leaders discuss murder of Fidel Castro? U.S.
BY DAVID BARRETT
It only took half a century, but we finally have direct evidence of
government leaders cryptically discussing ideas about assassinating Fidel
Castro just months before the Cuban Missile Crisis. U.S.
Due to congressional investigations in the 1970s, we have long known of (unsuccessful) Central Intelligence Agency plots to kill Castro in the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras. And, based on what various
people later testified, it has also been believed that, strangely, John McCone,
who headed the CIA for the last two years of
the Kennedy presidency, did not want to discuss or even hear about
Earlier this year, I came across a document at the National Archives that seems to confirm this. But what I find most remarkable is that the document even exists. We have never seen any sort of documentation from the actual time of a high-level conversation about the taboo topic.
But there it was in State Department records from a late summer day in 1962: Secretary of State Dean Rusk had met at with McCone, Bobby Kennedy (who told the
he wanted to attend), Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and other advisers to
JFK. The meeting was devoted to Castro’s ,
where intelligence showed the Russians pouring in men and military equipment.
McCone’s notes of the meeting show participants agreeing that strong measures
against Castro’s government were needed. But what kind? The notes show that
participants couldn’t agree on that. Cuba
Only because Rusk’s secretary at the State Department was listening and taking notes when McCone called later that day, do we know much more about what came up in the meeting. Her notes show an upset
leader: “M[cCone] said the question came up this a.m. in connection with an
individual that should not come up in m[eetin]gs. M[cCone] does not think we
should countenance talking or thinking about that.”
A little context is needed to make sense of the telephone call.
• First, the “individual” who was the overwhelming focus of the meeting was Castro.
• Second, those meetings in the office and presence of the secretary of state were the policymaking elites of the Kennedy administration.
• Third, the Republican McCone was a tough Cold Warrior. That’s why JFK chose him as
head. McCone favored almost anything anyone proposed to deal with Castro,
except murder. McCone was said to have been against anyone even raising the
topic in his presence. “I could get excommunicated!” the Catholic McCone said.
The notes made as the telephone conversation unfolded show just that sort of abhorrence.
In contrast, Secretary of State Rusk was less agitated over the topic, saying “he would not worry about it,” given the reliable people at the meeting. But the
CIA director brushed
off that assurance: He and Rusk could sit down and “talk privately,” presumably
about the forbidden topic, but the “Sec[cretary] should take the posture of not
countenancing it.” Without elaboration, the “Sec[retary] agreed.”
The words “Castro” and “assassination” are not there in the telephone conversation notes, but — given the morning meeting’s agenda and McCone’s notes of it — it is very hard to believe that the “individual” referred to in the subsequent phone call was anyone but Castro. The notes seem to be concrete evidence supporting stories from across the decades that McCone did not want others even to raise the idea in his presence of killing Castro.
Of course, the Central Intelligence Agency did try to kill Castro during the Kennedy era. How that could happen when the agency’s leader didn’t want the subject discussed in his presence has been the subject of many an author, but is still debated. I’m just amazed finally to see a contemporaneous record actually showing the forbidden topic being raised and then banished, at least for meetings with the
And I’m struck by the irony: JFK, RFK, McCone, Rusk — they’re all long gone. Castro, the individual about whom those men obsessed, lives on.
David M. Barrett is a professor of political science at
and co-author, with Max
Holland, of "Blind Over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis,"
which is soon to be published. Villanova
1. The first is a memo from State Dept. records dated to the late summer of 1962. It memorializes a meeting between John McCone, RFK, Robert Macnamara and Dean Rusk at which they purportedly discussed assassinating Fidel Castro.
The document was recently located by historian David Barrett (see article here:http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/10/v-print/2990646/did-us-leaders-discuss-murder.html) The memo reads in part : “M said the question came up this a.m. in connection with an individual that should not come up in m[eetin]gs. M does not think we should countenance talking or thinking about that.”
RECORD NUMBER : 104-10135-10328
RECORDS SERIES : JFK
NUMBER : 80T01357A
FROM : JAMESON, DONALD, CHIEF, SR/CA,
TO : [No To]
TITLE : CONTACT REPORT - MEETING WITH PRISCILLA JOHNSON ON 11
PAGES : 2
DOCUMENT TYPE : PAPER - TEXTUAL DOCUMENT
SUBJECTS : CONTACT REPORT; INVESTIGATION; JONSON, PRISC.
CLASSIFICATION : SECRET
RESTRICTIONS : OPEN IN
CURRENT STATUS : OPEN
DATE OF LAST REVIEW :
COMMENTS : JFK49 : F106 : 1994.05.03.17:41:26:750028 :