Sunday, March 7, 2021

Newman Says Phillips Was Not Bishop

“But it’s no doubt in my mind what happened and there was a classic, you know, ambush. He was never gonna get out of [Dealey Plaza] alive.”

This statement by author John Newman during the question-and-answer session after his November 2020 presentation titled, “The CIA, the Army and the Pentagon: The Veciana Misdirection 3.0” was no doubt warmly received by the virtual attendees. But the real headline was his answer to another query. That response will be troubling to JFK research community members who endorse the prevailing theory that the CIA killed Kennedy.

“Was Bishop really Phillips?”

“No, I don’t think so …” Newman answered. “at best [Bishop] would be a composite of several people that played roles in the saga.”

One of the pillars of the CIA-did-it believers has been the story of Antonio Veciana who told Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi that he saw Lee Harvey Oswald meet with his mentor, a shadowy figure named Maurice Bishop, shortly before the JFK killing. Newman has been slowly but surely working to dismantle specific aspects of Veciana’s tale since about 2017. Regrettably, he is seeking to replace that false history with another one-the Pentagon and certain members of the Joint Chiefs of staff (working with obligatory CIA elements) were really behind the November 22, 1963 murder.

Before looking at the gist of his presentation, I need to clear up a minor mistake Newman made. At slide number three, he states, “That afternoon [the March 2, 1976 initial interview] in the living room with Fonzi, Veciana did not say that his Bishop character’s first name was Maurice. Veciana did not mention a first name at all” (emphasis added). Shortly thereafter Newman says, “… In 1976 Veciana did not know the first name of Bishop. Over the next 12 months, Veciana added the first name as Morris and then later he finally changed it to Maurice.”

But Veciana did mention the first name of Bishop as “Morris” in that initial interview (see Fonzi, 200; RIF 157-10007-10311, p. 4). Moreover, Newman understates Bishop’s first name problem. Veciana’s Church Committee deposition (which is now missing) resulted in the generation of documents that referred to “Jim” or “John” as other possibilities for the unseen mentor’s first name.

At the virtual conference, Newman described his current theory regarding Veciana, which he now characterizes as “highly probable,” in the following manner:

“In exchange for his immediate release from prison [where he was serving time on a drug charge], Veciana had to fabricate a complete makeover of his past life as a CIA agent who witnessed Oswald with his CIA handler in the fall of 1963. Veciana agreed.”

According to Newman, the “crucial moment in Veciana’s life” was the “secret deal” he made to get out of prison in February 1976. Newman maintains that Veciana dropped a “big shining lie” on Gaeton Fonzi during the initial interview. “That event was no accident. Those who offered Veciana the secret deal knew that Fonzi was a staff investigator for the Senate Select Committee and knew that Fonzi was going to interview Veciana,” Newman asserted, “And I have the evidence for that.” Newman concluded, “… they weaponized Veciana to control the narrative of the Congressional investigation of the Kennedy assassination.”

To prove his theory, Newman says that he is working to have information released to the public. “Now, we want all the documents of anything the parole board did,” Newman said, “and if they’ve been destroyed we want all the documentation of when and why they were destroyed.”

In the meantime, Newman offered several pieces of evidence to support his hypothesis. He says that three of Veciana’s friends believed in the “secret deal” and believes that their statements confirm the arrangement. The first of these friends is Felix Zabala, a sports promoter who worked on various projects with Veciana in Puerto Rico. The second was Roger Redondo who was a member of SNFE. The final friend remains unidentified but goes by the FBI pseudonym of “Wild Stallion.” Newman says that “Wild Stallion” was a “senior Alpha 66 member.”

Each of these men indeed expressed the opinion that Veciana had hatched a “secret deal” (perhaps using false statements) to achieve an early prison release. But the men’s beliefs were just that with no confirmation offered. For example, in the case of “Wild Stallion,” the FBI report called his assertions, “pure speculation” and added that he “has no tangible evidence to support this theory.” And although Zabala believed in the “secret deal” theory, he also stated that in all the years he had known Veciana, he “never indicated he had anything to do with or had information concerning the assassination of Kennedy” that would justify such a deal.

Newman offers additional evidence for the “secret deal” theory in the form of a statement made by Veciana during his 1978 HSCA testimony:

“Nevertheless, I feel compelled to answer because going to [j]ail at this point in time for a person who is on parole would mean to paralyze certain very important investigations that I am now controlling within the courts of my country” (emphasis by Newman in his presentation slide).

Newman calls this a “remarkable confession” that “gave away an important clue to the hazardous mission [the secret deal] that Veciana had to undertake to win his freedom from prison”. But Veciana launched into more than one rambling and self-serving monologue during his HSCA testimony. The speech that Newman draws the quote from started out as a response to a question about the 1971 plot to kill Castro in South America that Veciana says he was a part of. However, the country Veciana was referring to was likely his homeland of Cuba and the (probably imaginary) investigations he referenced were doubtless related to two of his pet peeves-his drug conviction “setup” (which he blamed “the Cuban government” for in this same testimony) and his fear that Castro was trying to kill him. Although the evidence shows that Veciana was guilty of the drug charge, his latter concern was a real one since he was indeed slightly wounded during an assassination attempt in 1979.

As a researcher who believes that Bishop did not exist, if Newman were to prove that Veciana procured an early release to tell his story, it would be a stroke of luck for me. Veciana’s motive for the Bishop story would then become obvious-he wanted to give the investigators their “money’s worth.” But I doubt the “secret deal” theory for several reasons.

First, Newman says that the conspirators “knew” that Fonzi was going to interview Veciana. I take this to mean that Fonzi was unaware of the scheme and was an unwitting dupe which simplifies things. The conspirators contacted Veciana and got him to agree to this “secret deal.” In exchange for his freedom, Veciana was to represent himself-to use Newman’s words, “as a CIA agent who witnessed Oswald with his CIA handler in the fall of 1963.” The problem is he did no such thing.

As I wrote in a previous blog post:

[during the first interview with Fonzi] Veciana inexplicably uttered, “a few times [I] asked [Bishop] if he worked for the CIA. And the answer he would give … was that there isn’t only one agency, the CIA, there are a lot of agencies working for this” [the anti-Castro cause]. Veciana went on to say that he believed Bishop was “working for a private organization, not the government.” As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Despite the perfect opportunity to tie his mysterious mentor to the CIA, Veciana somehow completely forgot about the mission his Pentagon masters had ordered him to undertake. In fact, he seemed to be going out of his way to not implicate the agency. Worse, his reference to other “agencies” had opened the door to the possibility that Fonzi, or another investigator reviewing his notes, would consider Army Intelligence as a source of Bishop’s authority. And given Veciana’s provable ties to that group, that was a distinct possibility.

Indeed, as Newman notes in his presentation, Senator Schweiker did his own legwork which led to the Church Committee deposition of Veciana’s true Intelligence handler, Milford Hubbard of the US Army. Both Schweiker and Fonzi became aware of Veciana’s link to the Army and the lack of evidence that tied him to the CIA. Others in the US government also learned of Veciana’s Army ties. We now know that the CIA’s Scott Breckinridge was referring to the Army when he told Robert Blakey, “you know Veciana was an asset of another US government agency and not of CIA.” Because there was no Bishop, Schweiker hit a dead end in his pursuit of the ethereal mentor as an Army Intelligence asset and dropped the matter. Fonzi simply ignored the evidence that Veciana’s more tangible association was with the Army and blindly pursued the CIA angle.

Veciana again had a chance to put everyone on the right track in June of 1976 when he spoke to Dick Russell. Granted, Russell was not a government investigator, but Veciana’s statements to him show that he was not pushing the CIA angle to anyone. Veciana told Russell that Bishop was, “part of an American intelligence service, but instructed him not to ask which one.” Once again, Veciana not only refused to implicate the CIA through Bishop, but again opened the door to the possibility that he was working with another intelligence service such as the Army’s.

In August of 1977, well over a year after those first interviews with Fonzi, Veciana had yet another chance to identify Bishop as CIA. Once again, he failed miserably to do the plotters’ bidding and made a point of forcefully denying that Bishop was with the agency. Veciana told Fonzi’s assistant Al Gonzales that he “never said that Bishop was CIA” but believed that he was with “some sort of [other] intelligence agency or with a powerful interest group.” And Veciana’s reference of another intelligence agency again opened the door to potential scrutiny of the very agency he was supposed to protect-the Army. By the way, it was during this interview with Gonzales that Veciana initally said that Bishop’s first name was “Maurice.”

Veciana’s final opportunity to implicate the CIA under Fonzi’s tenure came during his 1978 HSCA testimony. Predictably, Veciana once again stated, "I always had the opinion that Maurice Bishop was working for a private firm and not the government." Veciana also refused to name David Phillips, Fonzi’s perennial Bishop suspect, as the unseen mentor. So much for directing the attention of investigators away from the Pentagon and toward the CIA. A simpler and more likely motive for Veciana to initially speak to Fonzi was his two pet peeves previously mentioned-his drug conviction and his fear of Castro. Veciana probably believed that having government investigators in his corner would lend credibility to his assertion that he was “setup” for the drug charge (and Fonzi indeed promoted that canard) and make it harder for Castro to kill him.

In addition to the “secret deal” theory, there are a few other points that I disagree with Newman about. I will offer more detail about these in my forthcoming book.

To show that Veciana disliked the CIA and would not have worked with them, Newman says the MRP endured a “CIA nightmare” in Cuba before the Bay of Pigs. The MRP asked the agency for “weapons of war” but the CIA distrusted them and provided only sabotage weapons and equipment. According to Newman, a schism in the MRP developed in June 1961 and Veciana became “military coordinator.” Veciana was very bitter toward the CIA when Cuban Intelligence crushed Operation Liborio in 1961. I assume Newman means that Veciana was bitter regarding the fact that the CIA did not provide more substantial weapons to the MRP. But why? Did Veciana really believe that having a few weapons would allow the MRP to crush Castro’s substantial security forces? Besides, Veciana had a bazooka-the problem (depending on who is telling the story) was evidently finding anyone who was willing to risk their own life by firing it at Castro.

Newman says a “secret merger” between Alpha 66 and SNFE during the Cuban Missile Crisis helped to hide the Army’s work with Alpha 66 and transfer blame for pushing JFK into war with Cuba (which, of course, never happened) from the Pentagon to the CIA. My contention is that such a merger never occurred, at least not the way Newman indicates.

Newman doubts the story that Hubbard told to Schweiker about visiting the frogmen at the Alpha 66/SNFE base. Hubbard said that SNFE leader Eloy Menoyo was the one who accompanied him to the base but Newman believes it was Veciana. Newman bases this on a report that says Veciana was scheduled to take the trip. Of course, this does not prove that he did. As further proof that Menoyo could not have made the trip Newman maintains (slide 113) that Menoyo left the US on October 10, 1962 and never returned “for years.” But a quick check of my records shows Menoyo made a speech in Chicago in May of 1963.

In conclusion, John Newman should be congratulated for recognizing that David Phillips was not Bishop and stating that publicly. Similarly, he should be commended for some of his work on the Veciana-Maurice Bishop matter. For example, Newman was the first one to show that both the 1959 and 1960 scenarios regarding Veciana meeting Bishop/Phillips in Cuba are false when checked against the known actions of Phillips. But it is regrettable that he is trying to replace Veciana’s conspiracy canard with his pet theory of Pentagon involvement in the death of JFK.

Powered by Blogger.