Investigators probing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy held a secret meeting with Cuban president Fidel Castro, according to Philip Shenon’s new book, “A Cruel and Shocking Act.
The story of the Castro-Warren Commission meeting deals a blow to the dubious but hardy cliché that “Washington can’t keep a secret.” The meeting between commission staff attorney William Coleman and Castro took place in 1964, some 49 years ago. This meeting was not discovered by any of the six official investigations of the crime, nor was it reported in any of the hundreds of books on JFK’s assassination.
In the words of CBS news anchor Bob Schieffer, “the commission actually sent an investigator to waters off Cuba. They took him out in a U.S. Navy boat, he got onto a yacht. There was Fidel Castro and Castro had sent word that he wanted to talk to the commission and this was thought to be so controversial they didn’t do it. Anyway, the investigator gets off the boat, talks to Castro, they talk for three hours. Castro says — as you would expect — ‘No way, no how did I have anything to do with it.'”
Thus Shenon’s story also deals a blow to the dubious but hardy theory that “Castro did it,” (advocated most recently in modified form by former CIA analyst, Brian Lattell). If the CIA or the Warren Commission developed any information to refute Castro’s claims it has never been made public.
Finally, the secrecy surrounding the meeting shows that while Castro wanted to give his views to the U.S. government, the Commission was loathe give them any credence, and for good reason.
Castro’s interpretation of November 22 was especially obnoxious to the U.S. government.
The day after Kennedy’s murder in Dallas, the Cuban leader had given a broadcast speech blaming a “Machiavelllan plot” of reactionary forces within JFK’s own government.
Castro scoffed at published reports from anti-Castro exiles in Miami and New Orleans that suspected assassin Lee Oswald was a communist and supporter of Castro. He suggested his enemies in the U.S. the CIA were trying to blame JFK’s murder on him, the better to justify a tougher policy against Cuba.
“We foresaw that from these incidents there could be a new trap, an ambush, a Machiavellian plot against our country,” Castro declared. “That on the very blood of their assassinated president there might be unscrupulous people who would beg in to work out immediately an aggressive policy against Cuba, …. there is no doubt that this policy is being built on the still warm blood and unburied body of their tragically assassinated President.”
Castro suggested the accused assassin was a pawn of the FBI or CIA.
“For the time being, without affirming anything because we cannot affirm anything, since Oswald could be guilty or innocent, we can’t tell,” Castro said. ” He could be a CIA or FBI agent, as those people [Cuban exiles in New Orleans] suspected, or an instrument of the most reactionary sectors that have been planning a sinister plot, who may have planned the assassination of Kennedy because of disagreement with his international policy.”
There’s no proof that Oswald was CIA or FBI agent — but there is plenty of evidence that he was manipulated as he made his way to Dallas. Certainly Oswald’s leftist politics, foreign travels and suspicious contacts were known to senior CIA undercover operatives such as Jane Roman, David Phillips and Anne Goodpasture in October 1963.
In short, Castro intuited something in 1963 that U.S. news organizations have only just begun to acknowledge 50 years later: that Oswald was watched closely by the CIA and FBI before JFK was killed.
The Warren Commission buried the story and it stayed buried until Anthony Summers reported it in 2006 and Shenon confirmed it in 2013.
Washington kept this particular JFK secret for more than four decades. There are others.