile some time later that year. He suggested that Veciana begin planning another assassination attempt. “He told me,” Veciana says, “that it was an opportunity to make it appear that the anti-Castro Cubans killed Castro without American involvement.”

Veciana set up his planning headquarters in Caracas. It was a natural. There the Venezuelan bureaucracy is deeply infiltrated by both anti-Castro Cubans and the CIA. There Veciana knew an experienced and effective group of plotters to join him, including two veteran terrorists willing to take on the daring mission of actually doing the shooting. The plan as it evolved was, on the surface, relatively simple. It became known that toward the end of his visit to chile Castro would have a major press conference with as many as 400 journalists, including radio and television reporters. Press credentials for the two designated assassins would be obtained from a Venezuelan televison station and, although there would be tight security, their weapons would be smuggled into the conference room inside a television camera.

Maurice Bishop had a major role in setting up the operation, according to Veciana. Bishop provided the weapons and made arrangements with top leaders in the Chilean military – – which would be providing Castro security at the conference — for the assassins to be immediately grabbed and arrested by Chilean soldiers before Castro-s own body guards could kill them. Bishop told Veciana that he would also arrange their escape for Chile later. At the time, of course, the head of the Chilean government was the democratically elected Leftist President Salvador Allende. Two years later, in September, 1973, Allende would be overthrown in a military coup d’etat. It has since become known that Allende’s disposal was supported and heavily financed by the CIA and a few American multinational corporations, chiefly International Telephone and Telegraph. At one point, the CIA set up a super-secret Chile task force to work against Allende.

The attempt to assassinate Castro in Chile failed because at the very last moment the two designated shooters decided that they would never get out of the conference room alive. They did not believe that Veciana had made arrangements for their capture. Veciana could not, of course, tell them of Bishop or how the arrangements had been made. Ironically, other anti-Castro Cubans who Veciana had recruited in Caracas to help him in setting up the plot, had also all along not believed that Veciana could arrange an escape for the shooters. So they decided, without Veciana’s knowledge, to plan a sub-plot based on the assumption that the shooters would be immediately caught and killed themselves. Why the existence of the sub- plot later came to light, Veciana say, it produced the crack that eventually led to the end of his relationship with Maurice Bishop in 1973.

Among the associates Veciana says he recruited in Caracas were two veterans of the war against Castro, Lucilo Pena and Luis Posada. Both have backgrounds, I later learned, as action men. Pena is the general director of a major chemical firm and has excellent social and business contacts. He had once been involved in Alpha 66’s “Plan Omega,” a plot to invade Cuba from a base in the Dominican Republic.

Luis Posada’s background, I would discover, is even more intriguing. When I interviewed him in 1978, he was in jail in Caracas, having been arrested with probably the most well-known exile terrorist, Dr. Orlando Bosch, for lowing up a Cubana Airlines plane that killed 73 persons, including many Russians. He was a veteran of the Bay of Pigs, a member of JURE, a former Lieutenant in the U.S. Army (where he took intelligence staff officer courses), a former agent for the CIA and, until his arrest, the owner of a very successful private detective agency in Caracas. In 1971, when Veciana was working with him, he was chief of security and counterintelligence in the Venezuelan secret police.

According to Veciana, it was Pena and Posada who provided all the necessary credentials and documents which enabled the selected assassins to establish their false identities and get into place in Chile. What they also did without telling him at the time, says Veciana, was plant phony documents o that the trail of the two who were going to assassinate Castro would lead, if they were caught and killed themselves, to Russian agents in Caracas. It was an elaborate sub-plot. Lengthy but false surveillance reports were slipped into the files of the Venezuelan secret police indicating that the Cubans were seen meeting with the Russian agents, one of whom was a correspondent of Izvestia and the other a professor at the University of Central Venezuela. Also in the file were manufactured passports, diaries and notes allegedly found in one of the assassin’s hotel room and indicating his contact with the Russian agents. In addition — and the most damaging evidence — was a photograph showing what appeared to be one of the assassins leaning into a car window and talking with one of the agents. Actually, the photo was of another Cuban who closely resembled the assassin. Without being told the reason for it, this double was instructed to stop the Russian agent’s car as he left his home in the morning, lean in and ask him for a match. A telephoto shot was taken of his encounter.
As incredible as this aspect of Veciana’s story is, those documents and photographs, I would later confirm, do exist.

Following the failure of the assassination attempt, Maurice Bishop learned of the existence of this sub-plot for the first time. According to Veciana, he was furious. He accused Veciana of taking part in the planning of it or, in the very least, knowing about it and keeping it a secret from him. Veciana insisted then, as he does still, that he was unaware of the secondary scheme. He says Bishop eventually told him, after he investigated further, that he believed him, but that in any future operations the scare of his early suspicion would linger. Bishop said that, considering the type of operations in which they were involved, a relationship that was less than totally trustworthy would be no good. He suggested that they sever their relationship.

I believe there was more to it than that. It appears that Veciana may have become more aggressive and fanatic in his determination to kill Castro than Bishop cared for him to be. At the time, Veciana was insisting on taking further terroristic actions — indeed, may have already instituted some steps himself — and scheming more dangerous assassination attempts. Bishop perhaps feared that Veciana was getting a bit out of hand and had to be cut off. In fact, Veciana himself believed for a while that Bishop had something to do with his going to prison, that it was both a warning to keep his mouth shut and to desist from independent scheming. That was a key factor in Veciana’s decision to tell me about Maurice Bishop.

At any rate, when Bishop told Veciana he would like to sever their relationship, he also said he thought that Veciana deserved compensation for working with him down through the years. Because Veciana had rejected the idea of getting paid to fight Castro, Bishop had only provided him with expense money when Veciana traveled or was involved in a special operation. Now Bishop insisted that Veciana be compensated for the 13 years he had worked with him.

It was July 26th, 1973. Veciana recalls commenting to his wife when he got home that afternoon on the irony of the dat and its association with Castor’s own movement. Bishop had called. He asked Veciana to meet him in the parking lot of the Flagler Dog Track, which is not far from Veciana’s home. The track was in session and the parking lot was crowded. Veciana spotted Bishop waiting in a car at the designated spot. Bishop got out of the car with a briefcase. With him were two clear-cut young men in dark suits. The men stood by out of earshot while Bishop and Veciana spoke. Bishop said he regretted that their relationship had to end but that it would best for both of them in the long run. He shook Veciana’s hand and wished him luck. Then he handed him the briefcase. In it, he said, was the compensation that was due him. When Veciana got home he opened the briefcase. It was stuffed with Cash. Exactly 253,000 says Veciana. That, says Veciana, was the last time he saw or spoke with Maurice Bishop.

It is not generally known, and even Kennedy assassination buffs, those independent researchers, have not delved into it extensively because they hit a blank wall when they do, but here is a period of Lee Harvey Oswald’s stay in New Orleans which is largely undocumented. On August 9th, 1963, Oswald was arrested after distributing pro-Castro leaflets and a scuffle with Carlos Bringuier. On August 16th, he was again seen passing out leaflets in front of the New Orleans Trade Mart and was, in fact, that evening shown on televison newscasts doing it. One August 25th, Oswald was on a radio debate with Bringuier arranged by New Orleans broadcaster William Stuckey, a self-styled “Latin-American affairs expert.” Despite the fact that Oswald seemingly went out of his way to court such public attention as a Castro supporter, as soon as he got it he immediately dropped out of sight. Between August 25th and September 17th, there is no validated indication of Oswald’s whereabouts. Aside from their visit to the home of his aunt and uncle on Labor day, Marina Oswald said her husband spent this time reading books and practicing with his rifle. Down through the years, Marina Oswald’s testimony has been inconsistent, contradictory and, admittedly, false. The House Assassinations Committee found several very credible witnesses who saw Oswald during this period in Clinton, Louisiana, about 130 miles from New Orleans, during a black voter registration drive. With him were David Ferrie, who had been involved in anti-Castro activity, and New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, who had intelligence agency connections. The committee could not determine what Oswald was really doing in Clinton, but here was no doubt he was there.

The Warren Commission found certain records by which it accounted for some of Oswald’s activity during this period of late August and September. None of these records could be later authenticated and, in some instances, were discovered to be false. He reportedly visited the unemployment office, cashed some unemployment checks and withdrew some library books. The FBI could not, however, authenticate Oswald’s signature on the unemployment decrements and of the 17 firms where he said he had applied for work, 13 denied it and four did not exist. Strange also, considering Oswald’s being previously meticulous about such things, three library books returned at the end of this period were overdue. However, even in taking such records into account, there is one span of time, between September 6th and 9th, when his whereabouts is absolutely not known. Initially, Antonio Veciana recalled that it was sometime in late August or early September, 1963, when Bishop called and asked to meet him in Dallas. Later, as he gave it more thought, he said it was probably in early September, perhaps towards the end of the first week of the month.

It was not the first time that Bishop had asked Veciana to meet him in Dallas. He had met him there a number of times prior. Partially because of that, Veciana had come to suspect that Bishop was from Dallas or had some family there. More, however, he recalled the time that Bishop had sent him to talk to Colonel Kail at the American Embassy. The last time Veciana saw Kail was before Christmas, 1060. Kail said he would consider Veciana’s request for some support but he would like to discuss it further with him when he returned from his Christmas leave. Kail told Veciana he was going home to Dallas for Christmas. When Veciana reported back to Bishop, he got the impression that Bishop knew Kail, or at least his background, and that they had something in common. In my very first interview with Veciana, he said, “I think that maybe Bishop is from Texas.”

The meeting that Veciana recalls with Bishop in early September, 1963, took place in the busy lobby of large downtown office building. From Veciana’s description of its distinctive blue tile facade, it probably was the Southland Center, a 42-story office complex which, I later checked, opened in 1959. As soon as Veciana walked in, he saw Bishop in a corner of the lobby talking with a young man whom Veciana remembers as pale, slight and soft-featured. He does not recall if Bishop introduced him by name, but Bishop continued his conversation with the young man only very briefly after Veciana arrived. Together they walked out of the lobby into the busy lunch crowd sidewalk. Bishop and the young man stopped behind Veciana for a moment, had a few additional words and then the young man gestured a farewell and walked away. Bishop immediately turned to Veciana and a discussion of the current activities of Alpha 66 as they walked to a nearby coffee shop. Bishop never spoke to Veciana about the young man and Veciana didn’t ask.

On the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Veciana immediately recognized the news photographs and television images of Lee Harvey Oswald as that of the young man he had seen with Maurice Bishop in Dallas. There was no doubt in his mind. When I asked him if it could have been someone who closely resemble Oswald, Veciana said: “Well, you know, Bishop himself taught me how to remember faces, how to remember characteristics. I am sure it was Oswald. If it wasn’t Oswald, it was someone who looked exactly like him. Exacto, exacto.”

To anyone who is unfamiliar with the relationships among those who work in intelligence or government security or even, in some cases, certain areas of law enforcement, it would seem incredible that Veciana did not ask or even mention Oswald to Bishop after the Kennedy assassination. yet to those who are familiar with such relationships, it would seem peculiar if he did. One of the cardinal principles of all security operations is that information is only passed on or sought after on what is termed a “need to know” basis. Individuals working in adjoining offices at the CIA headquarters at Langley who have known each other for years, go to lunch together daily, have become close personal and family friends, may not know what the other actually does at his desk every day or what he’s working on — and would never ask. that’s the way it is. Veciana did not ask Bishop about Oswald. “I was not going to make the mistake of getting myself involved in something that did not concern me,” he says. He recalls, however, feeling very uneasy at that time. “Tat was a very difficult situation because I was afraid. We both understood, I could guess that he knew that I was knowledgeable of that and I learned that the best way is not to know, not to get to know things that don’t concern you, so I respected the rules and didn’t mention that ever.”

What increased Veciana’s fear of his possible becoming involved in the Kennedy Assassination was a visit to his home by a government agent within a few days after the murder. Cesar Diosdato ostensibly worked for the U.S. Customs Service in Key West. He was a well-know figure among anti-Castro activists in Miami because, technically, it was in the Custom Service’s jurisdiction to prevent violations of the Neutrality Act, which occurred every time an anti-Castro raiding party took off from Miami or the Keys. With a radio- equipped patrol car, the pistol-packing Diosdato, a beefy, mustachioed Mexican-American, roamed the Keys like a traffic cop monitoring the launching sites of the exile raiding groups. He didn’t however, stop them all. The word among anti-Castro raiders active during JM/WAVE’s secret war was that no group could launch an attack from the Florida Keys without permission of Diosdato. “He gave us the green light,” one former group leader told me. “Without word from him, he couldn’t go.” s a result, most of Cubans thought Diosdato was really working for the CIA. Veciana did. That’s why he became particularly apprehensive when Diosdato knocked on his door and asked him if he knew anything about he Kennedy assassination or Lee Harvey Oswald. Diosdato approached him casually. They had known each because Veciana had frequently gone to Key West to get clearance from Diosdato. It was not an “official” visit, Diosdato told Veciana. “He said he had been instructed to ask a few of the exiles if they knew anything, that’s all,” Veciana recalls.

Veciana did not ask himself why a U.S. Customers agent would be investigating the Kennedy assassination among Miami Cubans and be brought up from Key West to do it. It crossed his mind that perhaps he was being tested. In any event, he decided immediately that he was not going to tell Diosdato anything.

Several weeks later, Bishop called Veciana to arrange a meeting in Miami. At that meeting, Bishop never mentioned Oswald or their encounter in Dallas. They did speak mostly about the Kennedy assassination, its impact on the world and on their anti-Castro activities. Bishop, says Veciana, appeared saddened by it. Yet he did suggest the possibility of a strange sort of involvement. The way Veciana recalls it is this: At the time, there appeared in the newspapers stories about Oswald having met with a Cuban couple in Mexico City. Veciana recalls that the stories reported that the wife spoke excellent English. Bishop said he knew Veciana had a cousin, Guillermo Ruiz, who was in Castro’s intelligence service and who then happened to be stationed in Mexico City. Ruiz’s wife, coincidentally, spoke excellent English. Bishop asked Veciana if he would attempt to get in touch with Ruiz and offer him a large amount of money if Ruiz would say that it was him and his wife who me with Oswald. Veciana took it as a ploy that might work because, as he puts it, “Ruiz was someone who always liked money.” Bishop, he says did not specify how much Ruiz should be offered, only that it should be “a huge amount.” Veciana, however, was never able to present the offer to his cousin because Ruiz had been transferred back to Havana and Veciana could not find a safe way to contact him. When, a couple of months later, he mentioned his difficulties to Bishop, Veciana says that Bishop told him to forget it. “He told me it was not longer necessary,” Veciana recalls. And that was the last reference he or Bishop ever made to the Kennedy assassination.

In May, 1964, John A. McCone, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, provided an affidavit to the Warren Commission in which h e swore that, based on his personal knowledge and on “detailed inquires he caused to be made” within the CIA, Lee Harvey Oswald was not an agent, employee or informant of the CIA. In addition, McCone also swore” “Lee Harvey Oswald was never associated or connected, directly or indirectly, in any way whatsoever with the Agency.”

On March 12th, 1964, Richard Helms, then Deputy Director of Plans (DDP) of the CIA, met with Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Ranklin. Helms was in charge of all the Agency’s covert operations. The minutes of that meeting reveal that Helms told Ranking that “the Commission would have to take his word for the fact that Oswald had not been an agent” of the CIA.

More than 10 years later, in November, 1975, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report which concluded that CIA Deputy Director Helms had deliberately kept secret from his own boss, Director McCone, the existence of certain covert operations. In the light, the implication of what Antonio Veciana revealed for the first time on March 2nd, 1976, had historic relevance: That an individual apparently associated with the CIA had contact with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Moreover, that this CIA operative was involved in Castro assassination attempts in which, for some reason the Agency was not admitting participation.

More than three years after the initial interview, the House Select Committee on Assassinations totally discounted Veciana’s testimony. The Committee’s final report cited as one of the factors for dismissing it the fact that “Veciana waited more than 10 year after the assassination to reveal his story.” Ignoring the obvious — that assuming Veciana’s story is a fabrication raises questions more intriguing than it obliterates — the Committee’s conclusion does not take into account the circumstances surrounding the spawning of the revelations. It ignores the facts that I did not initially question Veciana and that he was not aware of my specific interest in it until later in the interview. Nevertheless, there are very valid factors governing the reason Veciana revealed his relationship to Maurice Bishop when he did – and why, later, he was less than candid about identifying Bishop.

Veciana had just spent 27 months in a federal prison on a charge of conspiracy to import narcotics. He was convinced in a New York federal court largely on the testimony of a former partner with whom he had been in the sporting goods business in Puerto Rico. The former partner, arrested with 10 kilos of cocaine, implicated Veciana. In doing so, he avoided a long jail term himself. He was the only witness against Veciana, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Veciana says, however, that the evidence against him appeared very good and that even the federal narcotics agents believed he was guilty. For that reason, he is still accumulating documentation to disprove it and, despite having served his sentence, is appealing his conviction. Given time, he says, he can destroy the evidence against him. He has already produced some documentation to back his claim.

There is absolutely no indication from any source, including the confidential records of certain law enforcement agencies, that Veciana had any association with narcotics dealing prior to his arrest. In the bitterly competitive world of Cuban exile politics, Veciana’s reputation is curiously unspotted. A former associate, now a top executive with national insurance firm, told me, “Veciana was the straightest, absolutely trustworthy, most honest person I ever met.”

At the time of the first interview, Veciana still was prison pale. He had not yet been completely paroled and had to return each evening to a release center. There was a cautiousness, a defensiveness in his attitude and an admitted confusion about what had happened to him. He was anxious to talk in detail about he case against him and seemed, at times, almost in grudging admiration of the evidence. For instance, he said, just before his trial an arsonist set fire to his property of his former partner who was going to testify against him. “I never ordered anyone to do that,” said Veciana, “but it made it look very bad for me.” He insisted that the evidence used against him at the trial was manufactured. “But it was done well enough to get the authorities to believe it,” he said. “I know because I have done that kind of work myself.”

At that time, there was a strong, clearly expressed feeling on Veciana’s part that what had happened to him was directly connected with his previous relationship with Maurice Bishop. He suggested the possibility that his final disagreement with him might have caused Bishop to take steps to put him out of action. That’s why, he said that, he was anxious to find Bishop and confront him with that possibility. The he would know. Over the months following that initial interview I watched Veciana change. Soon that early tentativeness, that cautious wariness, the shade of prison gray in his eyes began to fade as he got back into living, resumed his patriarchal confidence, began moving in his old circles and, I believe, got back deeply but very secretively into anti-Castro activity. As he did, and thought more of his experience, he began to change his feelings about Bishop’s involvement in h is going to prison. then one day he told me he was sure he had been set up by Castro agents. He still, however, said he wanted to find Bishop, although now for a different reason. Maurice Bishop could again be of some help to him. Nevertheless, Veciana’s initial feelings were confirmed in an interview with a close associated. He told his associate, confidentially, that he thought the CIA had framed him because he insisted in moving ahead with another plot to kill Castro.

The discovery of Antonio Veciana and his information could not have come at a worse time for Senator Chruch and the staff of his Select Committtee on Intelligence. Church had told the staff, which had alrady gone beyond its deadline more than once, it was gettting its obsolutely final extension, another month to finish up the Schweiker report. CHruch was chomping at the bit anxious to get into the Presidentaial sweepstakes. The Chruch Committtee had gyotten the attention he wanted with it multiple reports on assassinatin plots agains foreign leaders and illegal intelligence agency snooping and now he had other priorities.

Senator Schweiker had immediately recogniszed the significance and, as Paul Hoch had suggested, to whether or not the CIA had been totally honest with the Committee about all its Castro plots. Schwiker thought the new information was explosive enought to re-open hearings. On that, he immediately ran into a stone wall with both Chrurch and the staff leaders. Although he never let me or his own staff know it, Schweiker was obviously upset. He wasn’t concerned aobut his own report which, he felt, was already storng enough in impugning the Warren Commission’s conclusions — the first official government document to do that — he was interested in getting the information on record. In a letter to his subcommittee co-chairman Hart but obviously directed at Church and staff diretor F.O.A. schwartz, Schweiker wrote: “I feel strongly Veciana should be called to testify under oath, to evaluate his crdibility, create an official record of his allegations and examine them …. I recognize that this involves some difficulty at this stage of our proceeding, but in veiw of Veciana’s direct link to intelligence community activities subject to the Select Committee’s jurisdiction, I do not believe we can responsible refuse to evaluate his allegations.” That put the Committee on the spot. My concern, however, was less with what the Committee would do than how it would do it. I felt we had stumble upon what could possible be a totally new area of information in the Kennedy assasination investigation and that developing it should be done in a structured and comprehensive way. The committee staff had the power and resources to do that if it truly wanted to. Or it could mishandle it and possible cause doors to be locked tight forever. I called Dave Marston in Schweiker’s office to ask him what ws going to happen. “Well, I thnk they’ll do something,” he said. “I think what they’ll do is screw it up. I think they’ll go the most direct way, that is, make a official inquiry. So then there will be an official inquiry and if there is anything there it’ll be gone.”

In the long run, that’s exactly what the Committtee staff did. I was asked to bring Veciana to Washington where he was sworn in at a secret executive session. Schweiker was the only Committtee member who showed up. Veciana was sworn in and a staff attorney questioned him for less than an hour. Only the barest details of his story got on record. A transcript of the hearing would go into restricted security files. Not a word about it would be mentioned in any of the Intelligence Committee’s reports. The question of whether or not the CIA was involved in Veciana’s attempts to assassinate Castro ws not confronted. Veciana was not asked about them. Much to my frustration and that of his other personal staffers, Schweiker was scrupulous about keeping from us the details of the Committee staff’s work. Since we did not h ave security clearnace and had not signed non-disclosure agreements, we were not meant to have access to any Committee information. Yet the Committee staff itself wanted to make use of me. Since it was busy compiling its final report and I was the only investigator investingating, and so from being told, through Schweiker, what to check or who to interview, I could deduce what the Committee’s unethusiastic efforts to follow up the Veciana lead were producing.

For instance, the CIA told the COmmittee it had no employee name Maurice Bishop and no record of any agent ever using that alias. I also deduced, from a discussion with an Army Intelligence asset I had been sent to interview in New Orleans, that the CIA told the Committee that Veciana and Alpha 66 were monitored not by the Agency but by Army Intelligence. I thought this was a misdirection. I pointed out that Veciana was aware of his contacts with Army Intelligence, that they covered only a limited period of anti-Castro activities and that they were separate and distinct from his relationship with Maurice Bishop. Nevertheless, after the CIA denied an interest in Veciana, the Committee staff pursued the Army Intelligence angle up until the end.

Schweiker could see what was happening. It became apparent that if we left it to the Committee to pursue the Veciana lead it would die. Dave Newhall, Schweiker’s administrative assistant and a former investigative reporter himself, called me one day. “We just don’t seem to be able to get through to the Committee staff about the significance of this,” he said. “They’re good Wall Street-type lawyers but they don’t have street smarts and they don’t have enough background in this case. Besides, most of them are packing their bags and looking around for other jobs by now. I think we’d better start moving on our own.” It was the first indication I had that Schweiker was willing to pursue the Kennedy assassination investigation beyond the life of Select Committee and his own subcommittee. He had some leeway in that it would be a few months before his report would be officially published, since it had to be cleared by the CIA, part of the Committee’s original agreement with the Agency. But the Committee itself would no longer exist the Schweiker would be on his own, with no subpoena power or legal clout.

To his credit, and a bit against the grain of “proper” senatorial protocol, Schweiker pursued the Veciana lead for moths beyond his subcommittee’s demise and even beyond the issuance of its final report. In fact, it was only well after the Reagan strategists lured him into a sacrificial role as a Vice Presidential candidate, and convinced him that the political risks of continuing his private Kennedy assassination investigation would be too great, did he decide to drop it.


However, also to Schweiker’s credit in pursuing the Veciana lead was the fact that it was in direct contradiction to the thesis being pushed in his own subcommittee’s report. The report suggested that it was very possible that Castro killed Kennedy. The Veciana lead negated the Castro retaliation theory. In fact, what I considered a factor in judging Veciana’s credibility was his own feelings about he Kennedy assassination. I had spoken to a number of anti-Castro exile leaders, most still very dedicated and many fanatically determined to get rid of the Cuban dictator. None, I have come to believe, more deeply committed than Veciana. Yet almost to a man these exile leaders touted the same theory about the Kennedy assassination: Castro did it. They knew little of the evidence or the facts, they only knew that Castro did it. Except Veciana. Down through the years, I have discussed various theories about he Kennedy assassination with him and he has been consistent in his reaction: “I don’t think Castro did it,” he says thoughtfully. “I know Castro. He is crazy. Once, when he was down to his last 12 men in the mountains, he said, ‘Now, there is no way we can lose!’ He is crazy but he did not kill Kennedy. That would have been much too crazy. I think it was a plan, sure. “By “a plan, sure,” Veciana means a conspiracy. “Bishop would know,” he adds. “I think Bishop would know.”

The Office of a United States Senator carries, in itself, a certain amount of clout. But a Senator does not have subpoena power or the right to demand answers from anyone. Nevertheless, in terms of substantive investigative results, Schweiker’s staff would accomplish in a few months more than the House Assassinations Committee would in two years in the Veciana area. The bottom-line question blared from the beginning: Was Veciana telling the truth? There were parts of his story which would obviously be difficult, if not impossible, to corroborate. There were many other parts, however, which could be easily checked. Confirmation would in the very least, be an indication of his credibility. His background checked out, of course, as did his professional standing, his position in the Havana bank and his relationship with its owner, Julio Lobo. An official Cuban government newspaper detailed his role in the 1961 Castro assassination attempt and confirmed the details as Veciana had reported. His founding of Alpha 66 and his anti-Castro activities were part of the historical records from that period.

There were, however, a few key pieces of special significance. One of the points that Veciana himself made about the influence of Maurice Bishop and his obvious connection with the United States government was the fact that Bishop had gotten him a position with the U.S. Agency for International Development despite Veciana’s documented record as an anti-Castro terrorist. During this time, the Bishop plan to assassinate Castro was developed in Caracas. Schweiker asked the U.S. State Department to check its files. The State Department wired its confirmation from La Paz: Veciana did work as a “commercial banking expert” for Bolivia’s Central Bank, the telegram reported. His contracts were financed by the AID. They were for the salary and for the time period Veciana said they were. During this period he claimed a legal residence in Caracas.

The State Department telegram also contained, in passing, an unusual revelation. Veciana’s application for Federal employment, it noted, had an unexplainable omission: It was unsigned. There were numerous other aspects of Veciana’s story which, as I check into them, added to his general credibility. There were, for instance, a number of CIA-sponsored leaflet drops over Cuba, but only a limited number of people knew of the Celula Fantasma operation by name. One of them was Frank Fiorini Sturgis, who admitted his role in it. In Puerto Rico I found the friend of Veciana’s who put him in touch with the hard-drinking American whom Bishop obviously knew. The friend confirmed Veciana’s story. I then tracked down he American himself, now living in palm Beach. While enjoying a liquid lunch at the Ta- Boo, he acknowledged his contacts with the CIA< recalled the meeting with Veciana but said he never knew anyone named Maurice Bishop. A confidential source, a veteran of the U.S. Customs office in Miami, told me that Cesar Diosdado, the Customs Agent who questioned Veciana was, indeed, working for the CIA in Key West, as Veciana had suspected. Customs was reportedly reimbursed for his salary by the Agency. This was confirmed by another source who was close to the former head of the local Customs office. (Diosdado is now with the Drug Enforcement Administration in California.) One of the most incredible aspects of Veciana's story is his statement that he was given $253,000 in cash by Bishop at the termination of their relationship. Perhaps even more incredible, on the surface, was that he could tell me about it. Aware, however, of the circumstances in which he made that revelation, I've always felt the fact that the did tell me a key factor in assessing his credibility. He had, first of all, initially insisted on the absolute confidentiality of the interview. Before mentioned the money specifically, he again repeated the condition of confidentiality. When I asked if he could prove he had the money or what he did with it, he said he could show how he disburse it through several channels, but Senator Schweiker would have to first guarantee him immunity from action by the Internal Revenue Service. Schweiker could not to that. As a result, when Veciana's sworn testimony was taken before the Senate Select Committee, at Veciana's request that area of questioning was omitted when Veciana first told me of receiving the money, his wife, who had been doing chores around the house and occasionally rushing in to retrieve their two youngest who kept escaping from the kitchen, happened to be passing through the livingroom at that moment of the interview. "Remember," he interrupted himself to ask her in passing, "when I mentioned to you how strange that we should get that on the 26th of July." Indeed, she said, she did. Also confirmed, of course, was the fact that the dogs were running at the Flagler track that day. Another point which appeared initially to be readily checked was the existence of the two individuals at the American Embassy in Havana to who Bishop had sent Veciana: Kail and Smith. The right Smith, however, would not be discovered until he happened to pop into the news much later, during the closing days of the House Assassinations Committee. Kail I stumbled upon almost immediately. I happened to be talking with the late Paul Bethel in Coconut Grove one day. Bethel was a strong right-winger, once a Congressional candidate, author and head of the U.S. Information Agency in Havana when Castro took over. He was married to a Cuban, active in anti-Castro activities and an excellent source of information about he exile community in Miami. Many suspected he has an association with the CIA. I asked Bethel if he recalled a fellow named Kail at the American Embassy. "Sure," said Bethel. "I knew Sam well. Military attaché. I believe he's retired now, probably back home in Dallas." Sam Kail was listed in the Dallas telephone directory. When I told Veciana I had found him, Veciana said, "You know, I would like to call him. Perhaps he remembers Bishop." He suggested I listen to the call. "Do you remember me?" Veciana asked Kail after he had introduced himself. Kail seemed very hesitant and very cautions. "Well, I'm not sure," he said. "Remember," coaxed Veciana, "the last time I saw you, in December, 1960, you were going home for Christmas." Kail remembered. "Yes, I did come home that Christmas," he said. "then you remember me?" No, Kail said, he can't say that he does. "At any rate," Veciana went on, "I am trying to find a friend, the American who sent me to you. He was a big help to me in fighting Castro. Now I need to find him. Do you remember Maurice Bishop?" Kail was silent for a moment. "Bishop?" he repeated. More silence. "Bishop," he said again, as if thinking about it. Kail said that off the top of his head he didn't recall the name, but he would like to give it some thought. He said he would think about if for a day or two and then call Veciana back. Kail never called Veciana back. A couple of weeks later I suggested to Veciana that he call Kail again. Kail said he had given some thought to the name of the American that Veciana had asked him about but, try as he did, he just couldn't recall every knowing anyone named Maurice Bishop, nor anyone named Bishop who fitted the description Veciana had given. Sorry he couldn't be of any help, said Kail. During the remaining months of Schweiker's investigation, I showed Veciana more than a dozen photographs of individuals who came close to fitting his description of Maurice Bishop. Some were sent by the staff of the Select Committee and, I assumed, were mostly Army Intelligence operative. Most of the ones I dug up were individuals who, at some point or another -- but usually not more than at one point -- were in the right place at the right time and had some association with the CIA or Lee Harvey Oswald or the investigations of the Kennedy assassination. Included were a few Organized Crime figures. One who first struck me as possible being Maurice Bishop was Oswald's Dallas friend, George DeMohrenschildt. The globe-trotting DeMohrenschildt and a group of anti-Communist White Russian cohorts had befriended the Oswalds as soon as they had returned to Dallas from the Soviet Union. Down through the years, most Kennedy assassination researchers had come to conclude that DeMohrenschildt had intelligence agency ties. George DeMohrenschildt loosely fitted Veciana's verbal description of Bishop. I became a bit excited when I discovered that DeMohrenschildt was then teaching at a small school in Dallas called Bishop College. Checking further, I learned that Bishop College once had the reputation of being a hot-bed of Leftist activity and a known center of Communist agitators. However, it later became known that the college had, in fact, received major financial support from a foundation which was founded by the CIA. It appeared to be an Agency decoy. Shown a number of photographs of George DeMohrenschildt, Veciana stated flatly that he was not Maurice Bishop. Checking further into DeMohrenschildt's background, I discovered another factors which made it pretty clear that he couldn't have been. Part of the problem, initially, was that it was though to get from Veciana's verbal attempts a good handle on Bishop's physical characteristics. Veciana had known and been in contact with Bishop over a period of 13 years. The man had obviously changed and Vecian's mental image was an amalgam of those changes. Depending on when I spoke with him, Ceciana's guess at Bishop's age when he first met him in 1960 ranged from "over 35" to "under 45." He was tall, "maybe six foot," or "maybe six-foot-two." He was "very built," and "no, not very muscular," but "close to 200 pounds" or "maybe 210 pounds." It had occurred to me in listening to Veciana describe Bishop as he appeared at the many meetings down through the years that perhaps Bishop used a disguise, likely very subtle and sophisticated, which change is true appearance only slightly but effectively enough to raise some doubts about his identity in the mind of anyone who happened to see him with Veciana. Although Veciana's general description of Bishop may appear to have been a bit wavy, he did provide certain discriminating details which made Bishop a very specific character. He said, for instance, that Bishop was always a very meticulous dresser, neat and well-groomed. In his later years, he wore glasses more often, but took them off to ruminate with the stem on his lips. He was usually well-tanned, although under his eyes there was a certain blotchiness, a spotty darkness, as if from being in the sun too long. He had brown h air, given to some gray later. Generally, he was a good-looking man. At our initial meeting, Veciana seemed sincere enough when he expressed his own strong desire to find Maurice Bishop. He seemed determined then to find out if the reason for his being in prison was a result of his previous relationship with Bishop. Veciana said that as soon he was settled down and out from under the restrictions of parole and free to travel again, he was going to have an artist do a sketch of Bishop from a description he would provide. That, he said, might help him in looking for Bishop. I didn't think much about that idea until I had shown Veciana a score of photographs and gotten negative results so clearly and abruptly. Then I realized that although each of the suspects had at least one characteristic similar to Veciana's description of Bishop, a comprehensive image would have eliminated them immediately. Veciana agreed. A professionally-drawn composite sketch of Maurice Bishop would help narrow the focus. Security was one of my main concerns right from the beginning. The crazy world of Cuban exile politics in Miami has its share of fanatics as well as professional assassins, as the pattern of bombings and ambushes in Little Havana down through the years clearly shows. A few months before I first spoke with Veciana, an exile leader named Rolando Masferrer, known as El Tigre when he headed Batista's secret police, condoned the rash or bombings in a local magazine article. "You do not beg for freedom," he wrote, "you conquer it.... In the meantime, dynamite can speak in a uniquely eloquent manner...." A week later, half of Masferrer was found in what remained of his car when he tried to start it that morning. A uniquely eloquent retort. Paranoia, to one degree or other, is one of the factors anyone delving to any depth into researching the Kennedy assassination must face. Veciana himself, in insisting on a promise of confidentiality before he made his revelations, was obviously concerned about he risks involved. For the reason, we both agreed it would be prudent to have the composite sketch of Maurice Bishop done in a police department outside the Miami area. Professional composite artists work only for law enforcement agencies. I didn't, of course, want to use a Federal Agency.) Through a contact in a department in another city, I arranged for Veciana to spend most of the day with its best police artist. I had given the police artist a rough description of Bishop by telephone before we arrived so that he was able to do some general preliminary sketches to use as a base. Veciana then spent a couple of hours in tediously going through about 300 police mug shots picking out individual features from those that can closest to resembling Bishop's. "The problem," Veciana sighed as he flipped through the mug shots, "is all the individuals look like criminals. Bishop, he was a gentleman. He looked like a gentleman." Veciana's session with the police artist was particularly interesting because it caused him to focus much more intensely on Bishop's specific features. He described, for instance, a distinctive lower lip, a straight nose but not sharp, nostrils not too narrow, a face longer than it was round and, again, perhaps the most noticeable feature, a darkened area appeared a bit suntanned most of the time, the area under his eyes was almost leathery looking. It was late in the afternoon when the police artist finished a sketch that Veciana proclaimed was "pretty good." The artist himself had warned that composite sketches aren't meant to be exact resemblances of individuals. They are designed to elicit a chain of recall in witnesses and spark recollection of images which lead to some suspects eliminate others. Veciana said that the sketch of Bishop was not really what Bishop looked like, but he appeared to be satisfied that it was, as he termed it, "close." Veciana returned to Miami and the next morning I took the Bishop sketch and copies of it to Schweiker's office in Washington. Dave Marston had taken the day off to go to Philadelphia to look for a house. His nomination as U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania was before Congress and he did not lack for confidence. Dace Newhall looked at the sketch with a new fascination. "You know, it looks exactly like I thought it would from the description we were working on," he said. "I think the boss will want to see this right away." (Newhall never referred to Schweiker as "Dick," which is the way the Senator usually introduced himself. I was always bemused by Newhall's favorite term -- "the boss" -- because it was a bit of a disillusion of his own power in the office) Schweiker was attending a hearing of the Senate Health Committee, one of his permanent post, in the Rayburn Building. We got word to him and, during a break in the hearing, we huddled in a corner of the anteroom of the chamber. The Health Committee chairman, Senator Edward Kennedy, glanced quizzically at the three of us hunched over the sketch as he hurried through the anteroom. (Schweiker, as a courtesy, had written a note to Kennedy prior to his calling on the Church Committee to establish a special subcommittee to investigate President Kennedy's murder. Senator Kennedy reaction was not negative, which Schweiker interpreted as a signal to go ahead.) Schweiker looked at the sketch intensely. His first reaction was a mumbled, "That's pretty good," as if he were commenting on the quality of the art work. Then, very seriously, he said, "I've seen that face before." Newhall and I laughed. For an instance we both thought he was just being kiddingly glib with a dramatic cliche that fit the moment. But Schweiker was, in fact, being very serious. "That's a very familiar face," he said, staring now hard at the sketch. "Perhaps..maybe it was someone from Sate who briefed me on something recently. We've been getting a lot of those." He paused and thought a bit. "No, maybe not." He kept staring at the sketch. "He's very familiar," He said again. "Does it look like Harvey?" asked Newhall. William Harvey had been cited by the Church Committee as the CIA's coordinator in its Castro assassination plots with the Mafia. "No, it's not Harvey," Schweiker said. Finally he sighed, resigned at his inability to recollect the image. "I've got to get back to the hearing," he said. "Why don't you take a copy down to the Committee staff. I'll give it more thought later." The Intelligence Committee staff worked out of a sprawling arrangement of cubicles on the ground floor of the old Dirkson Office Building. Newhall and I signed in at the security desk and a staff attorney who had been working with Schweiker on the Kennedy subcommittee emerged from the inner recesses. We showed him the sketch. He looked at the photograph and nodded his head as if he in approval. "Fine," he said. "That's fine." He gave no indication that the sketch reminded him of anyone in particular. He took a copy of it and, I assumed, stuck it securely in Committee's classified files. That night I flew back to Miami. It was a Friday early in April, about a month after my first interview with Veciana. During that interval I had spoken with him more than a dozen times. I had two additional lengthy interviews with him at which I tried to extract every possible detail he could recall about Maurice Bishop. More importantly, we began to establish a certain relationship. I would drop in at his home and call him on the telephone frequently just to ask a question or two about a minor detail that may have come to mind. We also got to know each other better as we traveled back and to Washington and around Miami to those sites where he recalled meeting Bishop. From those formal interviews and informal discussions, I began to accumulate not only a structured image of Maurice Bishop as an intelligence operative -- but also a sense of the man himself as Veciana saw him. At that point, this is what I knew about Maurice Bishop: He was in Havana in the summer of 1960 when Veciana first met him. He was working undercover, probably using some business association or firm as a front. There may have been some relationship with some business in that building in which Veciana was given his training instruction, maybe with the American mining company or the Berlitz School. Bishop was obviously familiar with the personnel and their positions at the American Embassy. He appeared to be a specialist in propaganda, psychological warfare and counterintelligence, judging from his primary interests and Veciana's activities. From the character of his Spanish he was probably schooled in the language, but even before Havana he had most likely spent a good deal of time in a Spanish-speaking country. He was very intelligent, very liberated and very articulated. He was, as Veciana put it, a gentleman, perhaps from the South, more likely from Texas. The Church Committee had uncovered the fact that there had been secret operations and certain ultra-sensitive missions conducted outside the CIA's normal chain of command. Given that, Bishop may have been among a select clique with the Agency and, as such, trusted enough to be given an "unofficial" Castro assassination mission. Since Veciana's activities in the late '60s began to broaden beyond Cuban affairs and encompass other anti-Communist operations in Latin America, it also appeared likely that Bishop had moved up the Agency's executive ladder -- another indication of his having been associated with a key power group within the CIA. At the time of the Kennedy assassination, however, Bishop appeared to be particularly knowledgeable about intelligence operations in Mexico City, since he not only was aware of Oswald's activities there, he also knew that Veciana's cousin was a Castro intelligence officer stationed in Cuban Embassy. By the early '70s, Bishop had broadened his interests and contacts throughout Latin America. However, Bishop's role in the 1971 Castro assassination attempt in Chile, his ability to reach key military personnel there, indicated he had a special relationship in that country. The week before we had constructed the composite sketch of Bishop, I wrote a memo to Schweiker indicating what I initially thought would be primary areas of investigation. The memo noted: "Veciana strongly believes that Bishop had something to do with the downfall of Allende in Chile." Finally, another indication of Bishop's position in more recent years derived from the large amount of money paid Veciana at the end of their relationship in 1973. Bishop probably had to be in a position to have access to such funds and, perhaps, also have the power to cover them -- or be in association with someone who did. (It was the large amount of the final payment which reinforced the indications of a CIA association. As indicated by the cost of its JM/WAVE operations as far back as the early '60s, the Agency has always been lavish in its disposal of funds). On Sunday evening, that weekend I returned from Washington after the composite sketch was drawn, I received a called from Dave Newhall. He said he had just gotten a call from Schweiker in Pennsylvania. "The boss was driving home when he suddenly remembered who the guy in the sketch reminded him of," Newhall said. "He stopped the car and just called me from a phone booth." The sketch of Maurice Bishop reminded Schweiker of Dave Atlee Phillips, the former CIA propaganda chief of the Bay of Pigs invasion, now retired. Phillips had come before the Senate Intelligence Committee on more than one occasion. The Committee was interested especially in two phases of Phillips' career: One was as head of the CIA's task force to prevent the election of Allende in Chile" the other was in his role as chief of the Agency's unit in Mexico City responsible for sending to the Warren Commission photographs of a man erroneously identified as Lee Harvey Oswald. Phillips had announced his retirement, after 25 years of service with the CIA, in the Spring of 1975. At the time, the nation was being stirred by a barrage of press revelations about the illegal activities of the intelligence agencies. Veciana was still in prison and not yet being considered for parole. Phillips made minor headlines when he called a press conference at his retirement and announced he would lead an association of retired intelligence officers in defense of the CIA. According to Phillips, one of the major factors that led to his retirement was, as he put it, "the rash of sensational headlines in the world press that leave the impression the CIA is an organization of unprincipled people who capriciously interfere in the lives of U.S. citizens at home an abroad." He said he wanted to "straighten out the record." Newhall is usually a laconic guy, but there was an edge in his voice that evening he called to tell me about Schweiker honing in on David Phillips. "The boss thinks the resemblance is pretty damn close," he said. He asked if I could dig up an old newspaper clip of Phillip's press conference and show the photo in it to Veciana. The next morning I checked the date of the press conference, picked up a back issue of the Miami Herald and went directly to Veciana's place. He wasn't home. His wife said she didn't expect him back until evening and didn't know how to reach him. I returned home to another call from Newhall. "We've found a good photo of Phillips in the last June 23rd issued of People magazine," he said. "It did a feature about his forming that retired intelligence agents group. Do you think you can pick up a copy/" I said I would tried because the Herald photo, a wire service reproduction, was a poor one and the image a bit washed out. However, after trying several sources, I couldn't locate the particular back issue of People. The public library had already put it into a bound volume. Since it appeared that I wouldn't be able to get a reproduction of the article until the next day, I decided I would later call Veciana and ask him to join me at the public library the next morning. We could look at the magazine in the bound volume together. That evening, while waiting to talk with Veciana, I glanced at the story that had appeared in the Herald when Phillips announced his retirement. There were scant details about his background. It noted that he had early been a professional actor, had been recruited by the CIA when he edited an English-language newspaper in Chile in the early 1950s, had been assigned posts in Mexico and Venezuela and was working undercover in Cuba when Castro took over. Phillips retired before the Church Committee was formed and before the CIA had admitted to some of the activities that would later garner the Committee its headlines. In defending the Agency at his press conference, Phillips vigorously rebutted charges about the CIA which were kicking around at the time. The CIA did not financially support the strikes that led to Allende's overthrow, he declared. Also, he said, the CIA never plotted the assassination of Fidel Castro. Phillips made one final point: He said he assumed that many would claim his retirement was phony and that the association he was forming is really a CIA operation. "It is not," he declared strongly. The facts would later indicate he was wrong on at least two out of three of those contentions. When I contacted Veciana that evening he said he did not know the name of David Phillips or remember seeing photographs of the man. He said, sure, hew would come to the public library with me the next morning. "I will call Dr. Abella and ask him to come with us also," he said. "Then we can do two things." In talking with Veciana over the weeks about he Kennedy assassination, it appeared that for the first time he was becoming interested in some of the details. One day he told me he had been talking with a close friend, Dr. Manuel Abella, about the assassination. He said Abella mentioned he recalled seeing a photograph of the crowd in Dealey Plaza just prior to the assassination. He thought the photo was in Life or Look, he wasn't sure. However, Abella said, he recognized a face in the crowd of a man he knew from Cuba as a Castro agent. I had spoken with Abella and checked back issues of the magazines he suggested, but didn't find the crowd shot he described. Veciana had said that someday he would take Abella to the library and help him search for the magazine. Now Veciana saw my request to go to the library as a opportunity to do that also. The next morning, Dr. Abella, a cigar-chomping pudgy little guy, was waiting with Veciana at his home. We drove downtown to the Dade Public Library in Bayfront Park, the site of the every-burning Torch of Freedom donated by Miami's Cuban exile community. That morning there happened to a demonstration in progress at the Torch. A shouting group of masked Iranian students was calling for the ouster of the Shah. Veciana looked at them, smile slightly and shook his head. He was used to more active forms of demonstrative dissension. At the periodical desk I asked for the bound volume of People magazine with the Phillips article and for the volumes of Life and Look with issues that might have crowd photos of Dealey Plaza. We took them to the empty table at one end of the room. Veciana sat down and put on his glasses. I stood beside him and found the article about Phillips in People. There was a half- page black-and-white photo of him standing under a highway sign, obviously taken near Langley. The sign said: "CIA NEXT RIGHT." Phillips was depicted almost full-figured, casually dressed, standing with his hands in his pockets and wearing a guyabera. The resemblance to the Bishop sketch was clear: The square jaw, the distinctive lower lip, the straight nose, the forehead and yes, the darkened area under the eyes. Only the hair style was different. Veciana looked at the photo. He looked at the photo. I watched his face for some reaction but there was none. He kept starting at the photo. "Is it him?" I asked. Veciana didn't answer. His fact was totally expressionless but his eyes were intensely focused on the photo. Finally, he turned the page of the magazine. There was two additional photos of Phillips, both smaller and both showing Phillips' face less directly and less clearly. Veciana turned back to the large photo. "Is it him?" I asked again. Almost a half a minute had passed and the suspense was pressing on me. Without taking his eyes from the photo, he said, It is close." I wanted to shout at him: It is close? What the hell do you mean, it is close! Is it him or isn't it him? I didn't shout. Instead, I leaned closer and asked again softly: "Is it him?" Veciana did not take his eyes off the photo. "Does he have a brother?" he asked. The question took me aback. "I don't know," I said, but is he Bishop?" Veciana finally shook his head. "It is close, but it is not him." I remember feeling a sight of relief at the end of the suspense. "Are you sure it's not him?" I asked. "No, it's not him," Veciana said again. Well, I thought, that sounds pretty definite, and turned to the other volumes that Dr. Abella was waiting to look through. Then Veciana, still looking at the photo, added: "But I would like to talk with him." "You would like to talk with Phillips?" I asked, not quite getting his point. "Do you think Phillips is Bishop?" "No, he is not Bishop," Veciana said, "but he is CIA and maybe he could help." Maybe he could, I thought, and turned to help Abella leafing through the other bound volumes looking for that crowd shot with the Castro agent. Abella had described the photo precisely, but it was neither in Life nor Look. Then Abella said maybe it was in Argosy or True, because he remembered articles about the Kennedy Assassination in those, also. So I went to get the bound volumes of those publications and we began looking through them. Again, we had no luck, but it had taken us about 15 minutes in the searching. Veciana, meanwhile, had remained seated at the table staring at the same photo of David Phillips. Before the Schweiker investigation had come to a close, more than a dozen individuals had been considered, however fleetingly, as possible having been the man who called himself Maurice Bishop. Most of them came to attention because of having been in anti-Castro activity. The staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee continued to mostly look for Bishop in the area of Army Intelligence, despite my trying to make clear to them that Veciana knew of his contacts there and very much doubted that Bishop was with the military. (Besides being touted into Army Intelligence by the CIA< the Senate Committee staff, I would later learn, considered Veciana being referred to Colonel Kail at the American Embassy significant, since Karl was very much involved in intelligence. The staff didn't considered the possibility that some Army Intelligence personnel may actually work for the CIA.) I continued to show Veciana photographs of individuals sent to me by the Committee staff and others I dug up myself. Some, like DeMohrenschildt, bore a closer resemblance to the sketch than others, but none came near as close as David Phillips. Occasionally, Veciana himself would mention that. Sometimes he would add, "Well, you know, maybe it would help if I could talk with him." Or, "Maybe if I saw him I could tell better." Slowly I began getting the impression that his very definite negative answer when he saw the photo of Phillips wasn't all that definite. In addition, the more we dug into Phillips' background, the more the pattern of his being in the right place at the right time began to emerge. Marston and I began discussing the possibility of bringing Veciana together with Phillips in a direct confrontation. The Committee staff, however, had decided not to call Phillips back for any additional questions under oath, so whatever he did he had to do on our own and unofficially. We did not have the opportunity to have Veciana confront Phillips until September, just before Schweiker decided to close down his investigation. Between my first interview with Veciana and that time, I felt as if I were on a very fast-moving train trying to spot a smoking gun in the blur of passing woods. As the Church Committee was winding down, it became clear that only a sensational new revelation, simple and obvious enough for the public to instantly grasp its significance, could force the Committee to reopen a full-scale Kennedy investigation. The Veciana lead was a crack in the door to a new corridor, but it would take time and resources to develop it before its ultimate significance could be determined. Nevertheless, I attempted to pursue it as best I could. Over the months, I tried to locate and talk with everyone Veciana had named. We were hindered by very limited resources, since Schweiker's staff budget didn't include travel and expenses for a Kennedy assassination investigation and he could not use Committee funds for a personal staff investigator. We never did get to Julio Lobo in Spain or Lopez-Fresquet and Diosdado in California, for instance. Meanwhile, over those same months, there were other leads pressing to be pursued. Many of the Organized Crime figures who had been active in pre-Castro Havana, for instance, are now in the Miami area. The contacts I had developed began providing tips worth following up. (One Cuban exile claimed that South Florida Mafia boss Santos Trafficante had predicted Kennedy's assassination.) Other leads seemed to come from nowhere, such as when a former employee of Jack Ruby's popped up working in a Miami nightclub and told me that Ruby was afraid the Warren Commission would discover he had been running guns to Cuba. From each new lead there seemed to dangle a dozen strings which required immediate follow-up. I was kept very busy. At the end of June, the Senate Select Committee issued what it called its "Final Report": Book V - The Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Performance of the Intelligence Agencies. The press called it the Schweiker Report. Marston had air-expressed an advance copy to me the night before Schweiker was scheduled to release it at a major press conference. I thought the report was of historical significance as the first official confirmation of the invalidity of the Warren Commission Report. I objected, however, to its over-emphasizing the possibility of a Castro retaliation simply on the basis of the Warren Commission not having been informed of the CIA's Castro assassination plots. I was discussing that which Marston on the telephone the next afternoon when Schweiker returned from his press conference. Marston asked Schweiker to pick up the line. "We've got one of your standard skeptics here, Senator," he said. "I thought all our skeptics were at the news conference!" Schweiker yelled in mock anguish. I congratulated him on the report, but told him I thought the Warren Commission critics were going to have what I thought was a legitimate objection. "How could the Committee have failed to pursue the possible relationship of Oswald to the intelligence agencies," I asked, "when the Committee discovered the intelligence agencies admitted a cover-up with the Warren Commission?" "Because," said Schweiker, "they took the position that they had no relationship with Oswald. And there were no documents in their files, they said, which reveal that there was. We pressed them on that several times and each time they said they had nothing. We hit a blind alley. I don't disagree with you, but considering the type of probe the Committee was conducting and the limited access to the intelligence agencies' files, there was not much we could do about it." Schweiker was right. Considering that the Committee staff had conducted virtually no independent investigation and relied almost exclusively on records volunteered by the CIA, getting out the report that he did was a major step forward. He, at any rate, was ecstatic oat the press reception of the report. Months before he had predicted that the Warren Commission Report would "collapse like a house on cards." Now not one newsman at his press conference had challenged him on that prediction. "We have moved the whole Washington press corps from feeling I was a junior edition of Jim Garrison to now considering me a valid Warren Commission critic," he chimed. Despite the direction that the Schweiker Report had taken and the public attention it had garnered, Schweiker was anxious for me to keep quietly pursuing the Veciana lead. He said he didn't know how long he could continue such an unofficial investigation, but he felt there were still many things we could do, even on our own, before we gave up. Late in July, I wrapped up a trip to Puerto Rico and flew back into Miami International Airport. I came back with some significant pieces of new information, found a few of the witnesses I had been looking for and had a long and fruitful conversation with Manolo Ray, the head of the anti-Castro organization Veciana had originally joined in Cuba and, later, the founder of JURE, to which Silvia Odio had belonged. I was tried and dragging my way though the Miami Airport when I noticed the headline on the newsstand: Ronald Reagan had chosen Richard Schweiker as his Vice Presidential running mate. The next morning I was on the line with Troy Gustafson, then Schweiker's press secretary. (With Marston leaving for the U.S. Attorney's job in Philadelphia, Gustafson was taking over as the Kennedy Liaison.) "I imagine you've seen the papers," he said. "Were you flabbergasted?" That was a good word. "We all were," he said. "Only Schweiker and Newhall knew about it since Tuesday. Schweiker was on vacation in New Jersey when he got the call from Reagan's campaign manager who said he wanted to meet him in Washington. The Senator and Newhall kicked it around and decided it was the last chance for the moderate wing of the part. Schweiker's really psyched up about it." I wondered what it meant in terms of Schweiker continuing with a Kennedy assassination investigation. "I don't know," Gustafson said. "I haven't had a chance to discuss it with him. I know he really has a sincere passion for it but I think a lot will depend on what happens in Kansas City, whether Reagan and he get the nomination. I feel that between now and then he's going to have a gear down. First of all, he's just not going to have the time. Also, I think he's going to question the propriety of continuing it because it's automatically politicized as soon as he becomes a candidate." We decided we should continue with the investigation until Schweiker himself called us off it. By early September, however, the factors had changed. Reagan and he had not gotten the Republican nomination in Kansas City and Schweiker returned to Washington terribly depressed. I've never discussed it with him, but I believe it led him to re-evaluate his role in public life. Then, too, partially as a result of the Schweiker Report, the groundswell for a new investigation into the Kennedy assassination was beginning to take place in the House of Representatives. If that developed, Schweiker had decided he would end his efforts. One morning I received a call from Sarah Lewis in Schweiker's office. Lewis, an assistant to Gustafson, had been handling a lot of the Washington research end of the investigation. She called to tell me she had just learned that the Retired Intelligence Officers Association was going to have a major two-day conference in Reston, Virginia, in the middle of the month. That was the organization founded by David Phillips just about a year before. It had been an instant success and, within months, claimed a few hundred members. (It would later change its name to Association of Former Intelligence Officers.) David Phillips would, we assumed, be a very visible figure at the conference in Reston. It would be an excellent opportunity for Antonio Veciana to tell us for sure whether or not Phillips could be Maurice Bishop. David Phillips knew we were coming. At least he knew I was coming. Sarah Lewis had called and made arrangements for three of us to attend the major luncheon on the last day of the conference. The tickets, $6.50 each, would be in my name. Phillips said we could pay at the door. That morning, I met Veciana at the Washington National Airport. He and his wife had driven his daughter to Tampa, where she was starting college, and he had flown from there. I missed the opportunity of traveling with Veciana, which I always enjoyed. It gave me the chance to chat with him casually and I never failed to get additional insight into the man. I guess I enjoyed also being privet to the fact that this soft-faced, parish middle aged man learning comfortable back in his window seat reading the real estate section of the paper and looking like a well-dressed, mild-mannered business executive was actually one of the most fanatically dedicated anti-Castro terrorists. Occasionally, his perspective would slip through. I recall, for instance, chatting with him on one trip to Washington about he question of whether or not the CIA should be involved in domestic operations. "Oh sure, it must," Veciana said matter-of-factly. "Because then what happens if you see someone passing secrets to the enemy? He must be killed. He must." He turned back to reading his newspaper, as if there could be no argument about that. Sarah Lewis picked us up at the airport in her red Volkswagen. She was a tall, attractive young woman with short blond hair and a pleasant smile. Her research abilities had led her to an interest in the Kennedy assassination. "Phillips is expecting us," se said, "although I guess he was puzzled by Senator Schweiker's interest in the conference." Veciana smiled. Reston had been born as a model bedroom community for the Washington bureaucrat, an escape from he blight of the decaying urban core. Times change. Like Philadelphia's Society Hill, downtown Washington is now the class enclave and Reston is a massive suburban sprawl with problems of its own. But it's still oppressively neat, pretty and well-manicured. Close by the Agency's Langley base, Reston is home for a big bloc of CIA employees. The Ramada Inn also fits in. A curving complex of white stucco, the Inn is a large, modernistic structure with its own mini-convention facilities. It took us a while to find it, so we arrived late. There appeared to be no former spies lurking around the lobby, but a bulletin board directed us to Bankers' Room "B" and "C" down the center hallway. there were two large doors to the double banquet room. The one we came upon first, closer to the lobby, turned out to be to the rear of the room. That was simply because the podium and guest table had been set up at the other end of the expanded room, closer to the second set of doors further down the hallway. A luncheon ticket table, we later learned, had been set up outside the rear door, but by the time we had arrived it was gone and everyone was seated around large round tables in the banquet room. We were thinking about quietly slipping in to the rear of the room when a stocky fellow with a crew cut asked if we were from Senator Schweiker's office by any chance. he said he had been waiting for us and that three seats at Mr. Phillips' table had been kept aside. W apologized for our tardiness and followed him into the room. We could later pay for out tickets by mail. It was noisy with chatter, the cacophony of tableware and the bustle of waitresses. It was a very large crowd in a large room. We wound our way single file through a curveway of packed tables until we came to the one in the far corner of the room farthest from the door. I was ahead of Sarah Lewis and Veciana. I immediately recognized Phillips sitting with his back toward us. I wanted to be in a position to see his face and to look at his eyes when he first saw Veciana, thinking I could perhaps catch a glint of recognition. The fellow leading us tapped Phillips on the back. Phillips jumped up[, whirled around, looked directly at me and, smiling, extended his hand as he introduced himself. I watched his eyes as I shook his hand, told him my name and said, simply, that I was with Senator Schweiker's office. His eyes never left my face, although Sarah Lewis was directly behind my right shoulder and Veciana was standing alongside her. Phillips never even glanced at them. I immediately turned and said, "I'd like you to meet Sarah Lewis...." Phillips smiled a greeting and shook her hand. "....and this," I said, "is Antonio Veciana." Phillips smiled a quick greeting at Veciana, shook his hand and immediately turned back to me. "I'm glad you could come," he said, "and I'm delighted that Senator Schweiker is showing an interest, but I must admit I don't quite understand why you're here." He said it very cordially and with a nice smile, then quickly added, "...but, of course, you're most welcome." He gestured to the three empty chairs across the table. It all happened with such speed I was taken aback by the quickness of it. I thought I would be able to tell, keen observer that I deemed myself, if Phillips had exhibited even the slightest hint of having recognized Veciana. Not only did Phillips not display that slightest hint, but his eyes moved on to and off of Veciana so quickly -- in the flash of a brief handshake -- that Veciana almost became a nonentity. Strange, too, when I thought about it later, was that Phillips, when he rose and turned to greet me, did not even momentarily glance at the two people standing immediately behind me, not even at the pretty girl over my right shoulder. Was David Phillips a very honest man or a master of deception? I thought, not considering that perhaps I was making an arbitrary distinction. We sat down opposite Phillips at the three places that had been reserved for us. I sat on Veciana's left, Sarah Lewis on his right. Between Phillips and I were his wife, Gina, a pleasantly attractive woman who, I later learned, was a former secretary at the CIA, and, sitting on her right, a United Press International reporter, a bluff, red-faced fellow just back from 21 years as a foreign correspondent. Revelations about the CIA's use of the press and the fact that the Agency actually had working journalist on its payroll hadn't emerged yet and it never crossed my mind to be suspicious of this fellow. Not even when he casually asked if I were attending the luncheon for any specific reason. I sad no, I was working for Senator Schweiker and I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet and talk with David Phillips. As soon as Veciana sat down, he reach into his breast pocket, pulled out his glasses, put them on, folded his arms across his check and began studying David Phillips. Inwardly I cringed. Subtle he wasn't. For almost the entire luncheon, Veciana remained in the same position: Leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his chest, staring at Phillips. Occasionally he picked up his fork and dabbled at the food on the plate in front of him, then he would lean back again, fold his arms and look at Phillips. It obviously made Phillips very nervous. His hands were shaking noticeable. He appeared to deliberately not look at Veciana and remained in animate conversation with both his wife and the fellow to his left, a retired Navy officer, I believe. The table was very large and the room was noisy and so, at one point, when Phillips learned over the two people between us and said something to me, it was difficult to hear him. I thought he asked, again, about what particular interest Senator Schweiker might have in a conference to retired intelligence officers. I said that, really, it just gave me the opportunity to meet him and that we were working on something we thought he might be able to help us with. I suggested that after the luncheon, perhaps, we could talk about it. He nodded his head and smiled, but because of the din level I wasn't sure he caught everything I said. He turned back to chatting with the fellow on his left. Veciana kept staring at him. I kept glancing at Veciana, trying to get a reaction. I didn't want to appear too obvious by engaging him in a whispered conversation, but the suspense finally got to me and I learned towards his ear and whispered, "What do you think?" Veciana looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and turned back to staring at Phillips. I decided to survey the crowd. Perhaps, I thought, I might stumble upon someone who looked even closer to the Maurice Bishop sketch than Phillips. I don't know what I expected in terms of what a gathering of spies would look like, but this group looked more like a crowd of college professors. A lot of studious pipe-puffers. And more women than I expected. I guessed that most of them were, or had been, intelligence analysts. That, in fact, is what most CIA employees do. When the guest speaker was introduced, I turned in my chair and put my back to Phillips. Veciana moved only sideways and, I noticed, kept glancing back at him. The guest speaker was a Lieutenant General Samuel V. Wilson, the newly appointed head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A handsome, broad-shouldered soldier with wavy hair and a ruddy complexion, he wore a chest-full of colorful ribbons topped with the blue Combat Infantryman's Badge. He had seen some action. Polished, articulate, smoothly dramatic, General Wilson was out of the give'em-hell-Patton school of military speakers. His speech was a model for the occasion. It was an aggressive defense against the attacks then being launched against the intelligence community. It was an us- against-them speech. They don't realized how good we are, how sophisticated and modern our technology is; they don't appreciate the tremendous accomplishments we've had; they don't know of our successes or how often we've saved this country from possible disaster. But we are not going to take this criticism lying down; we are not going to let them forget how much they need us; we are going to show them how tough we can be. On the last point, General Wilson told a story that, as they say in show biz, brought the house down. He told of being called to testify before the House Select Committee on Intelligence. (That Committee, unlike the Senate's, had refused to be fed its research and had issued a devastatingly critical report on the sensitive area of the intelligence community's cost- effectiveness.) General Wilson noted that the Committee was chaired by "the Honorable Otis G. Pike, the Congressman from Suffolk County, New York." He dripped a measure of acid cynicism over each slowly enunciated syllable. the audience chuckled appreciatively. On the appointed day of his testimony, General Wilson said, he decided to arrive at the hearing room early to assess the situation, "as any good intelligence officer would." He sat down at the table and opened his briefcase. The TV cameras and the lights were being set up. He began shuffling through his papers when "the Honorable Otis G. Pike the Congressman from Suffolk County, New York" entered the room. The Congressman had decided to arrive a bit early also, said the General, and went directly to his big, black, high-backed Committee Chairman's seat in the center of the rostrum above him. For a fleeting moment, said the General, he felt almost as if he were in a traffic court, but as he sat there shuffling through his papers, with the TV lights now bright on him and "the Honorable Otis G. Pike, the Congressman from Suffolk County, New York," looming from the rostrum above him, it brought to mind the story of this little old lady he knew back in his hometown of Hill, Virginia. It seems, said General Wilson, that this little old lady had a lifelong fear of visiting the dentist. She possessed an ungodly, horrific apprehension of the drill invading her mouth. She never went to the dentist in h er life. But one day, with advancing age and worsening teeth, her pain overcame her fears and she found herself leaning back in the dentist's chair. And as the dentist came towards her, loomed over her and was about to put the whirling drill into her mouth, he suddenly stopped cold. His eyes widened and his face froze in shock. "Madam," he finally managed to gulp, "may I ask you, please, why you have such a firm grip on one of the most sensitive parts of my anatomy?" And, General Wilson said, as he sat in the Committee hearing room with "the Honorable Otis G. Pike, the Congressman from Suffolk County, New Your," looming above him, he thought of that little old lady's reply to that dentist: "Well, doctor, we're not going to hurt each other now, are we?" A loud round of laughter and a spontaneous burst of applause indicate that this audience very much appreciated the General's point. When General Wilson finished his speech, the audience gave him a standing ovation. I stood and clapped also. It was a helluva speech. Veciana stood but didn't clap. Probably because the General didn't say anything about the need to kill Castro. During the ovation, I took the opportunity to lean to Veciana and ask, "Is he Bishop?" Veciana removed his glasses and put them back in his packed. "No," he said slowly shaking his head, "it is not him." He paused for a moment, then added, "Well, you know, I would like to talk with him." I said I would try to arrange that. What I had in mind, once I got the confirmation that he wasn't Maurice Bishop, was to approach Phillips and directly ask him for his help. I thought I'd tell him some of the details and show him the composite sketch. I had brought a copy with me in a plain brown envelope. Phillips, however, was too fast for me. By the time I turned around he had already shot out the back door. Then I realized that as president of the association, he probably wanted to thank his guest speaker and had ran ahead so he didn't get caught in the crowd at the rear of the room. I quickly ran toward the rear door, beckoning Veciana and Sarah Lewis to follow me. The hallway was already jammed but I could see Phillips talking with General Wilson at the front door. I began trying to push my way against the flow of the crowd until I notice that Phillips, having shaken the General's hand, was moving back down the hall toward me as he chatted with another member. "Excuse me, Mr. Phillips," I said as I stopped him, maneuvering him to the edge of the flow and against the wall. "I'd like you to meet Antonio Veciana." I turned but Veciana wasn't there. I thought that he and Lewis had been directly behind me but hey had gotten caught in the crowd. It was now obvious to Phillips that I wanted to bring him and Veciana together. "Well, as you know," I said, turning back to Phillips, "I'm with Senator Schweiker and I thought you might be able to help us with what we've been working on." "What about." asked Phillips. "The Kennedy assassination," I said, a bit surprised at the question. Phillips smiled. "I'll be glad to talk with any Congressman, or any representative of Congress." Veciana suddenly appeared at our side with Sarah Lewis directly behind him. "This in Mr. Veciana," I said again. Veciana immediately asked Phillips in Spanish if he had been in Havana in 1960. Phillips answered in Spanish, yes, he was. Did he know Julio Lobo? Veciana asked. Phillips said, yes, he remembered the name. Did he know Rufo Lopez-Fresquet? Phillips said yes, then quickly asked Veciana, "What was your name again?" "Antonio Veciana." "Veciana?" Phillips repeated. "Don't you know my name?" Phillips shook his head slowly and, with apparent thoughtfulness, said, "No..." Then he turned to me and asked, in English, "Is he with Schweiker's staff?" Phillips now appeared quite nervous. "No," I said. "Mr. Veciana has been helping us with our investigation." "What investigation?" I found it strange that he didn't quite understand. "The Kennedy assassination," I said again. "That's why I thought if we could talk, I mean nothing official, just off the record if you prefer, you could be of some help. I thought...." He interrupted me with a forced smile: "I'll be glad to talk with any Congressman, or any representative of Congress." His hands were visibly shaking. Unintentionally, with the push of the crowd behind me, I had forced him up against the wall and it suddenly struck me that we had inadvertently cornered him. "Well, there's an area I thought you might help us with..." I began, thinking I could push a little. His smile was frozen. "I told you, I'll be glad to talk with any Congressman, or any representative of Congress," he repeated. Then, suddenly, he turned testy. "I'm sorry," he said, moving toward an opening, "you've caught me at a very inopportune moment. As you can see, this is all very hectic here and I'm quite busy, so if you'll excuse me...." He kept the smile on his face but I was surprised at how clearly and visibly shaken he appeared. "No," I said, "I said, "I didn't mean I wanted to talk with you now, but perhaps if I can give you a call...." This time the smile was gone and with a blatant sigh of exasperation he repeated again, now slowly and in mock rate. "I'll be glad to talk with any Congressman, or any representative of Congress. Now, if you'll excuse me..." he pushed his way between us. I retreated, thanked him for having us, told him I enjoyed the lunch and the guest speaker. He smiled again nervously, said we been most welcome and quickly moved away. Later, since I was not returning directly, we would drop Veciana off for his flight back to Miami alone. On the ride from Reston he remained strangely silent, but so did we all. What had just happened produce a weird effect. I think we were a bit stunned and dared not come to any conclusions about what had just happened until we mulled it over. What I recall most clearly now is when we were walking back to Sarah Lewis' car in the parking lot immediately after leaving Phillips. It was a beautiful day, very bright after having been inside. Veciana didn't say a word. His face was expressionless. "He's not Bishop?" I asked again. Veciana continued looking straight ahead as he walked. "No, he's not him." A long silence. "But he knows." He knows? "What do you mean, he knows?" I asked. "He knows," Veciana repeated, without further explanation. As we were waiting for Sarah to unlock the door of her Volkswagen, Veciana turned to me and said, "It is strange he didn't know my name. I was very well known." That's funny, because I was thinking exactly the same thing. For the next three months I thought a lot about what happened that day. I saw Veciana only once or twice during that period and talked occasionally with him on the telephone. He seemed not to want to discuss the incident in detail. Once, when I did bring up David Phillips' name, he said again. "He knows." When I asked, "You mean he knows who Maurice Bishop is?" Veciana nodded his head. "He knows," he said. "I world like to talk with him more." I assumed than that he meant that if he could talk with Phillips at length we would be able to solicit some clues from him about the real Maurice Bishop. I knew, from Phillips' reaction from our request to have an informal discussion with him, that was impossible. In October, Schweiker concluded he could no longer justify being involved in an investigation of the Kennedy assassination as a lone senator. Also, he was disappointed at not having been appointed to the new Senate Permanent Committee on Intelligence, the formation of which came out of the recommendation of the Select Committee. (on the surface, by the way, the formation of that Permanent Committee appeared to be a victory for those who wanted more control over the intelligence community. It wasn't. There had been four permanent Senate committees with oversight responsibilities for intelligence activity. The Select Committee's report indicated that the intelligence agencies hand these committees in their pocket and that the committees had neglected their responsibilities. Nevertheless, the intelligence community's power bloc in the Senate would not permit a new wider-powered. Permanent Committee on Intelligence to be formed unless the majority of its members came from the old oversight committees. Schweiker was cut out, even though it was his fellow Pennsylvania Republican, Minority Leader Hugh Scott, who helped select the members of the new committee.) There were two key factors which forced Schweiker to wrap up his investigation of the Kennedy assassination. One was the announcement by Senator Daniel Inouye, the chairman of the Permanent Committee on Intelligence, that the new body would continue the investigation of possible intelligence community involvement in the Kennedy assassination begun by the Select Committee. Schweiker didn't believe that it actually would, but because Inouye had made the public announcement, it left Schweiker without foundation. (Schweiker was right; the new committee made a few cursory moves than dropped the subject.) The other factor was the indication that the House of Representatives was finally being pressured into conducting its own Kennedy assassination investigation. The independent researchers had been pushing for it for years and were later joined by those who thought the Martin Luther King assassination also required a valid investigation. They were getting nowhere until Coretta King, the widow of the slain civil rights leader, went directly to the Speaker of the House and said, "I would like to know what really happened to Martin." Years ago, in reviewing a book about he Warren Commission for a small magazine called Minority of One, critic Sylvia Meagher wrote: "there are no heroes in this piece, only men who collaborated actively or passively -- wilfully or self-deludedly -- in dirty work that does violence to the elementary concept of justice and affronts normal intelligence." It didn't take long for those who examined the final report of the Warren Commission and its volumes of published evidence to conclude that its investigation was deficient. Considering the Commission's resources and the opportunities it had at the time to do a thorough investigation, its failure was, indeed, a "violence to the elementary concept of justice." Its legacy was a burning scission in this country's psyche. Finally, on September 17th, 1976, the U.S. House of Representative passed House Resolution 222 which established a Select Committee "to conduct a full and complete investigation and study of the circumstances surrounding the assassination and death of President John F. Kennedy..." The politicians may have given it legal status, but the mandate came from deep within the conscious of a nation fed up with the deceptions and confusions spawned in the wake of the assassination. When the Select Committee finally expired more than two years later, it performed the tasks it assigned itself with -- to use the phrase it so favored in its final report -- "varying degrees of competency." What it did not do was "conduct a full and complete investigation." What it did not do was respond to or even consider its higher mandate by attempting to pursue the priorities of truth with unmitigated vigor. In that failure, it, too, committed violence to something basic in the democratic system. What the House Select Committee did do -- with a high degree of competency -- was conduct a political exercise. The select Committee on Assassinations was born in the septic tank of House politics. To many members it was simply a necessary device politically inexpedient to oppose. Early in 1975, two Congressman had each introduced their own bills to reopen the Kennedy assassination. A fiery Texan named Henry B. Gonzalez, who had been a passenger in the Dallas motorcade, included in his bill probes also into the murder of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. A respected Virginia veteran lawmaker, Thomas N. Downing, introduced his bill when he developed serious doubts about the Warren Commission Report. Both bills were stuck in the Rules Committee for more than a year, until the Black Caucus put pressure on the House Leadership. The bills were then merged and the resolution passed. The seeds of dissension were early sown. Traditionally, the author of a resolution establishing a select committee is named chairman of the committee. Downing, however was a lameduck congressman who had not sought reelection in 1976. His term would expire three months after the new Committee was formed. Gonzalez, on the other hand, was a barroom- brawling Mexican-American not especially respected by the House power brokers. Thus, despite Downing's lameduck status, House Speaker Tip O'NEILL named him chairman of the Selected Committee. That really burned Gonzalez. The first month of the Committee's life was harbinger of what was to come. It immediately mired itself in internal squabbling. Downing's first choices as the Committee's chief counsel and staff director was Washington attorney Bernard Fensterwald, an early Warren Commission critic who had established a research clearing house and lobbying operation called the Committee to Investigate Assassinations. Although, after Gonzalez objected to him, Fensterwald withdrew himself from consideration, a story appear in the Washington Star headlined: "is Fensterwald a CIA Plant? - Assassination Inquiry Stumbling." It was later learned that material for the story had been leaked from Gonzalez's office. Downing and Gonzalez finally got together in early October and settled on Philadelphia's Richard Sprague as the Committee's chief counsel. Sprague had gotten national attention with his successful prosecution of United Mine Workers President Tony Boyle for the murder of UMW reformer Joseph Yablonski. In Philadelphia, where as First Assistant District Attorney he had run up a record of 69 homicide convictions out of 70 prosecutions, Sprague was known as tough, tenacious and independent. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind when I heard of Sprague's appointment that the Kennedy assassination would finally get what it needed: a no-holds-barred, honest investigation. Which just goes to show how ignorant of the ways of Washington both Sprague and I were. Early in November, Sprague had lunch with Senator Schweiker in Washington. He knew, of course, of the work of Schweiker in Washington. He knew, of course, of the work of Schweiker's Senate Intelligence subcommittee, but Schweiker also filled him in on the files his personal staff had compiled. In those files was a fat stack of informally written memos reporting what I had dug up in the field over the past year. Included were rough notes of the Antonio Veciana and Maurice Bishop area of the investigation. Schweiker, anxious to help Sprague as much as possible, arranged to turn over some of these personal staff files to him. In a letter to Sprague accompanying them, Schweiker noted: "Because of my concern for the personal safety of some of the individuals who came forth to my staff, neither my staff nor I have publicly divulged their names. I strongly urge that this confidentiality continue to be respected..." When he took the job, Sprague had done so with the stipulation that he would have complete authority to hire his own staff and run the investigation as he saw fit. He proposed setting up two separate staffs, one for Kennedy and one foe King. He insisted on handling both cases as if they were homicide investigations. In the annals of the John F. Kennedy assassination, it was a novel approach. And, judging from the reaction of many Congressman, it was a far too radical approach. Especially since Sprague was obviously serious about it, as indicated when he said he needed a staff of at least 200 and an initial annual budget of $6.5 million and then refused to guarantee that would do the job. Sprague hadn't settled into his shabby Washington office in the rat-infested, yet-unrenovated former FBI Records Building when the attacks against him began. In December, Sprague called me and asked me to come to Washington to talk with him. When I got there I found that he had turned over the material Schweiker had given him to Deputy Chief Counsel Bob Tannenbaum, a veteran homicide attorney Sprague had recruited from the New York District Attorney's Office. Tannenbaum reviewed the material and suggested that Sprague ask me to join the staff. I told Sprague I would if I could be free to pursue those areas in which I had the most background and considered the most potentially productive, especially that of intelligence agency involvement with the anti-Castro exiles in Miami. He said I could. I also suggested to Sprague that a more efficient investigation could be run if most of the investigators left Washington and operated out of field offices in Dallas, New Orleans and Miami. It was those cities which generated the most evidentiary reports in the original FBI investigation. Sprague agreed and asked one of his assistants to check into the availability of government offices in each city. I remember having lunch with Sprague and a few of his staffers that day in Washington. I talked about some of the things I had worked on with Schweiker and what I thought needed to be done. But Sprague, despite the fact that he had been on the job for more than two months, seemed still less occupied with the substance of the case than he did with other problems. He had gotten critical blasts played large in the press from a few congressman after word got around that the Committee would probably use such investigative devices as lie detector tests, voice stress evaluators and concealed tape recorders. Some lawmakers, including a couple of right-wing military establishment supporters, suddenly expressed their grave concern for individual rights and said that Sprague was threatening to trample on the civil rights of people he would investigate. At lunch that day, I commented to Sprague about the heat he seemed to be taking. Sprague shook his head. "You know, I don't understand it. I've never been in a situation like this before where I'm getting criticized for things I might do. It's nonsense, but I don't know why it's happening." I would not find out what was happening in Washington until much later. I was arranged that I would officially join the Committee as a staff investigator on January 1st, 1977. I returned to Miami and got immediately to work renewing the contacts and sources I had let lapse over the previous few months. I had accumulated file cases of documents and background material which I use to begin structuring an investigative plan. After talking with Sprague, I was now certain he planned to conduct a strong investigation and I was never more optimistic in my life. I remember excitingly envisioning the scope and character of the investigation. It would include a major effort in Miami, with teams of investigators digging into all those unexplored corners the Warren Commission had ignored or shied away from. They would be working with squads of attorneys to put legal pressure on to squeeze out the truth from recalcitrant witnesses. There would be reams of sworn deposition, the ample use of warrants and no fear of bringing prosecutions for perjury. We would cut our way through the thickets of false leads and misinformation and attack the purveyors of self-serving distortions. We would zero in on the hottest evidence and work day and night pursuing its validity. We would have all sorts of sophisticated investigative resources and, more important, the authority to use them. The Kennedy assassination would finally get the investigation it deserved and an honest democracy needed. There would be no more bull shit. Little did I know it was only beginning. What Sprague discovered when he arrived in Washington was that his first order of business was not in setting up an investigation but simply keeping the Committee alive. The Committee had been officially established in September. All congressional committees legally expire at the end of each congressional year and then, if they were mandated to continue under the terms of their originating resolutions, the new Congress reconstitutes them as a matter of course. As soon as Sprague hit Washington, however, and it became obvious he meant to conduct a true investigation, the flak began to fly. Fueled by some of the press, including the New York Times, talk started circulating that the reconstitution of the Assassinations Committee might not be as "automatic" as it was assumed. The attacks increased when Sprague announced his staff plan and budge. He did not pull either figure out of the air, but analyzed the resources that the Warren Commission had available from it own staff, the FBI, the Secret Service, the CIA and the Justice and State Departments. Sprague figured that the very nature of a truly independent investigation would preclude the use of the investigative forces of those other government agencies, especially since some of them would be under investigation themselves. With a staff of 170 and a yearly budget of $6.5 million, the Assassinations Committee would not have far more than the Warren Commission in resources. (The Commission employed 83 people but used 150 full-time agents from the FBI alone.) Nevertheless, the budget was used as the focal point for additional attacks on Sprague. HE was accused of being arrogant and disrespectful of congressional protocol. Sprague, they said, had made a "mistake" in coming on so strong. "Several people around here who are familiar with the bureaucratic game told me to first present a smaller budge," Sprague admitted. "They assured me that I could always go back later and plead for more. That's the way they o things in Washington, I was told. Well, I won't play that game." Perhaps Sprague didn't realize the power of the forces he was us against. On January 2nd, the day before the convening of the 95th Congress, there appeared in The New York Times a major story headlined" "Counsel in Assassination Inquiry Often Target of Criticism." Written by reporter David Burnham, it was an incredibly crude example of the journalistic hatchet job. It reviewed Sprague's 17-year career as a Philadelphia prosecutor strictly in terms of the controversies he had provoked. There is no doubt that Sprague's record has points worthy of valid criticism, but Burnham's piece left out the grays and painted Sprague a heavy black. Even the Philadelphia Bulletin's Claude Lewis, not particularly a Sprague fan, winced at Burnham's blatant cut job. "You can dig up dirt on anyone if you look hard enough," noted Lewis. Intended or not, Burnham's piece had the effect of a well-placed torpedo. It almost sand the Assassinations Committee. On January 4th, an attempt to get a resolution reconstituting the Committee through by a unanimous-consent voice vote failed. That meant the resolution would have to go through a lengthy bureaucratic labyrinth, including passage through the Rules Committee and a budget review exercise, before the Committee could officially be reconstituted. It would take weeks. In Miami, unaware of the behind-the scenes details, I was anxious to get rolling. I kept calling Bob Tannenbaum, the boss of the Kennedy side of the investigation. "Bob, I think it's initially important to coordinate my area with what the rest of the staff id doing," I said. "I imagine the staff is already organized into teams, but I think it's important that a program for constant communication between teams and field investigators be developed." I suggested I first come to Washington to get a better idea of staff organization. Tannenbaum agree. He was a guy in his early 30s very big beefy but fit - a former Columbia University basketball star and student radical who, rising quickly in New York DA Hogan's office, became the epitome of the quick- thinking, fast-talking prosecutor. Tannenbaum didn't want me to know how chaotic the mess was becoming in Washington. "Let me work things out on this end," he kept saying, "and we'll plan on getting together. Stay loose." Stay Loose? We were suppose to be rolling on perhaps the most important investigation in history, one of incredible scope and depth, and why the hell weren't we moving? In the next several weeks, my confusion and frustration multiplied. Even now, one can view the series of events in Washington and the behavior of some of the characters during that period as simply outrageous, unbelievably stupid and/or breathtakingly asinine. Yet, when you consider what happened in the end, the ultimate fate of Sprague and the Assassinations Committee, one wonders if all along there wasn't a preordained pattern to the course of events. On February 3rd, the House voted to reconstitute the Assassinations Committee. Temporarily. Still under sharp attack by certain conservative lawmakers suddenly turned civil libertarians, the Committee was, as the Washington Star put it, "given less than two months to justify its existence under conditions that...make it almost impossible to develop new evidence." The House, in keeping the Committee alive, provided only a maintenance budget, just barely enough to cover the reduce salaries of its staff. (Everyone had taken a 40% pay cut while waiting reconstitution.) In Miami, I was keeping myself busy, but without the guidance of a structured investigative plan all I could do was continue a scattergun approach to the leads. I continued checking out Veciana's story, pursued Bishop possibilities, dug into the activities of Santos Trafficante, Normie Rothman and other Organized Crime figured and their possible contacts with Jack Ruby, continued research into the CIA's role in anti-Castro activities and went on meeting with my sources and contacts. More and more, when fresh information or a new lead would come in, I found myself saying, "That seems worth checking. As soon as we get some help down here and this thing gets organized, I'll get back to you. ...Oh, yeah, just a few problems in Washington. They'll get ironed out. We're beginning to get organized now." I didn't realized that the chaos was just beginning. About a week after the Committee was temporarily born again, I received a call from Bob Tannenbaum. "Well," he sighed, "World War Three has started in Washington. It's Gonzalez versus Sprague. You wouldn't believe it. Gonzalez is taking back his stationary." His what? "Let me read you a letter. It's dated February 9th, 1977. 'Dear Dick. Until the Select Committee is properly organized and its rules established, a number of steps are necessary. Accordingly, I hereby request and direct that you provide me at the earliest practical time, but no later than noon Friday, February 11th, your written assurance as given verbally to the Committee yesterday that, failing to recommend necessary reductions in force, you guarantee compliance with the financial limits imposed on the Committee. ...Owing to an evident inability of the Committee in past times to adequately control the use of its letterhead and franked materials, and in the absence of any present controls on such materials, you are directed to return to me immediately any and all letterhead material bearing my name. You are reminded that no expense or financial obligation whatever may be made in my name, nor shall any vouchers or other commitment obligating the Committee to expend funds be made without my prior knowledge and personal, specific and written authorization...'" Since all congressional committees use the postal franking privileges of its chairman, and every expense voucher, travel order and most directives and requests to other government agencies are made under the chairman's signature, what Gonzalez was doing in effect, was virtually stopping the operation of the Committee. Gonzalez had been furious at not being named chairman of the Committee when it was originally formed. He automatically stepped into the post, however, when Downing retired, and the new Congress convened in January. (It was, of course, something of a Catch 22 position since the Committee, not yet reconstituted, was officially nonexistent.) Gonzalez, however, wanted more than just the title. He wanted control and power to stack the staff with his own people. Sprague wasn't about to give him that. In December, Gonzalez had told sprague that, under the formula in the Congressional Rules, the Committee could operate with a budget of $150,000 a month until it was officially reconstituted. On the basis, Sprague began beefing up his original start-up staff with new additions, all of who were put on the payroll January 1st. I was in that group. Gonzalez, however, had been mistaken about the Committee's budget. The rules actually permitted it only $84,000 a month in expense while it waited reconstitution. When Gonzalez was called on the carpet by the Rules Committee for the budget over-run, he said that Sprague had hired the new staffers without his knowledge or permission. At a meeting of the members of the Assassinations Committee on February 8th, Gonzalez repeated his charges against Sprague and ordered Sprague to fire the people he had put on the staff on January 1st. Sprague denied he had not told Gonzalez about the hiring and refused to fire anyone. The other Committee members backed Sprague. Gonzalez fumed. The next day he wrote the letter cutting off the staff's resources and demanding the return of his stationary. "And we just got another note from Gonzalez today," Tannenbaum added. "Listen to this: 'Dear Mr. Sprague. You called me at 10:10 yesterday morning. I was out. I returned the call at 11:30. You were not in. You were at a staff meeting. Your secretary said she would get you if it were important. I said, "I don't know if it's important. I'm returning his call." I hang up. I then met the President of the United States. I am the chairman. You are my employee. Do not forget that.'" Tannenbaum had a problem reading that note to me because he was laughing so hard. T he next day, I received my own letter from Chairman Gonzalez. It was a form letter to all staffers: "This is to convey to you my profound regret regarding the circumstances which surround your present employment. "There is much confusion, and I want you to understand that I am anxious to rectify this situation.... "It is highly deplorable that the person most responsible for your employment did not advise you of the possible difficulty in getting the Committee reconstituted. "As you know, I was not the chairman during the 94th Congress, but due to errors which have been made under the former chairman, it has been a long and hard struggle getting the Committee reconstituted...and it is only for a very limited basis, through March 31, and for a very limited budge... "No one likes a reduction in personnel, but...I hope that as soon as possible I will be able to convey to you what the future status of personnel will be with the Select Committee." Gonzalez did not mention that not one other Committee member had backed him on his demand that some of the staff be fired. Nevertheless, Gonzalez kept on swinging. He went to the Attorney General and emended that Committee staff members, who, while waiting for the investigation to get structured, had begun researching the FBI files, be denied access to those files. (It was probably the first time congressional history that a committee chairman wanted noncooperation.) Next, Gonzalez cut off the long-distance telephone calls, thereby isolating the only investigator -- me -- the Committee had in the field at the time. Sprague later put it succinctly: "Gonzalez went berserk." Gonzalez finally threw what he thought was his Sunday punch: He fired Sprague. In a hand-delivered letter, Gonzalez charge that Sprague "has engaged in a course of conduct that is wholly intolerable for any employee of the House," and ordered him to vacate his office by 5 p.m. that day. Gonzalez had uniformed Capital Police officers arrive at the staff offices with orders to physically evict Sprague if he wasn't out. But within a couple of hours after Gonzalez had sent the letter, the Committee's 11 members signed their own letter directing Sprague to ignore Gonzalez. What was suppose to be an investigation into one of the most significant and tragic events in this country's history had turned into, as George Lardner of the Washington Post put it, "an opera bouffe." Editorial cartoonists around the country were having a ball. "Pardon me, is this the offices of the...nice shot...House Assassinations Committee?" asked an elephant character walking in a roomful of stomping, swinging, kicking, brawling lawmakers. Then Gonzalez took that one step too far. At an open meeting of the Committee, he attacked the second-ranking Democrat, Congressman Richardson Preyer, head of the Kennedy Subcommittee. Judge Preyer, a gray-haired, soft-spoken, Southern gentleman known for his fair- minded, liberal intellect, was one of the House's most respected members. When Gonzalez began flying off the handle, Preyer suggested the Committee adjourn until some problems were ironed out. Gonzalez exploded. "I'm the chairman! I know you want to be chairman and you're trying to get rid of me!" he yelled at Preyer. According to Bob Tannenbaum, who was there: "Preyer's head actually jerked back. It looked like a shot from the front, but I was really a neurophysical reaction. It was really an embarrassing moment for the old guy." Preyer recovered and said quietly, "I do not seek the chairmanship, nor do I want it. I have a motion that we adjourn." The Committee quickly backed him and the members hurried away -- except for Gonzalez, who held an impromptu press conference at which he called Sprague "a rattlesnake." The next day I received a call from Tannenbaum. "Preyer and the other members of the Committee are going to House Speaker O'NEILL to ask him to remove Gonzalez from the chairmanship," he told me. "We're down to the final act. IF Gonzalez is not removed, we're leaving. There's no way we can go on with this man. He's gone mad." As the news filtered down to me in Miami -- through calls made on the WATS line of non- Committee telephones -- I became increasingly dumbfounded. I had read of the scandalous and ridiculous or often just petty behavior of our Washington lawmakers in so-called behind-the-scenes press reports and gossip columns down through the years and I always thought they were exaggerated or overly dramatized. But there I was, with privy to the real inside, and it was actually happening. Confronted with the unprecedented situation of committee members rebelling against their own chairman -- and a problem fought with untold dire consequences to the House's historical system of power brokerage -- House Speaker Tip O'NEILL waffled. Appearing on a Face the Nation telecast, O'NEILL said he lacked the power to remove a select committee chairman. He also said the Assassinations Committee's problems would probably be worked out and that he believed it would stay in business beyond its March 31st deadline. Cryptically confusing, perhaps, but behind the scenes there must have been some pressure brought on Gonzalez. "They tell us that Gonzalez is going to go,' Tannenbaum reported to me, "but I think the bastards are lying to us. I think what they're really angling for is a trade-off. If Gonzalez goes, then Sprague will have to go." Although it wasn't immediately apparent, Tannenbaum was right about he bastards. Chairman Gonzalez resigned from his post -- and the Assassinations Committee -- in the first week of March. He then flew home to San Antonio and gave a long, raging "exclusive" interview to hometown newsman Paul Thompson of the Express-News. The next day I received a call in Miami from Associated Press reported John Hopkins. "Have you ever been in Washington?" he asked. I said sure I've been to Washington, why? "Because Gonzalez gave an interview in Texas in which he claimed you've never been to Washington," Hopkins said. "He said he didn't know what you did in Miami and Sprague wouldn't tell him." Hopkins also told me that Gonzalez claimed that he was forced out of the investigation by "vast and powerful forces, including the country's most sophisticated criminal element." "By the way," Hopkins asked, "do you have any connections with Organized Crime?" WHAT? "In that interview," Hopkins said, "Gonzalez claimed you are supposed to have underworld connections." I had never met Gonzalez and I doubt that he knew anything about me personally. But he did know my name from the list of new staffers whom Sprague had hired. Gonzalez was making assumptions strictly on the basis of my name. That steamed me. I don't think I've been more angry in my life with someone I had never met. That night, if Gonzalez had lived in Miami, I would have blown up his car. It was nearing the end of March, 1977. Again the Assassinations Committee was due to die unless the House granted it a continuance and approved a budget for it. The resignation of Gonzalez and the appointment of a new chairman, a big, balding, low-key Black Democrat from Ohio name Louis Stokes, finally gave the Committee and its staff the chance to concentrate on the problem of survival. From its birth, the Committee had been forced into a position of having to make survival its priority. It was established in September, 1976, with a token budget and the right to live only until the end of the year. The attacks against it had delayed its being reconstituted for a month, and then it was given another token budge budget and the right to live for only two more month. At each resuscitation, the dictates of continued survival had to be met. The internal feuding naturally exacerbated the situation tremendously. The investigation of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King? Oh yeah, that's what Congress expected the Committee to be doing while it kept it in a financial armlock and permitted the Committee's own chairman to saw away at its leg. When the question of the Assassinations Committees survival did come before the Rules Committee, its Chairman James Delaney, a Democrat from New York, carped: "I'd like to know if they have anything or if this is just a plain witch-hunt. I don't know if it's a witch-hunt or not." Even House Speaker O'NEILL said at one point he thought the Committee would have to produce "something of a sensational nature" to survive. All too quickly, the lesson of the warren Commission had been lost. There could be no valid investigation of the Kennedy assassination unless there was a objective, thoroughly structured approach unencumbered by political pressures or lack of resources. But all Sprague and Tannenbaum and the other staff directors could do in the first six months of the Committee's life was concern themselves with political pressures and the question of survival. A structured approach to the investigation could not be formulated. What was needed was eyewash. The Committee had to look good. The Committee had to look as if it were making progress. The Committee had to look as if it were digging up sensational, new revelations. If it didn't, there were too many members of Congress ready to cut off its gonads for not performing. Under such conditions, it is no wonder that within the Committee staff itself problems began to arise. Tannenbaum was under pressure with Sprague to ward off the attacks from the political front. He was under pressure from having to evaluate and act upon the flood of information gushing in the from army of both legitimate researchers and misinformation purveyors while, at the same time, trying to acquaint himself with the incredibly intricate details of the Kennedy case. He was under pressure from the staff to begin a substantive investigation. And he was under pressure from Congress and the press to come up with sensational revelations. Tannenbaum became paranoid. He took a small group of staff members into his confidence and distrusted everyone else. He paranoia was reinforced when one staff member was revealed to be feeding Gonzalez reports of Sprague's confidential talks to the staff. That, plus the fact of having to live under a Damocles Sword for six months, produced a good deal of internal squabbling and pretty bickering among the staff members. There were, however, some young staffers who were legitimately concerned about the direction of the investigation and the lack of dialogue concerning the establishment of priorities when and if the Committee got funded. They began writing memos detailing their concerns and urging the implementation of their suggested courses of action. These became known among the staff as "C.Y.A." memos. For "Cover Your Ass." Isolated in Miami, without authorization or funds to go to Washington to find out what the hell was really going on, I was at least able to function a bit on my own, put up a good front with the people I was talking with and chip away in a random way at the mountain of work to be done. In Washington, the staff of investigators were, for the most part, spinning their wheels. All they could do was handle what came across the transom. Cliff Fenton, the Chief Investigator, was a former top New York homicide detective brought in by Tannenbaum. Like all the other ex-badges from the Big Apple on the Committee, Fenton was a sharp dresser. A hefty, easy-moving fellow, Fenton gave the appearance of being a mellow, rambling' type of guy who spoke with an inevitable chuckle that was indefensible contagious. I often envision him back in Manhattan shuffling easily into the lock-up with a killer in tow, the guy chuckling right along with Fenton as he was led to his cell. But Fenton was a shrewd, street-wise cop who knew only one way to handle an investigation: By putting men out to investigate. Before Gonzalez cut off authorization to travel, Fenton had sent a few of his men out to take random shots at leads that came in. They came back with enough to convince him that, if he had his way, there would be an investigation heavy with field work. Fenton never got his way. In the beginning, in fact, he had a rough time keeping his men busy in Washington. Accustomed to being on the street, they got itchy inside. But since only one or two had any background familiarity with the Kennedy case, Fenton suggested they spend their time reading the shelves of books that had been written, mostly by Warren Commission critics. It was, however, a case of the blind leading the blind. One of the best circulated around the office was a large, soft-cover volume by Texans Gary Shaw and Larry Harris. It was called Cover-up. It had a lot of pictures in it. Although the Committee had been in existence for almost six months, it was nowhere close to being able to function as an effective investigative body. I didn't fully realized that until the last days in March, just before the question of its survival would come up again on the floor of the House. Late Monday afternoon, on March 28th, I received a call from Bob Tannenbaum. The House was scheduled to voter that Wednesday on whether or not to continue the Assassinations Committee. The Committee members as well as the top staff counsel had been spending most of their time lobbying among the individual lawmakers for support. Although many of his fellow congressmen didn't care for Gonzalez, he was a member of the club. Some resent Sprague -- viewed by a least one congressman as "just a clerk" -- for besting Gonzalez in a head-to-head confrontation. That day, Gonzalez himself had been on the floor of the House ranting again about Chief Counsel's insubordination." He had even distributed a "Dear Colleague" letter to every House member urging threat the Committee be dropped. He was thirsting for revenge. I asked Tannenbaum how it looked. "It depends on who you talk to what time of the day." He did not should optimistic. "Anyway, Wednesday is the day. We'll know one way or the other." We talked about the situation for a while and then I told Tannenbaum what I was doing while waiting for the investigation to get organized. I had discovered there was a CIA agent in Dallas named J. Walton Moore. He had been there since the time of the Kennedy assassination and, in fact, was listed in the telephone book down through the years -- except during the period of the Jim Garrison investigation. On the chance that Moore might be Maurice Bishop, I asked a friend of mine, a reporter on a Dallas television station, to have a surreptitious photograph of Moore taken so I could show it to Veciana. (Moore, it turned out, did not look like Bishop. However, the CIA was informed that its agents photograph had been taken. The loose-tongued photographer my friend obtained told another newsman at the station about my request. That newsman, my friend later discovered, happened to be a CIA asset.) At any rate, I was telling Tannenbaum of my plans to have the photograph taken. I told him that Moore was additionally interesting because he had been in touch with George DeMohrenschildt, the much traveled oil consultant who had befriend the Oswalds as soon as they had returned from Russia. "By the way," Tannenbaum said. "I just got a call from the Dutch journalist, Willem Oltmans. He's the guy I was telling you about." Tannenbaum had told me about Oltmans but he needn't have. Oltmans had gotten national publicity by appearing on various television interviews and then going to Washington to tell his story to the Committee. He had befriended DeMohrenschildt and claimed that DeMohrenschildt had confessed that he was part of a "Dallas conspiracy" of oilmen and Cuban exiles with "a blood debt to settle." DeMohrenschildt admitted, Oltmans said, that Oswald "acted at his guidance and instruction." DeMohrenschildt had reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown at the time hew was talking with Oltmans, but he left a hospital in Dallas to travel with Oltmans to Europe to reportedly negotiate book and magazine rights to his story. Then in Brussels, Oltmans claimed, DeMohrenschildt ran away from him and disappeared. Now Tannenbaum told me that Oltmans had just called him from California. Oltmans said that in tracking DeMohrenschildt he had just found that DeMohrenschildt could be reached at a telephone number in Florida. Tannenbaum gave me the number. That afternoon, I checked out the number. It was listed to a Mrs. C.E. Tilton III in Manalapan. That was a small strip of a town on the ocean south of Palm Beach noted for its wealthy residents. (I would later learn that Mrs. Tilton was the sister of one of DeMohrenschildt's former wives.) I decided it would be best if I could contact DeMohrenschildt directly rather than by telephone. I planned on driving up to Manalapan the next morning. I was excited about he opportunity to talk with DeMohrenschildt and thought it incredibly fortuitous that he should turn up in South Florida. George DeMohrenschildt had to be one of the most fascinating characters who popped up in the original Warren Commission investigation. Born in Russia in 1911, the son of a Czarist official who later became a wealthy landowner in Poland, DeMohrenschildt received a doctorate in commerce from the University of Liege in Belgium. He came to the United States in 1938 and worked for Shumaker & Co, and exporting firm. He was also, he would later admit, connected with the French intelligence service. In 1945, he went to Texas and got a master degree in petroleum engineering. He then began traveling around the world as a consultant for various Texas oil companies. In 1961, he showed up at a Guatemalan camp being used by Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion. At the time, he and his fourth wife were supposedly on a walking tour of South America. DeMohrenschildt also worked for a period as a consultant in Yugoslavia for the International Co-Operation Administration. His salary was paid by the U.S. State Department under an arrangement similar to the one Antonio Veciana would later have as a banking consultant in Bolivia. DeMohrenschildt's associations were generally on the higher levels of society. His first wife was Palm Beach resident Dorothy Pierson. His second wife was the daughter of a high State Department official. His third wife was Chestnut Hill socialite Wynne Sharples, now Mrs. Peter Ballinger of Villanova. He married his fourth wife, Jeanne LeGon, in 1959 in Dallas. Her father had been director of the Far Eastern Railroad in Manchuria. Given his background, it seemed strange that DeMohrenschildt would have befriended an apparent working-class drifter like Lee Harvey Oswald. When Gary Taylor, who had been married to DeMohrenschildt's daughter Alexandra, was asked by a Warren Commission counsel if he though DeMohrenschildt had any influence over Oswald, Taylor replied: "Yes, there seemed to be a great deal of influence there." At the end of his questioning, Taylor was asked if he had any further comments that might help the Commission. "Well," he said, "the only thing that occurred to me was that -- uh -- and I guess it was from the beginning -- that if there was any assistance or plotters in the assassination that it was, in my opinion, most probably the DeMohrenschildt's." The Warren Commission did little to explore the contention. On the morning of March 29th, 1977, I went looking for George DeMohrenschildt in Manalapan. I found the Tilton home sitting on the edge of the ocean highway behind a barrier of high hedges. It look as if it belonged more in New England than Florida, a large, two-story structure of dark cedar shingles and green trim. To the rear were a series of garages with a carriage house above them. I drove directly into the wide yard beside the house. As I got out of the car, there appeared from behind the garage a tall, strikingly beautiful woman. She had smooth olive skin, deep dark eyes and long black hair. Her statuesque body was clad in a clinging black leotard. She was carrying a small towel and glowed with a sheen of perspiration. She had obviously been exercising. The woman turned out to be DeMohrenschildt's daughter Alexandra. After I introduce myself, she told me that her father was in Palm Beach and that she didn't know how to reach him. She said, however, that she was certain he would be in the evening that and that I could reach him if I called about 8 o'clock. She gave me the telephone number I already had. The only identification I had at the time as a business card with an engraved gold eagle which identified me as a staff investigator for Senator Schweiker's office. I crossed out Schweiker's name and wrote "House Select Committee on Assassinations" above it and gave her the card. She said she would tell her father to expect my call. She was cordial but direct, as if she had taken my sudden appearance there a inevitable. I would later learned that as I was talking with Alexandra DeMohrenschildt her father was in a hotel room in Palm Beach being interviewed by a freelance writer name Edward J. Epstein. Although the author of Inquest, one of the first books critical of the Warren Commission, Epstein's contacts with the CIA were considered suspicious by many of his fellow critics. In addition, it was known that Epstein was then working under a lucrative contract from Reader's Digest, a publication that had done cooperative projects with the Agency, to write a book that would suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald was an agent of Russia's intelligence service, the KGB. The drive from Manalapan back to Miami takes about an hour and a half. That afternoon I called Cliff Fenton, the chief investigator, and told him what had happened. I said I would call DeMohrenschildt that evening and probably set up an appointment to see him the next morning. "Fine, Fine," Fenton said. "Well, you just keep on it." He was obviously more occupied with he frantic efforts to keep the Committee alive when it came up for a vote before the House the next day. "This is crazy up here, just plain crazy," he said with his characteristic chuckle. "I have never seen anything like this place." About 6:30 that evening I received a call from my friend who is the television reporter in Dallas. "Funny thing happened," he said. "we just aired a story that came over the wire about a Dutch journalist saying the Assassinations Committee has finally located DeMohrenschildt in South Florida. Now DeMohrenschildt's attorney in Dallas a guy named Pat Russell, he calls and says DeMohrenschildt committed suicide this afternoon. Is that true?" The manner in which the Assassination COMMITTEE reacted to the death of George DeMohrenschildt revealed that the Committee -- six months after it was formed -- was still totally incapable of functioning as a investigative body. In reflected six months of political reality and how successful its opponents had been in keeping it distracted and off-balance. DeMohrenschildt may have been one of the most important witnesses in the Kennedy assassination investigation. Within minutes after I confirmed and notified Washington of his death, teams of Committee counsels and investigators could have been descending on the scene to begin in intensive study of what happened, slapping witnesses with subpoenas for later sworn testimony. What happened instead was that to days after the incident, a junior counsel and a recently hired investigator with little knowledge of who DeMohrenschildt even was holed up to help me for a couple of days in my frenetic efforts. If it hadn't been for the quick-thinking moves and assistance of Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Bludworth and then-Detective Chief Dick Sheets in securing some of DeMohrenschildt's documents, the Committee would have gotten no more than what the newspaper reporters did. As it were, no subpoenas were ever served and no testimony ever taken from at least two important witnesses: DeMohrenschildt's daughter Alexandra and author Edward J. Epstein. Epstein who was interviewing DeMohrenschildt just before his death, quickly flew out of Palm Beach before I could question him.) George DeMohrenschildt and returned to the Tilton home in Manalapan about four hours after I had left it that morning. Alexandra told him of my visit and gave him my card. The assassinations probe. As one of the old guard told Delaware County Congressman and Committee member Bob Edgar: "You guys dumped Gonzalez. I don't know Sprague at all, but if you don't dump him too, you guys are dead in the water." Sensing that feeling, Sprague had early offered to resign if it meant the difference in keeping the Committee alive. Chairman Stokes assured him that would not be necessary and that the Committee would stick with him. Then, in the last hours of the evening before the House vote, Stokes called Sprague to his office. Repeatedly, Stokes reviewed the situation and each time painted it in gloomier terms. Finally, near midnight, Sprague realized that despite Stokes' earlier assurances of supporting him, the ground was being shoveled out from beneath him. "Do you want me now to resign?" Sprague asked. Stokes put his head down and remained silent. Bristling, Sprague stood up. "Gentlemen," he said, "it's clear it's in everyone's best interest if I resign." He then called his secretary and dictated a two-sentence letter of resignation. Sprague drove home to Philadelphia at 2 a.m. that evening, about the time I was driving back to Miami from State Attorney Bludworth's office in Palm Beach and wondering what the hell was going on in Washington. By 8 the next morning, while I was again trying to contact someone at the Committee offices in Washington Sprague was on a plane to Acapulco. That day, after four hours of stormy debate, the House voted to continue the Assassination Committee at a budget reduced to $2.5 million for the year. The key factors that drove Richard Sprague to resign as Chief Counsel of the Assassinations Committee appeared, at the time, to be apparent and on the surface. His proposed use of certain investigative equipment, his demand for a expensive, unrestricted investigation, his refusal to pay politics with Chairman Gonzalez -- all were apparent grounds for the vociferous criticism which, in the long run, was debilitating to the Committee's efforts to get on with its job. However, after his resignation and a brief respite from the turmoil of Washington, Sprague was able to view his experience in a broader perspective. Shortly after he returned from Acapulco, he was interviewed by Robert Sam Anson of New Times magazine. Sprague admitted that, with the barrages flying at him from all directions, he and the staff had little time to actually investigate. By his reckoning, he said, he spent "point zero one percent" of his time examining the actual evidence. Yet, he told Anson, if he had it to do over again, he would begin his investigation of the Kennedy assassination by probing "Oswald's ties to the Central Intelligence Agency." Recently, I asked Sprague why he had come to that conclusion. "Well," he said, "when I first thought about it I decided that the House leadership really hadn't intended for there to be an investigation. The Committee was set up to appease the Black Caucus in an election year. I still believe that was a factor. But when I looked back at what happened, it suddenly became very clear that the problems began only after I ran up against the CIA. That's when my troubles really started." In the early months of the Committee';s life, Sprague's critics both in Congress and in the press were not only keeping him busy dodging the shots, they were also demanding that the Committee produce some sensational new evidence to justify its continuance. Sprague, therefore, was forced to take some wild swings at what appeared to be a few obvious targets. One area that very apparently needed closer examination was the CIA's handling of the initial investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald's activities in Mexico City. According to the information supplied to the Warren Commission by the CIA, a man who identified himself as Lee Harvey Oswald visited the Cuban consulate in Mexico City on September 27th, 1963. (That, by the way, the House Assassinations Committee would later conflictingly conclude, was possibly one of the dates Oswald appeared at Silvia Odio's door in Dallas.) The Agency told the Commission that Oswald had been in Mexico City from September 26th to October 3rd. During the time, said the Agency, Oswald made a number of visits to both the Cuban Embassy and the Russian Embassy attempting to get an in-transit visa to Russia by way of Cuba. The CIA also claimed that when Oswald visited the Russian Embassy he spoke with a Soviet consul who was really a KGB intelligence officer. It was later learned, however, that CIA headquarters in Washington was not informed of the incident until October 9th, and then told only that Oswald had contacted the Soviet Embassy on October 1st. The CIA station in Mexico City told headquarters that it had obtained a photograph of Oswald visited the Embassy and described the man in the photo as approximately 35 years old, six feet tall, with an athletic build, a balding top and receding hairline. When the Warren Commission asked the CIA for photos of Oswald taken in Mexico City, the ones it produced depicted the man described in the original teletype -- obviously not Oswald. Notified of this discrepancy, the CIA said simply it had made a mistake and that there were no photographs of Oswald taken in Mexico City. It never identified the man in the photos. In fact, the CIA was able to produce very little hard evidence regarding Oswald's activities in Mexico City. "For example," Commission Counsel J. Lee Ranking complained, "they had no record of Oswald's daily movements while in Mexico City, nor could they confirm the date of his departure or his mode of travels." Some Warren Commission critics would later interpret the incident as an attempt by certain CIA personnel to falsely link Oswald to Communist connections even before the Kennedy assassination. When Sprague first approached this area, he discovered that the CIA officer in charge of reporting such information from Mexico City at the time of Oswald's visit was former Bay of Pigs propaganda chief David Atlee Phillips. In the biography, The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service (published in 1977), David Phillips spends just a few pages on the Kennedy assassination and the Mexico City incident. He blames the cable discrepancy on a mistake by an underling. He explains the lack of an Oswald photography on the CIA's inability to maintain camera coverage of the Cuban and Russian embassies on an around-the-clock and weekend basis. A seemingly strange deficiency at a period so close to the Cuban missile crisis) Sprague called David Phillips to testify before the Assassinations Committee in November, 1976. According to Sprague, Phillips said that the CIA had monitored and tape recorded Oswald's conversations with the Soviet Embassy. The tape was then transcribed by a CIA employee who then mistakenly coupled it with a photograph of a person who was not Oswald. Phillips said that the actual recording was routinely destroyed or re-used about a week after it was received. Sprague subsequently discovered an FBI memorandum to the Secret Service dated November 23rd, 1963. It referred to the CIA notification of the man who visited the Russian Embassy. The memo noted that "Special Agents of this Bureau who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Tex., have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald." Sprague was intrigued: How could the FBI agents have listened to a tape recording in November when Phillips said it had been destroyed in October? Sprague decided to push the CIA for an answer. He wanted complete information about the CIA's operation in Mexico City and total access to all its employees who may have had anything to do with the photographs, tape recordings and transcripts. The Agency balked. Sprague pushed harder. Finally the Agency agreed that Sprague could have access to the information if he agreed to sign a CIA Secrecy Agreement. Sprague refused. He contended that would be in direct conflict with House Resolution 222 which established the Assassination Committee and authorized it investigate the agencies of the United States Government. "How," he asked, "can I possible sign an agreement with an agency I'm supposed to be investigating?" He indicated he would subpoena the CIA's records. Shortly afterwards, the first attempt to get the Assassinations Committee reconstituted was blocked. One of its critics was Representative Robert Michel of Illinois, who objected to the scope of the Committee's mandate. "With the proposed mandate," Michael harped, "that Committee could begin a whole new investigating of the Central Intelligence Agency!" That, says Sprague, is exactly what he intended to do. And that, he also now contends, was the beginning to his end. Richard Sprague resigned as Chief Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations on March 30th, 1977 --- six and a half months after its formation. The new Chief Counsel, Professor G. Robert Blakey of Cornell University, was not appointed until June 20th, 1977 -- more than nine months after the Committee was formed. During that entire period, the Committee staff -- contrary to its reports to Congress indicating the "progress" of its investigation -- was going around in circles. Whenever the politics and finances permitted, Chief Investigator Cliff Fenton would send some of his men into Dallas to check out a lead. Even with such a snapshot approach, the fact that more often than not they returned with evidence that hadn't previously been known or information from a witness who hadn't previously been interviewed, indicated that the Kennedy case was still, despite the years, ripe for a basic street-level investigation. But without a structured approach, with an apparatus to analyze and chart the raw data and indicate the direction of the next step, the Committee was running in place. Deputy Chief Counsel Bob Tannenbaum had been to Miami Beach on his honeymoon. His image of his Miami based investigator was of a guy in reflecting glasses sitting around the pool at the Fontainebleau, sipping a daiquiri and watching the bikinis go by. I did that, I told him, only on sunny days. Actually, I had long ago decided to move out on my own . Regularly, I sent lengthy memos detailing developments in the various areas I was looking into. Any day now, I kept telling myself, the investigation would begin and my raw date would be structured into the big picture to produce action and direction. Eventually, as the file copies of my memos grew thicker and the response from Washington grew thinner, I began getting the feeling I was being a pain in the ass. I would later learn that both Tannenbaum and Fenton were secreting most of my memos away in the back of their file drawers, fearful of information form them leaking out and each privately doubtful that nay real investigation would every start. Finally, in the middle of April, I was authorized to take my first trip to Washington since I had officially joined the Committee. I was treated like a envied celebrity, the lucky guy out in the field who kept riding through the thicket of flying arrows while the rest of the staff had been pinned down at the fort. As I was being taken through some basic bureaucratic process -- and finally getting an official identification badge -- Tannenbaum was holding a staff meeting. He returned to tell me that the staff had decided that I was the most important person on the staff in terms of any real investigating the Committee had done thus far. That was a very significant comment on the Committee's progress. Actually, the staff was in sorry shape. It had lived on the brink of the abyss for too long. Morale was horrendous and bitching was rife. Many of the junior counsel complained to me that Tannenbaum treated them like children. Tannenbaum complained to me that many of the junior counsel were children. "They can't figure out a thing for themselves," he moaned. Of course, the enforced wheel-spinning for so many months had gotten to every one. No matter what they did to keep themselves busy, they knew that, until they were officially authorize to go on and a new chief counsel appointed to lead the way they were, in fact, just keeping themselves busy. To many, however, the pits of frustration were reached when Tannenbaum ordered the staff to outline the 26 volumes of Warren Commission evidence and testimony -- an exercise of meaningless redundancy. After Sprague departed and it eventually because apparent that he wouldn't fill the chief counsel slot, Tannenbaum's attitude deteriorated. He hung on however, until Blakey settled in and then found himself a job at the Justice Department. (He's now in private practice in California.) But before he left, Tannenbaum got me what he had been promising for along time: a little help in Miami. The Miami branch of the Assassinations Committee became a two-man operation when Al Gonzalez moved down from New York in August. A former cohort of Chief Investigator Fenton's on the N.Y.P.D., Gonzales had retired as a top detective and then worked for a while for the New York State commission investigating the Attica riot. When Castro made his first visit to the United Nations in early '60s, Gonzalez was picked to be his special bodyguard. Al was a native New Yorker and not of Cuban heritage, but Fidel took a liking to him, instead he remain at his side, put his arm around him and invited him to be his personal guest in Cuba. Castro called him "El Grande." Al was about 6'4" and weight about 270. I felt a little more secure in Little Havana after Al joined me. Although I had kept in touch with Antonio Veciana after the closing of Schweiker's investigation, I called him on New Year's Day, 1977, as soon as I had officially joined the House Select Committee on Assassinations. I told him that Schweiker's office had turned my files over to the Committee and that I was not working for it. I said I thought the new House Committee would be much more effective than the old Senate Committee because it would have more resources and be very independent. It was my first day on the job. We chatted a bit and then Veciana asked if I knew that he had been called back to Washington to appear before the new Senate Permanent Committee on Washington to appear before the new Senate Permanent Committee on Intelligence. I hadn't known. "I was three days in Washington," Veciana said. "They asked me a lot of questions. There were different people there now and I think some were with the FBI. They asked me not only about the Kennedy assassination but also about the Cuban cause here in Miami, about the bombings here and what was going on." I asked whether he was questioned again about Maurice Bishop. "yes, a little," he said. "They showed me some more pictures, but they were not Bishop." We chatted a bit more and then I said that I would be back in touch shortly, as soon as the Committee got organized -- any day now. "Well, if I can help you, don't hesitate to call," he said. From his initial leeriness, Veciana's feelings about me and obviously grown to one of some trust. Two week later that trust was almost shattered. The call came from late on a Friday afternoon Troy Gustafson in Schweiker's office. "Veciana's cover has been blown," he said. "The whole story is going to be in Jack Anderson's column next Wednesday." I almost felt the blade burning deep into my back. It was a very personal reaction. Someone, somewhere had betrayed me. Gustafson told me he had just gotten a call from reporter George Lardner at the Washington Post. Lardner had seem the advance mail copies of two Jack Anderson columns which the Post was scheduled to run the following Wednesday and Thursday. Although Veciana's name was not mentioned -- Anderson called him "mysterious witness Mr. X" -- the columns detailed his entire relationship with a "Morris" Bishop. "Morris" was the erroneous way I had spelled Bishop's first name on my initial rough notes of my interviews with Veciana. Anderson obviously had copies of those notes. I was furious. I was furious at the leak and at Anderson. My old journalistic appreciation of a news scoop went out the window. Didn't Anderson have any regard for Veciana's life? Lardner, who had covered the Kennedy assassination and the intelligence community for years, had immediately recognized "Mr. X" as being Veciana. Anderson had clearly pinpointed him as the founder of Alpha 66 and the organizer of the Castro assassination attempts in 1961 and 1971. Every Cuban exile in Miami could easily identify Veciana as that person. Now Anderson was clearly marking him as a tool of the CIA and a man who, in turn, had secretly used his fellow exiles as tools of a government which, in the end, had also betrayed them. Bombs had gone off in Little Havana for less reason than that. If Anderson had copies of my original rough interview notes, they could have only come from one of four sources: From me, from Schweiker's office, from the Senate Intelligence Committee or from the House Assassinations Committee. The weight of motivation fell heavily on the last. The Committee had just failed to be automatically reconstituted and it was scheduled to clear its first key hurdle, the House Rules Committee, the following week. Certain Congressman were crying for evidence of its effectiveness. Anderson's column about the coup of "congressional investigators" undercovering a "Mr. X" who met with Oswald could be the kind of publicity boost that might push the Rules Committee into positive action. Seething with anger, I called Tannenbaum. I was taken aback at what appeared to be his genuine reaction of shock at the news. He swore that the leak did not come from him or from Sprague. In fact, he, Sprague was at that moment meeting with Schweiker and probably hearing about the Anderson columns for the first time from the Senator himself. "I really think this is an attempt to sabotage us," Tannenbaum said. "We had already gotten word that certain Senators are trying to zing us and the Senate Committee is not being cooperative at all." In the end, I could not conclusively prove to myself where Anderson had gotten copies of my rough notes. I knew for sure that they hadn't come from me or from Schweiker's office. In speaking with the staff counsel on the Senate Intelligence Committee who had recently interviewed Veciana, I was assured that they hadn't come from him either. "It's extremely damaging here," he said, "and I think blows any chance of ever getting to the bottom of the thing. Also, you know we're not going to be able to deal with the Miami Cuban community at all now. Once you blow your sources down there you're cooked." That I was well aware of and it increased my fury. There was no assessing the damage the leak could produce in my effectiveness as an investigator. Why would any of my sources trust me now? Why should Veciana ever again believe he could tell me anything confidentially? Why should be continue to cooperate at all? Setting up a meeting with Veciana to tell him about the coming Anderson columns was one of the most difficult things I ever had to force myself to do. He could accuse me of betraying him and I could not prove to him that I didn't. Veciana's reaction, however, was not directed against me. An expression of heavy concern crossed his face and it became obvious as we started to talk about it that he was extremely worried about the reaction among his close associates in the anti- Castro movement. I got the impression that he once again had become active and that his effectiveness was based on their long trust in him. "It is very bad for me," he said. "It is good that I am going away for a while." He had previously scheduled a lengthy business trip to California. Veciana and I spent the evening conjecturing about the source of the leak. He told me that he still trusted me personally and believed that I wouldn't have broken his confidence. At first he leaned toward the Senate Committee as the source because in his recent call to Washington he had been questioned by some men whose agency association he wasn't told. "Yet," he said, "the Senate and Schweiker had my information for almost a year and it was not leaked. I think maybe it was the House Committee." I eventually had to come to agree with him. In questioning Tannenbaum further he admitted he had briefed at least six of the twelve members of the Assassination Committee on the details of the Veciana story and that copies of the rough notes were put into the file system. That meant that entire staff could have had access to them. Tannenbaum, however, expressed the feeling that perhaps it was the CIA itself which engineered the leak in order to damage the Committee's credibility. "Well, if so, it was damn successful," I said. But Tannenbaum was not nearly as agitated about the incident as I and repeatedly tried to calm me down. "Well, at least Veciana's name wasn't mentioned," he said, "and at least your name wasn't mentioned. So considered the bright side and perk up a little bit. Think of the problems I have up here, and we're not even in business yet. At least you're down there in the Sunshine State. By happy, man. Hang in there!" I hung in there, but to me the leak to Jack Anderson of the Veciana story was another jolt from the black cloud of political priorities which overhung the Assassinations Committee from the beginning. The risk to Veciana's life wasn't considered, the damage to my effectiveness as a Committee investigator wasn't considered and the perhaps irreparable harm it did to substantiative progress in the investigation itself wasn't considered. Only the of the survival Assassinations Committee mattered. I would have to remember that, I told myself at the time, in dealing with my confidential sources in the future. As long as I was working for Congress, I could never again asked them for their implicit trust.. Months later, Bob Tannenbaum himself, after he had submitted his resignation and called together his closest staff associates, gave us these final words of farewell advice: "The one thing you have to remember about this town is to stick together and watch your ass." I did not meet G. Robert Blakey, the new staff boss of the House Assassinations Committee until just before Bob Tannenbaum resigned late in July of 1977. Between Sprague's departure and Blakey's arrival, Tannenbaum finally had the opportunity to attempt some structuring of an investigation. Various special projects -- such as accumulating the list of Dealey Plaza witnesses, arranging autopsy and ballistic studies, preparing photo analysis and beginning file research -- were beginning to keep the staff busy. In New Orleans, a crucial area because of Oswald's contacts there with anti-Castro Cubans. Chief Investigator Fenton borrowed from that town's police department two street-wise cops to become, with Al Gonzales and I in Miami, the Committee's only other "outside" investigators. (The New Orleans duo was an odd couple: Bob Buras was a tough ex-Marine, serious, scripture-quoting, born-again Christian; L.J. Delsa was an amiable, beer-guzzling, former undercover narc with excellent contacts in the French Quarter. Strangely, they clicked together and were early hard working and enthusiastic. They got themselves in trouble later when they gave a witness a lie-detector test without authorization. They made the mistake of thinking they were conducting a real investigation.) Late in June, I received a call from Tannenbaum. "I'm going to give you an investigative plan," he said. "I'm getting it together now." I said that was great but suggested that, first, the staff should be divided into teams and the investigative areas defined. "Yeah, that's what I'm going to do," Tannenbaum said. "Blakey starts officially on Friday and I want you to come up next week to meet him. Meanwhile, I tried to talk to him about it but instead he gave me this little book he wrote called Techniques in the Investigation and Prosecution of Organized Crime. He told me, "When I talk about an investigative plan, I want you to know my lingo.' Then he hands me this cockamamie book." The next week I was in Washington sitting in Tannenbaum's office when Blakey struck his head in the door. "Come in, Bob," Tannenbaum Called. "we're just getting a briefing of the Miami situation." Actually, Tannenbaum had been telling me about a job interview he had that afternoon at the Justice Department. Blakey strolled in, introduce himself, slouched in a chair, leaned back and put his scruffy brown loafers up on Tannenbaum's desk. Damn if he didn't look like a real Ivy League professor. He wore a baggy, pin-striped gray suit, button-down blue Oxford shirt and an archaic green slim-jim tie. He wasn't a big man, but his light paunch, soft pale face and receding hairline made him look older than his 41 years. Under heavy, gray-flecked brows, he had strikingly clear blue eyes. He exuded a casual self-confidence and as I told him about what we were doing in Miami, he expressed a keen interest. He asked particularly about Santos Trafficante and his involvement in the areas I was investigating. He then began talking about his days with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Justice Department. "You want to hear something ironic?" he said. "My last meeting with Bobby Kennedy was on November 22nd, 1963. He was running late fora luncheon appointment and had to hurry off. He said we'd finish up when he returned. He never returned. At lunch he got word of his brother's death in Dallas." My first impressions of Bob Blakey where that he was very self-assured and very knowledgeable in the ways of the Washington bureaucracy. And it was obvious that he knew how to take over an operation because the first thing he did when he arrived was nothing. That, as they tell you in the military, is exactly what a new commander should o when he is assigned a unit: Do nothing but walk around, look around, listen carefully and ask question. The, when you move for control, do it firmly and with hesitation. Despite his soft-spoken, academically casual and sometimes even whimsical demeanor (he invaded the home of some staff researchers on Halloween Eve dressed as Cont Dracula), Blakey turned out to be a very cunning intellectual strategist who took quite pride in h is ability to manipulate both people and situations. His foil was the man he brought in to replace Tannenbaum as Deputy Chief Counsel in charge of the Kennedy "task force." (That was the inflated term used to identify each of the Committee's sub-staffs. Inexplicable, the Martin Luther King task force had more investigators.) Gary Cornwell, a 32-year-old Justice Department prosecutor out of the Kansas City Organized Crime Strike Force, was a cocky, stocky, stumpy Texan who exuded a brash pragmatism. He talked fast, loud and Texan, smoked pipes and big cigars, drove a Datsun 280Z, wore cowboy boots and appreciated both hard rock and Willie Nelson. I had to like the guy. But, contrasts in character that they were, both Blakey and Cornwell viewed their roles as staff director with the House Select Committee on Assassination in the same limited perspective: they were the hired hands of the Congressional Committee members and the priorities of their job were governed strictly by the desires of those members. By the time Bob Blakey was offered the position as Committee Chief Counsel (a few nationally-known figures, including former Watergate prosecutor Archibold Cox and former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, had reportedly refused it), the public tumult the Committee had endured has convinced most of the most of the members that they were trapped in a no-way-to-win situation. They couldn't get out of it without losing some political face, but hey could get it over with as soon as possible. When Chairman Stroke offered Blakey the job, he told him that he definitely wanted the Committee's business wrapped up within its to-year life span and final report done by the end of the 1978 Congressional year. The two-year limitation was an arbitrary and artificial one that, somewhere along the line, because written in stone. Dick Sprague admitted to some of the blame. "When I first came to Washington," he later told Gallery Magazine writer Jerry Policoff, "I was asked how long it would take. My response was, to properly investigate murder you can never put a time limit on it. If you ask me what I think ought to be the time to get the job done, my estimate would be two years. But if you've got an outside limit, and people who are being investigated know that, they can stall you for that length of time and defeat the investigation." Sprague's fear of delaying tactics was based on solid historical precedent. That's exactly what the CIA pulled on the Warren Commission. When the Commission was pressing the Agency regarding some information about its Mexico City operations, an internal memorandum written to then-Deputy Director Richard Helms noted: "Unless you feel otherwise, Jim (Angleton) would prefer to wait out the Commission on the matter...." (Angleton was the long-time chief of the CIA's Counter-Intelligence Division which, strangely enough, was the unit handling the Agency's dealing with the Warren Commission.) At his first general staff meeting late in August, 1977, the new Chief Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations pointedly announced that he had taken the job with the stipulation and the promise to Chairman Stokes that the staff would finish its investigation and produce a report by December 31st 1978. There would be absolutely no possibility, Blakey said, that the Committee would be extended beyond time. And with that pronouncement, I suddenly got a revealing insight into Bob Blakey's character. It also indicated how he viewed the importance of John F. Kennedy's assassination in the large, historical context. He said nothing incongruous about accepting a basic and crucial limitation in conducting "a full and complete investigation" of one of the most important events in this country's history. At the time, I really didn't believe Blakey. I felt that once we started rolling, once we started accumulating evidence that demanded further investigation, well, then Blakey, with the backing of the staff, would stand up to the Committee and the Committee would stand up to Congress and Congress would be forced to give us more time and money. The Kennedy assassination was just too important. We had to go all the way. It was also at the initial staff meeting the at Blakey established what he considered the peripheries of the Committee's operations. In clear, simple and carefully defined terms reminiscent of a Pol Sci I lecture to a class of frosh, he explained the differences between the function so a legislative body and the goals of a law enforcement agency. Our primary duty, he pointed out, was not to conduct a criminal investigation. We were limited by the powers and privileges granted to Congress by the Constitution. Our investigative power were merely an auxiliary of the legislative function. We were not out to produce indictments. We had no legal sanction to arrest or imprison anyone. Our goals were to gather evidence to be presented at public hearing and, after that, produce a final report. There was no doubt that Bob Blakey knew what he was about. Not only was it apparent now that the staff would finally get truly organized, but organization itself would be the essence of its being. That became even more obvious when I was called back to Washington a few weeks later for another general staff meeting. By that time every staff member had received newly arrived Deputy Consul Cornwell's bey first memorandum. It said, if full: "Attached hereto is copy of House Resolution 222. Please familiarize yourself with this document." That, of course was the resolution that had created the Committee almost one year before. At the time, many staffers -- especially the youthfully cynical junior counsels -- took Cornwell's premier memo as silly and gratuitous. But Cornwell was laying the very first block in what both he and Blakey took to be their ultimate goal: To build a record. That was the accent of the second general staff meeting. It dealt with informational processing and staff procedures, rules and regulations, the standardization of operations and documentation production. I remember returning from Washington after that meeting feeling as if I had just been blanketed with a heavy, stifling shroud of regulations and procedures. The investigators had been given a lengthy memorandum entitled "Investigative Techniques and Procedures." Blakey called it "a summary of specific guidelines." Among the points listed under "Travel" were: "Call the office every day between the hours of 10:00 and 12 noon." And: "Be sure to stay at a reputable hotel." An even lengthier directive distributed to all staff members was "General Operating Procedures." Attached to it were sample forms for an Outside Contact Report, a Document Log, a Routing Slip, an Investigation Interview Schedule and other standardized report. Illustrative of the type of detailed control Blakey institute was this: (9.) All correspondence intended for transmittal to anyone outside of the staff will first be discuses (orally, or with the aid of a rough draft, as the case may require) by the staff attorney, researcher, or investigator with his immediate supervisor, (the Assistant Deputy Chief Counsel, Chief Investigator, or Assistant Chief Researcher) and then will be typed in final form, proofed and (if appropriate) signed. The completed letter ready for mailing, together with all supporting documents will then be submitted, first, to the staff member's immediate supervisor, and ultimately to the Deputy Chief Counsel for review. When approved by the Deputy Chief Counsel, the letter will be delivered by the Deputy Chief Counsel's secretary to Security for copying. Unless otherwise specifically authorized, two copies of each such piece of correspondence will be made in all cases except Agency requests, where three copies will be made. One copy will be treated as an "original document," and one copy will be treated as a "working copy" and returned to its author (See Document Handling procedures below.) With respect to Agency requests, the third copy will be delivered to the Chief of Legal Staff for filing in the Agency Requests File. The original (signed) letter will be delivered to the Chief Counsel for approval (and/or signature), and then mailed by the Chief Counsel's secretary. Although I recognized the point of such detailed procedures and, in fact, felt the staff was in dire need of organizational control, it bothered me that Blakey seemed far more concerned about he character of the record of the investigation then he was with the character of its substance. My concern deepened when, just prior to the staff meeting, Cornwell called me into his office and told me he wanted to talk to me about the nature of my report. When I started investigating the Kennedy assassination with Senator Schweiker, he was not concerned with formal reporting procedures. He was interested in my spending my time developing information that might help resolve the case. I was in almost daily telephone contact with other staffers in his office who were working the case. I also regularly sent informally written reports detailing and analyzing the information I was coming up with. Although not required, I felt those were necessary to give Schweiker a basis for evaluating the information, put it in perspective and provide a groundwork for discussing where we were and where we were going. Facts can sometimes be misleading. They are, as critic Dwight MacDonald said, like marbles which take on different hues and tones according to the light in which they are viewed. they often are, but don't necessarily have to be, related to the truth---especially in the case of the Kennedy assassination which, over the years, has become a field of study in itself. In my written report, I attempted to use my background and knowledge of the case to give Schweiker a broader perspective of the information we were developing. When I joined the House Committee, I thought such analytical reports would be especially useful since there was no other investigator with my experience in the case. Now Cornwell told me to stop them. "I want your reports to be strictly factual," he said. "Just give us the information. I don't want any of your analysis going into the record." I objected. That, I said, would require ignoring the validity of the source of the information. In Miami, where we are dealing with so many Cubans and soldiers of fortune who are notorious disseminations of misinformation, to report their droppings as gospel would produce a misleading record. "All right," Cornwell said, "if you want to analyze the information put int on separate yellow paper and I'll tell the mail room not to log it in." that didn't quite answer the point of my objection, but I came to refer to the procedure as the "Yellow Paper Ploy." On the plan flying back to Miami after the staff meeting on procedures, I tape recorded a note of my feelings at the time: "For the first time, I'm beginning to understand what it's really like to work in Washington. Blakey obviously knows what's important here. And what's important is not what you do, but how what you do looks while you're doing it, how it looks after you did it, and how it will eventually look in relation to how everything else you did looks. It's a funny house of mirrors. But I'm very concerned about the importance given to reports and procedures. It's clear, in talking with the other investigators, it produces an aura of restrictiveness, like we're going into the game chained to the bench. It's instant frustration. Yet we can't say the hell with it and walk off the court. Then we lose before we start and nothing would get accomplished. Maybe how we look will be important in the long run." There is no doubt that, in the long run, Blakey produced a record that looks impressive. In its final published reports, a compilation of the Committee's legal memoranda alone took a separate hefty volume of 925 pages. And the Committee turned over to the National Archives more than 800 boxes of files -- many times more than the Warren Commission produced. That, of course, looks impressive, but the substance of those files won't be available for public scrutiny for 50 years. I don't know whether or not Blakey knew it was in the works or whether or not he, behind the scene, had anything to do with it, but just prior to the Assassinations Committee's expiration, the House promulgated a new regulation automatically restricting all records not publicly released by any committee. The Assassinations Committee's files would, of course, be valuable to independent researchers who wanted to continue investigating the Kennedy murder. They would be even more informative if they included the collection of memos I kept in my file marked "Yellow Paper Poly." This is not the whole story of the operations of the House Select Committee on Assassinations as produced under the direction of its Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey. That's a composite of the activities of several dozen persons, a few of whom were actually trying to find out what happened in Dallas on November 22nd 1963. This, rather, is the story of how the leader so the Committee early decided not to fulfill the Congressional mandate "to conduct a full and complete investigation." It's the story of how the Committee was structured, its priorities set, its investigative force employed and its final report written so as to conceal that fact. It is also the story of how, after the decision was made to not fulfill its Congressional mandate, the Committee had to distort its conclusion concerning a crucial, perhaps critical, area of evidence so as not to invalidate the thrust of its final report. And so, in the end, it's the story of how the American people were mislead by their own government. By the end of its first year of operation, the Assassinations Committee was beginning to slowly roll forward. With the exception of those in the administrative, legal and documents handling sections, the staff was divided into five major "Teams." Each team had two or three attorneys, researchers and investigators. The "outside" investigators in New Orleans and Miami were at the disposal of all the teams. Each team had more than one area of investigation. In Miami, AL Gonzalez and I worked mostly with Team 2, which had the Organized Crime and Jack Ruby areas, and with Team 3, which had Anti-Castro Cubans and New Orleans. Bob Blakey spent the first few months on the job as Chief Counsel and Staff Director establishing administrative processes and procedures, cracking up the record-building machinery and formulating what he called "working relationships" with other government agencies. He did, however, at an early staff meeting, outline the Committee's specific goals and direction. For the first few months, he said, each team would review its areas of investigation thoroughly. He called it "foraging." The second phase, he said, would than entail defining the priority "issues": that is, deciding the crucial questions in each area. ("Issue" was the favorite word, I discovered, among Washington lawyers. They used it to mean "question." The third phase would be the concentrated investigation of those key questions. Then would come the public hearings and writing the final report. It all made a good deal of sense and it finally appeared that a real investigation might be getting under way. However, when Blakey began concerning himself with the substance of the case, an indication of his attitude towards the various methods of investigation became clear. Compared to his interest in the empirical aspects of the investigation -- what the investigators on the street were actually coming up with -- he spent a disproportionate share of his time looking after the scientific examination of the evidence. He had the academician's view of scientific evidence having what he called the "greatest reliability." That's undoubtedly why so much time and money was spent on such things as neutron activation analysis, acoustics studies, ballistic and trajectory analysis and other scientific studies. But science, like statistics, can lie and two scientists often read the same results in opposite ways. It happened, for instance, with the panel of forensic pathologists when one eminent doctor totally disagreed with the findings of his eminent peers. Another critical defect Blakey largely dismissed was that some of the evidence being scientifically evaluated couldn't be authenticated as being the original evidence. The chain of custody could never be proven in any court. In fact, the state of security in which some of the evidence was kept was illustrated in 1972 when it was discovered that someone had stolen into the National Archives' security area and taken President Kennedy's brain and a set of microscope tissue slides that might have conclusively shown which way the fatal bullet came from. Although hits have come from the Kennedy family that Robert Kennedy wanted the brain in order to properly bury his brother's body, that doesn't explain the theft of the tissue slides as well. And stored in the same security area were other crucial pieces of physical evidence, including the photos and x-rays which the Committee used to corroborate the single bullet theory. The Committee concluded that the photos and x-rays are authentic, yet one of its own photo consultants, Robert Groden is now claiming to have found signs of forgery in this evidence. Another question of authenticity involves the bullet fragments subjected to neutron- activation analysis and whether or not they were the same fragments tested in 1964. those are only a few of the questions the critics are now asking. There will be many more, each putting another crack in Blakey's theory of scientific evidence having the "greatest reliability." My own early impression was that Blakey's initial leaning toward putting wight on scientific analysis was partially the result of his lack of confidence in the investigative staff. Although Blakey was eventually able to stack the staff counsel positions heavy with people he hired himself -- Cornell Law grads and individuals with backgrounds in prosecuting Organized Crime -- most of the investigative staff had already been hired by the time he arrived. And because former Chief Counsel Sprague had viewed the Kennedy assassination as a homicide case, almost all the investigators were from the ranks of police homicide squads, the largest number from New York. Unfortunately, the bulk of Blakey's past associations, as a Justice Department attorney and a major mahout in the anti-Organized Crime fraternity, had been with law enforcement personnel of more sophisticated breeding, mostly FBI agents and Internal Revenue specialists. Now here he was on the Committee stuck with a bunch of street cops. The way in which Blakey eventually structured the investigation indicated that he thought little of the potential effectiveness of his investigative staff. Whether he was right or just manifesting intellectual arrogance will never be know. Neither will it be know if the investigators would have come up with more substantial results if they had been left to conduct an investigation in their own way. They were never given a chance. In Miami, and working still pretty much on our own, Al Gonzales and I were making progress in seeking links between what we considered the potentially hottest leads, those involving the association of anti-Castro activists with intelligence operatives. Then suddenly from Washington came a ripple which forewarned of a new strategy directive from Blakey. It came with a call from Edwin Lopez, one of the young researchers on Team 3, the anti-Castro unit. Lopez, a very bright guy attacking his new job with youthful fervor, was one of the small group of law school students Blakey had brought from Cornell. Out of New York's Puerto Rican barrio, Lopez was a brilliant free spirit who wore long curly locks, an infectious smile, baggy jeans and flip-flops. He was only 21 but he looked 16. Lopez told me that Team 3 had a major meeting with Deputy Chief Cornwell that morning. "I think we may have some problems," Lopez said. "In our discussion with him, Gary craftily manipulated the conversation around to Miami. Then he asked, 'What the hell are those guys doing down there? Someone call Fonzi and ask him to answer the question in 20 words or less.' So I raised my hand and said that I could answer the question in five words: 'Trying to solve the case.' Then he said, 'Well, those guys are running around down there and they're never going to come up with anything we can resolve in time. I've got to bring them into our framework.'" Lopez, who was a little fellow with a soft whisper of a voice, sounded very concerned. "To tell you the truth," he said, "that really shocked me. I couldn't believe he didn't know what you guys are doing down there.." I couldn't believe it either, and didn't. I knew Cornwell had to be aware of exactly what we were doing if he read the reports -- both formal and on yellow paper -- which were flowing across his desk. I also didn't believe he wasn't well aware of the importance of Miami. What the critics had come to call "the Cubanization of Oswald" is one of the major mysteries of the Kennedy case. Although he assumed a pro-Castro public posture, Oswald's contacts were mostly with anti-Castro activists. Miami was the heart of anti-Castro activism and the headquarters of the groups with which Oswald had contact. Cornwell knew that very well, along with the specifics of what we were pursuing. I wondered what he meant when he talked about bringing the Miami investigators 'into our framework." Shortly afterwards, Al Gonzales and I were called back to Washington for another major meeting. Eddie Lopez met us at the airport, a dour expression on his usually grinning countenance. "No one is very happy around here," he said. "There has been a new operating procedure directive. Cliff Fenton has had to call all his investigators back from Dallas and they have been hanging around the office now for more than two weeks. Blakey and Cornwell have told us that everything will stop until we develop what they call the 'Key issues.' By that they mean questions which can be resolved by June. By then, they said, the investigation must be over because we have to prepare for the public hearings and then the final report" I couldn't quite gasp what Lopez was saying. Either I didn't want to believe it or I was hung up on the basic incongruity of developing "key issues" resolvable by June. Lopez said that the general staff meeting was scheduled for the next afternoon, but I was too anxious to wait. With a few members from Team 3 and Chief Investigator Fenton, we arranged a meeting with Cornwell that morning. The Assassinations Committee staff worked out of what is now called House Annex No. 2, the former FBI Records Building, just southwest of the Capitol. (It was undergoing renovation for the entire two years of the Committee's life and rats scurrying down the hallways and from office to office became such a frequent sight that staffers took to yelling at them for not wearing security identification cards.) Cornwell had a large corner office with leather chairs and couches and a long conference table in front of his big desk. One set of windows had a bleak view of a grimy stone viaduct which carried the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks around the southern edge of the city. The other set offered a more inspiring vista: The impressive grandeur of the three main House office buildings set on the incline of Independence Avenue and, looming above their white marble massiveness, the golden dome of the Capitol. Cornwell said he thought we had foraged enough. "I have the feeling," he said, "that if we go on the way we are we would have a great deal more information but, come time to write the report, we'd be no further along than we are now in terms of reaching conclusion. You have to remember that our ultimate goal is to get a report written." What he and Blakey did not want, Cornwell said, was a report that would cause the public to say, "You mean we spent $5 million on that?" They did not want a report that would have the Committee concluding, in effect, that if it had so much more time and so much more money it might come up with some definite answers. Therefore, Cornwell said, in order for the report to reach some definite conclusion, the character of the investigation would now change. The investigation would now be structured around what he called "linchpin" issues. Those issues, he said, would necessarily have to be selected with certain criteria. There would be no broad, encompassing questions to which we probably wouldn't find the answers -- or knew we would not find the answers within the scope of our time and resource limits. That was the key. We only had so much time and so much money remaining before we had to get out a report. So, Cornwell said, we were not going to come up with any issues the answer to which would likely be, if we had more time and money we might find the answer. We must remember, Cornwell said, that Congress gave us a job to do and dictated the time and resources in which to do it. "That's the legislative world," Cornwell said. "Granted, it may not be the real world, but it's the world in which we have to live." With his hint of a Texas drawl and his talent to articulate his thoughts quickly, Cornwell had a prosecutor's ability to exude reason and rationality regardless of what he was saying. I remember sitting slouched in that big leather couch, scribbling some notes and waiting for what he had just said to sink in. Then suddenly I piped up: "Realistically, that doesn't make any sense!" I almost yelled, as if it had just dawned on me. Cornwell let go a loud whoop of a laugh. "Reality is irrelevant!" he yelled back with a big grin. "Com'on, Gary, I'm serious," I said. "Are you telling us that we won't be able to pursue any questions in this case, regardless of how important we think they are, unless we know we can thoroughly investigate them in a few months?" "I am serious," said Cornwell. "And I'm not being flip when I say reality is irrelevant here. I told you, this is not the real world we're dealing with, this is the legislative would. We have to live with it." Bill Triplett, the then-leader of Team 3, was a soft-spoken, pipe-puffing young attorney whose career had been almost entirely in government and thousands more were in other buildings all over Washington, and in New York and Philadelphia and Boston and Chicago and Los Angeles and million of other were going about their daily business all over the country a that very moment, and I saw myself -- myself within this small group of individuals sitting in this office -- sitting there making decisions about something that a part of the history and maybe the future of those people. I don't know why that awesome thought struck me them, but I remember that it did. And I remember thinking that I should be feeling a certain satisfaction, a touch of special pride in being there, sitting there in that office, having a role in something as historically significant and important as the Kennedy assassination investigation. But I didn't. If felt, rather, a certain uneasiness, I were being a part of something devious. I'm not sure what those people out there expect, but it crossed my mind that what we were doing in that office was planning to deceive them. Those people out there thought we were investigating the assassination of President Kennedy. We were planning to get out a report. By the time of the general staff meeting the next afternoon, all the teams in the JFK task force had gotten the word of the new investigative approach. Cornwell had held special conferences with each team. The meetings was held in one of the large conference rooms on the fourth floor, above the staff offices, yet it still felt crowded with a few dozen people jammed into it. Cornwell sat at the head of a long conference table, a big cigar in h is mouth, looking tweedy in a brown path jacket. His chair was tilted back and his boots characteristically up on the edge of the table. Blakey, in an uncharacteristic candy yellow corduroy suit, stationed himself against the wall behind Cornwell. The room quickly grew still when Cornwell called for attention. "Allllright," he drawled. "I understand there's been a lot of bitching about the procedures we've instituted, so we'll let anyone who has any critical comments to make speak up." He puffed on his cigar, put a Cheshire grim on his face and slowly looked around the silent room. One of the document clerks raised her hand and said she had a complaint about the new system to getting copies made. There was a discussion about that, and then someone else complained about another administrative wrinkle. Finally, Cornwell, with that mischievous grin on his face and mock disappointment in his voice, said, "Gee, I thought someone would raise the big issue." "All right," John Hornbeck piped up from in back of the room, "I'll raise the big issue." Hornbeck was the leader of Team 2, the Organized Crime unit. Sandy-haired and ruddy-faced, he had the open, ingenuous style of a Doonesbury good guy and impressive credentials as an Organized Crime prosecutor in Denver. (He would eventually resign early, disgusted with what he called the "craziness" of Washington, and flee back to his mountain home and his horses.) "The big issue," Hornbeck said, "is whether this investigation is going to be conducted in terms of restricted issues, in terms of getting out a report, or is it going to be a true, wide-ranging investigation?" That summed it up. Cornwell answered it by repeating what he had told the individual teams: We were done foraging; we were not living in the real world, we were living in the legislative world; we had to get the report out. Then Blakey spoke up. "Listen," he said, "I've laid this all out to you form the beginning. I said we would spend the first months looking at the entire spectrum of the case and defining our goals. Well, we reached the point where we must start moving on the report. Our main priority is the report. Now you may say I'm trying to cover my ass, but you don't have to worry about me covering my ass because I know how a report should be written. I know how to make a report look good. But I want more than that. I also want the report to be good. I just don't see a conflict in setting the investigation now boiled down to certain basic issues and in attempting solving the case." If he believed that, Blakey was perhaps the only one in that room who didn't see the conflict. I looked toward Chief Investigator Cliff Fenton sitting in a corner. He was leaning forward, his hands clasped between his knees, his eyes staring down at the floor, his head slowly moving back and forth. He was in a tough spot. His investigator would not be able to get back out until each team developed its key issues and got them improved by Cornwell and Blakey. Then a specific "investigative plan" -- detailing who would be interviewed and then --- had to be drawn up from the issues and that approved. It would be weeks before the investigators could get back on the case. Confined to Washington, the leads they had been developing in Dallas left dangling, the investigators began growing stir crazy. There are only so many coffee breaks a man can take a day. "(Geesus," one researcher told me, "I expected any minute they would break out a deck of cards.") Fenton tried to keep up a good front and maintain their morales, but he was seething within himself. One day he burst into Blakey's office: "what are you doing to me?" he demanded. "Those are professional people out there! This is damn embarrassing to me." Blakey calmed him down, but the attitude of the investigators degenerated to the point where Fenton was forced to call a special meeting. He sat at the head of the table with a smile on his face. "All right, all right," he said in his easy chuckling way, "I got to admit that I've never seen an investigation conducted like this. But that don't mean it won't work." In response, there was a general snort. "All I'm saying," Fenton continued, "is that we got to give it a chance. I don't want anyone around here starting to feel they are just working for the money. Just because we've never seen it done this way before, that don't mean it won't work. Try to remember that." "The way it looks to me," said Clarence Day, a homicide veteran from Washington, "is that this investigation is over." There was a loud murmur of affirmation from the rest of the guys. "Well, I've got to admit," Fenton chuckled, "I'm sort of flabbergasted. In fact, I'm totally flabbergasted. But, between us I can tell you now we've been promised something. We've been promised that as soon as we're done with these issues business at the end of May, while everyone else is buy with the public hearings and getting the report don, we'll be able to continue the investigation and cover it in any way we want. We got a promise on that. SO that if anyone comes up with something that doesn't fit into the issues, just let me know and I'll make sure we get to it when we start moving the way we should be. OK?" That seemed to lift a bit the depression that had hung over the group when the meeting started, although it did end with an extemporaneous chorus of a popular song at the time: Take This Job and Shove It. I remained in Washington to help the anti-Castro team formulate its issues. I quickly became obvious that each team had to limit not only the type of question it could investigate, but also the number of questions. Since time was slowly slipping away, the "full and complete" investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy would have to boil down to a five-moth effort. For the next few weeks, the staff worked late into the night to develop issues that contained priority questions and still fit into the limitations of the criteria. Some teams could do that easier than others. The teams handling the ballistics and autopsy projects, for instance, knew the questions they were going to ask their panels of experts. The anti-Castro area was one of the toughest in which to develop questions which could be fully explored in a limited amount of time. Yet Oswald's association with anti-Castro Cubans was one of the key mysteries of the Kennedy assassination. The progress we had been making in Miami was opening more doors, may of them marked "CIA" and there was no assurance that continuing investigation would only lead not to answer but to more questions. In that, Blakey and Cornwell were right. Yet, if those questions were relevant to an answer to the Kennedy assassination, how could they be ignored? That was the circle we kept coming back to as the team attempted to develop acceptable issues. The first question I tried to get approved was the one by experience in investigating the case had dictated as a priority: Was there an intelligence agency connection through anti-Castro Cubans and Oswald to the Kennedy assassination? That, I knew, would never pass muster because of the investigative approach and effort it would require. By the nature of its operations, an intelligence agency doesn't leave authentic tracks. One had to look for patterns. The issue I wanted to pursue involved the patterns of verified misinformation -- almost all linking Oswald to Castro -- which were born in Miami immediately after the assassination. That, I figured, would also give me the opening to pursue the Veciana story, since Bishop had asked him to help develop a phony story through his cousin in Castro's intelligence service. Cornwell rejected the issue. I was back in Miami when Eddie Lopez broke the news. "Cornwell said that issue wouldn't prove anything," Lopez told me. "He said all it would do is raise the question of whether or not an intelligence agency was monitoring Oswald for one reason or other and after the assassination was trying to disassociate from him. So I said to Gary, 'But don't you see how much closer we'd be if we could prove that?' And he said, '"Closer" is not good enough. We can't put "closer" into a report.'" In the end, in concocting an anti-Castro issue that would get approved, I believe we fell into the trap that Blakey, wittingly or unwittingly, had set. Other teams also wound up in the same trap. It sprung from our attempt to conspire to structure a question that would be vital, be answered within the time and resources limitations and, concomitantly, be broad enough to permit the widest scope of investigation. For instance, one of the approved issues for Team 3 was this: Was Lee Harvey Oswald associated with any actively militant anti-Castro groups which possessed the capability, motive, and resources to assassinate the President? I initially thought that would open the most doors for Gonzales and me in Miami. We found, however, that although the issue was broad, we remained bound by the "investigative plan" that was imposed upon it. As a result of having to cover the issue adequately enough to provide material for the final report, we couldn't pursue any one part of it in depth. Investigators working other issues found themselves with barely time enough to touch all the bases. Examples abound. In our case, for instance, the investigative plan required finding at least three leaders from each selected anti-Castro group. asking them about any possible contact with Oswald, accepting their answers without further corroboration and then moving on to the next group. On every team, the investigation was rife with superficial contacts. Yet, in the end, the report's conclusions were drawn from them. One tends to search for analogies in order to provide a comprehensive whys of what happened. Was the Assassinations Committee a circus with a multitude of rings, some out front and some behind the grandstands, all of which it spun frenetically for a while in a virtuoso display of razzle-dazzle, before it folded its tent and left behind an empty field of matted grass in patterns every undecipherable? Or was it simply a politically-inspired drama in true Catch 22 genre, the story of a hapless unit whose vital investigative mission got inextricable tangled in the misguided demand to maintain a detailed log of that mission? Strange, isn't it, that such outrageous analogical suggestions would form in the mind of a staff member looking back on the experience? At the time, of course, we simply had mixed feelings about what was happening. At least something was happening. Those of us who were abroad the Committee when its sails flapped in irons for a year while political torpedoes skinned its hull fell enormously grateful that we were at last moving in some direction. Blakey had sailed us into much smoother waters. Oh sure, over coffee in the basement cafeteria or late drinks at the Market Inn we speculated about the dark sides of Blakey's possible motivations, but, at the time, most of us basically felt that he was doing the job as he legitimately thought it should be done. At the time, there was no reason to suspect otherwise. Besides, Bob Blakey was a nice enough guy. A Notre Dame grad, a good family man with seven children, a man who had always worn a white hat in the war against the bad guys. Intellectually, his brilliance justified his hint of arrogance, but he was easy to talk with, had a good sense of humor and knew when to listen. I liked him. In fact, although I objected to the limitations imposed on the investigation, I early wound up defending Blakey. Immediately after coming aboard, Blakey imposed a curtain of silence on the staff, forbidding anyone from talking to outsiders about details of the Committee's operations. I thought it was a good idea, considering some of the previously distorted press criticism. However, as staff discontent grew, leaks began to occur. I learned, for instance, that freelance writers Scott Malone and Jerry Policoff were preparing a scathing article about Blakey for New Times magazine. They were blasting Blakey for returning $425,00 of first-year Committee funding to the Treasury despite staff members feeling that the investigation was pulling punches for lack of funds. They hit him for firing an excellent researcher under the false guise of "poor work quality" when the researcher's only sin was being too close to certain critics. They charged Blakey with being suspiciously cozy with the CIA and making agreements with the Agency that severely restricted the staff's use of intelligence information. They accused him of Machiavellian scheming in inviting key critics in as consultants and then forcing them to sign non-disclosure agreements in an attempt, they said, to pre-empt future criticism. And, perhaps worst of all, they claimed Blakey was really a wolf in sheep's clothing. Malone and Policoff had discovered that Blakey once filed an affidavit in support of a libel suit brought against Penthouse magazine by an alleged racket-connected Nevada resort and gambler Moe Dalitz. I remember telling Policoff that, despite my journalistic reverence for freedom of the press, it somehow bothered me that the piece was going to run. Policoff, considered one of the more moderate and level-headed of the independent researchers, was becoming convinced that Blakey was a devious character with sinister motives. "I just can't buy that," I argued. "Whether or not he's making the right decision is a point that can be argued, but I believe he's sincere when he explains his reasons for them. Besides, what do you accomplish by attacking Blakey now? You'll only be hurting the work of the Committee. We may not be doing everything right or as well as we should be, but we are doing them. We're the only game in town." Shortly after the critical article appeared, a rumor started spreading that Blakey had been offered a top job in the Justice Department when he wrapped up his Committee work. Suddenly that rumor burst into a real flame ignited by what became known as "the Ortiz manuscript" lap. About six months prior, Al Gonzales and I had interviewed a Miami attorney who represented a Puerto Rican named Antulio Remirez Ortiz. The tip had originally come through Blakey himself from an assistant U.S. Attorney who had worked in Miami. Ortiz, as he called himself, was in a Federal prison serving a sentence for having hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1961. Castro had released him from Cuba in 1975 and he voluntarily surrender to the FBI when he returned to the United States. Ortiz had an incredible story. While being held in Cuba, he said, he was assigned to work around the headquarters of the Cuban DGI, its intelligence service. As such, he claimed to have the opportunity to surreptitiously check his own files. In searching for them, he came across a neighboring file marked "Oswaldo/Kennedy." Ortiz said that file revealed that President Kennedy had been killed by a "hit team" from Moscow. While in prison in the United States, Ortiz had produced a manuscript of his adventures, including the discovery of the Kennedy file. His Miami attorney had a copy of that manuscript, written in Spanish, which he was in the process of trying to market through a New York literary agent. With the permission of Ortiz, who was in a prison on the West Coast, the attorney gave us a copy of the a manuscript. Gonzales took the manuscript home that evening and read it. I called him the next morning. "Al," I said, "drawing on your fathomless depth of investigative experience as well as your capacious repository of factual knowledge, what is you assessment of the manuscript's substantive merits?" "Bull shit," said Al. I agreed and, in fact, after checking further on Ortiz's background, thought it possible he may have had some association with American intelligence. (he served in the U.S. Army, went to Cuba to help smuggled arms to Castro before the Revolution and once worked for a major defense contractor in California.) Nevertheless, on our next trip to Washington, Gonzales turned the manuscript over to Blakey and suggested that he give it to research Eddie Lopez for a word- for-word translation before we make any decision whether or not to check Ortiz's story further. Gonzales thought Lopez would have a better grasp of Ortiz's Puerto Rican Spanish idiom.) Some time later, I asked Eddie Lopez about the Ortiz manuscript. He didn't know what I was talking about. No, he said, he had never received a manuscript from Blakey to translate. I thought that was strange, but made a mental note to check with Blakey about it. I didn't have to. Late one Sunday evening, I received they only telephone call I ever got from Bob Blakey. There was a very nervous edge to his voice. "Talk to me," he said. "Tell me everything you know about how we came in contact with he Ortiz manuscript." At the moment, it was not very fresh in my memory, but I eventually pieced together the details. "All right," he said, "I just wanted to refresh my own recollection about it. I'll tell you why I asked." He said that on Friday afternoon one of columnist Jack Anderson's legmen had called him to check out a rumor. The rumor, Blakey said, was that he had sold out to the CIA in return for a high Justice Department post. An example of the sell out, he said, was the fact that he had turned the Ortiz manuscript over to the CIA. Blakey asked if I heard any such allegations. I told him I had not. "Well, anyway," he said, "if you hear it, it ain't true." He laughed. What Blakey didn't specifically acknowledge to me that evening was that he actually had, in fact turned over the Ortiz manuscript to the CIA. He did admit it when, subsequently, someone on the staff asked him directly. He claimed that he did so because the CIA had linguists who could do a more expert translation of the Ortiz idiom than Lopez could. Maybe so, but I thought it was just a plain dumb thing to do. Nevertheless, perhaps because I though the Ortiz manuscript was worthless, the fact that Blakey had given it to the Agency didn't bother me that much. I was more concerned with the valid aspect of the investigation and Blakey's concern with them. The restricted issues approach was a very disturbing but, even then, I was ready to accept Blakey's rationalization of it because of two key factors: first, as restrictive as the approach was, it still permitted the staff investigators to get out in the field and do some original digging. Secondly, as the Chief Investigator had told us, Blakey had promised that once the issues part of the investigation was wrapped up in June the investigators would have a free rein in delving into the evidence they thought, from their experience in the field, would be the most fruitful. As long as Blakey left the door open, I was willing to withhold any critical judgment of his motivations. By early in June, another characteristic of the selected issue approach was becoming apparent. The nature of the issues selected so narrowed the breadth of the investigation that, in most areas, when it became obvious that the investigative pan was not going to be fully completed, it didn't really matter. The report cold still be written simply on the basis of the effort made. Conclusion could be drawn about what the whole road was like from a quick trip down one section of it. Whether or not that was a factor in what happened next, probably only Bob Blakey knows. All the staff knew at first was that there was rumor of a momentous change in the wind. At the time, Al Gonzales and I were in Caracas. We were there primarily to talk with a witness who could not be omitted from the investigative plan: Dr. Orlando Bosch, the best known and the most violent of anti-Castro terrorist. Bosch was being held in custody by the Venezuelan government for blowing up a Cubana Airlines plane and killing 72 persons. The "issue" questions we were to ask Bosch was whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald had any association with him or his group. Both Gonzales and I felt we were going through the motions: Bosch was not under oath and under no constraint to tell the truth. Without the time or resources to check on whatever he said, we felt we were mere conveyors for the record of whatever lies or propaganda he wanted to get out. Nevertheless, sitting in our hotel room one evening near the end of our stay, both Gonzales and I were felling elated about what we had accomplished in Caracas. We had found and talked with two important witnesses, individuals Antonio Veciana had named as being involved with him in the planning of the Castro assassination attempt in Chile in 1971. They had denied such involvement, as we had expected they naturally would, but in contradictory detail they had impugned their own denials and proved that Veciana was telling the truth. (we would later corroborate that with documentary evidence) At any rate, Gonzales called Washington to tell Cliff Fenton the news of our progress. When he hung up, he didn't look too happy. "It's hitting the fan again up there," he said. "Cliff said that Blakey just discovered that there was some kind of miscalculation in the way they were keeping the financial records and that the Committee is running way the hell over our budget." "What's that mean," I asked, "that they can't afford to bring us home?" "No such luck," said Gonzales. "Cliff thinks that maybe Blakey is going to use that as an excuse to make some staff cuts." Fenton was right on target, At a special staff meeting shortly afterwards, Blakey went into a long explanation of what had happened. He and Tom Howarth, the Committee's Budget Officer, had just spent days going over the books and they were astounded at what they discovered, he said. The budget projections they had made were way off base. There were no mistake, but because of the unprecedented character of the Committee's operations, there were no yardstick formulas to accurately project costs on a phase basis. Now there was no way that the final phases of the Committee's work -- specifically, the public hearing and the report writing -- could be completed with major budget cuts. Some of the staff, announced Blakey, would have to be let go. Al Gonzales and I couldn't get back to Washington until after the massacre. In the weeks between Blakey's announcing the staff cut and the actual naming of those fired, morale and work production plummeted to near zero. "You can imagine what it's like up here," one of the secretaries told me when I called. "The general attitude is, why I should do anything if I'm going to be fired. Everybody is feeling just terrific." A small group of jokesters had taken to posting on the bulletin board obviously phoney memos from Chief Counsel Blakey whenever things had begun to reach the edge of absurdity. The announced staff cuts had produced the latest posting, a parody of Blakey's passion for scientific analysis. The memo announced that a decision had been made on the specific individuals to be let go. The decision was made, the memo said, on the basis of careful deliberation and consultation with a panel of experts who had established the proper scientific postulated for the decision. The memo concluded: "All Leos, Cancers, Pisces and Tauruses and hereby dismissed." When the real firings did come, no one was laughing. In fact, some were shocked at the character of the cuts: Of the 25 staffers selected to be given their walking papers, the majority of them were investigators. (In its final records, the Committee's personnel statistics are misleading. After the firings, the drop in the number of the payroll amounted to about 20 percent, but because of accumulated vacation time, many staffers remained don the payroll but were not working. in June, before the cut, the Committee employed 118 persons; in the end, only 83 staffers remained. Of those, four were Kennedy assassination investigators.) Chief Investigator Fenton took the massacre of his staff with a good deal of bitterness. "It's a catastrophe," he told me. "They really bagged me. They kept promising me that we would be able to swing the way we wanted after we finished the work plan at the end of June. That's why I kept telling everybody whenever they started bitching that this wasn't real investigation, 'All right, just finish the work plans, just finish the work plans.' But if they had told me the whole investigation was going to be over in June , well, you know, we would've tried some slippin' and sliding' and tried to get a few things done. Now suddenly everything's off. they checkmated me." In the cut, I lost my partner in Miami. Al Gonzales was especially angry because he thought we were making progress and he didn't believe Blakey's announced reason for the cut. In addition, he had moved his family from New York and was looking to buy a house. "I knew it was coming," he kept saying. "They really didn't want an investigation." When we finally got to Washington, Deputy Chief Cornwell called Gonzales and I into his office for a private conference to try to assuage Al's obvious bitterness. Cornwell had a little nervous smile on his face. Gonzales is a very big man, normally very gently and very quiet, but his heavy-lidded eyes had a way of narrowing and exuding a seething inner intensity when he was angry. Consuming the chair in which he sat, he looked less like a detective than an Hawaiian sumo wrestler. "I just want to tell you fellas want I told everyone else," Cornwell said, "because I don't want you to be upset by all this or take it personal." He was on a trip, Cornwell said, when he got a call from Blakey that the Committee was in a financial jam. Blakey told him that he had just gone over the books and discovered it. Cornwell said that when he returned, he decided the situation boiled down to a single issue: Was Blakey telling him the truth about the books or did he have other motivations in cutting the staff? Cornwell claimed he decided to review the books himself and found that Blakey was right, something had just gone wrong in keeping track of the budge. Gonzales sat and listened and said nothing, his eyes still angry slits. Cornwell sounded sincere. "Al, I just want you to know if there was any way we could have kept on the staff just one more guy, you would have been it. You've been doing a helluva job and I want you to know we appreciated it and I don't think you should personally feel bad about it." Cornwell tried a conciliatory grin. Gonzales sat silent for a moment then said, very softly: "I feel like I've been screwed." If there had been an air of unreality to the Assassinations Committee's operations until then, after the decimation of its investigative staff there were periods that struck me as almost hallucinatory. I specifically recall a meeting in Cornwell's office shortly after Dick Billings joined the Committee. Billings was a bearded, lean and swarthy fellow whose slouched expression and easy, casually disheveled demeanor marked him as a professional writer. He was hired by Blakey to be the Committee scribe. Billings was a pro's pro. He recently toil for a series of congressional committees, but he had spent years as an editor and writer for Life magazine and, as such, had acquired some background in the Kennedy assassination. He had been in charge of one aborted attempt by Life to conduct its own Kennedy probe and had covered much of Jim Garrison's investigation in New Orleans. He also, significantly, been bureau chief of Life's Miami office in the early '60s, when anti-Castro activity had been at its height. He knew many of the Cuban exiles and soldiers of fortune with who I was dealing in Miami. By the middle of June -- at about the time the Committee's five-month-old "investigative plan" was being folded up -- Billings had produced his first proposed outline of the Committee's final report. It reflected Billings' initial encounter with the issues approach and the investigative plan: It was disjoined and confused. There was no way Billings could have pulled together a comprehensive, sensible overview of the Kennedy assassination from the grab bag the impossible talk of crating a comprehensive, honest report from the crazy-quilt of selected issues. Billings just shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and wondered how we had ever gotten into such a position. The waiter brought us fortune cookies with tea after the meal. the little green slip inside mine said, "toil is the sign of fame." That's what I was afraid of. Billings cracked his cookie, rad the fortune slip and immediately closed his eyes, slapped his forehead and let out a long mock groan. I asked him what it said. He handed me the slip without comment. I said: "The gods who were smiling when you were born are now laughing." Between the firing of most of the investigative staff in June and the end of December, the officially scheduled demise of the Committee, Bob Blakey directed his attention almost totally to tow things: The public hearings and the writing of the report. From the very first briefing he gave the staff, Blakey placed tremendous importance on the public hearings. That was an early indication of exactly how very knowledgeable, astute and experienced he was in the ways of Washington. Blakey's attitude and preparatory posture toward the public hearing were, for me, revelatory. I had always assumed that Congressional public hearing were for the public. I early assumed, in the case of the Assassinations Committee, that our public hearings would be a tremendous opportunity to present to the American people the first objective overview of the Kennedy assassination. It would be a presentation that cut through the years of confusion and misinformation, that laid out all the evidence as we discovered it and asked the most troubling questions, whether or not we had the answers. If the hearing had a political purpose, as I saw it, it would be to arouse the public to demand complete answers and to marshall the government's resources to produce a firm and final conclusion to one of the most significant events in our country's history. In my mind, the public hearings had something to do with knowledge and truth and the basis of the democratic system of government. You know, all those platitudes you learned in American civics class in high school. Washington has its own civics lessons. I learned that Congressional public hearings are not for the public but for Congress. They are designed to provide the Committee members with as such exposure as possible, give the public the impression that its congressman are serious about what they're doing and that they have not been squandering the taxpayer's money. Hearings are primarily designed, in other words, to be politically rewarding. If the public hearings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations had revealed to the public an indication of what the Committee had been doing for the preceding year and a half, it would have fit continuity-wise, as they say in TV-land, between Saturday Night Life and Dallas (the soap opera, not the city). They didn't. The committee's public hearings were cleverly structured to set up the American public for the Committee's final report. Then, again, my particular disappointment in the public hearing came as a result of my own intention to use them in my special areas of interest. Although the issues may have been restricted and the investigation limited, I felt the hearings till provided an exceptional opportunity to make what we had been doing worthwhile. There was no doubt in my mind that the Silvia Odio incident and the revelations by Antonio Veciana were incredibly significant. There was also no doubt in my mind that if the American people had the opportunity to see and listen to Odio and Veciana and form their own judgment of their credibility, their understanding of the Kennedy assassination case would be enhanced multifold and that, perhaps, would be a step on the way to the truth and valid conclusion. If the testimony of Odio and Veciana could be presented fully and in proper context -- that is, in terms of its relationship to the activities of the anti-Castro Cubans and the intelligence community -- there could be no more important two witnesses. The public hearings on the Kennedy assassination were scheduled for September, 1978. Chief Counsel Blakey turned his attention to prepared for them almost immediately after he joined the Committee more than a year before. Memoranda concerning staff procedure in conducting hearings begin pouring forth as early as November, 1977. Blakey knew exactly what he was doing. My impression at the time, however, was that until just several weeks before the hearings on hard decision had been made about which witnesses would be called. I discussed that recently with a Senior Counsel staffer named Jim McDonald. The hiring of McDonald was an indication of how much weight Blakey was giving to the presentation of the hearing. McDonald, a former Organized Crime consultant to Florida Governor Reubin Askew, had just joined a prestigious Miami law firm. Blakey convinced him to delay taking his new job for at temporary duty stint with the Committee. Blakey promised him he could leave shortly after the public hearing. McDonald, a former FBI agent, was a clean-cut, boyish-appearing, bright and articulate trial attorney. Blakey felt he would look good on television. Although McDonald was with the Committee only five months, during that time, as a result of staff attorney attrition, he was in charge of two key teams: Team 2 ( the Organized Crime unit) and Team 3 (the anti-Castro Cuban unit). That gave him a special insight. "When I got to Washington," McDonald recalled, "none of the staffers had a focus on what the hearings were going to be about. And as the summer dragged on we began to realize that we didn't have a heck of a lot of present at a public hearing. I remember that was the big topic of discussion in each team: What are we going to put on that's meaningful? What new evidence could be present? We didn't want to trot out the old Warren Commission stuff. Then sometimes in July, I guess, Blakey and Cornwell got together and we were all handed an outline of exactly what the hearings would contain." According to the original outline of the public hearing, it appeared that the area of anti- Castro Urban activities would at least get a proportional share of public exposure. "Under that area are listed Odio and Veciana," McDonald told me at the time, "but I'm wondering if that's going to be misleading. I'm afraid the impression may come from their appearance that the Committee is trying to link anti-Castro Cubans to the assassination. There's no evidence to that." I agreed. In fact, I pointed out, the Veciana incident indicates that Oswald's association was not with anti-Castro Cubans but with the intelligence community. From the outline, that appeared to be a sensitive area. The possibility of Oswald's association with the Central Intelligence Agency was obviously going to be handled in a circuitous way, as a part of the presentation concerning the performance of the Federal agencies' response to the Kennedy assassination. Nevertheless, I was well please with the proposed structure of the hearings as far as my area was concerned because, prior to the calling of the witnesses, is allowed for an introductory background narrative to be read by Blakey. I arranged with McDonald that I be the one who would write not only the individual introductions for Odio and Veciana but also the background narrative that would introduce the whole anti-Castro Cuban area of the investigation. The American people would be able to grasp the significance of Odio's and Veciana's testimony in its proper context. I couldn't ask for more. McDonald and I worked closely in preparing for this aspect of the public hearings. We both felt we had only one major problem: To convince Silvia Odio to testify publicly. After meeting her and talking with her, McDonald had concluded that she would make an impressively credible witness. In fact, McDonald himself and developed a witness in Dallas, Dr. Burton Einspruch, who corroborated that Odio had told him prior to the Kennedy assassinating of the mysterious visit by Oswald and his two companions. That's the kind of evidence a trail attorney appreciate. Silvia Odio had never been the most eager witness. The FBI had originally discovered her only coincidentally and her subsequently handling by the Warren Commission had left her distrustful and cynical. Down through he years she had hidden from the Kennedy researchers, refused to cooperate with the few who found her and even turned down large sums of money from checkbook journalist. Remarried now with teenage children and a beautiful new home, she had been fearful that any publicity about her relationship with the Kennedy assassination would wreck havoc on the life of stability she had struggled so hard to achieve. More, because she recognized the significance of her testimony, she was terrified for her safety. It took ma a while to cultivate Silvia Odio's trust. "I know you won't betray me," she said. When I first met her, as an investigator for Senator Schweiker, I could honestly promise her confidentiality and sincerity of purpose. Now I was no longer in control. I knew the last thing in the world she wanted was public exposure. Yet she was an educated and intelligent woman instilled with certain principles and, because of her Cuban experience, a deeper belief in the democratic system than most natural-born Americans. I thought I could convince her that now, with the direction I saw the Committee heading, it was more important than ever that she testify publicly. "I have been dreading that you would call," she said when I telephoned. News of the Committee's upcoming hearings had been in the media. "Please don't let them call me for public hearings. I'm not ready for it to upset my whole life again." Well, I said, Jim McDonald is coming down next week and perhaps we can have lunch together and talk about it. She had met McDonald and liked him. "But why do I have to do it?" she asked. "You have the story, the FBI has the story, I have repeated it so many times before. You have my sworn statements and you and Jim spent four hours taking my deposition. Why must I have to be brought before the TV cameras? I have a family and I'm frightened for them. One of the reasons I've been cooperative is because I wanted to avoid that. If the Congressmen want to see me privately, I'll be glad to see them privately. Tell me, please, please tell me why I have to go through it all over again? Why?" My problem was that I understood her fears very well and had a tough time giving good answers to her questions, but she eventually agreed to have lunch with McDonald and I the next week. As a matter of formality, McDonald was bringing down subpoenas for both her and Veciana, but the last thing I wanted was to force Silvia Odio to testify. If I couldn't convince her to come to Washington voluntarily, I would not be a part of any legal cohesion. When I approached Antonio Veciana, He also was reluctant to make a public appearance. Although our personal relationship was sill good and he had accepted with equanimity his loss of anonymity with the appearance of the Jack Anderson columns, his view of the Committee's motives changed drastically when Blakey and the Congressman officially visited and questioned Castro in Cuba. It is difficult to describe the depth of Veciana's anti-Castroism, but he had been out of prison for more than a year now and, I was convinced, intensively back in anti-Castro operations with his exiled cohorts. (Today, I've come to conclude, that Veciana is among a small power group, like the little-known generals who control the Pentagon, in the continuing war against Castro. The group plans strategy for penetration and counterintelligence operations on the highest levels and its successes have been quietly effective, given the state of the present economic and political conditions in Cuba.) "Well, of course I will go because I must go," Veciana said when I asked him to testify at the public hearing. "But I have already given three times sworn statements about Bishop, twice before the Senate Committee and once before the House Committee. they already have my sworn statements. I cannot change my sown statements. So what good it for me to go to Washington again? I am not going to change my sworn statement." I assured Veciana we did not want him to change his sworn statements and that his appearance before the Committee would indicate that his testimony was being given a good deal of credibility. In fact, I told Veciana, Chief Counsel Blakey himself would declare to the American people that Veciana's story appeared credible. I said that because I had already written Blakey's introductory narrative. At any rate, from his experience with government, Veciana knew he couldn't avoid the Committee's command request. "Jim, I think we're going to have problems with Silvia," I told McDonald when I called. "It's going to take all your persuasive abilities as a trial attorney to convince her." "Leave it to ol' Jim," said McDonald, never short of confidence or enthusiasm. The Miamarina is in Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. It is a port to call for yachts form around the world. A large circular restaurant sits at the core of its finger piers and from its elevated patio, against a backdrop of palms and blue sky, luncheon diners can survey the rows of salty sailing craft rolling restlessly on their lines, the siren song of their slapping halyards an elixir for dreamers. It was a lousy spot to try to convince someone to go to Washington. Jim McDonald and I spent a couple of hours there telling Silvia Odio why we thought her public appearance before the Assassinations Committee was so important. McDonald did most of the talking. I thought Odio kept raising objections that were much too valid, so I kept relatively silent. Nevertheless e finally convinced her the American people had the right to hear her story as she presented it, not as the Warren Commission had distorted it. "All right, I'll go," she finally said. "But only because any sensational revelations and had opted to drop their planned live coverage. Not even Blakey's personal impassioned pleas to their top executives could induce them to change their minds. Only the public radio network covered the hearing live, but not on a full time basis. An attempt was made to jiggle the public's attention by calling as witnesses known figures such as Governor and Mrs. John Connally, Marina Oswald, former CIA Director Richard Helms and ex-President Gerald Ford, but their testimony provided little of lasting interest and no new revelations. The last week of hearings, dealing with conspiracy theories, would hopefully grab a little more attention. Yet, in the scheduling, it was obvious where the accent would be: One day was devoted to what Blakey termed "flaky" theories, such as the contention that Kennedy was shot by an "umbrella man" wielding an assassinating device hidden in an umbrella; one day was scheduled for the anti-Castro Cuban area; and three days were to be devoted to the possible connections of Organized Crime to the assassination. Chief Investigator Cliff Fenton came into Miami on the morning of the day I was scheduled to leave for Washington and the last week of the hearings. He brought with him a subpoena for Organized rime figure Santo Trafficante, a gentle-looking little old man who lived in North Miami. ALTHOUGH his link to the assassination was tenuous, the appearance of Trafficante was planned to give the Committee's last week of hearing a final shot of media "sex appeal." Fenton brought to Miami with him, however, not only Trafficante's subpoena but some lousy news for me. there would be no witnesses called in the anti-Castro area. A day was being lopped off the last week of hearing -- Friday is not a day when Congressman like to hand around Washington very late in the afternoon -- and the presentation of the Organized Crime area was being allotted more time. I was directed to tell Silvia Odio and Antonio Veciana to cancel their trips to Washington. My reaction was not favorable. I was, to put it mildly, a bit disturbed. Not to worry, I was told, because although no witnesses would be called, there would still be a public presentation of the anti-Castro Cuban area and Blakey would still read the narrative detailing the stories of Odio and Veciana. In fact, when I got to Washington, I was told, I could revise the narrative and odd to the detail. When I informed Veciana about he change in plans, he was, naturally, confused. "I don't understand," he said. "Why did they make me a subpoena and now they say they don't want me?" He was a man trained to look for hidden motives and mirror images in the course of events and his suspicions were very fined turned. I told him what I had been told: The Committee had run out of time, but his story would still be presented in narration. Extra time was needed to present the Organized Crime aspect of the investigation. He found my explanation inadequate. "I think there is more to it than that," he said. His thinking at the time was obviously clearer than mine. (Veciana would later tell me that he had inside sources in the Miami FBI office. These sources told him that the FBI had a confidential informant who said that Veciana was a Castro agent. The FBI told that to the Committee, Veciana claimed, and that's why he was not called. It was the informant, said Veciana, who was the real Castro agent. I was never able to check that out, but knowing Blakey's reverence for FBI information, that scenario wouldn't surprise me.) Silvia Odio did not take the news the way Veciana did. After McDonald and I had convinced her that her testimony was needed for the sake of lofty ideals and principles, she had been experiencing a good deal of emotional stress trying to prepare herself to face public exposure for the first time. "My God, this is incredible," she said when I told her. "After all the hell I've been putting myself through." She paused, unable to express the depth of her reaction. "I feel a tremendous anger," she finally said softly. "Well, this is the end for me. I don't want to have anything more to do with any more investigations or anything that has to do with the government at all. Of course, I'm glad in a way that I don't have to go through he public exposure, but now I really know that they don't want to know. They don't really want to know because they don't have any answers for the American public. They should never have started this charade in the first place." Her anger, she said, was not directed at me, but perhaps, in part, it should have been. I listened without being able to answer her. In my gut, I felt she was right. In retrospect, weighing the impression of that last week of the Assassinations Committee's public hearing, the overwhelming accent on the possibility of Organized Crime being involved in the murder of President Kennedy is incredibly clear. And, again in retrospect, it clearly appears to have been deliberate scheme to set up the American public for what was coming in the final report. The findings of the acoustic tests -- dictating the conclusion of a conspiracy as a result of more than three shots being fired -- were known prior the public hearings. Blakey then had to pin the conspiracy somewhere. An interesting point is that most of the members of the Committee's Organized Crime team never bought Blakey's theory. "I remember that as being a constant battle at our meetings," former Team leader Jim McDonald recently recalled. "Most of us on the team felt we never made the link. Maybe Blakey's O.C. consultant Ralph Salerno made the link, but that's Ralph Salerno. The team never made the link. But at our meetings it was obvious that Blakey wanted that. He wanted to make the link more than anything else." Blakey, strangely enough, seems to have made the link well before the acoustic results dictated the need for a specific conspiracy theory. "When Blakey sold me on joining the Committee," McDonald remembers, "we had a long discussion over the phone. this was in late February. He was intimating he had some new evidence and h e finally asked, 'well, who do you think killed Kennedy?' I said I didn't know. And he said, 'Think. think about it.' And I guessed, 'Castro? Cuban exiles? I really don't know.' 'Think!' he said. 'What's so obvious?' By that time I was just confused. Finally he blurted out, 'Organized Crime kill Kennedy!'" In addition to the strong accent on the possibility of an Organized Crime conspiracy, the Committee's public hearing had another significant characteristic. Although they purported to cover the area -- it was so declared in the press release -- the hearings never truly delved into most of the evidence regarding the possibility of a connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and the Central Intelligence Agency. Blakey acknowledged a reason for that and it has to do with the arrangement he had made with the CIA in order to gain access to its files. One of the stipulations was that all information that the Committee obtained from the CIA and wanted to release in its final report would be reviewed by the CIA prior to its release. At that time, Blakey contented, the Committee could argue its case on a point-by-point basis. Blakey admitted he didn't want to present any information in the public hearings which might lead to a premature skirmish with the Agency. My own experience indicated that Blakey learned over ridiculously, maybe even suspiciously, backwards in has caution. When I finally got to Washington during the last week of the public hearings, I immediately set about expanding the details in the anti-Castro area narrative that Blakey was scheduled to present. Now, with Odio and Veciana not being there, I was more intent than ever that their stories got told to the public. If Blakey presented it properly, I thought it might still have some impact. I wrapped it up and put it into the system. the night before it was to be presented, I thought I would check the final typed draft. Neither Cornwell nor Blakey had indicated they had any points they wanted to discuss. In checking, however, I noticed that a very significant fact had been eliminated from the Veciana narrative, one that went directly to a point in his credibility. Specifically, what had been edited out of Veciana's story was the fact that the State Department confirmed his employment by the United States Government when he was working under the Agency for International Development as a bank consultant in La Paz, Bolivia, and that his application for the job had been accepted and approved with his signature. That indicate that someone had obviously pulled some strings for him and added credibility to his contention that his AID job was just a cover for the counterintelligence work he was doing on behalf of Maurice Bishop. I went into Blakey's office and asked him whey that part of the narrative was eliminated. Blakey said it was because, at this point, he didn't want to get into a hassle with the CIA. The big battle with the CIA< he said, would come after the final report was written, when we would be able to get in a knock-down-drag-out fight with the Agency over what information should be released. that, I told Blakey, was totally irrelevant in this case because this particular bit of information did not come from the CIA. This was information that was developed when I worked for Senator Schweiker. It was not even information that came through the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was information that I had brought to the Assassinations Committee myself. And it was not classified in any way. Blakey pretended to miss my point. "Well, in any case," he said, "we've just got too much to do to get into a hassle with the Agency at this point." He quickly dismissed me and turned to other staffers waiting to see him. The next day, when it came time to present the anti-Castro Cuban narrative and the stories of Silvia Odio and Antonio Veciana to the American public, Blakey turned to Congressman Stokes and said: "Mr. Chairman, in light of the time pressures that Committee is operating under today, I would like to ask permission that the narration on the anti-Castro Cubans be inserted in the record as if read." Today I think back to something Silvia Odio said when she was expressing her rage and frustration at suddenly being told she could not directly tell h er story to the public. "I know I won't be able to sleep now for days," she said. "I had put this thing out of my mind years ago, but then it was brought up again and this time I thought for a good purpose. Now I'm angrier than I have ever been in my life." there was nothing I could say. Finally, she said softly: "Please don't think I'm angry at you. I'm not angry at you. I know they way you feel. But we lost. We all lost. At the conclusion of its public hearings, the House Select Committee on Assassinations had been in existence for more than tow years. Officially, it had but three more months of life. During that time, its dwindling staff, characterized by a numb and glassy-eyed determination to simply finish its job, worked on the various area summaries for the final report. In those last months, Blakey's preoccupation was with the results of the acoustics tests. A police radio tape of the sounds in Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was shot had been analyzed by an expert. In a conference with Blakey and Cornwell the evening before his scheduled appearance at the public hearings, Dr. James E. Barger had held strong to the opinion that there were at least four shots recorded on the tape. That meant a conspiracy. Blakey was ecstatic that the hearings would finally have the media sex appeal the Congressman so appreciated. The next day, however, put under pressure in the public spotlight and feeling very much alone as the only witness testifying on the matter, Dr. Barger toned down his conclusion to a "50-50 chance" of a fourth shot. Cornwell stomped back to the offices from the hearing room cursing a blue streak and yelling as if he had been personally betrayed. Blakey's administration flunkie, Charlie Mathews, threw his arms in the air and shouted, "He didn't testify to what we paid him to testify to!" There was not doubt that the tape recordings, as analyzed, indicated that more that three shots were fired, likely even more than four. Blakey finally had the hook on which to hand his Organized Crime conspiracy theory and he wasn't about to let it slip out of his hands. With the hiring of auxiliary experts and additional field tests in Dallas, the Assassinations Committee was finally able to conclude that there was a "95 percent probability" that a fourth shot was fired from the grassy knoll. Ignoring the fact that such a conclusion impugned the validity of so much of the physical evidence on which it had spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars scientifically analyzing, the Assassinations Committee published a final report which quiveringly declared threat " President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy." Thus spake the Congressman, and dutifully closed up shop, while G. Robert Blakey, fat pre-arranged publisher's advance in hand, went back to Cornell to write a book about the whole story. This is not the whole story. This, in a broad brush stroke, is why and how the Assassinations Committee went in the direction it did. It is that important part of the story which explains what was happening while a critical area of evidence was being given token consideration. A credible witness, Antonio Veciana, had alleged that an intelligence operative who used the name of Maurice Bishop was associating with Lee Harvey Oswald immediately before President Kennedy was assassinated. that was evidence in the realm of the Committee's mandate. It was not hard evidence and it was not corroborated, but it was, nevertheless, evidence. It was evidence seeded with potential significance from any concluding viewpoint, positive or negative. It was evidence that screamed for attention. It was evidence that, by any standard of evaluation, demanded that an intensive, undeviating Committee effort be devoted to its investigation. It never happened. The early political and organizational chaos, the establishment of priorities not related tot he substance of the case, the subsequent restrictions imposed upon the selection of key issues, the diffusion and then decimation of investigative resources, the predisposition to concentrate on the area of Organized Crime -- all were factors which dictated the Assassinations Committee's ultimate handling of and its conclusion about the revelations of Antonio Veciana. And so, because it did not honor its mandate to conduct "a full and complete" investigation in this glaringly important area, the Committee had to distort the facts in its final report in order to justify its conclusion -- and cover is ass. For $5.6 million, the American people should have at least gotten the bare facts. On September 20th, 1976, I wrote an informal memorandum to Senator Richard Schweiker detailing exactly what happened when Antonio Veciana, Sarah Lewis and I met David Atlee Phillips at the luncheon meeting of the Association of Retired Intelligence Officers in Reston. The memo eventually became Document No. 013455 in the files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. It begins: "Instead of finally resolving anything, the confrontation between Veciana and David Phillips on Friday in Reston only raised a lot more questions in my mind...." And it concludes: "I must admit I have some strange feelings about all this. As you know, as a result of having spent so many hours with him and going over his story in such detail...I'm convinced that Veciana is telling us the truth about his contacts with Bishop, but now, for the first time, I have some doubts abut Veciana's credibility when it comes to Phillips...." The memo noted that Veciana's attitude appears to have changed from when I first met him six months prior, largely as a result of his getting deeply involved again in the intrigues of Miami's anti-Castro strategists. It then speculates: "Veciana may now feel that it won't pay to identify Bishop and, in fact, if Bishop knows he can do it as any moment, he might find that an incentive to want to get back into action with Veciana to keep him from doing so. they may both feel that they can wait for all this to blow over, even if it's a year or too...." Confirmation of Veciana renewing his strategic role in anti-Castro activity came a few months later when an informant told me that Veciana had taken a secret mission to Latin America to deliver an explosive device. Another indication came when the FBI told Veciana that it had information that an assassination attempt was going to be made on his life. Veciana, declaring Castro the perpetuator of the plan, publicized the warning and thus, he calm, aborted the attempt. Another attempt, this time without warning, would come later. At any rate, Veciana himself would eventually tell me that he very definitely hope Maurice Bishop would get beck in touch with him. As for David Atlee Phillips -- of all the people in the world -- it was incredible how the pieces of his character and career fit into the puzzle named Maurice Bishop. As first discovered by Senator Schweiker himself, the composite sketch of Bishop was a very close likeness of Phillips. In additional, a few specific details revealed by Veciana long before the name of David Phillips popped up late an impression on me. One was the very unusual physical characteristic that both Bishop and Phillips shared in the dark, weathered ellipses under this eyes. the other was Veciana's assumption that Bishop was a Texan. David Phillips grew up and still has family living in Fort Worth. Early in 1977, a fascinating autobiography appeared in the nation's bookstores" The Night Watch - 25 Years of Peculiar Service. Its author was David Atlee Phillips. It was, of course, written and in production long before it was known that Antonio Veciana had revealed the existence of Maurice Bishop. It would be misleading to characterize any published work by a competent intelligence agent as 'revealing," especially one written by an expert in counterintelligence and propaganda, one whose life work was in creating mirror images, false postures and shadow characters. And David Phillips does, indeed, have a reputation among his peers of being an expert in what he does. His book, however, does provide certain relevant benchmarks. David Atlee Phillips was born on Halloween, 1922. in Forth Worth, Texas. His father died when he was five, leaving his family a portfolio of oil stocks, lifetime membership in the country club he founded and a house on the fourth green. The stocks collapsed in '29, but young David's mother went to work and sent him off to William and Mary in Virginia. Phillips paints himself as a bit of a Fitzgeraldian party boy who, in less than a year, is back home plodding through Texas Christian University for a while and then selling cemetery lots. More than anything else, however, David Phillips wanted to be an actor. he spent a couple of years bumming around New York in the effort, but his road to glory was detoured by World War II, a stint in a German prison camp and a daring escape. He tried again after the War with more success, joining a couple of touring road shows fora while. (Whenever possible during his Agency career, in whatever city he was stationed, Phillips would invariable start or join a little theater group.) In 1948, Phillips married his first wife, an airline stewardess and, with a $200-a-month stipend from a producer's option on a play he wrote which was never produced, he had his bride decided to go to Chile to live cheaply. Life in Chile was made easier, Phillips says, because both he and his bride could speak the language. He had studies it casually in college and seriously while visiting Mexico. One of the reasons he was recruited by the CIA< Phillips notes, was because he spoke fluent Spanish. At first, Phillips tried play writing, attended classes at the University of Chile and joined a local theater group. Then came the opportunity to buy a small newspaper, The South Pacific Mail and, with borrowed money, some secondhand presses for commercial printing. It was the purchase of the presses by the American, Phillips says, which attracted the interest of the CIA's chief of station in Santiago. Phillips was recruited to be a "part-time" agent at $50 a month. His salary was deposited in a Texas bank after going through a financial cover company in New York. Eventually, Phillips was sent by the Agency to New York for special training. He reveals the depth of cover which the CIA impresses upon its deep cover recruits" " training officer...took me to a brownstone in the East Seventies. It was a CIA safe house for training overseas personnel who were undercover, or anyone whose job was os sensitive that he was not allowed to visited Washington or the Agency training retreat in nearby Virginia. There were other agents in the safe house, but I never saw them. When I want to the john my instructor would check first to be sure it was not occupied by another student." Phillips' three-week training session appears to have been a model from which Maurice Bishop drew Antonio Veciana's training program. Initially, he was taught the tools of the basic trade craft, how to conduct surveillance and counter surveillance, set up clandestine meetings, employed deception techniques and run "dark alley" operations. Phillips was then told he had the qualifications the Agency looked for in a propaganda specialist and his training thereafter concentrated on the techniques of propaganda and political action. Phillips describes it as a "freshman course." He notes: "It was some years later before I graduated into the more esoteric graduate schools of trade crafts." David Atlee Phillips thus began his journey into what would eventually e the deepest realms of CIA machinations and, from there, up the ladder of it bureaucracy to the highest operational echelons. His known successes, some of which are detailed in his book and some only obliquely brushed against, were mainly in the area of propaganda, psychological warfare and counterintelligence. Strangely enough, from being apart-time recruit in Chile, Phillips was selected by the Agency to play an important role in over throwing the Leftist Jacob Arbenz regime in Guatemala. He helped set up a clandestine radio station in Mexico -- the Voice of Liberation -- pretended to be broadcasting from within Guatemala and orchestrated a crescendo of false reports about legions of rebels which didn't exist and major battles which never took place. Under such a propaganda barrage, the Arbenz government fled the country before real bullets could fly. Phillips would later term the technique, which he would use again in his career, as "the big lie." It was during the Guatemala operation that Phillips made some of the Agency contacts and close associations which would endure through his career. Among them was E. Howard Hunt. In his autobiography, Phillips describes Hunt as being "friendly, anxious to help me and considerate." Phillips' kind characterization of Hunt is in marked contrast to the published and unpublished opinions of many of his CIA colleagues, most of who refer to Hunt with less than admiration. (In his own book, for instance, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline says he considered Hunt eccentric and terms him a "Zealot.") Phillips would work very close to Hunt during the planning of the Bay of Pigs invasion and in other less visible operations in the future. Although Phillips regularly moved up the CIA ladder, he spent most of his career in the field, giving him a flexibility and freedom of movement a deskbound Washington officer would not have. Even when headquartered in Washington as propaganda chief of the Bay of Pigs operations, Phillips regularly flew into Miami where his subordinates supervised the activities of various front groups. he played a major role in the Agency's WerBell III, the assassination weapons expert, was a mysterious by very prominent figure. Aside from a year and a half stint in Lebanon, Phillips' entire career was spent fighting Communist infiltration in the Caribbean and Latin America. Most of the time his sights were on the one man who represented the greatest Communist threat the hemisphere had ever known: Fidel Castro. There were certain segments of Phillips' career which attracted my attention. IN a now frayed and yellowing copy of the 1960 edition of the Anglo-American Directory of Cuba, there is listed on page 92: "PHILLIPS, David Atlee (Amer.):...Public relations Counselor, David A. Phillips Associates...." At the time, Phillips was a deep cover operative in Havana posing as a public relations consultant, hobnobbing with media executives and newspaper reporters, launching with Havana's businessmen, ostensibly pitching stories or clients. "My favorite luncheon place," he writes in his book, "was the Fluoridate restaurant in colonial Havana." Once he saw Hemingway there. Phillips admits that after he hung up his shingles as a public relations counselor, "No one rushed the door in any event, nor did I solicit clients." Phillips does, however, also admit that he did eventually wind up with at least one client with which he briefly worked a trade for French lesson: The Berlitz language School. In his book, Phillips discussed very little of what he actually id in Havana as a covert operator, but does say that he "put in a full day for CIA," and that he "handled" agents. Another aspect of Phillips' career which interested me was his tour of duty in Mexico City. In terms of its relationship to the Kennedy assassination, Mexico City was significant not only because of Oswald's visit to the Cuban and Russian Embassies there, but also because of the number of false reports that followed out of there immediately following the assassination. From 1961 through the fall of 1963, Phillips was Chief of Covert Action in Mexico City. Just prior to the Kennedy assassination, he was made Chief of Cuban Operations. In those jobs his main activities were in propaganda, dirty tricks and counterintelligence. His main focus was on maintaining a watch on Castro's intelligence agents, many of who worked out of the Cuban Embassy. Phillips had to know, for instance, that one of Castro's ranking intelligence officers stationed in the Embassy was Guillermo Ruiz, the cousin of Antonio Veciana. The Assassinations Committee's first Chief Counsel Richard Sprague had run into what, for him, became a dead-end when he attempt to probe into what David Phillips did in monitoring Lee Harvey Oswald's actions in Mexico City. After G. Robert Blakey became Chief Counsel, an arrangement was made with the Agency to give Committee staffers who signed the CIA Secrecy Agreement access to previously restricted files. The kicker was that the Agency would have to approve many information obtained from the files prior to publication in the Committee's report. The Committee was interested in a number of questions related to Phillips' activities in Mexico City: Why was CIA headquarters not notified immediately when the Agency's Mexico City station picked up Oswald's contacts with the Cuban and Russian Embassies? Was there, in fact, a tape recording of Oswald's telephone conversations with Russian personnel -- a conversation in which Oswald, Phillips and publicly declared, offered information to the Russians? Did Phillips lie about ever listening to such a tape? Did Phillips lie when he said the tape had been routinely destroyed? Why didn't the CIA have a photograph of Oswald entering the Cuban or Russian Embassies? Who was the man in the photographs the Agency erroneously told the Warren Commission were of Oswald? Did Phillips, ever the professional double deceiver, deliberately set himself up as the patsy in misexplaining the Agency's handling of the tapes and photographs in order to cover a deep secret? The Assassinations Committee does not answer all those questions in its published final report. Most of its published conclusions are masterpieces of definitive statements conflictingly injected with waffling qualifiers. For instance: "Despite the unanswered questions, the weight of the evidence supported the conclusion that Oswald was the individual who visited the Soviet Embassy and Cuban Consulate." (Italics added.) It dismisses the Agency's handling of the Oswald case prior to the assassination as simply "deficient, and yet admits that "the Committee was unable to determine whether the CIA did in fact come into possession of a photograph of Oswald taken during his visits to the Soviet Embassy and Cuban Consulate in Mexico City, or whether Oswald had any associates in Mexico City." Unable to determine? That admission reveals more about the Committee's investigation and its relationship to the CIA than do its pages of exposition and conclusion. The Question of Phillips' veracity is not addressed int he Committee's final report. (In fact, David Phillips is not even mentioned in the final report, although a published appendix volume, cleared by the Agency, does name him and his job assignments.) In one of the footnote references to the report, however, is noted a document entitled :Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA and Mexico City." It is a 300-page, substantively exhaustive staff report written by two of the Committee's best researchers, Dan Hardway and Edwin Lopez. It remains classified and will not be released to the public. In the search for the true identity of Maurice Bishop, the more I learned about David Atlee Phillips, the more I was struck by how incredibly well the pieces fit. Aside for the physical similarity to Bishop, Phillips' interests and job assignments were exceptionally relevant to almost everything Antonio Veciana had told me about Bishop. In Havana as a covert operative, involved with the anti-Castro Cuban groups in Miami both before and after the Bay of Pigs, assigned to propaganda and counterintelligence activities in Mexico City when Lee Harvey Oswald visited there -- could such key factors which pointed to David Phillips being Maurice Bishop all be merely coincidental? Perhaps, if there were enough conflicting factors which mitigated against the possibility. There weren't. to the contrary, there were other aspects of Phillips' career which tended to make the fit tighter. In 1968, for instance, at the suggestion and with the help of Bishop, Veciana got a U.S. Government-salaried job with the Agency for International Development as a banking consultant in Bolivia. It was at that time, said Veciana, that his activities with Bishop broadened to include not only schemes directed specifically against Castro, but also strategies aimed at countering Communism throughout Latin America. Late in 1967, David Phillips returned to Washington to take on a new assignment as Chief of the Cuban Operations Group of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division. "Although I would report to the head of the Latin American affairs," he notes in his autobiography, "my responsibilities were worldwide: to keep tabs on Cuban preoccupations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the middle East and in more than twenty countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as to manage CIA espionage operations in Cuba. Professionally, it was a prestigious but demanding assignment." In my own mind, however, the most significant associations in David Phillips' career were those that had to do with Chile. This from the notes made from a tape recorded interview with Antonio Veciana on March 16th, 1976: "Although all of Bishop's plans against Castro failed, there were other plans, against other people, that didn't fail. He knows -- he says there is no doubt -- that Bishop was involved in the plan to dispose of Allende in Chile. That was one of his job. He knows that by the contacts in Chile that Bishop had. 'All the connections I had in Chile were given to me by Bishop.'" Part of the plot to assassinate Castro in Chile in 1971, said Veciana, called for the Chilean military bodyguard to capture the assassins before Castro's own forces could kill them. Bishop, said Veciana, made the arrangements for this, an indication of his contacts high in the Chilean military. In December, 1975, the Church Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities issued a staff report entitled, Covert Action in Chile: 1963-1973. It noted: "Was the United Stated directly involved, covertly, in the 1973 coup in Chile? The Committee has found no evidence that it was. However, the United States sought in 1970 to foment a military coup in Chile; after 1970 it adopted a policy, both overt and covert, of opposition to Allende; and it remained in intelligence contact with the Chilean military, including officers who were participating in coup plotting." (Italics added.) One of the most interesting facts revealed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report was the huge amount of money available to the CIA operatives in covert action in Chile. Of the total of $13 million the CIA poured into Chile, more than $8 million was spent in the three years between the 1970 election and the military coup which toppled Allende in 1973. Most of that was spent on propaganda and media operations. The Senate report also noted that the CIA did not consult its Congressional oversight committees, as it was required by law to do, on most of its Chilean covert action projects. Although most were approved by President Nixon's executive oversight group, called the 40 Committee, the Senate report said: "Congressional oversight committees were not consulted about projects which were not reviewed by the full 40 Committees. One of these was the Track II attempt to foment a military coup...." The chief of the Track II project was David Phillips. When Phillips testified in executive session before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he scoffed at Veciana's contention that he was paid $253,000 in cash at the termination of his relationship with Maurice Bishop. Phillips said that was too large a sum of money for the CIA to pay out unvouchered. As Chief of the Agency's Western Hemisphere Division in 1973, he said, "I would have had to know about it." Veciana claimed that the beginning of the end of his relationship with Bishop came with the discovery of the unauthorized sub-plot to blame Russian agents for the Castro assassination attempt in Chile in 1971. I began to suspect that was only part of the reason when a close associate of Veciana's told me, and Veciana himself later admitted, that he was pushing to continue the efforts to kill Castro with every more daring schemes that Bishop did not approve. That is the reason Veciana initially thought he was put out of action. Perhaps, however, there is a simpler explanation. In his autobiography, Phillips tells a self-effacing story about an incident which occurred shortly after he took over as Western Hemisphere Division boss -- the highest echelon, by the way, to which a CIA officer can climb without Presidential appointment. One weekend he received a report that a defected CIA officer walked into the Chilean Embassy in Mexico City and offered information about a secret Agency plan. Phillips rushed to his office on a Sunday morning and spent the entire day checking out the report and finally learning that the so-called defect CIA officer was a phony. On Monday morning, he writes, he was gently chastised by the superior, whom he calls "Abe," for not delegating the job of checking out the report to his proper subordinate. "Abe was right," Phillips admits. "I soon found that 95 percent of my time must be devoted to mundane management matters and only a precious few moments to the more interesting development and direction of operations. The Division Chief has to delegate even the most intriguing cases and allow others to enjoy the excitement of running operations." When David Phillips' book, The Night Watch, was published, it because a fascinating exercise for me to pore over it looking for such clues and hints to the possibility of his being the mysterious Maurice Bishop. Although there are broad revelations that Phillips couldn't easily have concealed in an autobiography, the book was cleverly constructed to be as little informative as possible about the details of his many covert actions. Phillips is, of course, an overtly loyal CIA officer. Yet the question that the book as a whole evokes, more in essence than in substance, is whether or not it is, in itself, a charade, or merely a reflection of the charade that was his life. I came to suspect that Phillips may, indeed, have been one of the very best covert agents the CIA ever had. Nevertheless, his autobiography may inadvertently contain just one mirror too many, a final reflection of simple duplicity. Phillips, for instance, portrays himself as a moderate liberal. He proclaims -- albeit, with suspicious gratuity -- that he voted for George McGovern and for Hubert Humphrey when they were Presidential candidates. He also would have his readers believe that he is the processor of a level-headed, moral and philosophical objectivity, a man who claims to have agonized much over the ethical and legal implications of his covert apportions. Yet he reports that his career has been full of Agency honors and rewards for h is repeated successes as a dirty tricks expert and details how he help dislodged even left-leaning governments which have been democratically elected, as in Chile. Moreover, the real David Phillips is closely associated with top figures in the military-industrial complex, as well as with the most hawkish of the nation's right-wing power brokers. For instance, as previously noted, I discovered his relationship with Clare Booth Luce extends to her board position on the Phillips-founded Association of former Intelligence Officers. That relationship may be relevant here. As those who worked for the Time-Life communications empire can verify, the wife of the late board chairman Henry Luce was an influential figure in the operations of her husband's media giants. I recall talking with former Life correspondent Andrew St. George early in 1976, before I had even heard of the name of David Phillips. St. George told me that one of the many instances in which Life (missing 30) The last two sentences would come to have special significance for me, although not in the way Phillips intended them. Phillips does, by the way, admit knowledge of an assassination plot by anti-Castro rebels while he was still a deep cover operative in Havana. He mentions a detail that drew my interest. He says he was asked by his case officer to undertake what he called a "special" mission. He was to approach the group as an American anxious to assist anyone plotting against Castro, find out the details of the plan and report back to his case officer. Phillips says he did, in fact, cultivate one of the conspirators, attended a secret conclave of the group and reported back that he thought the plot would fail. Shortly afterwards, a Castro informant broke up the scheme and several of the plotters were arrested. Phillips, however noted his thoughts when he was considering the various methods by which he could approach the plotters: "It would be tricky," he writes. "I could approach and cultivate one of the conspirators using a false identity, perhaps in disguise." Disguises, I have learned, do not have to be blatant or sophisticated and are sometimes just subtle enough to avoid instance recognition. But I found it interesting that Phillips should consider a ploy favored by one of his associates. For his disguises on his White House Plumbers operations, E. Howard Hunt had drawn on the resources of the CIA's Technical Services Bureau. Because his testimony was already on record with the Senate Intelligence Committee and couldn't be brushed aside, because he did fit into the issue plan in an oblique way, and because it was an area I kept pushing, Antonio Veciana was brought to Washington on April 25th, 1978 to testify in private before the House Select Committee on Assassination. David Phillips was scheduled to testify immediately after him. That was not coincidental. Although it was not deliberately stage-directed, the possibility was recognized that Veciana and Phillips might encounter each other in the hallway outside the hearing room. They did. As I walked out of the hearing room at Veciana's side, I saw Phillips talking amiably with a small group immediately outside the door. He glanced up, saw Veciana, glanced at me and turned back to his conversation. Veciana also spotted Phillips. He leaned over to me and said with a half-smile on his face, "There's David Phillips." That day, Veciana again testified under oath that David Phillips was not the person he knew as Maurice Bishop. He admitted, however that there was a "physical similarity." I returned to the hearing room to listen to Phillips testify immediately after I had escorted Veciana out of the building. Most of the questioning concerned his knowledge of Oswald's activities in Mexico City and the validity of his previous testimony. (The Committee staff report which deals with that area remains classified.) Finally, the questioning cam around to Veciana and Bishop. David Phillips said he never used the name Maurice Bishop. (Although CIA covert operatives have registered pseudonyms, most also use operational aliases with their field contacts. these are not registered and are changed at will.) Phillips also said he did not know of anyone in the CIA who used the name Maurice Bishop. When asked if he knew Antonio Veciana, Phillips cane on strong, his voice exuding a forced restraint, as if he were getting sick and tired of having to put up with such nonsense. He said he had seen Veciana only twice in his life, the second time that very morning as Veciana was emerging from the e hearing room. The first time he met Veciana, Phillips said, was at a meeting of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers in Reston. I was facing Phillips's right side, sitting at a staff table on a level below the U-shaped Congressional dais. Kennedy Subcommittee Chairman Richard Pryor, the white-haired North Carolina Representative, was president. As I listened I was struck by the tone of credibility in Phillips's voice as he began to speak about an incident with which I was personally familiar. Phillips said that Veciana was brought to the Reston meeting by an investigator from Senator Schweiker's office but that he was not introduce to Veciana by name. Veciana, he said, was introduce to him only as "the driver." He said that Veciana asked him some questions in Spanish and had the feeling that Veciana did that in order to hear his accent. He did not say what questions Veciana asked him. At the time, he said, he did not know who Veciana was or why Schweiker's office had sent him to the meeting. Later, of course, he said, he read about Veciana in Jack Anderson's column. I was shocked. An impulse flashed within me to Jump up and shout, "That's is not true!" I had personally introduced Veciana to Phillips twice at the luncheon in Reston once at the table and once in the hallway. In fact, Phillips himself asked Veciana, "What was your name again?" and Veciana told him. And when Veciana asked Phillips if he remembered him, Phillips said no. I was there. Veciana was there. Sarah Lewis was there. It was documented in my reports written immediately afterwards. What was Phillips trying to pull? This was sworn testimony. I was dumbfounded. Later, I mentioned by reaction to Chief Counsel Bob Blakey. "You know," I said, "David Phillips lied in his testimony." Blakey raised his brows. "Oh, really," he said. "What about?" I told him the details. He listened carefully, thought silently for a moment, gave me a "so what?" shrug and walked away. Shortly after the Bay of Pigs operation, President John F. Kennedy confided to his advisor Arthur Schlesinger that, after he took office he should not have retained Allen Dulles as CIA Director. "I can't estimate his meaning when he tells me things," said Kennedy. Immediately after he was appointed to the Warren Commission to investigate Kennedy's assassination, Dulles told columnist Murray Kempton he was confident that Commission would find no evidence of a conspiracy. At an early meeting of the Warren Commission, the transcript of which was marked "Top Secret" until 1975, the members discussed what Chief Counsel F. Lee Rankin called "this dirty rumor" that Oswald may have been an FBI informant. "This is a terribly hard thing to disprove, you know," said Allen Dulles. "How do you disprove a fellow was not your agent? How do you disprove it?" The late Congressman from Louisiana, Hale Boggs, then asked" "You could disprove it, couldn't you?" "No," said Dulles. "Did you have agents about whom you had no record whatsoever?" asked Boggs. "The records might not be on paper," said Dulles. Boggs than asked about an agent who did not have a contract but was recruited by someone from the CIA. "The man who recruited him would know, wouldn't he?" asked Boggs. "Yes, but he wouldn't tell," said Dulles. Commission Chairman Earl Warren appeared a bit taken aback by that. "wouldn't tell it under oath?" asked Warren. "I wouldn't think he would tell it under oath, no," answered Dulles. It was a revealing admission of a loyal CIA officer's perspective. It was the same perspective held by former CIA Director Richard Helms when he called his conviction of perjury before Congress a "badge of honor." At the time when the House Assassinations Committee Chief Counsel Bob Blakey was making arrangements with the CIA for access to its files, one staff member raised the question of whether or not in the absence of access to the file system itself, we could tell if the Agency was being honest with us in response to requests for all the files on a particular subject. "You don't think they'd lie to me, do you?" Blakey responded. "I've been working with those people for 20 years." Of all the factors which dictated the Assassinations Committee's ultimate disposal of the revelations of Antonio Veciana and its conclusion about Maurice Bishop, there was one of pivotal influence: The Committee's relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency. At one of the first general staff meetings, Blakey revealed what our general strategy would be in dealing with the CIA. It was going to be "realistic," he said. He was in the delicate process of negotiating a "working arrangement" with the Agency, one that would give us unprecedented access to is files. Meanwhile, he said, we have to remember certain very real factors: First, we are a temporary Congressional Investigative entity. We have a limited time to do our job and then we will disappear. The CIA will be around long after we're gone. Our attitude, said Blakey, will be that we are sympathetic to the CIA's overall mission and its continuing role and we will take that into consideration in our dealing with the Agency. For our report, Blakey said, we will keep record of how the Agency complies with our requests for files. the record is what's important. "The things to do now," said Blakey, "is be nice to the Agency. Ask for things in a nice way. If you have difficulty, deal with them in a nice way, don't buck them head-on at this point. That may result in the battle being lost on the beaches. Unlike his predecessor Dick Sprague, Bob Blakey saw nothing ludicrous in seeking a "working arrangement" with one of the subjects of the Committee's investigation. Neither did he view House Resolution 222 authorizing the Committee to conduct a "full and complete investigation" in conflict with the CIA's refusal to provide total access to information except on its own terms. The Committee's arrangement with the Agency for access to its files evolved over several months, most of the steps being negotiated personally by Blakey and CIA Director Stansfield Turner. It ultimately gave every Committee staff member who signed the CIA Secrecy Agreement access to the Agency's classified files. No other Congressional committee had ever reviewed CIA files without the Agency first deleting what it called its "sensitive sources and methods" which identified how the information was obtained. Knowledge of such sources and methods was often more important than the information itself. Blakey was exceptionally proud of his working arrangement with the Agency and, in a sense, he had a right to be. Although the Agency had final review of what information would be published, the Committee's final report and, more significantly, its appendix volumes were liberally documented with Agency file material. Even now, independent researchers are discovering a cornucopia of new information in that published material which appears to be relevant to the final truth about the Kennedy assassination. Yet, in the end, Blakey was suckered. Or, more accurately, he suckered himself. Although he pictured himself in periodic reports to the staff as aggressively snipping at the Agency at every instance of evasiveness or recalcitrance, he was, in fact, on that Agency's turf. And being there meant he accepted at least two basic assumption: First, the access to CIA files would provide the Committee with the comprehensive information necessary for certain definitive conclusion; and, secondly, that the CIA files themselves reflected a complete and accurate record of whether or not the Agency or any of its personnel were involved in the Kennedy assassination. Those assumptions are reflected in the Committee's final report. My own impression was that Blakey all along though he was cleverly manipulating the Agency to his own end. His end was, of course, a heavily-documented final report. After the Committee's report was released, Blakey told a journalist, who was questioning him about he Committee's conclusion concerning Antonio Veciana's revelations, that he had been certain CIA files which were not shown to anyone else on the Committee's staff. that makes me wonder who was manipulating who. Bob Blakey's reverence for the CIA as an institution permitted the Agency to impose its priorities on the Committee's function. And the CIA's priorities did not have anything to do with a desire to determine the facts of President Kennedy's assassination. the Committee's relationship with the CIA -- especially in terms of it pursuit of the mysterious Maurice Bishop -- totally ignored the insights provided by Allen Dulles' admission to the Warren Commission and the perspective revealed by convicted perjurer Richard Helms. I vividly recall an informal discussion I had, before the Committee's investigation GO underway, with a former high-ranking CIA officer who, after he retired to Florida , slowly began viewing the Agency in a different light. He said that the CIA's response to the Committee would be "predictable." It would react the way it has always reacted to every crisis and/or investigation: A "talk force" of key personnel would be formed to "handle and contain" the inquiry. He cited the Agency's response to both the Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee as examples. He said the "clandestine mentality" that is drilled into the CIA operatives until it is instinctual would permit most of them to commit perjury because, in their view, their secrecy oath supersedes any congressional witness oath. He said he doubted that the CIA would be totally candid with the Committee despite its Congressional authority. "You represent the United States Congress," he said, "but what the hell is that to the CIA?" "...what the hell is that to the CIA?" I think of that when I recall what subsequently occurred in the pursuit of Veciana's revelations, and I think of the incredible admission that is buried in the Committee's final report -- an admission which almost totally negates its investigative conclusions about he CIA: "...the Agency's strict compartmentalization and the complexity of it enormous filing system...have the...effect of making congressional inquiry difficult. For example, CIA personnel testified to the Committee that a review of Agency files would not always indicate whether an individual was affiliated with the Agency in any capacity. Nor was there always an independent means of verifying that all materials requested from Agency had, in fact, been provided." In July of 1977, two moths after he had written his first column about Mr . X" and his revelations concerning "morris" Bishop, Jack Anderson brought the subject up again. Wrote Anderson: "The Central Intelligence Agency had no comment last my when we quoted from House investigative files that the CIA was in contact with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on the eve of the John F. Kennedy assassination. "...The CIA though maintaining official silence, reacted to our story in an internal memo. He have obtained a copy of the memo.." "This addressed to the CIA's Deputy Director for Operations. It states: 'The Jack Anderson column of 6 May 1977 alluded to "the CIA man, Morris Bishop," in Dallas.... The CIA did not have contact in Dallas with Lee Harvey Oswald.... We have run exhaustive traces to identify Morris Bishop with success. The name Morris Bishop has never been used as a registered alias or pseudonym nor has anyone with the name ever been employed by the CIA.'" It was not until March 2nd, 1978, that the House Select Committee on Assassinations finally got around to officially asking the CIA to check all its files and index references for a Maurice Bishop. On March 31st, 1978, the CIA informed the Committee that its Office of the Inspector General, its Office of the General Counsel, its Office of Personnel, and the Deputy Directorate of Operations had no record of a Maurice Bishop. And a file search of David Phillips' files did not indicate that he had ever registered the alias of Maurice Bishop. I was the only staff investigator on the House Selected Committee on Assassinations with a journalistic background. As such, I was particularly mindful of Blakey's early directive that all the activities of the Committee, classified or not, be kept confidential. Some of my best friends were journalists and I was in touch with them regularly. In addition, some of them had been doing important and very effective research into the Kennedy assassinating themselves and were excellent sources of information. For that reason, I refused to restrict my contacts with them. Blakey knew that, and I knew that he knew that, so I was particularly careful not to leak any Committee information. (I later discovered that Blakey himself was the source of many published leaks.) One of the journalists with whom I was in regular contact was a tall, husky young freelancer named Scott Malone. Malone had stirred Blakey's ire by being obnoxiously pushy while questioning him about a piece of New Times magazine and Blakey had declared him a persona non grata to the Committee staff. But Malone was a good digger and a hustler and he helped put together a BBC-produced syndicated television special on the Kennedy assassination. One day, while working on that, he wound up in Miami to interview Robert McKeown. In the mid-'50s, McKeown had a successful business in Cuba, was forced out by Batista and was eventually arrested in Texas with a house full of arms and munitions he was planning to smuggle to a mountain rebel name Fidel Castro. Actually, he was a front for former Cuban President Carlos Prio, with whom Frank Fiorini Sturgis also worked. After the Kennedy assassination, the FBI discovered that Jack Ruby had once contacted McKeown to ask him for a letter of introduction to Castro. McKeown has since given a variety of reasons for Ruby wanting the introduction. He was said that Ruby wanted to sell Castro a shipment of jeeps. He has also said that Ruby was interested in obtaining the e release of some friends Castro had imprisoned. And, in an interview I had with him while I was working for Senator Schweiker, McKeown said that Ruby had access to a load of slot machines hidden in the mountains of New Mexico. McKeown would also later claim he was visited by Oswald. McKeown is now an old man, sickly and in need of money. The last time I saw him he said Mark Lane was going to get him a big book contract. At any rate, I met Scott Malone for lunch one day on Lincoln Road to find out if Robert McKeown had revealed anything new to him. He hadn't. After lunch, Malone casually mentioned that McKeown told him he had met a fellow at his bridge club who used to be involved in anti-Castro activities in some way back in the early '60s. Malone thought the fellow might be os some help to me and gave me his name. This had occurred prior to the hacheting of the investigative staff and Al Gonzales was still working with me in Miami. Gonzales tracked McKeown's friend to a small apartment in Coral Gables and one morning, when we were in the neighborhood, we dropped in on him. We wouldn't have been so casual about it if we had known how important he was going to be. In the report I eventually wrote, he was given the name of Ron Cross, for a variety of reasons. Cross, we discovered, worked as a case officer out of the CIA's JM/WAVE station during the heyday of its anti-Castro activities. He handled some Cuban exile labor units and helped in organizing a militant group that, although not near the size and effectiveness of Alpha 66, was one of the most active. Early in his career, posing as American businessman with financial connections, Cross had pulled an operational coup by infiltrating Castro's mountain stronghold before the big barbudo seized power. There Cross ran into my old pals, the ubiquitous freelancer Andrew St. George (who confidentially asked Cross who he was "really" working for) and daring gunrunner Frank Fiorini Sturgis. Cross, retired from the Agency since 1964, was a thin, tanned, soft-spoken fellow, friendly in a casual way. Although we had spoken to other cooperative former CIA officers, he surprised me with his thoughtful candidness. Then, at the end of our long first meeting with him, he volunteered that he was a member of Alcoholic Anonymous. "I want you to know that," he said, "in case someone happens to remark, 'Oh, I know that old drunk.' Well, once a time ago I was an old drunk." Both he and his wife, an attractive dark-haired woman who seemed particularly attentive to him. said the stress of intelligence work had cause the problem. I was impressed with Cross' admission, but I later learned that excruciating honesty is a requisite to being a successful member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Cross was a gold mine of information. He provided us not only with exquisite details about he operations of the group he handled, he also gave us a broad insight into the structure and activities of the JM/WAVE station, including the duties and relationships of the station's top personnel. He mentioned, for instance the E. Howard Hunt occasionally came by the headquarters. ("He would come in, puff on his pipe and look down his nose at the case officers.") Both Gonzales and I held back in asking him certain key questions for fear of revealing what we knew. We were leery. Stumbling on Cross, we both quickly deduced, was a stroke of dumb luck. In terms of our main areas of interest, he was a man who had been in the right place at the right time. But we wanted to check him out a bit more before we opened up with questions which could provide the basis of misinformation feedback. Trusting souls we never were. We did, however, ask him about David Phillips. Sure, Cross said, he knew Phillips. Working through the JM/WAVE case officers, he said Phillips coordinated the propaganda operations of all the Cuban exile groups and Agency was running. Phillips, he said, worked mostly out of Washington at the time but flew in and out of Miami frequently. On a daily basis, Cross said, the officers worked with Phillips's direct subordinate at the station, a fellow who use the name of Doug Gupton. Over the next few weeks, both Gonzales and I were in frequent touch with Cross as we attempted to check out the validity of both the information he gave us and the man himself. He appeared to be straight. We then decide to test him in an area of major interest. One day Gonzales called him and told him we were working on something that required confirmation of the pseudonyms or aliases used by certain CIA officers who had worked out of the JM/WAVE station. He threw three name at Cross: one was "Bishop", another was "Knight," and the third was the true name of an officer who had actually worked out of the Havana station. Off the top of his head, Cross said, he believed that "Bishop" was the name used by David Phillips, "Knight was a name that E. Howard Hunt occasionally used and, he said, we must be mistaken about the third name alias because that was the true name of a fellow he known in Havana. Cross said, however, that within the next few days he would be talking with a few of the Cuban exile agents he had worked with and, in just chatting with them about the old days, perhaps his memory would be refreshed enough to give us a more definite answer. Several days later, Al Gonzales decided to drop in for a chat with Cross to see if his memory had been refreshed. Well, Cross said, it had been a bit. He said now he was "almost certain" that David Phillips had use the name of "Maurice Bishop," but he still was not definite about whether Hunt had used the "Knight" alias. He was sure, however, that the third name was a true name. That surprised us. We had not given Gross Bishop's first name. There was another interesting fillip to what Cross had revealed. In his memoir, Give Us This Day, E. Howard Hunt anoints the "Propaganda Chief" of the CIA's anti-Castro operations -- "an officer who had worked for me brilliantly on the Guatemala Project" -- with the pseudonym of "Knight." In his own autobiography, David Phillips admits that Hunt is referring to him and, flipping the mirror a few times, he adds: "Bestowing the name of Knight was the ultimate accolade -- people who have worked in CIA will recall that pseudonym belonged to one of the Agency is most senior officers, a man Howard idolized." In Thomas Powers' biography of Richard Helms, The Man Who Kept the Secrets, the "man Howard idolized" is of course, reveals to be his boss, the former CIA Director. Those who know E. Howard Hunt have no doubt that, in actuality, Hunt himself would have occasionally donned the pseudonym of his idol. Such are the games some operatives play. Over the next few weeks, we continued to check into Cross himself. We spoke with a number of Cuban exiles who had worked with him and others who had known him. We found no discrepancies in anything he had told us. I felt, however, that I should once again confirm his recollection about Maurice Bishop. One day, after a lengthy conversation about other areas of the JM/WAVE operation, I off-handedly said, "oh, by the way, we're still checking into some of the cover names that were used at the time. Do you recall Al Gonzales asking you about 'Knight' and 'Bishop'?" Yes, Cross said, as a matter of fact, he had been giving it some thought. He said he was fairly sure now that Hunt did use the Knight alias. He also said he was now "almost positive" that David Phillips used the name of Bishop. The reason he was sure about that, he said, was because he had been thinking about when he worked with Phillips' assistant at the JM/WAVE station, that young fellow named Doug Gupton. Cross said he recalled now often discussing special field and agent problems with Gupton and Gupton at times saying, "Well, I guess Mr. Bishop will have to talk with him." Cross said, "And, of course, I knew he was referring to his boss, Dave Phillips. If Al Gonzales and I had known for a fact that Ron Cross had been a retired employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, we would not have been able to interview him for weeks, perhaps months, after we actually did. As part of aft Blakey's "working arrangement" with the Agency, it was agreed that the Assassinations Committee staff would permit the CIA to clear and arrange all interviews with both its present and former employees. That, of course, permitted the a Agency to keep track of exactly the Committee's investigation was going in that area. Almost every interview of a current employee was conducted at CIA headquarters and there was always an Agency liaison present to monitor it. Because the restrictions of its Secrecy Agreement were waived in interviews with the Committee, the CIA agency made no attempt, as far as- I'm aware, to limit the information its employees could divulge. Neither am I aware of an instance where the Agency deliberately attempted to stall in complying to requests for interviews. It just took time for the paper work to travel through the Langley bureaucracy. In fact, once it reached the CIA the battle was almost over. Getting the request through the disjointed, misgeared connections of the Assassinations Committee's own machinery was fraught with all sorts of often terminal hindrances and delays. Well, what the hell, everyone was busy in Washington, especially the fellows at the top, and if we fellows down in the field wanted to conduct an investigation I guess we really could have done it without bothering everybody up there. Perhaps that explains why it was more than six months after the revelations provided by Ron Cross that the Assassinations Committee got around to interviewing the man who called himself Doug Gupton. Although Gupton was recently retired from the Agency, the interview was arranged at CIA headquarters. Gupton acknowledged that he had worked at the Miami JM/WAVE station when Cross said he had and that his immediate superior was David Phillips. He also acknowledged that he worked with Ron Cross on a daily basis. Explaining his working relationship with David Phillips, Gupton said he was in contact with him regularly in Washington by telephone and by cable. Phillips also visited Miami It quite often," he said. Gupton said, however, that Phillips was actually in charge of two sets of operations. Gupton's set of operations was run out of Miami, he said, and he kept Phillips informed of them. Phillips ran another set of operations personally out of Washington and, Gupton said, Phillips did not keep him briefed about those, so he didn't know anything about their specifics or what contacts Phillips used. Gupton did believe, however, that Phillips used many of his old contacts from Havana in his personal operations. When asked if he knew whether or not either E. Howard Hunt or David Phillips ever used the cover name of."Knight," Gupton said he did not know. When asked if David Phillips ever used the cover name of "Maurice Bishop," Gupton said, "I don't recall. When told that Ron Cross said that he specifically remembered Gupton referring to David Phillips as "Mr. Bishop," Gupton remained silent for a moment, looked down at his lap and said, "Well, maybe I did. I don't remember." Gupton was then shown the composite sketch of Maurice Bishop. No, he said, it didn't look like anyone he knew. The House Select Committee on Assassinations issued 542 subpoenas for individuals to appear before it or provide material evidence. It actually took sworn testimony in depositions, at public hearings or in executive session from 335 witnesses. Despite the significance of their statements, the Committee never questioned Ron Cross or Doug Gupton under oath. Near the end of his testimony before the Assassinations Committee in April, 1978, David Phillips has been shown the composite sketch of Maurice Bishop. Since I had not had the chance to show it to him at Reston -- especially after his abrupt refusal to answer further questions following his encounter with Veciana -- I assumed it was the first time he had seen the sketch. Phillips put on his glasses and studied it for a moment. Slowly he nodded his head. "It does look like me," he said. He paused for a moment and, with a whimsical smile, added, "Actually, it looks more like my brother." When asked, he said his brother was a lawyer in Texas. It was about a month later when I received a call from Leslie Wizelman. A researcher on the Organized Crime team, she was one of the bright young Cornell Law students Blakey had brought to Washington with him. "I have a neat story to tell you," she said. "I'm going down to Texas next week, so today I called the Tarrant County Crime Commission in Fort Worth just to see if they had any files that might be helpful. I wanted to speak to the director and asked the secretary what his name was. She said Mr. Edwin Phillips. Well, it immediately struck me that it might just be David Phillips' brother. He wasn't there but he called me back later. He was real friendly. While I was asking him if he had files on the specific individuals we were interested in, I kept wondering how I could ask him if he was David Phillips' brother. He was very nice and he thought he had some files that might help us and he'd be more than happy to cooperate. Then he said, 'I think I should tell you that I'm David Phillips' brother, someone your Committee has spoken with. He asked if I knew that. I admitted I was wondering about it. Then he said that he makes it a point to keep up with what the Committee is doing and that his brother David, after he testified, asked him to search his Crime Commission files to see if he had anything on CIA activities in Dallas or on a Maurice Bishop. He said he did and, of course, he didn't find anything. Now that's some kind of a coincidence, isn't it?" That was, indeed, some kind of coincidence. I could not forget that much of David Phillips' career was involved with the dissemination of misinformation and that he was an expert at it, still, his comment about his brother looking more like Maurice Bishop than he did intrigued me. An effective investigative body would have checked that out immediately, if only just for the record. But this was the Assassinations Committee and I knew no one would do it if I didn't do it myself. Although there were a number of witnesses in Dallas I wanted to interview because of their Miami connections, my requests for travel authorization to Texas kept getting bogged in the bureaucracy. In addition, other priorities in the Organized Crime area were pressed upon me, including searching for old time mob figures who might pass away before we could officially interview them. Chief Investigator Cliff Fenton kept saying he eventually wanted all his investigators to go to Dallas, just for the record. When the issues plan was wrapped up, he said, we would flood the place. But then came the mass firings and in the end there were only four of s left and it is hard to flood a place with four guys. By the end of July, 1978, with the investigative staff a remnant of its former self, junior and senior counsels and researchers were frantically flitting around the country in an attempt to fill most of the obvious gaps in the investigative plan. The idea was to get a contact, sworn deposition or an interview of record. The quality of the interview or the substantive potential of the information solicited didn't matter. Anyway, the investigation was over. So if someone was going to California, for instance to interview a witness for his team's issue, he was also asked to interview other witnesses for other teams' issues regardless of whether or not he was familiar with that area of the investigation. And, more often than not, he wasn't. There are a number of interview reports from this period, now locked-in the National Archives, which indicate that the interviewer really didn't know what the bell his questions really meant and couldn't follow up a significant answer when he got one. "This is ridiculous," Jim McDonald told me one day. "They've got me taking depositions and interviewing all these people in Dallas and you're the guy with the background on a lot of them. You've got to go to Dallas with me. I'm gonna insist on it." So in the final months of the life of the Assassinations committee, the only remaining investigator who had not yet officially been on the scene of the crime got to visit it. (I had, of course, been to Dallas before I joined the Committee, but that didn't count on the Committee's record.) I told Leslie Wizelman I was going. "Oh, good," she said, "you can drop in on Edwin Phillips and ask him if he has those Crime Commission files ready for me yet. He them, was supposed to have them by the end of June but every time I call he tells me they're not quite complete yet. You can pick them up for me if they're ready. Besides, you'll enjoy meeting hem. He's really friendly. I had been to Dallas and Dealey Plaza several years before and I remember being struck mostly by the compactness of the assassination site. Someone once termed it an ideal shooting gallery. The way Elm Street curved and slowly sloped towards the underpass, the extraordinary abundance of cover and camouflage in the grassy knoll areas, the numerous positions for enfilade fire in the northern perimeter of tall buildings, all seemed to be factors which weighed heavily against the site being thrust into history through a series of coincidences. That is it, this is where it had to be. That is what screams at you when you stand in Dealey Plaza. I felt it on my first visit and I felt it again. But now, as I stood in the street on the spot during a momentary lull in the flow of traffic, I felt more. Here was where a man was killed. It struck me that those who controlled what was going on in Washington had somehow forgotten that and what we were supposed to be doing about it. I spent a few days in Dallas helping staff counsel Jim McDonald with witness depositions, most of which had to do with Jack Ruby. I did, however, get to talk with a few people I had wanted to meet, including the retired Colonel Sam Kail, one of the individuals in the American Embassy in Havana in 1960 to whom Maurice Bishop had referred Veciana. Kail, a trim and tanned ex-infantryman, was affable and appeared casually cooperative. He said he remembered Veciana calling him in 1976 and asking him about Maurice Bishop. He said he didn't remember Veciana visiting him at the Embassy in Havana, but, as military attache, he had "hordes" of Cubans streaming through his office with all sorts of plans and plots. "I think it would be a miracle if I could recall him," he said. Kail also said, however, that some CIA officers attached to the Embassy would frequently use his name without telling him. Sometimes they posed as him, he said, and Cubans would come into the Embassy, ask for Colonel Kail and then tell him he wasn't the Colonel Kail they had met. As military attache, Kail said, his main function was in intelligence. After the Bay of Pigs, he was assigned to an Army detachment in Miami debriefing Cuban refugees. Asked about he relationship with the CIA's covert JM/WAVE station, Kail said, "I suspect they paid our bills." Kail said, however, that he had no contact with David Phillips and had never met him. The fact that Kail was operating in the intelligence area was, I thought, important in terms of Veciana's credibility about his early contacts with Maurice Bishop. Significant also was Kail confirming again what Veciana had initially told me he specifically remembered: Kail did go home to Dallas for Christmas in 1960. the details make a difference. There was so much to do in such a short time in Dallas I did not think I would have the opportunity to meet Edwin Phillips. At the last moment, however, an urgent call from Washington for an interview report of witness who, someone discovered, would have been a gap in the investigative plan if left uncontacted, took me to Forth Worth. The witness, who had been a friend of the Oswald's, was outside my investigative area and not someone I knew a lot about. And not having with me the background files and records which I would usually check before approaching a subject, meant that the interview would necessarily be brief, strictly for the record and embarrassingly superficial. That's how bad things got at the end. It was late in the afternoon when I called Edwin Phillips' office in Fort Worth. His office, unpretentiously utilitarian was in downtown Fort Worth, in the Electric Service Building, a stolid- looking older structure. His secretary, a matronly woman with pale skin, rosy cheeks and an impeccably neat permanent, was friendly and charming and we chatted amiably while I waited in the anteroom to his office for Phillips to finish a telephone conversation. Another secretary, a thin young woman with a pleasant face, smiled a greeting as she passed and exchanged pleasantries. Leslie was right, I thought, this was a friendly place. Edwin Phillips greeted me effusively was he emerged from his office. "Well, well, it sure is s pleasure to see you," he said, "you come right on in now." He shook my hand and guided me into his office. He was obviously older than David Phillips, shorter, punchier and more jowly of face. There was no doubt that they were brothers, but Edwin Phillips' resemblance to the Maurice Bishop sketch was in no way as close as his brother's In his high-backed black leather chair, surrounded by the old-fashioned scrolled-mahogany furniture, attired in a conservation dark suit and vest, Edwin Phillips reminded me of a down- home Texas politician, fast-talkin', drawlin,' back-slappin' friendly and sharp as an ol' hoot-owl. I didn't get a chance to do much explaining. I said I happened to be in the area and I dropped by really for only two reasons. The first was that Leslie Wizelman had asked me to check on the files and see if they were ready yet. Phillips hemmed and hawed a bit and said well, yes sir, he had gotten together the files and they were right here somewhere, as he began rummaging and flipping through the piles of papers on his desk, but he hadn't a chance to organize they yet and he wasn't about to give them to Leslie in the mess they were in, no sir, but he was gonna get to them right soon now and he'd have them ready for her in another week or two for sure. "Now that Leslie, she is a might fine little gal," he said. "Ah admire her, ah do. And ah respect her, an' ah respect the work she's doin', but ah toll' her as soon as she walk in here, ah toll' her, you know ahem David Phillips' brother, an' you people have been talking' to David and, well, David's my younger brother an' ah always kinda looked after David...." Edwin Phillips said that David had called him and told him about his testimony before the Committee, told him what had happened and how the Committee had gotten him mixed up with this fellow Maurice Bishop. He said David told him that he was shown a sketch of this Maurice Bishop and when he saw it his mouth just dropped, he was so surprised at how much of a resemblance there was. "But David told me," said Edwin Phillips, "that he said the sketch looked more like me than him." He laughed. "Ah told David that ah resented his taking advantage of our fiduciary and fraternal relationship." He laughed again. "You know, ah always kinda looked after David." Well, I said, that was the other reason I came by. Being that I was in the neighborhood, I thought he might just get a kick out of taking a look at the sketch himself. I thought he might be interested in seeing it, I said, and I just happened to have it with me. Phillips seemed genuinely delighted. "Well, that's mighty nice of you," he said. "Ah do appreciate your thoughtfulness." I reached over and handed him the sketch. He leaned forward in his chair and looked at it closely. "Ah am astonished!" He almost shouted. "Ah am astonished! Why that is amain'! That certainly does look like David." He kept studying the sketch and shaking his head In amazement. "Well, now," he said, "ah gonna kid David about that. That does look a lot more -like David than it does me, don't it now?" Well, I admitted, there is a resemblance. Edwin Phillips couldn't get over it. He went on about how David told him about this Cuban fellow who said he saw this Maurice Bishop with Oswald and how the Committee had asked David about it. I got the strong impression that David Phillips had briefed his brother in exceptional detail about his testimony. Edwin Phillips thanked me again for dropping by, said it was mighty nice of me to go out of my way. Well, I thought he would Just get a kick out of seeing the sketch, after what David said about it resembling him and all. He was laughing and chatting about that as he escorted me out of his office and then, as we passed his secretary, began telling her the story and why I had come by. "Would you mind showing my secretary the sketch?" he asked. Not at all, I said as I pulled it out of my briefcase again. His secretary put on her glasses and studied the sketch. "Ah was just telling' this gentleman how astonished ah was," said Edwin Phillips. His secretary just shook her head in amazement. "That's David," she said simply. "That's David." "Come take a look at this," Phillips called to the younger secretary at the other desk. "This is my daughter Beth," he said introducing her, "let's see what she thinks. Does that look more like David or more like me?" Beth moved behind her father to get a better look at the sketch. "Why that's Uncle David," she said. "That is Uncle David." They were all shaking their heads and laughing now at the incredible coincidence that the sketch should so much resemble David Phillips. It sure struck them as mighty funny. It struck me as funny, too. To tell the truth, I found myself chuckling almost all the way back to Dallas. David Phillips has always been a man of action. In his book, The Night Watch, he details how very much he regretted having to spend more time behind the desk as he moved up the Agency's ranks. He loved being on the operational end of the dirty tricks business, playing the covert action games, surreptitiously spinning hidden wheels to orchestrate a series of "coincidences" which would bring about a counterintelligence objective. He tells the story, for instance, of so successfully setting up a top Cuban intelligence officer in Mexico City that even Castro himself came to believe the man was involved in private illegal activity and recalled him to Cuba. The CIA awards he received indicate that there were many other successful dirty tricks Phillips doesn't mention in his book. Until I casually dropped in to visit his brother Edwin in Forth Worth, David Phillips could have assumed that the Assassinations Committee had ceased its efforts to identify Maurice Bishop. He had been questioned under oath, Antonio Veciana had been questioned under oath, and the CIA had checked its files and declared that no agent or officer had ever officially used the name of Maurice Bishop. My visit to his brother signaled Phillips that the Committee had not dismissed the possibility that he was the person Veciana claimed he saw with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in 1963. Shortly after I returned from Texas)I went to Washington for a series of meetings concerning the preparation of the final Committee report. A researcher named Dan Hardway greeted me as I walked into the office. Hardway was another of the sharp young Cornell Law students who, to Blakey's distress, had evolved into the staff's Young Turks. He and Ed Lopez were working on what would eventually turn out to be a revealing 300-page report which would, in the Committee's final volumes, be relegated to a footnote as "a classified staff study, Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA and Mexico City." "Hey," Hardway called in his mellifluous West Virginny twang, "we got an interview comin' up at the-Agency you might be interested in." Hardway said that in the course of his file research he had uncovered the existence of a deep cover operative he thought he would like to talk with. The guy turned out to have worked so deep cover and been involved in such sensitive operations that the CIA was reluctant to let the Committee interview him. Pushed a bit, the Agency relented, but insisted on special security measures for the interview, including limiting the number of Committee staffers who could see him. "Turns out this fella worked with Dave Phillips quite a bit," Hardway said, "and probably was a good friend of his. Got any questions you want me to ask him?" Yeah, I did, but the fella -- who will- here be named Bart Henry -- turned out to be a closer friend of Phillips than Hardway suspected -- so close, in fact, that he might have revealed something special about the bond that exists among covert operatives. Bart Henry said he had been a CIA agent for almost 20 years and that he specifically worked very close to David Phillips -- in fact on a "day-to-day" basis -- on Cuban operations between 1960 and 1964. Fe said he thought of Phillips as one of the best agents the CIA ever had, characterized him as an excellent intelligence officer," and admitted he was "a personal friend." When Henry was asked if he knew an individual named Maurice Bishop, he shocked his interviewers by saying that he did. When asked to explain his relationship with Bishop, Henry said: "Again, Mr. Bishop was in the organization but I had not personal day-to-day open relationship with him. Phillips, yes; Bishop, no. I knew them both." Strangely, however, Henry couldn't describe Bishop's physical characteristics. He said he had only seen him "two or three times" in the "hallway or cafeteria" at CIA headquarters in Langley. The times he saw Bishop, Henry said, was between 1960 and 1964 when he himself was in Cuban operations, although, he said, he did not know if Bishop also worked in that area. Henry said he thought Bishop worked in the Western Hemisphere Division and that he had a position "higher than me." When pushed for further detail, Henry could not be more specific. If he did not know Bishop, Henry was asked, how did he know that the person he saw at CIA headquarters was, indeed, Maurice Bishop. His answer: "Someone might have said, 'That is Maurice Bishop and it was different from Dave Phillips or ... guys that I know." The interview went on into other areas and then, just before it ended, Henry was shown the composite sketch of Bishop without being told who it was. No, he said, it didn't remind him of anyone he recognized. I reviewed the transcript of the interview with Bart Henry several times. There were, from my own knowledge, obviously questionable contentions. First of all, having worked at Langley and having just glimpsed the surface mechanisms of its rigid security procedures and felt the weight of the dull silence in its hallways, I doubted very much that Maurice Bishop would have been so casually pointed out by name. Especially not so in the Agency's special cafeteria reserved for covert operatives. The contention rubbed against the Agency's "need-to-know" secrecy rule. In fact, David Phillips himself reveals in his autobiography how for years he assumed that the then-Chief of Counterintelligence, James Angleton, was a person once pointed out to him in the hallway at headquarters and then, when he was assigned to work for Angleton, was quite shocked to be introduced to someone else. In further review of Bart Henry's transcript, however, I was struck by something much more fascinating: In answering questions about Maurice Bishop, he repeatedly mentioned David Phillips' name in the same sentence. Henry wanted us very much to know that, yes, he knew Maurice Bishop and he knew David Phillips and they were two different individuals. Confirmation about my suspicion of Bart Henry's objective would come a few weeks later, following another surprising development in the search for Maurice Bishop. About a week after the interview with Bart Henry, young senior counsel named Bob Genzman happened to be on the West Coast taking a deposition from former CIA Director John A. McCone. McCone, a wealthy former shipbuilder, had been appointed by President Kennedy in 1961 and was in the post when Kennedy was killed. Genzman's team was not working the anti-Castro area and he subsequently was not intimately familiar with the details of the Veciana revelations about Maurice Bishop, but he knew enough, in running down a list of names for-- McCone to respond to as a matter of record, to include Bishop's. Here's the way Genzman's questions and McCone's answers were recorded in the deposition: Q: Do you know or did you know Maurice Bishop? A: Yes. Q: Was he an Agency employee? A: I believe so. Q: Do you know what his duties were in 1963? A: No. Q: For instance, do you know whether Maurice Bishop worked in the Western Hemisphere Division or whether he worked in some other division of the CIA? A: I do not know. I do not recall. I knew at the time but I do not recall. Q: Do you know whether Maurice Bishop used any pseudonyms? A: No; I do not know that. When Genzman returned to Washington he told me how surprised he was at McCone's positive response to the Bishop name. "I only wish I were more familiar with the details of the Bishop story so I could have asked M him more specific questions," he said, "but he didn't seem to remember much else. I got the impression he just somehow recalled the name from his days at the Agency and that was about it. I believed him." Initially, I found it difficult to fit McCone's recollection of the name of Maurice Bishop -- and that was basically all he really remembered -- into the model of the evidentiary structure which seemed to be emerging. Then, as I dug deeper, the role of John McCone himself appeared to provide a perspective. David Phillips obviously didn't appreciate the appointment of McCone as CIA Director. In his book, he describes McCone as an "outsider" without experience in clandestine operations. "In his first appearances at Langley," Phillips writes, "he left an impression of austerity, remoteness and implacability." Although McCone was the Director of the CIA, the old boy fraternity of operational insiders obviously kept him in the dark about some of the Agency 's activities. Richard Helms, McCone's Deputy Director of Plans, the "dirty tricks" department, has since admitted he never told McCone about the Agency's working relationship with the Mafia to kill Castro. Yet Helms claimed, in his testimony to a Senate Committee in 1975, he felt a special loyalty to McCone, who had given - him the DDP job, and that he felt "close to him." Helms knew that McCone, a strong Catholic, had expressed a moral abhorrence of assassination plots. Although there is nothing in the Agency's own records to support the contention, there is enough independent evidence to suggest that the CIA or some of its operatives acting "unofficially" were involved in other plot to kill Castro, plots which the Agency today claims it had nothing to do with. The initial raison d'etre of Maurice Bishop's relationship with Antonio Veciana was to assassinate Castro. Could it have been that Director McCone was told of Maurice Bishop without being told the specific nature of his operations? Could that account for what appeared to be McCone's vague familiarity with the name? Having gotten the surprising confirmation of the existence of a Maurice Bishop from both John McCone and Bart Henry, the Assassinations Committee asked the CIA to once again search its files for any references to a Maurice Bishop. Chief Counsel Blakey said he also wanted a written reply from the Agency indicating whether an individual using either the true name or pseudonym of Maurice Bishop has ever been associated in any capacity with the CIA. Less than two weeks later, the Committee received reply from the Agency. The results of its file search for Maurice Bishop, said, were again negative. "No person with such, a name has a connection with the CIA," said the reply. "Quite frankly," it added, "it is our belief -- from our earlier check, reinforced by this one -- that such a man did not exist, so far as CIA connections are concerned." It was later revealed, however, that the CIA went beyond just another checking of its files. It, too, it turned out, was puzzled by the responses the Committee had received from its two former employees, John McCone and Bart Henry. On October 19th, 1978, Chief Counsel Blakey received a letter from the Agency's chief liaison with the Committee: "This is to advise you that I have interviewed Mr. McCone and a retired employee [Bart Henry] concerning their recollections about an alleged CIA employee reportedly using the name of Maurice Bishop. "We assembled photographs of the persons with the surname of Bishop who had employment relationships of some type with the CIA during the 1960's, to see if either Mr. McCone or the employee would recognize one of them. "Mr. McCone did not feel it necessary to review those photographs, stating that I should inform you that he had been in error .... "The employee continues to recall a person of whom he knew who was known as Maurice Bishop. He cannot state the organizational connection or responsibilities of the individual, not knowing him personally, and feels that the person in question was pointed out to him by someone, perhaps a secretary. He is unable, however, to recognize any of the photographs mentioned above .... "It should be noted that the employee's statements to the effect that it is usual for employees to use aliases at Headquarters is in error .... "In summary, Mr. McCone withdraws his statements on this point. The employee continues to recall such a name, but the nature of his recollection is not very clear or precise..." That, to me, was an astonishingly revealing letter. The Agency had obviously gone to John McCone and told him that there was no official record of a Maurice Bishop in its files and McCone, who had only a vague recollection of the name to begin with and no ulterior motivations, simply said, in effect, O.K., boys, I guess I was wrong. Bart Henry, on the other hand, couldn't very well back down from his contention. He had a personal friend to consider. What should have been just getting started. was ending. What should have triggered a reinvigorated, intensive investigative effort was allowed to simply become part of the record. The dozens of witnesses who could have been called, the associates who were in the right place and time and operations, were not; the pressures which could have been applied, the polygraph and stress tests used, the operational files and vouchers analyzed, were not; the full resources and awesome powers that a Congressional committee could have brought to bear on an area of evidence of possibly overwhelming potential, were not. I was taken out of Miami as a staff investigator, assigned to Washington as a team leader and told to coordinate the writing of the anti-Castro team's part of what was supposed to be the final report. There were only three months left in the official life of the Assassinations Committee and, as Blakey himself said, cynically parroting the Warren Commission's chief counsel near the end of that investigation, "This is no time to be opening doors." I kept trying. Before I left for Washington, I had a long discussion one evening with Antonio Veciana. His attitude towards the Committee had turned very negative. That was largely the result of Blakey and the Congressional Committee members having visited Fidel Castro in Cuba. Veciana was strongly opposed to any kind of dealings with Castro and he viewed the Committee's visit as an extension of President Carter's efforts at the time to normalize relations with Cuba. Veciana now felt his aims and the aims of the U.S. Government were in conflict. He had earlier announced to Al Gonzales and me that he would no longer cooperate with the Committee. We dutifully reported that, but he remained, in fact, very cooperative with us as a result of our personal relationship with him. Our reports reflect that. My belief in Veciana's story had grown firmer. Although there were, of course, key points not corroborated, the accumulation of details which checked out was now, I felt, irrefutable confirmation. Nevertheless, there was one detail which had not yet been check out. I had not given it priority because it did not relate to the question of Maurice Bishop's identity, just his existence. It concerned the woman who Veciana said had served as an intermediary when Bishop wanted to contact him and couldn't locate him in Miami. Veciana said he had always let this woman know when he went out of town and how he could be reached. He had instructed Bishop to contact her at such time for his location. I considered the fact that Veciana had mentioned the existence of an intermediary a point towards his credibility. He initially told me he did not want to reveal her identity because he did not want to get her involved in the investigation, since she had never met Bishop and could not identify him. At the time, there was a good deal of other evidence related to Bishop's existence that had to be checked out, so I didn't push him on it. Now, however, in the last month's of the Committee's life, I saw the direction it was going and the handwriting on the wall. It appeared to me that an effort might be made to dismiss Veciana's story entirely. I thought, therefore, just to toss another log on the pile, I could convince Veciana to give me the name of the intermediary so that I could talk with her. He was reluctant. She lived in Puerto Rico, he said, she had a family now and a good job and he was afraid that she might get involved in a lot of publicity she didn't need. I told him I would consider it a personal favor, that it was important to me to know who she was. Well, he said, in that case, he would have to ask her first. He was going to Puerto Rico within the next few weeks and he would talk with her about it. I asked Veciana to call me in Washington after he did. Shortly afterwards in Washington, I received a call not from Veciana but from Tony Summers. An Englishman, Summers had also been involved in the production of that BBC-produced television special on the Kennedy assassination. He had discovered Veciana through the Jack Anderson column and, having gotten a book contract from McGraw-Hill, Summers had begun to spend a good deal of time with Veciana. An excellent investigator and an exceptionally personable fellow, Summers had also struck it off well with Veciana. "I think I have some information that might be of some help to you," Summers said when he called. "I have managed to goad Veciana into revealing the name of his intermediary. He didn't want to, of course, but I began telling him that I thought the information he was providing was balderdash. He's very sensitive, you know, about his credibility, so he told me her name and asked me not to contact her directly without his clearing it first. I thought you ought to know." Summers said he didn't have the time to check out the woman himself, what with his book deadline, but thought the Committee would want to. Most outsiders, including many journalists and independent researchers who had kept calling me with information, hadn't realized that the Committee's investigation had virtually come to a screeching halt months before. I thanked Summers and told him I would follow up. Although Summers had not gotten the woman's current location in Puerto Rico he had gotten enough for me to track her down in a couple of days of digging, at u the most. Still, I was sensitive about my relationship with Veciana and did not want to go behind his back. Besides, I felt her cooperation was contingent on his approval. I called him and asked about his progress with the woman. "She is very afraid," he said. "She feels she was not involved in anything and she is afraid there would be a lot of publicity that would hurt her family and cause her trouble in her job. I told her then, well, if she will just talk to you and if you can guarantee her there will be no publicity and she will not have to come to Washington, would she do that? She said O.K., she will just Mr talk to you if you can guarantee that. Do you want to talk with her?" I did, indeed, want to talk with her but I was not going to lie to Veciana. I had learned my lesson about making promises that the Committee would all too easily ignore. I told Veciana that I couldn't give him or her any guarantees, but I would check with my superiors to see what I could do. I remember walking with some excitement into Deputy Chief Counsel's Gary Cornwell's office. "I think I can-locate the intermediary who can confirm the existence of Maurice Bishop," I said. "All I need is a couple of days in Puerto Rico and a promise that she won't get any publicity or be called to Washington." Cornwell looked at me initially with some surprise and excitement himself and then, at the latter part of my proposal, burst into a loud guffaw: "N way!" he shouted. Then he turned serious. "Besides." he said, "it's too late. We don't have t he time or the money. How far along are you on the report?" Another effort that was made in those last months of the Committee's life involved the discovery of another individual to whom, Veciana said, Bishop had referred him at the American Embassy in Havana. His name was Smith and, initially, Veciana recalled, his first name as "something It was like Ewing. It was difficult for Veciana to pronounce. I was puzzled, however, when I spoke with several persons who land found had been connected with the U.S. Embassy and found that no one remembered a Ewing Smith. Then one day a photograph appeared in the newspaper of the State Department official President Carter had named as the new director of Cuban affairs. His name was Wayne Smith. It occurred to me that the Spanish visualization of the pronunciation of Wayne may have led Veciana to remember it incorrectly. I was right. When I showed Veciana the photograph he remembered Wayne Smith as one of the individuals Bishop had suggest he talk with at the Embassy about aid for his anti-Castro activities. Wayne Smith, I subsequently discovered was a vice consul and third secretary, at the U.S. Embassy in Havana at the time Veciana claimed he met him there. (He is, in fact, currently back in Havana as chief of the U.S. Interest Section.) Educated in-Mexico City, Smith has spent most of his career on assignment in Latin America. I thought it was important to interview Wayne Smith, even to take a sworn deposition for the record, but I was again told that the Committee's investigation had long ended and it was time to get out the report. I was particularly disappointed because I had also discovered that Wayne Smith, when he was stationed in Havana in 1960, had belonged to a little theater group composed mostly of Americans living in Cuba at the time. Among the amateur thespians in that same group was a public relations counselor named David Atlee Phillips. The final volume of the report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the one entitled, "Findings and Recommendations," was written after the official demise of the Committee, and after all but a chosen few of the staff had departed. It was written under the strict direction of Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey. The volume contains 686 pages. Less than two and a quarter pages are devoted to Antonio Veciana and Maurice Bishop. The name of David Atlee Phillips is not mentioned. The conclusions in the Committee's final volume stand in stark contrast to the findings in the staff report I had written before I left Washington. That report, painstakingly written as objectively as possible, said that, although "no evidence was found to discredit Veciana's testimony," and that although "there was some evidence to support it," nevertheless, "no definite conclusions could be drawn as to the identity or affiliations" of Maurice Bishop. The Committee's final report dismisses Veciana's allegations completely. It said the Committee found "several reasons to believe that Veciana had been less than candid," and then listed four of those reasons: "First, Veciana waited more than 10 years after the assassination to reveal his story. "Second, Veciana would not supply proof of the $253,000 payment from Bishop, claiming fear of the Internal Revenue Service. "Third, Veciana could not point to a single witness to his meetings with-bishop, much less with Oswald. "Fourth, Veciana did little to help the Committee identify Bishop." Every one of those reasons is deliberately misleading. Three of them contain blatant distortions of the facts, and one is asinine. To claim that Veciana "waited" more than 10 years ignores the circumstances of his initially telling as the story. He did not approach me, I approached him. He insisted on absolute confidentiality. Until 1973, he had no desire to jeopardize his relationship with Maurice Bishop, who for years had been a loyal and powerful ally. His revelations came as a result of his fears at that time and in an effort what he then felt to create defenses against what he then felt would be future actions against him. His prison sentence had given validity to those fears. Immediately after the Kennedy assassination, when he had opportunity to reveal the story to a U.S. Customs agent he suspected of being with the CIA, he felt he was being tested, since he himself was trained as an intelligence operative. "That was a very difficult situation because I was afraid," Veciana explained. (The Committee never interviewed that Customs agent, even though he rebuffed its Chief Investigator in a telephone request; I was denied travel authorization to California when I wanted to try.) Conversely, to claim that Veciana "waited" more than 10 years to reveal his story, implies an ulterior motivation to give the Committee false information. The fact that the Committee did not consider the significance of that, if it were at all credible,, simply multiplies the Committee's dereliction of its mandate. Veciana did, initially, refuse to supply proof of the $2531,000 payment from Bishop when asked in his formal hearing before the Congressional members of the Committee. He did claim fear of the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, that's why, before he agreed to speak with me two years before, he had request assurances that nothing he told me would be held against him. The Committee refused to grant him immunity from the IRS. When pushed under oath, however, Veciana told the Committee that he would tell me what he did with the money. The Committee refused that arrangement. The Committee's report ignored the facts that he initially voluntarily told about the payment and that he was a professional accountant who could have kept it well hidden if he had wanted to. For the Committee to implicitly expect, as a requisite for believing Veciana, that there should have been witnesses to his meetings with Bishop, is simply stupid. One would have to conclude that the Committee acquired absolutely no knowledge of basic intelligence operations during the two years of its existence, which was supposed to include an investigation of the intelligence agencies. (Conversely, to ignore the intelligence operative patterns in Lee Harvey Oswald's activities -- including his possession of a subminiature Minox camera and photos of military installations -- makes the Committee's expectations regarding Veciana's meetings with Bishop patently more ridiculous, and its report conclusions regarding Organized Crime involvement more bizarre. Even if the report had been written by Mario Puz it would be tough to believe the Mafia issues its hit men Minox cameras.) Finally, the claim that Veciana did little to help the Committee identify Bishop, implies a lack of cooperation which is simply not true. Although at one point, Veciana announced he would no longer cooperate with government that was dealing with Castro, numerous subsequent reports attest to the point that he did. In fact, he already to testify at a public hearing before the Committee shoved him aside. In addition to resting on such tortured rationality, the Committee's conclusions are tainted by its inability to dismiss blaring pieces of contradictory evidence. For instance, it noted that the CIA "insisted that it did not at any time assign a case officer to Veciana." That, the Committee decided, might be tough for the public to swallow without a fine-print footnote, yet it wanted to avoid chewing on the CIA. The result was a lumpy evasiveness: "The Committee found it probable that some agency of the United States assigned a case officer to Veciana, since he was the dominant figure in an extremely active anti-Castro organization. The Committee established that the CIA assigned case officers to Cuban revolutionaries of less importance than Veciana, though it could not draw from that alone an inference of CIA deception of the Committee concerning Veciana...." Nothing, however, attests more vividly to the incongruity of the Committee's conclusions than the fact that, in the end, it was forced to impeach the testimony of both Antonio Veciana and David Phillips. This, too, it relegated to a footnote: "The Committee suspected that Veciana was lying when he denied that the retired CIA officer was Bishop. The Committee recognized that Veciana had an interest in renewing his anti-Castro operations that might have led him to protect the officer from exposure as Bishop so they could work together again. For his part, the retired officer aroused the Committee's suspicion when he told the Committee he did not recognize Veciana as the founder of Alpha 66, especially since the officer had once been deeply involved in Agency anti-Castro operations." And on that footnote, all 686 pages of the House Select Committee on Assassinations' final report collapsed. With the official expiration of the Committee in December, 1978, I returned to Miami spent and depressed. Blakey had asked me to stay on but I refused. I had no idea of what was going to happen to the staff reports that were produced on Antonio Veciana, Silvia Odio and the other areas of anti-Castro activity, and, truthfully, I didn't bare. I kept thinking of what critic Vincent Salandria had told me in Philadelphia more than three years before: "They'll keep you very, very busy and ' eventually, they'll wear you own."Just before I left, the remnants of the anti-Castro team had given me a farewell gift which, the note that came attached to it said, would be useful if I ever decided to write about my Committee experiences. It was a well-worn whitewash brush. Occasionally, I would get a call from Washington from one of the remaining staffers asking me about a detail in my area of investigation. Eventually I was told that the original "final" report was being scrapped and an entirely new one written. One day I got a call from the Committee's Chief Legal Counsel Jim Wolf. A tall, quick-smiling redhead, Wolf was one of the brighter attorneys on the staff, the guy who had told Blakey, after the Committee had scuttled former Chief Counsel Dick Sprague, that he'd be crazy to take the job. "I told him, l' said Wolf, "that it was like the owners of the Titanic giving a guy a call and saying, 'Hey, our ship is sinking, we need a new captain."' I asked Wolf how the report was progressing. "Oh, not too good," he said. "There's just so much to get done. The morale here is at rock bottom. Hardly anyone talks to anyone else, we just write all day long." He said the pay extension that Blakey had arranged through the House Speaker's office was running out. I asked what happens then. "I guess what we don't finish," Wolf said, "we just leave out." I did, of course, remain in touch with both Antonio Veciana and Silvia Odio. Although I had initially approached them as an official investigator, I maintained a personal rapport with them simply by being honest about what the Committee was doing in terms of its handling of them as witnesses. They were both, of course, very interested in what the Committee's final report would say about their testimony. It was several weeks after the Committee's report was released in July of 1979 before I was able to get a copy of its concluding volume. Meanwhile, I had obtained a copy of the staff reports I had written in both the Veciana and Odio areas of the investigation. These reports contained the details of the evidence we had dug into and straight conclusions based on that. Because I felt an obligation to let both Veciana and Odio know what my conclusions were after dealing with them for more than three years, I gave them each copies of my a staff report and promised them I would also get them copies of the Committee's final report as soon as it was available. Meanwhile, I told them, I was interested in their reaction to the staff report. One evening several days later, the telephone rang with a call from a friend in Little Havana. His voice was tense. He said Veciana had just been shot. In the head. He was driving home from work and someone ambushed him, fired four shots at him. No, Veciana was not dead, the friend said, but that was all he knew. I quickly placed a flurry of calls to find out what happened. Yes, it was true, someone had tried to assassinate Veciana. He was in the hospital but he was all right. The hit man had been a bad shot, but a piece of one ricocheting bullet had caught Veciana in the side of the head. Later in the evening I reached one of his daughters who had just returned from the hospital. He was lucky, she said, it was not a serious wound. Ana Veciana, the oldest daughter, had recently graduated from college and was working as a novice reporter for the Miami News. A few days after her father was shot, she wrote a story about it and it was beautiful. Her family, she said, has come to accept the fact that they must live with danger, but they have refused to live with fear. Fear is the mind killer. Her family, she said, has chosen to live with pride. "My American friends never understood the politics or the violence that comes with Latin politics," she wrote. "To this day I have not been able to explain, but only to describe, the passion Cubans feel for the freedom that's taken for granted in this country." She was very proud of her father's vociferous anti-Castroism, she said, and has come to accept what she termed "the aberrations from normal life." "But fear?" she wrote. "Never. The fear we know, if it can be rightly called that, is the fear many others are not fortunate enough to experience. "I fear that we may have forgotten why we are here. "I fear that we have grown complacent and smug. "I fear the satisfaction that comes from having three cars in the driveway and a chicken in every pot, and knowing we can say what we damn well please without valuing that freedom. "That's what I fear." About a week after Veciana was shot, I received a call from him. He was out of the hospital, he was fine and walking about. It was only a slight wound near the left temple. "My wife said it was higher I might have to wear a toupee," he said laughing. The reason he called, he said, was because he had read the staff report and he wanted to talk with me and show me some papers. The next evening, I drove down to see Veciana. I did not park my car in front of his house. He had a small bandage on the side of his head and another one on his right arm. He was pale but appeared in good spirits. He took me back outside to show me the bullet holes in the pick-up truck he was driving when he was shot. He was coming home late, he said, from the marine supply business he sometimes helps manage with some relatives. Normally, he takes different routes home, but this was the one he used the most. He made a left-hand turn into a street and saw a brown station wagon parked on the corner facing him. He noticed a lone figure sitting in it, but gave it only a glance and didn't get a good look at him. Then he heard a loud noise and felt a sharp blow on the side of his head. The front vent window exploded on the second shot. "Then I knew' that it was an attempt on my life," Veciana said matter- of- factly. The third shot ripped through the door at his ribs, was deflected by the door's interior mechanism passed in front of his stomach, burned across his right arm and tore out the other side of the truck and into an open field. The fourth shot produced a spiderweb of cracks as it the front windshield. Veciana showed me the bullet holes and explained them with a sense of amused wonderment. It's funny I'm still alive, isn't it? That was his tone. I heard absolutely no muted note of fear. What fear there was a around was in me as I stood there in the eerie shadows of the lone street lamp and looked at the size of the holes the .45 caliber slugs had made in the truck. The first shot had gone completely through the outside rearview mirror producing as it emerged an ugly flower of jagged metal. I suggested to Veciana that we continue our talk in his house. I asked him who he thought was trying to kill him. "It was a Castro agent," he said with certainty. Have you ever considered,"'I asked, that it could be anyone else?" He looked at me and smiled. "No,," he said. "It is Castro. I am sure of. Our talk eventually turned to 'the staff report I had previously left with him. Yes, he said, he had read it carefully and that's why he wanted to talk with me. There are certain things in it, he said, that question his credibility. His credibility is very important to him because he in still gathering evidence to overturn his narcotics conviction, even though he had served the sentence. What bothered him, Veciana said, was the denial the two individuals in Caracas, Lucilo Pena and Luis Posada, that they were involved with him in the Castro assassination attempt in Chile in 1971. "Sure they were with me," Veciana said. "They are not telling the truth." To prove that to me, he said, he had asked a friend who had just come from Caracas to bring some papers that would prove it. He would also give me the name of an individual in Miami who could corroborate it. He did, and he gave me copies of the documents. We talked for a few hours in detail about other points in that report and I slowly began to realize that Veciana was not an going to bring up the one key doubt I had expressed about his credibility. In the report, I said specifically that I had doubted his credibility when he told me that David Phillips was not Maurice Bishop. In our discussion now, Veciana was letting that pass. We had come to the point of a close but odd relationship, Veciana and I. I had told him I understood his position and he said he appreciated that. "You know,"he said, "I have given sworn statements.11 I knew what he meant. But that evening as we talked I was moved to take advantage of the certain camaraderie that had developed between us. "Tony," I said, "I am not going to put you on the spot, but I would like to ask you just one question and I would like you to be totally honest with me because the answer that you give me is very important to me. His face got very serious and his dark eyes stared suddenly at me without expression. "I know that you feel you have a mission in life," I said, "and I want you to know that I respect that and all the things you must do to be faithful to that mission. Believe me, I do not want to interfere with it. "He nodded his head. "I understand," he said softly. "You know that I believe what you have told me," I went on. "I believe you about everything. Except when you told me that David Phillips is not Maurice Bishop." His eyes never moved, his expression never changed as I spoke. "Now," I said, "I would like you to tell me this one time very truthfully: Would you have told me if I had found Maurice Bishop?" A slow smile crossed Veciana's face as he let out his breath. He put his head down and scratched his forehead, obviously: taking time now to think carefully. Then he looked up with that half-smile still on his face. "Well, you know," he said, "I would like to talk with him first." That was his answer. I looked at him for a moment, then laughed. Veciana nodded his head and laughed with me. An excellent outsiders critique of the Assassinations Committee's final report was written by Carl Oglesby in Clandestine America, the Washington newsletter of the independent Assassination Information Bureau: "To sum up. This report has serious shortcomings. It pulls its punches. It insinuates much about the Mob and JFK's death which it then says it doesn't really mean. It is alternately confused and dogmatic on the subject of Oswald's motive. It tells us it could not see all the way into the heart of CIA or FBI darkness, yet assures us that we are secure. Its treatment of the technical evidence in the crucial areas of shot sequencing and the medical evidence is shallow and unconvincing. "Yet still we say that this report, over-all, is strongly positive. It has moved the Dealey Plaza conspiracy question out of the shadows. It has boldly nailed the thesis of conspiracy to the church door of orthodox political opinion." Oglesby is right, of course. But this was the last investigation and, somehow, I expected more. I am not alone. There is not one investigator -- not one -- who served on the Kennedy task force of the Assassinations Committee who honestly feels he took part in an adequate investigation, let alone a "full and complete" one. In fact, most of them have bitter memories of the limitations and direction imposed upon them. So after all these years and all those spent resources after the last investigation -- what the Kennedy assassination still sorely needs is an investigation guided simply, unswervingly by the priority of truth. Why should that be? Is it unrealistic and impractical to desire, for something as important as the assassination of a President, an investigation unbound by political, financial or time restrictions? A devotion to realistic and practical goals has never been a requisite to the sustenance of democratic principals. Truth has always been. Yet this was the last investigation. Chief Counsel Bob Blakey himself said it at his very first staff meeting. He is a very meticulous and very conservative lawyer. If he had been around at the time of the American Revolution, no doubt he would have been a Tory. His allegiance, first and foremost, is to the standing institutions of government. Again and again, he emphasized the legislative restraints inherent in the nature and scope of a Congressional probe. His vision never rose above that. He never considered a higher mandate. He never considered the Kennedy assassination as a special event or as a possible manifestation of internal corruption within the very institutions he was so bent on protecting. He never considered using his position to demonstrate a loyalty to principals higher than those institutions. He never considered his mandate to conduct a "full and complete" investigation as coming from the American people, never considered rallying the public will to stand with him in the demand for the complete truth about the assassination. In fact, Blakey recently revealed, in an interview with DIR radio in New York, the limitations of his perspective. "What the public wants," he said, 'land what the public can get are two different things.... The notion that somehow people outside of Washington can come into Washington and do great and noble things in Washington without understanding the place, is just nonsense." Bob Blakey was fond of telling the staff, whenever anyone would start pushing to investigate an area that threatened to go beyond the limitations he imposed, that we would just have to accept the fact that we were going to leave loose ends. "Life has loose ends," he would say. On such rhetoric were compromises constructed. After the disdainful treatment she received at the hands of the Assassinations Committee, Silvia Odio, whose testimony stands as the strongest witness to a conspiracy, finally permitted English freelancer Tony Summers, then producing a syndicated television documentary about the Kennedy assassination, to film an interview in silhouette. As he relates in his book, Conspiracy, Summers asked her why she was now prepared to talk, after refusing press approaches for so long. Odio was silent for a long moment. Then she said: "I guess it is a feeling of frustration after so many years. I feel outraged that we have not discovered the truth for history's sake, for all of us. I think it is because I'm very angry about it all -- the forces I cannot understand and the fact that there is nothing I can do against them. That is why I am here." Bob Blakey never felt what Silvia Odio feels. He never felt the frustration and anger that lives within her, the outrage that the truth has not yet been discovered after so many years. I will always remember what she said to me when I told her that the Committee had changed its mind about permitting her to tell her story to the American people. Her words echo now in my mind as a soft shroud over the years of my investigative sojourn through the Kennedy assassination: "We lost too," she said. "We all lost."

Springfield Sam Strikes Again

In all the years I worked in Las Vegas I was only harassed by only one want-to-be mob lackey, and only once physically by a legitimate member of organized crime. I went to work at the Dunes Hotel in 1968, when I was 22 years old and in top physical condition. My job was dealing blackjack and sometimes dealt the wheel (Roulette). After six months, I was transferred to the Baccarat Pit. I made a new set of friends that came from many different parts of the country and even from different countries. After Cuban casinos were shut down by Castro many Casino dealers came to Las Vegas to seek jobs. Several of the Dunes owners had investments in Cuba and knew these dealers and supervisors as good hard working employees which led to many of them getting employment at the Dunes Hotel.

A Dunes job was extremely hard to get for several reasons; 1) it was lucrative and 2) you basically had to know someone at the Dunes, or just get luck and get hired when they desperately in need of good croupiers. Mant people sought just a few positions that became available. However this type of nepotism was really not mandated because the person was known or related to someone at the Dunes, but more of having confidence in the employee that they presumed that he or she knew not to steal and keep your nose clean.

At 22, I was one of the youngest Baccarat dealers ever to work at the Dunes. Most of my coworkers were in their mid-thirties and older. It was lucrative because your tips were pooled 24/7, 365 days a year, and the supervisors had an equal share. Having the bosses in on the tokes, sometimes called zooks (tips), allowed the dealers to be a little more liberal in the cultivation of players. In other words we were allowed to hustle. And did we have some “Deluxe” hustlers.

The Baccarat Manager, Irwin Gordon, had just finished a Federal jail term for bookmaking. He was very close to Sid Wyman, a Dunes owner. (This is a story for another time) he was a character and an old school gambler. If you knew your job and could handle people well, and didn’t act like a wise guy, he liked you, otherwise good luck.

I was dating the cocktail waitress that serves the pit and Gordon liked to rib me because I had longer hair than all the rest of the employees. He would borrow a comb and get behind the dealers and try to comb my hair making a remark like, “Look at the beau-tee-ful hair on this young dealer”, in his native Brooklynese accent. He thought it was funny, because I was the youngest and could get away with it. The girl I dated was standing that afternoon and observed his actions and I just snapped. Very quietly and calmly turned to him and said so no one else could her me, “You do that again and I will knock you on your ass.”
‘Oh my gosh’, I thought. What did I say? I am going to be fired right on the spot. No one ever talked to this man like I just did. I panicked.

Nothing happened except that he stopped the stupid razzing and treated me like a king thereafter. He even promoted me to Floorman after a few years.
But while I was a dealer, my friend Dominic wanted to get into the Baccarat pit. I helped him in every way that I could and realized that he worked at the Dunes long before I received the job. His dad was a mob guy that hung around the place and associated with the Boston junkets. His name was Sam Manarite, also called Springfield Sam.

He was playing 21 one afternoon and his son Dominic was dealing on the table next to him. Dominic got into a beef with an unruly player and there were some words. The player was another wise guy and Sam heard the action. He jumped right into the middle of the argument and before you blinked an eye they got physical. The player was about to really hurt Sam, when Dominic set the deck down and came around the table to help his dad. The cocktail waitress had a coffee pot on her tray and standing right at the table serving drinks. Dominic grabbed the pot and hit the player over the top of the head. The fight was broken up eventually and Dominic went back to work like nothing happened. Can you imagine today what would happen?

Later that year I was walking into the coffee shop for a 20 minute break and Sam Manarite started walking next to me and started saying, “You better get Dom into the Baccarat or you won’t be to happy.”
He grabbed me by the collar, shoved me up against the wall and repeated the remark. I pushed him off and he walked away like nothing happened. Someone saw the incident, and I was asked what happened by Gordon. I never had another problem with Manarite again, and in fact never saw him around the Dunes again. And Dominic never had a chance to work the Baccarat pit.
Here is a story about Sam that appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal:
Saturday, October 05, 2002
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Witnesses absent; hearing delayed in car lot shooting

84-year-old known as `Springfield Sam’ faces attempted murder
charges in incident


Two witnesses were not in court Friday to testify
against “Springfield Sam” Manarite, an 84-year-old reputed mobster
with a criminal record dating back six decades.

Manarite, a bushy-haired, hunched-over senior, appeared before Las
Vegas Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem Nelson Segel. The preliminary
hearing was supposed to determine whether evidence supports sending
Manarite to District Court on charges he shot up the Astro Auto
Sales office Sept. 9, wounding the business’s owner.

But at the opening of the hearing, Clark County Chief Deputy
District Attorney Victoria Villegas said the two victims in the
case, Astro owner Dino Boggiano and co-worker John Pasqualone, were

“They are essential witnesses,” Villegas said. “They are not here
and they were aware of today’s hearing.”

Defense attorney James “Bucky” Buchanan immediately asked that the
charges against Manarite, which include counts of attempted murder
and ex-felon in possession of a firearm, be dismissed. Buchanan told
the judge his client acted in self-defense at the time of the

Instead, Segel granted a request from Villegas to delay the hearing
until Oct. 15.

“We have severe charges here,” Segel said. “Whether he was the
initial shooter or if he acted in self-defense, this is a serious

The unusual courtroom developments were the latest in Manarite’s
exposure to criminal prosecutions. Villegas said Manarite has prior
felony convictions dating back to the 1940s in several states,
including Connecticut, New York and, more recently, in Nevada.

Those convictions include assault with a deadly weapon, money
laundering, conspiracy, transporting obscene materials and
supporting perjury. In 1970, he was convicted of extortion in New
York, where the judge called him “the ultimate manifestation of
success for criminals.”

He was sentenced to a 15-year prison term.

In 1984, Manarite acknowledged in federal court in Las Vegas that he
was engaged in loan-sharking and that he paid someone to pour acid
in someone else’s eyes. Shortly before Manarite was sentenced to 10
years in prison, defense attorney Richard Wright predicted his
client would die in prison.

He was released, then sent back to prison for a chip-cashing scheme
at the Maxim and a series of California boat thefts. In 2001, he was
unexpectedly released from prison early.

On Sept. 9, Las Vegas police say Manarite stormed into Astro Auto
Sales at 1430 S. Main St., near Charleston Boulevard, and opened
fire. A motive has not been determined, but Buchanan confirmed that
Manarite’s son had purchased a car there.

Boggiano was shot in the wrist. Boggiano returned fire, wounding
Manarite in the shoulder.

Buchanan said Friday that if the hearing had not been delayed,
Manarite would have taken the witness stand to tell his side of the

“My client fired only in self-defense,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan also said he would have produced a witness to support
Manarite’s version of events.

“We also deny that he has any association with the mafia at all,”
Buchanan said.

Even if the charges had been dismissed against Manarite, he wouldn’t
have been released. Federal officials have placed a hold on
Manarite, alleging his possession of a firearm during the shooting
constituted a violation of parole.

Buchanan said that on the day of the shooting, Manarite didn’t
actually own a firearm. He said he happened to find a gun in an
alley and, knowing that Boggiano was a gun collector, Buchanan said
his client was simply “going to give the gun to Dino.”

Boggiano did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday.

Only at the Dunes.

The Secret Team by Col. Fletcher Prouty

The Secret Team, Col. L. Fletcher Prouty’s expose´ of the CIA’s brutal methods of maintaining national security during the Cold War, was first published in the 1970s. However, virtually all copies of the book disappeared upon distribution, having been purchased en masse by shady “private buyers.” Certainly, Prouty’s allegations—such as how the U-2 Crisis of 1960 was fixed to sabotage Eisenhower–Khrushchev talk—cannot have pleased the CIA.  READ THE WHOLE BOOK HERE.

The Secret Team, or ST, is a phrase coined by L. Fletcher Prouty in 1973, alleging a covert alliance between the United States’ military, intelligence, and private sectors to influence political decisions. He suggests the existence of a covert alliance between certain people within the U.S. intelligence community, the United States military, and American private industry who use their collective wealth, influence, and resources to manipulate current events to steer public policy and maximize profits. The term is pejorative since he accuses the organizations of prioritizing their personal fortunes above the national interest, as well as eliminating any opposition, whether through targeted propaganda or assassination.
Eisenhower’s alleged prediction.
According to Prouty, the existence of ST was predicted and warned of by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation in 1961 when he spoke of the military-industrial complex. Prouty states that after eight years of exposure to the American defense establishment as President, Eisenhower knew that a disproportionate amount of influence rested in the hands of the ST, and he warned the public that this influence threatened the purity of American democracy.