While working on a list of new items that came out over the course of the 50th anniversary I mentioned a few new witnesses – who unexpectedly “came out of the woodwork,” and inadvertly included a recent signed statement by Antonio Veciana that his CIA case officer “Maurice Bishop” was in fact David Atlee Phillips, and the person he saw talking with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in the summer of 1963.
This statement is addressed to Marie Fonzi, the widow of Gaeton Fonzi, the former Congressional investigator who uncovered the mysterious operations conducted by spymaster “Maurice Bishop,” now AKA – Also Known As David Atlee Phillips.
When I was at the Wecht conference in Pittsburgh I heard that she was there and was carrying on some of the work her late husband had begun, but I didn’t expect a signed confession from Veciana.
As Marie Fonzi correctly points out in her note posted on my blog:
“Antonio Veciana did not send this letter ‘out of the blue.’ I have been corresponding with him over a year. With the help of a mutual friend, Joaquin Godoy, who relayed many messages, Mr. Veciana decided to reveal Bishop's identification. I am sure it is the result of the mutual respect and admiration he and my husband, Gaeton, had for each other.”
- Marie Fonzi on JFKCountercoup.blogspot blogpost: Veciana Identifies Phillips as Bishop'
Indeed, and it is with much respect and admiration that I too will try to continue their work and follow up on some of the many loose ends of this investigation.
While many of us had already pretty much determined that David A. Phillips was “Maurice Bishop,” based primarily on the dozen or so common points in their mutual careers, [See: ], it is reassuring to get an outright confession, and the reasons for the hesitation in issuing it is quite well understood.
More can be learned from a number of sources – including Wayne Smith, the former US State department diplomat who knew David Atlee Phillips from his Havana Embassy days, the papers of Washington investigator Kevin Walsh, and Phillips’ own papers, which are being processed at the National Archives by Phillips’ former media asset and close friend Joseph Goulden.
One of the lines of inquiry that Anthony Veciana presented was the Pan Am Bank of Miami, Florida, where he said he was sent to an office where he was trained in tradecraft and psychological warfare techniques. The Pan Am bank in Miami is also where Jack Ruby deposited cash that he took out of Havana for Lewis McWillie’s bosses, the Fox brothers, who owned the casino McWillie worked.
Robert Ray McKeon, who met both Ruby and Oswald because of his association with running guns to Fidel Castro, said that he was paid for the gun running with money wrapped in Pan Am bank wrappers.
So these three separate mentions of the Pan Am bank in three different and diverse but associated areas makes it likely that there was some shenanigans going on there, and that the basic background info on the bank – who were the directors in 1960-63? – Where was the bank located? Who had offices there? Etc., could lead to some ties among those who controlled bank activities.
The main point of Veciana’s identification of Phillips as “Bishop,” besides providing such basic investigative leads as the Pan Am bank, it also takes Lee Harvey Oswald out of the realm of a deranged lone nut case and places him firmly in the COP – Covert Operative Personality profile where he belongs.
In the summer of ’63, when Veciana says he saw Phillips with Oswald in the lobby of the Southland Center, part of the Dallas Sheraton hotel complex, Oswald was ostensibly in New Orleans, but he traveled widely on public transportation and was often gone – gone “underground” is how he put it, he most certainly could have been in Dallas more than once that summer.
At the time Phillips was the head of the CIA’s Cuban covert ops, and operating out of the US Embassy in Mexico City, he was responsible for the surveillance of the Cuban embassy there. It just so happens that a few weeks after Veciana saw Phillips talking with Oswald in Dallas, Oswald goes to the Cuban embassy in Mexico City and then returns to Dallas. So it would make sense that Oswald and Phillips would meet before Oswald’s mission to Mexico, and it may not have had anything at all to do with the assassination that would happen in Dallas a few months later.
Indeed, if Phillips was helping to frame Oswald for the assassination, he was framing himself by letting Veciana see them together – or was it just a typical tradecraft screw up? A small mistake that would one day – decades later, come back to haunt Phillips?
After 20 years in the CIA, rising to the third highest position in the agency – Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, Phillips resigned to form the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), and write a few books, including on the Texas justice in a homicide, the fictional Carlos Contract, a handbook on intelligence professions for students and “Nightwatch – 20 Years of Peculiar Service,” a non-fictional account of his CIA career that would match nearly perfectly with that of the Veciana’s case officer “Maurice Bishop.”
It was at a AFIO conference, with Clare Booth Luce giving the keynote address, when Fonzi took Veciana to meet Phillips face to face.
Quite ironically Phillips was working as a freelancer at Washingtonian Magazine when Fonzi’s lengthly article on Veciana, “Maurice Bishop” and David Atlee Phillips was published in the same magazine.
After Phillips began using the resources of AFIO to sue for libel, both Washingtonian and a British newspaper that published a similar article by Anthony Summers, I called Phillips on the phone and talked with him for quite awhile. Phillips denied being “Maurice Bishop” or knowing Lee Harvey Oswald and was quite perplexed as to why Fonzi didn’t just walk down the hall at Washingtonian Magazine and ask him some questions and give him the opportunity to defend himself.
Summers and British reporter David Leigh, then an intern at the Washington Post, tracked down Veciana’s former Havana bank secretary in South America, and she recalled receiving phone calls for Veciana from a “Maurice Bishop,” and that the name was somehow connected to a reporter named Prewett.
They found Virginia Prewett in Washington working for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), and that she had frequently written about Veciana’s Alpha 66 anti-Castro Cuban terrorist raids, and she said she knew both “Maurice Bishop” and David Phillips, and they were different people.
But David Leigh’s article on all of this never saw print in the Washington Post or anywhere, and the British newspaper that published Tony Summers’ article was sued for libel by Phillips and his AFIO.
Unfortunately, both Virginia Prewett and David Atlee Phillips died of cancer, but not before Phillips had a few drinks with Kevin Walsh.
Walsh was an old school investigator who knew all the Washington ropes, and while he was having a few drinks with Phillips, he later quoted Phillips as telling him that he did know Oswald and that Oswald was an agent who was involved in a plot to kill Castro, but he didn’t know how or why it was Kennedy who was killed, and not Castro.
So Veciana’s letter to Marie Fonzi is a significant development, did not “come out of the blue,” or the woodwork, and clearly places Oswald and Phillips together – and thus removes Oswald from the deranged lone nut category and into the Covert Operative Personality profile – which makes whatever happened at Dealey Plaza a covert operation and not the haphazard act of a madman.