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 Salon’s David Talbot calls the book “one of the most important historical documents to have emerged in the U.S. in the past decade.”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.

3 comments:

  1. A very useful look at the support (or lack thereof) for Veciana's claims. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Like you wrote Tracy without the Oswald-Bishop link this "story" is
    all sizzle and no steak.
    David Atlee Phillips may very well have used "Bishop" as a pseudonym
    (He did have dozens after all) but so what?
    How does any of this put boots-on-the-ground in Dallas on 11/22?

    Anyhow, you're doing a good job providing a skeptical outlook.
    The JFK community has been sorely lacking this, instead of getting
    more coherent as the Years go by it seems to be getting more looney,
    especially since the 50th.
    Keep fighting the good fight, it is appreciated.

    ReplyDelete

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