Thursday, July 26, 2018

John Newman on Veciana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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