30. Conclusion

When explaining why he refused to identify Phillips as Bishop for so many years, Antonio Veciana fell back on a trite line—he was afraid. Not so much for himself, he maintained, but for his family. It was the same reason that he gave for not testifying in his own defense at his drug trial. This all sounds very noble, but it makes no sense. Veciana could have been given protective custody until the time of his testimony. After he had fingered Phillips and provided reasonable evidence to back up his story, there would be no point in killing him or his family—the damage would be done. But Veciana could provide no evidence to confirm his tales. Indeed, the HSCA noted that he “did little” to help them identify Bishop.

Veciana admits that he “could have” gone public after Phillips’ death since there would have been nothing to fear from Phillips and nothing to be gained by any coconspirators wanting to killing him or his family. This time, his excuse was he did not want to “dance on [Phillips’] grave” which again rings hollow since his eventual admission did just that. What is much more likely is that Veciana never said Phillips was Bishop because he wasn’t. That is what he testified to under oath. And when he was contacted by the ARRB, he stonewalled them because he didn’t want to be placed under oath and asked some very uncomfortable questions. The same sort of questions now being posed by this book as well as by skeptical conspiracy-oriented researchers.

I considered every possibility in the case of Veciana—including that he was telling the truth. He did have access to two key individuals who also knew Phillips. They were Julio Lobo, Veciana’s boss in Cuba, and Rufo López-Fresquet, a mentor of sorts to him. Lobo was never questioned by investigators and this fact provides a slim reed upon which to hang the hopes of those who choose to ignore the voluminous contradictory evidence regarding Veciana’s story. But even in his dubious autobiography, Veciana never claimed that Lobo introduced him to Phillips.

In the case of López-Fresquet, the evidence is clear that he did not introduce Bishop/Phillips to Veciana. Fonzi said in HSCA Volume X report that Veciana thought López-Fresquet may have led Bishop to him. But this is disingenuous since Fonzi was aware that López-Fresquet had been interviewed by HSCA investigators and denied any knowledge of Bishop and indeed said he was surprised when Veciana came forward with his allegations of a CIA mentor. Characteristically, Fonzi saw fit to withhold this discrepancy in Veciana’s story from his readers.1

I considered the idea that Veciana came up with the concept of Phillips as Bishop during his incarceration in Atlanta and sought to push this idea to Fonzi. Phillips became a public figure after he retired to defend the agency and Veciana could have learned the basic details of his career and what he looked like by simply reading the newspaper in prison. And as Paul Hoch noted, it would have been easy for Veciana to figure out that Fonzi would be interested in a story about Oswald meeting a CIA man.

But ultimately, the evidence did not support my theory. Initially (and for some time afterward), Veciana did not say Bishop was necessarily in the CIA or any other intelligence agency. And it was Senator Schweiker who came up with the idea of Phillips as Bishop, not Veciana. Finally, when Veciana saw photographs of Phillips and later met him at the AFIO convention he denied he was Bishop. What is more likely is that Veciana merely went along with Fonzi and Schweiker especially after seeing how adamant Fonzi was in his belief.

Researcher and author John Newman believes that Veciana was let out of prison in a secret deal so he could speak to Fonzi and thereby direct attention away from the true killers of JFK (who Newman thinks were key figures in the Pentagon) and toward the CIA. Presumably, Newman believes Fonzi and the Church Committee members were unaware of this secret scheme which was conducted by unknown surrogates acting on behalf of the Pentagon masterminds who had a federal judge in their pocket.

But Newman’s theory falls by the wayside for same reasons my Atlanta theory did. Veciana said that Bishop could have been with a special interest group rather than an intelligence service and did not specifically name the agency until years later. This would not make sense if he were trying to direct attention to the CIA. Most of Newman’s argument is based on the opinions of Veciana’s friends Felix Zabala and Roger Redondo (and one other unknown person) who indeed said they believed Veciana received an early release to provide his story to Fonzi. But their belief was not based on any hard evidence.

I ultimately concluded that there was no Maurice Bishop, at least as Antonio Veciana described him. In other words, although Veciana may have based Bishop on real life contacts he had such as Jordon Pfuntner, Joe Kent, Rufo López-Fresquet and Milford Hubbard, there was no CIA agent or other government representative who directed his Alpha 66 activities, introduced him to Lee Harvey Oswald and twice ordered him to kill Castro.2 Therefore, any summary of the facts must begin with Veciana’s motive for inventing this hoax in the first place.

First, the freshly paroled Veciana was worried that a congressional investigation might determine that he had committed crimes during his years of anti-Castro work. A non-existent “handler” would be a convenient device for him to use to shift the blame for his actions. Even the credulous Fonzi recognized this possibility during the initial interviews and wrote about it. A second motive for Veciana could have been the belief that his association with a congressional committee would keep him and his family safe. Veciana often said that the FBI had told him that Castro was trying to have him killed. This could have been true and it is a fact that Veciana was attacked unsuccessfully in 1979, although his claims of having been assaulted on two other occasions remain unsubstantiated.

But perhaps the most compelling motive for Veciana to create the Bishop story was his personally devastating drug conviction. He had worked for years to develop a reputation in the exile community. Then, in a moment of weakness, he got greedy. He saw a chance to make “easy money” at a time in his life when finances were a concern. In 1976, Veciana still had anti-Castro ambitions and he urgently needed a way to restore his good name. Then, along came Gaeton Fonzi who offered him just such an opportunity.

Veciana was able to quickly read Fonzi and knew that he would be unable to resist a story about Lee Harvey Oswald meeting with an agent of some conveniently unidentified group. Veciana likely hoped that Fonzi would actively work to reverse his drug conviction but that wish did not materialize. Nevertheless, the relationship between Fonzi and Veciana was mutually beneficial in the end because Fonzi provided readers of his materials with sufficient innuendo to allow them to conclude Veciana was framed by the CIA. So, Fonzi got a conspiracy theory and Veciana got at least plausibility for his drug “setup” story even though he could never decide exactly who it was who incriminated him. But the evidence against Veciana was overwhelming and his vow to “destroy” the proof of his culpability was merely empty rhetoric.

Veciana’s Bishop tale was intentionally vague right from the start, so Fonzi, who effectively operated as an activist rather than an unbiased researcher, deliberately misrepresented what Veciana told him in the original interviews and essentially become a co-creator of the Bishop legend. Veciana let Fonzi fill in the details as he wished and usually did not challenge him. When Fonzi decided that Bishop was David Phillips, Veciana went along with him. But Veciana was careful to deny that Phillips was Bishop both publicly and under oath before the HSCA. Veciana refused to provide so much as one scrap of paper to prove his claims and could offer no corroborating witnesses. And as noted, when the ARRB sought to question Veciana, he realized that they might ask some extremely uncomfortable questions. So, he stonewalled them.

After Fonzi’s death and with his own time limited, Veciana resurrected the Bishop story both as a device to sell books and to frame his biography in a way that pleased him. He no doubt also enjoyed the notoriety he received from the AARC conference and the publicity surrounding his book. And like many people, Veciana enjoyed promoting his own conspiracy theories and showed a propensity to do that as far back as the 1976 Fonzi interviews. What may never be known is if Veciana genuinely believed such theories or if they were merely offered to appease Fonzi and others.

Most of what Veciana has tried to peddle over the years is false. Although he was registered with the agency as an asset for a brief time, Veciana was never used in that capacity and was never an employee of the CIA. Veciana was, however, an informant for Army Intelligence, a relationship that both he and Fonzi sought to downplay or dismiss even though Fonzi was verifiably aware of it. Veciana says that Bishop ordered him to form Alpha 66 and thereafter directed its activities. But the evidence shows that Veciana and Eloy Menoyo (possibly working with others) formed Alpha 66-SNFE of their own accord. Indeed, Menoyo and his followers appeared in newspaper articles in 1961 before the group was formed describing their intention to retake Cuba with an organized effort.

I carefully considered Veciana’s motives in becoming involved with Alpha 66 and the anti-Castro movement. For a time, I pursued the idea that Veciana’s primary motivation for his anti-Castro actions was personal profit. However, I concluded that while he may have pocketed funds when the opportunity arose, he likely was primarily driven by a sincere desire to free Cuba. For example, Veciana told the FBI that he knew that he and others could be violating the neutrality act but it was worth it to liberate the island nation. Additionally, people who knew Veciana commented on his single-minded desire to free his homeland.

Despite Veciana’s apparent devotion to the cause, his importance in Alpha 66 has been overstated. Veciana was the public face of Alpha 66, which was merely a front for Menoyo’s SNFE. Veciana took credit for the raids that Menoyo and his men conducted but his main function was as a fundraiser for the group. Menoyo, not Veciana, was the real impetus behind Alpha 66/SNFE and as military chief he effectively ran the organization from its inception through early 1965. When Menoyo was captured, Alpha 66 lost influence and Veciana quit the group soon after.

Veciana’s later-day assertion that Bishop and the CIA directed Alpha 66 activities is demonstrably false. Alpha 66 was an independent group that was privately financed though they continually sought government help and managed to obtain it on a few occasions. It is also true that while Alpha 66 garnered world-wide headlines, the group had little practical effect on Castro. The raids that they conducted were fund-raising and propaganda mechanisms by their own admission. Alpha 66 and the revolutionary alliance promised an invasion of Cuba but the tiny force that Menoyo eventually implemented was easily repelled by Castro’s civilian followers.

Additional conclusions:

  • In his book, Fonzi said that “initially” Veciana had told him that the Bishop-Oswald meeting happened in late August or early September of 1963. This is categorically false unless Fonzi had another definition for the meaning of “initially.” Veciana first said in the March 2nd interview that the meeting occurred “around ’62.” Later in the same interview, Veciana elaborated and stated the meeting happened in, “the summer of ’63 in August,” but he could not provide “a specific date.” In the second interview in response to Fonzi’s pursuit of the issue, Veciana said the meeting occurred in 1963 in, “July or August.” But nowhere in the initial interviews did Veciana utter the words “late August” or “September.” That was purely a Fonzi construct based on his own theory that the meeting happened in early September.
  • Veciana originally identified Bishop as “Morris” rather than “Maurice.” He later told investigators that Bishop’s first name might have been “Jim” or “John.”
  • When he first told his story in 1976, Veciana never said Bishop was with an intelligence service, much less the CIA, but instead believed he was “working for a private organization, not the government.” In 1977, Veciana doubled down on this assertion when he told Fonzi assistant Al Gonzales that he “never said Bishop was CIA” and believed he was with “some sort of intelligence agency” or “powerful interest group.”
  • In the third Fonzi-Veciana interview, Veciana said that he doubted that Bishop was involved in the planning of the Bay of Pigs. But Phillips was deeply involved in the operation as the head of propaganda, and his participation in the project was public knowledge by 1975. Therefore, Veciana could not have really believed Bishop was Phillips.
  • Veciana participated in the 1961 Castro assassination scheme called Operation Liborio which originally was a contingency plan for Operation Patty. Veciana claims that Bishop directed him to engage in this ill-fated plan. But the evidence shows that Liborio involved numerous individuals and could not have been overseen by a single person such as Bishop working outside normal agency protocol. And it certainly was not directed by Veciana who approached the CIA DCD and the State Department for help against Bishop’s “orders.” Liborio failed partly because Veciana “got cold feet and took off for the states” as Reinol Gonzales noted. This was a far cry from the noble way Veciana has portrayed his involvement in the affair.
  • A serious discrepancy in the Veciana story is revealed in Dick Russell’s book On the Trail of the JFK Assassins. According to Russell, whose information came from an interview with Veciana, the latter was forced to “flee Cuba” by boat after Castro got wind of the October 1961 assassination plot. So far, so good. But in this edition of the tale, Bishop “stayed on [in Cuba] undetected.” Therefore, if this version of the story is to be believed, Phillips could not be Bishop since the CIA man left Cuba permanently in 1960.
  • Although Fonzi told his readers that knowledge of “Cellula Fantasma” was “limited” to a select few, the operation and the involvement of Frank Sturgis was cited by newspapers back in the day. And even though Fonzi spoke to Sturgis, he did not bother to verify Veciana’s claims about the group. Veciana omitted any mention of the operation in his book, effectively conceding that his “knowledge” of it was not significant and his promotion of it to Fonzi was a canard designed to lend credibility to his overall story.
  • Veciana originally claimed the man who trained him at the behest of Bishop was known only as “Melton.” Later, Melton became “Joe” before finally morphing into a full-fledged CIA instructor named “Dick Melton.” Veciana claimed the training took place in the same building that housed the Berlitz School. But evidence shows that the school was full of Castro sympathizers who could be expected to have been aware of such activity. Drexel Gibson, who ran the school, was arrested following the Bay of Pigs but cleared of being an FBI (rather than a CIA) agent and allowed to return to America. The Cuban G2 likely found nothing but innocuous propaganda material when they searched the building.
  • In Fonzi’s book, Veciana identified the location of the Bishop-Oswald meeting as the Southland Building in downtown Dallas which again was his own theory. But when Veciana was asked if the meeting occurred at that building, he replied through his son Tony, “he doesn’t remember.” Veciana never identified the location of the alleged meeting as the Southland Building until after Fonzi’s death. Similarly, Fonzi wrote that the building where the meeting took place had “a distinctive blue-tiled facade.” But Veciana’s initial description was not nearly as specific, describing it merely as a “big bank or insurance company” that was “blue or white.”
  • Author John Newman thoroughly debunked both the 1959 and 1960 Veciana stories of how he met Phillips in Cuba.
  • The much-ballyhooed 1963 press conference purportedly arranged by Bishop did not happen the way Veciana said it did.
  • Veciana said that Bishop masterminded the 1961 Castro assassination attempt. But there is no evidence that the plot was the work of one man and Phillips is not mentioned as a participant even by Escalante whose reporting on the event is detailed.
  • Veciana says Bishop was controlling Alpha 66. But that is not possible since Menoyo, Veciana, Nazario, Fleites, Cecilio Vazquez, Carlos Penin and others were involved in the day-to-day operations of the group. Additionally, no one from Alpha 66 or SNFE ever said they were aware of an American working with Veciana. Indeed, notable acquaintances of Veciana such as Manuel Ray and Rufo López-Fresquet and others had never heard of Bishop.
  • According to Veciana’s book, Bishop had informed him of the ground rules of their partnership at the outset. Veciana and Alpha 66 had to find their own funding while Bishop would provide weapons and information and direct the group. But despite this alleged agreement, Veciana went to the CIA on three separate occasions during their purported alliance asking for money or other assistance.
  • Fonzi first pursued several individuals including George de Mohrenschildt, J. Walton Moore and Paul Bethel before settling on David Phillips as Bishop. Only three out of 14 relevant individuals who saw the sketch of Bishop created by Veciana and Fonzi thought it looked like Phillips.
  • Fonzi and Veciana confronted Phillips at a conference in Reston Virginia in 1976. The purpose of this ambush was to surprise Phillips with Veciana to see his reaction, which Fonzi presumed would be one of panic. “I had thought I would be able to tell, keen observer that I deemed myself, if Phillips had exhibited even the slightest hint of having recognized Veciana,” Fonzi wrote. But he was forced to admit that Phillips did “not display that hint.”
  • Just before he confronted Phillips in Reston, Veciana masterminded a scheme to send a letter to Castro that would “publicly establish [him] as a former CIA operative” and “prove” his Bishop story. Veciana may have been hoping that these ostensible proofs would pacify Fonzi and enable him to avoid confronting Phillips.
  • There are numerous discrepancies in the multiple versions of the 1971 Castro assassination plot presented by Veciana over the years culminating with the contradictory and nonsensical story in Trained to Kill.
  • It is possible that the shooting of Veciana in 1979 was a preemptive attack by Castro acolytes who had become aware that Veciana was involved in yet another Castro assassination scheme slated to occur later that year.
  • David Phillips was one of the finest officers in the history of the cold war CIA and has been treated unfairly by theorists through the years. These theorists have made outlandish assertions with no collaborating evidence.
  • Although Phillips may have helped the DRE in the beginning, he was never a case officer for the group and did not oversee their activities or use them as his own political action unit. Instead, as the chief of propaganda based in Washington, he was merely informed of the progress of the headstrong students. After taking a job in Mexico City, Phillips likely had little to do with the group.
  • The evidence that David Phillips ordered or masterminded the assassination of General René Schneider in Chile is nonexistent. The same can be said for the proof that Phillips was involved in the Orlando Letelier assassination.
  • Plan Centaur was an alleged scheme to overthrow the Chilean government that theorists have accused Phillips of being involved in. But it was really a hoax perpetrated by a petty criminal named Richard Zanders.
  • Contrary to reports by theorists, Phillips founded the AFIO by himself. Gordon McLendon was a member of the group but not a founder.
  • Veciana’s “Operation Condor” is a thinly veiled attempt to tie his dubious tales of a 1971 Castro assassination plot to an real series of South American operations that did not begin until the mid-seventies.
  • It is almost certain that the “missing” Mexico City transcript that theorists believe Phillips “verified” and which points to a JFK conspiracy never existed. The statements by Phillips and Anna Tarasoff “remembering” a transcript during which Oswald asked the Soviets for assistance were likely solicited by journalist Ron Kessler using creative investigatory techniques.
  • Phillips’ inconsistent testimony before the HSCA in 1976 was likely because he told the committee what he thought his actions were, based on where he believed he was during the period of Oswald’s visit to Mexico and what he should have been doing or what he wanted to believe he was doing. It is almost certain that Phillips simply forgot that he was absent from Mexico City for most of Oswald’s visit. Phillips’ 1978 testimony corrected his statements to the satisfaction of his HSCA questioners.
  • Chief Counsel Robert Blakey refused to entertain the idea of charging Phillips with perjury and the only people that thought Phillips was guilty of this were pro-conspiracy investigators such as Fonzi.
  • 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 evidence that the Bishop-Oswald meeting never happened is compelling. Even conspiracy advocates such as Harold Weisberg, Dan Hardway and Anthony Summers recognized the implausibility of David Phillips (or any competent agent) meeting in a very public place with two of his assets.
  • Later-day “confirmation” of the Bishop-Phillips-Oswald meeting by Wynne Johnson is not worthy of belief. Johnson has added David Ferrie and Malcolm Wallace to his story as well as an additional 1965 sighting of Phillips at a party. Even Marie Fonzi didn’t believe his “late occurring” memories.

Probably the most consequential conclusion in this book is one that was first provided by Fonzi himself in his HSCA writeup. He wrote, “No corroboration was found for Veciana's alleged meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald.” Absent such confirmation, the Veciana story goes nowhere.


1. Typically, Fonzi was suspicious when the interview of López-Fresquet did not provide the answers he wanted. Fonzi asked Robert Blakey to find “someone knowledgeable to rake López-Fresquet with a fine tooth comb concerning everyone he was ever in contact with around the time of the initial Bishop-Veciana contact” (emphasis in original). Fonzi went on to say that the original interviewer “didn’t even know who Carlos Prio [Cuban President deposed by Batista] was,” as if this lack of knowledge of Prio by the interviewer had any bearing on López-Fresquet’s statement that he knew nothing of Bishop (RIF 180-10093-10063).
2. Regarding López-Fresquet as a model for Bishop: in his book Veciana said Bishop warned him that his cousin Ruiz worked for Cuban State Security. But Veciana told Edmundo Garcia that it was López-Fresquet who told him this (Veciana interview with Edmundo Garcia, WQBA Radio, June 26, 2007).


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