Why Castro met with the Warren Commission

Fidel Castro, tormenter of empire

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.

CBS News, The Hill, and the Daily Mail have touted the story of the previously unknown contact between the U.S. government and the revolutionary firebrand as newsworthy. It is.

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.'”

William Coleman
William Coleman: the man who met Castro

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.

41 thoughts on “Why Castro met with the Warren Commission”

  1. The only evidence of a meeting with Castro seems to be William Coleman’s memory of it. But is his memory reliable? He first told the story to Anthony Summers in 1994, then denied it, then apparently told a slightly different version to author Shenon. Because of this wavering, Summers later called Coleman a “less than reliable witness.”


  2. Jean – you discredited Hoover’s claim of Oswald’s impersonation by citing other Hoover claims that were incorrect; so by mistating this now you are hereby, by your own standard, discrediting all your other statements (under your “one strike you are out” policy); oi, this gets complicated. As for Oswald in Mexico, get back to me after you’ve read Lopez, Newman, Sylvia Duran’s testimony, Jim DiEugenio. Even Castro knew this was a setup; among many other things the Oswald on the phone spoke poor Russian; no matter what McAdams makes up about his linguistic abilities, even Marina thought LHO was a native the first time she spoke to him.

    1. Allen,

      I don’t understand what you think I’m “misstating.” Hoover’s other errors don’t discredit his impersonation claim, they only show that he made many mistakes and one shouldn’t assume something is true just because Hoover said so.

      Marina didn’t think Oswald was a “native speaker.”

      Mr. McDONALD. At this time [when you met LHO] you were speaking in Russian together?
      Mrs. PORTER. Yes. He spoke with accent so I assumed he was maybe from another state, which is customary in Russia. People from other states do speak with accents BECAUSE THEY DO NOT SPEAK RUSSIAN. THEY SPEAK DIFFERENT LANGUAGES. [my emphasis]

      She thought he might be from “Estonia, Lithuania, something like that.”


  3. well, according to Jeane Davison, one incorrect statement disqualifies all others – in which case I won’t even go there (you know what they say about LNers who live in glass houses); but it doesn’t matter because Jean disproves her own concerns about Hoover – who was corrected on the matter of the PO box and Oswald’s mom, but not on the question of Oswald’s impersonation. Showing us, but Jean’s own example, that that claim remains true and uncontradicted.

    1. Sorry, Allen, but Hoover’s impersonation claim was immediately contradicted by the three agents who handled the CIA material sent to Dallas from Mexico.

      I didn’t say one incorrect statement disqualifies all others — not sure what you mean by that.

      1. For Jean Davison: So does that mean that you believe Gilberto Alvarado Ugarte’s claim that Oswald took money in the Cuban embassy to kill JFK?

      2. I would like to throw this question out to John McAdams, as well as Jean Davison. What do you make of this Alvarado business? How does it fit in with your Lone Nut theory? Do you believe that Oswald was acting on behalf of Cuba and/or Russia?
        I looked at the McAdams website, and searched Alvarado – no results. Nada! This alone tells me that you aren’t serious about finding the truth about Oswald.
        As for me, I think that David Atlee Phillips was behind Alvarado and that he faked some transcripts. Just how do you explain all of this?

        1. Alvarado was either a nut, or perhaps an agent in the service of Nicaraguan intelligence.

          But his story was bogus from point zero, since the date he gave for Oswald getting the money in the Cuban Consulate was was September 18. Oswald could not have been there on that date.

          If you’ll read Morley’s book on Win Scott, you’ll see that Scott and Phillips were not at all keen on accepting his story, nor any story that blamed Communists.

          So how do you think this fits into some conspiracy theory?

          1. I think that it shows deception on the part of David Atlee Phillips. Alvarado had been used for a year as an informant by the CIA in Nicaragua and Mexico, however Phillips did not portray him as such. As Peter Dale Scott noted, “Most revealing was the description of Alvarado as a “well-known Nicaraguan Communist underground member,” whereas in fact (as he himself revealed later the same day) he was a penetration agent of the right-wing Somoza Government of Nicaragua. (20) (This revelation was quickly confirmed by CIA cables from Managua and Headquarters).” As you note, Alvarado initially gave the date as September 18, then after being interviewed by the CIA the date was changed to Sept 28.
            The Alvarado report was enough to scare the hell out of Washington, for fear that it would push us into a war with Cuba/Russia.
            Alvarado was trying to enter Cuba as a double agent, and the parallels with Oswald are striking. Phillips would certainly have been aware of all this, because of the close cooperation with Somoza. I believe that Alvarado was being directed by Phillips, but of course it is also possible that he was an opportunist, and Phillips decided to take advantage of the situation.
            Scott, Morley, Simpich, and others a lot smarter than me have documented Phillips’ duplicity.
            And don’t assume that I’m “anti-CIA”. It is vitally necessary for our defense, and the vast majority of it’s employees have been honorable people.
            Open the records to the public – it’s about time.

    2. Allen, with all due respect to Ms. Davison, you should read the other threads which challenge the notion that the impersonation claims are debunked by FBI memos of subordinates, which may not have anything to do with those photos or audio tapes that Hoover knew about.

        1. You know all about our debates on this issue in another thread.

          All he said was ‘We have this tape up here’. He said neither the photos nor tapes allegedly of Oswald look or sound like him, respectively.

          He never retracted these extremely prejudicial remarks in either his telecon with LBJ or his letter to SS Chief Rowley.

          Other material errors were corrected. Immaterial ones were ignored, as expected.

          This has been discussed before.

          1. Gerry,

            No, “We have the tape up here” is not all he said. Who did he say listened to it?

            Did Hoover ever retract any of the other errors he made in his conversations with LBJ?

            Yes, this has been discussed before but I haven’t seen anyone explain why three FBI agents told Hoover he was wrong, if he wasn’t. Is the theory that these documents were forged, or what?

    3. on the question of Oswald’s impersonation. Showing us, but Jean’s own example, that that claim remains true and uncontradicted.

      In fact, it’s contradicted by a massive amount of evidence.


      Are you saying that if somebody is demonstrably clueless about a bunch of things, they should be assumed to be perfectly reliable about everything else they say?

  4. — ‘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
    How in the world does it do this?
    O.J. denied he killed his ex-wife. But the evidence is quite clear that he did, as the civil jury found.
    What does a denial prove anyway?
    How many people on death row deny their guilt?
    As I recall all Lattell says (and we lunched with him) is that Fidel had advance knowledge that Kennedy was to be killed.
    Also this is not news–Castro has for many years publicly denied any involvement.

  5. This video tells you a tremendous amount about why there would have been so much hurt and venom over the failure of the Brigade at the Bay of Pigs. The video presents the recollections of Brigade veterans 50 years since the American sponsored invasion. Listen to how passionately they felt betrayed by the U.S. Government.


  6. It is not surprising to me that people with CIA connections link Castro in some way to the JFK assassination.
    The DRE were doing much the same thing in 1963. They had CIA connections too.
    The CIA lied to and misled both the WC and HSCA. I don’t feel that this was to hide their own incompetence. I believe it is something more sinister and deeper than that.
    LHO’s connections with the DRE is something to do with it, as this seems to be what the CIA seemed so keen to keep off the radar, as evidenced by the Oct 10 Cable, and making George Joannides liason to the HSCA.

  7. My late father was quite open about meeting Fidel Castro. Mind you , he wasn’t working for Uncle Sam – or Cuba.

    1. I believe Philip Shenon and his new book “A Cruel and Shocking Act” represent what is described as a limited hangout.

  8. Exactly where is the evidence that any of this ever actually transpired? The only witness has stated in writing that the meeting never occurred..
    I have never seen such an explosion of belief in a tale that came out of supposed cocktail chatter, totally unwitnessed or verified by ANYBODY.
    It never happened. Until somebody can actually document what is claimed it is nothing but fantasy.
    Like so much conspiracy “truths” it is based on a source that was never documented as factual in the first place.

    1. Speaking of conspiracy documentation, let’s see the hidden files that CIA is still sitting on.
      Every time defenders of the intelligence bureaucracy (CIA, NSA etc.) say there’s “no documentation, no evidence” they seem to forget that documents get destroyed, and kept hidden from the public. So until everything comes out in the sunshine, we can’t know all of the truth.

      CIA denied that the U2 flight in May of 1960 was anything but a “weather plane” until the Soviets forced their hand by revealing that the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, had been captured and was beginning to talk. So just because an agency denies something, it doesn’t mean it’s “factual.” There’s historical precedent for lying by intelligence agencies, and this needs to be kept in mind by JFK assassination investigators seeking to find out what really happened, beyond the cover story.

  9. This story was also referenced in Gus Russo’s 1998 book “Live by the Sword” —

    “Warren Commission Staff counsel William Coleman has spoken privately about being sent to Havana by Warren to investigate possible Cuban complicity in the crime. When asked about the trip recently, Coleman admitted to making the journey, but would say nothing else. ‘I can’t talk. It was top-secret,’ Coleman said. He offered a ‘No comment’ when asked if he was successful in meeting with Castro.”

    1. Staff counsel William Coleman has spoken privately about being sent to Havana by Warren to investigate possible Cuban complicity in the crime.

      But the Shenon version of the story is not about being sent to Havana. It’s about meeting Castro on a yacht.

  10. Oswald was a lone nut who had the opportunity and took it. He wanted in the history books and succeeded. If the CIA and FBI had any dealings with him they were most likely just observing him knowing he was a radical, militant.communist,loose cannon ect… He clipped through the cracks and killed jfk unaided. Deal with it.

      1. exactly.The OS supporters don’t deal with motive for assassination.Killing for frame doesn’t work when you claim to be patsy.

        1. What’s he going to say ? By admitting guilt of murder in those days in Texas he’d be sending himself to the electric chair.

          1. If he was going to deny the charges why bother?

            It doesn’t make any sense unless he did it for apolitical reasons(money perhaps?) and hoped to get away with it…

      2. He wanted a court trial. He must have feared being in jail so why admit his guilt and risk a lynching like what almost happened at the theatre.

        1. None of this is consistent. A person can’t crave attention for a high-profile murder so they can make the history books but not be found out and hence punished for the crime.

          1. Speaking logic to a Lone Nut Buff (as I prefer to call them since they love to call us “conspiracy buffs”) is a pointless exercise. It’s like trying to convince a fundamentalist that the Bible isn’t literally true. Nobody commits an assassination of this magnitude to “get their name in the history books,” they do it for specific reasons, having to do entirely with politics. But that won’t stop Lone Nut Buffs from repeating the mantra, over and over.

    1. How do you explain this 11/23/1963 phone call, Leon?

      LBJ: Have you established any more about the visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico in September?

      Hoover: No, that’s one angle that’s very confusing, for this reason—we have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy, using Oswald’s name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice [in custody in Dallas], nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there.

      1. Whatever happened in Mexico does not remove Oswald from bringing a rifle to work and not having an alibi at the time of the assassination, shooting Tippit and trying to shoot another cop at the theatre.

        1. Leon, An impersonation of Oswald in Mexico City shows there’s more than a “lone nut” here. Do you not agree? Also the large exit wound behing the right ear shows at least one shooter from in front of Oswald. Agreed?

        2. There’s no evidence proving Oswald was on the sixth floor firing a rifle that day but even if he did it, the fact that he is guilty does not rule out the possibility that there was a conspiracy. Oswald’s guilt and the plausibility of a Conspiracy are related but separate investigations…

    2. There’s quite a lot of information on this site that contradicts your opinion. It is quite interesting and I would suggest reading a bit by Jeff Morley, John Newman, Larry Hancock, Gaeton Fonzi and Anthony Summers, etc.

      In the meanwhile, the comments are supposed to be “factual, engaging and civil”.

  11. Interesting that this article concludes that Washington CAN keep a secret for 49 years. That’s a good counter to the disinformation agents who claim a conspiracy could not have been kept secret all this time.

    More importantly, the Castro-WC meeting indicates that the WC chose not to reveal tot he world Castro’s information or that they even met with Castro. This is more evidence that the WC was always intended to be a whitewash effort, to reveal to the public only what Johnson and the WC thought the public should know.

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