Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Veciana and the CIA

UPDATED July 11, 2017

Journalist Jefferson Morley, who is the editor at JFK Facts.org, has recently been using that website to promote the ramblings of former Alpha 66 member Antonio Veciana as related in his book Trained to Kill. [1] Morley, who has several reasonable positions regarding the JFK assassination, first presented himself as a truth-seeking JFK assassination agnostic who was merely interested in obtaining all currently withheld JFK documents. However, in recent years he has possibly flipped to the conspiracy side because the books he is writing about individuals such as Winston Scott and James Angleton are of interest to that audience. Morley, who calls Veciana’s appearance at the 2014 Assassination Archives and Research Center Conference a “once in a lifetime experience,” [2] is either unaware of or has chosen to ignore the numerous problems with Veciana’s story as documented at this blog.

Now Morley has written a piece for Newsweek [3] that again ignores the evidence that Veciana is at the very least exaggerating his place in history. Morley calls Veciana the “CIA’s man in Havana” in the early sixties. But what evidence is there for this claim besides Veciana’s assertions from his book and the 2014 Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) Conference, made when he was in his eighties and which are contradicted by his own earlier accounts? This article will examine the evidence for Veciana acting as either a CIA agent or asset and take a critical look at statements made by Morley at both his blog and in his Newsweek article in support of Veciana.

El Encanto and Pedro Pan

Morley provides several “facts” as proof of Veciana’s veracity both at his blog and in the Newsweek article. A discussion of two of these is sufficient to illustrate the point that short of the release of 2017 documentation that would confirm Veciana’s assertions, these items are conveniently impossible to verify and could easily be a case of Veciana inserting himself into history. Both claims by Veciana discussed in this section are missing from early accounts including Gaeton Fonzi’s book, The Last Investigation, and both involve alleged CIA involvement and could have been chosen to lend apparent credibility to his story.

Veciana now claims, and Morley agrees, that he was the mastermind of the El Encanto department store firebombing which occurred on April 13, 1961 in Havana and resulted in the death of a female employee. As with much of the story surrounding Veciana, the facts about this incident are conveniently ambiguous. The following account comes from the 1999 book Bay of Pigs and the CIA by Juan Carlos Rodriguez. The El Encanto was Cuba’s largest department store and an important cultural landmark for the Cuban people. An investigation culminated with the arrest and execution of Carlos González Vidal, an apparently disgruntled store employee. González confessed to setting two incendiary bombs and named those who helped him, including CIA and Movimiento Revolutionario del Pueblo (MRP) associates. Although Veciana was unsurprisingly not one of those he named, the fact that the CIA and the MRP were allegedly involved lends some level of credibility to Veciana’s story in the mind of Morley and other supporters.

Veciana’s undocumented assertions regarding El Encanto are apparently convincing enough to make Morley change his mind about who was responsible for the incident. In his 2008 book, Our Man in Mexico, Morley says that “They [the DRE, or Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil] used napalm to burn down El Encanto, Havana’s largest department store.” Of course, Veciana has never claimed that he worked with the DRE. In the final analysis, there is a hint of truth in Veciana’s story about the El Encanto fire and that is apparently enough to keep people like Morley onboard. But all the information about the fire from Trained to Kill could have been obtained by Veciana from other sources. The fact that he never mentioned the incident before the account in his book doesn’t seem to bother Morley and other Veciana supporters.

In Newsweek, Morley writes:

Two years later, [Veciana] used his government position to distribute propaganda falsely announcing the government planned to take custody of school-age children. That ruse panicked thousands of Cuban families and drove many of them in 1962 to send their children to South Florida, where the Catholic Church welcomed them. They called it Operation Pedro Pan, and U.S. newspapers depicted it as a selfless effort to rescue the victims of Communist oppression.

Operation Pedro Pan is a historic fact. However, the involvement of the CIA, though suspected by some, [4] is still unproven. In 1999, a ruling by a judge in the US District Court of Northern Illinois stated that the "evacuation of Cuban children turned out not to be a CIA operation at all.” The ruling [5] was based on a review of over 700 pages of documents obtained from the CIA for an earlier lawsuit. And Monsignor Brian Walsh, who is considered the father of the program according to the pedropan.org website, also dismissed the idea of Pedro Pan as a CIA operation in an interview with Barry University in December 1998. [6] However, even if the CIA were involved in Pedro Pan, it would not prove either Veciana’s participation in it or any CIA association on his part.

According to my research, Veciana’s book marks the first telling of his alleged involvement in Pedro Pan. As is the case with several of Veciana’s recent allegations (Pedro Pan, El Encanto, truth serum, lie detectors and so on) why wait so many years to tell the story? Fonzi and the HSCA certainly would have been interested to hear this information which could be used to verify or disprove his allegations. And it should be noted that there is absolutely no confirmation for any of these new claims made by Veciana in his book. Morley and others are relying solely on Veciana in these instances which is never a good thing to do.

Ross Crozier

In the Newsweek piece, Morley provides what he thinks is further proof that Phillips was Bishop:

… two of Phillips’s colleagues at the CIA have said the agency man did in fact use the pseudonym Maurice Bishop.

The HSCA conducted an investigation to see if it could uncover evidence that a Maurice Bishop had worked for the CIA or if David Phillips ever used that name. As Morley says, two CIA employees did indeed say that they thought Phillips used the name Bishop. However, both eventually recanted. In a HSCA deposition, former CIA director John McCone stated that he thought that a Maurice Bishop had worked for the agency. [8] However, just over a month later in a letter from the CIA’s office of Legislative Council, McCone changed his mind. [9]

The second CIA employee mentioned by Morley was Ross Crozier, who was referred to as Ron Cross by the HSCA to protect his identity. According to Fonzi, Crozier, who worked out of the JMWAVE station in Miami, told him that he was “almost positive” that Phillips had used the name Bishop. However, the reason Crozier was certain that Phillips used the name of Bishop was because he recalled sometimes discussing agent problems with Phillips' assistant, Doug Gupton. Crozier went on to say that Gupton, who was later identified as William Kent, often said after these conversations, "Well, I guess Mr. Bishop will have to talk with him." Cross said: "And, of course, I knew he was referring to his boss, David Phillips."

But the HSCA spoke to Kent and although he admitted he may have referred to Phillips as “Mr. Bishop,” he said that he could not remember Phillips or anyone else at JMWAVE using that alias. Kent also said that the sketch of Bishop did not look like anyone he knew. [10] In any case, Crozier recanted his identification of Phillips as Bishop during conversations with author Gus Russo. In an email to researcher Dave Reitzes, Russo stated that Crozier “definitely did not know Phillips by the name of Maurice Bishop.” A third employee, later identified as Barney Hidalgo, thought that a Maurice Bishop worked at the CIA during his time there. But Hidalgo knew Phillips well and told the HSCA that he was not Bishop. Hidalgo also told Russo that he knew a deceased agent who had really used the Bishop cover but didn’t want to name him out of respect for his family. Hidalgo has since passed away. [11]

Although the HSCA found no evidence that a Maurice Bishop had worked for the CIA during the time in question, researcher Carmine Savastano points out that several individuals with the surname Bishop certainly did work for the agency. [12] Perhaps McCone was merely thinking of one of these persons when he originally said that he thought he knew a Maurice Bishop.

Veciana and Oswald

In the Newsweek article, Morley states:

Perhaps the most tantalizing part of Veciana’s tale fleshes out a story he first told to congressional investigators in 1975: that he saw Maurice Bishop with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in September 1963, two months before JFK was killed.

As Veciana tells it, they met in the lobby the Southland Center, the tallest building in Dallas. “Bishop was already there,” he writes. “The lobby was busy, full of people, but I spotted him standing in a corner, talking to a young, pallid, insubstantial man. He didn’t speak when Bishop introduced him to me or at all for the rest of the time we were together…. I don’t remember if Bishop introduced him by name. He might have said, ‘Tony, this is Lee. Lee, Tony.’ But I am absolutely sure ‘Lee’ said nothing.”

After JFK was killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Oswald was arrested, and his face was broadcast on TV. “I recognized him immediately,” Veciana writes. “He was, without question the same pallid, pasty-faced man I had seen eleven weeks earlier” with Bishop.

The problem with Veciana’s story as it is being told in his book is that the story has changed considerably and contains elements previously unmentioned.

Veciana is now saying, as Morley points out, that he met LHO in September 1963. But as I show here, Veciana never said he met LHO in September of 1963 in these early Fonzi interviews, he only said “July or August” or “summer” and at times didn’t even seem sure of the year. However, Fonzi believed LHO’s chronology contained a window of time in early September where the meeting between Bishop and LHO was more plausible. And thus, September 1963 has become the time when the alleged meeting occurred even though Veciana originally did not say that. Similarly, in an interview with author Dick Russell in the summer of 1976, Veciana again said the meeting was in August.

In a similar vein, Morley repeats the recent myth that Veciana claims to have met Bishop and LHO at the Southland Center in Dallas. But in the March 2 interview with Fonzi, 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’s lobby had “blue marble or blue ornaments.”

Morley also describes in Newsweek how and why Fonzi came to interview Veciana:

A decade later, in 1975, when American authorities reopened the JFK inquiry, Gaeton Fonzi, a congressional investigator in South Florida, learned Veciana had worked for the CIA. He approached him, asking to find out more about how the CIA collaborated with Cuban exiles.

But Morley is using some sleight of hand here to mislead his readers. Fonzi first interviewed Veciana on March 2, 1976 at his Miami home but not because he had learned of any connection between Veciana and the CIA. As Fonzi relates in his book, he wanted to speak to Veciana after reading Paul Hoch and George O’Toole's Saturday Evening Post article which speculated that Veciana may have been one of two Cuban men seen by Sylvia Odio, not about “how the CIA collaborated with Cuban exiles” as Morley claims. [13] Veciana’s revelation of allegedly meeting LHO was a complete surprise to Fonzi.

It should be mentioned 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 …” a belief which he repeated during his HSCA testimony. Morley and others are choosing to ignore these and many other problems with the Veciana story, probably because of their bias toward the CIA-did-it theory of the JFK assassination and the irresistible pull of Veciana’s seeming confirmation of that idea.

The Reston Ambush

In Newsweek, Morley also mentions a meeting between Phillips and Veciana that was arranged by Senator Schweiker’s office at the request of Fonzi. [14] The meeting took place at a conference of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) in Reston, Virginia on September 17, 1976. [15] The idea was to “ambush” the unsuspecting Phillips who was unaware Veciana would be attending. Phillips merely thought he was doing Schweiker a favor by letting three of his staffers attend the conference luncheon. Morley describes the meeting as follows:

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 brief account of the incident 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: [16]

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 this 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.” [17]

At one point during the keynote speech, Fonzi asked Veciana if Phillips was Bishop and he unambiguously stated, “No. It is not him.” [18] 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 replied. He then mysteriously added “but he knows.” [19]

Phillips’ version of the meeting with Fonzi and Veciana is comparable but has important differences. Phillips told the HSCA that he received a call from Schweiker’s office asking if three “representatives” from that office could join him at the AFIO conference and he agreed. Phillips said that the three were Fonzi, a woman whose name he could not recall (staffer Sarah Lewis) and a man introduced to him only as “the driver.”

After lunch, Fonzi asked Phillips if he would answer some questions about the JFK case. Phillips asked how long it would take and Fonzi replied “a couple hours.” Phillips said that it was inconvenient for him to do so at the time but he did “step into the hall” where he spoke to “the driver” in Spanish. After the trio left, Phillips called Schweiker’s office and asked if the man he had spoken to was a staff member and they said he was. Of course, Veciana was not a member of the staff but rather a witness. Phillips subsequently determined Veciana’s identity from media reports. [20]

A key difference between the stories is the characterization of Veciana as “the driver” per Phillips. It should be noted that Fonzi said Phillips behaved as if Veciana were a “nonentity.” But this would not be unusual at all if Veciana was, in fact, introduced as “the driver” as Phillips maintains. It should also be mentioned that since Fonzi didn’t speak Spanish, his account of the conversation between Veciana and Phillips was provided by Veciana. 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.” [21]

Fonzi would have us believe that although Phillips was “nervous” he was still able to show absolutely no discernable reaction upon seeing the man that he allegedly managed on behalf of the CIA for over a decade and plotted with to assassinate Castro. Phillips also had the presence of mind to call Schweiker’s office and ask about Veciana’s identity even though he allegedly knew him well indeed.

One last point about Phillips. His critics are quick to make the following accusation: [22]

Phillips’s inconsistent, inaccurate, and evasive answers to questions about Oswald, prompted HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi to allege in his book The Last Investigation that Phillips was guilty of perjury in the case of the murdered president.

But these same critics have no problem with the fact that if we are to believe Veciana’s story today we must believe that he committed perjury before Congress and lied to interviewers for more than 30 years about Phillips being Bishop.

Update: Documents Show Veciana’s True CIA Relationship

Morley says in Newsweek that “CIA documents show that AMSHALE-1 was a trusted militant in a network run by Phillips in the early 1960s.”

In addition to the documents mentioned by Morley, I have been made aware of several other documents by researchers including Bill Simpich, Jerry Shinley, Alan Rogers and Larry Haapanen. Simpich has written an article titled “The Hidden Castro Assassination Plots” that contains links to the documents used in my research as well as many others that may be of interest to researchers:

https://www.opednews.com/populum/pagem.php?p=18&f=The-Hidden-Castro-Assassin-by-Bill-Simpich-Assassinate_Assassination_Assassination-Attempt_Castro-Fidel-150610-653.html

These documents show the true nature of Veciana’s relationship with the CIA. It turns out that Morley is both right and wrong.

This document, which summarizes Veciana’s 201 file, states he was approved by the CIA for “sabotage” operations with the MRP, an anti-Castro group.

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=30983#relPageId=2

Another document, titled “Request for Approval or Investigative Action” confirms this:

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=66984#relPageId=2

This document also reveals that Veciana’s case officer was not David Phillips, as Veciana now maintains, but Cal Hicks and other documents support the Hicks-Veciana connection. Here is the security file for Hicks:

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=103893&search=%22calvin_hicks%22#relPageId=5&tab=page

Hicks, a Senior Operations Officer, worked for the CIA from 1950 through 1974 in the far east, middle east and western hemisphere. One document in his file reveals that the CIA was concerned his cover might have been blown when Hicks was imprisoned in China. Much of the file is mundane such as Hicks requesting permission to travel to Canada during a vacation with his wife and six children.

The “Request for Approval” also identifies the project Veciana was working on for Hicks as JMATE which is the Bay of Pigs. But even Veciana does not claim he was involved with that infamous mission as this quote from his book confirms:

I was as surprised as anyone when the brigade of CIA-trained Cuban exiles came crashing ashore at the Bay of Pigs. The CIA had kept all of its operatives and counterrevolutionary contacts as much in the dark as everyone else.

The “Request for Approval” also says that Veciana was unaware of the CIA’s interest in him, which goes against Morley’s belief that Veciana was a full-fledged CIA employee per Trained to Kill. Whatever the CIA’s plans for Veciana, there is no evidence that he was ever used by the agency as a “sabotage man” in the Bay of Pigs or elsewhere. As shown in the following document, A POA (preliminary operational approval) for Veciana was granted in January 1962 and expired in November of that year and “was never used.”

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=18263#relPageId=2&tab=page

Another document provides more detail on Veciana’s activities:

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=18263#relPageId=2&tab=page

This document indicates that while Hicks handled him through most of 1962, he was “being used by [the] Army” by November of that year after his CIA POA had expired. The fact that Veciana worked with Army Intelligence has been known to researchers for some time. Researcher Malcolm Blunt questioned Veciana about this at the 2014 AARC conference and Veciana tried to minimize his involvement. But as far back as 1979, a letter to HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, from the CIA’s Scott Breckinridge states that Veciana was “an asset of another US Government agency, and not of CIA.” Breckinridge goes on to say that Blakey has “every reason to know that [Bishop] was not of, from, or with CIA” which implies that Blakey knew who Bishop really was:

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=26227&relPageId=2&search=VecianA_AND%20asset

It appears that there was indeed a “Bishop” that traveled in Veciana’s universe, but it wasn’t “Maurice Bishop.” This document states that Veciana associate Jose Pujols was being handled by “Harold Bishop.”

Maurice Bishop, if he existed, could have been Harold Bishop, Hicks, or someone like Jordan Pfuntner, an anti-Castro activist with ties to Alpha 66. The reader will recall that Veciana was a co-founder of that group which had ties to Military Intelligence. This document discusses Pfuntner:

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=231&search=%22pfuntner%22#relPageId=3&tab=page

While on the subject of documents, it seems that Reinol Gonzales, a co-founder of the MRP, had a different view of the October 1961 assassination attempt against Castro than Veciana did. In Trained to Kill, Veciana claims:

I knew that sooner or later, Cuban security forces would trace the attack back to the eighth floor apartment across the street. It would be impossible for my mother-in-law to escape interrogation, or worse. The apartment was undeniably in her name. What she knew, or didn’t, could be painfully costly for her. I would never forgive myself if anything happened to her. The men, I expected, would be OK. They had no link to the apartment, except for me. Inside it, they had all the tools they needed to escape … So, the night before the planned assassination, assassination, after dropping off the bazooka, I had taken my mother-in-law to the coast to meet a waiting boat that would whisk us to safety, and exile, in the United States. Bishop had urged me to leave. He said things were getting hot. He said he had learned that Castro’s intelligence agents suspected me of subversive activity. That coincided with information I had gotten shortly before.

But according to one document, Gonzales, who was later captured, said Veciana got “cold feet and took off for the states …”

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=55456&relPageId=12

In another document, Gonzales says that the attack’s “principal organizer” (Veciana) “took a boat and went to the US so the attack failed …”

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=55456#relPageId=132&tab=page

To sum up, Morley is correct that Veciana was approved by the CIA for sabotage operations. However, the evidence shows he was never used in this capacity and shortly after he was working with Army Intelligence. Veciana’s connections to Army Intelligence were known as far back as the HSCA investigation and should have been explored more fully. It is possible that Fonzi’s focus on the CIA, based on his own assassination theories, diverted attention away from this aspect of Veciana’s biography. In any case, the real story of Veciana’s anti-Castro career bears little resemblance to the one that is told in Trained to Kill.

Veciana’s Known CIA Contact versus Trained to Kill

The true nature of Veciana’s CIA contacts is known and documented. An analysis of these contacts compared to the story now being peddled by Veciana is needed.

A May 1977 document states that Veciana “never had a contractual relationship” with the CIA, although other documents make it clear that the agency considered using him as an asset. Veciana contacted the agency on three occasions. The theme of these contacts was similar-Veciana asked for assistance, mostly in the form of money, from the agency.

In December 1960, Veciana contacted the CIA regarding an alleged plot to assassinate Castro and his “top associates.” Veciana asked for 10 visas for the family members of the men who would carry out the plot as well as weapons. The CIA representative gave Veciana no encouragement and noted he seemed “sincere but a little wild.”

According to page 4 of the same document, in July 1962 Veciana met with Harry Real of the New York office of the CIA’s Domestic Contact Division. Veciana asked Real to arrange a meeting with senior CIA officers to discuss plans to assassinate Castro and ask for agency assistance. There is no indication that the request was acted on by the agency.

But according to Veciana’s current account, Phillips directed him to form Alpha 66 in 1962 and a plan of action was formulated. That group would receive no CIA funding and would rely on private money to maintain plausible deniability. By July 1962, Veciana, working with Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo who represented the military arm of the group, had raised $64,000 with “more coming in.” In September, Alpha 66 launched their first attack against ships in the Cuban port of Caibarien.

All of this begs the question, if Veciana and Phillips had a plan in place why was Veciana in New York asking an agent of the Domestic Contact Division for a meeting with a senior CIA man if he was already working with one? And according to his book, Veciana had been warned by Phillips that the money had to come from outside sources and not the CIA. Was Veciana going behind Phillips’ back? And why no account of this meeting with Domestic Contact in his book?

The most detailed account of the CIA’s contact with Veciana was provided in a memorandum by an agent of the agency. [23] The meeting came about when James “Jack” Cogswell, who was a CIA informant and anti-Castro activist as well as the nephew of a former agency employee, telephoned and requested an interview regarding information he had about Cuba. The agent met Cogswell at the exclusive New York Racquet Club on Park Avenue in April of 1966. Cogswell was accompanied by Veciana who immediately “launched into a discussion of the Cuban political situation and noted his strong feeling that the only solution was the assassination of Castro.” After listening to Veciana for 15 minutes, the agent was finally “able to get hold of the conversation” and told Veciana that he was “in no position to provide him assistance or encouragement regarding an assassination attempt.” The agent also told Veciana that he thought the purpose of the meeting was to gather information and asked him if he had such information to convey to the US government.

Veciana said that he had spoken to Cogswell about his roommate Felix Zabala, who he felt had developed contacts in Havana that could be of use to the agency. While the agent admitted that Zabala presented “some operational possibilities and appreciate interest was shown” he also said “Veciana was attempting to use Zabala’s potential to get agency financial support for his organization.” In that regard, Veciana told the agent that he would need $50,000 to “get his activities off the ground.” It appears that despite the grandiose claims in Veciana’s book that the CIA was more interested in his roommate than it was in him, a fact that is reinforced by the agency's cancelation of his POA after less than a year.

Veciana’s documented actions raise several questions. Veciana claims he was an important CIA operative whose handler was David Phillips, one of the agency’s most talented and respected agents who eventually became Chief of the Western Hemisphere. But documents show his handler was Cal Hicks-not Phillips and that he worked with Army Intelligence-not the CIA. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that Phillips was running a rogue operation. Why would Veciana, who was allegedly instructed by Phillips to raise private money to maintain plausible deniability, continually try and get financial help from the agency? Why would Veciana resort to asking the Domestic Contact Division, whose purpose was to interview Americans returning from overseas, if they could get him an interview with a senior CIA man if he was already working with Phillips? Why would he arrange a meeting with a CIA agent and then make a 15-minute speech that culminated with a pitch for money against Phillips’ orders? And why tell the same agent that the assassination of Castro was needed when he was allegedly in the middle of a 12-year relationship with Phillips and such plans were already in the works? Due to their evolutionary nature and the extensive documentary evidence against them, Antonio Veciana’s claims should be treated skeptically until some form of confirmation becomes available.


[1] Veciana, Antonio and Harrison, Carlos. Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy and Che. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2017. Kindle Edition.

[2] Morley Podcast

[3] http://www.newsweek.com/2017/06/09/cia-jfk-john-f-kennedy-fidel-castro-che-guevara-kennedy-assassination-bay-pigs-616670.html

[4] See, for example, Maret, Susan and Lea Aschkenas. “Operation Pedro Pan: The Hidden History of 14,000 Cuban Children.” Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Volume 19, pp. 171-84.

[5] http://www.leagle.com/decision/199999939FSupp2d960_1906/TORRES%20v.%20C.I.A.?

[6]http://www.pedropan.org/sites/default/files/Msgr.%20Bryan%20O.%20Walsh%20interview-%20December%203,%201998-%20Barry%20University%20Oral%20History.pdf

[7] http://jfkfacts.org/two-different-views-antonio-veciana/

[8] HSCA volume X, p. 50.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 47-48.

[11] http://www.jfk-online.com/dapcrozier.html

[12] https://www.tpaak.com/regarding-maurice-bishop

[13] Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know About the Assassination of JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition p. 118.; http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg%20Subject%20Index%20Files/O%20Disk/Odio%20Sylvia/Item%2008.pdf

[14] Fonzi, 164.

[15] Memo from Fonzi to Troy Gustavson, September 20, 1976, RIF 180-10103-10396.

[16] Fonzi, 166.

[17] Memo from Fonzi to Gustavson, op. cit.

[18] Fonzi, 167.

[19] Ibid. 167-169.

[20] HSCA Testimony of David Atlee Phillips, April 25, 1978, p. 86-88.

[21] Memo from Fonzi to Gustavson, op. cit.

[22] http://jfkfacts.org/jfk-most-wanted-dave-phillips-cia-files/

[23] In some versions of the document, the agent’s name is given as Byron R. Waidly. It is unclear if this was his real name or a pseudonym.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bill Kelly on Veciana

Researcher Bill Kelly has posted a review of Antonio Veciana’s book Trained to Kill at his blog called JFKcountercoup:

http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/2017/06/antonio-vecianas-trained-to-kill-kellys.html

JFKfacts.org editor Jefferson Morley is impressed with Kelly’s review:

Morley on Kelly

Morley and Kelly are big fans of Veciana who reversed himself in 2014 by saying that the late David Atlee Phillips was his CIA “case officer” Maurice Bishop. Veciana had denied that Phillips was Bishop both in sworn testimony before the HSCA and in numerous interviews for more than 30 years. Morley and Kelly believe Veciana now and discount his previous denials apparently because the Phillips as Bishop scenario dovetails beautifully with their CIA-did-it theories regarding the JFK assassination.

Morley states that Kelly “nails the point that Veciana’s critics strive to avoid. Phillips did use the alias “Maurice Bishop” and his physical description of “Bishop” bore an uncanny resemblance to Phillips.”

From my reading, Kelly’s proof that Phillips was Bishop, other than Veciana’s pronouncements that he was, rests on two points. The first is the resemblance between a specific photo of Phillips and a sketch prepared from a description provided by Veciana. The second point is described by Kelly this way:

We knew Phillips was "Maurice Bishop" - as Veciana described him to Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi and journalist Dick Russell in the 1970s - by comparing that profile to Phillips' description of himself in his autobiography, Nightwatch - 25 Years of Peculiar Service, which provides more than a dozen matches to specific times, places and events that certify his true identity.

Regarding the sketch of Bishop, the idea that it looked like Phillips originated with Senator Richard Schweiker. And the photo (shown above with the sketch) does bear at least some resemblance to the sketch. But if you look carefully at other photos of Phillips, the resemblance is not as clear, at least to me:

https://www.google.com/search?q=david+atlee+phillips&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjZwZLlqtnUAhUBOyYKHTF9B0oQ_AUIBygC&biw=1280&bih=603

And not everyone thought the sketch looked like Phillips. None of the CIA employees shown the sketch during the HSCA investigation identified it as Phillips. And another HSCA interviewee, James Cogswell, thought it looked like the President of Freeport Sulphur. Who a particular sketch look like is, of course, very much a subjective exercise. Colonel Sam Kail, thought it looked like Paul Bethel, the former head of the US Information Agency in Cuba and a friend of Phillips. Interestingly, someone else who thought the sketch looked like Bethel was Gaeton Fonzi himself. In fact, Fonzi first operated on the theory that Bethel was Bishop until Veciana told him he wasn’t. But as mentioned, Veciana also said Phillips was not Bishop for years until he reversed himself.

As for Kelly’s second proof that Bishop was Phillips, he outlines nether the “profile” provided by Veciana or the “dozen matches to specific times, places and events that certify his true identity.” Of course, Veciana’s profile of Bishop would necessarily need to have been provided prior to Phillips’ 1977 book. Otherwise, it would be worthless since Veciana or Fonzi could have obtained the information from that volume. And I am not aware of a detailed profile given by Veciana prior to 1977, only a general description that could match about a million other individuals as it did Bethel. Perhaps Kelly or Morley could enlighten me on this point and list the “more than a dozen” items which Veciana provided before 1977 that match Phillips.

However unlikely, it is certainly possible that Phillips used the alias of Maurice Bishop. Phillips admitted he used dozens or perhaps hundreds of aliases over the years. Perhaps the 2017 documents will reveal just such an alias. But the documents will also have to reveal that Phillips was Veciana’s CIA contact and more importantly that Phillips was also Oswald’s CIA contact or at least meeting with him. Absent these facts, Veciana’s largely undocumented claims have little relevance to the JFK case. To Kelly’s credit, he does at least allude to the fact that Veciana’s story does not always survive scrutiny as documented at this blog. He also correctly points out that the book’s lack of sources hurts its credibility.

Kelly and Morley part ways somewhat when it comes to the subject of Wynne Johnson who came forward in 2014 to “confirm” Veciana’s story of meeting Bishop and Oswald at the Southland Center in Dallas. Morley doesn’t buy Johnson’s story but Kelly apparently does as he mentions a “girl who directed them to the coffee shop” and this is the same girl mentioned by Johnson. Veciana also mentions the girl in his book, but predictably never remembered her in any other accounts of his story.

I'll have more to say on the subject of Phillips as Bishop in future articles.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Response to Morley

Jefferson Morley has written a piece at JFKfacts that is critical of my work on the Antonio Veciana story. Morley refers to that work as a “prosecutors brief.” I am still working on Veciana and will have more to say in the near future. For now, here is a brief response to Morley.

Morley says that my theory of Veciana “requires no further investigation because [I think I am] right.” To the contrary, I believe that a very good book could be written about Veciana presenting the opposing view to Fonzi’s Last investigation. Many questions about Veciana remain unanswered and many of his assertions still need verification. All of this would require more investigation and I plan to do what I can in the coming months, although I don’t believe I am qualified to do a complete book since I am not an expert on the Cuban angle as it relates to the assassination nor a professional writer. I am just a guy in my pajamas who is a skeptic and debunker. My goal is to make people think and to provide work that can be used by future researchers. Perhaps someone like Gus Russo or Brian Latell will eventually tell the complete Veciana story when all the documents are released.

Morley says I believe that “Veciana is some guy who made up a bunch of stories for no reason.” I never said it was for no reason and while I don’t pretend to know his motive, I speculate that it was self-preservation. Veciana was just coming out of prison when he spoke to Fonzi and clearly had no desire to return. I believe he wanted to show that any illegal activities he may have committed in his years of anti-Castro work were at the behest of the CIA. That is why I believe he created the Bishop character who may have been a composite of several real CIA/FBI/Military people that he knew. But, there could have been any number of other possible motives and further investigation is needed.

Morley says my “cartoonish” account of Fonzi is unfair and that I “caricature him as a conspiracy theorist” which is “false.” But as I point out, Fonzi admitted he “went from an agnostic to a conspiracy believer.” If you look at the quote by Fonzi that I reference, he said he wasn’t a theorist since, to him, conspiracy was a fact. Semantics aside, he clearly was a conspiracy believer. And it is not a good thing for an ostensibly impartial government investigator to already have a firm position. Fonzi certainly was a skilled and experienced investigator but his bias affected the way he conducted his work as I show and as at least some of his peers believed.

Morley asks several good questions about Veciana and some of these should investigated further. However, one point Morley brings up repeatedly as proof of Veciana’s bona fides is the fact that he had a CIA cryptonym. But as Morley should know, a cryptonym is just a code name used by the CIA to refer to an individual or group and does not prove or imply employment by the agency. And as a founding member of Alpha 66, Veciana was a person of interest to the CIA.

Morley also asks who was Veciana’s case officer if not David Phillips. The question is premature since we only have Veciana’s word that he worked for the CIA and agency documents report there was no connection.

And while there is some circumstantial evidence for Phillips as Bishop (but not as much as conspiracy people believe), more investigation is needed. But even if Phillips was Maurice Bishop, without the Bishop-Veciana-Oswald connection the story goes nowhere. As Fonzi himself noted in his HSCA writeup, “The committee's interest in the relationship between Antonio Veciana and Maurice Bishop is of course predicated on Veciana's contention that he saw Bishop with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas a few months before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.” And if Veciana did make up the Bishop story, the inclusion of Oswald ensured that he would receive the committee’s full attention.

Morley seems to have missed the point of my series, which is to offer a much-needed skeptical look at Veciana’s claims. And Morley’s analysis neglects to mention the provable evolution in Veciana’s story from 1976 to the present. If Morley or anyone can prove with indisputable documentation that Veciana was a CIA employee and that Phillips was Maurice Bishop, I will accept that fact. But barring any revelatory 2017 documents, I believe Morley and like-minded individuals will have a more difficult time showing that Phillips was “handling” Lee Harvey Oswald for the CIA.

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

In June 2017, Morley published an article on his blog critical of my work. I responded here:

Response to Morley

Also in June 2017, Bill Kelly posted a review of Veciana's book which Morley praised:

Discussion of Bill Kelly Review

In this article, I look at the evidence that Veciana worked for the CIA per Morley and other WC critics:

Veciana and the CIA

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.

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