Sunday, May 14, 2017

Veciana and the AARC Conference

In September 2014, Antonio Veciana appeared at the Assassination Archives and Research Center’s (AARC) Bethesda, Maryland conference. While Jefferson Morley has called Veciana’s turn there a “once in a lifetime experience,” most of his rhetoric could be characterized as either regurgitations of his well-known Maurice Bishop story or CIA-killed-JFK assertions that could have been lifted straight from conspiracy literature. However, the evolution of Veciana’s story that has taken place since he first related it to Church Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi in 1976 was clearly on display. For more than an hour, Veciana talked about his alleged experiences with Maurice Bishop who he now says was CIA man David Atlee Phillips.

Probably the most dubious claim made by Veciana at the conference is one that is missing from all early accounts of his story. Veciana through his interpreter, Fernand Amandi, declared “… prior to the assassination, Phillips asks Mr. Veciana directly … if one were to go to the Cuban embassy in Mexico, would one be able to get a visa to travel to [Cuba], to which the response was absolutely no.” Veciana went on to explain that from personal experience he knew it would take four to six weeks to obtain a visa. Armed with this information, Phillips could send Lee Harvey Oswald to Mexico City and “… use that foreknowledge as a pretext … through which he can stage a very public and clear event … that resulted in the Mexico City incident.”

At least one questioner seemed doubtful of this new story and asked Veciana “I don’t know if I understood this correctly, did Mr. Veciana say that David Atlee Phillips imagined and organized the entire Mexico City scenario?” Veciana initially changed the subject but after a rambling monologue, held his ground and confirmed the statement. What is unclear is why Phillips, who in addition to his obvious access to US government resources had lived in Cuba and undoubtedly had extensive contacts there, would need to ask Veciana for this type of information. It is also unclear why Veciana never revealed this scenario to Fonzi and the HSCA who would certainly have been interested in it.

Veciana’s retellings of the Guillermo Ruiz story have remained more or less consistent until recent years. As first voiced publicly by Fonzi in HSCA volume X, Bishop told Veciana that if he could get in touch with Ruiz, who was the cousin of Veciana’s wife, that he would pay Ruiz a large amount of money to say publicly that he and his wife had met with LHO. However, Veciana expanded on the story before the conspiracy-oriented AARC audience. Veciana now claimed that rather than simply asking Ruiz and his wife to say they had met with LHO, Bishop wanted Ruiz to “publicly declare that Oswald came to the Cuban consulate to discuss with members of the Cuban security forces at the consulate plans to assassinate John F. Kennedy.”

This new claim is missing even from Veciana’s book, although he has Bishop asking, “what it would take for him [Ruiz] to tell us about Cuba’s involvement in Kennedy’s death.” The book also contradicts Fonzi’s HSCA writeup by saying that rather than being a person who was “tempted with money” Ruiz was a “communist” who wouldn’t “accept any payment.”

Questioner Malcolm Blunt brought up an important point and that is the fact that the available documentation points to a Veciana relationship with Army Intelligence rather than the CIA. Blunt alleged that Veciana had a “working crypt” which was DUP-748 and this fact indicated he was working for the “nine hundred and second military group.” Veciana responded by saying “at one point he had been approached by Army Intelligence for some activities that he was involved in the [Florida] Keys and the Caribbean.”

Veciana continued “there was a gentleman by the name of Patrick Harris from Army Intelligence that approached him in Puerto Rico.” After sending Harris to a base in the Bahamas as he had requested, Veciana had no further contact with him and maintained that was his only experience with Army Intelligence. But all this information is publicly available and did not answer Blunt’s original concern that the weight of the documentation favors a Veciana-Army Intelligence connection rather than any CIA affiliation. Blunt also made the excellent point that it is doubtful Veciana could have worked for the CIA and Army Intelligence simultaneously, which would have been the case according to Veciana’s own timeline.

Veciana said that he knew Phillips was Bishop the moment he saw his photo at the Miami Public Library but remained silent because he lives by a code of “loyalty and appreciation.” But Fonzi’s book tells a different story. Fonzi, who was present when Veciana saw the photo of Phillips in People magazine, said he looked for a reaction from Veciana and “there was none.” Fonzi also watched Phillips when he first met Veciana at the AFIO CIA luncheon for any hint of recognition and again came up empty. Phillips, who Veciana says had been a hero to him, “collapsed as an icon before his very eyes” at the Reston luncheon “because of the way he conducted himself.” What exactly Phillips did to elicit this alleged reaction from Veciana is unclear.

It should be noted that Veciana continued to conceal Phillips’ identity for many years even though he believed from “all of the conversations … [with Phillips he] formed little puzzle pieces … [which] he puts together and leaves him with no doubt that Phillips was at the center of the assassination planning …” Veciana characterized the CIA killing of JFK as “reprehensible” and believed he was going to be arrested as a conspirator on the night of the assassination. But apparently, Veciana wants us to think that since Phillips had empowered him to become “an important person who was playing an important role in the future of Cuba” that this fact coupled with his “loyalty and admiration” for Phillips trumped any concern he might have had over his involvement in a CIA conspiracy to kill JFK.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Maurice Bishop Story

In March of 1976, Senate investigator Gaeton Fonzi interviewed Alpha 66 founder Antonio Veciana who told a story of a shadowy figure named Maurice Bishop. Veciana said that Bishop had masterminded and directed his anti-Castro activities over the course of 13 years from 1960 to 1973. Fonzi, who was the primary investigator for the HSCA in this area, wrote the committee's report on the matter and later authored an infamous article in the Washingtonian magazine that expanded Veciana's allegations. Fonzi went on to publish a book, The Last Investigation, that promoted Veciana's story and Fonzi's own CIA-killed-JFK theories. Fonzi also popularized the notion that Bishop was really career CIA man David Atlee Phillips.

However, for over 30 years, in sworn congressional testimony and numerous media interviews, Veciana denied that Bishop was Phillips. Then, On November 22, 2013, the 85-year-old Veciana issued a statement through Fonzi’s widow Marie reversing himself and maintaining that Bishop was indeed Phillips. Despite the fact that the evidence for Phillips as Bishop is purely circumstantial, most conspiracy supporters have accepted Veciana's story and recent reversal and now believe he is telling the truth. However, my investigation of source materials including Fonzi's notes from his initial interviews with Veciana shows that the story underwent an evolution from 1976 until the present. This page is a summary of my work in this matter.

These articles show that Fonzi was not an objective investigator by the time of his interviews with Veciana. Using primary sources (scroll to bottom), I demonstrate that Fonzi shaped facts to fit his own CIA-did-it theory of the JFK assassination.

Gaeton Fonzi and the Veciana Allegations

Gaeton Fonzi and the Veciana Allegations 2

My review of Veciana's book points out numerous discrepancies and "facts" omitted from earlier versions of the Bishop story.

Trained to Kill

In 2014, a witness came forward to "confirm" Veciana's story. But are his allegations believable?

Wynne Johnson

A podcast by JFK Facts Editor Jefferson Morley got me thinking about the uncritical treatment the conspiracy community has given the allegations of Veciana through the years.

Another Slobbering Love Affair

In 2014, Veciana appeared at the AARC conference in Bethesda, Maryland. The highlight was Veciana's new claim that David Atlee Phillips imagined and organized the entire Mexico City scenario.

Veciana and the AARC Conference

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gaeton Fonzi and the Veciana Allegations: Part 2

This article continues a skeptical look at Gaeton Fonzi’s telling of the Veciana story. The allegations in italics are from HSCA volume X.

Allegation: The staff investigator told Veciana that he was interested in the relationships between U.S. Government agencies and Cuban exile groups; he did not specifically mention an interest in the Kennedy assassination.

One point frequently mentioned by Fonzi supporters is that he did not mention the JFK assassination to Veciana when he arrived for the interview and this fact indicates that Veciana spontaneously broached the subject. But it wouldn’t have been difficult for Veciana to figure out that anyone investigating the relationship between the American government and Cuban exiles might also be interested in the JFK assassination. And the subject was certainly on his mind since he told Fonzi he had just finished reading a Saturday Evening Post article by Paul Hoch and George O’Toole. [1] That piece discussed the assassination and speculated that Veciana may have been one of the Cubans to visit Sylvia Odio. [2]

Allegation: Bishop then invited Veciana to lunch and during that and subsequent lunches convinced Veciana to work against the Castro government.

In his 1978 testimony before the HSCA, Veciana said that Bishop had taken him to the Floridita restaurant, an exclusive haunt of Hemingway. This is the earliest known documentation of the Floridita claim and it is not mentioned in the 1976 Fonzi interviews. But Veciana, who by 1978 was under the sway of Fonzi’s CIA-David Phillips theories, could have taken this detail from Phillips’ 1977 book The Night Watch.

Allegation: Before the American Embassy in Cuba was closed in January 1961, Bishop suggested to Veciana that he go there and contact certain officials for help in his anti-Castro activity. Veciana said the names suggested by Bishop were "Smith." "Sam Kail," and a CIA employee. Said Veciana: "Maurice Bishop suggested the names of these individuals because we needed specific weapons to carry out the jobs and he told me that these were the people that could help me."

The subject of the embassy contacts provides a clear indication that Veciana was coached by Fonzi. In the March 11 interview, Veciana identified not “Smith” but specifically “Ewing Smith” as an embassy contact. [3] In the March 16 interview, Veciana said he met with Ewing Smith “four or five times.” [4] However, in his HSCA testimony, Veciana said the embassy contact was “Smith” dropping the first name “Ewing” as Fonzi did in the HSCA writeup. The truth is, the HSCA was never able to locate a “Ewing Smith” [5] at the embassy and this apparently resulted in the story being reshaped. In his book, Fonzi disingenuously says that Veciana told him that “Smith” was Wayne Smith who he says was a State Department officer when Veciana was there. But Fonzi interviewed Smith who apparently did not confirm Veciana’s claim of contacting him. [6] However, Fonzi found an alternate use for Smith in the book since he had been in a theater group with perpetual villain David Phillips and knew David Morales, another popular conspiracy suspect.

In the March 11 interview, Veciana indeed mentioned Sam Kail who he identified as a military man. [7] However, Kail was interviewed by the HSCA and did not remember Veciana nor did he know anything about a Maurice Bishop. [8] It would have been easy for Veciana to learn of Kail through his various contacts and Kail could not rule out that he had met Veciana saying “all the attaches had a constant stream of people through our offices.” [9] In any case, even Veciana admitted that Kail never helped him [10] so even if Kail met Veciana and simply forgot about it, the allegation comes to nothing. The “CIA employee” Veciana mentioned was apparently Joe D’Acosta but he was another dead end for Fonzi. There is no mention of Kail or D’Acosta in Veciana’s book and the only “Smith” is a CIA man that allegedly questions him after administering a form of truth serum through a pill. [11] In the end, Veciana’s implication that the embassy people assisted him in his anti-Castro efforts is totally unsupported.

Allegation: At one of their early meetings in Havana, Veciana noticed a Belgian passport which Bishop had in his open briefcase. Examining it when Bishop left the room briefly, Veciana made a quick note of it on a scrap of paper. Veciana kept that scrap of paper and showed it to Senator Schweiker's investigator. The name on the paper was "Frigault."

In the March 2 interview [12], Veciana said that every time he and Bishop went to South America they “used to change their names.” Two of the names Veciana said he personally used were “Victor Fernandez” and “Victor Orcarlos.” The margins of the document contain handwritten notes presumably made by Fonzi. One such note asks an important question “so the guy [Bishop] prob. used other names [at] other times?” These fake names allegedly used by Veciana and Bishop are notably absent from both Fonzi’s and Veciana’s books.

Fonzi’s interest in this topic set the stage for the “Frigault” revelation. During the March 16 interview, Fonzi followed up and asked Veciana if he remembered the names Bishop used when traveling in Latin America. Veciana, who revealed precious few details in these early interviews, predictably couldn’t remember the names. However, he said he once saw a passport with a name other than Bishop which he wrote down on a scrap of newspaper. Veciana told Fonzi he would look through “two suitcases full of reports and papers” to see if he could find the name. He later allegedly produced a scrap of paper with the name “Frigault.” This, of course, proves nothing since Veciana could have written the name contemporaneously to appease Fonzi.

In fact, Veciana’s HSCA testimony does little to clarify the matter. Under questioning, Veciana initially could not recall telling Fonzi that he had written down the name nor could he remember what the name was. Only after he was prompted by the HSCA counsel was Veciana able to remember the name which seems rather odd. Veciana stated “What I do recall is that on one occasion I put down the name that he used but I don’t know if I saw it on the passport or not. I wrote it on a piece of old newspaper and I gave it to Mr. Fonzi.” [13] Veciana’s testimony contradicts what he told Fonzi and leaves open the idea that he wrote down the name in 1976 rather than during his alleged experiences with Bishop in the sixties. To my knowledge, the scrap of newspaper with the name “Frigault” was never entered into evidence.

In the March 11 interview, Veciana again mentioned Bishop using a false name. In the March 16 interview, Veciana said it was easy for him to get fake passports when needed and that Bishop did not provide him with these. An HSCA outside contact report of August 30, 1978 stated that Veciana claimed as a Cuban alien he traveled on “reentry permits” rather than a passport. [14] Even Fonzi, who was again the interviewer, seemed dubious of this claim and noted in the report that Veciana “previously said he sometimes traveled with false documents.” There is no mention of “Frigault” in Veciana’s book or any other false names used by Bishop.

Allegation: … shortly after reestablishing contact with him in Miami, Bishop took Veciana to an office in the Pan American Bank Building in the downtown section of the city. Veciana did not recall the exact floor of the building nor if there was any name on the office door. Bishop unlocked the office with a key and, in the presence of two men who were in the office, asked him to sign a piece of paper and take part in a "commitment" ceremony. "It was like a pledge of my loyalty, a secret pledge," Veciana testified. "I think they wanted to impress on me my responsibility and my commitment to the cause."

One detail that Fonzi left out of his HSCA writeup was that Veciana also testified that the ceremony was similar to a “Knights of Columbus” ceremony as he had belonged to that group. Why the CIA or any government agency would have Veciana submit to this type of ceremony is never explained and the “Knights of Columbus” allusion is omitted from Veciana’s book.

Allegation: On July 26, 1973, Bishop arranged for Veciana to meet with him in the parking lot of the Flagler Dog Track in Miami. When Veciana arrived, Bishop was waiting for him with two younger men in an automobile. At that time, Bishop gave Veciana a suitcase which, Veciana later ascertained, contained $253,000 in cash. Since, at the beginning of their relationship, Veciana had refused Bishop's offer to pay him for his work with him, the lump sum payment was meant as compensation for his efforts over the years.

Veciana’s March 2 telling of the breakup with Bishop differs significantly from all later versions of the story. Notably, Veciana said that it was he who broke off the relationship with Bishop, not the other way around. Veciana “thought the American guy was going to supply him with all these services, pay all these services, and the thing is, the American guy came to him and asked him for a lot of money, a big amount of money.” This major difference in the story could be attributed to a miscommunication or something else.

By the next interview on March 11, Veciana had completely reversed himself and stated that Bishop “never never” asked him for money. He related the now familiar story that Bishop broke up their relationship and paid him $253,000 on Thursday, July 26, 1973, a date that has not varied in Veciana’s numerous retellings. The payoff took place at the dog track (Fonzi had “Flagler?” in parenthesis) and Bishop was accompanied by two young men aged 25 to 30 who Veciana believed served as bodyguards.

In the 1976 Dick Russell interview, Veciana unequivocally stated that he received the money from Bishop two days after his arrest which was on July 24, 1973. This alleged payoff was proof in his mind that the government had set him up. [15] In his book, in what he refers to as a case of “transcendental irony”, Veciana again says that Bishop gave him the money on July 26, 1973 which he now maintains is the same day he was released from prison. In early manuscripts, Fonzi agrees with the date given by Veciana. [16] But in the latest version of Fonzi’s book, the date given is July 26, 1972. [17] Apparently, Fonzi recognized the incongruity of Bishop paying Veciana on the same day he was released on bail and changed the date to a more plausible one. Another explanation is that Fonzi became aware of information that showed Veciana was still incarcerated on July 26, 1973 and could not have received the payoff on that date.

Allegation: Early in their relationship in Miami, Bishop asked Veciana to monitor the activities of an anti-Castro operation called "Cellula Fantasma." Veciana said he attended a few meetings of the group and described the operation as a leaflet-dropping mission over Cuba which involved known soldier-of-fortune Frank Fiorini Sturgis. Veciana said he did not know why Bishop would have been interested in the operation, but the committee reviewed files which confirmed the existence and mission of the group, and the involvement of Frank Fiorini Sturgis at the time.

In Fonzi’s book, this anecdote had evolved to include the “fact” that the CIA had funded the leaflet dropping operation to the tune of $300,000. But in the March 2 interview, Veciana, while indeed stating the operation cost $300,000, also said that Cellula Fantasma was “a secret group” which was “not CIA ...” Despite this, in his HSCA testimony, Veciana stated that the operation was CIA funded, perhaps a subtle distinction or something else. Veciana said in the March 2 interview that Bishop asked him to “infiltrate” the group for some unknown purpose. In that interview, Veciana admitted that Bishop had no contact with Fiorini-Sturgis and made the incongruous statement that two American pilots were killed during the operation, a fact that Fonzi never mentioned in either his book or HSCA volume X. Fonzi claimed to have documents proving the existence of the leafleting operation, but it is unknown if they were ever released. Oddly, Cellula Fantasma is not mentioned at all in Veciana’s book.

Notes

[1] Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know About the Assassination of JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition p. 126.
[2] George O’Toole and Paul Hoch, “Dallas: The Cuban Connection,” Saturday Evening Post, March 1976.
[3] Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 11, 1976. RIF 157-10007-10311.
[4] Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 16, 1976. RIF 157-10004-10158.
[5] Interview of Samuel G. Kail, RIF 180-10072-10179.
[6] Fonzi, 447.
[7] March 11 interview, op. cit.
[8] HSCA Volume X, p. 43.
[9] Kail Interview op. cit.
[10] HSCA Testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 25, 1978.
[11] Veciana Antonio and Harrison, Carlos. Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots against Castro, Kennedy and Che. Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition, Chapter 4.
[12] Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 2, 1976. RIF 157-10004-10158. RIF 157-10007-10208.
[13] HSCA Testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 26, 1978.
[14] HSCA Outside Contact Report by Fonzi and McDonald. August 30, 1978. RIF 180-10078-10163.
[15] Russell, Dick. On the Trail of the JFK Assassins: A Groundbreaking Look at America’s Most Infamous Conspiracy. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008. Kindle Edition p. 150.
[16] Gaeton Fonzi, “The Last Investigation,” draft of “Who Killed JFK.”
[17] Fonzi, 447.

Sources

Veciana Documents

Veciana Documents Table of Contents

Page

Item

3

Interview of Professor Rufo Lopez-Fresquet (incomplete)

7

Interview of Ross Crozier

21

Memo on Interview of Colonel Sam Kail

30

Antonio Veciana Outside Contact Report 8-30-78

34

Outside Contact Report Jose Veciana

37

Memo from Fonzi to Dave Marston 3-3-76

40

Memo from Fonzi to Dave Marston 3-4-76

43

DOS Cable Regarding Veciana and AID Employment

50

DOD Files on Veciana

64

Fonzi Interview of Veciana 5-10-76

68

Memo from Fonzi to Troy Gustavson

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Another Slobbering Love Affair

A podcast by JFK Facts Editor Jefferson Morley got me thinking about the uncritical treatment the conspiracy community has given the allegations of former Alpha 66 member Antonio Veciana through the years. Several statements made by Morley in that podcast are indicative of the problem.

“Veciana is a man who spent at least a decade, maybe more, in the pay of the CIA.”

“He definitely had this relationship with the CIA over the course of the decade, he definitely had a relationship with David Phillips …”

“…the independent declassified CIA records that we have about Veciana confirm his story, he’s not making this up, there’s independent verification of it.”

… I shared an extraordinary experience, for me almost certainly once in a lifetime experience of being in the room with Mr. Veciana when he participated in the Assassination Archive and Research Center’s
big conference … back in 2014.

“… his [Veciana’s] story never changed …”

Morley is far from alone in his praise for Veciana and his book. Salon’s David Talbot calls the book “one of the most important historical documents to have emerged in the U.S. in the past decade.” Fernand R. Amandi, an instructor at the Miami College of Arts and Sciences, calls Veciana “one of history’s most important individuals.”

After pondering the acclaim heaped on Veciana, I posted a comment at JFK Facts asking the following question:

“Perhaps you could direct me to the CIA documents that confirm Veciana’s story that he was a CIA asset and provide “independent verification?”

Morley responded with links to three documents at the Mary Ferrell website. But none of these documents prove that Veciana was a CIA asset, although they do suggest the agency had an interest in him. One document is just a summary of Veciana’s 201 personality file, which the agency keeps on individuals they have an interest in. Since Veciana was a founding member of the anti-Castro Alpha 66, he would be such a person of interest.

A second document offered by Morley is one he thinks supports Veciana’s allegation that Bishop wanted him to contact his cousin’s husband, Guillermo Ruiz, and say that he and his wife had met with Oswald. Apparently, the key for Morley is that the document says Veciana had reported similar information in 1964 which is the approximate timeframe that Veciana claimed he spoke to Bishop regarding Ruiz. But the document says only that Veciana thought Ruiz was “susceptible to recruitment” by the CIA with no mention of a plot to bribe Ruiz to say that he had met Oswald. And when the information Veciana provided was first followed up on in 1964, he complained to the Cuban Affairs Office. The document concludes was that Veciana’s report might have been “without foundation.” To be fair, the story about Ruiz is one of the more consistent allegations made by Veciana and is mentioned in Fonzi’s 1976 interview notes.

A third document provided by Morley probably comes the closest to showing some type of operational CIA interest. The document appears to be an approval for Veciana to be used in sabotage operations by the MRP, a group that he is known to have worked with. But the project listed is JMATE which is the Bay of Pigs invasion. Veciana has stated that he was not involved with that operation so the context for this document is unclear and it is far from a smoking gun.

Morley thinks the fact that Veciana had a CIA cryptonym is suggestive of an agency relationship. As Morley knows, a cryptonym is merely a sort of codename that refers to an individual or group within CIA documents. The cryptonym for Veciana was canceled by 1968 if not sooner, as one of the documents Morley provided shows. This is not consistent with a relationship continuing through 1973 as Veciana maintains was the case. Finally, despite Morley’s claim in the podcast, Veciana’s story has changed significantly and continues to do so as my research on this blog shows.

Considering all the statements made by Morley in the podcast, perhaps my question should have been more comprehensive. I could have asked, “What documents provide proof that Veciana was employed by the CIA as an asset who was handled by David Philips and that Phillips also handled Lee Harvey Oswald?” The answer to that question, of course, is that there are no such documents. The evidence shows CIA agents spoke to Veciana on three occasions and offered no encouragement, probably because Veciana was perceived as a loose cannon that the agency preferred not to deal with. There is better evidence that Veciana worked with Army Intelligence as opposed to the CIA, but this angle is rarely perused by theorists since the desired connection to Phillips in this scenario is missing.

I believe the case for Veciana in 2017 is being severely overstated. Since many of the allegations he is making in the book are nowhere to be found in earlier versions of his story, I believe a more skeptical look is clearly in order. And as a well-known journalist whose work I have enjoyed, I think Morley should certainly be more doubtful of Veciana’s claims than he seems to be. As a former writer for the Washington Post and as a person whose opinion carries considerable weight, I am admittedly holding him to a higher standard than the various individuals that post on JFK forums.

Morley first represented himself to the JFK community as someone who was willing to accept the lone gunman scenario but merely wanted to see all the available documents before doing so. Author Vincent Bugliosi, who had a debate of sorts with Morley via an old-school exchange of letters, said in Morley’s defense that he was not a conspiracy theorist. However, since Bugliosi’s death, Morley has moved closer to the conspiracy point of view as his indiscriminating support of Veciana shows. The explanation for this shift may be related to the fact that Morley has written extensively on prominent assassination-related figures from a mostly conspiratorial perspective. This includes books about Winston Scott and James Angleton and an extensive series of articles on CIA agent George Joannides, who Morley considers a potentially important assassination figure. And let’s be honest, the potential market for a book that shows, for example, James Angleton to be a patriot performing a difficult but necessary task is all but nil.

When I first started studying the Veciana case, I was only aware of the general story as presented in Fonzi’s HSCA writeup. After looking at Fonzi’s book, I noticed some differences between the book and the report and sensed an evolution of the story might have occurred. I decided the best way to get to the truth was to go back to the original documents which I had to order from the National Archives. When the March 2 Fonzi interview notes arrived, I knew I was on to something.

It seems to me that Morley and other people who are now praising Veciana have not taken the time to study these primary sources, or if they did, they have ignored the truth about what they show. I won’t repeat my findings here, but to summarize, in this article, I criticize Fonzi for lack of objectivity and provide the interview notes. In this piece, I show the myriad differences between the original story as presented in the Fonzi notes and Veciana’s testimony and the story as it is now told in Trained to Kill.

To be fair, not all conspiracy-minded writers are completely in the Veciana camp. Carmine Savastano has written an article titled “Regarding Maurice Bishop” that takes a skeptical view of the story. And former HSCA researcher Dan Hardway expresses doubt about some of Veciana’s statements in a well written and detailed piece on his blog.

How should the Veciana case be responsibly characterized today? There is circumstantial evidence that supports the Phillips as Bishop scenario. For example, Veciana thought that Bishop was from Texas and this fact is confirmed by the March 11 interview notes. However, part of the reason Veciana suspected that Bishop hailed from there was the alleged frequency of meetings in Dallas. Of course, it is a fact that Phillips was a native Texan but he no longer lived in the lone star state.

Additionally, Phillips was in Cuba in 1960 when Veciana allegedly met Bishop per most versions of the story. And some people think that at least one photograph of Phillips resembled the sketch of Bishop prepared with Veciana’s assistance. But judging a sketch such as this is a subjective exercise. For example, Colonel Sam Kail thought the sketch looked like Paul Bethel, a friend of Phillips’, while others said it looked like Oswald mentor George de Mohrenschildt.

Absent any revelatory October 2017 documentation, the following list represents the known facts regarding the Veciana-Maurice Bishop affair.

· Veciana claims he was directed in his anti-Castro activities by a man named Maurice Bishop.

· The HSCA and subsequent researchers have found no other persons who could confirm the existence of Bishop save for Wynne Johnson and Judyth Baker who appear to be inserting themselves into the assassination story and provide no documentation for their claims.

· There is circumstantial evidence that indicates David Atlee Phillips could have been Bishop if such a person existed. However, there is no documentation that proves this and the circumstantial evidence mostly comes from Veciana.

· There is no documentary or any other evidence (save for Johnson and Baker) that proves Lee Harvey Oswald met with a CIA agent in Dallas in 1963 whether that agent was David Phillips or someone else. If this alleged meeting did not involve Oswald, the Veciana story fizzles.

· There is no documentation that proves Veciana was an CIA asset or agent, although the agency had an interest in his activities.

· Veciana’s story has undergone a demonstrable evolution since 1976 and many of the claims in his book are dubious.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trained to Kill

In the Forward to Antonio Veciana’s book Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy and Che, David Talbot writes that the mantra of lone assassin theorists which states, “someone would have talked” is put to rest by Veciana’s memoir. Veciana is certainly talking, but the problem is the things he is saying now are not the same as what he was saying in the beginning. As I explain here, Veciana’s March 1976 interviews with Gaeton Fonzi as well as his HSCA testimony are often vastly different than the story that is told today. That evolution continues with the release of his book.

After a short perusal, I stopped reading long enough to check for a disclaimer advising that a form of literary license had been employed. I found none. Veciana’s tale now includes suicide pills, disappearing ink, lie detector tests, truth serum and other clich├ęs that are notably absent from earlier versions of the story. He now says that he lied about Phillips being Bishop at least partly because of his CIA secrecy oath which he apparently believes was administered at a one of a kind mafia-style ceremony. The following list of questions for Veciana will be forwarded to his publisher for comment. This will be an ongoing project as the discrepancies in this latest version are numerous.

· You testified under oath before the US Congress that David Phillips was not Maurice Bishop. For over thirty years you continued to deny that Phillips was Bishop. Despite the fact that you were given immunity and assured that you were released from any CIA secrecy oath you may have taken, why did you lie about Phillips being Bishop in your HSCA testimony and why should we believe you now?

· You admit that when Phillips died in 1988 you could have gone public with your story since “the danger, or most of it, I think, died with him” yet you didn’t. And you continued to insist Phillips was not Bishop for the next 25 years. You now claim this was because you didn’t want to appear like you were “dancing on his grave.” Since you want us to think Bishop and the CIA may have been behind the 1979 attempt on your life, is this scenario really believable?

· In all versions of the story you say Bishop’s first name was Maurice. Yet documents reveal that government investigators asked the CIA to search for “Morris," "Jim” and “John” Bishop as well. This was probably a result of what you told the Church Committee when you testified in 1976. Isn’t it true that you were originally uncertain about Bishop’s first name and settling on “Maurice” was just a way to add legitimacy to your allegations?

· Why do you now say you met Bishop in 1959, when in all other versions of your story you say the date was mid-1960?

· In your book in an attempt to add legitimacy to your story, you state that you met Bishop at the Floridita restaurant in Havana, the same place mentioned by David Phillips in his book as a favorite. But what is your evidence that you made this statement before Phillips published his book in 1977? According to my research, the first appearance of this claim is your 1978 HSCA testimony.

· Why do you now say Bishop spoke Spanish with an American accent when you originally said it was an Argentinian accent?

· You say that at the initial meeting with Bishop he provided a “detailed account” of your life story implying his CIA involvement and when you asked him where he got this information he merely smiled. Since this anecdote is absent from other accounts of your experiences with Bishop, isn’t this just a newly invented way to make people believe Bishop was CIA and add legitimacy to your allegation that he was Phillips?

· Why did you say in the book that during the first meeting with Bishop he stated that he was working “on behalf of a US intelligence agency,” yet in your initial interview with Fonzi in 1976 and in your 1978 HSCA testimony, you stated you believed Bishop was “working for a private organization, not the government?”

· Why would a CIA man such as Bishop, who was presumably interested in remaining incognito, travel around in a large black sedan complete with a driver?

· In most accounts of your story, the man who allegedly conducted your CIA training is referred to simply as “Melton.” However, in your HSCA testimony, when asked Melton’s first name you stated, “I think it was Joe.” Yet in your book you say he was “Dick Melton.” How did you come to this conclusion?

· In your HSCA testimony, you said that Melton didn’t speak “any” Spanish, but in the book you say he “spoke a lot of Spanish but he wasn’t fluent.” Why the discrepancy?

· You now say that you were given a lie detector test by Melton which was “straight from the CIA’s own manual on interrogation techniques.” Isn’t this story, which is absent from other accounts of your experiences, just another poorly disguised way to try and connect yourself to the CIA?

· You now say you were given a sort of truth serum by a CIA man named “Smith” who is a newcomer to your story. Isn’t this allegation, which is again missing from other accounts of your experiences, just a fabrication?

· You state that Bishop gave you a pill with which to commit suicide in case you were captured and that you communicated with him by letters written in invisible ink which were then conveniently destroyed. Yet these allegations are absent from earlier versions of your story. Wouldn’t Fonzi and the HSCA have been interested in this information if it were true?

· You say that you met privately with Che Guevara and recount detailed conversations. But this fact is again missing from other accounts of your story. Why?

· You claim you were “trained to kill” by the CIA and worked for many years to eliminate Castro yet he died an old man and there is no evidence you killed anyone. Why were you so spectacularly unsuccessful?

· You say your drug conviction was a setup, yet your appeal was denied. What evidence can you produce to prove your innocence?

· In the Preface, you say that when you testified before Congress that you “said nothing” but “now you will.” You also say that when you saw Phillips at the AFIO luncheon you “said nothing.” In fact, in both instances you said Phillips was not Bishop. If you thought Phillips was Bishop you could have requested protection from the government and testified against him. Why didn’t you?

· Since Fonzi used a translator in interviews with you, he couldn’t have understood Spanish, at least not very well. So, isn’t Fonzi’s description of the encounter at the AFIO luncheon with Phillips based on what you told him?

· You now imply a connection with the CIA calling yourself a “spy” and a “CIA asset.” But the CIA only reports three meetings with you in which they listened to your ideas but offered no encouragement. What evidence can you provide that proves you worked for the agency? Surely you have some documentation. After all, what “spy” or “asset” works for free?

· In the early Fonzi interviews and your HSCA testimony, you often could not remember significant details about your experiences with Bishop. Yet now you recount entire conversations with him and specific dates in excruciating detail. How do you account for this sudden improvement in your memory?

· You told Fonzi in an interview that you did not keep a diary, so if you are referring to documentation of some type to refresh your memory why was this not made available to investigators to help verify your story?

· Are you aware that the CIA does not have an “asset” sign a loyalty pledge during a “commitment ceremony" as you claim happened? The mafia perhaps, but not the CIA. By the way, in your HSCA testimony you described this ceremony as being similar to those used by the Knights of Columbus. Is this really believable?

· You say that “Bishop preferred conferring in public places” but doesn’t it defy logic that a CIA man would meet two alleged assets such as yourself and Lee Harvey Oswald in a public place as respected conspiracy advocate Harold Weisberg maintained?

· In your book, you say that “it’s hard to mistake the 42-story Southland Center for any other edifice.” Yet in all the early interviews, you never said the building where the alleged meeting between you, Bishop and LHO took place was the Southland Center, only that it was a bank or insurance company and that it could have been white or blue in color. Later in your HSCA testimony, you said it had “blue marble or blue ornaments.” But when Fonzi specifically asked you if it was Southland during the March 11 interview you said you didn’t remember. Why do you now make this claim?

· As you point out, at the time the Southland Center was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Why did you never mention the building’s unusual height in any early interviews?

· Aren’t you inserting Wynne Johnson and his girlfriend into your story now only because you feel he is some sort of confirmation of your allegations? Why did you never mention him or the girl before?

· You state that the date of the LHO-Bishop meeting was “near the end of the week” and “near the end of August or the beginning of September.” Yet in your March 1976 interviews with Fonzi, you only mention “summer,” “July” and “August” with no mention of September or “late August” at all. In your HSCA testimony you simply say it was “three months prior to the Kennedy assassination.” In the summer of 1976 interview with Dick Russell, you again said August. Wasn’t the “late August-early September” time frame Fonzi’s idea and a result of his own theories?

· You have always maintained that Bishop paid you $253,000 in cash on July 26, 1973. Yet in his book, Fonzi moved the year to 1972. Why did Fonzi not believe that you received the cash two days after you were arrested on a drug charge?

· You state that over the course of three years Fonzi “found ways to corroborate nearly every single detail of that meeting in the lobby of the Dallas skyscraper.” But isn’t it true that the HSCA report on you written by Fonzi said that “no definitive conclusion could be reached about the credibility of Antonio Veciana's allegations regarding his relationship with a Maurice Bishop. Additionally, no definitive conclusions could be drawn as to the identity or affiliations of Bishop, if such an individual existed?” And isn’t it true that the report said, “No corroboration was found for Veciana's alleged meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald?”

· You refer to a 1979 incident in which you were shot saying that “someone didn’t want me around to see the final [HSCA] report.” But you had already testified before both the Church Committee and the HSCA, so what purpose would be served by shooting you then? Why not silence you before you could testify and before your numerous media appearances that went on for years?

· Considering all the demonstrable inaccuracies in your book, should your publisher have added a disclaimer?

· Finally, why did you continually plead the fifth amendment in your testimony before the HSCA despite the fact that you had been given immunity against prosecution?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Gaeton Fonzi and the Veciana Allegations

Introduction

Over 50 years after the assassination of JFK, the CIA remains the most popular suspect among conspiracy advocates. The allegations of Antonio Veciana Blanch, one of the founders of the militant anti-Castro group Alpha 66, are cited by theorists as proof of Lee Harvey Oswald’s (LHO) connection with that agency.

Veciana’s story first came to light in March, 1976 [1] when he was interviewed by Gaeton Fonzi who was then an investigator for Senator Richard Schweiker of the Church Committee. [2] After the committee disbanded, Fonzi became an HSCA investigator and authored their Volume X section on Veciana. [3]

Veciana, who at the time was employed by a Havana bank, claimed that in mid-1960, he was approached by a shadowy American named Maurice Bishop who recruited him to perform anti-Castro and anti-communist activities. Bishop supervised and directed those activities and masterminded assassination plots against Castro in Havana in 1961 and Chile in 1971. [4]

Most notably, Veciana said he saw Bishop with LHO in Dallas a few weeks before the assassination of JFK. Many theorists believe Bishop was David Atlee Phillips of the CIA and the story has been repeated so often that some conspiracy books now state that Bishop was Phillips without qualification. [5]

For over 30 years, in sworn congressional testimony and numerous media interviews, Veciana denied that Bishop was Phillips. Then, On November 22, 2013, the 85-year-old Veciana issued the following statement through Fonzi’s widow Marie: [6]

Maurice Bishop, my CIA contact agent was David Atlee Phillips. Phillips or Bishop was the man I saw with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on [sic] September, 1963.

This article, which is the first in a series on the Maurice Bishop affair, will show that Fonzi was not an objective investigator by the time of his interviews with Veciana. Using primary sources (scroll to bottom), I will also demonstrate that Fonzi shaped facts to fit his own CIA-did-it theory of the JFK assassination.

Peer Criticism of Fonzi

Fonzi, who died in 2012, was a respected investigative journalist and worked as a reporter and editor for Philadelphia magazine from 1959 to 1972. He later relocated to Miami where he worked for Gold Coast and Miami Monthly. In addition, he was a contributor to numerous publications including the New York Times. [7] The problem with Fonzi isn’t that he was a bad writer or a poor journalist. It’s that, by his own admission, he wasn’t an objective investigator by the time of his experiences with Veciana. This lack of objectivity made him susceptible to the stories of Veciana and others.

Fonzi interviewed Arlen Specter in 1966 and come away disbelieving the single bullet theory and accepting a conspiracy. He confirmed his bias in an article discussing Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History when he wrote “I was never a “conspiracy theorist.” I went from an agnostic to a conspiracy believer.” 8 In 1996, Fonzi again admitted his lack of objectivity in an interview with researcher Steve Bochan “It's true. I had already made up my mind years ago as a result of the investigation and as a result of the work I had already done on the Kennedy assassination.” [9]

As recounted in his book, Fonzi’s instantaneous reaction upon hearing Veciana’s story, and before fact checking it, supports this interpretation of his mindset. “I had no doubt then-and have none now-that Veciana was simply and truthfully revealing what he knew.”

In November 1980, Fonzi wrote a lengthy article for the Washingtonian magazine excoriating the HSCA and alleging that Bishop was Phillips. [10] The article drew critical responses from both HSCA principals and the folks at Langley.
Scott Breckenridge of the CIA’s Office of Legislative Council who served as the principal coordinator with the HSCA, gave the following assessment in a letter to a coworker: [11]

“This young man (trained in the Schweiker school of investigation) seems to have fastened on the CIA/Veciana thesis early on, his single-mindedness leaving little room for analytical balance. He simply knew [emphasis in original] that CIA was involved and the rest didn’t matter much.”

G. Robert Blakey, HSCA Chief Counsel, regretted hiring Fonzi and said that staff members referred to him as “Ahab” and his quest to tie the CIA to the assassination as “Moby Dick.” Blakey also said: [12]

Suffice it to say that he was not hired by me, as he was so lacking in professional objectivity that I would never have employed him in the first instance. As an investigator for Senator Richard Schweiker, he had come upon a lead that purported to connect Lee Harvey Oswald to the CIA. He was convinced that he had the answer to the meaning of the President's death …

Nonetheless, I decided to retain him because I thought that his obsession would help assure that his aspect of the committee's Investigation would receive its full due … Mr. Fonzi's article, in short, is not the truth about the committee's Investigation but a sad self-revelation of a single man's monomania.

HSCA Deputy Chief Counsel Gary Cornwall said: [13]

It does not take a careful reading of [the article] … to realize that Fonzi's intent was to discredit the investigation ... nor must a reader be especially well versed on the subject … to recognize that Fonzi … had his own pet theory about the assassination-one that he had acquired before the Committee even existed … the article does, however, contain severe distortions of fact and fallacies in reasoning which may have escaped the attention of the casual reader … [the article is] one man’s speculation about the CIA and his opinion of the Committee.

Congressman Richardson Preyer, the Chairman of the HSCA subcommittee on the JFK assassination wrote Phillips saying, “I can understand your concern over the Fonzi article. Mr. Fonzi’s views are not shared by me nor, I think, by the Committee. I believed your testimony and did not find the testimony of Veciana credible.” [14]

Probably the harshest criticism of Fonzi was leveled by HSCA staff member Michael Ewing, who wrote Phillips saying, “Enclosed is a copy of a letter to The Washingtonian that I’ve written in response to their article of several months ago by Gaeton Fonzi … I wouldn’t want you to think that there are many of us who think like … Fonzi … I would like you to know that Fonzi’s writing does not reflect the views of responsible former members of the Select Committee.” [15]

Ewing told Phillips that he felt the HSCA investigation of the Bishop story was justified and that he hoped Phillips would eventually undergo a polygraph examination to further that end. In light of these statements, it is clear that Ewing was a fair-minded staff member who simply disagreed with Fonzi’s investigatory methods and conclusions.

Ewing’s eight-page letter to Jack Limpert of The Washingtonian contains an insider’s view of Fonzi’s time at the Church committee and the HSCA. Ewing begins by telling Limpert that Fonzi’s article was “a mean spirited and embittered hatchet-job, almost as full of rancorous inaccuracy and distortion as it was of juvenile self-delusion.” Ewing went on to say “… there can be little doubt that Fonzi’s qualifications and background were exaggerated in the extreme when he presented his ‘diary’ [the Washingtonian article] to you for publication.”

Regarding the Washingtonian’s characterization of Fonzi, Ewing wrote “Fonzi is not and never has been ‘the government’s top investigator’ on the Kennedy case …”, adding that he “had very little to do with the [Church] committee’s investigation and report … he was not substantively involved in the Senate committee probe and never worked from the committee offices.”

Ewing also told Limpert “from my own contact with the Church committee staff, I know that Fonzi’s investigative work and conclusions were generally dismissed out of hand and were not viewed as substantive (or reliable) enough for inclusion in the Senate committee’s landmark report of 1976.”

The dubious allegations of Marita Lorenz, which Fonzi called “a central part of the conspiracy”, were partly responsible for staffers dubbing his JFK thesis “the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Theory.” Ewing said that Fonzi called Lorenz the “single most credible witness” he had encountered. It should be noted that the HSCA investigated Lorenz and found “no evidence to support” her story. [16]

The CIA conducted an internal investigation of Fonzi to determine if he had violated the secrecy agreement he signed with the agency at the time of his government employment by publishing certain information in his Washingtonian article. The key was whether he had relied exclusively on classified material as a source. The CIA found that “although it might be impossible to prove that any of the information used by Fonzi came exclusively from agency files, the information related to operations in Mexico City has never been declassified by the agency.” Nevertheless, the CIA declined to prosecute Fonzi and instead sought to issue a protest to the clerk of the House of Representatives. [17]

How Fonzi Shaped the Veciana Story

The primary sources used and cited by Fonzi for his HSCA writeup were: [18]

· March 2, 1976 interview of Veciana by Fonzi

· March 11, 1976 interview of Veciana by Fonzi

· March 16, 1976 interview of Veciana by Fonzi

· April, 1978 testimony of Veciana before HSCA

· August 30, 1978 Outside Contact Report on Veciana by Fonzi/McDonald

There are many differences between the Veciana story as presented in the March 1976 interviews and other primary source materials and the story as promoted by Fonzi in his book and other writings. For now, let’s look at just a few key differences. The allegations in italics are from HSCA Volume X.

Allegation: From mid-1960 through mid-1973, Veciana was directed and advised in his anti-Castro and anti-Communist activities by an American he knew as Maurice Bishop.

Like other things in the Maurice Bishop story, the first name of Bishop was unclear in the beginning. In the initial March 2 interview, Veciana used the name “Morris Bishop” according to the notes, but referred only to “the American” until the fourth page. [19] In his book, Fonzi explained “Morris was how I had spelled Bishop’s first name in my rough notes of my interviews with Veciana.” [20] This explanation seems reasonable enough, but other documents refer to “Jim” and “John” as possibilities for Bishop’s first name. [21]

These documents are probably referencing statements Veciana made in his testimony before the Church Committee which preceded the HSCA but came after the March 1976 interviews. This testimony apparently no longer exists. However, we know about it because Fonzi described it in several of his manuscripts: [22]

I was asked to bring Veciana to Washington where he was sworn in at a secret executive session. Schweiker was the only Committee member who showed up. Veciana was sworn in and a staff attorney questioned him for less than an hour. Only the barest details of his story got on record. A transcript of the hearing would go into restricted security files. Not a word about it would be mentioned in any of the Intelligence Committee's reports.

Therefore, it is likely in Veciana’s first sworn testimony, that he was hedging his bets by saying that Bishop’s first name could have been Jim, John, or Morris, which is surprising since he allegedly met with him more than 100 times. However, in HSCA Volume X, Fonzi conveniently omited any reference to “Morris”, “Jim” or “John” and settled on “Maurice” without further explanation.

Allegation: Veciana said he did ask Bishop during their first meeting if he worked for the U.S. Government. "He told me at the time," Veciana testified, "that he was in no position to let me know for whom he was working or for which agency he was doing this."

A key point is that the theory that Bishop worked for the CIA as expressed both by Fonzi in his post HSCA writings and by Veciana in his book was not confirmed by Veciana in the March 2 interview. Veciana said through his interpreter “from his personal point of view” that he believed Bishop “was working for a private organization, not the government …” But in an interview with author Dick Russell just a few months later, Veciana said Bishop told him “he was part of an American intelligence service, but instructed him not to ask which one.” [23]

In his April 1978 HSCA testimony, Veciana again said "I always had the opinion that Maurice Bishop was working for a private firm and not the government." Later in the testimony, Veciana modified his position by saying that Bishop was operating at the direction of the federal government as opposed to being in it's employ.

In an interview for the BBC program Panorama in 1978, Veciana again made sure not to characterize Bishop as CIA saying, “I don’t know if he work [sic] for the CIA or if he worked for another intelligence service …” But 39 years later in his 2017 book, Veciana was saying that he and Bishop were both working for the CIA. [24]

Allegation: Veciana revealed further that at one meeting with Bishop in Dallas in late-August or September 1963, he saw with him a young man he later recognized as Lee Harvey Oswald… Veciana could not specifically pinpoint the date of that meeting with Bishop. He believed it was in late August 1963.

When Veciana said that he saw LHO, Fonzi’s rough notes of the interview show that he was barely able to contain himself and asked the expected questions in rapid fashion. Where did he meet LHO? “In Dallas”, Veciana replied. How did he meet him? “Through Bishop.” [25] So far so good.

But the date that Veciana saw LHO with Bishop has always been a little vague. The following Fonzi authored accounts, on which all subsequent works regarding the date of Veciana’s sighting of LHO and Bishop are based, give the date as late August or early September 1963.

· HSCA Volume X.

· “The Last Investigation” (a draft of “Who Killed JFK?”).

· “Who Killed JFK?”, Washingtonian, 1980.

· The Last Investigation, 2013 (current edition).

However, Fonzi’s notes from the three March, 1976 interviews prove that the late August-early September time frame alleged by these foundational works is a complete fabrication.

For example, in the baseline HSCA Volume X account (line 115), Fonzi first described the date as “late August or September, 1963” and listed his source as the March 2 interview. Later at line 139, Fonzi said that Veciana “believed it was in late August, 1963.” This time his citation is vague and says only “Interview of Antonio Veciana Blanch” but subsequent citations indicate Fonzi is referring to the March 11 interview. In his book in the chapter “Something Happened,” Fonzi states that during his first interview with Veciana, he said “he met Oswald with Maurice Bishop in Dallas sometime near the beginning of September, 1963.” In both the Washingtonian article and the draft, late August or early September 1963 are again mentioned.

Fonzi’s interview notes, which are available at the National Archives and somehow have escaped wide dissemination, reveal the truth. Incredibly, in this first meeting with Fonzi on March 2, 1976, Veciana initially said the date of his encounter with LHO was “around ’62.” [26] Later in the same interview, Fonzi tried to zero in on the date. Veciana through his interpreter now stated that “his memory isn’t certain but he thinks it was in the summer of ’63 in August. But he can’t give [a] specific date.” Immediately noticing the discrepancy, Fonzi asked “not ’62?” Veciana replied “no, no.” [27] In this very first interview, which should be given priority since any prompting of Veciana can be all but ruled out, Veciana seemed far from certain about the date he saw LHO.

In the March 11 interview, Veciana again gave conflicting statements about the date of the alleged meeting, first saying “no, it wasn’t in ‘63” and then “yes, yes it was in ’63, July or August.” Veciana then turned the tables and asked Fonzi “when was Kennedy assassinated?” After Fonzi told him that JFK was killed in 1963, he said “then it was the summer of ’63.” [28] Nowhere in the three March, 1976 interviews of Veciana, which are cited by Fonzi as the source of the information, are “late August” or “September” (in any form) mentioned and those characterizations are clearly Fonzi inventions.

In the Dick Russell interview in the summer of 1976, Veciana again indicated the date of the meeting was August 1963 with no mention of “late August.” [29] In his sworn 1978 HSCA testimony, Veciana only said that the meeting was “three months prior to the Kennedy assassination.” [30] After examining the 1976 interviews, an unbiased journalist or investigator would have described the date of the meeting as the summer of 1963, possibly in July or August since those are the only months Veciana mentioned. But as I have shown, Fonzi was not an unbiased reporter of facts, at least where Veciana is concerned.

Fonzi described how “September” came about in his book.

Initially, Antonio Veciana told me that it was sometime in late August or early September 1963, when Bishop called and asked him to meet in Dallas. Later, as he gave it more thought, he said it was probably early September, perhaps towards the end of the first week of the month.

But Fonzi offers no citation for this statement and no explanation as to how Veciana’s memory improved over time since he clearly stated in the March 2 interview through his interpreter that “his memory isn’t certain.” And there is no indication that Veciana referred to notes or other documents later to refresh his memory. Fonzi also offers no explanation as to why he misstated what his notes said in four key versions of his work.

Why was Fonzi so eager to place the meeting between Oswald and Bishop in early September? Fonzi believed LHO’s chronology contained a window of time where the meeting between Bishop and LHO was more plausible. As he explained in his book “… there is one span of time, between September 6th and 9th, when Oswald’s whereabouts are absolutely unknown.” This opens the door to the idea that Fonzi instructed Veciana to focus on the late August-early September time frame to solidify the date and give his story more credibility.

But Fonzi’s theory is weak since LHO was in New Orleans on Friday the 6th and cashed his unemployment check at the Wynn Dixie store on Magazine Street. [31] On Monday the 9th, he cashed an unemployment check at the Wynn Dixie on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. [32] Of course, this does not rule out a third party driving or flying him to Dallas, but Marina makes no mention of such an unusual scenario as she could be expected to do.

Allegation: Over the years that he knew Bishop, Veciana had at least five meetings with him in Dallas. The meeting at which Oswald was present took place in the lobby of a large office building in the downtown section of the city, perhaps a bank or an insurance building with a blue facade or lobby.

Another Fonzi creation that has entered the lexicon of JFK literature is that the LHO-Bishop meeting took place at the Southland Center. [33] The following example is from Destiny Betrayed by James DiEugenio:

Veciana told Fonzi he had seen Oswald in Dallas with Bishop in early September of 1963. It was at the Southland Center, a 42 story office complex built in the late fifties.

However, in HSCA Volume X, Fonzi does not mention Southland at all. In his book, Fonzi first says without citation that the meeting “probably” took place there. However, in a chronology at the end of the book, he removes any qualifying language and states it as a fact.

In the March 2 interview, Veciana said the meeting was in a building with a “big bank or insurance company” but that he didn’t remember “whether it was blue or white.” Veciana’s description apparently made Fonzi think of Southland and during the March 11 interview, he specifically asked Veciana if the meeting took place there. Veciana replied through his interpreter “he doesn’t remember.” In this interview, Veciana went on to describe the building as “… downtown, a blue building, an insurance co. or bank building.” But Veciana never specifically stated that it was the Southland Building in any of the March, 1976 interviews. In his HSCA testimony, Veciana again said “I don’t recall the exact place”, although he did say the building lobby had “blue marble or blue ornaments.” [34]

Similarly, in the Russell interview Veciana again did not mention the Southland Center, and stuck to his story that Bishop had given him an address to a “bank or insurance company.” In all the key 1976 interviews and his HSCA testimony, Veciana never said the meeting was at the Southland Center. Fonzi merely stated it was and others have followed his lead. It should be noted that Veciana could be expected to remember the prominent Southland Center but he never said the meeting was there until years later after Fonzi’s influence had set in.

Why are theorists adamant that the meeting occurred there? Researcher Bill Kelly provides several conspiratorial reasons to like Southland in a 2015 blog article. [35]

· LHO was familiar with the building since he applied for a job there at the behest of George de Mohrenschildt.

· Robert Oswald’s attorney William McKenzie had offices there.

· McKenzie’s law firm represented perennial conspiracy suspect Clint Murcheson.

· Southland’s “most visible tenant” was the Dallas Sheraton Hotel where both George H.W. Bush and the Secret Service were registered on November 21-22, 1963.

Another reason may simply be that the more “facts” the story contains the more believable it will seem. It just sounds better to say that the meeting was at the Southland Center than to say it was at a bank or insurance company in an unknown location.

Conclusion

· Veciana did not originally believe that Bishop worked for the CIA or the government at all but rather a private organization.

· Veciana was far from sure about key details such as Bishop’s first name.

· The “late August, early September” time frame for the meeting was a Fonzi invention created to fit his own assassination theory.

· The Southland Center as the meeting place was another Fonzi invention designed to fit conspiracy theories.

Go to Part 2

Notes

1 Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know About the Assassination of JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition p. 144.
2 Fonzi TLI, 29-30.
3 HSCA Volume X, pp. 37-56.
4 Ibid., p. 37.
5 See for example Destiny Betrayed by James DiEugenio.
6 https://kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/maurice-bishop-documents
7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaeton_Fonzi
8 http://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Essay_-_Reply_From_a_Conspiracy_Believer.html
9 Assassination Chronicles, Vol. 2, Issue #2, Summer, 1996, p. 34.
10 Fonzi, Gaeton. “Who Killed JFK.” The Washingtonian, November, 1980.
11 Letter from Scott D. Breckenridge to Roger Gabrielson, November 30, 1980. RIF 104-10404-10059.
12 The Washingtonian, February, 1981, p. 22.
13 The Congressional Record, April 30, 1981.
14 Buglosi, Vincent. Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007, p. 1202.
15 Letters from Michael Ewing to David Phillips and Jack Limpert, May 13-14, 1981. RIF 104-10404-10058.
16 HSCA Volume X, p. 93.
17 Memorandum, Russ Holmes Work File. RIF 104-10404-10063.
18 There were other sources listed by Fonzi but most of these were staff memos that referred to the primary sources listed here.
19 Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 2, 1976. RIF 157-10007-10208.
20 Fonzi, TLI, p. 200.
21 See for example, Memo from Senator Richard Schweiker to Richard Sprague, December 14, 1976. RIF 180-10084-10396.
22 Gaeton Fonzi, “The Last Investigation,” draft of “Who Killed JFK.”
23 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.
24 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.
25 Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 2, 1976. RIF 157-10007-10208.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid.
28 Rough Notes of Fonzi Interview with Antonio Veciana, March 11, 1976. RIF 157-10007-10311.
29 Russell, op. cit.
30 HSCA testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 26, 1978.
31 22 H 201, 209.
32 22 H 202.
33 For a report on another “witness” to the Southland Center meeting see: http://wtracyparnell.blogspot.com/2017/04/wynne-johnson.html
34 HSCA testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 26, 1978.
35 http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-southland-center-revisted-w-new.html

Sources

Fonzi Interview Notes, March 2, 1976

Fonzi Interview Notes, March 11, 1976

Fonzi Interview Notes, March 16, 1976

Veciana HSCA Testimony (go to page 14)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Marguerite's Finances

Proponents of the John Armstrong “Harvey & Lee” theory find the finances of Marguerite Oswald suspicious. They believe that since she was not always employed during the years 1940-1952 that this is an indication that she had other sources of income, namely from the CIA. They believe this payment was for her work in the “Oswald Project” which involved two boys and two mothers and lasted from the forties through about 1958.

The following quote from Harvey & Lee is indicative of this suspicion:

There is no record of any employment for her during the next 6 months [1952], yet she was able to make her house payment, pay utility bills, buy food, gas, and afford a trip to New York in September.

As is always the case, there is another explanation. Marguerite ran a con of sorts on everyone she met during her life. She was constantly reminding anyone who would listen that she was a poor widow and down to her last penny. She placed her children in an orphanage to save money and to have someone to watch them while she worked. Her older boys John and Robert worked and she expected them to give her at least part of their earnings. She also wrote to John after he joined the service asking for money which he provided. As Robert later pointed out, “money was her God.”

In addition to the above tactics, Marguerite worked in low-paying jobs when she had to, and had other sources of income, which enabled her to provide a modest living for her family. Marguerite was something of a real estate investor and made good money for the time as Armstrong admits on page 27 of his book. Armstrong also provides the obvious explanation for her profits.

Marguerite made a profit on all real estate transactions except this one [San Saba], which is unusual because of a nationwide property boom following WWII.

The following table shows Marguerite’s real estate profits and is based on Armstrong’s own research.

Property

Purchase Price

Sale Price

Profit

1010 Bartholomew, New Orleans

$1300

$2100

$800

2109 Alvar St., New Orleans

$3900

$6500

$2600

4801 Victor, Dallas

$10000

$11000

$1000

101 San Saba, Benbrook, TX

$3950

$2750

$-1200

101 San Saba, Rental Income

$3000 (rent)

$500 (expenses)

$2500

7408 Ewing, Fort Worth

$6010

$6900

$890

4833 Birchman, Fort Worth

$5440

$5440

$0

TOTAL PROFIT

$6590

But real estate transactions did not account for all of Marguerite’s additional income. The following table illustrates other sources.

Child Support Edward Pic 1940-49

$4320

Robert Oswald Sr. Life Insurance

$5000

Edwin Ekdahl Divorce Settlement

$1500

TOTAL

$10820

That gives us a grand total of $17,410 of additional income. At that time, Marguerite was making around $2000 a year when she worked. This is based on a job she had at Burt’s Shoes making $40 a week per Armstrong. Therefore, the additional income provided the equivalent of about 8 years of regular income working at the rate of pay she typically received.

Remember, that the period we are discussing is from about 1940 to 1952 which is 12 years. That only leaves 4 years that she had to account for and she worked enough to cover that. Part of that time, she was married to Edwin Ekdahl who paid all the bills. Of course, she had expenses such as mortgage payments, maintaining her properties, lawyers’ fees and so on. But the idea that it was impossible for her to get by without some unknown source of income such as CIA money is nonsense.

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