21. “Such a Man Did Not Exist”

Title Quote: The CIA
Photo: Jack Anderson

In 1977, a series of newspaper columns by famed investigative journalist Jack Anderson based on leaked information caused consternation for Fonzi and his fellow staffers. Anderson’s article, titled “Mr. X Says He Met Oswald Through CIA Man,” described the alleged Bishop-Oswald meeting. While not naming Veciana specifically, Fonzi believed that Anderson still effectively outed the former anti-Castro activist since “X” was described as a “founder of a Cuban terrorist group,” and references were made to the Castro assassination attempts in 1961 and 1971. George Lardner of the Washington Post contacted Fonzi pre-publication after recognizing that Veciana was “Mr. X.” The disclosure purportedly sent Fonzi into a tailspin since he feared sinister forces would seek to silence Veciana.1

But there is evidence that Fonzi’s concern regarding leaks to the media was short-lived. The Anderson articles first appeared in January of 1977. On April 11th of that year, Bill O’Reilly of WFAA-TV in Dallas (later of Fox News Channel fame) was at the Dallas CIA field office attempting to speak to J. Walton Moore, an agency employee who was an acquaintance of George de Mohrenschildt. It turns out that O’Reilly and Fonzi were friends and the latter was likely feeding information to the bombastic newsman and others. A CIA memo from April 13, 1977, picks up the story:

O’Reilly was not permitted to come into the office and Moore spoke to him on the telephone in the outer foyer. O’Reilly said he was doing a story on his news program at 1800 hours on CIA involvement in the Kennedy Assassination. Specifically, he was going to allege that Moore knew Lee Harvey Oswald and he wanted to give Moore an opportunity to tell his side of the story. Moore said he would not discuss the matter with O’Reilly and would answer questions only to the properly designated authorities. O’Reilly and his crew left after taking some pictures in the foyer.

The memo continued:

On 12 April 1977, our administrative assistant Mrs. Barham received a phone call from an individual asking to speak with Morris Bishop. She advised that there was no one by that name working in the office.

Obviously, the call to the CIA was made by O’Reilly or one of his associates. O’Reilly’s WFAA-TV report on the matter said in part, “Channel 8 News has learned that a recently declassified document now in the hands of a writer [emphasis added] indicates that Lee Harvey Oswald was employed by the CIA possibly in 1962 …”

As noted previously, Moore was one of Fonzi’s first Bishop suspects and he admits that he asked a local reporter to secretly photograph the CIA man.2 However, it seems that Fonzi’s stunt almost got him into trouble. A CIA document reported that the unauthorized photograph was taken in late March or early April by a private investigator named Paul McCaghren who was working for “a Dallas Television station.” When McCaghren, who was a former Dallas Assistant Chief of Police, found out that the photos were to be used by the HSCA, he contacted the FBI. Representative Richardson Preyer of North Carolina, Chairman of the HSCA subcommittee, asked for a complete investigation of the matter. Paul Daly, the FBI’s legislative liaison, stated that the bureau would “undertake this action immediately.” But for unknown reasons, the FBI evidently never followed up and Fonzi’s involvement in the ill-advised scheme is not widely known.

After showing his surreptitiously obtained photo of Moore to Veciana, who (of course) denied it was Bishop, Fonzi gave up on this specific CIA man as a suspect but not on the concept of CIA complicity in the JFK murder. As for the identity of the leaker, Fonzi and Veciana decided that the revelation came from the HSCA although they were unable to pin down a specific individual. It should be noted that the possibility of Fonzi himself being the source of the leak cannot be ruled out. At the time of the leak, the HSCA was fighting to justify its existence and such a disclosure would be useful toward that end. And if Fonzi was the leaker, his self-described anger toward Anderson could have just as easily been caused by the fact that the veteran newsman released more detail regarding Veciana’s identity than Fonzi anticipated he would.

Despite a preponderance of evidence refuting the “Phillips as Bishop” scenario, Fonzi was able to find some support within the CIA for his theories. In January of 1978, Fonzi and his assistant Al Gonzales interviewed former CIA agent Ross Crozier, who worked out of Miami’s JMWAVE station, both in person and by phone. Fonzi reported in HSCA Volume X that Crozier, who was identified as “Ron Cross” in HSCA literature for security purposes, was “almost positive” that Phillips used the cover name of “Bishop.” But Fonzi does not tell the whole story.

According to an HSCA memo, on January 18th, Gonzales called Crozier and queried him on the pseudonyms. Crozier told Gonzales that he “believed but wasn’t certain” that Phillips had used the “Bishop” moniker. However, Crozier told Gonzales that he was scheduled for lunch with a former CIA colleague the following day and would check with that person. On January 20th, Gonzales again contacted Crozier who now reported being “almost certain” that Phillips had used the name “Bishop” after conferring with his friend, Delfin Campana. Therefore, Crozier’s near certainty was based on what Campana allegedly said rather than his own recollections.3

On January 31st, Fonzi again contacted Crozier who reported being “almost positive” that Phillips had used the Bishop cover. The reason for Crozier’s certainty was his recollection of conversations with an associate at JMWAVE using the cover name Doug Gupton, whose real name was William Kent. Crozier said that he and Kent, who worked under Phillips, had occasionally discussed problems with field agents. Kent said that “Mr. Bishop will have to talk with [them].” Crozier merely assumed that Kent was referring to Phillips.

When told of Crozier’s statement, Kent said “Well, maybe I did. I don’t remember.” Fonzi and his supporters believe this statement by Kent is a major “proof” that Phillips was Bishop. But Kent also said that he did not recall Phillips ever using the name Bishop or having ever heard the name in Miami at all. Kent also did not recognize the Bishop sketch as anyone he knew. Fonzi and Gonzales interviewed Campana in February shortly after speaking to Crozier. Campana did not verify Crozier’s assertions and instead reported that he knew nothing about Veciana, the identity of Maurice Bishop, or Alpha 66. It is therefore likely that Crozier and Campana casually discussed the Bishop allegations (public knowledge by that time) during their lunch meeting and Crozier mistook speculation by Campana for confirmation that Phillips used the Bishop alias.

A December 29, 2013 Internet forum post on the alt.assassination.jfk group by researcher Dave Reitzes provided an assortment of information on Veciana and the Bishop affair. Reitzes’ post in turn referenced a message by researcher Gerald McNally who spoke to Crozier on May 7, 1999. It should be noted that Crozier was remembering events from as far back as nearly 40 years at the time McNally spoke to him. Crozier told McNally that although he spoke to HSCA investigators he did not remember talking to Fonzi. But the record is clear that Crozier spoke to both Fonzi and his assistant Gonzales on January 13, 1978, in an extensive interview at his home.4 However, Bishop was not discussed during that session and the information that Fonzi and Gonzales later developed regarding Crozier’s recollections of the Bishop matter was obtained by phone and no written record of those calls remains.

When Crozier spoke to McNally, he seemed anything but positive about the “Phillips as Bishop” scenario:

McNally: My reading is that you are cited as being the only person who ever said directly that Phillips was "Bishop" – is this accurate?
Crozier: Somebody said to me once, 'You're going to come out and deny that, right?' and I didn't know what he was talking about. I remember hearing that name used [Maurice Bishop] around the station. But I just called him "Dave" – everybody did. So, it's not something I could say with any positive assurance.

The bottom line is that Crozier thought he remembered hearing the name “Bishop” or “Maurice Bishop” from his time at JMWAVE. But his much-ballyhooed association of the name with Phillips seems less than certain and is based more on what others told him than on his own recollections. It should be noted that Crozier told McNally that he was generally skeptical of Veciana’s assertions including his statement that he saw Oswald with Phillips. Finally, author Gus Russo told Reitzes that Crozier, who he was in touch with over an approximately ten-year period, “definitely did not know Phillips by the name of Maurice Bishop.”5

Another CIA person that Fonzi and his supporters use to bolster their case is John McCone, the director of the agency from 1961 to 1965. McCone was asked during his HSCA deposition on August 17, 1978, if he had ever heard of a Maurice Bishop who worked for the agency. McCone thought that he had heard the name in connection with the agency but could recall no other details about Bishop. After becoming aware that the HSCA was planning to use his testimony to further the case for Bishop, McCone recanted his statement on October 19th saying he “had been in error.”

Was there any reason that McCone or other CIA personnel would have recognized the name Bishop? Researcher Carmine Savastano found that there were several CIA employees who used the surname “Bishop” during the pertinent time.6 None of these individuals matched the profile of Maurice Bishop as alleged by Veciana nor did any have the first name “Maurice” (although one agency informant was named “Morris”). But McCone could recall nothing about the individual except that he thought his name was Maurice Bishop. Perhaps McCone was simply remembering the various Bishops who worked for the CIA and conflating “Maurice” with one of them as Robert Genzman, who questioned the agency chief, suspected. “I got the impression,” Genzman noted, “[McCone] just somehow recalled [Bishop] from his days at the agency and that was about it. I believed him.”7

CIA covert operative Barney Hidalgo remembered being told by a co-worker that a Langley employee he observed was Maurice Bishop. Hidalgo also believed that Bishop might be an alias rather than a true name. But Hidalgo did not think this Bishop was Phillips. “Mr. Bishop was in the organization,” Hidalgo told the HSCA in a special closed session, “but I had no personal day-to-day open relationship with him. Phillips, yes; Bishop, no. I knew them both." Hidalgo described Phillips, who occupied a Langley office on the same floor as his, as “a personal friend” whom he called “frequently” after his retirement, so there is no question that he knew Phillips and knew what he looked like. Nevertheless, Hidalgo was unable to provide any specific information on “Bishop’s” appearance or job title aside from the fact that he worked at CIA headquarters in Langley.8

On October 18, 1978, Scott Breckinridge, accompanied by two other CIA men, traveled to Hidalgo’s home to clarify the statements made during his testimony. Breckinridge informed Hidalgo that there was no CIA record of an agent named “Maurice Bishop” or any evidence that the name was used as a pseudonym or alias by any CIA employee. Hidalgo was shown 14 photographs of agency employees with the last name “Bishop” who worked during the relevant time. While Hidalgo recognized one photo of a stockbroker in North Carolina who worked as an agency asset, he could not have been Bishop. Hidalgo admitted that it was not customary to use aliases at Langley (as he believed was the case with “Bishop”) but stated that it did happen and related an incident when someone had referred to him by an alias rather than his real name. Ultimately, Hidalgo stuck by his statement that he was aware of an individual at Langley named Maurice Bishop, although he was certain that individual was not Phillips.

Because of the statements of John McCone and Barney Hidalgo, the CIA was asked by the HSCA to review its files to see if a “Maurice Bishop” had ever been employed by the agency. On September 8, 1978, the CIA's Office of Legislative Counsel sent a written reply to the HSCA indicating that, after checking all files (the second time the agency had done so), "no person with such a name has a connection with CIA. Quite frankly, it is our belief from our earlier check, reinforced by this one—that such a man did not exist, so far as CIA connections are concerned."

On April 25, 1978, Phillips testified before the HSCA and denied that he had ever used the Maurice Bishop alias. He also denied ever meeting Veciana before the Reston incident and denied using a Belgian passport or the name Frigault. Veciana appeared before the committee on consecutive days that same month, the third time he had testified under oath about the Bishop affair. Once again, he stated that David Phillips was not Maurice Bishop.9

The HSCA Volume X Appendix written by Fonzi contained some bottom-line conclusions regarding Veciana’s claims. First, file requests to the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense failed to locate Maurice Bishop. Fonzi and the HSCA did learn that Army Intelligence had a relationship with Veciana, but this aspect of the investigation was largely ignored by Fonzi due to his bias toward CIA theories.10 And it is now known that except for his brief authorization as an MRP sabotage man, Veciana had no relationship with the CIA beyond three contacts that he initiated when he asked for money and other assistance.11 Veciana received $500 but even Fonzi admitted the money came from an anti-Castro supporter who was a CIA asset as opposed to coming from the agency itself.

The Bishop sketch was ultimately released to the public, but no one came forward with information about the mystery man. Fonzi was forced to admit that “not one of [Veciana’s] associates—neither those who worked with him in anti-Castro activity in Cuba nor those who were associated with him in Alpha 66—said they were aware of any American directing Veciana or of anyone who had the characteristics of Maurice Bishop.”

The statements of Rufo López-Fresquet in this regard are noteworthy. HSCA investigators Jack Moriarty and Howard Gilbert spoke to Veciana’s mentor on May 19, 1977. “The first time I see [Veciana] again, López-Fresquet told them, “I’m going to tell him he certainly fooled me, because he always made a point of telling me he had no connection with the CIA and he was all the time coming to me with the stories about obstacles that the CIA was putting in his way when he had an obsession of killing Castro.” López-Fresquet also noted, “Maybe what [Veciana] is telling you now [about Bishop] is the truth. But that was not what he told me.”12

Other factors that led the HSCA to doubt Veciana included the amount of time he had waited before telling his story, the lack of evidence to support his claim of receiving $253,000, and the fact that he did little to help the committee identify Bishop. In what was probably the most significant HSCA conclusion regarding the Maurice Bishop affair, Fonzi wrote, “No corroboration was found for Veciana's alleged meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald.”

On September 21, 1979, Veciana was slightly wounded in an assassination attempt while driving near his Miami home. Four shots were fired from a small caliber weapon and a fragment caused a superficial wound just above his left ear. Although theorists usually do not come right out and say that Veciana was attacked because of his statements before the Church Committee and HSCA, they certainly have implied that is the case. One example is provided by Hinckle and Turner in their book Deadly Secrets. The authors note that the HSCA report “contained a section on Veciana’s disclosures about his mysterious mentor, Bishop.” They then say that Veciana’s attack occurred three months later and that the police investigated “possible political circumstances.”13

Veciana, ever mindful of his audience, plays this game himself in his book. “Before the House Select Committee on Assassinations finished its work,” he wrote, “someone tried to silence me. With a bullet.”14 Similarly, on page 194 he opined, “someone didn’t want me around to see the final [HSCA] report.” But what Hinckle, Turner and Veciana do not tell readers is that the latter and his family have always maintained that the “someone” who tried to kill him was “Castro agents.” Indeed, before the assault had even occurred Veciana provided information regarding who he believed was planning to kill him, during his 1978 testimony before the HSCA. Veciana claimed that the individual “trying now to carry out Castro’s orders to kill me … used to be in school with me [in Cuba].”15

Speaking from his hospital bed after the attack, Veciana saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone when he told the Miami Herald that the assault was “part of a Castro campaign” that caused him to “spend 18 months in jail for drug law violations.”16 Veciana’s wife Sira agreed with his assessment. “The only enemy my husband had in the world was Fidel Castro," she maintained. "This must have been done by infiltrators living in Miami."17 Indeed, Veciana told Fonzi that a “Castro agent” was behind the attempted murder.18 And after first letting his reader’s minds run away with the possibilities, Veciana finally admits in his book that his chief suspect was always Castro.19

Not quite two months after the assassination attempt, Veciana spoke to the FBI regarding the ordeal. He alleged that “the individual involved in the attempt was either ordered or contracted by the Cuban government to eliminate him.” Veciana complained to the bureau agents that the local police were “not doing enough” to locate the attacker and requested that the FBI take over the investigation. Despite seeking the bureau’s help, Veciana had the chutzpah to accuse the FBI of being “aware” of the attempt on his life yet neglecting to inform him.20

If Veciana can be believed (always an open question) he and his family may have had valid reasons to suspect Castro of trying to kill him. In 1983, Jim McGee of Knight-Ridder Newspapers detailed yet another Veciana-authored assassination plot against Castro. Veciana alleged that he planned to kill Fidel during his autumn 1979 trip to New York to speak before the United Nations. Veciana said that he recruited an unnamed woman to throw explosive devices that he fashioned to look like baseballs under Castro’s car. As a backup plan, Veciana hoped to kill Fidel at a baseball game in Pittsburgh. The assassin would again hurl Veciana’s disguised bombs, although this time she would be disguised as a Coca-Cola vendor and aim the explosives at the bearded leader’s box seat. A second plot masterminded by Veciana’s old friend Andreas Nazario used the more conventional method of a sniper. As the shooter, Veciana and Nazario recruited Bay of Pigs veteran Humberto Perez.21

But Veciana and Nazario told McGee that “a Castro spy” learned of their plans and Fidel therefore acted preemptively with an assassination attempt of his own against Veciana. The duo maintained that Veciana’s shooting occurred “about two weeks” before Castro’s scheduled arrival in the United States. The fact that no other suspect in the shooting was ever located would seem to be an argument in favor of Veciana’s scenario. Another fact in Veciana’s favor, if true, was that ballistics tests allegedly proved the gun used to shoot him was the same one used in an attack on another anti-Castro activist two months earlier, according to McGee.22

However, Veciana did not name the alleged spy although he could be the same school friend that he mentioned in his HSCA testimony. Additionally, it should be noted that no harm came to Nazario before or after the Veciana shooting. Nazario told McGee that the FBI was tipped off to the assassination plan by Castro and the bureau subsequently raided his California home. The next day Nazario was on a plane out of New York. Castro altered his New York itinerary and consequently, “there wasn’t an opportunity” to kill him, according to Veciana.23

Go to Chapter 22

The Bishop Hoax Table of Contents


1. Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 200-201.
2. Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 188.
3. Memo to Blakey from Fonzi and Gonzales Re. Crozier Interview, February 4, 1978. RIF 180-10077-10021. This document spells Campana’s name incorrectly.
4. HSCA interview of Ross Crozier, January 13, 1978. RIF 180-10106-10028.
5. Interestingly, Fonzi apparently never showed the sketch of Bishop to Crozier.
6. Savastano, “Regarding Maurice Bishop.” According to a CIA memo by Scott Breckinridge, there were 14 individuals with the last name Bishop who had “an employee relationship” with the agency in the 1960s (RIF 104-10065-10191).
7. Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 334.
8. HSCA testimony of Balmes Nives Hidalgo Jr., August 10, 1978. RIF 180-10110-10024. Note that Hidalgo had two strokes which affected his memory for a time. Despite this, he continued to work at the CIA until 1970 and was able to remember several details during his testimony such as the first name of a Cuban defector (Vladimir Lahera Rodriguez) after being told only his CIA cryptonym (Hidalgo Testimony).
9. HSCA X, paragraph 184. Either Veciana himself or Fabian Escalante was guilty of spreading disinformation about Veciana’s HSCA appearance. Escalante told a group of researchers in 1995 that Veciana had been pressed to identify Bishop by the committee and he had given them a “fake name” but Bishop was really Phillips (Russell, “JFK & the Cuban Connection”). But nothing like this ever happened. Which means that either Veciana lied to the Cuban Intelligence source that reported this, or the story was made up by the Cubans as part of their ongoing disinformation campaign (see Chapter 10). Escalante also claimed that Phillips had “threatened” Veciana, and another Cuban informant had delivered a message from Phillips to Veciana. None of these allegations are corroborated and it should be noted that Veciana never offered a scrap of paper to substantiate any of his claims except for the dubious “Frigault” allegation that was eventually dropped by both him and Fonzi (see endnotes for Chapter 3).
10. Evidence that Fonzi ignored the Army Intelligence angle and avoided information that could have contradicted the Bishop story comes from his own HSCA writeup. In footnote number 231, Fonzi references “Department of Defense file No. AA 90 49 16.” This file is known informally by researchers as the Malcolm Blunt Department of Defense Documents for the researcher who made it widely available. This file details several interactions between Veciana and Army personnel. A review of this file alone makes it clear that the CIA was correct when it told the HSCA back in the late seventies that the Army rather than their agency was operationally involved with Veciana, a fact that Fonzi disputed despite his familiarity with evidence to the contrary.
11. http://wtracyparnell.blogspot.com/2017/07/veciana-and-cia.html. Since Fonzi had access to many government documents in his capacity as an HSCA investigator, it would be surprising if he did not see the documentation that proved Veciana’s actual relationship with the agency.
12. Transcript of HSCA Interview with Rufo López-Fresquet, May 19, 1977, 10-11. RIF 180-10086-10456.
13. Hinckle and Turner, Deadly Secrets, 406.
14. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 193.
15. HSCA Executive Session Testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 26, 1978, 16. RIF 180-10118-10145.
16. Dan Williams. “Veciana Says He Was the Victim of a Castro Attack.” The Miami Herald, September 23, 1979, 2.
17. Dan Williams. “Anti-Castro Leader Shot in the Head.” The Miami Herald, September 22, 1979, 2B.
18. Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 394.
19. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 195.
20. FBI report of interview with Antonio Veciana on November 6, 1979. Obtained from Muckrock.com.
21. Jim McGee. “Cuban Spy Wars.” The Montreal Gazette, June 25, 1983, 19.
22. Jim McGee. “Cuban Spy Wars.” The Montreal Gazette, June 25, 1983, 19.
23. Jim McGee. “Cuban Spy Wars.” The Montreal Gazette, June 25, 1983, 19. In his book, Veciana writes dramatically of an assassination attempt against him at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico in late 1967 or early 1968. Veciana says two bombs went off that tore lockers to shreds and blew holes in walls. Miraculously, he somehow escaped this attack (Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 130-131). I found no confirmation for these claims.


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