The whole Bay of Pigs thing

In face of a persistent legal challenge from the National Security Archive, the CIA continues to resist releasing an internal history of the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs more than a half century ago. The struggle for Volume 5, as the history is known, is an epic legal contest

Why the secrecy about something that happened so long ago?

That question was the subject of a recent historian’s roundtable: National Security Archive v. Central Intelligence Agency.

Kenneth McDonald, one of the historians who participated, has actually read the forbidden document. He said the research in Volume 5 is “impressive.”

” I nevertheless found that the work had serious deficiencies as a historical study,” McDonald went on. “I was especially troubled by three particular weaknesses. First, the work was an apologia, an uncritical defense of the officers and operatives most closely involved with the operation. Second, without adequate argument or evidence it put responsibility for the operation’s failure on officers elsewhere in CIA and on US government officials up to the highest levels. Third, the work’s polemical response to earlier critics of the operation (especially those within the CIA) strongly suggested that [author Jack] Pfeiffer undertook his history principally as a rebuttal to such earlier critiques as the June 1961 findings of General Maxwell Taylor’s presidential commission and the October 1961 report of CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick, both of which assessed the operation’s many faults in planning and execution.”

The CIA is keeping secret its harsh internal reaction to JFK’s handling of the Bay of Pigs.


  1. Bill Banks says:

    Last volume just released. “Quicky version” is to read the intro and the last paragraph on page 159. I believe the technical term is FUBAR–and that applies to the executive branch as well. Could this be an explanation for Bobby’s subsequent amateur–anybody could do better than this–hour approach to Cuban matters?

  2. gerry campeau says:

    “Jeff, could you possibly expound on “The struggle for Volume 5″ ?
    I’ve read some on the BOP but appreciate info I’ve not seen yet as it’s a relevant subject.”
    Jeff as this is related too my ? to you on Doc Richardson, Its disapointing that you do not respond to our ?

  3. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Jeff, could you possibly expound on “The struggle for Volume 5” ?
    I’ve read some on the BOP but appreciate info I’ve not seen yet as it’s a relevant subject.

  4. Jay sutherland says:

    I doubt that it is anymore complicated than a few simple facts. There was no real intelligence showing a popular uprising against Castro once invasion began. There WAS an asumption that when the operation beagn to collapse like a house of cards that JFK would cave and involve US military. He correctly said no and the incompetent CIA was left with egg on their face. The same CIA that would later arm and assist Osama Bin Laden.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Jay Sutherland August 16, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Many people blame the lack of air support for the failure of the operation (it wasn’t) but the only way the operation could have been successful, if at all, was for the Cuban population to rise up against Castro. As you point out, there was no reason for us to think that this would happen. In fact Castro was still popular at the time.

      But one must remember that the CIA was following the presidents order for the BOP and the Afghanistan operations. They didn’t simply strike out on their own to do these operations.

      • Larry Hancock says:

        Actually the final CIA operation was not even close to that which Eisenhower had authorized – which was an infiltration effort to energize the on island insurgency. Its totally unclear that JFK was made aware how much the operation had changed; there was no discussion with Eisenhower. As Bill says, the CIA was not striking out on its own but in those early days they were given far more operational autonomy and they were “trusted”. The failure at the Bay of Pigs pretty well eroded that level of trust. However even as late as the CIA efforts against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the field was not reporting all its activities to CIA headquarters – thinks like supplying advanced sniper rifles and materials/training on IED’s.

  5. Larry Hancock says:

    McDonald’s observations have been made by others who read the last section as well. One obvious reason to keep it secret is that it so clearly shows that the Agency was not willing to take the responsibility for its own internal failures and that in essentially dismissing its own investigation, once again proved untrustworthy in regard to admitting and correcting its own management and security mistakes.

    Withholding such information is basic career and agency image CYA, but the CIA is certainly not the only agency which does it. The State Department has released, pulled back and still withholds a number of documents on Africa which appear to reflect poorly on Mr. Kissinger. Of course the ones we can see are pretty bad in and of themselves.

  6. Lawrence Schnapf says:

    I believe the Bay of Pigs is at the heart of the JFK assassination and also played a big role in the Watergate coverup.

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