As Washington and Havana parley, a former CIA analyst raises JFK questions

The CIA has credible information implicating seven Cuban government officials in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 that it has never made public, according to Brian Latell, a retired agency analyst.

Brian Latell

Brian Latell, former CIA analyst

“The Kennedy assassination should be added to the agenda for official Cuban-American negotiations,” Latell recently told JFK Facts. A retired CIA employee who served as the agency’s National Intelligence Officer for Cuba from 1990 to 1994, Latell  first made the allegations in his 2013 book, Castro’s Secrets. He elaborated on his views in an email interview.

Latell’s allegations come at a turning point in U.S.-Cuba relations.

 

After fifty four years of hostility between the two countries, the Obama administration and the government of Cuban president Raul Castro agreed last December  to normalize diplomatic relations. Representatives of the two governments are reported to be close finalizing the terms but have yet to reach an agreement.

Latell’s charges beg the question of why  the CIA, of all American institutions, would shield the Cuban government from adverse information. By one credible Cuban account, the CIA countenanced 634 different plots to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro, the now retired brother of Raul Castro.

Latell says he has no direct knowledge of why the CIA  suppressed the allegedly incriminating information.

“Perhaps it was thought to be so incendiary—and suspect—that it was quietly cocooned, not put on paper, recorded, or repeated to anyone outside a small circle at CIA headquarters,” Latell wrote in his book, Castro’s Secrets. “Under the circumstances, temporizing may have seemed the best option, the most prudent way to deal with a matter of such historic significance. After all, if it leaked that an otherwise unimpeachable, high-level Cuban intelligence defector had arrived with new information about the Kennedy assassination, a public outcry might have been unavoidable.” 

A defector’s story

Latell says that in the fall of 1963, Cuban government officials in Mexico City encouraged a young ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate the American president.

“The urge to kill Kennedy probably originated during Oswald’s meetings with Cuban spies and provocateurs at their consulate in Mexico City in late September, 1963,” Latell wrote in an email interview.

Oswald in Custody

Oswald: “I’m a patsy”

That charge has never been confirmed. After Oswald was arrested for killing JFK, he denied he shot the president saying “I’m a patsy.” The next day he was killed, while in police custody, by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner.

What is not dispute is that Oswald visited Mexico City in late September 1963 in an unsuccessful effort to obtain a visa to travel to Cuba and the Soviet Union. Declassified records show that CIA surveillance teams observed him and reported to Washington. On October 10, 1963, six senior CIA officers conferred to write a cable about Oswald.

To support his claim that Castro supporters in Mexico City encouraged Oswald, Latell cited an account of a former Cuban intelligence officer named Florentino Aspillaga. who defected to the United States in the 1980s. According to Latell, Aspillaga told him that he received unusual orders from his superiors on the morning of November 22, 1963  to monitor U.S. radio transmissions from Texas, the day JFK was shot dead in front of a friendly crowd in Dallas.

Latell acknowledges the story cannot be independently corroborated. Aspillaga was debriefed by the CIA, according to Latell. .He says that one former colleague told him Aspillaga had given his account of his experience on November 22, 1963  to the agency. Two other Icolleague had no recollection of Aspillaga telling such a story, Latell saidl

“I am no longer in touch with him, and doubt I will be able to renew contact,” Latell said.

The 1992 JFK Records Act requires all government  agencies to “immediately” release assassination-related records.

The CIA has never released any information about Florentino Aspillaga.

The ‘Castro did it’ theory

The “Castro did it ” theory of JFK’s assassination has  a long pedigree.

First JFK Conspiracy Theory

The first JFK conspiracy theory, published November 24, 1963, was paid for by the CIA

Two days after Kennedy’s murder, the Cuban Student Directorate, a CIA-funded exile organization, published the first JFK conspiracy theory to reach public print. Oswald and Castro were “the presumed assassins”  the students charged.

Unbeknownst to the American public, the group was guided and monitored by the CIA. Declassified CIA records show that the Directorate’s leaders met often in 1963 with George Joannides, the chief of psychological warfare operations branch of the CIA station in Miami. At the time, the CIA was giving the group $51,000 a month, according to a memo found in the JFK Library.

Carlos Bringuier, the Directorate’s spokesman in New Orleans, went on to write two book accusing Castro of orchestrating Kennedy’s murder.

Former U.S. cabinet secretary Joseph Califano, who was deeply involved in JFK’s  Cuba policy in 1963 as Secretary of the Army, wrote in his 2005 memoir that he believed Castro was behind Kennedy’s murder.

Investigative reporter Gus Russo reached much the same conclusion in his books, Live by the Sword and Brothers in Arms.

More recently, former Warren Commission attorney David Slawson was quoted in Politico as saying that the Commission had been the victim of a “massive coverup” by the CIA. Slawson told reporter Philip Shenon, author of  the JFK book, A Cruel And Shocking Act, that he had changed his mind about Oswald’s sole guilt and now believed that the accused assassin had Cuban “accessories.”

The Cuban government rejects the charge. Fidel Castro and his security services have long expressed the belief that Kennedy’s assassination was orchestrated by enemies within his own government opposed to his willingness to co-exist with Castro’s communist government.

In a 2010 interview, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, asked Castro about his view of Oliver Stone’s hit movie JFK which depicted the assassination as the work of men in the CIA and Pentagon.

“There were people in the American government who thought Kennedy was a traitor because he didn’t invade Cuba when he had the chance, when they were asking him,” Castro said. “He was never forgiven for that.”

“So that’s what you think might have happened?” Goldberg asked.

“No doubt about it,” Castro answered.

Are Latell’s charge credible?

Latell alleges that that Oswald’s accessories included six officials who worked at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City in 1963. He named Alfredo Mirabal,  Eusebio Azue, Manuel Vega Perez, Rogelio Rodriguez Lopez, .Ramiro Valdes, and Luisa Calderon.

Castro's SecretsLatell also said that Manuel Pineiro, the head of the Cuban intelligence service in 1963, “would have been in the loop about Oswald’s visit and how he was handled by his officers in Mexico.”

Mirabal and Calderon are still alive, according to Latell.

The fact that Aspillaga’s story cannot be corroborated and that the anonymous sources cited by Gus Russo cannot be interviewed makes it impossible to confirm Latell’s claims.

In light of the U.S. government’s and the CIA’s unremitting hostility toward the Castro government for the past half century, I find it difficult to believe thhat agency officials would not give President Obama credible information that reflected negatively on the government in Havana.

The Obama administration has announced that it plans to remove Cuba from its list of governments that sponsor terrorism. There is no indication that the CIA or the Congress will object to this action. To me that is the most powerful indication that the U.S. government has no credible evidence that Cuban government officials were involved, directly or indirectly,  in JFK’s assassination.

Read it:  The complete  interview with Brian Latell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 comments

  1. Antonio D'Antonio says:

    So a retired CIA analyst is blaming Cuba and Oswald for the JFK assassination.
    How novel!!!

  2. Fearfaxer says:

    I can accept the logic that Lyndon Johnson would have forced the CIA to suppress this information over 50 years ago, fearing that even unsubstantiated rumors that Castro had murdered JFK could have led to nuclear war. But now? Why would they continue to sit on this information? I think this is just an attempt to throw a spanner in the works of the apparently imminent US/Cuba rapprochement. The CIA has shown it has an elephant’s memory and a Corsican’s white-hot desire for vengeance against anyone or anything that has ever crossed it. This is all a lot of supposition they have never been able to prove, most likely will never be able to prove. Oddly like the Warren Report meant to nip this idea in the bud, come to think of it. 😉
    This sort of belief built on guesswork seems to have affected a fair number of people, though. I recall reading in the last couple of years (sorry, can’t remember where) that Earl Warren believed JFK’s murder was a Communist-run affair, with the Kremlin bearing the ultimate responsibility. Have also read that Alexander Haig went to his grave fervently believing that Castro had done it. If that’s true, and I believe it is, a hell of a lot of other powerful, well-connected DC insiders probably believed one or the other of those stories too.

  3. Yea, Castro told his ELINT INTEL techs to tune their ears and Soviet made high tech radio receivers to Texas because he knew JFK would be there – not because he wanted JFK killed, as the cover story for the Dealy Plaza operation intended – and Shenon, Lettel swallow hook, line and sinker, or attest – as all good CIA assets do.

    Yea, if they did as Fidel ordered they should have a complete recording of the AF1 radio recordings – which our government says it lost and just can’t find.

    But Latrell and Shenon and all CIA assets don’t want that – they only want the dirt that supports the Castro Commie Cover story and can’t seem to find any.

    BK

    • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

      Bill, the case is worst. Aspillaga told Dr. Latell that he finally only heard radio amateurs talking about the shooting. I don’t think that Castro would have been using ELINT INTEL for learning about an event broadcasting live by commercial radio.

    • Len Kurtz says:

      I have always wondered why if the U.S. concluded Castro had JFK murdered, the U.S. did not retaliate and destroy Cuba and Castro. I even think the Russians would have bombed Castro if in fact he was responsible.

  4. Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

    “The Kennedy assassination should be added to the agenda for official Cuban-American negotiations.” Really? All the points alleged by Dr. Latell are based on pure speculation and even manipulation of the facts. His approach on Castro-Oswald-JFK can be swallowed only by gullible Cuban exiles at Domino Park in Miami.

    For a detailed debunking, please see The Anti-Latell Report at:

    https://www.academia.edu/7289219/The_Anti-Latell_Report

  5. Photon says:

    There is a huge gulf from suggesting to someone to kill a specific person and then acting on that request.
    It would make sense for the Revolitionary government to want dead their most dangerous foe, a man well known to be ultimately responsible for numerous attempts on the life of Castro. And JFK’s death effectively ended the Kennedy Administration’s secret war on Castro ( let’s face it, the evidence of JFK’s and Robert’s involvement in attempts to remove Castro is overwhelming, even up to November of 1963.)
    But the KGB wanted no part of Oswald-for an organization that had many leaders who questioned the sincerity of Kim Philby Oswald was an unpredictable individual of no value. As part and parcel of the KGB in 1963 the Cuban Security service undoubtably was told to get rid of him and have no further association with him. But I will admit that if Oswald was granted a visa that directive had to have been ignored-why?
    But in the end there is zero real evidence that Oswald had any real contact with Cuban officials beyond what is known.In addition I doubt that his sociopathic personality would have allowed him to be a part of any plot directed by another authority. Even if you found a tape of a Cuban official asking Lee to shoot JFK it would have only reflected the abstract desires of many Cuban Revolutionaries toward their most visible foe.

    • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

      Not at all, Photon. All the Eastern Europe diplomatic records from 1963 show that Castro saw Kennedy as the best option for Cuba in the 1964 elections. Castro knew that killing the sitting president meant nothing, since the replacement was at hand. He knew since the very beginning that his best defense was neutralizing the CIA, and he made the right move even before Kennedy was elected: infiltrating the CIA until it was possible and the Cuban exile until the bond.

      • Photon says:

        What records? How did Fidel know that he would even survive until Nov. 1964 with the ongoing assassination attempts? No Communist government wanted Goldwater, but at this stage that was only a possibility-with the much more accommodating Rockefeller in the wings.
        The attempts only stopped with the death of JFK. That is a fact.

        • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

          For instance, go to Cold War History Research Center in Budapest, pick archives on the left, and then Selected Hungarian Documents on Cuba, and select Talks between Cuba and the USA. This is a top secret report from Hungarian ambassador in Havana telling Budapest that Raul Castro himself mentioned to the Rumanian ambassador “that for Cuba among the possible presidents at present Kennedy is the best.” You can find similar statements in the East German, Polen and Czech diplomatic correspondence from Havana.
          Fidel Castro didn´t know if he would survive, but surely was doing everything possible even before JFK inauguration. And the attempts didn´t stop with the JFK assassination. They were part of the so-called autonomous operations that the CIA planned with belligerent Cuban exiles.
          Manuel Artime´s plan with Cubela, after the JFK assassination, was simply the continuation of AM-LASH.
          In March 1964, sharpshooter Herminio Diaz and others landed on Monte Barreto, Havana, in order to kill Castro at Fifth Avenue. They were detected and Diaz was killed, but the Alpha 66 – Command L commander, Tony Cuesta, was apprehended and revealed the plan. Don´t tell me that Alpha 66 – Command L has nothing to do with the CIA.
          David A. Phillips himself advised Antonio Veciana in 1971 about killing Castro in Chile and, after the attempt failed, in Ecuador.
          And so on.

        • “The attempts (on Castro’s life) only stopped with the death of JFK. That is a fact.”~Photon

          Where is your documentation on that?
          \\][//

  6. “Are Latell’s charge credible?”

    Not at all, in my view this is another modified limited hangout by the
    CIA itself. Is Latell not a “retired” CIA analyst? Does one actually ever retire from CIA?

    I would like rock solid proof that Oswals was every in Mexico City.
    According to the notes by the FBI taken during Fritz’s interrogation of Oswald, he claimed the only place he ever visited was Tijuana.

    I know several of the commentators here disagree with me, and think there is proof of Oswald at the embassies in MC.
    I have read all about this here, and in the record. I don’t buy it.
    \\][//

    • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

      Will, the Cuban government gave the US the whole Oswald’s visa application. Both the photo and the signature were proven his by the FBI. Oswald was certainly impersonated by phone, but surely came to the Cuban diplomatic compound in MC and it would have been part of the CIA/FBI joint operation against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), just like Oswald’s pro Castro activism in New Orleans.

      • Ben Holmes says:

        This is simply untrue. The Cuban government allowed the U.S. to *photograph* Oswald’s visa application.

        And no serious handwriting expert would dare attempt a judgment on anything other than the original.

    • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

      Oswald also said, “I never had a card to the Communist party,” and he actually showed one to Cuban officials and it’s on record, along with his photo for the visa application and his signature on it, both brought by the Cuban government and verified by the FBI. In Mexico City, he was impersonated by phone, but in the States he was impersonated visiting Sylvia Odio.

  7. Ramon F Herrera says:

    [Article:]

    “Representatives of the two governments are reported to be close finalizing the terms but have yet to reach an agreement.”

    ==============

    The latest news is that the first attempt failed:

    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/us-cuba-no-embassy-deal-118219.html?hp=l6_4

  8. Fingred says:

    As the say, “Once CIA always CIA.” Looks like disinformation to me.

  9. Lee says:

    Round and round we go …. The constant recycling of false flags makes this the frustrating mess that the assassination of jkf has been for over 50 years …just tell us the truth we can handle it

  10. David Regan says:

    The End of an Obsession: A Review of “Castro’s Secrets” http://www.ctka.net/reviews/Fernandez_Latell.html

  11. Eddy says:

    All CIA related/semi-authorised information has to be viewed through the prism of the Warren report, subsequent document releases, and the record of the CIA in media manipulation.

    As regards to the Warren report it now appears the accepted wisdom of the CIA is; claiming lack of foreknowledge of Oswald cannot be sustained. (See Photon’s posts on JFKfacts. They conform to this view). Documents released certainly back up this change of position (See Jeff’s document reference in the Latell interview).

    The major claim of Aspillaga (told to monitor radio in the morning of the assassination) only backs up the CIA’s current position on foreknowledge, nothing else. Cuban intelligence may have wanted to get feedback from their assassination, or (more likely in my view) may have had foreknowledge from their sources inside the DRE etc.

    Latell’s view that Oswald’s anti-Kennedy feelings were stoked by Cuban’s (A sort of ‘lone nut’ lite?) are tenuous. Did Cuba want Kennedy assassinated or not? If no, then links with potential assassins would not be encouraged or easily traceable. If yes then a plan with a high chance of success would be implemented. To suggest the Cubans would say to Oswald; ‘go on, have a go!, see if you can hit him from your fortuitously sourced place of work.’ doesn’t seem likely.

    Another crucial element of Latell’s story is Oswald in Mexico. Was Oswald ever in Mexico? I haven’t been convinced of this yet. I asked Anthony Summers about this by email and he accepted that views differed on whether the real Oswald did actually visit Mexico. If he wasn’t, he didn’t threaten to kill Kennedy or meet Cuban’s there. If he was, then it isn’t firmly established that he said what is claimed.

    In summary my view is that Latell’s argument for ‘lone-nut lite’ isn’t very strong. Further confirmation of the current ‘official’ line is important, because it can be used to focus research on whether the CIA had active involvement in the assassination, as opposed merely covering it up. They DID cover it up, that is established, but did they DO IT?

  12. Skeptic says:

    Excerpt from CIA web site review of CASTRO’S SECRETS

    Given what he knows, Mr. Latell absolves Castro of charges that he helped plan the assassination, but he still holds Castro “complicit” for having had a “passive but knowing” role. What galls Latell, indeed he finds it “despicable,” is that Castro from the evidence available likely knew Oswald was going to or might possibly kill the president that day and did nothing to warn Kennedy. This indictment strikes this reviewer as a moral stretch, given that Castro, as the Latell demonstrates, knew the Kennedys planned to kill him. Why would he feel obligated to provide warning. CIA sabotage and paramilitary operations were at their highest level since the Bay of Pigs and Castro had to have felt under siege, his own life and regime in danger. He owed President Kennedy nothing.
    With Kennedy gone, Castro had weathered the storm. Lyndon Johnson, who had bad karma about the whole covert action program (“Kennedy was trying to kill Castro, but Castro got to him first”), dismantled that “damn Murder Incorporated.” Kennedy’s death paradoxically hampered attempts to get a better handle on whether Castro was involved in any plans to preemptively kill the president. Johnson wanted the issue to go away. Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ portrays Robert Kennedy as critical of the Warren Commission’s Report, believing there was more to the assassination; nevertheless LBJ wanted the case closed and never called for or initiated another investigation. Castro said all the right things about Kennedy to calm suspicions. As Mr. Latell notes, DCI John McCone kept the Warren Commission in the dark about operations targeting Castro, thus closing a major avenue of investigation while the trail might still have been hot and people’s memories still fresh. The main person in the know today is old, sick, and out of office, and he is not talking. Any further discoveries about Castro’s culpability are likely to go with him to the grave.
    [Top of page

    ]https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol.-56-no.-3/castros-secrets-the-cia-and-cubas-intelligence-machine.html#top

  13. Dave says:

    Funny how Latell suddenly gets all vague about the lack of any real CIA documentary proof of his source Aspillaga for this Castro-did-it disinformation, when Jeff Morley poses some tough questions to him.
    Conclusion: 50 years on, just more limited cold-war CIA hangout, this time from Latell.
    Castro didn’t do it. Oswald didn’t either. But the CIA and FBI still have a hell of a lot to answer for a half-century later.

    • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

      Your right, Dave. There is no Aspillaga´s record on JFK withheld at the National Archives. Curiously there is one in such status from another Cuban defector, Vladimir Rodriguez (AMMUG-1), dismissed from the very beginning by Joseph Langosch, the counterintelligence chief at the CIA Cuban desk, as worthless regarding the JFK assassination.
      On June 28, 2013, Michele Meeks, Executive Secretary at the CIA Release Panel (ARP), denied a FOIA request on Aspillaga´s debriefing, “only regarding the issue of the JFK assassination,” with this statament: “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of requested records.”
      By the way, I think that Dr. Latell and Shenon are mere avatars from the same current of taking Oswald´s guilt as proven and Castro as a factor for muddering the waters.

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