This story has long generated official CIA denials that sounded flimsy. With this story from The Times & The Sunday Times in London, those denials are now defunct. The CIA betrayed the leader of South African independence to the apartheid regime in 1962.
But give the CIA man his due. Nelson Mandela was indeed dangerous to the CIA and U.S. foreign policy in 1962. He was leader in the African National Congress (ANC), a model for African independence movement. JFK, as a senator and president, was instinctively supportive of African independence. Much to the annoyance of France, for example, JFK was an early supporter of Algerian independence. Jim DiEugenio lays out JFK thinkinga about Third World nationalism.
The CIA, by contrast, was solidly–wholeheartedly–behind the apartheid regime South Africa because it supposedly protected Americans from communism. And so the ANC was targeted. Mandela went to jail for three decades. His negotiated victory over the apartheid regime three decades later has been called many things. It was also a deserved defeat for CIA.
The story illuminates the ideology that animated CIA covert operations in the early 1960s. If these men thought Mandela was dangerous, what did they think of President Kennedy?