Operation 40

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."

This photograph was taken in a nightclub in Mexico City on 22nd January, 1963.It has been argued by Daniel Hopsicker that the men in the photograph are allmembers of Operation 40. Hopsicker suggests that the man closest to thecamera on the left is Felix Rodriguez, next to him is Porter Goss and Barry Seal.Hopsicker adds that Frank Sturgis is attempting to hide his face with his coat.It has been claimed that in the picture are Albertao 'Loco' Blanco (3rd right)and Jorgo Robreno (4th right).
This photograph was taken in a nightclub in Mexico City on 22nd January, 1963.
It has been argued by Daniel Hopsicker that the men in the photograph are all
members of Operation 40. Hopsicker suggests that the man closest to the
camera on the left is Felix Rodriguez, next to him is Porter Goss and Barry Seal.
Hopsicker adds that Frank Sturgis is attempting to hide his face with his coat.
It has been claimed that in the picture are Albertao 'Loco' Blanco (3rd right)
and Jorgo Robreno (4th right).

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)

Notes

1. Senate Report, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, 1975 (page 92)

2. Fabian Escalante, CIA Covert Operations 1959-1962: The Cuba Project, 2004 (pages 42 and 43)

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)

7. Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, 2004 (page 173)

8. Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo, The Bush Family and the Kennedy Assassination (16th January, 2006)

9. Fabian Escalante, CIA Covert Operations 1959-1962: The Cuba Project, 2004 (pages 42 and 43)

10. Daniel Hopsicker, Mad Cow Morning News (24th August, 2004)

11. Jean-Guy Allard, Who had the means and motives to kill Kennedy in 1963? (22nd May, 2005)

12. Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession, 2005 (page 144)

13. Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2006 (page 111)

14. Arthur Schlesinger, memo to Richard Goodwin (9th June, 1961)

15. Jean-Guy Allard, Who had the means and motives to kill Kennedy in 1963? (22nd May, 2005)

16. Fabian Escalante, Cuban Officials and JFK Historians, Nassau, Bahamas (7th December, 1995)

17. Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2003 (page 17)

18. Anthony Summers, The Kennedy Conspiracy, 2002 (page 328)

19. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, The Ghosts of November, Vanity Fair (December, 1994)

20. Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 1993 (pages 380-390)

21. Anne Buttimer, Assassination Records Review Board Report (12th July, 1995)

22. Anthony Summers, The Kennedy Conspiracy, 2002 (page 371)

23. Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2003 (page 492)

24. Jefferson Morley, Our Man in Mexico, 2008 (page 238)

25. Don Bohning, Washington Decoded (11th June, 2008)

26.Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2006 (page 372)

Primary Sources

(1) Arthur Schlesinger, memorandum for Richard Goodwin (9th June, 1961)

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. Varona fired Sanjenis as chief of intelligence after the landings and appointed a man named Despaign in his place. Sanjenis removed 40 files and set up his own office; the exiles believe that he continues to have CIA support. As for the intelligence operation, the CIA is alleged to have said that, if Varona fired Sanjenis, let Varona pay the bills. Subsequently Sanjenis's hoods beat up Despaign's chief aide; and Despaign himself was arrested on a charge of trespassing brought by Sanjenis. The exiles believe that all these things had CIA approval. Halper says that Lt Col Vireia Castro (1820 SW 6th Street, Miami; FR 4 3684) can supply further details. Halper also quotes Bender as having said at one point when someone talked about the Cuban revolution against Castro: "The Cuban Revolution? The Cuban Revolution is something I carry around in my checkbook."

(2) Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)

On December 11, Colonel King wrote a confidential memorandum to the head of the CIA which affirmed 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."

King recommended various actions to solve the Cuban problem, one of which was to consider the elimination of Fidel Castro. He affirmed that none of the other Cuban leaders "have the same mesmeric appeal to the masses. Many informed people believe that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the present government."

CIA Director Alien Dulles passed on King's memorandum to the NSC a few days later, and it approved the suggestion to form a working group in the Agency which, within a short period of time, could come up with "alternative solutions to the Cuban problem." Thus "Operation 40" was born, taking its name from that of the Special Group formed by the NSC to follow the Cuban case. The group was presided over by Richard Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, and Alien Dulles of the CIA.

Tracy Bames functioned as head of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on January 18,1960, in his office in Quarters Eyes, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which the navy had lent while new buildings were being constructed in Langley. Those who gathered there included the eccentric Howard Hunt, future head of the Watergate team and a writer of crime novels; the egocentric Frank Bender, a friend of Trujillo; Jack Esterline, who had come straight from Venezuela where he directed a CIA group; psychological warfare expert David A. Phillips, and others.

(3) Daniel Hopsicker, Mad Cow Morning News (24th August, 2004)

The Mexico City nightclub photo reveals a mixed group of apparent Cuban exiles, Italian wise guys, and square-jawed military intelligence types. It was discovered among keepsakes kept in the safe of the widow of CIA pilot and drug smuggler Barry Seal (third from left). It appears on the cover of “Barry & the Boys’: The CIA, the Mob & America’s Secret History”.

Goss appears second on the left. He is seated between notorious CIA pilot and drug smuggler Barry Seal (third left) and the equally-notorious CIA assassin Felix Rodriguez (front left), a Cuban vice cop under the corrupt Mob-run Batista regime who later became an Iran Contra operative and a confidant of the first George Bush.

The only one of the spook celebrants displaying any hint of tradecraft (seated on the other side of the table covering his face with his sport coat) is Frank Sturgis, most famous as one of the Watergate burglars.

Beside him sits (front right) William Seymour, New Orleans representative of the Double-Chek Corporation, a CIA front used to recruit pilots (like Seal), and a man who many Kennedy assassination researchers believe impersonated Lee Harvey Oswald on several occasions when the lone nut gunman was out of the country and so unable to impersonate himself...

There are many intriguing connections hinted at by Goss’s presence in the photo: at the time it was taken the CIA's covert action chief in Mexico City was David Atlee Phillips, AKA Maurice Bishop, who reportedly met with Oswald in Dallas before the assassination.

Other connections: in the well-received “Deadly Secrets,” authors Warren Hinkle and William Turner name Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero, Lois Posada Carriles, Felix Rodriguez and Frank Sturgis as members of Operation Forty, under the overall control of E. Howard Hunt.

Sturgis, a member of the team that broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in 1972, later admitted to having been part of Operation Forty.

More famous names: Thomas Clines, the notorious Edwin Wilson and "Blond Ghost" Ted Shackley, Mr. Spook himself… all involved with Operation Forty, as was Barry Seal.

“Yeah, Barry was Op Forty,” Gerald Hemming confirmed to us. “He flew in killer teams inside the island (Cuba) before the invasion to take out Fidel.”

(4) Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession (2005)

The Cuban Intelligence Organization was more commonly known within the local Cuban community and intelligence circles as Operation 40, a quasi-independent group headed by Joaquin Sanjenis, who gained somewhat of a legendary and controversial reputation among some exiles. The group was created in March 1961 and trained in intelligence matters by the CIA as part of the planning for what was to become the Bay of Pigs.

According to a Cuban exile who worked for Operation 40 for three years in the late 1960s, the group's initial objective was to take over 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." Sanjenis was the overall boss. The top field officer was Vicente Leon, who was believed to have been a colonel in Cuba's pre-Castro police. Leon killed himself rather than surrender when he landed with the Bay of Pigs invaders as part of an Operation 40 advance team.

After the Bay of Pigs, Operation 40 turned its attention more to counterintelligence activities directed at suspected Castro agents who might have infiltrated into the local exile community. More controversially, it provided intelligence on the activities of local exile groups, some of which allowed local or federal authorities to thwart unsanctioned exile raids. Numerous declassified CIA Intelligence Information Cables on file at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, included the "source and appraisal of the cables." A variation of the following was often cited: "A member of a group of Cuban emigres trained in the techniques of information collection. The group has provided useful reports for over two years. The information was obtained from a local representative of the JURE who has access to members of the JURE executive committee."

The exile who worked for the unit in the late 1960s said Operation 40 was "fairly compartmentalized," but "foremost to its existence was the collection of intelligence on Cuba.... Most of the information collected was from overt sources.... primarily the hundreds of Cuban refugees coming to South Florida on Freedom Flights." The refugees were screened as they arrived. Those that might have useful information were interviewed separately.

(5) Jean-Guy Allard, Who had the means and motives to kill Kennedy in 1963? (22nd May, 2005)

“Who in 1963 had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the U.S. president?”, asks General Fabian Escalante in an exclusive interview in his Havana office. And he gives the answer: "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."

“Who were the ones who had the training to murder Kennedy? The ones who had all of the capabilities to carry it out? Who were the expert marksmen?" continues Escalante, pointing out that the case of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has to be seen within the historical context of what he calls "the machinery of the Cuban American mafia."

And in the heart of that machinery is Operation 40, created by the CIA on the eve of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, says the ex-chief of Cuban intelligence, author of The Plot (Ocean Press), about the assassination of the U.S. leader.

"The first news that we have of Operation 40 is a statement made by a mercenary of the Bay of Pigs who was the chief of military intelligence of the invading brigade and whose name was Jose Raul de Varona Gonzalez," says Escalante.

"In his statement this man said the following: in the month of March, 1961, around the seventh, Mr. Vicente Leon arrived at the base in Guatemala at the head of some 53 men saying that he had been sent by the office of Mr. Joaquin Sanjenis, Chief of Civilian Intelligence, with a mission he said was called Operation 40. It was a special group that didn't have anything to do with the brigade and which would go in the rearguard occupying towns and cities. His prime mission was to take over the files of intelligence agencies, public buildings, banks, industries, and capture the heads and leaders in all of the cities and interrogate them. Interrogate them in his own way”.

The individuals who comprised Operation 40 had been selected by Sangenis in Miami and taken to a nearby farm "where they took some courses and were subjected to a lie detector."

Joaquin Sangenis was Chief of Police in the time of President Carlos Prio, recalls Escalante. "I don't know if he was Chief of the Palace Secret Service but he was very close to Carlos Prio. And in 1973 he dies under very strange circumstances. He disappears. In Miami, people learn to their surprise -- without any prior illness and without any homicidal act -- that Sangenis, who wasn't that old in '73, had died unexpectedly. There was no wake. He was buried in a hurry."

Operation 40 had "in the year '61, 86 employees, of which 37 had been trained as case officers...while in Cuba we probably didn't have one single case officer trained. I didn't finish the course until July of '61 and I was in the first training group."

After the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA organizes a Domestic Affairs Division. "For the first time, the CIA is going to work inside of the U.S. because until that moment, it wasn't doing it. It was prohibited.

"And at the head of this division they put Tracy Barnes, who was chief of the CIA operations group which operated against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, and he brought to the same group of officers David Atlee Phillips, David Sanchez Morales and Howard Hunt, and two or three other Americans who just as surely worked on the Guatemala project."

The first CIA project against the Cuban revolution wasn't a landing and assault brigade, remarks the general. "The first CIA project was to create a civil war inside of Cuba. They were thinking of creating political leaders overseas, organizing a series of military cadres overseas who are the ones who will infiltrate Cuba and who will place themselves at the head of this civil war they are planning to carry out. And furthermore parallel to that, to make an intelligence network. All of this falls apart almost as soon as it is born.

"In October 1960, they realize that this project has failed, and that is when Brigade 2506 is formed, when due to the uprising of a group of patriotic military officers in Puerto Barrios in Guatemala and, this was in November, they send the Cuban mercenaries in Brigade 2506 to put down this operation."

Escalante remembers that in 1959 a "very strong" CIA center existed in Cuba with several case officers based in Havana. Among them two very important figures: David Sanchez Morales, registered as a diplomat with the U.S. embassy, and David Atlee Phillips who was doing business in Cuba since 1957.

"Phillips had a press agency, David Phillips Associates, which had offices on Humbolt St., behind the Rampa theater. We had information from a person who was his personal secretary at the time and he was using the Berlitz Academy, where he would meet with people he wanted to recruit. The Berlitz Academy was not his business, but he had recruited its director and that's why he was using it to train his agents.

"And at that time he recruits Antonio Veciana, Juan Manuel Salvat, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Isidro Borjas, a person of Mexican origin, to carry out the internal counterrevolution."

Phillips will train illegal cadres while Morales, on his part, directs a group of North Americans who are infiltrated in the Rebel Army: Frank Sturgis, Gerry Hemming, William Morgan.

"When the revolution triumphs these people are officers in the Rebel Army, many of them in the air force because the chief there is Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, who was the first chief of the rebel air force and who later leaves the country when an assassination attempt against Fidel fails. He will also direct Howard Hunt, who is visiting Cuba in '59 and '60 and who will write a far-fetched chronicle about Havana which is a series of lies. Hunt is a professional liar.

"There was information that at the end of '58, when CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick came to tell Batista to leave power, he has an interview with a group of figures. And since this Phillips was passing himself off as a respectable North American businessman, Kirkpatrick has an interview with him. And Phillips explains to him that the situation is very difficult."

In this context, now in the middle of '58, the CIA plans an assassination attempt on Fidel with a North American citizen, Alan Robert Nye, and ex-marine recruited in Fort Lauderdale by agents of the FBI and by the Cuban military intelligence service.

"He was received here in Havana, they put him up at the Comodoro hotel, fortunately they paid his bill and that was how he was later discovered. They sent him to a zone near Bayamo where Fidel was, in a zone called Santa Rita and he was arrested there by the Rebel Army. He had instructions to introduce himself to Fidel as a sympathizer of the Cuban cause and to assassinate him at the first opportunity," recalls Escalante.

The man is arrested on December 12, 1958, by rebel forces and remains in custody until the beginning of 1959. "An officer of the Rebel Army is in charge of the investigation. Knight says that he was lodged at the Comodoro hotel and it turns out that the ones who had paid this gentleman's expenses were none other than Col. Orlando Piedra, the chief of the investigation bureau of the police, and Col. Tabernilla II, the son of the head of the army."

"These are the principal artists," says the ex-chief of Cuban intelligence. "David Phillips; David Morales; Howard Hunt; a figure who disappeared later and who was head of the CIA until diplomatic relations were broken, James Noel; and several more who were working actively."

When the Domestic Affairs Division is created, the large CIA operations base in Miami was subordinate to the central division of the CIA; "that is to say that the JM/WAVE station, which had 400 officers plus 4,000 Cuban agents, was directed by the main center in Langley.

"Whom are they going to use? Operation 40. That is to say all of the specialists who are already trained, have gone through the school, have already participated in operations against Cuba...I refer to the group of Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia, Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Antonio Veciana, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Felipe Rivero, who recently died, the Novo Sampoll brothers, Gaspar "Gasparito" Jimenez Escobedo, Juan Manuel Salvat, Nazario Sargent, Carlos Bringuier, Antonio Cuesta, Eladio del Valle, Herminio Diaz, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Rafael "Chichi" Quintero, Jose Basulto, Paulino Sierra, Bernard Baker, who was a Cuban with a North American name -- he was a guard at the U.S. embassy -- and Eugenio Martinez, alias 'Musculito.'

"And there was the team that brought together all of the North Americans: David Morales; David Phillips; Howard Hunt; Willian Harvey; Frank Sturgis; Gerry Hemming; John Rosselli, who was second head of the Chicago mafia and at that time in '62; Porter Goss, the current head of the CIA, who is in the JM/WAVE as a subordinate of Phillips and Morales."

"Operation 40 is the grandmother and great-grandmother of all of the operations that are formed later," continues Escalante.

(6) Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (2004)

A body of leads has been assembled which suggests that George Bush may have been associated with the CIA at some time before the autumn of 1963. According to Joseph McBride of The Nation, "a source with close connections to the intelligence community confirms that Bush started working for the agency in 1960 or 1961, using his oil business as a cover for clandestine activities." By the time of the Kennedy assassination, we have an official FBI document which refers to "Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency," and despite official disclaimers there is every reason to think that this is indeed the man in the White House today...

According to George Bush's official biography, he was during 1963 a well-to-do businessman residing in Houston, the busy president of Zapata Offshore and the chairman of the Harris County Republican Organization, supporting Barry Goldwater as the GOP's likely 1964 presidential candidate, while at the same time actively preparing his own 1964 bid for the US Senate. But during that same period of time, Bush may have shared some common acquaintances with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Between October, 1962 and April, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife Marina were in frequent contact with a Russian emigré couple living in Dallas: these were George de Mohrenschildt and his wife Jeanne. During the Warren Commission investigation of the Kennedy assassination, de Mohrenschildt was interviewed at length about his contacts with Oswald. When, in the spring of 1977, the discrediting of the Warren Commission report as a blatant coverup had made public pressure for a new investigation of the Kennedy assassination irresistible, the House Assassinations Committee planned to interview de Mohrenschildt once again. But in March, 1977, just before de Mohrenschildt was scheduled to be interviewed by Gaeton Fonzi of the House committee's staff, he was found dead in Palm Beach, Florida. His death was quickly ruled a suicide. One of the last people to see him alive was Edward Jay Epstein, who was also interviewing de Mohrenschildt about the Kennedy assassination for an upcoming book. Epstein is one of the writers on the Kennedy assassination who enjoyed excellent relations with the late James Angleton of the CIA. If de Mohrenschildt were alive today, he might be able to enlighten us about his relations with George Bush, and perhaps afford us some insight into Bush's activities during this epoch.

Jeanne de Mohrenschildt rejected the finding of suicide in her husband's death. "He was eliminated before he got to that committee," the widow told a journalist in 1978, "because someone did not want him to get to it." She also maintained that George de Mohrenschildt had been surreptitiously injected with mind-altering drugs. After de Mohrenschildt's death, his personal address book was located, and it contained this entry: "Bush, George H.W. (Poppy) 1412 W. Ohio also Zapata Petroleum Midland." There is of course the problem of dating this reference. George Bush had moved his office and home from Midland to Houston in 1959, when Zapata Offshore was constituted, so perhaps this reference goes back to some time before 1959. There is also the number: "4-6355." There are, of course, numerous other entries, including one W.F. Buckley of the Buckley brothers of New York City, William S. Paley of CBS, plus many oil men, stock brokers, and the like.

(7) Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo, The Bush Family and the Kennedy Assassination (16th January, 2006)

In 1959, a young officer and businessman from Texas received directions to cooperate in funding the nascent anti-Castro groups that the CIA decided to create, but it wasn't until 1960 that he was assigned a more specific and overt mission: to guarantee the security of the process of recruiting Cubans to form an invasion brigade, a key aspect within the grand CIA operation to destroy the Cuban Revolution.

The CIA Texan quickly took a liking to the Cuban assigned to him for his new mission. The system of work, although intense, was simple. Féliz Rodríguez Mendigutía, "El Gato," would propose a candidate to him, who would then be checked out, both in the Agency and among the Miami groups, and finally, the Texan would give the go-ahead.

In that period, Félix Rodríguez already knew quite a few Cubans, like Jorge Mas Canosa (subsequently the leader of various counterrevolutionary organizations and then president of the Cuban-American National Foundation) and had confirmed his loyalty to "the cause" and to the Americans. For that reason he was among the first to be proposed. He passed through the process satisfactorily, and in a meeting in the city of Miami, which the Texan liked to make as formal as possible, Jorge Mas Canosa officially became an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Jorge Mas didn't know how to thank Félix for what he had done for him. From that moment he was constantly grateful to him and, at the same time, obedient to his every petition.

But Jorge Mas was far from imagining the significance of this recruitment on the rest of his life. The significance rested on the fact that that Texan officer who undertook his recruitment process, approved it and then notified him at that meeting, was none other than George Herbert Walker Bush, the same man who, later, between 1989 and 1992, was the 41st president of the United States.

Various sources coincide on the foregoing. Paul Kangas, a Californian private investigator, published an article containing part of his investigations in The Realist in 1990, in which he affirms that a newly discovered FBI document places Bush as working with the now famous CIA agent Félix Rodríguez on the recruitment of ultra-right wing exiled Cubans for the invasion of Cuba.

For his part, in his "Report on a Censored Project," Dr. Carl Jensen of Sonoma State College states: "There is a record in the files of Rodríguez and others involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion, which expounds the role of Bush: the truth is that Bush was a senior CIA official before working with Félix Rodríguez on the invasion of Cuba."

But Kangas is more precise in his quoted article, when he states:

"Traveling from Houston to Miami on a weekly basis, Bush, with Félix Rodríguez, spent 1960 and 1961 recruiting Cubans in Miami for the invasion."

Other publications that have referred to the theme are The Nation magazine, whose August 13, 1988 edition reveals the finding 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;" or the Common Cause magazine that, on March 4, 1990, affirmed: "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."

Without knowing it, Jorge Mas had become part of something far more complex than the planned mercenary invasion. The recent recruited CIA agent became one of the participants in what was originally known as Operation 40.

Operation 40 was the first plan of covert operations generated by the CIA to destroy the Cuban Revolution and was drawn up in 1959 on the orders of the administration of President Ike Eisenhower.

In his book Cuba, the CIA's Secret War , Divisional General (ret) Fabián Escalante Font, former head of the Cuban Counterintelligence Services, explained what occurred in the early 1960.

"A few days later (end of 1959), Allen Dulles, chief of the CIA, presented to the King (Colonel, chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the CIA) memorandum to the National Security Council, which approved the suggestion of forming a working group within the agency which, in the short term, would provide alternative solutions to the Cuban problem."

The group, Escalante Font relates, was composed of Tracy Barnes as head, and officials Howard Hunt, Frank Bender, Jack Engler and David Atlee Phillips, among others. Those present had one common characteristic: all of them had participated in the fall of the Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala.

General Escalante recounts in his book that, during the first meeting, Barnes spoke at length on the objectives to be achieved. He explained that Vice President Richard Nixon was the Cuban "case officer" and had met with an important group of businessmen headed by George Bush and Jack Crichton, both Texas oil magnates, to collect the necessary funding for the operation.

(8) Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked (2006)

Manolo Ray had also been among the "leftist" exile leaders who would have possibly been on the target list for Operation 40, a covert operations team trained by David Morales and organized in support of the Bay of Pigs. The team's mission reportedly included seizure of strategic facilities and the kidnapping or elimination of targeted Communists, left wing politicians and Castro cadre.' Due to the failure of the invasion, most Operation 40 personnel did not land in Cuba. Although the group was officially disbanded after the invasion, we now know that certain individuals were retained as a shadow intelligence group (see Chapter 8 for details and sources). Persons reportedly associated with Operation 40 and with Sanjenis (its leader) continued to appear in anti-Communist and criminal activities for another decade or more...

Victor Hernandez's own HSCA testimony suggests that these CIA reports were very probably a cover for individuals assigned to invasion support missions relating to Operation 40. Hernandez speaks of being removed to a safe house in New Orleans and then being sent on to Cuba but not having the chance to land. New documents provided by researcher Malcolm Blunt confirm 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. The CRC was actively recruiting in New Orleans while the brigade was being formed. The local CRC head was Sergio Arcacha Smith...

The individuals knowingly involved in the actual conspiracy included both exiles and a small number of their most committed American supporters. Neither the exiles nor the Americans belonged to a single group although some of them likely held membership in Alpha 66, SNFE and other militarily active organizations such as AAA and Commandos L. Some of them had CIA training, military training and had worked for the Agency for periods of time.

It is likely that some of the participants were part of the Morales trained and organized intelligence service thatwas 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.

The conspiracy participants were individually recruited and acted as individuals rather than as members of an established group. However, some of those involved had a history with members of the former Havana "casino crowd" and connections to Trafficante organization in Cuba and later in Florida.

(9) Don Bohning, Washington Decoded (11th June, 2008)

As described by some of its members, as well as in official documents, Operation 40 was the name given to a special unit created to play a supporting role in the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. The unit’s assigned but never-realized task was to follow on the heels of the Cuban-exile invasion force, purge pro-Castro officials, seize documents, and take over administration of “liberated” towns and villages. Scheduled to depart Nicaragua two days after the invasion force, Operation 40 never did land.

When the invasion failed miserably, the unit returned to Miami and morphed into a Cuban intelligence organization-in-exile, aka the Cuban CIA, or more commonly, Operation 40. Its CIA codename was AMOT, and for the next 13 years it operated under, but quasi-independently and at a separate location from, JMWAVE, codename for the large CIA station in Miami that waged the secret war against Castro. For many years, AMOT was headed by Joaquín Sanjenís, an official in the pre-Castro Cuban government of Carlos Prío. AMOT was disbanded in 1974 as JMWAVE operations were phased out...

Without specifying a point in time, Simkin goes on to claim that Operation 40 was not only involved in sabotage, but “evolved into a team of assassins.” 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?

Simkin also fingers, without providing any documentation, Porter J. Goss as a member of Operation 40. The Spartacus website even features a photograph, which it claims was “taken in a nightclub in Mexico City on 22 January 1963. It is believed that the men in the photograph are all members of Operation 40.” Among them, allegedly, is Goss (with glasses, at the bottom left-hand corner).

Goss, of course, actually was a CIA officer from 1962 to 1972, and worked for a 2-3 months in the Miami station during the Cuban missile crisis, primarily as a photo-interpreter. Several years after he left the agency he became a Republican congressman from Florida. He served eight terms before resigning from Congress, and his chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, to serve as CIA director from 2004 to 2006.

Goss was provided with a copy of the photograph featured on Simkin’s website. In a telephone interview, Goss not only said that he had “never heard of Operation 40,” but declared, with some vehemence, that the “Goss” identified in the photo is “categorically, decisively, and completely... not me.”

(10) Don Bohning, The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (Volume 16 – Number 2 – Fall 2008)

A U.S. government report published in 1975 based on a congressional inquiry headed by the late Idaho Senator Frank Church and entitled Alleged Assassination Plots Against Foreign Leaders, makes no mention of Operation 40. (1) Neither does a Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro, prepared in 1967 by the CIA's inspector general under orders from then President Lyndon Johnson. It was declassified in 1993. (2) It is inconceivable that had Operation 40 been an assassination unit, as Simkin claims, that either or both the Church Committee and the CIA's Inspector General's Inspector General's report would not have made some made mention of it. Essentially, the only references to it as described by Simkin are contained in books and other works by conspiracy theorists, including Fabian Escalante, an official in Cuban State Security.

While there were unsuccessful plots to assassinate various foreign leaders, mostly involving Cuba's Fidel Castro, beginning in 1960, the only documented systematic CIA assassination program as such was code-named ZRRIFLE. Created by the late Richard Bissell, it was headed by the late Bill Harvey from November 1961 through the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962. Part of that period Harvey also headed Task Force W, the CIA component of Operation Mongoose, the multi-agency, post-Bay of Pigs program to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro. Mongoose was designed by Kennedy White House aide Richard Goodwin. As far as is known, ZRRIFLE never assassinated anyone. (3)

Contrary to Simkin's definition, Operation 40, as described by some of those who were part of it, as well as in official documentation, was the last unit formed for the failed, CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. Its task essentially was to follow the Cuban exile invasion force, purge officials, seize documents and take over administration of "liberated" towns and villages.

When the invasion failed, the group returned to Miami , morphing into what was known locally as the Cuban intelligence organization in exile, the Cuban CIA or, more commonly, as Operation 40. Its CIA codename was AMOT. It operated under, but quasi-independently and at a separate location from JMWAVE, codename for the giant Miami CIA station then located at the University of Miami's South Campus (now the home - perhaps appropriately - for Metrozoo).

Headed by Joaquin Sanjenis Perdomo, a former police official in the pre-Castro Cuban government of Carlos Prio, it was disbanded in 1974 as part of the phase-out of JMWAVE operations. Its CIA case officer for at least two years, beginning in 1970, was the late Frank Belsito, who died in 2006. An account of AMOT can be found in a rather obscure book authored by Belsito, entitled: "CIA: Cuba and the Caribbean (CIA Officer's Memoirs)". It was published in 2002 by Ancient Mariner Press of Reston, Virginia.

(1) Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders: An Interim Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental operations with respect to intelligence Activities. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington , D.C. November 1 975 .

(2) Reports on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro. J.S. Earman, (CIA) Inspector General. May 2 3, 1967. (Declassified in 1 993)

(3) An excellent account of the ZRRIFLE program can be found in the book, " Flawed Patriot: The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey", authored by Bayard Stockton and published in 2006 by Potomac Books, Washington , D.C.