Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Veciana/Bishop/Phillips Resource

I am announcing a new resource today for those interested in Antonio Veciana and his allegations regarding Maurice Bishop and David Phillips. It is a directory of web links organized by category. I will be adding links from time to time as my research progresses, so check back. The directory also includes links to information on the Cuban exile groups which are a part of the Veciana story. The link, which is also available at the top of any page here under "Resources," is:

New Veciana-Bishop Links Directory

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Veciana's Game

During preparation of Part Three of my review of John Newman’s book Into the Storm, I spent a great deal of time thinking about Antonio Veciana’s motive for creating the Maurice Bishop story. Then, I had an epiphany. This article discusses that revelation and acts as a summary of all I have learned about the subject in the last two years. My thesis is that two factors came together to create the Bishop story. The first factor, which Newman references, is Veciana’s incarceration for cocaine smuggling and the effect it had on him. [1] After studying Veciana’s history, I realized that a second factor was his character. A charitable way to describe Veciana is to say that he was a man of action and not content to sit on his hands when a problem existed. To put it another way, he was something of a plotter who sought to manipulate others in furtherance of his own ends. I submit that Veciana’s incarceration was a watershed moment in his life which he believed required immediate action upon his release. The action he chose was to create the Bishop story and, when this part of Veciana’s life is viewed through that lens, his story makes exquisite sense.

Veciana's Cocaine Conviction

Veciana was arrested on and eventually convicted of two counts: [2] conspiracy to possess and distribute narcotics and distribution of 7 kilograms of cocaine. [3] John Newman says that Veciana hated the CIA and I suspect he is right. One of the reasons that he may have hated the agency is that he believed they “set him up” for his drug conviction. [4] But I am not talking about being “setup” in the usual sense of the word. It is possible that Veciana believed that the CIA found out about his drug activities which is at least plausible since it was an international operation. Veciana may have thought that the agency manipulated the situation so he and his co-conspirators, who were clearly guilty, would be caught and convicted. But even if he did believe this, the evidence shows that he did not create Bishop for this reason. In the very first interview with Fonzi, Veciana said he thought Bishop “was working for a private organization, not the government ...” [5] But the fact that he gradually changed the story to say that Bishop was CIA could have partly been because of his dislike of the agency.

The evidence in Veciana’s drug case shows that the conspirators own naivete caused them to fall victim to an undercover sting run by a joint drug task force. According to the Appellee’s Brief, Veciana, Augustin Barres and Ariel Pomares (who worked for Barres) organized a cocaine smuggling operation during the years 1972 and 1973. The motive was recent financial losses incurred by Veciana and Barres. A statement by Max Lesnik, the publisher of the Spanish-language weekly Replica provided confirmation of Veciana’s possible financial motivation for his drug activities. Lesnik was a good friend of Veciana’s and supportive of the anti-Castro cause. On May 30, 1978, Fonzi and his assistant Gonzales interviewed Lesnik and, at one point in the interview, Lesnik was asked his opinion of Veciana’s credibility: [6]

At times I say to myself, Yes, I believe Veciana. At other times, I am not so sure. For instance, do you believe Veciana when he says it is not true about the narcotics charge? If you ask me, I would say Veciana is not the type of man who would have anything to do with narcotics. Not at all. Yet, on the other hand, I know how dedicated Veciana is; I know that more than anything else he is dedicated to overthrowing the Revolution and to killing Castro. So, the question is, could it be that he might have thought that the money that could be gotten from narcotics could be used to a more noble purpose? I don't know..."

In preliminary conversations, Veciana told Barres that he could “put a kilogram of cocaine” on his desk. Veciana provided the connection to the drugs which he developed during his years with USAID in Bolivia. Veciana traveled to Bolivia, purchased the cocaine and delivered it to Bolivian diplomats who then smuggled it into the United States. Barres provided part of the financing and Pomares received the drugs in Florida and sold some of them himself while employing middlemen to handle the remainder. The desire to change middlemen led to the conspirator’s downfall when the man they selected turned out to be an undercover detective named Bruno with the New York City Police. At times, the inexperience of the conspirators made their enterprise look like a comedy of errors. For example, the conspirators believed Bruno was a fearsome mob type so he must have played his part extremely well.

Barres was the chief witness for the prosecution and his testimony was collaborated by numerous government documents, a complete confession by Pomares [7] and by the testimony of four witnesses who confirmed aspects of Barres’ story. Barres testified that, when communicating by phone, the conspirators would use a code. The phrases, “documents signed” or “papers are ready” were to be used in conversation to refer to the cocaine being available for delivery. One of the most compelling pieces of testimony came from a man named Carpio who was an accountant at the business where Pomares worked. Carpio testified that Veciana called at one point and asked for Pomares. When Carpio told Veciana that Pomares was not there and offered to take a message, Veciana said, “Please tell him ... my name is Veciana, I received the documents.” The evidence was so overwhelming that Veciana’s entire defense consisted of a single witness-his daughter.

Fonzi, Veciana and the Bishop Story

Gaeton Fonzi, the government investigator who would be the effective co-author of the Maurice Bishop story, first tried to phone Veciana in February 1976. After determining Veciana was in prison, he made plans to visit his home in order to show his credentials to Veciana’s son Tony. This was so Fonzi could visit the Atlanta Penitentiary and interview Veciana there. But after finding out that Veciana was being released early, Fonzi arranged to interview him at his home on March 2, 1976. [8]

Upon meeting Veciana, what struck Fonzi the most was his “pallor.” Veciana’s face “still had very much a prison pallor … which is something that comes less from not being in the sun, than from something that happens to the spirt.” [9] In other words, prison had not been kind to Veciana and he doubtless had no desire to return there. My thesis is that Veciana was afraid of legal action against him since some of the things he did for ALPHA-66 certainly fell into legal “grey areas.”

Veciana himself confirmed this idea when he told Fonzi, “I am worried about certain things that can be used against me.” [10] And Fonzi admitted in Volume X of the HSCA report which he authored, “[This] investigator speculated that Veciana felt that by revealing his association with Bishop to an official representative of the U.S. Government, he would be providing himself with an element of security.” [11] Additionally, Fonzi wrote in his book “… I assumed he was concerned about some U.S. laws he may have broken during the course of his anti-Castro activity.” [12] And finally Fonzi added, “… as I came to understand, Veciana himself was anxious to use me. Just released from prison, uncertain and confused about what had happened to him, he took my arrival as an opportunity to establish a defense against any other actions which might be taken against him.” [13]

Veciana had a lot of time on his hands during the 26 months he was in Atlanta. In his book Trained to Kill, he said he kept his nose clean and “I read, and I waited, and I tried to understand how an innocent man could end up behind bars.” [14] One of the things Veciana read during his idle hours, in this case the day before Fonzi’s initial visit, was an article in the Saturday Evening Post. That article, co-authored by noted researcher Paul Hoch, speculated that Veciana was one of the three men who visited Sylvia Odio in September of 1963. [15] Fonzi knew from Veciana’s appearance (he has a distinctive facial birthmark) that he could not be one of those men. But Veciana was keeping up with current events as they related to the JFK case. Fonzi and other theorists are quick to speculate that, as Fonzi put it, “there was little reason for Veciana to assume the assassination was my priority.” [16] But as Paul Hoch wrote in the November 3, 1993 edition of his journal Echoes of Conspiracy, “[Veciana] could easily have figured out before they met that Fonzi was pursuing the JFK case.”

It turns out that the Fonzi-Veciana interview was a serendipitous meeting of the minds between one of the biggest CIA-did-it advocates and a man who was looking for someone to shoulder the blame for his terrorist activities. By his own admission, Fonzi wasn’t an objective investigator by the time of his experiences with Veciana. [17] I was never a “conspiracy theorist”, he said. “I went from an agnostic to a conspiracy believer [following a debate with Arlen Specter].” [18] This lack of objectivity made him susceptible to Veciana’s “LHO met with Bishop” tale which, as Paul Hoch notes, “Fonzi immediately accepted.” [19] Indeed, in his book Fonzi said, “I had no doubt then-and have none now-that Veciana was simply and truthfully revealing what he knew.” [20] It seems that the former investigative journalist had become a crusader.

Veciana’s Plan

In view of Veciana’s personality and the evidence that he was concerned about being prosecuted by the federal government, it is not hard to imagine that he devised a plan while in prison to share the blame for his anti-Castro activities with a nonexistent mentor. As mentioned, Veciana did not originally say that Bishop was CIA or even an intelligence man. But early on, Veciana became aware of Fonzi’s anti-CIA bias and realized that a change was needed to help ensure his continued patronage. By the time of his interview with Dick Russell about 3 months later, Veciana, taking Fonzi’s lead, was already saying that “he [Bishop] was part of an American intelligence service ...” [21] This change was fine with Veciana since it was safer and easier for him to finger an agent of an unnamed intelligence service and let Fonzi and others say it was the CIA. By 2017 though, Veciana’s account had changed to the point that he was saying he himself was a CIA operative recruited by David Phillips.

Veciana’s scheme was a clever one. And as a college graduate who had worked in Bolivia as a banking consultant with a starting salary equivalent to about $160,000 in today’s dollars, he was no dummy. [22] If he could make people believe that a CIA mentor who was as imperceptible as the boogeyman had told him what to do, then any illegal acts he might have committed were not his fault and he could not be prosecuted for them. Think of it as the “CIA made me do it” defense. And considering the revelations that were being made public at the time, it was at least plausible that the CIA could do what Veciana was alleging. On the other hand, Army Intelligence, which the evidence shows Veciana worked with, [23] did not have the same public reputation for deceitfulness attributed to the folks at Langley.

Before he could hope for his plan to work, Veciana needed to get Fonzi’s attention and he did so in a big way with his story of seeing Oswald with Bishop. Once Fonzi got a hold of him, Veciana rolled with the flow and mostly went along with Fonzi’s CIA theories. He did draw the line though at naming Phillips as Bishop, as Fonzi hoped he would do, for a couple of reasons. Veciana was smart enough to know that he could not get away with accusing a man of Phillips’ stature of being a cog in the CIA’s wheel of conspiracy without hard proof which he didn’t have. Besides, he didn’t need to do that, and it would serve no purpose for him. With Fonzi as his sponsor, he had what he wanted-protection from government scrutiny and a permanent soapbox from which he could subtly enhance his story as needed. Veciana was content to let the conspiracy books claim that Phillips was Bishop while he continued to deny it with a wink and a nod. And if the Phillips as Bishop canard was ever disproved, he could just say that he never said that Phillips was Bishop in the first place.

Delores Cao

In the nineties, the ARRB wanted to interview Veciana but he refused citing recent heart surgery. [24] However, another reason he may have declined to work with the review board was that they were interested in the alleged intermediary he had alluded to as far back as the first interviews with Fonzi. [25] That intermediary was identified in 1978 during a conversation between Veciana and author Anthony Summers as Delores Cao of Puerto Rico. [26] Both Summers and Fonzi used the codename “Fabiola” in their books when referring to Cao. Summers says he “goaded” Veciana into disclosing this information. But what if Veciana was content to let Summers think that he had gotten the best of him? Perhaps the reality was that Veciana had thought of a plan to get Summers off his back for good. Veciana probably realized that he couldn’t hold out on Summers forever so why not arrange a situation that he could control? In fact, from what I have learned about his personality, I find it hard to believe that Veciana would not intervene to get his desired result.

We know from Fonzi’s book that Veciana contacted Cao before Summers talked to her. [27] During this conversation, Veciana could have engaged in anything from mild suggestion to flat out instructing her what to say. If Veciana was manipulating Summers and did coach Cao, this could neatly dispose of any future interest in her by Summers and other researchers. From Veciana’s perspective, it was one thing for Anthony Summers to interview Cao after he prepared her. But the ARRB’s unanticipated interest in Cao, which in a worst-case scenario could have resulted in her testifying under oath, was a much more serious matter.

Veciana could have learned of the ARRB’s interest in Cao from phone calls staffers made to his son Tony. Or he simply could have anticipated that her name would logically come up during an interview. And his lack of cooperation with the ARRB could have reflected his fear of the review board locating her. According to John Newman, Cao’s name became public knowledge by 1993 so the ARRB should have known who she was without asking Veciana. [28] Or perhaps the review board learned Cao’s name and wanted to query Veciana on Fabiola’s identity to see what his reply would be and thereby access his general truthfulness. In any case, I believe Veciana wasn’t interested in helping the ARRB get anywhere near Cao. And if they became aware of her through Summers or other means, he could always make another phone call.

The Castro Letter Revisited

What evidence is there that Cao was willing to participate in Veciana’s plans? A remarkable report on two FBI interviews of Felix Zabala provides evidence that Cao may have at least lent her name to another Veciana scheme. [29] Zabala was an anti-Castro exile (and eventual double agent) who described Veciana as being, “like his own brother” and said that Veciana was “his son’s godfather.” Zabala apparently felt a tremendous sense of loyalty toward Veciana and did some remarkable things at his behest. For instance, the report provides a detailed account of a scheme involving a letter to Fidel Castro which occurred around September of 1976. This plan was the same one reported by John Newman in his book, but the document I found contains more detail and includes one prominent name left out of Newman’s version.

The letter would contain the basic elements of the Bishop story, name Veciana as a CIA operative and report details about Veciana’s participation in the 1971 assassination attempt against Castro in Chile. A key difference in this version of the story is the addition of none other than Veciana’s former secretary Cao. In this version of the story, Cao was the ostensible author of the letter rather than Zabala and it was signed with her nickname “Margarita.” The report refers to Cao as “Hilda” rather than Delores but also says that Cao is from San Juan and worked as Veciana’s secretary in Cuba and in Puerto Rico from 1961 to 1967 so it certainly seems to be the same individual.

According to Zabala, Veciana originally wanted to transmit the letter through the Czechoslovakian embassy in Washington but Zabala suggested they use his sister, who was married to Castro’s Interior Minister, instead. As in Newman’s version of the story, the author of the letter, in this case Cao, was disillusioned with Veciana who “wanted a large amount of publicity due to his appearance before a US government group.” Later in the report, Zabala was questioned about Veciana’s motive for concocting the letter. Zabala said that Veciana “was concerned about his testimony” before what would have been the permanent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and “for some unexplained reason, wanted to establish himself in the US Cuban community as a former CIA operative.” Veciana was certain that Castro would broadcast the contents of the letter immediately, but that apparently never happened. The letter was allegedly submitted to Castro by Zabala’s sister on or about September 11, 1976.

At some point, it became apparent that the broadcast by Castro would not occur. Veciana then encouraged Zabala, who by now was working with Cuban Intelligence, to request that the contents of the letter be broadcast. Zabala was to imply to the Cubans that the reason for this was his own dissatisfaction with Veciana. Zabala went along with this idea out of friendship for Veciana and because the letter “seemed of the utmost importance” to him. My takeaway from all of this is that Veciana wanted to present himself as a CIA operative to confirm his Bishop story and possibly to enhance his standing in the exile community. And it seems that Ms. Cao, whatever her first name might be, was willing to lend her name to this deception, unless it was done without her knowledge.

The “LHO” Photos

Another contrivance engineered by Veciana using his friend Zabala was reported to the FBI by the latter in April 1977. Veciana alleged that Lee Harvey Oswald attended an ALPHA-66 meeting at which Veciana himself was present. The evidence for this startling claim was photographs provided by Veciana which he said depicted Oswald and himself in separate shots. Zabala had previously taken the photographs to a meeting with Cuban Intelligence in Mexico City, apparently at Veciana’s behest. At a lengthy videotaped interrogation, the Cuban agents had asked Zabala to identify which individual in the photographs represented Oswald. After Zabala did this, the Cubans ended the session. The FBI eventually determined that the individual in the photographs was not Oswald. [30] This incident seems to be a case of Veciana trying to spread misinformation to the Cubans (and maybe the FBI) for reasons that are unclear. Perhaps Veciana thought he would be rewarded by the Bureau in some way for his actions. However, the incident does represent a documented case of Veciana using a story involving Oswald to attempt to further his own ends. It also provides conformation that Veciana recognized the formidable effect of adding Oswald to such a tale as he did in the case of the Bishop story.

Why Phillips Was Not Bishop

The first and most obvious reason why Phillips was not Bishop is there was no Bishop, at least as Veciana described him. Bishop was likely a composite fictional character based on authority figures Veciana had really known such as Jordan Pfuntner, Patrick Harris or his real CIA case officer Cal Hicks. Veciana may have projected their qualities onto Bishop and rationalized this fabrication because of the personal sacrifice he felt he was making to rid the world of Castro. A simple case of the end justified the means. The HSCA made a valid attempt to identify Bishop but could provide absolutely no confirmation of any kind for the alleged CIA mentor. For example, the HSCA report stated: [31]

… not one of his associates--neither those who worked with him in anti-Castro activity in Cuba nor those who were associated with him in Alpha 66 said they were aware of any American directing Veciana or of anyone who had the characteristics of Maurice Bishop.

The infamous sketch of Maurice Bishop is one of the things most often mentioned as “proof” that Phillips was Bishop since theorists believe it looks like Phillips. The sketch was prepared with the help of a professional artist and represented a “pretty good” idea of what Veciana thought Bishop looked like. [32] Of course, a sketch is just an artist’s representation and the interpretation of it is subjective. Show it to a hundred people and you’ll get a hundred different answers as to who it looks like.

Fonzi himself originally thought it looked like Paul Bethel, former head of the US Information Agency in Cuba. [33] Sam Kail was an Army attaché who worked at the US embassy in Cuba and who Veciana said Bishop directed him to for help. Kail, who denied knowing Veciana, also thought the sketch looked like Bethel, a fact that Fonzi left out of his HSCA report. [34] Barney Hidalgo, A CIA employee who was interviewed by the HSCA regarding his claim that a “Bishop” worked at the CIA, thought it looked “a bit” like CIA employee Willard Galbraith. [35] This contradicts what Fonzi wrote in the HSCA report when he said, “B. H. [Hidalgo] could not identify [the sketch] as anyone he recognized.” [36]

Bradley Ayers was a US Army Captain on special assignment with the CIA based out of JM/WAVE near Miami. Ayers thought the sketch looked to be “a very accurate drawing” of Gordon Campbell, another CIA employee. Ayers thought that Bishop was Campbell and not Phillips, [37] but this is unlikely since Campbell died in 1962. [38] Ultimately, I compiled a list of 12 relevant individuals who saw the sketch and only two thought it looked like Phillips. Five people did not recognize the sketch as anyone they knew and the remaining five each identified five different persons. Ironically, one of the people who thought it looked like Phillips was Phillips himself. The other was Senator Richard Schweiker whose identification of Phillips was the beginning of Fonzi’s quest to link Phillips to Bishop. [39]

A second alleged “proof” that Phillips was Bishop is the supposed similarity between Veciana’s description of Bishop and Phillips. Veciana’s description of Bishop, like most aspects of his story, varied over the years. I’ll use the one Fonzi provided in the HSCA report for this discussion. Veciana said when he first met Bishop (1960 in this version) he was about 45 years old, 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighed over 200 pounds, and was athletically built. [40] Phillips was only 38 in 1960 and CIA records show he was 6 feet tall and weighed 185 pounds. [41] The only similarity to Veciana’s description is that Phillips listed his build as “stocky.”

The rest of Veciana’s account is vague, probably intentionally so. Bishop had grey-blue eyes (Phillips had blue), light-brown hair and a light complexion, although he was supposedly “well-tanned.” Bishop was meticulously dressed and concerned about his diet, traits that there is no evidence Phillips possessed. In fact, in a 1976 piece the Washington Post described him as a “slightly rumpled chap.” [42] Phillips did wear reading glasses as Bishop did, but so do many middle-aged men.

Theorists believe that a meeting between Phillips and Veciana represents a third “proof.” The meeting took place at a conference of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) in Reston, Virginia on September 17, 1976. [43] Fonzi’s idea was to “ambush” the unsuspecting Phillips who was not aware that Veciana would be attending. Phillips merely thought he was doing Schweiker a favor by letting three of his staffers attend the conference luncheon. Jefferson Morley, editor of JFKfacts.org made the case for “Phillips is Bishop” believers in a 2017 article: [44]

Fonzi then brought Veciana to Washington for a meeting with Phillips. Although he had worked with Veciana for a decade, Phillips coolly pretended not to know him, Veciana writes, and to not even recognize his name, which was strange, because the Cuban was very well known to the CIA officers working to overthrow Castro.
Veciana went along with Phillips’s ruse, he says, out of fear of CIA retaliation. He told Fonzi that Phillips was not the man he knew as Maurice Bishop. “I felt bad for lying to a friend,” he writes, “but he could only guess at the stakes involved when it came to breaking my vow of silence.”

But Morley’s bare-bones version doesn’t tell the full story. According to Fonzi’s account, they were escorted to Phillips’ table, and Fonzi introduced Veciana to Phillips by name and waited for his reaction: [45]

I had thought I would be able to tell, keen observer that I deemed myself, if Phillips had exhibited even the slightest hint of having recognized Veciana. Not only did Phillips not display that hint, but his eyes had moved on and off of Veciana so quickly-in the flash of a brief handshake-that it was almost as if Veciana was a nonentity.

During the conference luncheon, Veciana folded his arms across his chest and studied Philips intently, staring at the former agent to the point of making him nervous. Over the years, Fonzi and Veciana have repeatedly cited Phillips’ alleged nervousness as proof he was hiding something. However, Fonzi himself offered the obvious explanation for Phillips’ unease in an HSCA memo. “But maybe I would have gotten nervous also if some guy was just sitting there with his arms folded staring at me like Veciana was doing with Phillips.” [46]

At one point during the keynote speech, Fonzi asked Veciana if Phillips was Bishop and he answered, “No. It is not him.” [47] When the conference ended, Fonzi and Veciana approached Phillips in the hallway. Fonzi asked Phillips if he would answer some questions. When Phillips asked what the questions were about and Fonzi replied the JFK assassination, Phillips stated he would be “glad to talk with any Congressman or representative of Congress … in Congress.” Veciana then asked Phillips a few questions including if he knew Julio Lobo or Rufo Lopez-Fresquet. Phillips said that he knew those men but did not remember Veciana himself. After the conference as Fonzi and Veciana left the building, Fonzi again asked Veciana if Phillips was Bishop. “No, he’s not him” Veciana unambiguously replied. [48]

It should be noted that Phillips probably told the truth when he said he didn’t remember Veciana at all. We know from Fonzi’s description of the incident that Phillips didn’t recognize Veciana’s face. And it had been at least a decade since Veciana was in the news for anti-Castro activities so Phillips may have simply forgotten the name. And if he did know the name-so what? Phillips may merely have wanted to see where the impromptu conversation was heading. After the confrontation, Fonzi’s belief in the “Phillips as Bishop” scenario was shaken, at least for a time. In an HSCA memo he said “… for the first time, I have some doubts about Veciana’s credibility when it comes to Phillips.” [49]

The next “proof” is purely anecdotal. According to an email message written by David Phillips’ nephew Shawn, David allegedly had a conversation with his brother James and related that he was in Dallas when JFK was killed. Setting aside the fact that Phillips was the Chief of Cuban Operations in Mexico City at the time of the assassination and was almost certainly there on that day (as he said he was in his book The Night Watch), let’s look at this claim. James Phillips allegedly called David when the latter was dying of lung cancer and following years of discussions between the brothers about the JFK case. James asked David if he was in Dallas “that day” and David said “yes” and then hung up. According to this theory then, it wasn’t enough for Phillips to be the mastermind of the plot. He had to be on the ground in Dallas directing the operation or perhaps pulling the trigger himself. Of course, logic and common sense tells us that Phillips would be as far away from Dallas as he could get with witnesses to that effect if he were involved in any plot-which he wasn’t. Shawn Phillips said the confession “was not in so many words as such” and he had placed the word “confession” in quotes in the original email. [50]

Some of the “proofs” really don’t require much discussion such as the contents of an unpublished manuscript written by Phillips. That manuscript has a fictional character saying, “I share the blame [in the JFK case]” among other things. If people want to believe that Phillips would make a confession in this manner, they are free to do so. I would only say that Philips was something of a frustrated writer and probably thought there was a market for this type of thing. Apparently, he was right.

Because theorists have made much of a September 21, 1979 attempt on Veciana’s life, I’ll add this final “proof” to the list although it is a minor one at best. The standard line goes something like this: Veciana was shot in the head shortly after he testified before the HSCA in an obvious attempt by the CIA to silence him. But what the theorists don’t explain is this. The details of the Bishop story, based on Veciana’s 1976 statements to congressional investigators, had already been reported by Jack Anderson in January 1977 and Veciana’s last testimony occurred in April 1978. What purpose would be served by the CIA shooting Veciana in 1979?

Veciana made at least one accurate statement in Trained to Kill when he wrote:

But were they [the CIA] so worried about what I had to say that they tried to silence me once and for all? I don’t know. I think there’s another more likely suspect than the CIA. Castro.

Indeed, right after the shooting, Veciana’s wife told the Miami Herald:

The only enemy my husband had in the world was Fidel Castro … This must have been done by infiltrators living in Miami.

Castro had been aware of Veciana and his desire to kill him since the ALPHA-66 press coverage in the early sixties if not sooner. Therefore, the attempt on Veciana’s life was almost certainly the work of Castro acolytes and not an effort by the CIA or any US government agency to silence him.

Veciana’s Reversal

For 37 years, from 1976 to 2013, Veciana insisted Phillips was not Bishop. He said that over and over in numerous interviews and under oath before congressional committees. Then, in 2013, Veciana reversed course and said that Phillips was Bishop after all. Sometime before 2013, Veciana decided to write his memoir. When making this decision, he undoubtedly had discussions with the people at his publishing house and others who assured him that there was no downside to the reversal. Veciana’s probable motive for this was completely self-serving. He had a book to sell and needed a talking point. And at 85 years of age at the time of his revelation, he had nothing to lose. He couldn’t be prosecuted for perjury since the statute of limitations had long expired. And his already secure reputation in the conspiracy world would only be enhanced by the claim as his rock-star-like reception at the AARC conference proved.

Conclusion

I believe the evidence is clear that Antonio Veciana fabricated the Maurice Bishop story. His motive originally was to avoid prosecution for acts he committed as an anti-Castro operative. All that was necessary to achieve this goal was to name an untraceable mentor as the person who directed these acts and to have sympathetic individuals in the government such as Fonzi support him. As time went on, Bishop evolved first into a generic CIA man and then David Phillips specifically. Part of this was to appease Fonzi and the public in general who believed the agency was culpable in the JFK killing. But he may have eventually decided that the CIA, who he evidently disliked, was responsible for his drug “setup” and blaming the CIA and Phillips was a secondary form of revenge. And of course, naming Phillips as Bishop helped create a buzz for his book which served as his “historic” memoir.

There isn’t a speck of evidence aside from Veciana’s allegations that Lee Harvey Oswald met with Bishop or Phillips in Dallas. [51] Oswald was in New Orleans during the late August to early September timeframe that Veciana and Fonzi eventually settled on. And his presence there is verified by library records and unemployment checks that he cashed as well as statements by Marina. Additionally, there is no credible evidence that he boarded a plane or was driven to Dallas. It should be mentioned that even if David Phillips ran Veciana as a CIA operative, without the tie to Oswald, the story goes nowhere. But considering the available evidence, a link between Phillips and Veciana is extremely unlikely.

Gaeton Fonzi immediately accepted Veciana’s story because it provided a connection between the CIA and Oswald. That link helped confirm his own belief that a rogue faction of the CIA killed Kennedy. He participated in the formation of the Bishop story by influencing Veciana through his anti-CIA beliefs. Fonzi tried to verify Veciana’s story in his capacity as an HSCA investigator and writer. He was sincerely hoping to find verification for the story but could not do so. This, of course, did not stop him from writing his book which strongly implied that David Phillips was a conspirator in the assassination of JFK. In the years since then, numerous others have repeated the claim based on Fonzi’s “evidence.” Whatever your opinion of the CIA and the operations it ran during the cold war, the foot soldiers like Phillips were merely following orders. David Phillips certainly did not deserve to be smeared by the likes of Fonzi and others without substantial proof. And such proof currently does not exist.

Notes

[1] Author John Newman, who has done some good work on Veciana, now apparently believes that the Pentagon (who he thinks was behind the JFK killing), somehow arranged to have Veciana’s sentence reduced in exchange for his promotion of the Bishop canard upon his release. We will have to wait for Newman’s next book to see his proof for this. But one problem with this theory is that we know from the first Fonzi interview that Veciana wasn’t initially pushing the CIA or intelligence angle.
[2] In his book, Veciana says it was three counts, an error which others have repeated.
[3] Unless otherwise noted, all information in this section comes from: United States of America, Appellee, vs. Ariel Pomares and Antonio Veciana, Appellants. No. 1127, Docket 74-1219. United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit. Argued June 14, 1974. Decided July 5, 1974.
[4] Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know About the Assassination of JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition p. 395. According to Fonzi, Veciana alternated between blaming the CIA (in the form of Bishop) and Castro.
[5] Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 2, 1976. RIF 157-10007-10208.
[6] RIF 180-10065-10373.
[7] Pomares later tried to have his confession thrown out but on appeal it was determined that it was properly obtained.
[8] Fonzi, 119-121.
[9] Ibid., 123.
[10] Ibid., 124.
[11] HSCA Volume X, paragraph 144.
[12] Fonzi, 124.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Veciana, Antonio and Harrison, Carlos. Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots against Castro, Kennedy and Che. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition, 2017, Chapter 10.
[15] Hoch, Paul and George O’Toole. “Dallas: The Cuban Connection.” The Saturday Evening Post, March 1976.
[16] Fonzi, 124.
[17] See my article “Gaeton Fonzi and the Veciana Allegations” for more information on Fonzi’s bias.
[18] http://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Essay_-_Reply_From_a_Conspiracy_Believer.html.
[19] Paul Hoch, Echoes of Conspiracy, November 3, 1993, p. 3.
[20] Fonzi, 126.
[21] Russell, Dick. On the Trail of the JFK Assassins: A Groundbreaking Look at America’s Most Infamous Conspiracy. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition, 2008, p. 148.
[22] Veciana started at $22,000 plus housing, travel and baggage allowances. See RIF 180-10104-10396.
[23] See the “Malcolm Blunt DOD documents” at John Newman’s website: https://jfkjmn.com/.
[24] ARRB memo from Tom Samoluk to David Marwell, May 7, 1997.
[25] ARRB, “Interview Format for Antonio Veciana” obtained from the Black Vault.
[26] Newman, John. Into the Storm: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume III. Kindle Edition, Chapter 3.
[27] Fonzi, 318.
[28] Newman, Chapter 3.
[29] All information in this section is taken from a report of two interviews by the FBI with Zabala, RIF 104-10102-10198.
[30] Memo from FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley to Director of Central Intelligence, June 6, 1977.
[31] HSCA Volume X, paragraph 145.
[32] Ibid., paragraph 169.
[33] Fonzi, 322.
[34] Memorandum from Fonzi to Blakey, RIF 180-10072-10179.
[35] RIF 104-10146-10142.
[36] HSCA Volume X, paragraph 190.
[37] ARRB memo from Christopher Barger to Jeremy Gunn, May 18, 1995.
[38] https://jfkfacts.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Campbell-death-certificate.pdf.
[39] Fonzi, 157.
[40] HSCA Volume X, paragraph 168.
[41] David Atlee Phillips, “CIA Personal Record Questionnaire” obtained from the Black Vault.
[42] White, Jean M. “Intelligence Gathering: Insiders Meet on the Outside.” The Washington Post, September 18, 1976, p. 1.
[43] Memo from Fonzi to Troy Gustavson, September 20, 1976, RIF 180-10103-10396.
[44] Morley, Jefferson. “The CIA’s Secrets about JFK, Che and Castro Revealed in New Book by Former Operative.” Newsweek Magazine, May 28, 2017.
[45] Fonzi, 166.
[46] Memo from Fonzi to Troy Gustavson, September 20, 1976, RIF 180-10103-10396.
[47] Fonzi, 167.
[48] Ibid, 167-69.
[49] Memo from Fonzi to Gustavson, op. cit.
[50] http://www.jfkmurdersolved.com/phillips.htm.
[51] It should be clear to most researchers by now that Wynne Johnson, who “collaborated” the story of Veciana seeing LHO and Bishop, is an after-the-fact Judyth Baker type who is not worthy of belief. For more information see: http://wtracyparnell.blogspot.com/2017/04/wynne-johnson.html.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Into the Storm Part 3

With Chapter 3 of Into the Storm, John Newman has done a good job of debunking Antonio Veciana’s 1959 and 1960 stories of how he met Maurice Bishop (who he now claims was David Phillips). Now, let’s turn our attention to Chapter 11: Veciana, the Secret Years-1961-1962. Newman’s premise for this chapter is that when you remove David Phillips from the equation, Veciana’s true story is much different than what he has portrayed, both to Fonzi and in his book Trained to Kill (TTK).

Veciana’s “Lost” Testimony

In his section on Operation Loborio, Newman mentions that researcher Bill Simpich believes that the “Harold Bishop” mentioned in CIA files may be a pseudonym for Harold Swenson and provides some evidence for this. Of course, any “Bishop” that turns up in the Veciana story could be a candidate for Maurice Bishop, if such a person existed. Newman writes (attributed to Simpich):

… in 1976 Veciana did not know the first name of Bishop and … over the next twelve months, Veciana added “Morris” as the first name and then later changed it to “Maurice.”

But that is not strictly correct and brings up a subject I have been looking into-Veciana’s “lost” Church Committee (SSCIA) and Senate Select Committee testimony. Veciana referred to “Morris Bishop” in the very first telling of his story to Fonzi on March 2, 1976. “Morris” eventually became “Maurice” and Fonzi claimed the difference was attributable to the way he had written down what Veciana told him because of language differences (Veciana did not speak English, at least very well). But that does not explain documents which say the first name of Bishop could also have been “Jim” or “John.” This information had to have come from Veciana, but when? Newman says that there are six versions of the Veciana story, but I would add this caveat to that statement. There are six publicly available versions.

It turns out that Veciana testified under oath before the SSCIA. Logically, this occurred in a small window after he spoke to Fonzi in March 1976 and before the SSCIA published its report on April 29, 1976. In fact, according to Fonzi and alluded to in ARRB memos, Veciana testified twice. The second testimony was given to the new permanent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (which, of course, is still in existence). As early as December 1976, HSCA documents were produced that mention “Morris” “John” and “Jim” as possibilities for Bishop’s first name. Since “Jim” and “John” appear in no other versions of Veciana’s story, it is very likely that this information came from statements made by Veciana during one of these unseen testimonies.

According to information provided by the Mary Ferrell Foundation, both testimonies have apparently been lost. However, the existence of the testimonies is confirmed by references in Fonzi’s book and other sources. According to a July 1996 ARRB internal memo, the ARRB sought the testimonies in preparation for their own questioning of Veciana that ultimately never occurred. However, it would stand to reason that, if the ARRB had reviewed the testimony, it would have ended up being declared a JFK record and placed in the JFK collection. Since this did not happen, it may be that the ARRB never really received the SSCIA testimony. A 1997 memo by Ronald Haron that identified SSCIA testimony relevant to the ARRB listed only Veciana’s interviews by Fonzi and not his testimony.

The point of all of this is that Veciana was indeed uncertain about Bishop’s first name but not in the way characterized by Newman. Researchers need to understand that “Morris Bishop” existed right from the very first telling of the story. “Morris” likely became “Maurice” simply because Fonzi thought it sounded better. And the varying first names of Bishop may be the tip of the iceberg regarding inconsistencies in the Veciana SSCIA testimony or the second testimony before the permanent committee. We may never know since it appears the testimonies have been lost.

UPDATE: An FBI report (RIF 104-10102-10198) on an interview of Veciana's friend Felix Zabala states that the last of the testimonies occurred around December 10, 1976. This would be Veciana's testimony before the permanent committee.

Veciana and the Army

It has been one of the tenets of CIA-did-it researchers that Veciana was a CIA employee or at least worked very closely with the agency. I reported on this blog in 2017 that Veciana had been issued a Provisional Operational Approval (POA) as a sabotage man for the MRP that was never used and eventually expired. Thereafter, Veciana worked with Army Intellegence, not the CIA. Now, Newman provides new detail that confirms my findings and successfully explodes the CIA employment myth for all time.

Newman says that the price of CIA help for the anti-Castro rebels was “complete subordination to the agency.” Not only did Veciana have no interest in such subordination, but he disliked the CIA and never intended to work with them. The CIA paperwork for Veciana is now available and consists of a simple “Personal Record Questionnaire” (PRQ). This paperwork is consistent with the type of minimal relationship we know he had with the agency and is not the extensive documentation used for contract agents. Newman says that the approval of Veciana’s POA occurred before the CIA realized that the MRP had lost significance and would never recover inside Cuba. Additionally, the CIA’s Mongoose operation did not include ALPHA-66. Indeed, the head of Mongoose, William Harvey, found Veciana to be a nuisance and disrupted his sabotage plans by broadcasting government-wide alerts.

Considering these and other issues, Veciana turned to the Army for help. By 1962, Veciana had fled Cuba in the wake of the failure of Operation Liborio and founded ALPHA-66. In September 1962, around the same time as ALPHA-66’s first attack on a Cuban port at Caibarien, Veciana contacted the Army through an intermediary named Jordan Pfuntner. ALPHA-66 “refused to work with” the CIA and instead desired to work with the Army and Pfuntner laid out a plan that requested funds and equipment while providing intellegence in return. The Army expressed interest in the proposal but needed Veciana to provide Soviet “ordinance material and intellegence information on Cuba” to access his credibility.

On November 1, Veciana met with “Patrick Harris” (actually Captain Milford Hubbard) and two other Army officers in Puerto Rico. The Army men wanted to talk to Veciana about the frogmen that had participated in a recent ALPHA-66 raid. At the meeting, Veciana gave the Army men the rifles and ammunition they had requested. Newman goes on to describe the meeting and a subsequent one that occurred the same day in considerable and dramatic detail. The point is that Veciana had extensive interaction with the Army that he initiated through Pfuntner.

An excellent observation made by Newman is that, with one exception, Veciana never related his presumably memorable experiences with the Army to Fonzi or congressional investigators and did not write about them in TTK. At the 2014 AARC conference under questioning by researcher Malcolm Blunt, Veciana again minimized his involvement with Harris and the Army saying that the Army contacted him first when the reverse was true.

The single time that Veciana mentioned the Army came in his discussions with Fonzi and he again sought to minimize his involvement. In The Last Investigation, Fonzi wrote:

From a series of long conversations with Harris, Veciana concluded that Harris was Army Intelligence—especially after he told Veciana that he might be able to provide some support for his anti-Castro activities. But Harris first wanted to make an inspection trip to Alpha-66’s operational base in the Bahamas. Veciana eventually came to trust Harris and gave him and a couple of his associates a tour of the base, but Harris never did come through with any aid.

But as Newman shows, it was Veciana who wanted the inspection trip and who initiated the contact with the Army in the beginning. What was the reason that Veciana promoted the story that he worked for the CIA rather than the Army? Newman speculates that it had to do with Veciana’s time in the Atlanta penitentiary for drug smuggling and I agree with him. Newman says he is in no hurry to speculate further. However, I will have a piece up shortly that explains Veciana’s grand motive.

Zabala’s Revelation

Feliz Zabala was one of Veciana’s best friends and his occasional roommate. He was also an FBI informant. A recently released FBI report of an interview with Zabala provides more confirmation of Veciana’s desire to be known as a CIA agent. In September 1976, Veciana told Zabala that he had been called to testify before a congressional committee investigating the JFK killing. For an undisclosed reason, Veciana needed to “publicly establish himself as a former CIA operative.”

But Veciana wasn’t finished. He also told Zabala that he wanted his sister, who happened to be married to Castro’s Interior Minister, to take a letter to Fidel describing Veciana’s involvement in the 1971 plot to kill the bearded dictator. Zabala was to tell his sister that he and Veciana had a falling out and the letter was a form of revenge. Veciana believed that the hot-blooded Castro would take to the airwaves and denounce Veciana as a CIA operative, thereby establishing his agency connection in one neat action. Again, Veciana never mentioned his best friend Zabala to Fonzi or any congressional inquisitors.

Conclusion

John Newman has done much to add to our understanding of Veciana’s true history and to explain what may have motivated his baffling activities. We now have confirmed that Veciana worked with Army Intellegence and not the CIA. We also know that his story of meeting Bishop/Phillips in Cuba did not happen as he said it did. Newman does make a few missteps and arrives at some unwarranted conclusions in my opinion. One mistake is his claim that James O’Mailia was Veciana’s CIA case officer during the brief time he was an agency asset. But documentation has the case officer as Cal Hicks, so why Newman is adamant to name O’Mailia as case officer is unclear. Also, Newman is convinced O’Mailia was “Joe Melton”, another character based solely on Veciana’s unreliable statements. Another mistake is placing too much faith in statements by Delores Cao since Veciana probably coached her. These mistakes can likely be explained by Newman’s desire to neatly tie up his current assassination theory which evidently has Lansdale and the Army brass behind the JFK killing rather than the CIA. Despite these issues, I look forward to Newman’s future work on Veciana and recommend Into the Storm.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Into the Storm Part 2

Delores Cao (“Fabiola”)

According to Antonio Veciana’s book Trained to Kill (hereafter TTK), around the end of October 1959, he began a three-week training course on psychological warfare and sabotage operations which was managed by “Joe Melton.” This training allegedly occurred at the Edeficio LaRampa building in the El Verdado section of Havana, which also housed offices for the Moa Bay Mining Company and a Berlitz language school. After the training was over, Veciana would have little physical contact with his CIA mentor “Bishop” because they began communicating through “secret writing.” But, as Newman points out, never in any of his previous accounts including extensive conversations with Fonzi, had Veciana mentioned this form of communication. Indeed, in his HSCA testimony, he said that he contacted Bishop through an intermediary. All of which leads to a new topic. When pressed by HSCA counsel to name the intermediary, Veciana refused. Remarkably, the matter was dropped but this mysterious intermediary remained of keen interest to researchers.

Author Anthony Summers interviewed Veciana in 1978 and “goaded” him into providing the name of the Bishop intermediary. She was Delores Cao [1] of Puerto Rico who was previously referred to as “Fabiola” by both Fonzi and Summers to “protect her identity” even though, according to Newman, she was outed in 1993 by newly released HSCA documents. My guess is that Fonzi and Summers really wanted to keep exclusive domain over Cao, who allegedly acted as Veciana’s secretary during the years he worked as an accountant at Julio Lobo’s bank and handled his incoming calls. I use the qualifying word “allegedly” since, to my knowledge, Cao’s employment at Lobo’s bank has never been independently verified. In other words, she could simply be a friend of Veciana’s who agreed to pose as his “secretary” for all Fonzi and Summers knew. In fact, this could explain why Veciana refused under oath to give her name to the HSCA; “Fabiola” didn’t exist and Fonzi, Summers and Newman have evidently never considered that possibility. But I’ll proceed with the assumption that Cao was who she said she was for the purposes of this discussion.

During an interview with Cao that was first summarized in the 1980 paperback edition of his book Conspiracy, Summers provided Cao with the names of people who might have contacted Veciana during the time she worked with him. All the names were phony except for the name “Bishop.” Cao claimed to remember “Bishop” as a person who had contacted Veciana, a fact that theorists have trumpeted as verification of the Veciana-Bishop relationship by a third party. But as Newman points out in this passage, there is a problem with Cao:

Fonzi’s 2013 edition of The Last Investigation reveals a noteworthy remark Mrs. Cao made to Summers: “until Veciana had called her to ask if she would talk with me, she hadn’t been in touch with him for years.” Therefore, Veciana could have steered Delores into using the name Bishop before Summers arrived to interview her.

So, Newman understands that since Veciana called Cao before her interview with Summers, that certain information Cao provided to Summers must be taken with a large grain of salt. But doesn’t it also taint anything she had to say to Summers? Veciana could have told her exactly what to say or at least discussed certain subjects with her in order to plant a seed in her mind as to how he wanted the interview to turn out. It is in this section of chapter three where Newman begins to run off the rails in my view since he conveniently fails to consider the possible coaching of Cao when it comes to the issue of Veciana taking language courses in the evening. Newman writes:

In the 2013 edition of his book, The Last Investigation, Fonzi reported this crucial detail from Summers’ report about his interview with Cao: She did remember a time when he [Veciana] started taking “language courses” in the evening. (That coincided with the period when Bishop put Veciana through intelligence training with “Mr. Melton,” in the building which housed the Berlitz Language School, one of David Phillips’ “public relations” clients.)

Newman continues:

The importance of this single recollection by Mrs. Cao needs to be emphasized. Language instruction was the cover Veciana created for his presence in the Edeficio LaRampa building. Similarly, the importance of Fonzi’s parenthetical comment that the timing of Veciana’s language studies coincided with Melton’s training sessions cannot be overemphasized.

But as Newman knows, Cao could have been prompted by Veciana to say what she did. And what is the evidence that Veciana was trained at all by Melton or anyone else or that language courses were a cover? While Newman has used documentary evidence to refute some of Veciana’s claims, in this case he relies completely on Veciana’s word to support the training story. I went back to the earliest sources of information to confirm this.

The earliest version of Veciana’s Bishop story dates to March 1976 when Fonzi interviewed him for Schweiker. In those three interviews, Veciana made no reference to the alleged training at all. The next version of his story comes from the June 1976 interview of Veciana by Dick Russell. According to Russell’s Village Voice article based on that interview, Veciana only said that Melton (who had no first name in this version) “assisted with his instruction” and no date or other details are mentioned. This leaves us with Veciana’s HSCA appearance and in his first day’s testimony, Veciana stated that he couldn’t remember when he agreed to participate in the program. The following day, Veciana said that the training occurred in “the middle of 1960” and he now remembered his instructor as “Joe Melton.” Veciana qualified that by saying that “this happened almost 18 years ago, and many things happened after that” indicating that he could not be more specific when counsel logically asked him if it was “June or July” of 1960.

The point of all of this is that out of this sketchy information Newman concludes “the importance of Fonzi’s parenthetical comment that the timing of Veciana’s language studies coincided with Melton’s training sessions cannot be overemphasized”? As I have shown, the earliest sources, which are just statements by the unreliable Veciana, say the training occurred in “the middle of 1960.” And there is nothing about language courses being a cover for the training just that the training occurred in the same building as the Berlitz school but on a different floor. Finally, Veciana himself now places the training in October 1959 when it could not have occurred (at least with the help of Phillips) and did not occur according to Newman. It seems Newman has fallen into the trap of “cherry picking” what he wants to believe. And he does that because he says he has found the identity of Veciana’s “Joe Melton.”

“Joe Melton”

Newman says Melton is James Joseph O’Mailia Jr., a known CIA agent and language professor, whose cryptonym was AMCRACKLE-1 and whose files pseudonym was Gordon M. Biniaris. Newman goes to great lengths to show how he obtained details about O’Mailia and his research looks reasonable in this regard. But connecting O’Mailia to Joe Melton is more problematic for Newman.

One powerful piece of evidence against O’Mailia being Melton comes from Veciana’s HSCA testimony. Veciana stated, “Melton didn’t know any Spanish and this was one of the main problems that we encountered.” I would think that a professor teaching at Villanueva University in Havana who had obtained his degree in Peru and married a Peruvian woman would be able to speak Spanish.

As mentioned, in his HSCA testimony, Veciana stated that he was trained by “Mr. Melton.” When asked for a first name he said, “I think it was Joe.” However, in TTK, Melton became “Dick Melton” a discrepancy that was not acknowledged or explained by Veciana. Newman tries to brush off the problem by saying that there were numerous differences in Veciana’s stories over the years. But isn’t that the point? The HSCA also questioned David Phillips about knowing a “Melton” in Havana. As he was known to do, Phillips danced around the subject, but did say that Melton, “may have been the name of the man at the Berlitz school.” But Newman admits that a man named Drexel Gibson, rather than Melton, ran the school. However, Newman maintains that, “it is not out of the question that … O’Mailia might have sometimes been addressed by a version of his middle name-Joe.”

The last piece of information connecting O’Mailia to Joe Melton is the most persuasive but falls well short of being ironclad. O’Mailia is a reasonable match with the profile of Melton created by the HSCA and used as a template when attempting to locate him. The profile detailed a white American male living in Havana during the years 1959-61 who was engaged in anti-Castro propaganda as well as clandestine paramilitary and explosives training, psychological warfare and infiltration activities. O’Mailia was certainly a white male living in Havana during the years in question. And Newman says that O’Mailia was engaged in “clandestine paramilitary and explosives activities … infiltration and exfiltration activities … [and] anti-Castro propaganda and psychological warfare activities.” But the key word missing from the profile of O’Mailia that Newman provides is “training.” It seems to me that if O’Mailia were a training specialist, as is implied by Veciana’s story, that this would be a part of the documentary record.

Newman often goes too far, in my opinion. He discusses O’Mailia and Melton early on and later makes statements such as “O’Mailia used the pseudonym Joe Melton” and “[Veciana was] trained in the fall of that year by James Joseph O’Mailia, Jr.” as if these are documented facts. And while he does not come right out and say so, Newman implies that O’Mailia was Veciana’s CIA case officer and refers to him at more than one point as Veciana’s “handler.” Consider the following sentence from the book:

If Phillips was not Veciana’s CIA case officer in Cuba, then who was?

One sentence later, Newman begins his discussion of O’Mailia as Joe Melton and thereby seems to imply that O’Mailia could be that case officer. But as Newman knows, documentation naming Veciana’s CIA case officer already exists. He was Calvin Hicks, who Newman acknowledges “relayed the [December 1961] JMWAVE request [for a POA] to the Counterintelligence Operational Approvals Division.” Newman provides a citation to that document but does not mention that another document has a box which says, “Signature of Case Officer” and in the box is the name Calvin Hicks. [2] Another document provided by Newman states that Veciana’s POA was canceled and is addressed “Attention: Cal Hicks” which is strange if O’Mailia was his case officer. [3] Newman’s problem is that no documentation exists for O’Mailia being Veciana’s case officer, O’Mailia using the pseudonym Joe Melton, or for O’Mailia, or anyone else, having trained Veciana. And Newman conveniently omits any discussion of Hicks as Veciana’s handler even though he discusses Hicks later in the book.

Earlier in the same chapter, Newman makes this observation supporting his theory of O’Mailia as case officer:

I believe whoever Veciana’s case officer was would also have needed the same plausible cover for regular access to the Edeficio LaRampa. Therefore, Fonzi’s linkage of Veciana’s evening language classes to his intelligence training with Mr. Melton—a language professor at Villanueva University—crucially gives us a CIA candidate other than Phillips.

Why would Veciana’s case officer necessarily need “regular access” to the Edeficio LaRampa? Is Newman alleging that all CIA operations involving Veciana originated from that building? Even if Veciana’s story of being trained there is true, why would his case officer necessarily need access to that building rather than just the person who administered the training? And Fonzi’s “linkage” of the language classes to intellegence training comes from Veciana and his subordinate Cao only. Newman’s reporting of O’Mailia as Veciana’s case officer is problematic since those who follow Newman will repeat this “fact” when there is a distinct possibly that it is just another Veciana myth. Perhaps Veciana was never trained since he was ultimately never used by the CIA. Or perhaps no training was necessary for what the CIA hoped Veciana would do for them. Or, if such training were proposed, perhaps Veciana never showed up since, as Newman says later in the book, he hated the CIA and never intended to work for them at all.

Finally, Newman labels Melton as “a language professor at Villanueva University” before even making his case to readers that Melton was O’Mailia (he only begins to do that shortly thereafter). The bottom line is that the possibility that O’Mailia was Melton (if Melton was real) certainly exists. If true, it would not be unusual since we know the CIA did approve Veciana for sabotage operations even though he never acted in that capacity. But Newman’s characterization of O’Mailia/Melton as Veciana’s “handler” or case officer is not warranted and is refuted by documentation that shows his handler was Hicks.

In the case of both “Fabiola” and “Joe Melton” Newman cherry picks evidence to fit his theories. And even though he is one of Veciana’s biggest critics and debunkers, he is willing to believe him when it suits his purposes. There is no hard evidence currently to support the idea of “Joe Melton” as O’Mailia or that the latter trained Veciana. Similarly, even if Delores Cao was Veciana’s secretary in Havana, her statements to Summers must be viewed skeptically since Veciana contacted her prior to her meeting with Summers.

It would be prudent for researchers to stick to the facts as established by the documentary record. And the evidence that David Phillips was Bishop or that Bishop existed at all is very sparse save for Veciana’s ramblings. Ultimately, Newman seems to be setting the stage for a complete denunciation of the “LHO met with David Phillips” story but to blunt the shock on the research community (and confirm his own theories), he will evidently seek to bolster at least some of Veciana’s claims. We will have to wait for the next installment of his series to see where he goes.

In Part Three, I’ll discuss chapter 11 of the book.

Notes

1. Theorists have made much of the fact that Cao remembered the name "Prewett" and "linked the name" to Bishop during an interview with Summers. Virginia Prewett was a columnist for the Washington Daily News specializing in Latin American affairs. Her column was syndicated by the North American Newspaper Alliance which had ties to the OSS and she was undoubtedly sympathetic to right-wing causes. She told Summers she didn't know David Phillips although Phillips told a different interviewer that he knew Prewett. But all of this goes nowhere since Veciana could have coached Cao.
2. "Antonio Carlos Veciana Blanch", RIF 104-10181-10431.
3. "Memorandum for: The File on AMSHALE/1 is Canceled", RIF 104-10181-10412. Another document requesting a POA for Veciana says, "POA req'ed by PM (C. Hicks)" (NARA Record # 1993.07.12.11:46:21:620580).

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Into the Storm Part 1

Since reading his book Trained to Kill (hereafter TTK), I have felt that a complete biography of Antonio Veciana, the Alpha 66 co-founder who claimed to see Lee Harvey Oswald in the company of CIA contract agent David Phillips in 1963, is a much-needed addition to the body of work related to the JFK assassination and the history of the cold war. Although Professor John Newman’s latest work, Into the Storm, discusses the enigmatic Veciana in two chapters, it naturally does not embody such an ambitious project, although Newman promises two future volumes that will discuss Veciana and could lend clarity to his murky life story. While Newman’s book does debunk some myths and represents an important resource that future biographers would want to draw upon, it turns out to be a mixed bag.

Newman is a conspiracy theorist who is in the process of writing a multi-volume series on the JFK assassination and evidently believes that elements within the military hierarchy were responsible for murdering the 35th President. I don’t agree with that verdict, but Newman has reviewed thousands of documents and his work is more reasonable than many of his fellow theorists. Therefore, his research deserves attention but with a clear understanding of where he is coming from. In the process of developing and documenting his “grand thesis” on the JFK case, Newman is willing to abandon kernels of wisdom that were previously considered sacrosanct in the conspiracy community when they are not needed for his theories. A case in point is Veciana’ s alleged recruitment by David Phillips in Cuba, an event that he shows could not have happened as Veciana said it did. However, he falls into the trap of accepting dubious, or at least undocumented, “facts” that help to promote his theories. Part 2 of this series will discuss some of these issues. However, Newman has uncovered a wealth of material and offers documentation for many of his assertions. He does occasionally rely too much on the statements of Veciana, a man who has lied repeatedly for years as he knows and writes about. In my opinion, this weakens some of his conclusions.

This article will be a discussion of Into the Storm solely as it relates to Veciana and all information here is from that book unless otherwise indicated. To cut to the chase, Newman does not discuss the holy grail-the alleged meeting between Phillips/Bishop, Veciana and Oswald. He is saving that for a later volume and will apparently have an in-depth analysis. I’ll start my review with Newman’s well-done analysis of Veciana’s changing story concerning his alleged recruitment by David Phillips in 1959 or 1960, depending on which version you are talking about. Note that some of this material has been covered previously on this blog.

Veciana’s Cuba Recruitment Stories

Newman lists six versions of Veciana’s Cuba recruitment story. They are:

  • 1976-the initial Fonzi interviews [1]
  • June 1976-the Dick Russell interview
  • April 1978-Veciana’s HSCA testimony
  • 1979 through 1993-conversations with Fonzi
  • 2014-AARC conference
  • 2017-TTK

To summarize, from 1976 to 2013, Veciana maintained that he met Bishop in 1960 (usually mid-1960) at a Havana bank where he worked as an accountant. The details vary somewhat, but the story was essentially consistent. It is interesting to note that Veciana did not mention the 1959 recruitment date or state unequivocally (he had previously merely hinted) that Phillips was “Bishop” until after Fonzi’s death in 2012. But beginning with the 2014 AARC conference in Bethesda Maryland, Veciana changed his story. He now claims that the shadowy Bishop was indeed David Phillips. Also, during that presentation, according to Newman, he stated that he had met Bishop at the end of 1959. But by the time of his 2017 book, Veciana had moved the date backward in time even further pinpointing it as “just a few days after Jack Ruby departed Cuba.” Available documents identify this date as September 11, 1959 [2]. Therefore, we are left with two stories of Veciana’s alleged recruitment by Phillips/Bishop-the original story of 1960 and the current version dated 1959. But Newman’s review of the documentary record shows that both are false.

The 1959 Story From TTK

The release of CIA documents in the mid-nineties revealed the true chronology of David Phillips in 1959 to 1960 [3]. Although it is unclear when Veciana became aware of the discrepancies in his story, he ultimately chose to preserve the story with alterations to the timeline rather than abandon it. According to Newman, activities that Veciana alleged Phillips/Bishop undertook in 1959 were, “out of place and out of context” when compared to the known chronology of Phillips. Newman uses the documentary record, which he refers to as “robust” to refute the 1959 recruitment.

As a result of his July 1959 contact with a Cuban cattlemen’s association, a group that was plotting to overthrow Castro, Phillips’ cover became compromised. Indeed, in his book The Night Watch, Phillips called his situation “precarious” and he and his wife decided that he would leave both Cuba and the CIA itself, eventually changing their minds on the latter point.

On August 18, Havana station cabled Washington that Phillips might have been recorded by surreptitious means and that the cattlemen and 3000 others had been “rounded up” by Cuban police. Despite the growing concerns regarding his safety, Phillips was persuaded to go back to Cuba with the instruction to “begin planning for his permanent departure” and he arrived there on August 25th.

An investigation was launched by Havana station on August 31st as a result of events that further compromised Phillips’ and the CIA position. That investigation concluded that Phillips’ security situation was “the major concern at the present time.” The report of that investigation was written on September 15, 1959. This was the same time period that Phillips allegedly began his recruitment of Veciana, a situation that defies all credibility considering his ongoing security problems. According to Veciana, Phillips/Bishop walked into Julio Lobo’s Banco Financiero in mid-September to begin his recruitment of him. But Newman argues that Phillips would not take such a risk at the heavily-surveilled bank. Additionally, Lobo was known to Cuban authorities as a CIA informant who was bankrolling anti-Castro operations and was also under surveillance.

Veciana allegedly met Phillips/Bishop the following day at the famous (and very public) La Floridita restaurant. Again, Newman points out that this is the last place Phillips/Bishop would want to be seen considering his precarious security situation. And as I have noted previously at this blog, Veciana could have lifted the idea of the La Floridita from Phillips’ 1977 book The Night Watch which preceded Veciana’s first indication of the restaurant during his 1978 HSCA testimony.

Phillips/Bishop supposedly informed Veciana that he needed to undergo testing before his CIA mission could begin. Veciana received a call at Lobo’s bank about a week after the initial contact but, as Newman points out, the phones at the bank would have been monitored making such a contact unlikely. “Joe Melton” was waiting at an apartment building near the US embassy to administer the test while Phillips/Bishop causally waited, reading a newspaper.

After another week went by, Phillips/Bishop called again at the bank and allegedly drove Veciana to a ranch style home in Miramar. Here, Veciana was submitted to another test (administered by “John Smith”) in the form of a type of truth serum. Phillips/Bishop then drove Veciana back to the bank. Newman says that the idea of Phillips driving Veciana around Havana given his security situation is “about as likely as a germ at a Lysol convention” and the only thing missing was the “Aston Martin with automatically revolving license plates.”

At about the same time Veciana was allegedly interrogated under truth serum (about September 30th), behind the scenes the CIA was concerned about the use of Phillips in a previously authorized project that involved propaganda operations in the Havana television field. The project, which was to be supervised by Havana station, was given the cryptonym AMOURETTE-X. After extensive internal machinations which included concerns about Phillips’ security situation, an October 12 memo by Counterintelligence OA Chief Thomas Carroll Jr. stated that he was “unable to give further consideration” to Phillips for use in the project. However, at about the same time, Veciana says that Phillips/Bishop was meeting with him for six hours at the Hotel Riviera to discuss the results of his CIA tests.

By November 12, Phillips was finally authorized for project AMOURETTE-X [4]. But according to Newman, Phillips’ usefulness was a thing of the past because of his security situation and he was eventually replaced by Emilio Rodriguez who used the pseudonym Arnaldo Berenguer. Phillips left Cuba permanently in February 1960 according to CIA documents.

John Newman has done a good job of dispensing with Veciana’s Cuba recruitment stories. To sum up, it is apparent that the 1959 Cuba recruitment of Veciana by David Phillips is a mere fantasy. Similarly, Veciana’s mid-1960 recruitment by Phillips was equally impossible since Phillips was not in Cuba at the time and indeed, Newman characterizes the story as “fabricated.” And according to Newman, Veciana’s first chronological appearance in CIA records is not until December 9, 1960, about ten months after Phillips left Cuba. [5]

In Part 2, I’ll discuss “Fabiola” and “Joe Melton”, two subjects where I have problems with Newman’s research.

Notes

[1] A minor mistake made by Newman is when he says that the first interview with Fonzi took place while Veciana was still incarcerated. But that interview took place at Veciana’s home in Miami on March 2, 1976 (Fonzi, 123). Fonzi had originally intended to visit Veciana at the Atlanta Penitentiary, but changed his mind and this might explain the mix-up.

[2] Ruby apparently first returned to the US from Cuba on September 11 and then, for reasons that are unclear, returned to Cuba on the 12th and finally came back to the US on the 13th. (https://www.mafiahistory.us/a001/f_ruby.html).

[3] Newman says that Fabian Escalante was the first to discover the problem with the date Phillips supposedly recruited Veciana in Cuba and therefore moved it to 1959 in his 1995 book The Secret War. Newman diplomatically says he will leave it to “others to ponder” the reason it took researchers so long to catch up to Escalante. But it is obvious that researchers simply wanted to believe Veciana’s assertions as reported in Fonzi’s book and therefore did not question the 1960 time frame.

[4] Critics of Newman, who potentially include conspiracy theorists, might point out some problems with his narrative of the 1959-60 period. For instance, Newman tries to show the difficulty Phillips had in getting approved for the AMOURETTE-X project and implies it was because of Phillips’ ongoing security issues. Those security concerns were a consideration, but Phillips was eventually approved for the project, and critics could say the security issues could not have been as bad as Newman claims. Additionally, Newman makes the case that Phillips was in danger of being imprisoned or even executed because of his association with the Cuban cattlemen (many of whom were arrested) and the loss of operational cover that resulted. But despite this, Phillips went back to Cuba in August 1959 and remained there until February of the following year, again leaving Newman open to criticism on this point.

[5] Theorists have been proven at least partly correct that the 2017 document releases would provide new revelations as some of these were used by Newman in his work debunking Veciana.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Book Review: I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak

Canadian Fred Litwin, a marketing professional who worked nine years for the Intel Corporation, has written a book on the JFK assassination with a catchy title-I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. This concise, entertaining and well written volume will be of interest to conspiracy skeptics and open-minded newcomers to the case. It may even be of interest to long-time conspiracy buffs who actually read it. Litwin previously authored a book called Conservative Confidential: Inside the Fabulous Blue Tent, which is about his journey from anti-nuclear activist to Conservative party campaigner. His JFK book describes an analogous trek from conspiracy believer to “lone nutter.”

Litwin begins by documenting the missteps of the early critics of the Warren Commission. An important point made by Litwin, one that he returns to frequently, is that these early critics (and subsequent generations) often consisted of individuals on the political left. They included Bertrand Russell, Raymond Marcus, Sylvia Meagher, Vincent Salandria, Thomas Buchanan and of course Mark Lane. Litwin notes that “… you weren’t a proper leftist if you didn’t understand the “right-wing” plot to take over America and the huge coverup.” To illustrate the critic’s mindset, Litwin quotes Marcus who thought that If people became aware of the “fraud” of the Warren Report, “they’ll start to demand other answers. Maybe they’ll ask about the Rosenbergs, Hiss, the whole Cold War. Maybe we can get clean and whole. But if this stays down, there’s no hope.” However, while Litwin is critical of conspiracy theorists on the left, he notes that President Trump promoted the discredited story that Ted Cruz’s father was one of the men who handed out pro-Castro leaflets in front of the Trade Mart in New Orleans at the behest of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Litwin begins his coverage of the investigation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison early in the book and later devotes an entire chapter (titled Jim Garrison’s Excellent Homosexual Adventure) to the “Jolly Green Giant.” Garrison’s theories did indeed revolve around homosexuals at first, but as Litwin points out, eventually mushroomed to include “Minutemen, CIA agents, oil millionaires, Dallas policemen, munitions exporters, “the Dallas Establishment,” reactionaries, White Russians and certain elements of the invisible Nazi substructure.” Reading Litwin’s concise chronology of Garrison’s farce reminds one of the myriad absurd aspects of his investigation. These would be laughable except for the fact that the investigation destroyed the life of an innocent man-New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw. Garrison charged Shaw with conspiring to assassinate JFK, but Shaw was properly exonerated. The New York Times called Garrison’s prosecution of Shaw “One of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of modern jurisprudence.” Garrison was ultimately barred from further legal action against Shaw by a court injunction.

Litwin’s uses his personal journey from conspiracist to lone assassin advocate to drive his narrative and begins in this regard with the 1975 airing of the Zapruder film on Geraldo Rivera’s Good Night America. Rivera appeared with Robert Groden, Dick Gregory and Ralph Schoenman. Litwin, and millions of TV viewers, were impressed by the fact that the film showed JFK moving “back and to the left” which seemed to indicate a shot from the grassy knoll. But as Litwin shows, a close analysis of the evidence proves a shot from behind. Litwin goes on to refute claims by Gregory and Schoenman while outlining the extreme leftist views of both men. Litwin also provides some interesting background on Schoenman, who was Bertrand Russell’s personal secretary before they had a falling out.

Speaking of Schoenman, he turns up again in Litwin’s chapter on Oliver Stone and JFK the movie. It seems that Schoenman wrote Garrison in 1971 suggesting that “… we take the offensive. Let’s get out a book, hard and fast, which nails the case against Shaw that we couldn’t get into the courts … let’s put THEM on the defensive by blowing the Shaw case sky high with a muck-raking book that closes in on the company [CIA] even closer.” The eventual result of this strategy was Garrison’s book On the Trail of the Assassins, which was the basis for Stone’s film. Litwin argues that in Stone’s upside-down world, Garrison became the hero and Shaw the villain rather than a victim of an unjust prosecution. He goes on to document elements of the film that are complete fantasy, but which millions of movie fans accepted as fact. Litwin also discusses the homophobic aspects of the film and provides historical context for his analysis.

Returning to Litwin’s personal narrative, following a period of relative inactivity he resumed his JFK research upon seeing Stone’s film in 1991. He subscribed to journals and had his own articles published and even lectured on the subject himself. Two powerful influences for Litwin during this period were the HSCA volumes, which largely agreed with the WC findings, and the writings of noted researcher Paul Hoch. HSCA findings that impressed Litwin included the authentication of the autopsy photos and x-rays, the forensic pathology panel, the photographic panel, the study of “earwitnesses”, the handwriting and fingerprint analysis, the Mannlicher-Carcano firing tests and the firearms panel. Hoch, who Litwin describes as “not your run-of-the-mill conspiracy freak,” wrote in his newsletter “My model is that there were many coverups, probably many independent ones … One possibility-ironically- is that Oswald did it alone but so many people had things to cover up [unrelated to any assassination plot] that the reaction of the government made it look like the assassination resulted from a conspiracy.”

Litwin devotes a chapter to the JFK documentaries from producer Brian McKenna that appeared over the years on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s acclaimed series The Fifth Estate. Litwin carefully documents the abuses of McKenna, which date back to 1977. McKenna revealed his bias toward conspiracy theories during his acceptance speech upon receiving the JFK Lancer Pioneer award in Dallas. McKenna said that a “sophisticated coup plotted by the US military and CIA with support from Hoover’s FBI and Kennedy’s bodyguards” was to blame for the killing. McKenna also fingered the Mafia, HL Hunt and LBJ as conspirators, all perennial conspiracy favorites.

A persistent rallying cry of the conspiracy theorists has been to “release the documents.” As of 2018, approximately 99 percent of the documents have been released, depending on whose tally you use. Litwin shows that withholding documents is something routinely done by governments worldwide although it often makes little sense. He provides several examples of documents that theorists were suspicious of, but ultimately proved to be innocuous. In the same chapter, Litwin presents evidence that the conspiracy theorists may have been influenced by a disinformation campaign run by the Soviet Union designed to promote the “CIA did it” angle. Litwin also shows that conspiracy guru Mark Lane received at least $2000 from the KGB.

Fred Litwin has written an entertaining and informative book that explains why he changed his mind about a JFK conspiracy. The book does not discuss every issue of interest to JFK assassination students (impossible since there are hundreds) over the course of its modest 272 pages. Nor will it change many minds among the current generation of theorists, who are motivated by a naïve view that the world, had Kennedy lived, would have been very different. Under this belief, the Vietnam War, Watergate and any number of other national maladies would have been avoided by the continuation of the Camelot regime, a view that Litwin argues credibly against. These theorists simply choose to ignore the voluminous evidence developed by the Warren Commission and enhanced by the HSCA, or they say it is falsified, planted or otherwise misinterpreted. These same individuals scour the millions of available documents for bits of information that when viewed through the lens of their own bias results in confirmation of whatever pet theory they support. Most of these people will not read Litwin’s book, but they will criticize it. However, those open minded enough to give it a chance will be entertained and, in the process, learn something from a guy who has been there.

For more information see: Conspiracy Freak.com

Thursday, July 26, 2018

John Newman on Veciana

Professor John Newman, author of Oswald and the CIA and several other conspiracy-oriented books, has now joined the ranks of researchers who are skeptical of at least some elements of the Maurice Bishop/David Phillips story as told by Antonio Veciana. Newman has given presentations at the JFK Lancer conference in November 2017 and at a March 2018 meeting of prominent researchers in San Francisco. Newman’s presentation, which he calls Fiction is Stranger than Truth: Antonio Veciana and David Phillips - Cuba 1959 – 1961, analyzes two scenarios regarding Veciana’s alleged initial meeting with Bishop. The presentation serves as preview of two or more chapters from his forthcoming book, which will detail the relationship between Veciana and the shadowy Bishop. All information in this article was obtained from a video of Newman’s San Francisco presentation.

I have always thought that if someone would take the time to do a chronology of events using the newly released documents and previously available information that it would be a simple matter to prove whether Phillips could be Bishop. Newman, who is an expert on finding and analyzing documents, has done just that, at least in this specific and key area of the story. From 1976 to 2014, Veciana maintained that he met Bishop in 1960 (when specifics were provided it was mid-1960) at a Havana bank where he worked as an accountant. But beginning with the 2014 AARC conference in Bethesda Maryland, Veciana changed his story. During that presentation he stated that he had met Bishop at the end of 1959 and by the time of his 2017 book Trained to Kill (TTK), he had moved the date backward in time even further pinpointing it as “just a few days after Jack Ruby departed Cuba.” Newly released documents identify this date as September 11, 1959 according to Newman. With these facts in mind, let’s look at Newman’s analysis of the original 1960 scenario as well as the recent 1959 claim.

First, Newman says that the mid-1960 time frame for the Veciana/Bishop/Phillips encounter is an “impossibility” because Phillips had left Cuba in “early February 1960” and “never set foot” on the island again. Newman criticizes conspiracy-leaning researchers and writers for not recognizing and reporting on this “verifiable fact”, noting that as late as 2013 conspiracy books had still not recognized the problem even though Fabian Escalante pointed it out as early as 1995. But by 2014, whoever was working with Veciana on TTK had recognized the situation and moved the date back to 1959. Having dispensed with the 1960 scenario, Newman proceeds to look at 1959.

By August 1959, Phillips’ cover in Cuba had become “gossamer thin” due to a complex series of events which I won’t repeat here for the sake of brevity. Suffice it to say that by the end of August, according to an internal security review by the CIA, Phillips’ cover had been compromised. By mid-September 1959, Phillips’ ongoing security problem in Cuba was the number one concern of the Havana station according to Newman. Therefore, Veciana’s claim of meeting Bishop/Phillips in mid-September must be weighed against the backdrop of Phillips’ security nightmare. It is extremely implausible that Phillips would engage in the recruitment of an anti-Castro operative in the middle of all this as Veciana now claims. Additionally, it is just as unlikely that Phillips would risk visiting Julio Lobo’s bank in Havana since Lobo was one of the most surveilled individuals in Cuba at the time according to Newman.

There are other problems with Veciana’s 1959 scenario as well. Again, considering Phillips’ security situation, it is unlikely that he would meet Veciana at the La Floridita restaurant in bustling Havana. Also, Veciana maintained in TTK that after the completion of the alleged CIA training sessions, he and Bishop/Phillips communicated entirely by letters written in invisible ink. But this fact contradicts all his previous accounts in which he communicated with Bishop by phone, either directly or through an intermediary. Finally, as a general criticism, Newman points to Veciana’s 2014 AARC statement that he protected the identity of Phillips as Bishop out of “loyalty and appreciation” and says “it is odd” that Veciana did this even though he suspected Bishop/Phillips of setting up his drug conviction.

Newman believes that Veciana has lied to researchers. Either Phillips was not Bishop, or he was Bishop (as Newman apparently still believes) but the story of how and when they met is a pure fantasy presented for reasons that are unclear. Newman states that “this sort of deception necessarily raises questions about the alleged Bishop/Oswald meeting in 1963.” I would go beyond that and say that it raises the question of whether Veciana can be believed at all.

Newman apparently believes that Phillips may have known and worked with Veciana in the early seventies on a Castro assassination plot in South America. He also believes that Veciana’s motive for going public with the Bishop allegations was his belief that Bishop had set him up to be arrested and eventually convicted of drug smuggling in 1972. Researchers will have to wait for Newman’s book to see his full interpretation of Veciana/Bishop/Phillips during the 1959-1961 timeframe and look at his source material. In any case, Newman has formulated a powerful argument that it would not have been possible for Phillips to be the Bishop portrayed by Veciana in Cuba in either the 1959 or 1960 scenarios.

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