Newman, John. Oswald and the
(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,
JOHN NEWMAN ON THE FPCC
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
1963; see Vincent T. Lee testimony in WC Vol. X, p. 87]
Until its demise on
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
, by New
York City 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 against the FPCC without the FBI’s
permission. That is a subject to which we will return later. United
Chapter Fourteen, Oswald Returns
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: ]
[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
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.
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.
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 Cuba 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
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
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 Cuba
[Note 5 ]
Cobb was a valuable asset to the
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
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
Gibson apparently received a
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 Columbia Africa and
particularly with the Lamumba faction. Roa wants send Gibson to Africa
since money from
promotes ‘the thing’ in Cuba Africa. FPCC is also involved in
the Algerian situation. Gibson and his French wife were in
after the war and also in Paris .
He has been to Algeria
and to Russia .
Robert F. Williams is also apparently instrumental in stirring up trouble (in
the Ghana 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 .
[Note 6: ]
the FPCC and Gibson as the instruments for a Castro-financed effort to foment
insurrection in .
This was as menacing a thought as America ’s
Hoover July 15, 1960, allusion to
a Cuban-inspired Mexican attack on .
While these threats were obviously exaggerated, knowledge about the FPCC and
its activities was a matter of some urgency in the Texas 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
[Note 7 ]
Not everybody at the
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
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 New York
[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
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
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 Cuba 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.
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:
this date Subject’s case was coordinated with Mr. McCord of
SRSin connection with Subject’s operational use within the 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. US
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
at the time Oswald visited there, taking over the anti-Castro operations of the
Mexico City CIA station in during the very days that Mexico
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
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.”
[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
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 ,
and Philadelphia . Apparently there
are a number of students envolved [sic] in this activity. I met David Letterman
from George Mason high school in New York
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. Falls Church, Va.
[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 naïve about my position with the Agency,” said the neighbor’s next bulletin. Dated
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 “
“The Worker,” and many prop pamphlets that were obviously published in USSR .
Court is an extreme Leftist in is political views and believes fanatically in
Castro’s England . Cuba
Mr. Wood mentioned to me that he and several of his friends are making plans to enter
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 Cuba
[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
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
[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
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
During December 1961, U.S.
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 New York
[Note 16: ]
These tactics dramatize the lengths to which the FBI was willing to go to discredit the FPCC, whose chapters in
Chicago , and Newark
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. Miami
Oddly, the day Patrice Lamumba’s death was announced,
February 13, 1961, was the same day
Snyder received Oswald’s letter about returning to .
As the FBI and America 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.
The Unworthy Oswald
…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
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 Dallas
[Note 7 : ]
…Meanwhile, Oswald had one more important composition to mail, one that was destined to become a catalyst in Oswald’s
files. On April 18, 1963,
Oswald wrote to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee
office. At the end of the summer, the contents of this letter would finally
land in Oswald’s New York 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
address raises the possibility he may not have made final plans to move to Dallas until the end: he left on April 24. 89 On New
Orleans April 19, 1963, the Fair Play for
Cuba Committee office
sent Oswald more literature. 90 New York
[Notes 89; 90]
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 office of the FBI. On New
York 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 . 91 New
[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,
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 Dallas
[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
source, NY-2354-S. 96 New
[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
?” 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 New
[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
without having been brought to our attention.” 98 Dallas
[Note 98 ]
Hosty’s argument suggests that Oswald made a false claim - apparently to impress the FPCC - that failed to fool the
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. Dallas
Whether Oswald had stood on a street corner or not, important undercover FBI assets in
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 New York 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 .
This study was transmitted to the Chicago 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.