7. “A Few Days After Jack Ruby Departed Cuba”

Title Quote: Antonio Veciana

The story of how and when Veciana allegedly met Bishop is critical, when considering his relatively new contention that Bishop is David Phillips. The existing documentation regarding Phillips’ activities in Cuba is considerable and allows a comparison of Veciana’s story against those facts. Veciana has given several accounts of when he met Bishop in Cuba. The following table summarizes these:

Date Version When Veciana Met Bishop
1993-2013  The Last Investigation  Mid-1960 (8-1-60 in the chronology section)
 1976  Fonzi-Veciana Interviews  Mid-1960
 1976  Dick Russell Interview  1960
 1978  Veciana HSCA Testimony  Mid-1960
 2014  AARC Conference  Late 1959
 2017  Trained to Kill  After Ruby left Cuba-mid September 1959

Minor variations notwithstanding,1 Veciana has essentially authored two versions of when he met Bishop in Cuba: the initial mid-1960 version documented by Fonzi and the current version of mid-September 1959 as related in Veciana’s autobiography, Trained to Kill. Researcher and author John Newman has studied Veciana’s story and was the first to explain why both versions are false.2

For 37 years, from 1976 to 2013, Veciana maintained that he met and was recruited by Bishop in mid-1960 at Lobo’s bank. During that same time, he repeatedly insisted that Phillips was not Bishop, although he sometimes provided researchers with what they considered to be cryptic hints that allowed them to speculate otherwise. But then in 2012, Veciana’s mentor, Gaeton Fonzi, died and something extraordinary happened. First, Veciana issued a statement through Fonzi’s widow Marie which said that Phillips was Bishop. Veciana’s evolution away from his original Bishop story continued with his appearance before the AARC conference in September 2014. During that presentation, he said that he met Bishop at the end of 1959 rather than mid-1960. But by the time of his 2017 book, Veciana had moved the date backward even further in time pinpointing it as “just a few days after Jack Ruby departed Cuba.” Immigration records for the island nation identify that date as September 11, 1959.3

Why the change to 1959? Veciana debuted the Bishop story in 1976, years before the JFK Records Act and the release of relevant intelligence documents in the mid-nineties. Those documents revealed the inconvenient truth that Phillips had left Cuba well before “mid-1960.”4 By the time of Fonzi’s death, Veciana was entertaining the idea of writing his life story. At some point, Veciana or those helping him (probably people at the publishing house and conspiracy researchers) became aware of the problem and realized that he had to either abandon the idea of Phillips as Bishop or adjust the date of his story backwards to 1959. Veciana chose the latter option and linked the date of his first meeting with Bishop to about mid-September. This option provided plenty of time for Veciana’s Trained to Kill scenario to play out which by Newman’s calculations would have happened around November 21st.5

Unfortunately for Veciana and his supporters, the 1959 scenario is demonstrably false because Phillips could not have risked the actions Veciana ascribes to him, particularly the implausible situations alleged in his book.6 Newman was the first to compare the newly minted 1959 scenario in Veciana’s book to the available documentary record. That record does not support Veciana’s 1959 story and the initial mention of him in CIA records is not until December of 1960. Indeed, Newman describes the actions that Veciana attributes to Phillips as “out of place and out of context.”7 As mentioned, the mid-1960 scenario is also false (if you believe Phillips was Bishop) simply because Phillips was not in Cuba, having left the island nation no later than March. Since Phillips’ CIA work was well-known to Cuban Intelligence, he would not have risked being sent back to the island and indeed never returned there.

The best evidence indicates that Phillips left Cuba in March 1960 and comes from several sources. The first is a CIA memo that was generated in response to Phillips’ request for a determination of his creditable service with the agency. In the memo, Phillips described his years of service and the places he had worked. He stated, “... I stayed in Havana until March of 1960….” The second source is his autobiography, The Night Watch, in which he recounts a conversation that occurred shortly after he left Cuba with a CIA official regarding the Bay of Pigs project. “It was then the third week of March 1960,” Phillips wrote.8 In Phillips’ deposition during his lawsuit against author Donald Freed, he stated he left the island in “early March.”9 Most compelling are CIA documents that place Phillips in Washington signing agency paperwork for his new job on the Bay of Pigs project on March 14th 1960.10 Significantly, Phillips’ verifiable and permanent departure from Cuba contradicts Veciana’s statement to Fonzi that Bishop returned to the island nation after the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.11

What was David Phillips really doing during the latter part of 1959? As a result of his contact with a Cuban cattlemen’s association, a group that was involved in a plot to overthrow Castro, Phillips’ cover eventually became compromised. It started when Phillips received instructions from the CIA to meet with a man named Michael “Jack” Malone regarding an “unconventional public relations campaign” to “modify or change” the Castro government. Malone met Phillips at his hotel in Havana on July 29th and explained that he represented a group of Cuban landowners who were “anxious to do something” about the Agrarian Reform Program, a Castro redistribution scheme. Phillips, who was working undercover as a public relations expert, agreed to meet with the landowners who were interested in using his professional assistance to develop “a plan of action.” Phillips’ mission for the agency was to conduct a “fishing expedition” to see exactly where the Cubans were coming from.

Later the same day after consulting CIA headquarters, Phillips again met Malone at his hotel. Malone informed Phillips that they would be joined by another man and then all drive together to meet Cainas Milanes who was the President of the National Association of Cattlemen of Cuba (NACC). The two-hour meeting at a large home in Miramar was dominated by Milanas. After about an hour with little input from Phillips, Milanas asked him for “one concrete idea of the sort of program you could provide.” Phillips advised Milanas to buy a newspaper and begin daily editorial attacks on the Agrarian Reform Program coupled with a denunciation of the growing communist activity in Cuba. Milanas liked the idea and the group discussed which newspaper to buy or alternatively starting their own.

At this point in the meeting, it became obvious to Phillips that the group was primarily interested in militant tactics. The remaining conversation included paramilitary action, the possibility of an invasion from the Dominican Republic and the assassination of Castro.12 Phillips decided it was “time to leave” and managed to extricate himself from the gathering with the promise to report back in two days after talking to his “home office.” Phillips later sent word through Malone that he had to return to the US and would be unable to attend the next meeting. Phillips ended his August 6th CIA report of the meeting with a comment that turned out to be prophetic. “It is not hard to imagine,” he wrote, “that at least one member of this group might inform to the [Cuban] government.”

At this moment in time, according to Veciana’s new 1959 story, his recruitment by Bishop was just five weeks in the future. But back in the real world, at CIA headquarters there was fear for Phillips’ safety and for the integrity of ongoing operations against Cuba. Phillips had talked with his wife even before the NACC meeting and both had decided that he should leave the CIA and consider a long-standing job offer in New York.13 On August 13th, Phillips left Cuba to travel to New York to discuss a film deal and then went on to Washington to receive instructions regarding the cattleman’s conspiracy. By August 18th, the CIA learned that Phillips’ suspicions about the Cuban group were correct. The meeting with Milanas and the NACC had been surreptitiously recorded leaving his cover, as Phillips put it, “gossamer thin.” Alarmingly, Milanas and 3000 others had been arrested by Castro.14

Since his wife and family were in Cuba and he needed to tie up business dealings, Phillips had no choice but to return to the island. However, neither he nor the CIA doubted the instability of his situation. On August 21st, Phillips attended a meeting at CIA headquarters in Washington where the discussion centered on what he should do in the event he was arrested by the Castro authorities. It was decided that Phillips should essentially stick to his cover story of being contacted by Malone to give advice to the NACC on a public relations package. Also on the 21st, Havana station sent a cable to CIA headquarters indicating that they did not know if the Castro government had developed incriminating evidence on Phillips. The cable added that Phillips was best equipped to judge if he should return to the island or not.

On August 22nd, Phillips and the CIA brass met to decide his future in Cuba. They mutually agreed that he should return to the island using the cover story developed the previous day. However, due to the risk factor, Phillips was to sever contact with the NACC and begin planning for his permanent departure from Cuba.15 On August 27th, Phillips returned to Cuba as planned. Unfortunately, new developments soon led to a worsening of the security situation of both Phillips and fellow CIA officer David Groves (identified as “Freapane” in CIA documents) and to an official reevaluation of their position in Cuba. Both Jack Malone’s attorney and Carlos Todd of the Havana Times had discovered that Phillips worked for the CIA. On September 15th, a CIA security review found that Phillips’ situation was a “major concern [of Havana station] at the present time.”

Recall that it is against this backdrop of security issues that Phillips as “Bishop” allegedly began his recruitment of Veciana, and walked into Julio Lobo’s Banco Financiero, in mid-September of 1959. But this scenario defies all credibility considering the problems that Phillips and the agency were facing. However, Phillips’ security nightmare is not the only reason to doubt Veciana’s story. Lobo was known to Cuban authorities as a CIA informant who was bankrolling anti-Castro operations and was undoubtedly under surveillance, so this would be the last place the already wary Phillips would want to be seen. John Newman put it best when he wrote, “Phillips’ hazardous situation in Havana was so bad that it not only undermines the plausibility of Veciana’s original accounts but also leaves one wondering by what logic any of Veciana’s claims can be trusted.”16

Veciana’s CIA fantasy tour resumed the day after Bishop approached him at Lobo’s bank with a meeting between the duo at the iconic La Floridita restaurant, a favorite Hemingway haunt. The implausibility of such a public meeting considering Phillips’ security problems does not require reiteration. It is likely that Veciana lifted the idea of the La Floridita from Phillips’ 1977 book The Night Watch, the publication of which preceded Veciana’s first known reference to the restaurant during his 1978 HSCA testimony. At the end of the meeting, Bishop supposedly informed Veciana that he needed to undergo testing before his CIA mission could begin. Veciana received a call at Lobo’s bank regarding the testing about a week after the initial contact. But because of Lobo’s known status as a CIA asset, the phones at the bank would likely have been monitored by Cuban Intelligence making such an exchange all but impossible.

Go to Chapter 8
The Bishop Hoax: Table of Contents


1. For example, Veciana told Edmundo Garcia that the date of his first contact with Bishop was in “’60 or ’61” (Veciana interview with Edmundo Garcia, WQBA Radio, June 21, 2007).
2. Newman, Into the Storm, 65-92.
3. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 40. Ruby apparently first returned to the US from Cuba on September 11 and then, for reasons that are unclear, returned to Cuba on the 12th and finally came back to the US on the 13th. (https://www.mafiahistory.us/a001/f_ruby.html).
4. Newman says that Fabian Escalante was the first to discover the problem with the date Phillips supposedly recruited Veciana in Cuba and therefore moved it to 1959 in his 1995 book The Secret War. Newman diplomatically says he will leave it to “others to ponder” the reason it took researchers so long to catch up to Escalante (Newman, Into the Storm, 69). But it is apparent that researchers simply wanted to believe Veciana’s assertions as reported in Fonzi’s book and therefore did not question the 1960-time frame.
5. Newman, Into the Storm, 71.
6. Another new assertion from Trained to Kill involves Bishop asking Veciana to “infiltrate the ranks of Castro’s regime.” This mission would be known as “Operation Eagle.” Since Veciana had never mentioned this prospective “mission” before it likely was something he made up along with the suicide pills and disappearing ink (Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 74).
7. Newman, Into the Storm, 71.
8. Phillips, The Night Watch, 86.
9. David Atlee Phillips vs. Donald Freed Et Al. Deposition of David Atlee Phillips, March 25, 1983, 56.
10. Phillips, David Atlee CIA OP File, 233. RIF 104-10194-10026. It is possible that Phillips left Cuba as early as February since documents have him residing at the Roger Smith Hotel and undergoing CIA interviews on the 12th of that month (RIF 104-10128-10320; 104-10128-10321).
11. Fonzi, The Last Investigation, 130.
12. The cattlemen were involved in a conspiracy orchestrated by Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. See Escalante, The Secret War, Chapter 2.
13. Phillips, The Night Watch, 82. Phillips reconsidered his departure from the CIA soon after.
14. CIA Cable from Havana to Director, August 18, 1959. RIF 104-10267-10166; Phillips, The Night Watch, 82.
15. Phillips, The Night Watch, 82.
16. Newman, Into the Storm, 72.


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