Thursday, April 25, 2019

Into the Storm Part 3

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

Veciana’s “Lost” Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veciana and the Army

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zabala’s Revelation

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

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


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

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Into the Storm Part 2

Delores Cao (“Fabiola”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newman continues:

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

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

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

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

“Joe Melton”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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