Virginia Prewett

Virginia Prewett was born in 1919. She worked for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), an organisation owned by Ernest Cuneo. According to Jim DiEugenio: "NANA had always been a highly suspect agency. It was purchased by former OSS operative Ernest Cuneo in 1951 and became home to prominent rightwing and CIA associated reporters like Victor Lasky, Lucianna Goldberg, and Virginia Prewett. Prewett's husband was in the CIA."

Prewett was the author of Reportage on Mexico (1941), The Americas and Tomorrow (1944) and Beyond the Great Forest (1953). Prewett also wrote for several newspapers and magazines including Time Magazine and Washington Daily News.

It has been argued by Larry Hancock, the author of Someone Would Have Talked (2006), that Prewett was a close associate of David Attlee Phillips and was involved in promoting the activities of Alpha 66, led by Antonio Veciana: "Virginia Prewett appears to have been one of Phillips' significant media contacts and certainly one of the most consistent sources of media coverage for Alpha 66 activities. The other major source was Life magazine, part of the Luce Media family managed by Claire Booth Luce's husband Henry Robinson "Harry" Luce (a member of the Citizens Committee to Free Cuba, along with Phillips' friends Hal Hendrix and Paul Bethel). Articles by Prewitt and editorials by Time-Life provided the strongest challenge to the Kennedy position on Cuba and were quite consistent with the type of embarrass and back-to-the wall agendas Veciana attributed to Maurice Bishop."

Prewitt was a strong opponent of Fidel Castro and his revolutionary government in Cuba. She joined with Henry Luce, Claire Booth Luce, Hal Hendrix, Paul Bethel, Dickey Chapelle, Edward Teller, Arleigh Burke, Dickey Chapelle, Leo Cherne, Ernest Cuneo, Sidney Hook, Hans Morgenthau and Frank Tannenbaum to form the Citizens Committee to Free Cuba (CCFC). On 25th March, 1963, the CCFC issued a statement: "The Committee is nonpartisan. It believes that Cuba is an issue that transcends party differences, and that its solution requires the kind of national unity we have always manifested at moments of great crisis. This belief is reflected in the broad and representative membership of the Committee."

In the 1970s Virginia Prewett became the publisher of The Hemisphere Hotline, a Washington newsletter on inter-American affairs. She also contributed articles on Latin America to The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

On 18th September, 1976, Orlando Letelier, who served as foreign minister under Salvador Allende, was traveling to work at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington when a bomb was ignited under his car. Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, a 25 year old woman who was campaigning for democracy in Chile, both died of their injuries.

According to Gaeton Fonzi, the author of The Last Investigation (1993), Prewett, who was working for the Council for Inter-American Security, a right-wing think tank, attacked the journalists who assumed that Chilean generals were involved in murdering Letelier. "She, too, suggested that Letelier may have been sacrificed by leftists to turn world opinion and U.S. policy against the Pinochet regime."

Virginia Prewett Mizelle died on 7th April at the Washington Hospital Center after surgery for a heart ailment.

Primary Sources

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

In the spring of 1960, Phillips began work on propaganda for the new Cuban Project. His activities from 1960 through 1961 frequently took him to the Miami JM/WAVE station and he also engaged in counter intelligence work against the FPCC. He met routinely with exile groups including the CRC (The Night Watch makes no mention of Alpha 66). JM/WAVE personnel have said that Phillips continued to maintain contact with and use Cubans that he had originally met in Havana, and continued this into his next assignment after the Bay of Pigs in Mexico City.

Virginia Prewett appears to have been one of Phillips' significant media contacts and certainly one of the most consistent sources of media coverage for Alpha 66 activities.

The other major source was Life magazine, part of the Luce Media family managed by Claire Booth Luce's husband Henry Robinson "Harry" Luce (a member of the Citizens Committee to Free Cuba, along with Phillips' friends Hal Hendrix and Paul Bethel). Articles by Prewitt and editorials by Time-Life provided the strongest challenge to the Kennedy position on Cuba and were quite consistent with the type of embarrass and back-to-the wall agendas Veciana attributed to Maurice Bishop...

Hal Hendrix was only one cog in the CIA media network that was developed in the early 60s. The anti-Communist media that Phillips could reach stretched from Hendrix and Scripps-Howard to influential editorialists such as Virginia Prewett in Washington, D.C. and, via Claire Booth Luce and her husband, the entire Luce owned Time-Life network. An outline of the network can be seen in the more well known members of the Citizens' Committee to Free Cuba founded and led by Paul Bethel, Phillips' old friend from Havana. The Citizens' Committee to Free Cuba included William Pawley (of the Bayo-Pawley mission), Claire Booth Luce (of the Life sponsored and front-page featured Alpha 66 raids against Russian targets in Cuba), Hal Hendrix, Virginia Prewett and Ernest Cuneo of the North American Newspaper Alliance. Cuneo, an OSS veteran had also served as an unregistered agent for the Chinese Nationalist government and was well-connected to Drew Pearson. The politics of all these individuals was aggressively anti-Castro and anti-Communist. They are probably best summarized in a book which Bethel wrote in 1969 entitled The Losers, a book which identified John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, as well as certain State Department and CIA personnel as facilitating the Communist agenda."

(2) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)

Soon a series of stories were planted in the press. Newsweek's "Periscope" column said: "After studying FBI and other field investigations, the CIA has concluded that the Chilean secret police were not involved in the death of Orlando Letelier...

Jeremiah O'Leary, a Washington Star reporter long close to David Phillips, wrote: "Probers are not ruling out the theory that Letelier might just as well have been killed by leftist extremists to create a martyr as by rightist conspirators."

Reported the Washington Post: "CIA officials say ... they believe that operatives of the present Chilean military junta did not take part in Letelier's killing, according to informed sources. CIA Director Bush expressed this view in a conversation late last week with Secretary of State Kissinger, the sources said. What evidence the CIA has obtained to support his initial conclusion was not disclosed."

One of the more interesting interpretations of the case came from a "Special Report" produced by the Council for Inter-American Security, a right-wing think tank, and distributed to the national media. It was written by Virginia Prewett, the journalist who had a special relationship with David Phillips. The piece Prewett wrote about the Letelier bombing indicates why she was one of Phillips's most effective media assets.

Prewett's "Special Report" was actually a diatribe against the Washington press for initially assuming that Chilean generals were involved in murdering Letelier. She, too, suggested that Letelier may have been sacrificed by leftists to turn world opinion and U.S. policy against the Pinochet regime. "Letelier was headquartered at and operated under the aegis of the radical leftist Institute for Policy Studies," she noted darkly. "Since the days of Stalin and Trotsky, intramural strife and expenditure of human life for political ends have been commonplace within the left."

However, extreme pressure on the U.S. Government from Letelier's associates at the Institute for Policy Studies drove a small group of dedicated individuals in the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI to successfully pursue the case, despite the obstacles and false markers placed along the path by their own Government. Here's what they eventually were able to prove: