Marshall Diggs was a lawyer who became Deputy Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He became involved with Mario Kohly, a Cuban exile. In March, 1960, Diggs recruited Robert D. Morrow to work for Kohly. Three months later Morrow met Tracy Barnes and agreed to be Kohly's CIA contact.
Mario Kohly agreed to accept help from the CIA in overthrowing Fidel Castro and in July, 1960, the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC) was established. Chaired by CIA official, E. Howard Hunt, the CRC hoped to make sure that Kohly replaced Castro as president of Cuba.
With the support of people like Eladio del Valle, Sergio Arcacha Smith and Carlos Prio Socarras, he became one of the main leaders of the anti-Castro Cubans living in the country. According to Robert D. Morrow, top CIA official, Tracy Barnes, made plans for Kohly to become president of Cuba after the Bay of Pigs invasion. Kohly agreed to establish a 300 man guerilla army in the Escambray Mountains.
In March, 1961, Kohly's 300 man guerrilla army in the Escambray Mountains was decimated by Castro's forces. This damaged the potential success of the Bay of Pigs operation. Kohly now changed his strategy and with the help of Morrow he started a counterfeiting operation to undermine Cuban economy.
In October, 1963, Mario Kohly was arrested by the FBI for taking part in this counterfeiting operation. Despite evidence provided by Morrow that this was a CIA operation, Kohly was convicted in April, 1964. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
In his book, First Hand Knowledge, published in 1992, Robert Morrow claimed that Kohly was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. According to Morrow, the major players in the plot included Tracy Barnes, William Harvey, Marshall Diggs, Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Eladio del Valle, Sergio Arcacha Smith, Rolando Masferrer, Michel Mertz and Thomas Davis.
I met Diggs and his client in an office Diggs occupied with several associates at 1025 Connecticut Avenue, at the corner of Connecticut and "L." Mario Garcia Kohly was as impressive as his prestigious international counsel. Known to certain Cuban political factions as the next president of Cuba, he enjoyed valuable patronage from certain members of the Eisenhower administration's elite inner circle. He and his family were established members of the Cuban aristocracy and prominent in the Cuban banking, financial and political arenas. I learned that his father had distinguished himself throughout his twenty-three year tenure as the Cuban Ambassador to Spain and in his retirement was a statesman of impeccable repute and an orator and writer with profound insight on the Cuban political situation.
Mario Kohly's resume was equally illustrious as that of his father and the other members of his family. A distinguished statesman and diplomat, Kohly was also one of the most illustrious members of Cuba's investment banking elite. He enjoyed a distinguished reputation in the world of international finance, corporate finance and business. As an international investment banker, Kohly was Cuba's premier trade and financial representative to the international community at large and major American energy-related industries in particular. I was to find out much later that he represented, in Cuba, an extraordinary number of prominent American corporations in industries as diversified as banking and energy, foodstuffs and finance, corporate finance and real estate development.
When Castro "nationalized" Cuban industries, the Cuban economy was devastated. He had taken over stock holdings, assumed ownership of private property, appropriated bank accounts-essentially wrested all control of proprietary assets from all existing corporations, foreign or Cuban. Billions of dollars in assets were confiscated. Castro's nationalization program not only brought all business dealings in Cuba to a grinding halt, but effectively destabilized the Cuban economy. Prominent American and European multinational corporations, financial institutions and banks suffered heavy losses.
Kohly brought suit against Castro's government on behalf of both Cuban and foreign interests whose contractual rights or ownership had been usurped by Castro's government. Numerous foreign corporations had executed contracts under the Batista regime which provided them with legal recourse against the Cuban government for infringement of contractual rights and nonperformance of contractual obligations under the tenets of the signed agreements. Some multinationals holding total proprietary rights under international trade agreements which provided one hundred percent ownership of Cuban companies by non-Cuban nationals brought suit against Castro's government for full restitution of loss of revenue, capital and profits as the result of the nationalization program.
As people made their way to the door, I realized that I had witnessed a truly historic moment. In fact, I realized that I would help make a portion, albeit very small, of American political history. The covert projects Kohly and I were working on (with the CIA) would now receive the full backing and support of the American government.
I remember reflecting upon the historic implications of this meeting when Tracy Barnes excitedly pulled me into the next room and asked, "Well, what do you think?"
Unsure what reaction he expected of me, I asked him to explain the whole speech in his words. His answer contained the first mention I had heard of a plan that eventually evolved into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.
Barnes in a serious tone declared, "It means the CIA is going to strongly recommend Kohly's ideas to form a provisional government after Castro is gone. Kohly's plans have already been given to the powers that be.. And that means all his plans, including his preparations and actual strategy for the invasion." " Barnes hesitated momentarily before plunging forward. "We have a slight problem. The Cuban leaders selected by the State Department vehemently oppose the idea of Kohly as the next Cuban president. The CIA is in favor of Kohly's presidency. Actually, we intend to actively support it. That's why you were chosen to work with Mario; you are there for us."
Shortly prior to Mary Meyer's murder and after the release of the Warren Commission Report to the American public, I was contacted by Marshall Diggs who requested an urgent meeting. I had not heard from Diggs for nearly nine months and was alarmed by the urgency of his request. He suggested that we meet for lunch - at Paul Young's Restaurant in Washington. I arrived promptly,
Diggs looked much older than I had remembered him. What we discussed during the course of the next hour also aged me. After the waiter had taken our order and served our drinks, he discreetly retired. Then Diggs, without any preamble, informed me there could be a possible attempt on my life. My attention was immediate, focused and complete.
"There is a very prominent lady here in Washington who knows too much about the Company, its Cuban operations, and more specifically about the President's assassination."
Cautiously, I remarked, "So?"
"What my friend claims to know could frankly mean a lot of trouble for Kohly's people, myself, the former Vice President and especially you. If you remember, the President was killed shortly after Robert closed down your counterfeiting operation.."
"I remember, but ... Cuban involvement? We all thought that was a dead issue. Seriously, we never heard anything about such a possibility from the Warren Commission."
"Forget that," he said, shaking his hand at me impatiently, "and listen carefully. The Commission was suspicious, and had they been allowed to pursue certain leads.... well, it's probable you and I wouldn't be sitting here."
"Damn it, Marshall, if you're trying to frighten me, you are. It's over... and not one mention of Cubans, any Cubans, or the CIA. There isn't a hint of anything, other than that Oswald got up one morning and decided he didn't like the President."
"I wish his brother thought that," Diggs said, shifting his sad gaze from his plate to my eyes.
"You mean RFK?"
"Yes, RFK. Now damn it, listen. As I said, there's a certain lady in town who has an inside track to Langley, and most importantly, to Bobby. Fortunately, an intimate friend of mine is one of her best friends..."
I interrupted, "Marshall, who the hell are you talking about?"
I had caught him off guard. He stopped for a moment, pondering. Then he replied, "The woman in question is Cord Meyers' ex-wife, Mary"
"Mary Meyer. . . ." At first it didn't ring a bell, then it struck me. "You mean Cord Meyer of the CIA?"
"The same," he replied, "except Mary divorced Cord in 1956. Then, after lack Kennedy was elected, she started spending nights in the White House."
"Well, well, well," was all I could say.
"To get to the point, Meyer claimed to my friend that she positively knew that Agency-affiliated Cuban exiles and the Mafia were responsible for killing John Kennedy. Knowing of my association with Kohly, my friend immediately called me."
Trying to curb the fear that started my stomach churning, I tentatively asked, "Well, Marshall.... did Mario have anything to do with it?"
Soberly, he answered, "I don't know about Mario directly. If I were to hazard a guess I'd say del Valle, possibly Prio, because of Jack Ruby. I do know Mario had a lot to do with trying to pin the blame on Castro."
"Uh huh, del Valle, and are you trying to tell me lack Ruby is the gun runner we dealt with in buying Kohly's arms in Greece?" "The same."
At that point I could only expect the worse. I was starting to get that old feeling of total anxiety that gripped me last fall and winter. In almost a daze I said, "Well, it doesn't surprise me. So, why don't you warn him about Meyer?"
"That's the whole point. I don't know where he is and don't want to know. He's been told he's going to lose his appeal; so, he's preparing to jump bail and disappear."
One of Morrow's most significant revelations is his belief that the principal operations planner in the assassination conspiracy was David Ferrie. Morrow knew Ferrie well and flew with him on a number of covert CIA missions into Cuba. Morrow is convinced that Ferric, working under Carlos Marcello and Guy Bannister, was the brains, the "mastermind," behind the assassination.
Long suspected by many writers on the assassination to have been a major player in the plot to kill the President, David Ferric has remained until now a shadowy, elusive figure. Circumstantial evidence of his possible involvement cried out for verification but no one ever came forward to vouch for his participation in the plot. Now Robert Morrow has placed him, from first hand knowledge, at the center of the web of intrigue that saw two Mafia bosses conspire with elements of the CIA and the Cuban exile community to assassinate President Kennedy. This revelation alone makes Robert Morrow's First Hand Knowledge one of the most important works on the Kennedy assassination in recent years.
One of Robert Morrow's most salient points is that the conspirators plotted the assassination in such a way as to give the American public the impression that Fidel Castro, or at least his supporters, planned the killing of Kennedy. The purpose of this ruse was to outrage the public sufficiently to induce them to call for another U.S. invasion of Cuba to overthrow the Castro regime. This view, supported by Mr. Morrow, confirms one held by many assassination investigators. At a conference of Kennedy assassination researchers and writers held at the State University of New York at Fredonia on tune 28-30, 1991, it was concluded that "The assassination of President Kennedy was, to put it simply, an anti Castro `provocation,' an act designed to be blamed on Castro to justify a punitive American invasion of the island. Such action would most clearly benefit the Mafia chieftains who had lost their gambling holdings in Havana because of Castor, and CIA agents who had lost their credibility with the Cuban exile freedom fighters from the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion."
Another man to publicly associate Mary Meyer's death with a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy is writer and self-proclaimed former CIA contractor Robert Morrow. Morrow has claimed in two books to have been involved in acquiring Mannlicher rifles to kill Kennedy. He claimed he provided sophisticated communications devices to three hit teams that killed the president and made counterfeit money used to undermine Castro's regime. According to Morrow, the assassination was the work of a conspiracy between the mob, the intelligence agencies, and "the leaders of our nation."
In a second book, published in 1992, Morrow brought Mary Meyer into his conspiracy theory for the first time. He claimed that shortly before the Warren Commission's report came out, Marshall Diggs, deputy comptroller of the treasury under Roosevelt and one of those people in the federal government Morrow claims was witting of the conspiracy, "requested an urgent meeting" with Morrow about two weeks before Mary's murder. Morrow wrote that Diggs told him that "a prominent lady here in Washington knows too much about the Company, its Cuban operations and more specifically about the President's assassination." In Morrow's account, Diggs said that Mary Meyer had told a close friend of his "she positively knew that Agency-affiliated Cuban exiles and the Mafia were responsible for killing John Kennedy." Morrow claims Diggs also told him that CIA official Tracy Barnes was "concerned" about Mary and that the Cuban exile leaders ought to be informed. Morrow passed it on and the exile leader, Robert Kohly, supposedly replied, "Tell Diggs I'll take care of the matter." A week later Mary Meyer was dead.