Wednesday, May 8, 2013

NEWMAN ON THE FPCC


Newman, John. Oswald and the CIA (Skyhorse, NY. 1995, 2008, p. 94, 95, 236-44, 262, 274-76, 289, 291, 298, 299-301, 303-319, 327, 328-336, 337, 338, 340, 343, 344, 351, 357, 393-97, 405, 426-27)

JOHN NEWMAN ON THE FPCC

p. 95:

Also significant is the fact that early 1960 was the time when the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) was created - a pro-Castro organization destined to be destroyed by its association with Oswald. The April 6, 1960, New York Times carried a full-page ad announcing the formation of the FPCC, an ad paid for by Castro. 16

[Note 16:  See CE 2863 in WC Vol. XXVI, pp. 304-305, and CE 825 in WC vol. XVII, p. 765. The FPCC was officially closed on December 31, 1963; see Vincent T. Lee testimony in WC Vol. X, p. 87]

Until its demise on December 31, 1963, the FPCC was a pawn in a power struggle between the Communist Party USA and the Socialist Workers Party, both of which were considered by the FBI as subversive. 17

[Note 17 WC Vol. XXVI, CE 2863, p 304, and Vol. XXVI, CE 3081 p. 689]

With headquarters at 1799 Broadway in New York City, by November 20, 1960, the FPCC claimed 5,000 members. 18 The CIA’s Security Office then launched - under the orders of James McCord - a counterintelligence operation in the United States against the FPCC without the FBI’s permission. That is a subject to which we will return later.


Chapter Fourteen, Oswald Returns

p. 236:  

McCord, Phillips, and CIA-FBI Operations Against the FPCC, 1961

The Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) emerged at the same time that the Agency began serious operations against Castro. A July 15, 1960, Hoover memo to the State Department Office of Security tied - with the help of a fertile imagination - the pamphleting activities of the FPCC at the Los Angeles Sports Arena to a Cuban government radio broadcast that ‘announced that Mexico should join Cuba in a revolution and reclaim Texas and New Mexico, which rightfully belonged to Mexico.’ 1. 

[Note 1:   ]

CIA interest in the FPCC and the chief of its New York chapter, Richard Gibson, was underscored by Gibson’s active involvement with Patrice Lumumba, the premier of newly independent Congo, Lumumba was ‘viewed with alarm by United States policymakers because of what they perceived as his magnetic public appeal and his leanings toward the Soviet Union.’ 2.

[Note 2:   ]

Gibson’s support of Castro and Lumumba put him in a special category at the CIA: Both of these leaders had been targeted for assassination. 3.

[Note 3:   ]

Gibson spoke to June Cobb about the work ‘his group’ was doing for Lumumba, according to the notes she wrote the morning after their conversation. The previous evening, Gibson had paid a visit to Cobb’s hotel room for a chat. Before long, he had consumed half a bottle of scotch, and their dialogue reflected it. Cobb’s notes contain this entry: 

At every possible opportunity he sought to turn the conversation to sex, particularly involving sex between negroes and whites, for example: that Swedish girls are not kept satisfied by Swedish men since Swedish men are so often homosexual and that therefore there is a colony of Negroes and Italian[s] in Sweden to satisfy the erotic crving of the Swedish girls. 4.

[Note 4:  ]

But Gibson talked about more than Swedish cravings. He spoke about FPCC leaders, such as Bob Taber, and about the FPCC’s relationship with American communists. Presumably, Gibson did not know that June Cobb’s hotel room was part of a carefully prepared CIA surveillance operation, with CIA technicians in the next room, eavesdropping. Cobb’s notes of this encounter, preserved in her CIA 201 file, undoubtedly were not the only material produced, and must have been supplemented tapes, transcripts, and surveillance logs filled out by the surveillance team.

The CIA’s analysis of these materials is often entertaining reading, but for the individuals involved - Gibson, Cobb, and the surveillance technician on the other side of the wall - these were serious moments. Cuba had become part of the Cold War. A great deal was at stake. It was in the wake of Castro’s and Lumumba’s sudden emergence that Vice President Nixon had declared a crisis. It is not surprising that the CIA was interested in the FPCC and Richard Gibson. Ironically, their connection was destined to change:  a few years after the Kennedy assassination, Gibson became an informant for the CIA. In 1960 and 1961, however, the CIA had its eyes on Gibson. Take, for example, this passage from a CIA report:

On the 27th [October 1960], Richard Gibson of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), spent the evening with Cobb (drank half bottle scotch), and talked rather freely about the [FPCC] Committee. Said they ‘want to destroy the world.’ In the beginning they received $15,000 from the Cuban government. Their expenses amounted to about $1500 per month - always feast or famine - trying to get money from Cuba. Once had to sit down with Dorticos and Fidel Castro to get $5,000 the Committee needed. Gibson works closely with Raul Roa and little Raul - wanted Gibson to be Public Relations Officer for the Cuban Mission to the UN. 5

[Note 5    ]

Cobb was a valuable asset to the CIA because of her extensive knowledge about Latin American affairs and her personal relationships with many of the players and leaders. In this case, Gibson, already an intelligence target, seemed personally interested in Cobb, a weakness that had been turned to the advantage of the Agency ‘As far as I’m concerned,’ Gibson said to Cobb on the telephone the day after his visit, ‘I’m always awkward around pretty girls.’ Cobb filed this remark on October 26, 1960.

Through Gibson, the CIA learned important details of the policy, personnel, and Cuban financial backing of the FPCC. The CIA had carefully evaluated his background and his activities, as this extract from an Agency report demonstrates:

Gibson apparently received a Columbia fellowship from Columbia Broadcasting Company before he was ousted. Now they will not take it away from him because it would cause a scandal - he uses it as a cover for his work. FPCC is working in Africa and particularly with the Lamumba faction. Roa wants send Gibson to Africa since money from Cuba promotes ‘the thing’ in Africa. FPCC is also involved in the Algerian situation. Gibson and his French wife were in Paris after the war and also in Algeria. He has been to Russia and to Ghana. Robert F. Williams is also apparently instrumental in stirring up trouble (in the US over racial issues?). Gibson has no love in his heart for US. The FPCC is stirring up the Negroes in the South - says their plans have lots of loopholes and they expect to be arrested but they intend to carry the war against the US. 6

[Note 6:    ]


Remarkably, the CIA saw the FPCC and Gibson as the instruments for a Castro-financed effort to foment insurrection in America. This was as menacing a thought as Hoover’s July 15, 1960, allusion to a Cuban-inspired Mexican attack on Texas. While these threats were obviously exaggerated, knowledge about the FPCC and its activities was a matter of some urgency in the CIA in view of ongoing assassination planning for Lamumba and Castro. A counterintelligence officer in Phillips’ WH/4 Branch wrote this in a memo to Jane Roman (liaison for Angleton’s counterintelligence staff); “As you know, the FBI has expressed an interest in such information that Subject [Cobb] can provide concerning the Fair Play Committee  [sic].” 7

[Note 7  ]

Not everybody at the CIA was happy about Jane Cobb’s association with the Agency. In particular, Birch O’Neil of Angleton’s mole-hunting unit, CI/SIG, did some sniping with his pen. On November 22, 1960, O’Neil wrote a memorandum critical of the “liberal press” in general and of June Cobb in particular for promoting an English-language edition of an old Castro speech “to show that Castro is not a Communist.” O’Neal’s memo said:

The first edition was paid for by Miss Cobb and the second edition was paid for by the Cuban Consulate in New York. As far as we know, Miss Cobb is a rather flighty character. She comes in an out and we have not been able to find out where she lives or where she is now. Perhaps she is tied up with the so-called Fair Play for Cuba Committee. 8

[Note 8:   ]

The innuendo radiating from this last sentence illuminates O’Neal’s hostility towards Cobb, a view that may have had other adherents within the Agency’s counterintelligence staff. From their perspective, Cobb’s connections seemed to carry with them as many potential risks as awards.

In any event, the combination of Agency elements most closely associated with the “take” from Cobb at that time was O’Neal’s CI/SIG, CI/OPS/WH (Counterintelligence/Operations/Western Hemisphere), and WH/4/CI. As CI/Liaison, Jane Roman also had access to the results of the Cobb debriefs and surveillance operations. 9

[Note 9:   ]

In early 1961, eleven weeks before the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA seized an opportunity to become more actively involved in running operations against the FPCC. CIA Security Office and Western Hemisphere elements identified an Agency employee who knew Court Wood, an American student just returned from Cuba under the sponsorship of the FPCC. This opportunity to surveil Curt Wood, which developed at the end of January, was irresistible in the judgment of the person in the CIA’s Security Research Service (SRS) of the Security Office who conceived and authorized the operation. That person was James McCord, the same James McCord who would later become embroiled in the scandal during the Nixon Presidency.

On February 1, 1961, McCord met with people from Western Hemisphere Division to discuss the “case” of an Agency employee who happened to be Court Wood’s neighbor and former high school classmate. At issue was whether to use this employee operationally to extract information from Wood. The employee, conveniently, worked in WH/4, the very branch that McCord wanted to run the illegal domestic operation he had in mind. The memo of record for this meeting states the following:

  1. On this date Subject’s case was coordinated with Mr. McCord of SRS in connection with Subject’s operational use within the US byWH/4/Propaganda. The implications of a CI operation with[in] the US by this Agency and the possibility of Subject might come to the attention of the FBI through association with Court Wood were discussed.
  2. Mr. McCord expressed the opinion that it was not necessary to advise the FBI of the operation at this time. However, he wishes to review the case in a month. The file of the Subject, along with that of the WH man who is supervising the operation (David Atlee Phillips #40695) will be pended [suspended] for the attention of Mr. McCord on 1 March 1961. 10

[Note 10:   ]

It is fitting that one of the Agency’s legendary disinformation artists, David Atlee Phillips, should have been in charge of the CIA’s CI and propaganda effort against the FPCC. Phillips would reappear in Mexico City at the time Oswald visited there, taking over the anti-Castro operations of the CIA station in Mexico City during the very days that CIA headquarters and the CIA Mexico City station exchanged cables on Oswald’s visit to the Mexican capital.

“At the request of Mr. David Phillips, C/WH/4/Propaganda,” wrote the fortunate CIA employee picked to spy on his neighbor, “I spent the evening of January 6 with Court Wood, a student who has recently returned from a three-week stay in Cuba under the sponsorship of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”  The employee said that Court and his father both were pro-Castro and “extremely critical” of American foreign policy. “I’ve been advised by Mr. Phillips,” the employee wrote, “to continue my relationship with Mr. Wood and I will keep your office informed of each subsequent visit.” 11.

[Note 11:   ]

Indeed, the employee did keep Jack Kennedy, Chief of Security for Western Hemisphere Branch 4 (C/WH/4/Security), appraised. The next occasion occurred on March 3, 1961, after which the employee had new information, as reported March 8:

Several months ago I wrote you a letter concerning the pro-Castro sentiments of Court Wood, son of Foster Wood, a local attorney. Since that time I’ve seen Court only once, on March 3, 1961, and he appears to be actively engaged in the organization of a local chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

Little did Court Wood know that he was organizing his new chapter under the watchful eye of the CIA.

Our budding spy was beginning to blossom in his new assignment for David Phillips. Wood’s neighbor also had this to say in is March 8 report:

Complete with beard, Court has been meeting with “interested groups” and lecturing to students in several eastern cities. He specifically mentioned Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Apparently there are a number of students envolved [sic] in this activity. I met David Letterman from George Mason high school in Falls Church, Va. And Walt MacDonwald, a fellow student of Court’s and both are obviously active. What action, if any, should I take in regard to my relationship with Court ad his father? 12.

[Note 12:  ]



It seems comical, that a group of high school students, led by a college student who had grown a beard to emulate Castro’s appearance were the subjects of such CIA reporting. But it is actually sad.

Our spy now wanted more time to get additional intelligence. “Court Wood seems to be extremely na├»ve about my position with the Agency,” said the neighbor’s next bulletin. Dated March 18, 1961, and, again addressed to Mr. Jack Kennedy, the memo boasted that Wood “is very open and frank with me in all areas.” Phillip’s spy had spent “hours” with Court Wood and was sure h is naivete could be further exploited. “I am certain that if given enough time,” the spy wrote, “I can obtain a great deal of information on the backgrounds and activities of many of his associates.” The report also included the passage:

        While visiting his apartment I observed that both Court and his father are interested in a large number of Communist publications. These include “USSR,” “The Worker,” and many prop pamphlets that were obviously published in England. Court is an extreme Leftist in is political views and believes fanatically in Castro’s Cuba.
        Mr. Wood mentioned to me that he and several of his friends are making plans to enter Cuba in June; illegally if necessarily. He apparently wants to become a teacher for the Castro government and to make his permanent home there. Members of the “26th of July Movement” are in close contact with Court and they are involved in this proposed move to Cuba. Court does have some money and he seems to be very serious about this thing. Within the next few days I have to be able to get some names and specific facts concerning their plans. 13

[Note 13:  ]

Not a bad bit of work for three weeks, especially considering that this kind of assignment was not in the fellow’s job description.

Ironically, just when our fledging spy was about to acquire more intelligence, the matter came to the attention of the FBI, and his mission came to an abrupt end. In an October 7, 1961, memo to FBI Liaison Sam J. Papich, CIA Acting Director of Security, R. F. Bannerman wrote this the case of Court Wood:

Reference is made to a 25 March 1961and a 6 July 1961 investigative report on captioned Subject which have previously been furnished to Agency.

[redacted] who is a current Agency employee, has recently been interviewed concerning his knowledge of Court Foster Wood whom [redacted] had known since mutual attendance in high school. Attached is a detailed report of the information furnished by [redacted] concerning his knowledge of Wood.

Since [redacted] personally has sufficient reason to question the activities of Wood and the activities of the associates of Wood, [redacted] has been advised to discontinue any further contact with Wood.

It would be appreciated if your Bureau would furnish this Agency any additional information brought to your attention concerning Court Foster Wood and of particular interest would be any information received by your Bureau concerning past association of Court Foster Wood with N - [redacted].

[Note 14:  ]

Thus it would appear that the FBI had learned of Court Wood’s activities in March and again in July 1961, and had reported them to the Agency. The CIA then pulled its employee out of David Phillip’s CI operation against the FPCC.

What the operation tells us is that the Agency was sufficiently interested in countering the FPCC to engage in an illegal domestic operation. The fact that controversy would follow the two men in charge, McCord in connection with Watergate and Phillps in connection with the Kennedy assassination, cause this page in the Agency’s anti-Castro operations to stand out in hindsight.

While the Court Wood operation was grinding to a halt at the CIA, the FBI was gearing up for its own operations against the FPCC. Fragments of an FBI document released by the Church Committee suggests that Cartha DeLoach, assistant director of the FBI, was in charge of a Bureau operation to compile “adverse” data on FPCC leaders. A handwritten note at the bottom of the FBI headquarters coy of the document includes this detail: “During May 1961, a field survey was completed wherein available public source data of adverse nature regarding officers and leaders of FPCC was compiled and furnished Mr. DeLoach for use in contacting his sources.” 15

[Note 15 ]

The fact that an assistant director of the FBI was collecting dirt on FPCC leaders underlines the extent of the Bureau’s interest. This “adverse” data in the FPCC files kept by DeLoach probably grew considerably as a result of another CIA operation in October 1961. As we have seen, this operation netted significant intelligence on the FPCC from the Gibson material collected in June Cobb’s room. This material included certain derogatory statements by Gibson which appear to be the sort of “data” DeLoach was looking for.

In December 1961, the FBI launched another operation, using the incendiary tactic of planting disinformation. The handwritten note discussed above contains this accont:

We have in the past utilized techniques with respect to countering activities of mentioned [FPCC] organization in the U.S. During December 1961, New York prepared an anonymous leaflet which was mailed to select FPCC members throughout the country for the purpose of disrupting FPCC and causing split between FPCC and Socialist Workers Party (SWP) supporters, which technically was very effective. 16

[Note 16:   ]

These tactics dramatize the lengths to which the FBI was willing to go to discredit the FPCC, whose chapters in Chicago, Newark, and Miami were infiltrated early on by the Bureau. As we will see in Chapter Sixteen, during Oswald’s tenure with the FPCC, FBI breakins to their offices were a regular occurrence.

Oddly, the day Patrice Lamumba’s death was announced, February 13, 1961, was the same day Snyder received Oswald’s letter about returning to America. As the FBI and CIA became engaged in a campaign to discredit the FPCC, Oswald was nearing his goal of having obtained all the necessary authorizations to return with his family.

Chapter Fifteen

The Unworthy Oswald

p. 262:

…As we shall see, the first intercepted FPCC letter to land in Oswald’s file was discounted by the FBI agent in charge of the file. Dallas Special Agent James Hosty claims he did not believe Oswald’s remark that he handed out FPCC literature in Dallas. Perhaps, but the inconsistency is the FBI’s claim that Oswald’s file was reopened in March because of a letter to the Worker The file had been closed in October 1962, just after learning - on 28 September - of a similar letter to the Worker. 7

[Note 7 :  ]

p. 274:

…Meanwhile, Oswald had one more important composition to mail, one that was destined to become a catalyst in Oswald’s CIA files. On April 18, 1963, Oswald wrote to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee New York office. At the end of the summer, the contents of this letter would finally land in Oswald’s CIA files. In the April 18 letter, Oswald said he had passed out FPCC literature on the street the day before, and he asked for more copies. The fact that Oswald used his Dallas address raises the possibility he may not have made final plans to move to New Orleans until the end: he left on April 24. 89 On April 19, 1963, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee New York office sent Oswald more literature. 90

[Notes 89;  90]

Lie the CIA, the FBI had a mail-reading capability of its own, and Oswald’s correspondence would shortly generate a flurry of reporting on his activities by the New York office of the FBI. On April 6, 1963, Oswald lost his job at Jaggers-Chiles-Stoval because he could not do the work or get along with his coworkers. It is difficult to judge when Oswald began planning to move to New Orleans. 91

[Note 91:   ]

Three days before his departure, the FBI intercepted Oswald’s letter to the FPCC describing his public FPCC activities. 92.

[Note 92:     ]

The letter, which Oswald sent via air mail, was postmarked April 18. 93 

[Note 93:    ]

According to FBI records, on April 21, 1963, Dallas confidential informant “T-2” reported this letter to the FPCC, in which Oswald said he had passed out FPCC pamphlets in Dallas with a placard around his neck reading HANDS OFF CUBA, VIVA FIDEL. 94

[Note 94:   ]

Actually, this Dallas T-2 source on Oswald was really a New York FBI source - NY-3245-S - as can be seen from newly released JFK files. 95.

[Note 95:    ]

Similarly, an earlier Dallas T-1 source who had spied on Oswald’s letters to the Worker also turned out to be a New York source, NY-2354-S. 96

[Note 96:   ]


The Warren Commission questioned the FBI about the April letter and its contents, asking, “Is this information correct as the date indicated and does it describe activities before Oswald’s move to New Orleans?” The FBI’s answer was vague, slippery, and paltry: “Our informant did not know Oswald personally and could furnish no further information. Our investigation had not disclosed such activity on Oswald’s part prior to this type of activity in New Orleans.” 97

[Note 97:     ]

Special Agent Hosty, who barely expanded on this in his testimony to the commission on the Oswald placard-around-his-neck letter, added his disbelief of the story. Hosty explained: “We had received no information to the effect that anyone had been in the downtown streets of Dallas or anywhere in Dallas with a sign around their neck saying ‘hands off Cuba, viva Fidel’” Thus Hosty links his belief to negative intelligence, i.e., no reports had come to their attention on Oswald, and Hosty was confident that the Dallas FBI had adequate surveillance and reporting mechanisms tight enough to catch any such activity as flagrant and provocative as this. “It appeared highly unlikely to me,” Hosty testified, “that such an occurrence could have happened in Dallas without having been brought to our attention.” 98

[Note 98  ]

Hosty’s argument suggests that Oswald made a false claim - apparently to impress the FPCC - that failed to fool the Dallas office of the FBI. If Hosty is correct, we should be impressed, not only with the Dallas FBI office’s knowledge of what Oswald was doing, but also with their ability to figure out what he was not doing. As we have already seen, however, the performance of the Dallas FBI office was lackluster at best, where keeping track of Oswald was concerned.

Whether Oswald had stood on a street corner or not, important undercover FBI assets in New York were in motion against the FPCC during the time or shortly after Oswald wrote the letter. As we already know, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was the subject for intense FBI and CIA interest and counterintelligence operations. A major FBI Chicago office investigation of the FPCC appeared on March 8, four days before Oswald ordered the rifle from Chicago. This study was transmitted to the CIA. 90

[Note 90:   ]

By picking such an organization to correspond with and carrying out actions on its behalf Oswald - by default or by design - had insinuated himself into the gray world of the watchers and the watched.



p. 303:

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