Rigged triangulation: Oswald, Kostikov, and AMLASH

A specter is haunting the JFK research: the specter of Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov (1933-2002). It has recently slipped through Jefferson Morley’s remarkable study on the secret life of CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton (The Ghost, St. Martin’s Press, 2017): “Kostikov had been visited by a Cuban government official named Rolando Cubela” (page 150).

Oswald and Kostikov

Oswald / Kostikov / AMLASH

Thusly, Cubela (AMLASH-1) would have completed a sinister triangle, because on November 23, 1963, the acting chief of the CIA Soviet Russia Division, Tennent “Pete” Bagley, memoed another ghostly intel: Lee Harvey Oswald, believed “a KGB agent on a sensitive mission,” had met in Mexico City with Soviet Vice Consul Kostikov, believed an officer of “the KGB’s 13th Department” for executive action, which included assassination (NARA 104-10015-10056).

A piece of additional info —attached to the very Bagley’s memo— comes in handy to drive away the specter from Cubela. Kostikov “was assigned to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City as Vice Consul on 19 September 1961.” The FBI learned that Cubela “arrived in Mexico City on December 22, 1960” (NARA 104-10244-10373) and a CIA blank memo from October 24, 1963, put Cubela making a call from Havana to Carlos Tepedino (AMWHIP-1) in New York on March 17, 1961 (NARA 104-10215-10235).

According to the probe into his travels conducted by the Cuban State Security Department (DSE), Cubela left Mexico after the Latin American Conference on National Sovereignty, Emancipation and Peace (March 5-8, 1961) and never returned before being arrested in 1966 (Fabian Escalante, JFK: The Cuban Files, Ocean Press, 2006, pages 56-78). Neither DSE nor FBI nor CIA have found any trace of him meeting Kostikov elsewhere.

A Stubborn Fact

The day after the assassination, Langley [DIR] urgently requested from CIA Station in Mexico City [MEXI] info about Kostikov, including “names and backgrounds [of] his contacts not already reported” (DIR 84837 – NARA 157-10004-10269). The station submitted a summary without a single entry of Cubela (MEXI 7051 – NARA 157-10004-10253).

Langley also requested info about Kostikov’s travels. Since he had traveled to Northern Mexico in September 1963 with Pravda correspondent Ivan Alferiev or Alfereyiev (DIR 84885 – NARA 157-10004-10268), a summary of local contacts with the latter was submitted too (MEXI 7045 – NARA 104-10055-10054). It did include an entry related to Cubela. On December 23, 1960, Alferiev and Cuban cultural attaché Teresa Proenza had been in contact to arrange a “press conference for Rolando Cubela” in his capacity as president of the Cuban Federation of University Students (FEU).

Linking Cubela to Kostikov is as ridiculous as linking Oswald to Kostikov in a KGB “wet affair.” After having spun a long yarn about the latter case, the CIA ended up with Angleton’s successor, David Henry Blee, categorically stating on May 21, 1982: “We have no information which indicates any relationship between these individuals other than [for] Oswald’s making his visa request.” As Counterintelligence Chief (1978-85), Blee also clarified: “Although our file indicates that Kostikov may have been a member of Department 13 (…), we have been unable to confirm this” [NARA 104-10431-10091].

Apart from Morley, authors like Perter Dale Scott, George Michael Evica, Evan Thomas, and Bill Simpich have referred that Angleton learned from Win Scott, Chief of Station in Mexico City, that Cubela had met with Kostikov. Nonetheless, even a meticulous researcher like Simpich has been unable to support it with anything else than MEXI 7045 in response to DIR 84885 (State Secret, Chapter 6, Note 92).

A Frightening Ghost Story

Let’s give the floor to Angleton’s alter ego Edward J. Epstein: “On November 25, [1963] a list of names of ‘all known contacts’ of Valery Vladimirovich Kostikov was being traced through the CIA’s voluminous files by members of Angleton’s counterintelligence staff (…) One name on the list was Rolando Cubella (sic). When the case officers in the SAS [Special Affairs Staff] division were notified (…), there was immediate alarm. [Desmond] FitzGerald decided against providing the Cubella file to Angleton” (Legend, Reader’s Digest / McGrawHill, 1978, pages 253 f.).

Herein Angleton is showing his true colors. Linking Cubela to Kostikov was a classic dodge of tradecraft —dubbed as poison pill— for avoiding a negative outcome by increasing the costs of that outcome to those who would seek it. Angleton was simply trying to save his own skin.

  • Sam Halpern, executive assistant to FitzGerald, testified before HSCA on April 22, 1976, that the SAS —responsible for operations against Castro— had some of its own people attached to the CIA Station in Mexico City (NARA 157-10014-10008)
  • In State Secret, Simpich has demonstrated that CIA officers working for SAS were among the prime suspects in the molehunt unleashed by Angleton’s Special Investigations Group (CI-SIG) to catch the people who had compromised the CIA wiretap operation LIENVOY in Mexico City by impersonating Oswald in a call to the Soviet embassy on September 28, 1963, allegedly made from the Cuban consulate.
  • When Oswald broke the news in Dallas, Angleton realized he had been outwitted in a sort of piggy-backed operation to kill Kennedy. All the steps taken for the molehunt —like omitting any reference to Cuba and disseminating false data on Oswald to different recipients in the “cables of October”— turned against the CIA. If word spread out about CI-SIG knowing that Oswald had been impersonated prior to the assassination, it would imply not only that Oswald had been set up, but also that Angleton had his share of the blame in the wrongful death of Kennedy. Despite of tracking Oswald since his defection to the Soviet Union (1959), the CI-SIG ultimately missed him as a security threat in Dallas.

Angleton used Cubela as a Cuban stone for killing two American birds. By reinforcing the hypothesis of a Soviet-Cuban op against JFK, Angleton could take control of the CIA probe into the assassination and drive a cover up for himself; by poking his nose into FitzGerald’s key asset of Operation AMLASH, a plot to kill Castro, Angleton instilled enough fear into SAS so that FitzGerald and his staff refrained from snooping around the details of CI-SIG double-dealing with Oswald.

Although the Deep State unfolded the cover up from Red conspiracy (Phase One) to lone gunman (Phase Two), the Angleton-maniac approach never ceased to come back. For the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, Dr. Carlos J. Bringuier launched Crime Without Punishment: How Castro Assassinated President Kennedy and Got Away with It (AuthorHouse, 2013, 450 pages). Dr. Bringuier was the New Orleans delegate of the CIA-backed Cuban Student Directorate (AMSPELL) who confronted pro-Castro Lee in Canal Street [August 9, 1963], debated with re-defector Harvey on WDSU radio [August 21], and branded leftist Oswald and Castro as “the presumed assassins” for providing the first JFK conspiracy theory reaching public print (Trinchera, Miami, November 23, 1963). In his above-mentioned book, Dr. Bringuier claims the KGB notified the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) that Oswald had return to the U.S. and CuIS assigned a case officer to him: Major Rolando Cubela (page 163).

AMLASH Declassified

Cubela has been usually deemed as a double agent loyal to Castro against the CIA. To escape from reality, his more than twelve years in a Castro jail are circumvented with far-fetched misinformation, like this comment in a February 10-1977 CIA interim working draft: “Cubela, following arrest [February 28, 1966], was given a relatively light sentence [25 years], considering the seriousness of the charge [a plot to kill Castro]. Upon incarceration, he reportedly functioned as a prison physician, and drove around in a jeep unescorted. Such treatment by the Government of Cuba is quite unusual and, if true, is an indication that he was trusted” (NARA 1993.08.13.13:49:39:370028).

The ineffable Dr. Brian Latell added the cherry to the cake by bringing up an absurdity furnished by Cuban defector Miguel Mir. Castro had “a secret vault at a military facility near Havana [containing] a record of all the attempts against his life.” And he, Lieutenant Mir, just as a Military Historian, “read documents there about Rolando Cubela, stating that he was double agent” (Castro’s Secrets, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pages 191 f., 224, 241 ff.).

With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey. In March 7-10, 1966, Cubela and six codefendants were summarily tried on charges related to the plot concocted with the so-called CIA’s golden boy Manuel Artime (AMBIDDY-1) during a series of meetings in Madrid on December 27 and 30, 1964, and February 9, 1965. Castro would have never decided to burn two CuIS officers —Cubela and Juan Felaifel— in the press-trumpeted criminal case 108-1966 (Audio recording at the Library of Congress) without unmasking the more resounding plot AMLASH almost a decade before it surfaced at the Church Committee.

On April 9, 1965, the CuIS officer Erasmo Terrero (BENITO) reported that his informant ADELA had seen Cubela in Paris drinking a lot, and “when he did so, spoke out violent against Fidel.” He also “traveled continuously” and talked by phone with Cuban exiles Jorge Robreño (AMLASH-2), Carlos Tepedino (AMWHIP-1) and some “Musculito” (CIA asset Eugenio Martínez, better known as a Watergate burglar).

Cubela was put under surveillance. The suspicion of “working against Cuba” would be confirmed by CuIS officer Juan Felaifel (AMHAM-1). His brother Anis (AMBASS-1) was intel chief of Artime’s belligerent group Movement of Revolutionary Recovery (MRR). After becoming aware of Artime’s assassination plot against Castro, Juan Felaifel took advantage of an infiltration mission on February 24, 1966, and “disappeared” off the coast of Cuba. He reappeared as the key prosecution witness against Cubela.

In a clear political move, Castro spared the life of Cubela and four codefendants [two were acquitted] by writing an open letter to the prosecutor, Major José “Papito” Serguera, on March 8, 1966. After disqualifying Artime as a three-day guerrilla fighter in the Sierra Maestra against Batista’s dictatorship and a three-day combatant in Bay of Pigs, Castro remarked Cubela’s revolutionary background and his positive attitude during the trial for suggesting Serguera to refrain from the death penalty. The letter concluded: “The Revolution is strong. We have nothing to fear.”

As soon as the Church Committee (1975-6) started to report CIA plans to assassinate Castro, Cubela and other prisoners were interviewed. On July 16, 1976, the State Security Department (DSE) submitted a report to Castro about CIA agent AMLASH-1 and inmate Rolando Cubela being one and the same person. A DSE task force reconstructed the affair from 1953 on. At that time, Cubela befriended Tepedino, who had a jewelry store in the Havana Hilton Hotel. Yet in exile, Tepedino was instrumental for setting up the first CIA attempt to recruit Cubela. It occurred during his stay in Mexico City and the covered CIA officer matched David A. Phillips description.

Cubela spilled the beans to DSE and appeared before both the moot court arranged by Castro at the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students (Havana, July 28-August 5, 1978) and a HSCA panel (Havana Riviera Hotel, August 29, 1978). He denied having been a double agent and affirmed “he did not inform the Cuban Government” about AMLASH before the JFK assassination (HSCA Report, Volume III, page 285). Shortly thereafter, Cubela was released —he served half his sentence— and went into exile in Spain, where he has been involved in agitprop against the Castroite regime up to now.

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