On 11th December, 1959, Colonel J. C. King, chief of CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, sent a confidential memorandum to Allen W. Dulles, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. King argued that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries." (1)
As a result of this memorandum Dulles established Operation 40. It obtained this name because originally there were 40 agents involved in the operation. Later this was expanded to 70 agents. The group was presided over by Richard Nixon. Tracy Barnes became operating officer of what was also called the Cuban Task Force. The first meeting chaired by Barnes took place in his office on 18th January, 1960, and was attended by David Atlee Phillips, E. Howard Hunt, Jack Esterline, and Frank Bender.
According to Fabian Escalante, a senior officer of the Cuban Department of State Security (G-2), in 1960 Richard Nixon recruited an "important group of businessmen headed by George Bush (Snr.) and Jack Crichton, both Texas oilmen, to gather the necessary funds for the operation". (2) This suggests that Operation 40 agents were involved in freelance work.
It is known that at this time that George Bush and Jack Crichton were involved in covert right-wing activities. In 1990 The Common Cause magazine argued that: "The CIA put millionaire and agent George Bush in charge of recruiting exiled Cubans for the CIA’s invading army; Bush was working with another Texan oil magnate, Jack Crichton, who helped him in terms of the invasion." (3) This story was linked to the release of "a memorandum in that context addressed to FBI chief J. Edward Hoover and signed November 1963, which reads: Mr. George Bush of the CIA" (4)
Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo claim that in 1959 George Bush was asked “to cooperate in funding the nascent anti-Castro groups that the CIA decided to create”. The man “assigned to him for his new mission” was Féliz Rodríguez. (5)
Daniel Hopsicker also takes the view that Operation 40 involved private funding. In the book, Barry and the Boys: The CIA, the Mob and America’s Secret History, he claims that Richard Nixon had established Operation 40 as a result of pressure from American corporations which had suffered at the hands of Fidel Castro. (6)
Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin have argued that George Bush was very close to members of Operation 40 in the early 1960s. In September, 1963, Bush launched his Senate campaign. At that time, right-wing Republicans were calling on John F. Kennedy to take a more aggressive approach towards Castro. For example, in one speech Barry Goldwater said: “I advocate the recognition of a Cuban government in exile and would encourage this government every way to reclaim its country. This means financial and military assistance.” Bush took a more extreme position than Goldwater and called for a “new government-in-exile invasion of Cuba”. As Tarpley and Chaitkin point out, beneficiaries of this policy would have been “Theodore Shackley, who was by now the station chief of CIA Miami Station, Felix Rodriguez, Chi Chi Quintero, and the rest of the boys” from Operation 40. (7)
Paul Kangas is another investigator who has claimed that George Bush was involved with members of Operation 40. In an article published in The Realist in 1990, Kangas claims: "Among other members of the CIA recruited by George Bush for (the attacks on Cuba) were Frank Sturgis, Howard Hunt, Bernard Baker and Rafael Quintero.” In an article published in Granma in January, 2006, the journalists Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo argued that “Another of Bush’s recruits for the Bay of Pigs invasion, Rafael Quintero, who was also part of this underworld of organizations and conspiracies against Cuba, stated: If I was to tell what I know about Dallas and the Bay of Pigs, it would be the greatest scandal that has ever rocked the nation." (8)
Fabian Escalante names William Pawley as being one of those who was lobbying for the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. (9) Escalante points out that Pawley had played a similar role in the CIA overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala. Interestingly, the CIA assembled virtually the same team that was involved in the removal of Arbenz: Tracey Barnes, Richard Bissell, David Morales, David Atlee Phillips, E. Howard Hunt, Rip Robertson and Henry Hecksher. Added to this list was several agents who had been involved in undercover operations in Germany: Ted Shackley, Tom Clines and William Harvey.
According to Daniel Hopsicker, the following were also involved in Operation 40: Edwin Wilson, Barry Seal, William Seymour, Frank Sturgis and Gerry Hemming. (10) It has also been pointed out that Operation 40 was not only involved in trying to overthrow Fidel Castro. Sturgis has claimed: "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents."
Virtually every one of the field agents of Operation 40 were Cubans. This included Antonio Veciana, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch, Rafael Quintero, Roland Masferrer, Eladio del Valle, Guillermo Novo, Rafael Villaverde, Virgilio Gonzalez, Carlos Bringuier, Eugenio Martinez, Antonio Cuesta, Hermino Diaz Garcia, Barry Seal, Felix Rodriguez, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Juan Manuel Salvat, Isidro Borjas, Virgilio Paz, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Felipe Rivero, Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo, Nazario Sargent, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Jose Basulto, and Paulino Sierra. (11)
CIA asset, Don Bohning (AMCARBON-3) argues in his book, The Castro Obsession (2005), that Operation 40 was not actually established until March 1961. Bohning quotes one of his sources as saying that the group's initial objective was to take over the administration of "the towns and cities liberated by the invasion force, roundup government officials and sympathizers and secure the files of the government's different intelligence services" after the Bay of Pigs operation. (12)
However, Larry Hancock in his book, Someone Would Have Talked (2006) provides evidence that Operation 40 did not come to an end after the failed Bay of Pigs operation. Hancock reveals that Jose Sanjenis Perdomo was closely involved with David Morales in 1962 and 1963. He points out that "new documents provided by researcher Malcolm Blunt confirms that Sanjenis, the individual in charge of Operation 40, was actually the number one exile in the AMOT organization trained and prepared by David Morales." (13)
Most of these characters had been associated with the far-right in Cuban politics. Rumours soon became circulating that it was not only Fidel Castro that was being targeted. On 9th June, 1961, Arthur Schlesinger sent a memo to Richard Goodwin: “Sam Halper, who has been the Times correspondent in Havana and more recently in Miami, came to see me last week. He has excellent contracts among the Cuban exiles. One of Miro's comments this morning reminded me that I have been meaning to pass on the following story as told me by Halper. Halper says that CIA set up something called Operation 40 under the direction of a man named (as he recalled) Captain Luis Sanjenis, who was also chief of intelligence. (Could this be the man to whom Miro referred this morning?) It was called Operation 40 because originally only 40 men were involved: later the group was enlarged to 70. The ostensible purpose of Operation 40 was to administer liberated territories in Cuba. But the CIA agent in charge, a man known as Felix, trained the members of the group in methods of third degree interrogation, torture and general terrorism. The liberal Cuban exiles believe that the real purpose of Operation 40 was to "kill Communists" and, after eliminating hard-core Fidelistas, to go on to eliminate first the followers of Ray, then the followers of Varona and finally to set up a right wing dictatorship, presumably under Artime.” (14)
In an interview he gave to Jean-Guy Allard in May, 2005, Fabian Escalante pointed out: “Who in 1963 had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the U.S. president? CIA agents from Operation 40 who were rabidly anti-Kennedy. And among them were Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, Antonio Veciana and Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia." (15)
This is not the first time that Escalante has pointed the finger at members of Operation 40. In December, 1995, Wayne Smith, chief of the Centre for International Policy in Washington, arranged a meeting on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in Nassau, Bahamas. Others in attendance were Gaeton Fonzi, Dick Russell, Noel Twyman, Anthony Summers, Peter Dale Scott, Jeremy Gunn, John Judge, Andy Kolis, Peter Kornbluh, Mary & Ray LaFontaine, Jim Lesar, John Newman, Alan Rogers, Russ Swickard, Ed Sherry, and Gordon Winslow. During a session on 7th December, Escalante claimed that during captivity, Tony Cuesta, confessed that he had been involved in the assassination of Kennedy. He also named Eladio del Valle, Roland Masferrer and Hermino Diaz Garcia as being involved in this operation. All four men were members of Operation 40. (16)
It has been argued that people like Fabian Escalante, Jean-Guy Allard, Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo are under the control of the Cuban government. It is definitely true that much of this information has originally been published in Granma, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. However, is other evidence to substantiate this theory.
Shortly before his death in 1975 John Martino confessed to a Miami Newsday reporter, John Cummings, that he had been guilty of spreading false stories implicating Lee Harvey Oswald in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He claimed that two of the gunmen were Cuban exiles. It is believed the two men were Hermino Diaz Garcia and Virgilio Gonzalez. Cummings added: "He told me he'd been part of the assassination of Kennedy. He wasn't in Dallas pulling a trigger, but he was involved. He implied that his role was delivering money, facilitating things.... He asked me not to write it while he was alive." (17)
Fred Claasen also told the House Select Committee on Assassinations what he knew about his business partner’s involvement in the case. He claimed John Martino told him: “The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working for – he was just ignorant of who was really putting him together. Oswald was to meet his contact at the Texas Theatre. They were to meet Oswald in the theatre, and get him out of the country, then eliminate him. Oswald made a mistake… There was no way we could get to him. They had Ruby kill him.” (18)
Florence Martino at first refused to corroborate the story. However, in 1994 she told Anthony Summers that her husband said to her on the morning of 22nd November, 1963: "Flo, they're going to kill him (Kennedy). They're going to kill him when he gets to Texas." (19)
Hermino Diaz Garcia and Virgilio Gonzalez were both members of Operation 40. So also was Rip Robertson who according to Summers “was a familiar face at his (John Martino) home. Summers also points out that Martino was close to William Pawley and both took part in the “Bayo-Pawley Affair”. (20) This anti-Castro mission, also known as Operation Tilt, also involved other members of Operation 40, including Virgilio Gonzalez and Eugenio Martinez.
There is another key CIA figure in Operation 40 who has made a confession concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy. David Morales was head of operations at JM/WAVE, the CIA Miami station, at the time of the assassination. Gaeton Fonzi carried out a full investigation of Morales while working for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Unfortunately, Morales could not testify before the HSCA because he died of a heart attack on 8th May, 1978.
Fonzi tracked down Ruben Carbajal, a very close friend of Morales. Carbajal saw Morales the night before he died. He also visited Morales in hospital when he received news of the heart attack. Carbajal is convinced that Morales was killed by the CIA . Morales had told Carbajal the agency would do this if you posed a threat to covert operations. Morales, a heavy drinker, had a reputation for being indiscreet when intoxicated. On 4th August 1973, Morales allowed himself to be photographed by Kevin Scofield of the Arizona Republic at the El Molino restaurant. When the photograph appeared in the newspaper the following day, it identified Morales as Director for Operations Counterinsurgency and Special Activities in Washington.
Ruben Carbajal put Gaeton Fonzi in contact with Bob Walton, a business associate of David Morales. Walton confirmed Carbajal’s account that Morales feared being killed by the CIA. On one occasion he told him: “I know too much”. Walton also told him about a discussion he had with Morales about John F. Kennedy in the spring of 1973. Walton had done some volunteer work for Kennedy’s Senatorial campaign. When hearing this news, Morales launched an attack on Kennedy, describing him as a wimp who had betrayed the anti-Castro Cubans at the Bay of Pigs. He ended up by saying: “Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn’t we?” Carbajal, who was also present at this meeting, confirmed Walton’s account of what Morales said. (20)
Another important piece of evidence comes from Gene Wheaton. In 1995 Wheaton approached the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) with information on the death of Kennedy. Anne Buttimer, Chief Investigator of the ARRB, recorded that: "Wheaton told me that from 1984 to 1987 he spent a lot of time in the Washington DC area and that starting in 1985 he was "recruited into Ollie North's network" by the CIA officer he has information about. (21) He got to know this man and his wife, a "'super grade high level CIA officer" and kept a bedroom in their Virginia home. His friend was a Marine Corps liaison in New Orleans and was the CIA contact with Carlos Marcello. He had been responsible for "running people into Cuba before the Bay of Pigs." His friend is now 68 or 69 years of age... Over the course of a year or a year and one-half his friend told him about his activities with training Cuban insurgency groups. Wheaton said he also got to know many of the Cubans who had been his friend's soldiers/operatives when the Cubans visited in Virginia from their homes in Miami. His friend and the Cubans confirmed to Wheaton they assassinated JFK. Wheaton's friend said he trained the Cubans who pulled the triggers. Wheaton said the street level Cubans felt JFK was a traitor after the Bay of Pigs and wanted to kill him. People "above the Cubans" wanted JFK killed for other reasons." (22)
It was later revealed that Wheaton's friend was Carl E. Jenkins, A senior CIA officer, Jenkins had been appointed in 1960 as Chief of Base for Cuban Project. In 1963 Jenkins provided paramilitary training for Manuel Artime and Rafael ‘Chi Chi’ Quintero and other members of the Movement for the Recovery of the Revolution (MRR). In an interview with William Law and Mark Sobel in the summer of 2005, Gene Wheaton claimed that Jenkins and Quintero were both involved in the assassination of Kennedy. (23)
It seems that members of Operation 40, originally recruited to remove Fidel Castro, had been redirected to kill Kennedy. That someone had paid this team of assassins to kill the president of the United States as part of a freelance operation. This is not such a far-fetched idea when you consider that in 1959 Richard Nixon was approaching oilmen like George Walker Bush and Jack Crichton to help fund Operation 40. We also have the claim of Frank Sturgis that "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents."
Further support for this theory comes from an unlikely source. David Atlee Phillips died of cancer on 7th July, 1988. He left behind an unpublished manuscript entitled The AMLASH Legacy. The leading characters were explicitly based on Phillips, Winston Scott and James Angleton. The novel is about a CIA officer (Phillips) who lived in Mexico City. In the novel the character states: "I was one of those officers who handled Lee Harvey Oswald... We gave him the mission of killing Fidel Castro in Cuba... I don't know why he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the CIA did not anticipate the president's assassination, but it was responsible for it. I share that guilt." (24)
In an article published by Washington Decoded on 11th June 2008, Don Bohning (AMCARBON-3) admits: "It is true, of course, that the CIA sanctioned plots to kill Fidel Castro and also initiated assassination plots. But did Operation 40 have anything to do with those efforts?" In an attack on the author of this article Bohning relies on information provided by CIA officials and operatives, Rafael Quintero and Porter Goss, to deny that Operation 40 was ever involved in carrying out assassinations.
However, Larry Hancock argues in his book, Someone Would Have Talked (2006) that evidence has emerged that suggests that members of Operation 40 were involved in assassinations. He even believes that members of this organization was involved in the killing of John F. Kennedy: "The individuals knowingly involved in the actual conspiracy included both exiles and a small number of their most committed American supporters... It is likely that some of the participants were part of the Morales trained and organized intelligence service that was developed to support the 1962 action against Cuba and which had a political assassination (black list) component. Elements of this group were retained as Morales' intelligence and surveillance force in Miami after the failure at the Bay of Pigs. Some of them had been involved in Agency sanctioned (and possibly unsanctioned) projects to assassinate Castro. This group was unofficially known as Operation 40." (24)
1. Senate Report, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, 1975 (page 92)
3. Common Cause Magazine (4th March, 1990)
4. Joseph McBride, Where Was George?, The Nation (13th August, 1988)
5. Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo, The Bush Family and the Kennedy Assassination (16th January, 2006)
6. Daniel Hopsicker, Barry and the Boys: The CIA, the Mob and America’s Secret History, 2001 (page 170)
8. Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo, The Bush Family and the Kennedy Assassination (16th January, 2006)
11. Jean-Guy Allard, Who had the means and motives to kill Kennedy in 1963? (22nd May, 2005)
15. Jean-Guy Allard, Who had the means and motives to kill Kennedy in 1963? (22nd May, 2005)